Sunday, April 26, 2009

Truest statement of the week

The US occupation of Iraq, which has become the full responsibility of President Barack Obama, is once again a bloodbath. Not that it had ceased to be violent, brutal and chaotic, for not one day has passed since the US invasion of Iraq was launched that hasn't found several Iraqis being senselessly slaughtered. But rather than talking about three Iraqis being killed today, or two dozen, we are again talking about several dozen, and over 100 wounded, as we are seeing recently. Each of these Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of the US occupation of Iraq - their blood splattered on the hands of President Obama, who, during a visit to Baghdad's airport on April 7, praised the US military for their "extraordinary achievement" in Iraq.

-- Dahr Jamail, "... The Horrible Truth" (New Zealand's Scoop).

Truest statement of the week II

I am sure some of these human rights groups will argue that a commission will or can be a first step to prosecutions. Sure, it is possible, but unlikely for the reasons I gave in a letter published in Harper's and available on my blog. The commission process will drag on, statutes of limitation will run and the conclusion of the commission is likely to be: the US should not have tortured, but it was an extraordinary and dangerous moment after 9/11 and the torturers were acting in our best interest to avoid another 9/11. Prosecutions are not recommended.

-- Michael Ratner, "The Torture Commission Trap" (CounterPunch).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. A long, long Sunday in fact.

Let's get to it. Here's who worked on this edition along with Dallas:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
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,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

And here's what we came up with:

Truest statement of the week -- Dahr was brought in by Kat.

Truest statement of the week II -- Ratner was brought in by Elaine. There were six other truest contenders but these two won the voting rounds.

Editorial: They enlisted, they embedded -- We do like this one. :D

TV: The Death of Television -- Ava and C.I. pooled and pulled together strands from various conversations with friends (not just at NPR) for this commentary and we really think it stands up.

Matthis soars -- Kat, Betty's kids and Wally did this illustration. We thank them for it. And we congratulate Matthis Chiroux on his victory last Tuesday.

Cliff Cornell faces court-martial on Tuesday -- Ditto on the illustration credit.

TV roundtable -- And again with the groovy illustrations. Kat doesn't speak in this. She'd said at the start she might. But she was working on the illustrations and really didn't have time to do much more. We thank her. She is the art ringleader when it comes to the illustrations here.

Chris Hill breaks his first promise -- We wanted to be sure to get that on record.

Mailbag -- This is just the core six going through the maibag.

2009's Jason Leopold -- Short feature!

Why does Barbara Ehrenreich hate women? -- Truly, why does she? And why does she get to be posted everywhere despire the numerous factual errors in her work.

The Dumbness Hurts -- It hurts everyone.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty, Ruth, Marcia, Stan, Rebecca, Cedric and Wally wrote this. We thank them for it. Does the illustration work with it? We need to get an illustration for them. We tossed this in just to try one.

And that's the edition. The never ending edition.

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

Editorial: They enlisted, they embedded

If Bob Marley were alive today, would he be singing, "I called out the Republican but I did not call out the Democrat?" We have to wonder that because so many in our so-called 'independent' media have enlisted in the Cult of Barack.

In fact, Rosa Brooks gave up bad writing to service Barack and she joins so many other 'reporters' who've rushed to work for the White House. For the Barack Obama White House mind you.

As Aretha once sang, "It's a different world than where you come from." Apparently.

Which explains why failed actress and failed stand-up comic Janeane Garofalo embarrassed herself and MSNBC -- and who thought the latter was possible? Bob Somerby covered the MSNBC nightmare here.

We've never called out Janeane before this year but knew the day would come. (And Ava and C.I. have always said, "She's f**ked over Drew [Barrymore] in her 'jokes' for six years now. When the time comes, we'll take part in the take down.") So here it is.

Janeane, you're a short, fat woman. You know that. You know that as sure as you know that your facial type is round and your body shape is pear. You've chosen to work in a visual field and you've chosen to be a really bad actor. You're giving the exact same performance on 24 that you give in everything. We saw it in Reality Bites, we saw it in The Truth About Cats & Dogs (the closet to a hit that Janeane ever had, so naturally she trashes the film), we saw it in Clay Pigeons, we would have seen it in The West Wing if we could've ignored the never ending chatter and watched that awful show. It's always the same thing with Janeane. In fact, we're not really sure why they give her characters different names? She's a very limited actress who has refused to stretch and whose nastiness has only increased over the years. She's currently taking her tired shtick to 24, the torture show. She says it's okay because she's not playing Janeane, she's playing a character.

That may be the funniest thing she's said in years.

She's never played a character, she doesn't have the talent but considering the way she has repeatedly ripped apart other women in the last six years, other actresses for their choices, and now the failure wants to show up on 24 and act like that's not appalling? Who does she think she's kidding?

If you don't agree with Janeane, she does the 'smart' thing: She calls you a racist.

We know it's the 'smart' thing to do because we heard Janeane explaining it recently, "Lois, anyone who couldn't pretend their son is dying to get Gumbel 2 Gumbel back on the air is a racist. There, I said it." Oh wait, that wasn't Janeane. That was Peter on Family Guy. Well, that's the level of intelligence Janeane now exhibits, the same as Peter.

But it was always there. She always rushed to certain (weak) judgments and regularly made a fool out of herself. For example, while her radio partner was launching his war on The New York Times and Adam Nagourney, Janeane was being 'productive.' She didn't want to just tell you not to waste your money on NYT, she wanted to give you something you could purchase.

So for a week, a whole week, three hours every night, Monday through Friday, on The Majority Report, Janeane recommended people drop The New York Times and start reading The International Herald. Unlike the rag NYT, IHT really knew what was what.

It takes a special kind of stupid to switch from one paper to another and encounter the same bylines repeatedly and never wonder about that. But Janeane managed that feat. She excelled at it.

The New York Times owns IHT. You will find much of the same content in both papers. Janeane didn't know that. When it was finally pointed out to her, she asked, "Really?" And then she repeated "Really?" in a voice so high and whiny, it threatened to send the entire studio back into puberty. Yes, Janeane, really.

All she does today is peddle hate and not at the big targets, not at the powerful, she peddles hate at average Americans. Everyone's talking about it and, yes, gossiping about it and as one comic who now avoids her (and has a successful acting career) said, "She just needs to f**k Carmine already and get over it." Carmine is her right-wing father and she's become an embarrassment as she can't stop being Daddy's Little Girl. Letting your father dictate your life, even if you live it as a photo negative of his own, is really disgusting, completely unempowering, and not at all feminist or 'strong.' It's pathetic.

And her hate speech and little tantrums are nothing but her sick desire to get Daddy's attention.
Your forty-four years-old, it's time to grow up.

And in functioning society, Bob Somerby wouldn't be the only one on the left calling her out. In a functioning society, Democratic Underground (no link to trash) wouldn't post lies that Bob's going after everyone who didn't support Hillary in the Democratic Party primary.

Our society functions about as well as Janeane Garofalo does. And our press functions even worse.

Which is how we get the embeds.

You do grasp that, right?

That the same beggar media that spent the last eight years calling out various members of the press for embedding with the White House is doing the exact same thing now that a Democrat's in office.

It really crossed a line when Amy Goodman was raising money for her show by offering Barack inauguration tickets for donations of over a thousand dollars. You want to pretend that didn't effect the coverage? When she's got all of those tickets to sell and the money goes to her show, do you really think you're going to get criticism of him before the inauguration?

These people have lectured Howard Kurtz and everyone else in Real Media about ethics and look at 'em now. They're worse than Janeane in the midst of a 12 day bender.

Not only do they repeatedly fawn over Barack and ignore news that wouldn't paint him in such a wonderful light, they also repeatedly ask, "How can we help Barack?"

That's not a question they asked under Bush.

Under Bush, they grasped that the press wasn't an arm of the government. They grasped that the powerful needed to be called out, that the powerful must be called out.

They made fun and mocked Dan Rather for his remarks to David Letterman about doing what 'his president' needed him to do. Yet here they are doing the exact same thing the right-wing did.

Partisan hack Norman Solomon wanted to write about . . . partisan hacks last week. Poor Normy, he really thinks he still has an image to protect. Normy was the real-life Obama Girl throughout 2008, going so far as to become a pledged delegate for Barry. Every few months, when something really vile threatened to upset Mr. Pretty Speeches' smooth lies, Norman would show up to insist that Barack's feet would be held to the fire.

All we ever saw them held to was Norman's lips. But Norman showed up last week whining that we needed to hold Congress -- yeah, Congress -- to the fires. We needed to force them to act. Gee, Norman, why does your busy-work strike us as both a waste of time and an effort to dilute very real anger that should be aimed at the corporatist War Hawk in the White House?

Norman wanted to talk about the war, you understand. Just not the Iraq War.

The Iraq War has not ended. Four US service members were announced dead last week. Over 150 Iraqis died on Thursday and Friday.

The illegal war is not over. Not only is not over, the 'surge' continues as well. Are most Americans aware of that?

Last Wednesday, Army's General Peter W. Chiarelli told the US Senate's Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, "The surge for the United States Army is not over. We don't get our last combat brigade off of a 15 month deployment until June of this year and I won't get my last combat service support or combat support unit back off a 15 month deployment until September."

Do people get that?

Once upon a time people like Norman Solomon and Janeane Garofalo pretended they cared about ending the Iraq War. They got a lot of attention out of it, they even made some money out of it.

But last week, Normy wanted to bore us all with 675 words on the topic of what 'we' must do and about war but he never even mentioned the Iraq War.

We opposed the war on Afghanistan. We've always opposed it. We do understand some of the alarm that it might become Barack's 'Vietnam.' We're also aware that the number of US troops that will be in Afghanistan this year will not even make up one-fourth of the number of US troops in Iraq. So when we hear all the hand wringing over Afghanistan and all the silence over Iraq, we tend to laugh at all the Whores practicing in the main revival tent of the Cult of St. Barack.

Normy thinks he can distract, Janeane thinks she can bluster, filibuster and scream "racists!" for the next four years. She supposedly hopes eight years.

But if she really thought Barack would get two terms, would she be as bitter and hateful as she's being on MSNBC. She spews her hate speech which isn't funny and isn't even delivered in a funny way. She's like the 44-year-old woman who gripes about something in a loud voice. When she was fresh faced and 20, it was seen as cute. Oh, look at her! But now it just makes Janeane come off like a cranky old woman.

And she's got Democrats controlling both houses. And she's got her Lord and Savior Barack in the White House. What, pray tell, causes all the anger and all of the attacks?

Maybe her former friend is right, maybe it will take her hopping into bed with Carmine to get the closure she needs. Once upon a time we would have scoffed at the notion but these days she's so erratic there's no telling what she wouldn't do.

TV: The Death of Television

Last night, CBS aired a concert by Barbra Streisand and NBC offered a police drama. On the face of it, the two may appear to have little connection, but they both go to the Death of Television. Not just broadcast but cable as well.

We're not talking about the quality of either show yet (we'll get to that), right now we're just focused on the genre themselves and how they speak not of an expanding world but a constricting one.

A legendary performer in concert and a police drama. Some might have assumed it was a weekend from the sixties. However, in the sixties, you might have found a variety series or a sitcom.

Last week, Harris Interactive released a Harris Poll on television. The poll (PDF format warning, click here) had some interesting findings. 2,344 American adults were polled. The breakdown goes like this for the top 15 shows: 4 sitcoms, 4 criminal or law drama (we're counting 24 here, others might group it as action), 3 medical drams, 2 animated programs, 1 action/fantasy (Lost) and 1 sci-fi (Star Trek). Asked their favorite genre, 62% said sitcoms. (The next highest response, at 39%, was "Drama.") You might think that would mean the networks were working overtime to deliver sitcoms this fall, but you'd be wrong.

Why should it be about what the audience wants? The networks don't even consider themselves, so why bother with audiences? For those confused by the last statement, a sitcom has a better chance at syndication. More and more shows are owned or co-owned by the networks. It is in their financial interest to make sitcoms because syndication residuals can help them through difficult economic times. Sitcoms have syndicated better for decades.

Since CBS first got the idea to put I Love Lucy on during the day (while new episodes were still broadcasting once a week at night), sitcoms have done well in syndication. They have, in fact, tended to dominate. And even so-so sitcoms syndicate better than most hour long shows. For example, when was the last time you saw Emergency or Trapper John, Adam 12 or Barnaby Jones, Medical Center or LA Law? All were hits in their days. Big hits. They're not big hits in syndication and never were. Even a show like Hill St. Blues, a quality production, isn't a syndicated resource the way I Love Lucy, Friends or even The Nanny is. As a general rule, the medical drama doesn't do well in syndication. Nor do prime time soap operas (that was true of Peyton Place and true later of Dynasty, Dallas, Melrose Place and all the rest). But you can bet most people can find a rerun of Family Ties this weekend. Meredith Baxter is one of the stars of that sitcom. She also starred in one of the 70s finest dramas: Family. That program never made any waves in syndication. By the mid-seventies, the syndication habits were obvious: The Brady Bunch, That Girl, Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show . . . Sitcoms dominated. People can always use a laugh and stations love programming in half-hour segments.

A friend who was writing for various sitcoms in the nineties called us last week, excited over the poll, convinced this would wake the networks up. We pointed out that even their own pocketbooks hadn't forced them to wake up so what could a poll do?

We wished that wasn't the case. We took turns listening to the writer's laments and agreed with all of them. The Office didn't make the top 15 shows in the Harris Poll. It's one of the most gas-bagged over shows of this decade. It only found modest ratings success when it started emphasizing Pam and Jim. A decade of 'quirks' passed off as humor. A decade of no studio audiences and flat performances from actors who could have fed on the energy of a studio audience. We didn't disagree with a thing we were hearing. We just didn't think the poll was going to make any difference.

There were four sitcoms on the list. Friends and Seinfeld being shows from the 90s. M*A*S*H also made the list. Only one sitcom airing new episodes made the list. Want to guess what it was? Two and a Half Men. When everything else falls apart, they have their studio audience. Kath & Kim didn't have a studio audience and it was a flat and static as every other single-camera, non-studio audience 'sitcom.' As flat, static and unfunny.

The poll got a lot of attention from sitcom writers, producers and performers. As the week went on, we felt we were getting calls from every one who'd ever had anything to do with a sitcom, even just a walk-on.

Which brought us to Saturday and a producer complaining about how the networks couldn't even air new episodes on Saturdays these days. He had to go because he was watching the concert -- "I know, I know, I've seen it before but it's Barbra."

Barbra Streisand. TV made her an international star. She was already a recording star and already wowing them on Broadway in her second huge hit but TV is where most Americans encountered her. On talk shows and variety shows. In 1965, she had her own variety special: My Name Is Barbra. She fought for (and won, she had creative control) the right to break from all the other variety shows back then. Who were the guest stars? No guest stars. There was a theme: The life cycle of a woman.

This wasn't like that at all. Streisand: Live In Concert was just Streisand performing before a concert audience. Sort of like one of those Sinatra specials, Old Blue Eyes Is Back.

And Barbra did look, in the term trademarked to her, gorgeous. The big surprise was the voice. Not that it was still intact. That's proven every time Columbia releases the latest Barbra album. She's got a range like no other. And we weren't surprised by her performance of "The Way We Were" which found her stroking the notes in a warmer way, giving it a new shading. But when she broke out Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "When The Sun Comes Out" and delivered it with an intensity that may have surpassed her original recording (on 1963's The Second Barbra Streisand Album), we were stunned.

A lot is made of Richard Perry updating Barbra's style (Stony End) and while he deserves credit for what he accomplished, you only have to listen to "When The Sun Comes Out" to grasp Barbra could sing rock anytime she wanted. She was never a 'mild' singer. And we talked about how that style of singing was something John Phillips had to stay on Cass Elliot's case to get in "Words Of Love" and "I Call Your Name." How Cass, on her own, preferred a softer sound (as she would pursue in her solo career) and wondered what would life have been like if Cass had been cast in I Can Get It For You Wholesale (she often told the tale of her audition for Barbra's part) and Streisand had emerged in the sixties as part of the folk-rock music scene?

It was a concert special so it falls or rises on the talents of the singer. No surprise, Streisand: Live In Concert was a success and something we returned to in conversations throughout the night. (For the record, next Tuesday Streisand The Concerts is released on 3 DVDs. More information can be found at Barbra Streisand's website.) We'd planned to catch a few moments and had no intention of noting it but we ended up sitting through the whole thing and enjoying it tremendously.

Whatever CBS followed it with had us screaming "Switch!" (No, not the old Robert Wagner TV show.) And someone flipped it to NBC where Southland was just starting. We got two scripts and the first episode on DVD from a friend with the show and took a pass on reviewing it. But here it was on a Saturday night (the program airs regularly on Thursdays) and it was (a) so awful and (b) so typical that there was no way to continue ignoring it.

Those stumbling across the show on Saturday night were forgiven if they mistook it for a pilot. They weren't seeing the first episode, they were seeing the third. But every episode of the show plays out like a pilot. Maybe if they'd bothered to create likable characters they wouldn't have to do origin stories every installment?

These are the worst characters. The worst. Regina King's been given the "typical TV Black cop" role but she's a woman so (a) that's 'progress' and (b) her eyes well up a lot. It's a huge disservice to King (a very talented actress). She can't even modulate the character because she's always stuck playing the female Morgan Freeman.

"Well at least they made the role a female, that's a twist." You may find yourself saying that, especially the longer you watch. Ben McKenzie (alleged star and alleged actor) tries to move from flavor of the month six years ago to actor. It really doesn't work. You grasp that all the more as you notice how many key moments for his character (also named Ben) find the actor shot from behind or with the camera following another performer. If only they had acting doubles, Ben McKenzie could have an acclaimed career.

Instead he's playing the rookie cop. You've seen it all before. Sometimes Rick Schroeder plays the part, sometimes a Saved By The Bell actor. Sometimes it's Charlie Sheen on the big screen. Sometimes it's the then-achingly beautiful Kent McCord. Or maybe Michael Ontkean. We could go like this forever. And watching Ben and his partner John (played by Michael Cudlitz) go on and on through the same scenes you've seen forever, you'll find yourself ranking the actors who played rookie and veteran cop duos and who played them better. By the time you realize you've even ranked John Schuck and Richard B. Shull (Holmes & Yo-Yo) higher, you'll grasp how difficult it is to find any duo that did a worse job.

Sadly, that's when you'll notice Cudlitz says "friggin" and also words that are bleeped. If you have John's sewer mouth, you really don't say "friggin" except possibly if you've been busted down to crossing guard and have to speak to children. That's when you'll notice that not only does the duo play the storyline worse than all who have come before, they play it over and over. "I'm a real cop, you're just slumming!" Neither come off as real cops.

C. Thomas Howell doesn't come off any more like a cop than any other actor on the show but he is watchable. He's not committed to the script and is far more likely to grab your eye with motion. He's got a way of entering a scene or feeling his way around a scene physically that really demonstrate what a waste this show is. Watch him fire a gun, watch him roll around on the bed, watch him move excitedly from one foot to the next. But then comes the time where he has to mouth the bad dialogue. It's sinking everyone but it's most noticeable with Howell because of how well he and TV are clicking. He's not been this free on the big screen. But he's weighted down by the dialogue.

And that's when you notice that bleeps and "friggin" aside, they all talk the same. Every damn character on the show speaks in the same damn voice. You could take any line and give it to another character. It's all written the same. And it's all written as if the show's title is actually Soapland. Apparently Guiding Light's writers have all found new jobs.

This is the most on-the-nose, the most obvious dialogue and it happens over and over and over, from the mouth of every character. This is marketed as a gritty and raw look at police work but it plays as though you've been locked into a group therapy session for an hour. You keep thinking it's going to end but it never does. 'A drug dealer was attacking my mother while I was a kid and he knocked out two of my teeth.' 'Oh yeah? Well my father's in prison for rape.' It just never, ever ends. And regardless of their academic or economic backgrounds, they all speak the same way, in the same dull sentences. This is 2009's worst written series.

And how fitting that it airs as TV increasingly makes arguments for no longer being entertaining -- forget for not being relevant. It was a Saturday night and you had bad cop dramas. As if that wasn't bad enough, they were all repeats of shows that air at other times during the week day. And the Streisand special had us noting the fact that not only were sitcoms hard to find, variety is long gone. Normally we wouldn't think about that too much. Carol Burnett defined the medium and when she grew tired of doing it, that was that. Except that we're on the road every week.

There are nights we finish speaking out against the illegal war and hit the hotel around 11:30 at night. You flip the channels to find something to watch for a few minutes. And it seems like every one of the last few weeks we've encountered some PBS station in the midst of a pledge drive. We thought about all the specials we've seen on PBS in the last years about variety shows. Including one on Carol Burnett, of course. But we've seen a 'history' of variety specials and we've seen their history of The Lawrence Welk Show (not at all any more interesting than the show itself). And then we thought about that Smothers Brothers special and how it brought out the pompous nature of every PBS beggar we saw. They would all insist (in different words) that this was the power of PBS.

This was?

A two hour special on the censorship battles Tom and Dick Smothers had with CBS and the way CBS retaliated by cancelling the program. That's the power of PBS?

That's not power, that's actually embarrassing. What that program tells you is that when both presidents pushing that illegal war (LBJ and Nixon) are dead and gone and when a documentary filmmaker films something, PBS will air it. The show was cancelled in 1969. "The power of PBS" is that thirty-nine or forty years later (we started seeing that special in 2008 on some PBS stations), that illegal war can be addressed semi-honestly via an entertainment program as long as the focus is on music and comedy.

Tom and Dick are on tour. We mention that because they're wonderful performers, well worth seeing. We also mention it because PBS beggars did as well. Usually offering two tickets to whenever the brothers came to town and usually telling viewers, "Imagine what they have to say about what's going on today!" Yeah, image that.

Imagine it because you won't see it on TV. And though the PBS beggar would probably nod once we said that, a pompous nod with a thin smirk, feeling really proud of themselves, point of fact, you don't see it on PBS either.

It's not just the networks, it's PBS as well.

We first started seeing the Smothers Brothers special as the election approached so it's been well over a half-a- year now. And we heard the pitches over and over about what PBS does and the quality programming it brings you and blah, blah, blah. You never really grasp how much sameness there is to PBS until you travel the country and catch all the various "member stations." You start to realize there's more variety at your average McDonald's franchise than on PBS.

And you start to grasp how long it's been since PBS was even remotely culturally relevant.

But it really takes those look backs at the "Golden Age of TV" (the fifties) and those programs on Carol Burnett or the Smothers Brothers -- with the pompous remarks by the on-air beggars -- to drive home how little PBS does.

And it could do so much more besides give second lives to Brit-coms and Brit-amas.

Where is PBS' variety show?

That's not a joke nor is it something PBS couldn't do. We were talking to NPR friends last week about their concerts and asking what radio programs videotape them for podcasts? An increasing number. Now sometimes the acts are big names, sometimes they're emerging, but every Friday at noon EST, NPR has a live concert. Two or three songs could be culled from that each week to present the music faction. They could bring a comic to do a stand up bit. They could do a cutting from a play.

What we're describing so far is Omnibus which ran for nine years and predates the creation of PBS. But this program did have an underwriter: The Ford Foundation. It's hard to believe such a show wouldn't have that today. And PBS could do quite a bit more than just Omnibus. They could put a news segment in it of weekly highlights (headlines) and even do an investigative news segment. They could make it a real mix if they wanted.

But they're not doing anything. And when we were discussing this with NPR friends, they pointed out that if footage of the NPR concerts were used, for example, that would get the word out on the concerts and the various NPR stations that broadcast them (they can be streamed online from anywhere). It would be a way for NPR and PBS to work together and pool resources at a time when PBS is facing some cutbacks.

PBS could do a variety show very easily and very inexpensively. They would also find many corporate sponsors willing to underwrite it. But instead of doing that, they want to repeatedly bemoan the death of the variety show and repeatedly highlight variety shows no longer on the air. The Death of Television is another 'new' PBS music special which is nothing but one oldies concert (doo-wop or folk) cut up into segments to make three specials. Where all the performers are so congealed, they appear to have film over their eyes.

Matthis soars

Last week, Matthis Chiroux declared, "I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!! Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer."


Matthis joined the military as a teenager. He was, in fact, tricked and forced into joining. He served in Afghanistan, in Germany, in Japan and in the Philippines. He did his tours of duty and he received an honorable discharge from the US Army.

Out of the military, he thought he could now pursue a degree in a journalism. So he moved to New York and enrolled in college only to have the military contact him -- after he'd been discharged -- and say, "You're going to Iraq."

He announced May 15, 2008 that he would not deploy to Iraq. On Father's Day of last year, he explained his reasons in a speech which included the following:

I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.

I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.

I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.

I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.

We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.

We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again.

And he didn't waiver.

By that point 'friends' in Congress had wavered.

But he didn't waiver.

Of the hearing last Tuesday, Matthis Chiroux writes:

I thought I'd be more nervous than I was, but I very much felt relieved. You know, there's all kinds of nifty ways to communicate now-a-days, and maybe call me old fashioned, but there’s nothing like looking someone in the eyes and telling them what’s in your soul. And I bared it for them.
I told them I believe that the war is illegal, and that as a Soldier, I thought it was my responsibility to resist it. I told them I was originally planning on deploying, despite my belief that the war is illegal, but that after I was exposed to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan, I found clarity, and I found courage.

And the outcome? The board's recommendation now winds it's way's up the command (see Tuesday's snapshot and Friday's snapshot for more on that). A comment left at Matthis' site notes he moved a mountain and, indeed, he did. But Tuesday, Betty paired an excerpt of a Clive James' poem with news of Matthis:

My tears came late, I as fifty-five years old

Before I began to cry authentically:

First for the hurt I had done to those I loved,

Then for myself, for what had been done to me

In the beginning, to make my heart so cold.

It's from "Son of a Soldier." And Matthis' essay April 23rd demonstrated he wouldn't have to wait until 55 to open the floodgates and speak the truth. And may he continue to move mountains and fly high and proud.

Cliff Cornell faces court-martial on Tuesday

Cliff Cornell

US war resister Cliff Cornell faces a court-martial Tuesday at Fort Stewart in Georgia. His civilian attorney will be James Branum who noted Cornell was expelled from Canada February 5th. He turned himself in to the US military on February 10th.

"I'm nervous, scared. I'm just not a fighter. I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart," Russ Bynum (AP) quoted Cliff explaining. Lyndell Nelson (WSAV) quoted him stating he would resist all over again if he had it to do over, "Yeah, because I am not over there taking part in this illegal war, I'm not over there killing innocent people or taking part in the torturing that is going on."

Cliff went to Canada in January 2005. He had hopes of asylum and and hopes of a life. In Mission Rejected, Peter Laufer's 2006 book on resistance, Cliff makes a brief appearance on pages 68 and 69. He and "Ivan" (neither were comfortable, at that point, with giving their full names, Ivan is Ivan Brobeck) were joking around, Ivan was on skateboard and Cliff was laughing about tossing him out the window. Darrell Anderson appears on those pages (and elsewhere in the book) and he called it correctly after he left Canada and returned to the US. Some of us disagreed with that call (C.I. was the only one publicly defending Anderson during that roundtable), we see now he was right.

So for four years Cliff waited and waited for Canada to welcome him. Or at least grant him a legal status which would allow him to remain. Instead the government ordered him to leave. Despite all the back slapping and self-congratulations going on, nothing was actually happening. Except maybe some people were using today's war resisters to refight Vietnam.

Cliff faces a hearing Tuesday. He knows it is likely, if the past pattern holds, that he'll be sentenced to serve time.

He shouldn't have to serve any time and he is at least the third Iraq War resister to be deported from Canada. (Robin Long and Daniel Sandate are the two before Cliff.) Dee Knight (Workers World) reported in March:

Cornell's attorney, James Branum, told Workers World he waived an Article 32 pretrial hearing on the desertion charges in hopes of negotiating a reduced charge. "Cliff Cornell is a conscientious objector who voluntarily turned himself in," Branum said.
Branum wants the hearing officers to take that into account and not charge Cornell with desertion. He noted that the base commander can be influenced to reduce any sentence the hearing officers might impose. The court-martial is expected in one to two months.

Despite waiving the Article 32 hearing, Cliff is being charged with desertion. Again, the court-martial will take place Tuesday at Fort Stewart. And if nothing changes, court-martials will continue to take place.

The illegal war is not ending anytime soon (doubtful that it will end in 2011 even) and unless Andre Shepherd gets asylum in Germany, there will be no country granting refugee status for resisters in the near future. (There are other ways to get status in other countries and those resisters who have gone underground have been successful at that. Even in Canada.) For six years the illegal war has dragged on and it may very well see another six years. Along with the dead and wounded, with the mourners and the survivors, it is the resisters who pay personal costs for the illegal war. Cliff Cornell is another victim of George W. Bush and Barack Obama's illegal war.

TV roundtable

Jim: Roundtable time and, for a change, this is on TV. Only on TV. It's on one network and three shows that air Monday nights. NBC's Chuck, Heroes and Medium. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Wally of The Daily Jot, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. This is a rush transcript. Ava and C.I. take the notes. We thank them for that. Let's get started. Ty, two of the three shows Monday night are ending their season runs.

NBC Mondays

Ty: Correct. Chuck and Heroes wrap up their seasons tomorrow night. Medium continues through Conan O'Brian's Tonight Show debut. Rebecca usually writes about Heroes at her site and Mike generally writes about Chuck at his. So we're going to go them to catch us up to speed and we'll deal with Chuck first since it kicks off Monday nights on NBC. Mike?

Mike: Chuck is a comedy, action-adventure, romance all rolled into one. It's probably my favorite show on TV. Ava and C.I. kept telling me to check it out that first year. They were waiting on reviewing it because they knew it would be on the full season so they had a sentence or two at the start of the season here but at my site I was always quoting them on it, before I started watching it and especially after I did. If you've ever dreamed of getting with someone and felt like you didn't stand a chance, you'll relate to Chuck's feelings for Sarah. And, increasingly, to Sarah's for Chuck. I don't mean her love for him is increasing. She's been in love with him for some time. What's increased in season two is her understanding that their being together is pretty much impossible. The government won't allow it. The show really picked up steam as the season went along and Sarah's not only had to object to Chuck being imprisoned by the US government, she's also had to save him when the US government ordered that he be killed. Sarah's CIA and she's had to repeatedly goes against her own agency. Anyway, Chevy Chase came on as a bad guy and supposedly died last week but at the end we saw he wasn't dead. He's headed to Ellie -- Chuck's sister -- to Ellie's big wedding. Chuck supposedly has lost his intersect power -- having a computer hard drive of US national security information in his head -- and I say supposedly because Ava and C.I. are tight-lipped but I've seen their reactions to questions and I'll stick with "supposedly." So did Chuck lose his power? Is Sarah going to be reassigned as a result? If reassigned, does she go along with that? Will Ellie walk down the aisle? There's a lot going on at this wedding.

Wally: I like Chuck, the show and the character, but my favorite on the show are probably Morgan and Ana. They're secondary characters but I really love them. I do want to object to a scene with them from last Monday. Ana asked Morgan what his dream was early on and he said to be a chef in Hawaii -- I'm giving the very brief summary. He didn't think that would ever happen, thought he was too old, etc. His work at the Best Buy like store called the Buy More has gone down the toilet and his ending was him deciding to quit and he and Ana walk off with the clear impression that they're off to Hawaii. Is that a fair recap, Mike?

Mike: Yes. And I know where you're going.

Wally: Ana was called a whore by the guy who just took over the Buy More. Not when she and Morgan left but the episode before that. She was called a whore by the manager. Now she and Morgan are walking off and the gang -- a gang she's supposedly a part of -- are cheering Morgan -- and only Morgan -- for having the courage to walk out. Where's Ana's cheer? If the thing was supposed to play like the Debra Winger film --

Ava: An Officer & A Gentleman.

Wally: Thanks, that "Way to go Paula!" scene, then Ana should have been carrying Morgan like [Richard] Gere carried Debra Winger. I just thought that was really insulting. These co-workers are supposed to be her friend as well and they don't say a word to applaud her.

Mike: I'd agree with you on that. But Ana's really been ignored all year long. She's been great when they've tossed her a scene or two but she's really only been at the heart of one episode this year. She needs as much, if not more, airtime as Jeff and Lester get. Those are her co-workers and this year has been all about Jeff and Lester who aren't that great. They're funny in small doses. But Ana's always funny. She is funny when she's breaking your heart. She's just really great in the role and they have enough male characters and already sideline Ellie so they really need to start beefing up Ana. If there's a season three, Ana needs to play a much larger role.

Jim: If?

Mike: Chuck's had lousy ratings. It goes to what Ava and C.I. pointed out. First off, Chuck wasn't on all last summer. It was a brand new show for fall 2007. It ended in the spring of 2008 and the network didn't repeat it all summer long. Then boom, it was suddenly time to put it back on the air with new episodes. As I've noted at my site and Ava and C.I. noted here, the first episodes of the second season sucked. It was guest-star city and the guest stars were taking all the action and the characters we know and love were reduced to extras. Chevy Chase hasn't been that way. His character's written better -- and he plays the character better than the start of the season guest stars.

Dona: I like Chuck. The show and all the characters. But this season has been off in terms of Ana and Ellie and not only have Jeff and Lester gotten way too much time -- it's like when everyone had to stop watching Moonlighting because Booger was getting more time than Agnes and Maddie -- but for Chuck to finally tell someone he was working for the CIA and for it to be Devin and not his own sister? There's no reason for that. If Devin had immediately realized that this meant he was drugged and he didn't make out with that woman at his bachelor party, I could have let it slide. It would mean he wasn't going to be eaten with guilt anymore. But that's not where it's gone and it just seemed one more time where the show could have utilized a character, a female one, but instead went with the male. Devin's marrying Chuck's sister. Chuck doesn't need to bond with his sister's husband. They need to get along but if someone needed a bonding at that moment, it was Ellie whose whole life was falling apart with her father disappearing again and Chuck as well.

Mike: Ellie did a lot more in the first season. What's happened is Jeff and Lester are on TOO much. They take up TOO much time. You've got more guest stars and they require time as well. And because all spare time gets tossed to Jeff and Lester, Ellie and Ana aren't doing hardly anything. And Jeff and Lester aren't as funny if you're exposed to them all the time.

Jim: So Mike, prediction?

Mike: I really don't think we'll have answers at the end of the finale. Maybe I'm wrong. I think we'll be left with more questions and I'm sort of wondering if Chuck's going to end up disappearing at the end of the episode.

Jim: That's NBC's first hour of prime time on Monday. Heroes follows it and Heroes will also have a season finale. It's also had lower ratings than last year. Rebecca, bring us up to speed.

Rebecca: The last three episodes were largely soap opera. I mean they were backstory with flashbacks and I mean that for two episodes in a row, you had Angela, Peter, Nathan, Claire, Claire's adopted father, all sitting at the same table in a dive eating lunch and watching television. You honestly felt like it was a soap opera that you could turn on a week later and nothing would have happened. The pacing has been awful.

Elaine: I watch Medium and plan to speak during that but I'm not sure how many watch Heroes? How many are planning to speak?

Cedric: I am.

Elaine: Okay, then I'll be silent until Medium. Go ahead Cedric.

Cedric: Niki-Jessica died. Now her other character died this year. The actress is just being wasted at this point. She had a bi-racial son, Micah, who is back on the show finally. And maybe that's why I liked her. Seeing her with her husband, Micah's father, who was the first African-American with powers on the show. They killed him off as well. But I looked forward to Nikki-Jessica. And then when she became Tracy, I was still interested. They've killed her characters off one too many times. I'm losing interest and I'm so damn sick of all the garabge. It has become so sexist. If a woman has a power, it's rarely an active one, an 'offense' one. She can play defense but that's all she's usually got. And the women die over and over. The runner died.

Stan: Daphne.

Cedric: Yeah, Daphne. Nikkie and Tracy died. Clair's biological mother died. Veronica Mars was on the show --

Rebecca: Elle.

Cedric: Thank you, Elle. And she died. And I've never seen Sylar use her powers after he killed her and took them. Has anyone seen it? All the women die. And each year, with all these women dying, the show wants to bring on more and more males. Syler's got a sibling. It's a male! Over and over where a role could have gone to a woman, they introduce a man. And let's be really honest, I know Rebecca will watch a show for a guy she finds good looking and I will watch a show for a woman I find good looking. But Tim Kring apparently doesn't know that. So Nikki-Jessica, Tracy and Jessica's niece, Micah's cousin, all die or just disappear. Over and over. Or we get the Mexican woman who makes it into this country and boom, time to kill her off so Sylar can get her power. Over and over. I can't stand that doctor and his goony and goody-two-shoe ways. And I've had enough of Matt Parkman as well. I've had more than enough of Hiro and Ande or whatever his name is. And Nathan's gotten on my last nerve this season. About the only characters I can stand right now are Peter and Clair. And they never give Clair anything.

Ruth: I watch all three shows at different times during the week with my grandchildren. On Heroes, I will note that they appear to have written themselves into a corner. The next season, if there is one, either has everyone working to destroy Sylar or there is not much point because, at this point, Sylar has pretty much every power anyone could have. He has killed off how many people now to steal their powers?

Rebecca: That's a good point, Ruth. I hadn't thought of that. But they've pretty much made him indestructable now. Hiro did get back his powers at least. Although I must have missed how. But Baby Parkman had the ability to, if Hiro held him, allow Hiro to still access his powers. Now Hiro can do that without Baby Parkman in his arms or at his side. And Cedric's right, I will watch a show just because I think a guy on it is hot. That's a normal response. And we do want to see people we think are hot on TV.

Marcia: I will use all my time here and not speak elsewhere if I can go Heroes-related. No one objected. Beyonce does not film pretty. In her videos, she can look gorgeous. No film, not the Austin Powers one, not Dreamgirls, none of them, find her looking good. But this new one, which co-stars the actress who played Tracy and Jessica-Nikki, Beyonce looks so bad, I didn't know that was her. I saw that ol' big head and thought it was Gina from Martin.

Cedric: Please note that I'm laughing at that.

Marcia: So she's not looking good and then there's the other thing. Which is? She's ending her film career. She doesn't realize it now but two years from now, no one's going to want to pay to see her. Same thing happened with Angela Bassett who can actually act. Angela played Tina Turner and got rave reviews and ended her career. She was 'too strong' for some people. In this new film, it's Fatal Attraction only the married couple is African-American. And the commercial is all about, "I'm one tough Black Bitch, woman, you messed with the wrong Black Bitch." That's not what she's saying but that's what the advertisement's supposed to convey. There is a difference between a doormat and the role she's playing. The role she's playing is too strong and it will hurt her in future films.

Betty: Because?

Marcia: I know the African-American community. It's very homophobic. I'm an African-American and a lesbian, for any drive-by's passing through. And the implication is going to be Beyonce's a lesbian. She's too strong. She must be a lesbian. I've heard that over and over about Angela Bassett and I know we're going to hear about Beyonce. Whether she is or not, I have no idea. I assume she's straight. But in the African-American community, that is how they put the kiss of death on a woman, start spreading she's a lesbian. And she looks bad in the commercials and she's coming on way too strong.

Betty: I agree with what Marcia's saying and I'll use my time on this instead of on Medium. I was conflicted by the commercial. On the one hand, I was glad that a woman was fighting back -- and the way the commercial plays, Beyonce fighitng non-stop. But I was also thinking about how when it's a White woman, they go out of their way to show how 'feminine' she is. Think Anne Archer in Fatal Attraction or any number of women in those "the gilfriend from hell," "the boss from hell," etc movies. The good girl always has an emphasis on 'girl.' So I do agree with Marcia that Beyonce's coming on way too strong in those advertisements. And I also agree with her -- drive-bys, I'm Black -- that Beyonce will find herself the victim of rumors that are not going to die and are going to insist she's a lesbian because she played a strong woman. It is not a good role for her and I don't know why she took it. She looks bad in the scenes they show on TV, she's apparently 'kicking ass' in a film where her husband appears to do damn little. Does he at least cheat on her? If he doesn't do that and they've built a movie around it, you better believe the homophobia in my community will run wild and not only will Beyonce be dubbed a lesbian but the actor playing her husband will be seen as weak and be called gay because it will be seen as the ulitmate insult. And Marcia's right about Angela. But it's not just Tina, it's setting the car on fire in Waiting To Exhale also. Angela becomes a focal point for a lot of women, replacing a lot of Set It Off references. And guys here that, in my community, and they start really hating Angela Bassett. They start talking trash about her. And the same thing's going to happen with Beyonce. Back to Heroes, I was so glad Nathan got a hair cut. He looks so much better with it close to the scalp on the sides. I'll be silent now.

Jim: Okay, Nathan got a hair cut. Rebecca, is it involving?

Rebecca: It's hard to get too involved. If you do, you're begging for your character to be written off. Especially if it's a woman. I get e-mails since I write about the show at my site. And there is so much fear that Claire is going to die in the cliff-hanger. Logically, they can't kill her off but that's what this pattern of killing off one woman after another has done to the fan base of the show.

Jim: Prediction?

Rebecca: I don't know. I have no idea. And no one's telling me anything.

C.I.: Tim Kring works from an outline, a bible; however, even he's not sure what's going to happen next fall.

Jim: Okay. Jess and Elaine will probably talk during this. In fact, I predict they will since Elaine's already said she would and since Jess hasn't spoken during this roundtable. Predicting is what Medium's about. Patricia Arquette plays a psychic. Allison. Allison is married to Joe and they have three children. Elaine and Jess?

Jess: I'll toss out that the kids are really great. There are three daughters and the young actresses who play them do a very good and very realistic job. I'm saying that, me. I know Ava and C.I. don't comment. They don't comment good or bad. Not on children. And the reason being if they only commented when there was something good to say about child actors, then when they didn't comment, everyone would know they didn't think those actors were any good. So Ava and C.I. just do not comment on child actors. But I will and I will say that those three young actresses bring so much to the show. My favorite's Bridget by the way. She's completely wacky. She always cracks me up because she's always got a scam going to get something out of her parents. She's funny. And when she gets a dramatic scene, it's all the more dramatic because it's coming from the one who's usually the clown and jokester in the family. But all three of them are wonderful and if you had a sibling or two or more growing up, you're going to relate to those morning scenes where everyone in the family makes it into the kitchen.

Elaine: They really are something. They do deserve praise. And the entire show works so well together. The cast. One thing that does worry me is Manny seems more distant to Allison this year. Especially in the latest episodes. He can be pretty cold to her lately and I'm really not understanding where that's coming from. But other than that, high praise for the show and, of course, Patricia Arquette is the glue. She's truly amazing in the role and each year just goes deeper and deeper into Allison. No other actress could have done this part and made it a success. This was a unique victory for Patrica. She deserves so much praise. And what an eye. The episode she directed, help me out, C.I.?

C.I.: The one with the flashback to the eighties where a bomb was built to destroy a government building.

Elaine: Thank you. That was some intense work. From the angle choices in the kitchen where a father burns a son's hand on the stove, etc. That was just a really powerful episode and was so well done. There's a scene where Allison goes over to the now grown man's home as he's preparing to leave town in shame and that's probably the best blocked and shot scene I saw all year on any program. That was the first episode she's directed, right?

C.I.: Right.

Elaine: That was just pretty amazing especially for it to be her first time.

Jim: Prediction on how it's ending this year?

C.I.: Well --

Jim: You're going to give spoilers? You?

C.I.: No. I was going to say regardless of where it goes next year, it has been the heavy hitter for NBC on Monday nights. It has regularly been NBC's top rated Monday night show. And Medium has repeatedly been putting on the chopping block by NBC and saved at the last minute. Or spared at the last minute. But no one's expecting that to be a problem this year because this year it has out performed every other show the network's had on Monday nights. So predictions aside, what is known is that Medium had an incredible season ratings wise.

Jim: Okay, well let me bring in Ava and then we'll end the roundtable. Ava, C.I. noted Medium should be back next year based on ratings. What of Heroes and Chuck?

Ava: NBC has too much money invested into Heroes to pull the plug now. They will let it ride out and, for the same reason, there will be a fifth year of the show regardless of next season's ratings. So that's season four next year and season five starting in the fall of 2010. Chuck? Chuck costs much less per episode than Heroes and it also kick starts the night. So you'd think it's ratings wouldn't need to be as high for it to survive. But there are some who are tired of the show -- I'm talking at NBC. And there are some who gripe about this season's lousy ratings. But the problem with the ratings was that NBC didn't promote it during the summer. They didn't air it all summer long. So you had their small-ish audience aware of the show and some came back last fall and some didn't. If NBC wants Chuck to be a hit, they'll need to start airing it this summer.

Jim: Okay and that's the roundtable. The illustration is by Betty's kids, Kat and Wally. We thank them for it.

Chris Hill breaks his first promise


Chris Hill is the new US Ambassador to Iraq. At his March hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was stated that Hill, upon being confirmed, would leave immediately for Iraq.

John Kerry chaired that committee hearing March 25th, and Kerry declared Hill had stated he would leave for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation."

Tuesday Chris Hill was confirmed as US Ambassador to Iraq. AP reported Friday that the ambassador had arrived in Baghdad. "Within a day of his Senate confirmation"?

Three days after.

He's already breaking promises.

John Kerry: "The committee will move to quickly discharge Ambassador Hill, who has committed to depart for Iraq within a day of his Senate confirmation."

We now know what Chris Hill's word is worth. Make a note of it. He is, as Isaiah dubbed him, "The Pig-Pen Ambassador."

The Pig-Pen Ambassador



Ty: This is a mailbag and we've confined it to The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Jess, Ava and me, Ty, as well as C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review. We did that in order for everyone else to get some sleep. We appreciate their help each week, but we do know they're not responsible for every word up here and don't need to wreck themselves each weekened. So first up, Miley notes this comment she saw at the top of The Futon Critic: "Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please." She writes she's sorry because she's quoted Ava and C.I. at various forums online.

Ava: She doesn't have to be sorry. C.I. and I have no problem with that. We're not the AP. We're not making idiots out of ourselves the way the AP and, apparently, The Futon Critic is. I understand that Miley was apologizing specifically to C.I. and myself so I'm stating in response that there's nothing to apologize for, she's not done anything wrong and she doesn't need to do anything differently. But, having said that, I'll toss to Jim because this is an issue he covers regularly in e-mails.

Jim: Yeah. First off, anyone being quoted somewhere else only adds interest and only increases their potential audience. Which is why AP and The Futon Critic are assholes and idiots. In terms of what we do here, anyone who wants to can quote from it. A link is nice but credit is necessary. You may be a right-wing site that doesn't want to link to a left-wing one. That's fine, you can just say "The Third Estate Sunday Review writes in ____" and not provide any link. If anyone's interested, they can Google. But you need to credit. And credit can be "Read this" or whatever with a link. In some way you need to credit. In terms of reposting in full, if it's our stuff, we've been fine with it when it's happened at some sites. What sites? Sites that aren't commercial sites. If you raise money from ads or for from pledges or begging, you're making money. So you should be asking us before you repost. If you're a website or a blog, and you're not making money or trying to, and you repost our stuff, we've never been offended. We hear about it sometimes and it's no problem. By the same token, we're not responsible for people reposting without our permission. We've been attacked for a Soros site reposting us -- reposting Ava and C.I. -- and how we must be in the bag for Soros. We had nothing to do with that. We were not informed we were being reposted -- in full or partially -- and were as surprised as our readers complaining that a site with a budget decided to repost Ava and C.I. in full without asking us. The other problem issue has been when erotic or pornographic sites have reposted us. We've not given permission to them either, we've never heard from them, they never asked. We're not responsible. Take up your issues with them.

Dona: This is a Third mailbag composed of the six of us who make up Third. We're speaking for this site and this site only. And as Jim noted, "in terms of what we do here." Isaiah, for example, retains the rights to his comics. If we repost his comics here, we do so with permission. If you take something of ours, "something of ours" does not include Isaiah's illustration. That's his. Now if it's one of our illustrations, it's either something we created or public domain. In which case, if you're reposting in full, you could include it.

Ava: Exception.

Dona: Right. Exception being if it's from C.I.'s personal collection. We've done a few illustrations here that were from C.I.'s personal collection of photos. But, take last week's "Tea Parties " which features three amazing photos taken by the daughter of a Common Ills community member. If you credited that to Third, she'd be fine with it. Some of the illustrations we have here are done by Kat and Betty's kids and sometimes Wally as well. They are of the opinion that if it's credited to Third, it can be used. Ty gave me a heads up to this as a topic so I spent Thursday going over this and only forgot the exception Ava just noted. If it's a celeb or a politician, you might want to check first to make sure it's not from C.I.'s private collection. You can check by e-mailing us at or by checking our "A note to our readers" each week. When we dip into C.I.'s private collection, we note it in the note. Private collection photos we don't give permission to reproduce. And you may ask why? The minute permission is granted, AP's grabbing it and calling it "news" and announcing that they have the rights to it. There was a photo that Wikipedia displayed of Abeer. It was a government photo on a government document -- Iraqi government -- and AP insisted they 'owned' that. They didn't own it. That's ludicrous. But it's for that reason that C.I.'s private photos are not 'released' with our permission. If they were, the AP and others would then rush them over a wire and indicate that, as a result of publishing, they now owned them.

Jim: Dallas i.m.ed me while Dona was speaking to note that Wikipedia has the same photo back up only via Reuters. Go here for Wikipedia's explanation.

Jess: If you go back to our August 2006 article on Abeer, you'll find a place for an illustration but none. We used the Wikipedia one and then Wikipedia deleted it. It's amazing that a news outlet wants to claim they 'own' something. We wanted to cover an Iraqi cartoonist's plight, for example. But we need the cartoon. An example of one of the 'offensive' cartoons. The New York Times reprints the comic -- with no payment to the cartoonist -- and does so calling it 'news'. If we post it here, we're supposedly breaking a copyright law. Not of the artist, of NYT. It makes no sense. People like The Futon Critic -- who I've never heard of before this discussion -- really piss me off because they're justifying the same thing the AP is doing and they're promoting it. We're not giving that site a link.

Ty: That's a good place for me to jump in with another e-mail issue. What does it take to get censored forever -- blacklisted, asks another -- by this site?

Dona: Every site has its own policies. Marcia, for example, regularly asks her readers for input on this topic. So before anyone speaks, I want to note that we're referring to the policy at The Third Estate Sunday Review only.

Jess: We're a site for the left and we will include a wide variety from the left. We're not afraid to do that. But we do draw the line at certain things. We will never, ever, link to TruthOut again because the editor of that website called for a candidate to drop out of a race. That's not espousing democracy. Telling a candidate to drop out of the race does not espouse or promote democracy. We will never again link to that site. The second it ran that editorial, we weren't interested in it. That's not a minor point. The editorial was on Hillary Clinton, that she should drop out. I'm a Green and I had to see two intense campaigns of "Ralph Don't Run" in 2000 and 2004. I did not appreciate those. As a community member of The Common Ills in 2004, I was very grateful that C.I. made clear that TCI would never endorse a "don't run" or "drop out" move. We started this site in 2005 and we're not interested in anyone saying, "You can't run!" That's undemocratic. As a third party member, I'm aware that it's not just presidential races, it can include local races where Greens are told to drop out. I do not agree with that. So when Truth Out pulled that nonsense, they lost any chance of a link.

Ty: There are a number of White women -- too many to list -- that I've used my power to blackball here because they attacked either African-Americans or gays. I fall into both categories. We have an article on one such woman this week and no link to her garbage site. I exchanged e-mails with her repeatedly explaining why her remarks about Senator Roland Burris were factually incorrect and racially offensive. She didn't care. We'll never link to her. I'm not calling her a racist, by the way, I'm stating her remarks were racially offensive. And adding that, based on the e-mail exchange, she didn't care that they were racially offensive. Another blogger, who is a racist, we don't link to. We didn't realize he was a racist until Roland Burris became a news story. All of the sudden he spewed the most racist garbage. It was not one post. But at one point, Stan left a comment, not a mean one, noting the importance of affirmative action and that just set the racist off at which point there was no more, "Well, maybe we're reading him wrong . . ." At which point, he was a racist. We do not link to him. And to be clear, I'm not saying White women are any more racist or homophobic than are White men -- or than people of any color. But the PUMA-sphere is notorius for writing at length while knowing so very little and when the Burris attacks started, the PUMAs happily fingered their inner racists. The kinder lies included that Burris and Barack were friends and that Barack wanted him to be senator. That's a flat out lie. But they saw an African-American man and it made their blood boil. They let their inner racists come out and play in the front yard. It was a very ugly moment and made very clear to many of us who had defended PUMA -- those of us in the African-American community -- that we didn't need to waste our breath anymore, they weren't worth defending.

Dona: I don't think the woman has a website, she may. But the only one I'm thinking of that I've blacklisted is a journalist -- frequently quoted in The New York Times but she's never worked for them -- and I blacklisted her because she's a damn liar. She spoke at our college in New York and she's such a 'truth teller.' I asked her three specific questions and Ava had another. She knew our campus press was covering the event and refused to go on record but told me to e-mail her so she could 'think' about it. I did and she had more excuses for not replying. She's a damn liar and my questions were on journalism. They were about ethical issues then in the news. Now Ava's question was more timely and do you want to talk about that?

Ava: Sure. Ms. Bravery, Ms. Big Newspaper woman, she was there 'to tell it like it is' she said in her opening remarks to applause and laughter. So try answering my damn question about why we don't see the media calling out the sexism in their own ranks? This was 2003 or 2004, I can't remember. But you should have seen her recoil from the question and she wouldn't answer it. She offered some vauge bulls**t and tried to move on and I stood back up and said, "Excuse me, you didn't answer my question. Was that intentional?" She then said it would take hours to answer that question. Well she doesn't have hours now, not at the media outlet my father works at because I didn't just get her blackballed her . . .

Dona: We hate that woman. We, really, really hate her. To be clear, it's not Dr. Kathy from Annerberg. But the woman we hate, we refuse to allow her name to ever be mentioned here. Even if we're discussing a book she blurbed or one she's quoted in, we never mention her name. And we never will. She was a media apologist for the pre-war coverage and she refused to tackle serious issues while wanting applause as a truth-teller. We'd believed the woman's hype and it's really important to me that I never hype that woman.

Jim: I don't know that I've blackballed anyone. I would be the one to do it. And I'm sure I did back when we lived in New York. But I'm much more mellow since we moved.

Dona: He really is.

Jim: I really am, I'm not just joking. But I'm sure, before we all moved out here to C.I.'s, you can find some that I banned. Oh, there are blogs that we won't link to because my brother was one of the early bloggers and refused to take part in the circle-jerk, he stopped blogging long before this site started. Because of his tales of the inner-workings of the sexist Blogger Boyz -- I'm not talking Corrente, I'm talking the big sites, we don't link to them. He was their friend and their contemporary and they repulsed him. I've talked about that here before and we've got an article about it. C.I.?

C.I.: I've got The Common Ills so I generally don't ask for anyone not to be mentioned here or linked to. The pig with the skin rag that Goody hobknobs with and used to contribute to, I will not mention him by name and I won't be connected with anything that does. There's The Ego Of Us All who fits that as well. In both cases, I'm asking that someone not be named. In terms of linking, Newsweek is the last place I would ever want to link to but if I make that objection known and it's judged not important, I'm not going to say, "No!!!!!" If someone hurts a community member, I'm done with them. That's if they're a community member with a site or without. If you go after anyone in this community, I'm done with you and I will not link to you. At The Common Ills, we don't link to right-wing websites. At this site, they are linked to from time to time. Jim's usually the one pushing it although I pushed for Adam Bitely (in "Tea Parties --"). I think we do it case-by-case. There's a new one, for example, and I think Ty's going to talk about that.

Ty: We're not linking to No Quarter anymore. Susan UnPC has been the topic of mean remarks for some time with people insisting she used to play left and really wasn't. Due to that, we didn't want to say anything, we just weren't going to link. But her rants have become infamous. I'm not going to say she pretended to be something once upon a time because that predates my familiarity with her work. But she's crossed our line which is we support democracy and open societies. She's foaming at the mouth about how the memos -- the torture memos -- should not have been released. We can't support No Quarter and we can't be silent on that. It's non-democratic to argue that a people do not have a right to know what their government does. We will not be highlighting them again. We often disagreed with No Quarter and Elaine and C.I. would generally note that Larry Johnson was more of a law and order type than they were. Note that in a nice way. We didn't attack Larry Johnson when everyone piled on. In fact, C.I. and Rebecca went out of their way to make clear that Johnson was not inventing the story on the videotape. They explained that they'd heard it and Rebecca's first husband is huge in GOP circles and Rebecca went out of the way to explain that the rumors were the tape existed and that Rudy G's campaign had unearthed it and were planning to use it in the general election -- which Rudy G assumed he'd be the presidential candidate in for the Republican Party. Larry Johnson got attacked over his postings on that tape. We have let a lot of things slide that have ticked us off at No Quarter because we felt Johnson was attacked unfairly -- he never claimed to have seen the tape. But when Susan UnPC and other contributors to No Quarter are regularly arguing that the people don't have a right to know, and that is their argument, that's not anything we can endorse. So we won't be linking to No Quarter again.

Jim: I just need to add that it is a rare week that goes by that they're not mentioned in e-mails. They have, for example, attacked one of Hillary's biggest supporters and attacked the woman in the most sexist manner. And the blogger, who wasn't named in Ty's comments, was too stupid to know the woman had campaigned for Hillary repeatedly. They've got a whole crew like that, people who don't know what they're writing about. They also have some very strong writers but, more and more, they come at it from a right-wing point of view. Some of their comments about Latinos have been less than enlightened and I had to deal with e-mails on that topic and was going to move for them to be blackballed the next time we had the time for a discussion -- which is never. However, the e-mails came in on the "people don't have the right to know" argument Susan UnPC is making and Ty told me, "They're not linked to anymore." If Ty says it, it's pretty much law. If Ty says it, C.I. backs him up. Because Ty so rarely asks. So you've already got two votes there. And if C.I. votes some way, Ava does to. So you've got three votes and then there's the fact that Ava and Jess are a couple and Jess isn't going in the dog house. I'm laughing. But that's four votes.

Ty: Jim's mentioned before that C.I. "always" backs me up so I'll toss to you, C.I., to see if you want to make a comment on that.

C.I.: Jim does always bring that up. I'm wondering if he feels that I don't back him up enough? Ava and I always vote the same because we bonded long ago and did so because we see things very similar. That goes back to the first edition. It's true that Ty rarely asks for someone to be banned and that's part of it. But it's also that it takes a lot to tick Ty off period. So if he's upset, it's for a reason. Jess is the only one with less of a temper than Ty. I think Jim, Ava and I are probably the quickest to explode and Dona's exactly the center of the seven of us.

Jim: I'd agree with all you said including that I may feel you don't back me up enough. I'm laughing. But really. We are often at loggerheads for the editorials intentionally. Or often have been. And we had questions about that in the e-mails and I wanted to bring that into this mailbag. For those late to the party, a lot of the *editorials* the first three years are pretty much me attempting to upset C.I. and C.I. responding. And we write that up. It's emotionally truthful and gives us some very powerful editorials. Our editorials haven't been like that in some time because it upsets a number of people to watch it. It's been noted in the e-mails that our editorials are strong or funny or both but they're not like they once were. I just wanted to note that here so people e-mailing will feel listened to.

Dona: I can see what they're saying. We have lost the rawness and it is because a lot of people aren't comfortable with that process. That was never the only way we wrote editorials but it was the way we wrote a number of them each year. Those were usually the most powerful ones. And usually, C.I. would be a wreck at the end. I don't think we've reached the point where we're just going through the motions but we have moved away from that.

Jess: And that is something we worry about. Going through the motions. It's why we originally planned to go dark, back in the summer of 2005, when the 2008 presidential election rolled around. I don't think we've hit the wall yet but it is something we all worry about.

Ty: Which brings me to Amber's e-mail. She notes we had an anniversary back in January and didn't even note it.

Jim: Most weeks, we're just trying to get through the writing edition. For Amber, I'll look back on 2008 at this site. What am I most proud of? I think the fact that we didn't swallow the Kool-Aid. We didn't take part in telling Ralph Nader not to run or to drop out. We covered Ralph -- we endorsed him in fact, everyone but Ava and C.I. -- and we covered Cynthia McKinney and we covered John McCain. I think we did a good job of that. We also covered Barack but I think we did a good job with the political race coverage and did it in such a manner that it wasn't horseracing. I think we covered some actual issues. And I include our roundtables after each Democratic Party primary in that mix, by the way. We covered it in terms of roundtables, articles, feature stories --

Dona: Ava and C.I.

Jim: I was getting to them. They were at the DNC convention and I think they did an amazing job in the TV commentary with that. They weren't at the RNC convention but I thought they did a strong job there as well. But, leaving aside the conventions, they did some amazing work throughout 2008 on politics while covering TV. Jess will probably grab some of that. So I'll just say they did an amazing job. And I'm proud that we stood up for things we believed in and didn't hide our head in the sands because it was an election year.

Jess: Jim's pointing at me. Ava and C.I. did a better job, in TV commentaries and other things here featuring just their byline, of covering the Green Party than did Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! They regulary covered the way Cynthia McKinney was shut out and silenced. And they were a stronger critic of that than any Green Party blogger. They were just amazing and they wrote things that I'd noticed but couldn't have written about because it was too upsetting and they wrote things that I hadn't even sussed out. People still e-mail to ask did they vote for Ralph or Cynthia? They still can't figure it out by what's written and that's because Ava and C.I. handled it fairly. They did what others wouldn't. I'm very proud of them.

Jim: If I can jump back in, Republicans and independents and crossovers who supported the McCain-Palin ticket were and are pleased with their [Ava and C.I.'s] writing as well. Because they noted -- often -- that they weren't voting for McCain, his supporters don't wonder about that but we always hear about how fair Ava and C.I. were and how unfair the media was and I would agree with that call.

Jess: Except for C.I., we all majored in journalism as under graduates. Jim and Dona are in grad school and still majoring, I'm in law school. Ty's working in the film industry. Ava's on the road every week with C.I. speaking out against the Iraq War. And of course, Ava and C.I. are from journalism families. So this isn't just speculation or mere opinion, the media behaved horribly in their political coverage in 2008. Conservatives were rewarded with some of the strongest examples they could ever hope to point to. The media was clearly in the tank for one candidate, they were in the tank for him when he was one of many competing for the Democratic Party nomination and they were in the tank for him in the general. The media system was not fixed from years of online criticism. The media system is just as corrupt as ever but a lot of people seem okay with that as long as their candidate won. I'm not okay with that. I'm appalled by it and ashamed of the media. Glad I'm no longer planning to go into it. Like Jim, I'm glad that we refused to ride the bandwagon, I'm glad that we held onto our independence and I'm glad that the things that mattered to us in 2005, the very beliefs we hold close and dear, were not tossed aside in 2008.

Ty: I think what Jim and Jess said is very valid. I'd signal out other things as well. I'm glad, as an African-American, that we didn't become the two most common sites in 2008. The first is, "African-Americans can do no wrong!" The second is, "African-Americans aren't really people!"
We criticized people who needed criticizing and we praised those who needed praising. I'm glad that we never stop considering things. I'm talking about the process and I know Dona's going to grab one issue, so I won't. But we're always talking about what we could do that we're not doing. And the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community has resulted in us doing a feature, a serial, where we write a little each month and I do think it's worth doing and I'm really glad the response has been so positive to it from readers. I think we stretched in 2008 and I think we're continuing to stretch. Dona?

Dona: As Ty probably suspected, I'm going with the visuals. If you consider that our first year had very few visuals, I'm proudest of the visuals we now have. I have a thing I don't like on that as well. And I explain that to readers who complain about it that I agree with them. Our photos or illustrations are all placed in the same place. It would be better if we could move them to the left or right. We can't when using Flickr. Flicker demands that you use their code. If you don't, they kick you out. To position them, I don't think you use Flickr. But I do like that we have visuals. And I know we continue attempting to figure out ways to do more there. Of course, I love Ava and C.I.'s writing.

Ava: And Dona wrote her first solo piece here in 2008. That was a high. Jim does the "A note to our readers" feature. For those who don't know. That's him and the rest of us may shout out some stuff. Ty does Ty's Corner. Jess would honestly drop out if he had to do more because law school takes up a lot of his time. But he and Elaine are talking about a joint-piece -- to debut at her site, Jim. So it was a big deal for Dona to write something solo. To write two? They were amazing pieces. Dona and Jim act as the supervisors of the writing edition and they contribute all the time but Dona's the one really making sure the editions get done and that doesn't leave a lot of time to step out on her own so I was really thrilled she had two pieces and that everyone could see how wonderful and amazing she is. C.I. is of course very wonderful and I'm very lucky to have C.I. as a co-writer each week.

C.I.: And the same for me. Ava's wonderful and smart and funny and astute. I wouldn't be doing it if it weren't for her --

Ava: Right back at you!

C.I.: Yeah, well, we're so tired. And it's gone on so long and so much longer than we planned. Ty was talking about calling people out. Cedric deserves some credit for that. I know Rev Jesse Jackson and had Cedric not called out Jesse Jr.'s nonsense in a roundtable one week, Ava and I would've taken a pass on his nonsense. Instead, we tackled it the same week. But when we'd watched that, we'd decided to just ignore him. Then came the roundtable and Cedric brought it up and he also had questions for us after the roundtable so credit to Cedric on that. And Betty's never shied from that topic nor has Ty. Stan and Marcia would deserve credit here if there was a noticeable shift from 2007 to 2008 because they both started blogging in 2008 and participating here in 2008. In terms of the group writing up here, I'd also note that Ruth regularly makes the most delicate of contributions, these whispers that appear to be asides, that really end up being at the crux of the matter. Everybody brings something to the table -- Kat, Wally, Mike, Elaine and Rebecca. I'd go for big theme like Jess and Jim and say I'm glad we didn't sell out. I'm glad we didn't suddenly flip on public financing or FISA or any other issue that we supposedly gave a damn about until the Democratic presidential nominee elected to go another way.

Jim: Agreed. Transcript piece. Rush transcript at that. In addition to those participating, we mentioned Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, 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, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Wally of The Daily Jot, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

[Dona note, 4-29-09: Thank you to reader Joyce who e-mailed about a remark of Jim's. It's now rendered "*editorials*". Jim had said "e-mails." He meant editorials. To clear up any confusion, I've changed it. Thank you, Joyce.]
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