Sunday, August 16, 2009

Truest statement of the week

Today, an op-ed that was "co-written" by Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker) and Steny Hoyer (House Majority Leader), which was more than likely written by an overworked staffer, called anyone who is protesting at the Healthcare Town Hall meetings: "un-American." The person who advised this, should be summarily fired…with all due haste. I don't agree with a single word that is coming out of the right-winger's mouths. Obama is not a socialist and the Democrats are not socialists, they're fascists, and even though I think the Healthcare reforms are a bad idea for other reasons, I support the right of my fellow Americans to speak as loudly as they want and put forth their message any way they can. Even though I know that most of the Town Hall disrupters do not or did not support my right to do so---I have been escorted out of many hearings or meetings---but I support any American's right to expression, as long as it doesn't involve hate speech. Hanging a Congressperson in effigy is not hate speech---it's protected free speech---just like when Bush was hanged in effigy many times by the other side.

-- Cindy Sheehan, "House un-American Activities Committee by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy's Soapbox)

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. A number are returning home after a week of us all being together.

Along with Dallas, the following helped write this edition:

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),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

We thank them all and it was a real treat to all be in the same location together.

We wrapped up an edition and would have been done sooner were we all not exhausted. From life more than this edition. Ava, C.I. and I (Jim) typed everything. We were the only ones with any energy left. Dona, Ty and Jess took a nap and got back up for breakfast and for the note. Here's what we came up with.

  • Truest statement of the week-- Cindy Sheehan earned it hands down. It's great that she spoke out and it's a shame that others didn't join her. (In this community, Kat and C.I. called it out last week.)

  • Editorial: It can start all over again-- This is where we all call it out. This was the last thing written and I made a point to apologize to C.I. I asked that the topic be pulled from a snapshot so we could address it here. We did an okay job but C.I. was stronger in the snapshot. We were really tired when we got to the editorial.

  • TV: How a dud became watchable-- How tired? We planned an American Dad roundtable. We tried to do it last week but it was impossible. Finally, Stan said, "You know Ava and C.I. can write this and cover it in a way that has us all agreeing." We agreed with that and farmed it out to them.

  • The Joni Roundtable-- This was the roundtable from hell. It was great while it was going on but then we started noticing the time. If Mike seems brief, it's because he's going at the end and knows how many hours we've already spent. (Fortunately, he spoke early on as well.) This was hell to edit because it was so long. Hell to type for the same reason. But we love Joni Mitchell and enjoy this roundtable.

  • The Flim Flam Man (Ava and C.I.) -- Ava and C.I. wrote this one when we had worries that we didn't have enough content. When was that? After the editorial. I was the only other person awake and I worked on editing and typing while they worked on cursing. I'm not joking, they were tired and they were not in the mood for another article. (I actually didn't suggest that. It was suggested after the editorial was finished and if the man or woman who suggested it wants to come forward, that's fine. Otherwise, I'll remain silent.)

  • News from Iraq -- Dona suggested this mid-way through and did so because "We don't have anything on Iraq!" We actually did, but she was so tired she'd forgotten.

  • Amy Goodman doesn't give a damn about Iraq -- If there's anyone on the left who pretends to care more about Iraq and actually does less, we haven't come across them.

  • FSRN covers Camp Ashraf -- this is a transcription piece. We're noting FSRN which we don't do enough of.

  • Klibur Solidaridade Timor-Leste -- From ETAN.

  • ETAN to Gather in Timor-Leste -- From ETAN.

  • Nourish yourself -- A DVD and two CDs that are coming out shortly. Music's to be trusted more than politics. Especially these days.

  • Highlights
-- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty, Ruth, Cedric, Stan, Wally, Rebecca and Marcia wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's it. We'll see you next week.

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

Editorial: It can start all over again

Storm clouds
Last week the words were used by the US Speaker of the House and the House Democratic Majority Leader used the term last week.

Not in speech, which would be appalling enough. No, they used it in print. Meaning, they wrote it and they thought about it (or thought as much as either is capable of). They made a decision -- a concrete one, not a spur of the moment one -- to use the term.

And with the exception of Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, the left appears to have made the decision to ignore it.

During the Bush era, Matthew Rothschild (CEO of The Progressive) was so very concerned with talk like that. Today, he doesn't even blink . . . provided it comes from a Democrat.

Matthew's one of the people who will be most harmed by Pelosi and Steny popularizing the term once again. Matthew's a Socialist. He hid in the political closet for years and years. He'd sometime mislead the public into thinking he was an 'independent' and sometimes he'd act as if he was a Democrat. Most in the know always knew what he was and found his coming out anti-climatic.

But "unAmerican" doesn't hurt Dems or Republicans. They've got huge party machinery to protect them.

"unAmerican" hurts the Communist and hurts the Socialist and hurts anyone who can be lumped into either category -- rightly or wrongly.

They're the unprotected politically and that's why they were targeted in the last century.

It's a cute little tale that no Democrats participated in McCarthyism.

It's not reality, but it's a sweet narrative.

Dems participated. Actively and passively, they participated.

Passive participation was not objecting. And the early refusal to object wasn't out of 'fear.' It was due to anger and disgust at outsiders attempting to control the Democratic Party. Sound familiar? The Democratic Party just saw that in 2008.

And there's a lot of anger and disgust over it.

Back then, their anger and disgust led them to say to Communists, Socialists and those suspected, "You're on your own."

There were active participants as well. Lot of big names rushed forward to brandish there "I'm No Red" cred. (Yes, even you-know-who's widow.) They actively attacked the two groups.

And with those ingredients and the Republicans in play, the country saw a very ugly chapter play out.

It could play out again.

Silence won't prevent it.

The only thing that will stop it is calling it out.

Is making sure that Nancy Pelois and Steny Hoyer grasp what they just pulled has no defense, has no excuse. That it's outrageous and shameful.

The left went along before and we know how that worked out.

TV: How a dud became watchable

In the American Dad episode "Franny 911," Francine and Roger fake his kidnapping to make Stan prove how much he cares for Roger.

Roger: I can't wait for Stan to ride in here like a white knight and hug me and give me hugs.

Francine: Well, in the meantime, I brought you your tacos.

Roger: Oh, thank God, I'm starving. This is Taco Barn. I said Taco King.

Francine: Aren't they the same thing? Anyway, Stan's coming for --

Roger: I'm sorry -- I'm sorry I just have to ask have I committed some crime? Did I clean my toilet with a wash cloth and then jam it into your mother's mouth?

Francine: What?

Roger: Because that's what you're doing to me.

Roger throws taco at Francine and it leaves a huge stain on her dress.

Francine: Okay, that was just an accident.

Roger: No, it wasn't. Oh, how did I end up here stuck in an old ice factory in my least favorite wig, all part of some dizzy blond's joy ride.

The alien from outerspace Roger is the most selfish and self-involved character in the Seth MacFarlane's universe. He's also the reason American Dad hasn't ended up a watered down version of Family Guy. That's how it started off with the two parents (Stan and Francine), two teenage kids (Hayley and Steve), talking pet (fish instead of dog). The only thing missing was Stewie.


And for a while there, it seemed like Roger would be the Stewie character of the show. In retrospect, episode three proved very important. That's when Steve tries to impress a girl at school to get her bra and Haley had moved out (to her boyfriend's van) so Roger was occupying her room. It may have been his first real dress up because he was shading an actual character and not just wearing a costume. Roger got so caught in his backstory (he was Steve's sister who was dangerously disfigured when she and her boyfriend gave one another chlorine massages), he forgot the point was for Steve to get the bra.

And from that point on, Roger's really made the show. He's brought Haley into the action and revealed new dimensions to Francine. It is through Roger, that the cast of characters have become richer. Klaus (the fish) remains the weakest of the characters and he really only works when he's pitting one character against another, but the rest have been developed, strengthened and shaded.

Francine was a "dizzy blond" from the start but she's become much more as the show's continued. She's had her own dreams (a kiosk in the mall) and her own desires (danger turns her on). She's also revealed a very dark side, such as the hatred she has towards George Clooney for upstaging her in what should have been her big break in a Scarecrow & Mrs. King episode. She is not the Family Guy's Lois who appears to live to mommy Peter.

And Steve isn't like Family Guy's Chris. Steve actually has a brain. One that gets him into trouble such as when he and Roger decided they were smart enough to make it in NYC. Steve failed to wow Jon Stewart with his Quantum Leap rape jokes and he and Roger were quickly playing out Midnight Cowboy. While Chris worships Peter, Steve, consistent with his character's age, is usually discovering how not-great Stan Smith is. As is usually the case with most plot developments, frequently Roger's the catalyst in opening Steve's eyes.

Stan was insufferable in the earliest episodes. It appeared he existed solely for liberal viewers to laugh at a Bush-ite. In the earliest of episodes, he was so stupid that he was in a hot tub with neighbors Greg and Terry, naked in the hot tub with them, and had no idea they were a gay couple. He's since figured it out and actually left the stereotype enough to support their relationship. He's become more complex and he's at his funniest when everyone is against him. Whether they're all laughing at him so he pretends there's been a nuclear attack (even after he finds out that there hasn't) or whether the car salesman's got the best of him, Stan provides comic gold. His finest is "Ollie's Gold." In that one, he's attempting to find Oliver North's gold and everyone thinks he's gone insane. When he finds it and flips the bird at his family while walking out of the kitchen, it's probably Stan's finest moment in the show.

"Ollie's Gold" is one of the early winners for the series. Klaus and Roger are watching TV (Roger watches a lot of TV -- without his disguises, he's a shut-in) when a news item about the payment in a sexual harassment case comes on. Roger can't believe the large sum and decides he's 'harassable' though Klaus disagrees. Decked out in a blond wig and a short skirt, Roger attempts to strut his stuff through the office. He catches no lustful stares and, as he notes, he probably shouldn't have farted before he started his show walk.

Roger as Laura

Roger is never funnier than when dressed as a woman. Last year's best episode opened with Haley and Roger in the mall while Roger bragged that Lydia had just told him his colors and Haley reminded him that she'd been standing there the whole time and there was no Lydia. Ignoring her and her pointing out that he was applying lipstick to his eye lids, Roger insisted the problem with Haley was that she was jealous. They bet El Pollo Loco coupons on who was the more desirable woman.

When Roger's playing a woman, the writers will go any and every where. In that episode, Roger has a date with a college guy and passes a lint cleaner off as an IUD. In another episode, which nods to Tootsie, Roger gets a lead in a daytime soap opera but is unable to cry on camera. He ends up fired and skating around in a salute to Olivia Newton-John cruise show before blowing that as well at which point he ends up a stripper in a dive which appears to require he works with a donkey.

Time and again, what Stewie and Brian only verbally nod to, Roger actually does. He's pushed the entire show into comic hilarity that has made Family Guy come off as staid as a traditional family sitcom.

The biggest beneficiary of Roger's antics has been Hayley. By not being loathed, she was already a step up from Meg on Family Guy. As a liberal in a non-political family with a conservative head, Hayley was naturally at odds with Stan. But it's her pairings with Roger that have really allowed her to shine. The two characters have an easy and relaxed chemistry that's different from the others interacting with Roger and may stem from the fact that Seth MacFarlane voices Roger and his sister Rachael MacFarlane voices Hayley.

Hayley's turned Roger in for using foster children as sweat-shop labor, she's been at odds with him over campus fraternities, and, in "Roger Codger" (the first time he plays dress up outside the home and, yes, as a woman) when he calls home after he's thought to be dead, Hayley's the only one who could have taken that call and made the scene work.

When we first reviewed American Dad, it was still in season one (they count their seasons strangely) and we were unimpressed with all that had come before in the previous eighteen episodes. Some of what makes it a great show today was just beginning to emerge, some of the traits had yet to show up. And one of the reasons we're taking another look at the show is because Seth's about to debut The Cleveland Show next month. If it's anything like American Dad, those early episodes will be trying. So we urge you to remember that American Dad started off very rocky. The Winner did as well. It had promise and a host of things that worked. Had it not been pulled, it might have shaped up into something really strong.

The other reason we're taking a second look at it is due to the fact that it's become one of the funniest shows on TV. From January through the May wrap up, it was one of the top three comedies TV had to offer. And we weren't the only ones feeling that way. In June, the show was the topic for a series of community posts: "American Dad," "Roger and 'Of Ice And Men.' "'irregarding steve'," "American Dad stem, stem, seed . . .," "The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission," "Gloria Feldt, Bob Somerby, American Dad," "William Blu, American Dad, Roger & Hayley," "Deborah Vagins, World Can't Wait, American Dad" and "World Can't Wait, Kelley B. Vlahos, American Dad." If we're talking TV with one another, at some point, someone will reference a line or episode of the show. It's become the strongest half-hour Fox has to offer.

And the general consensus is that Roger took the show there. He's become the audience favorite -- the Fonzie, Urkel or Laverne. But more than just dancing in the spotlight, he's pulled others into his dance and its allowed all the characters to become more textured and dimensional. Even Roger has demonstrated new levels such as last November in the ambitious "The One That Got Away" where Roger discovers someone named Sidney has maxed out his credit card. Roger sets out to destroy this Sidney only to discover Sidney is one of his made up personalities who somehow has created an existence of his own. From the mouths of fish, Klaus got it right early on when he declared the show could go out there on jokes and references because they're playing it a little smarter.

The Joni Roundtable

Jim: As promised in the community newsletters, before the summer ended we would do a musical roundtable on Joni Mitchell. She's had a very complex career and we all wanted to be able to participate face to face so we had to wait until everyone was at C.I.'s. 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; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Before we get into the roundtable proper, Mike had something he wanted to note.

Mike: C.I. actually included it in an Iraq snapshot last week but Joni Mitchell is releasing a boxed set this November. This is from her website, "For a new boxed set due out this November, Joni would like to invite the community to send in a statement of why they enjoy her music. It can be one sentence or a short paragraph and the best will be chosen for the liner notes for the project. It can be a personal experience with the music or why in general you like it. Joni feels it might be more interesting to hear from the people who truly like the music rather than from a critic or PR person. Submit your liner notes here." So any Joni fans breezing through that don't plan to read the full roundtable have that right at the start.

Joni Mitchell

Jim: Very good. Kat you reviewed Joni's Shine in October of 2007, gave it a rave, and you've spoken of what a great gift it was for you to be able to write that review.

Kat: It really was because it became fashionable to beat Joni Mitchell up in the late seventies and, after that, you beat her up if she strayed from romantic songs and applauded her if she offered up the songs that you demanded. That was the treatment she faced repeatedly. And that treatment largely came from men as well as from male identifying women. Joni had her male defenders and a lot more female defenders but reviewing Shine was really important to me because it was a chance to wade in and offer a rebuke of the boys club mentality that only wanted Joni if she would play waif and weak. Joni's a very gifted performer and songwriter and she's that on her own terms, not on the terms anyone tries to dictate to her.

Jim: Alright Ruth's going to give us an overview.

Ruth: I was picked because I knew of Joni as the songwriter. Though most music lovers today of all ages are aware of Judy Collins, Tom Rush is a name they're less familiar with. Tom Rush was someone my friend Treva was crazy for and, in our college days, if Tom was playing, we were there. Tom was, and I'm sure is, a very talented performer. He was singing "Urge for Going" and, at some point, Treva found out it was by Joni Mitchell. It was one of those things, those in passing, let's have a drink, conversations. So that was probably 1966 or 1967. And in 1968, The Circle Game comes out, which is the finest Tom Rush album, in my opinion, and "Urge for Going" is on it. It's a really important song that sums up wanderlust and the strings that can tie us down so you can picture it being very big in club circles in the mid-to-late sixties. It really was a summation for so many of us. And you've got the title track of Tom Rush's album written by Joni as well, "The Circle Game." And also "Tin Angel." The bulk of the songs, as I remember it, were written by Joni, Jackson Browne or James Taylor. Plus Tom's own classic "No Regrets." And it was Tom's album -- and a beautiful one -- but it really was an announcement of this new significant artist: Joni Mitchell. Tom's album came out near Hanukkah and I must have talked everyone's ear off about "The Circle Game" and the album because I ended up getting, from my brother, Joni Mitchell's first album which had come out earlier that year, Song to a Seagull. And "I Had A King" and "Cactus Tree" and "Night In The City" were wonderful but it was a different sound. On Clouds, Joni's sound would become her own. That's her 1969 album which contains "Both Sides Now" -- made famous by Judy Collins' cover version which was a hit. This first album was promising but Clouds was a huge step forward in terms of her sound. And the huge step from Song To A Seagull to Clouds would be completely forgotten as, one after the other, Joni's next albums made such huge strides that, in retrospect, so much of what she'd already achieved seemed of less value. She's one of the strongest songwriters contemporary music has had. For many, she's the waif-like blond, strumming the guitar and singing in that high soprano voice. For many, that phase is the one they've tried to freeze her in.

Jim: Okay, we're going to be discussing our favorite Joni albums. The rule is that if someone else picks your favorite, you contribute then. We're very aware that there will be a high chance that several will pick the same album. C.I. usually speaks at the end of these things but asked to go first. I'm assuming to pick Blue.

C.I.: You assume wrong. My favorite Joni album is Dog Eat Dog. A year before, due to a lazy and biased media, Ronald Reagan had been re-elected. It was appalling. And on the left you had a lot of meekness and a lot of appeasement. Along comes Joni with Dog Eat Dog and that is an important album. I had an advance copy and was ignoring it because she works with Thomas Dobly -- of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame -- and Neil Young's own synthesizer experiments that decade had left me less than satisfied. So it was sitting there unlistened to and then a friend called in a panic because he'd landed an interview with Joni -- reporters always seem to go nuts when Joni agrees to speak to them -- and he wanted some tips on what sort of topics would go over best. So I tossed off five and then he asked about the new album which was going to be the spine of the interview. He hadn't heard it yet, Geffen was getting a copy to him. So I hung up with a promise to call back and listened and it was just amazing. I called him back within the hour and played key portions over the phone then went back to listening solo. I don't think this album has ever been appreciated for its bravery. When Joni nails a human emotion in a song everyone loves, we all speak of her bravery. But it took a lot of bravery for Joni to do Dog Eat Dog. The media loved Reagan and refused to recognize either his crimes -- they'd be exposed shortly -- or the fact that everyone didn't love Ronnie. And here came Joni with her critique of the Reagan era. She showed such passion and such bravery. "Lucky Girl" is the sort of song people expected from her and they could accept "Good Friends." But "The Three Great Stimulants," "Tax Free," "Fiction" and the title track were just too much for some who didn't want Joni angry. If Joni had climbed up on the cross and let them hammer nails in, they would've written rave reviews: "Joni suffers yet again! And so beautifully!" But when she used her tremendous skills and talents to perfectly capture the time she was living in, they just didn't want to know. The album's critique of modern times still applies. "Shiny Toys" could have been written yesterday. The lyrics are so apt. But, to stay with that song, it's not just the lyrics and the passion with which she's singing and playing, it's also her fun with plosives. This is the woman who wrote "they Paved Paradise and PuT uP a Parking loT" which is fun to sing because of the plosives. She does something very similar with "Shiny Toys" -- there's just such joy in singing "hate to have to put your toys away." From singing the "h"s just right and that "t"s -- you've got this breath you really need for the "h"s and this attack coming from the "t"s. Those moments are just amazing. "Impossible Dreamer" is probably the best song inspired by John Lennon after he had passed away. And it's appropriate for it to appear on this album because Reaganism really was about the death of John Lennon, it was about the death of all things that we collectively held to be good and for the public good. Joni's album is probably one of the top ten best of the 1980s and it is still, all this time later, so little appreciated. But if Joni hadn't released that, if she hadn't written these songs, she wouldn't be recording today. She would have stopped recording. You can't have those songs in you and not let them out unless you're willing to kill your muse. They're too passionately felt. And it's really amazing how, even to this day, Dog Eat Dog is rejected by so many when it is such a strong work of art and as emotionally honest as Blue. Joni's not hiding anything, she's not holding anything back. And the answer to all of this garbage shoved off on us by the government is music, is dancing, is friends. It's Joni's message that she's always believed in. And yet to read the reviews in real time, it was to see this sort of, "What the hell's she talking about?" and this "Who is this woman? This isn't the Joni we love!" It is the Joni you love if you love her for her capacity to explore, to be honest and to create. In the last four years especially, not a week has gone by when I haven't caught myself singing one of the songs -- usually more than one -- from this album to myself. I'll be thinking about something, maybe wondering what to say to the group we're speaking to, or maybe at the computer trying to write an entry and I'll just catch myself with something like, "I picked the morning paper off the floor, It was full of other people's little wars . . ." Dog Eat Dog is amazing and, if it was Neil's album, you better believe every rock critic in the world would have hailed it upon release and non-stop since.

Jim: We're all kind of blown away because I don't think we'd planned to go that in depth. But last summer, there was a guy, a musician, who was ranking on the album here and you came up behind him and just let him have it so I'm not surprised.

C.I.: Yeah, he was trashing it and saying something like "Synth music." Well, if you're speaking of the Reagan era in the Reagan era, you're going to be using synths. And it's not like Joni was the only one who used them. They're all over "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." Or Glenn [Frey]'s stuff or anyone in that period. But it's only Joni that must stay away from the synths? "I picked the morning paper" is from "Three Great Stimulants" and I doubt Joni would have found that rhythm if that song had been acoustic guitar based. It was the same as her forays into jazz, she's creating new colors and tones with the sounds she's using.

Jim: Okay. Elaine told me I could call on her at any point because she was going to pick something that she doubted anyone else would. Watch it be Dog Eat Dog. Elaine?

Elaine: No, but I do love that album and agree with everything C.I. said. Mine is For The Roses, from 1972. And it's my favorite due to placement issues. Joni frequently has the wanderlust, as Ruth pointed out, and that's fine and I enjoy those but For The Roses has a sense of rootedness that I really enjoy. It's there in the questions in "See You Sometime" -- where Joni's location is not in question but she's wondering about someone else -- and it's there in the various locales she describes plus it's there in "Let The Wind Carry Me" when the parents who up. It's throughout the album and it's her most rooted persona in the songs and, with the exception of "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio," it's so piano based and so richly textured. And lyrically it never fails to blow me away, all these years later, with lyrics like:

Some turn to Jesus
And some turn to heroin
Some turn to rambling round
Looking for a clean sky
And a drinking stream
Some watch the paint peel off
Some watch their kids grow up
Some watch their stocks and bonds
Waiting for that big deal American Dream

Elaine (Con't): That's from "Banquet," the opening track. Ruth was talking about how, starting with Clouds, Joni is just making these huge strides with each album and how, in retrospect, some of those strides aren't recognized. I think that's especially true of this album because it's sandwiched between Blue and Court & Spark.

Ann: That was going to be my pick as well, For The Roses. I just started listening to it last week. There's a song C.I. always quotes, "Let The Wind Carry Me." I'll include the full verse:

Sometimes I get that feeling
And I want to settle
And raise a child up with somebody
I get that strong longing
And I want to settle
And raise a child up with somebody
But it passes like the summer
I'm a wild seed again
Let the wind carry me

Ann (Con't): I knew the quote but note the song. The quote pops up here often and often in "Iraq snapshots" and elsewhere at The Common Ills, "But it passes like the summer, I'm a wild seed again, Let the wind carry me." And over time, I've created my own sound scape to those lines. But with us all being together this past week, I was discovering all this wonderful music -- Jess, among others, is really a musical librarian and he turned me on to so much. But I wanted to know what album that song was on because I wanted to hear it. And C.I. put it on and went to that song first. I was apprehensive in the silence right before the song starts with this rhythm and counter-rhythm echoing and that captured my attention right away. Then the horn comes on and I'd already forgotten how I imagined the song would sound. So I've pretty much squirreld this CD away since Wednesday. Right now, if I were on an island and told I could only have one album, I would ask for this one. There's a choral quality to the singing that really moves me. And "Woman of Heart and Mind" is just such a beautiful song.

Jim: And to repeat, for listeners and participants, that's how we'll do it. If someone picks your favorite album, you can, like Ann did, jump in after and share your reasons. The thing I was really worried about with this roundtable is that we'd have Blue over and over. Blue's a great album and I'm sure at least one person will name it as their favorite but there's a lot more to Joni's accomplishments than that one album. I'm not sure who to go to next but since Ann just spoke, I'll toss to her husband Cedric.

Cedric: For me, the best Joni album is Taming The Tiger. That's her album from 1998. To me, every track on the album is perfection. In terms of songwriting, in terms of vocals, in terms of production. I love the pounding of "Lead Balloon" and I love how the more hesitant and sparse "Love Puts on a New Face" comes right before it and "No Apologies" follows it. "No Apologies" is one of the best songs Joni's ever written and I know that's saying something. But her top twenty songs would have to include this. And after this comes "Taming the Tiger" which is just such a great song and a fun song with it's "tiger, tiger" parts. I really love this. And by that point I'd fallen in love with every song and you keep waiting for the one that comes along and has you thinking, "Okay, that's not one I love." But it never happens. For eleven tracks, there's not a weak moment or a false note to be heard.

Jim: Has Ann heard this one?

Ann: No. I'm generally off in one room and Cedric in another when we play music. I'll play it in the bedroom or the kitchen. Cedric will usually be in the living room. That's not because we don't enjoy each other's music or listening together but Cedric brings home a lot of work and needs to spread that out for room so he'll generally use the coffee table. So he'll have music going on in there and I'll be elsewhere in the house. Except for Mingus, I wasn't even aware we had Joni in the house. That's one of her jazz albums and we listen to that together from time to time.

Cedric: Yes, like Ann explained, during the week, we're not generally listening to music together. At dinner, unless there's Iraq news actually being covered, we'll have music on. That's usually the Mingus album, Sade, Diana Ross live jazz album whose title I'm forgetting --

C.I.: Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings . . . Jazz & Blues.

Cedric: Thank you. And we'll mix in some Ella and some Benny Goodman. A lot of that on vinyl and stuff that was my father's. The Mingus album was my father's for example. Taming the Tiger is an album I really love and I'm realizing how little we play music for each other, Ann and I. But we both work and we both volunteer with our church. So we'll have to start playing music for each other when we get home.

Rebecca: Please, let it wait until after one year of marriage when you need to discover more things about each other! I'm joking. And jumping in because I will say Blue and am amazed it hasn't been named already. Blue. And it came out in 1971. Listening to it, you really appreciate Joni's amazing guitar work and understand why both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were blown away by her, she's one of the few women to receive critical praise for her playing. But I also wonder if people grasp that some of the strings she's playing are on the dulcimer? I wish she'd play the dulcimer on her next release for a song or two because she does it so beautifully on "California" and other songs. Blue is considered one of the strongest albums of the rock era and regularly scores highly on 'All Time Great' lists. It's considered to be highly autobiographical and, no offense to Joni, if that was the only reason to buy it, the album wouldn't have sold. By that I mean, Blue has millions of fans and they're fans without having to know Joni's personal life. If it was just pages from her diary, it wouldn't have sold. And, as she has pointed out, when people agree they tend to look at it as she's singing about humanity and when they disagree or she hits something too personal, they tend to say, "Oh, that's just her." It's a huge hit because it captures so much that so many can relate to. "River" is an amazing song and I really believe that when The Wonder Years used it for an episode in the eighties, as a Joni re-appreciation was taking part, they allowed and encouraged many people to discover her. That's partly because Joni disappears from rock radio when she makes her jazz foray and they really never let her back in the club. So you really do need a friend or some other outlet, a TV show in the case of The Wonder Years, to share Joni with others.

Ava: Blue would be mine as well. I'm trying to get some musical skills down these days. C.I.'s teaching me piano and Wally and C.I. are teaching me guitar. And one of the things they both said was to learn a song you love or you'll quit early on. So I asked for "River" for piano and for "This Flight Tonight" for guitar. I've got "River" down but am still working on "This Flight Tonight." "River" is just a beautiful song. The lyrics to be sure with the "It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees," but the music is so beautiful and just, honestly, so much fun to play along with. The verses with their da-da-DAs and the chorus with its more graceful steps. And, of course, I defy anyone to not be blown away by "A Case Of You." I agree with Rebecca about the dulcimer, it very much adds another element to the album. And I also agree with her that people listening frequently hear the dulcimer and just assume Joni's playing guitar.

Jim: E-mails will come in asking, "Why not Jess?" In terms of guitar.

Ava: I don't think it's a good idea, in terms of our relationship, for me to learn guitar from Jess. Jess is of course highly talented. Also true, I see Jess most of the time only on the weekends. I'm not bored during that time. But Kat, Wally, C.I. and I are on the road most weeks talking about Iraq. Wally's always got his guitar and we can usually find a piano. On the road, it's very busy but there are also times when you just have time to kill. It makes more sense to learn on the road. And our e-mail address is

Jim: Thank you. I'll move over to Ava's better half, Jess.

Jess: I'm going to go with Chalk Mark On A Rainstorm. We were listening to that last week during the writing edition and that had been my pick. I hadn't heard it in some time and I was really amazed how much I still loved it. "Cool Water," a duet with Willie Nelson, really is a testament to Joni as a singer. With her songwriting gifts, it's really easy to forget how talented a singer she also is. "A Bird That Whistles" is just so beautiful and kind of a nod to the fans who've been on the long journey with her. "Lakota" is one of her political songs and its inclusion on the album is sort of like thumbing her nose at everyone who attacked Dog Eat Dog -- which would be my third favorite Joni album by the way. And "The Beat of Black Wings" and all these amazing songs. It's a very rich album and one of my favorites. It's also accessible not just for the richness but also for the appearance of Billy Idol, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, Don Henley and Tom Petty among others.

Jim: It also has a richly textured cover. I honestly think that's the best cover to any Joni album. I'm surprised Jess picked that though. Jess, you grew up on Joni, right?

Jess: My parents were huge fans, yes.

Jim: So you know all the albums?

Jess: Yes and I pick Chalk Marks as my favorite. Sorry if that upsets you, Jim. Just one listen to "Number One" will do it for me.

Jim: Okay, well Jess also mentioned "The Beat Of Black Wings"and that's popped up in the "Iraq snapshots" all last week. Not Friday's however. Why?

C.I.: Why? There wasn't room it was too long. But it will continue to pop up when we're speaking of Danny Fitzsimons, the British contractor who apparently shot dead another British contractor and an Australian one while wounding an Iraqi. I think the song is apt and I also am aware that songs are known by how often they're mentioned. Take Bob Dylan whom most people can't stop quoting. Some of his finest early songs are forgotten today because people glom on 1965 and after. So we'll continue to include "The Beat Of Black Wings."

Jim: And that's something that we've done here from the start. Music pieces get a lot of positive e-mails and people are always glad to see them. And most of our longterm readers long ago noted that we mainly focus on women. The reason for that is that we're trying to provide things you won't get elsewhere and use our power wisely. So we've offered cuttings of Joni's lyrics or Carly Simon's lyrics and pieces on Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner and many others. [Ty note: Including the Mamas and the Papas and Carole King.] But that first weekend we worked on this site, we talked about that and how we didn't want to be pushing the exact same thing everyone else already did.

Dona: And we can always count on the sixty-plus, White male professor at some college to e-mail and whine about a music feature not being devoted to Dylan or even mentioning him. We're not in the mood. Laura Nyro, whom we've also written of -- and raided C.I.'s journal for that article when it turned out Ty and my research had been less than successful, has had more influence on me than most of the so-called rock gods. Ditto Rickie Lee Jones, Nina Simone, Carly Simon or Joni Mitchell. And of Joni's albums, my favorite is Court & Spark. That's her most commercially successful so I probably made the 'easy choice.' But it really is my favoirte. The title track opens the album and it's just such a beautiful song. And it's over so quickly. "People's Parties" and "The Same Situation" blend so well together, there's no break between them and there's also not a real break in theme. The latter is pretty much taking "People's Parties" from a focus on the entire room to a focus on just one person. This may or may not be a woman thing but it reminds me of the woman at the party who pulls you into the bedroom to cry about the guy who's there with another woman and you find yourself spending a good part of the party comforting your friend and getting her to a place where she can rejoin the party. "So I sent up my flare . . ." "Car On A Hill" is another highly relatable song. I will never forget being stood up on a Friday night my junior year in high school. I will never forget waiting and waiting for him to show and so aware that not only was I being stood up but my parents and my brother knew I was being stood up. And each time a car turned down our rode, I would think, "Okay, he's an hour -- or two -- late, but finally he's coming." It was never him. So when Joni sings, "Sitting up waiting for my sugar to show, I've been listening to the sirens and the radio, He said he'd be over three hours ago, I've been waiting for his car on the hill." And in case I wasn't clear, these are things I bring to the songs. That's Joni's gift. Creating songs that listeners can relate to and bring their own experiences to. I agree that she's wrongly pinned as an autobiographical songwriter. I don't think there's anything wrong with confessional songwriters but we have never been of the belief, check our 2005 archives, that Joni was a confessional songwriter. Carly, by contrast, clearly is. And Carly's a very talented one. But I love Court & Spark for what I bring to it and for what it reflects back to me.

Marcia: It's my favorite as well and for a number of reasons. Many of the reasons were outlined by Dona but I really love "Down To You." I love the chords, I love the melody and I love the lyrics. For me, "Down To You" is an example of the perfect song, where every element works and enhances. I love her voice, how it gets deeper, when she's talking about the meet up at "the pick up station," the bar, and how you have all these expectations or demands and then you give them up and settle. "Clutching the night to you like a fig leaf" is just such a beautiful turn of phrase. And the couple departs "to lay down an impression and your loneliness" only to "brush against a stranger and you both apologize" the next morning. I think it's a song most of us have lived at least once. I love the horns on "Car On The Hill." And "Raised On Robbery" is a wonderful song as well. I always think she should do a sequel, "Won The Lottery." But I fell in love with Court & Spark on cassette tape and, in those days, we listened to the whole album. Unless you wanted tape drop out. You couldn't just cue up your favorite track. So you'd listen to one side and then flip it over. And there aren't a lot of albums out there which are worth listening to in full. This one always was and when I switched over to CDs finally, probably 1997, I bought this with six other CDs on the same day.

Jim: Anyone else? Okay. I'll assume that's speaking to the diversity of taste and the diversity of Joni Mitchell's works that her two most applauded albums -- Blue and Court & Spark -- both resulted in two people picking each as their favorites. Ty, Trina, Mike, Isaiah, Betty, Wally and Stan still have to speak. Am I forgetting anyone?

Dona: You, of course, and Kat and Ruth.

Jim: Okay, how about we go to Ruth.

Ruth: I don't think anyone else is going to pick this one, Miles of Aisles. I don't like greatest hits or best ofs, but I do like live albums and this is a real treat because Joni's grown each year she's released albums and, by 1974, she had released six albums, so she had a huge amount of material to work with. She also drops the high-high soprano. What some called her "cold water sorprano." It's not really on the album. And I mention that because the kids loved this the best, my kids. Some of the other albums prior to Court & Spark, they really couldn't get into. But this one found her singing in a deeper voice, as she had on Court & Spark, and they really got into songs on it that their father and I had tried to turn them on to before. I think it's both a look back at where she's been and also a peak at where she's going. You really can't appreciate what comes in the next years if you're not on board with this album because the jazz accents become more pronounced here. I like best that she opens the songs up to explore them more. This is probably one of my all time favorite live albums and I'm a huge fan of live albums.

Jim: Stan?

Stan: As I've explained before, in college not all that long ago, I bought vinyl like crazy. The local head shop had it. That was really their cover, they dealt pot and more, but their pretend reason for being in business was vinyl. I think I was the only customer they had who actually bought vinyl. But one of the albums I got was Ladies of the Canyon. And I really love that. It's one where Joni uses that "cold water soprano" Ruth was referring to. That's a falsetto, isn't it?

C.I.: Yes, that's Joni using falsetto on those extremely high notes on the early albums. She herself speaks publicly of that.

Stan: And I like them. They really take the vocal up and soaring. She gets thin around the C note but can then thicken her voice to its normal strength. Smokey's got a great falsetto, Smokey Robinson and I would rank Joni's falsetto second only to Smokey. I love the album for the vocals and for the piano playing. But I especially love it because it's really a collection of short stories. The first track, "Morning Morgantown," had me thinking, "Oh, this is what the albums's about." But that's not the case. It's a series of short stories with some really interesting characters. "Rainy Night House" is one of my favorites but I love them all and, of course, "The Circle Game" is just an amazing song. I love how the music goes up and down. And I love "Willy" as well. And "Ladies of the Canyon" is brilliant. This is my favorite Joni album. It was released in 1970.

Jim: Ladies of the Canyon is also a favorite of Stevie Nicks' and Ladies of the Canyon includes a Trina, who has wum-pum beads, so let's go to our own Trina for her pick.

Trina: I'm going to say Shine because, for me, that is a pefect album. I was writing about it last week and I could really spend a week writing about that album. I really didn't expect Joni to do another album so just the fact that it was released was enough to excite me but it is an album that I'm still listening to. It's almost two years old now and I'm still getting so much joy from it. The "money, money" part on "This Place" is such a strong hook and it's not often that you get such a strong hook on a political song. And the title track really is gorgeous.

Jim: There's another person who ranks this as their favorite and I'll let them speak in a second but, Trina, you're going way back with Joni. You've been a Joni fan for years and several of your children are named for Joni songs, correct?

Trina: Yes. No offense to Bill or Hillary Clinton, but we weren't copying them. All of our kids were born before Bill was sworn in in 1993. I don't have permission to name most of them here but Mike won't care. He's named after "Michael from Mountains." Off Song To A Seagull. And he really loved that song as a kid. We have eight children, my husband and I, and all of their names did come from Joni songs. The first few, it wasn't planned. We just would be listening while I was pregnant and one of us would say, "If it's a boy/girl that's the name." And then it became our pattern. And with all my knowledge of Joni's previous albums and all my love for so many of them, I would still pick Shine as her best and my favorite. It really is a special and magical album. Who else picked it?

Kat: I did. I'd told Jim ahead of time that I'd probably be the only one not going with Blue or Court & Spark and mentioned that I thought her latest album was her finest. I think Trina captured it very well and I think what you're seeing with Shine is an artist whose comfortable with their colors and their brush strokes and is just able to capture so much with just the smallest of brush strokes, the most delicate of them. I really think Joni's entering into a period that rivals her Blue period. I hope she continues recording because Shine is not derivative, but it does demonstrate various techniques she's utilized. She's utilizing them in different ways and that's what's so exciting. She's grabbed all these elements throughout her career and toyed with them and experimented with them and now she's able to assemble them into this amazing and unique sound. "If I Had A Heart" and "Strong And Wrong" are among her strongest pieces.

Jim: Okay so that leaves us with Ty, Wally, Betty and Mike. And Isaiah! I just forgot him. So let's start with him.

Isaiah: I'll go with The Hissing of Summer Lawns and, since Prince isn't participating in this roundtable, I doubt anyone will be rushing to agree. This one is a challenging album for some, it came out in 1975 and it's not continuing the sound of Court & Spark. It's going with polyrhythms and offering more sketches and less use of the word "I" in the songs. "In France They Kiss on Main Street" is a really beautiful song and so is "Edith & The Kingpin" -- which Herbie Hancock and Tina Turner do a strong cover of on his River. It's really a different album, not just for Joni Mitchell, but for most artists. I really can't think of anyone else who would have dared to have tried this and the daring is part of the reason I love it. I love that she could have milked the Court & Spark audience for the next three albums by offering pale imitations but instead made this strong artistic shift. And there are so many rhythms in the songs. Any song on the album has more than one rhythm threading through it so I never get tired of this album. I can focus on the dominant one or find one of the others in the song.

Jim: Okay. I'm surprised by that pick for about ten seconds and then I think, "Of course he'd pick that." There are the themes right out there in front and then the songs have these other themes buried in them and that reminds me of your own comics so it is fitting that you would pick that. Betty, I have no idea what you will pick.

Betty: I'm going to go with Night Ride Home. That's one I listened to a great deal during my second pregnancy. It had been out for several years and I had my brother's copy. And I love that because there's so much joy. There's also, for me, a desire to see more than is actually there in a relationship. And I identified with that and still do. It was during my second pregnancy that I knew it was over. Yes, I would have a third child but I already knew. I would continue to try to make it work but it was over. And I'd listen to Joni sing the title track and wonder how I'd live without the magical evening she was describing because "love is gone" as she sings in "Down To You" on Court & Spark. And I would listen to that one song over and over and just wonder about it. And would program the CD player to go to "Come In From The Cold" next because that was where I was at: "All I ever wanted, was just to come in from the cold, come in, come in, come in from the cold." And I would look at my children's father and think, "Yeah who?" While listening to "Passion Play" -- "Who you gonna get to do the dirty work, when all the slaves are gone?" I really identified with that song. It was not a difficult pregnancy but the way I'm talking about it, I'm sure I'm giving another impression. It was just a moment, and I think we all have these, when you can so clearly see where you are in relation to where you want to be and where you are, really are, in your relationship. There is no disguise or anything hidden. And it can be a little scary or sad. Joni's Night Ride Home got me through that and it remains my favorite Joni album. And I love the tones, it has a beautiful tonal quality, a lot of blacks and blues, velvet tones.

Jim: And that is my favorite as well. I love it for different reasons. I find "Night Ride Home," for example, to be a very beautiful and hopeful song. I like the opening, "Once in a while, In a big blue moon, There comes a night like this, Like some surrealist, Invented this 4th of July, Night Ride Home." That's just such a powerful opening, I'm hooked right there. And I love the melody of "Ray's Dad's Cadillac." And "Cherokee Louise" is another powerful song. But 1991's Night Ride Home is my own favorite and the last point Betty was making about the tones probably is why. It's a night album, with glimmers of light from stars and this velvet blanket around it.

Ty: I'm going to go with glimmers but of bright colors. To me, that's Clouds, the 1969 album. To me, putting that CD on is like the commercial where you pop a Starburst. That never happens when you eat the candy. But I always feel like the sun's shining through a stained glass window when I listen to Clouds. "The Gallery" is probably my favorite song. And my favorite section is when she puts her voice in like an uplift, because the verses are kind of matter of fact and she then kind of turns the chorus into this huge blast of wind, and she sings, "'Lady, please love me now, I am dead, I am a saint, turn down your bed, I have no heart,' that's what you said. You said, 'I can be cruel, But let me be gentle with you'." And Ruth was talking about what a huge step it is, this album, from Joni's first one. It really is. That first one sounds a lot like Joni trying to sound a little like The Byrds and I'm sure that's due to David Crosby being in the studio but this is the album, Clouds, where Joni really announces her own sound and it's really a great sound. Even now, with all the people who have tried to copy her, Clouds still sounds just like Joni. I got this through BMG and it was actually their error. I had ordered a CD I'm too embarrassed to name. But that group was really big back then. And I ordered that CD and, for my grandmother, I ordered a Roberta Flack collection. So it comes in and I'm so thrilled because she'd been feeling really down -- my grandmother -- and I knew this would cheer her up. So I open it up and I see this other CD, Joni's, and I'm thinking, "Huh?" So I give my grandmother her CD and it does cheer her up and she's listening to the whole thing and explaining to me about her and my grandfather and about my father and about her brothers and sisters and every song on that CD is a memory for her. I am now stuck with Joni. I had to save up from chores and lunch money to get money orders to pay my BMG bills. But I can't send it back because I've opened the container it was sent in and I can't tape it back up because I ripped the cardboard apart out of excitement. Now we didn't have a Fex X store or any place where you bought mailing boxes. So I was stuck with the CD. And I told myself it was okay because Prince liked Joni and I was a big Prince fan. So that night, I put on my headphones, lay down in bed and play the disc and the first song is "Tin Angel" and it's Joni and her guitar. When she gets to "I found someone to love today," for me, that was the Joni moment. That's when I became a Joni fan. The first verse is well constructed but that "I found someone to love today" just took me by surprise and I sat up, turned on the light on the lamp on the bedside desk and pulled out the CD booklet to study the lyrics. Clouds was my first exposure to Joni and that may be why I see it as so powerful but it remains my all time favorite album by her.

Jim: So there's a really wide spectrum on what albums everyone would choose as their favorite. It's interesting to me what's being chosen and why. Wally?

Wally: For me, it's Hejira. That wasn't always my favorite. But when we're on the road, generally Kat's driving because she loves to drive. I usually grab the back seat and so does C.I. Ava's up front with Kat. I'll have my guitar and be tuning and playing and sometimes I'll slide it over to C.I. Now "Coyote" is a great song and one that immediately stood out on the album. But a lot of the tracks just drifted by me. It was only being on the road -- and Hejira is a road album -- and hearing C.I. sing the title track or "Refugee of the Road" that really had me absorbing the songs meanings. This is really a powerful album but, lyrically, it's a lot deeper than it may seem to some -- to me, for sure -- if you're not really hearing. And I love the bass lines and found a lot to enjoy about the album but it was only when C.I. was singing the songs and playing them on guitar that I really started hearing them. Joni's telling some very complex stories on this one. And Stan was talking about how Ladies From The Canyon is really a short story collection. I think that's true of Hejira as well and there are a few essays in here as well. It's a complex album.

Jim: And your favorite song from this 1976 album?

Wally: "Black Crow." That's an example of a song I liked but really didn't pay attention to until we were on the road. It's a really great song. And, yes, I forgot to say the year as you'd asked us all to do.

Jim: Which leaves us with Mike. What's it going to be?

Mike: 1994's Turbulent Indigo. I went ahead and had a pow-wow with my dad because he and Mom usually agree on music acts but not on which is the best album. So I knew he'd be asking her, after this goes up, "Why didn't you pick ___?" So I thought I'd call him and find out what he would pick. This was on my top three but in discussing and debating it with him, it became my number one pick. "Yvette In English" -- the song Joni and David Crosby wrote -- is an example of really wonderful guitar work. And "How Do You Stop" is a really catchy and gorgeous song. The background voices work really well on that track. But mainly it's the seamless quality, how all the songs work together to form one statement.

Jim: Which is?

Mike: Rape and abuse. Of women, of the environment. All that damage that's done.

Jim: Okay. If I forgot someone and you didn't speak up, it's your fault. This was a very lengthy roundtable. I believe C.I. was going to plug a book. Not one by Sheila Weller, I'm sure.

C.I.: NPR's Michelle Mercer has just released Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period which examines five of Joni's studio albums starting with 1971's Blue and ending with 1976's Hejira. The list price is $24.99 and it's a hardcover book. Those looking for a summer read that's worth reading should pick it up and, by "summer read," I'm not insulting it as "low brow." I just think it's a book that anyone will enjoy -- Joni fan or not.

Jim: Alright and we'll again note Joni Mitchell's website. This is a rush transcript. And a very long roundtable. We probably won't do another musical roundtable for some time.

The Flim Flam Man (Ava and C.I.)

Back in July, we did "TV: Meet The Fockers" and pointed out that there was no plan despite Congress and the White House insisting that there was a health care plan. We feel the need to note that because Katha Pollitt only just caught on to it last week. Who knew it was our job to supply Katha with hand-me-downs?

She's going to need a good seamstress, able to sew in several panels, if she's ever going to hope to fit into our castoffs, but what's the nation need?

How about some reality and you really can't get that too much on television.

On The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric last week, Katie offered an embarrassing and uninformed "that's the way I see it" piece of nonsense about the conversation on health care. (We know Katie and like her, that doesn't mean she gets a pass.) In her judgmental ramblings, the 'bad guys' in the current health insurance reform debate are the ones objecting. Shame, shame on them, Katie scolded.

Did you notice that? We're not talking health care. We're talking about health insurance reform.

Quite a come down.

But there was Katie blaming some people who object to ObamaCare. Hint to CBS, blaming angry people is not generally how you succeed in driving the ratings up. Hint to CBS, when over half the respondents in polls have a problem with ObamaCare, attacking that group doesn't mean happy Nielsens in the near future.

With the exception of the coverage from MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, we didn't see much worth praising.

Largely what we saw were a bunch of trained dogs dancing in frilly freedom as they got to play 'lefty' while their owners didn't object. The owners didn't object because ObamaCare is not left. It is a prescription for Big Pharma to make millions and a mandate that all Americans have coverage would certainly be a windfall for the insurance companies.

As if to demonstrate just how far he'll go, Barack tossed out his dead grandmother yesterday in Colorado in an attempt to sell his insurance reform. (See "THIS JUST IN! NATURAL BORN LIAR!" and "Barack's distant relationship with the truth.") He really does love using his maternal grandmother whenever he's in trouble. He never enjoyed visiting her and largely avoided her after he finished college. But when in doubt, when needing to sell himself or his policies, he suddenly trots her out. And we're all supposed to ooh and ahh and feel sorry for the selfish ass who made no time for the woman when she was alive but now wants to squeeze her dead bones to advance his own agenda. The term for that behavior is "shameless."

But "shameless" also describes what the networks gave us on ObamaCare. Whether it was ABC, CBS or NBC, it was apparently too much effort for the reporters and anchors to state the obvious: Congress and the White House had hit the road to discuss a plan that still doesn't exist. The House version is different than the Senate version and neither include the things that the White House wants (including penalties on those with 'unhealthy' 'habits').

On Friday, we marveled at NPR's The Diane Rehm Show when, during the first hour, Diane insisted that people who currently had health care and were happy with it would be able to keep it. Uh, no, Diane. David Gregory pinned the HHS Secretary down on that misleading claim July 19th on Meet The Press.

What Diane didn't know, David Brooks grasped. Friday on The NewsHour, PBS featured their popular Shields and Brooks segment which is rivaled only by Shields and Yarnell for popular duos with Shields in the billing.

David offered this on Barack, "The other thing is, he just tells a lot of whoppers now. Now, believe me, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are saying some things that are extremely off the charts untrue about the plan, but I just wrote down some of the things Obama said today which are whoppers. He said everyone can keep their health care plan. Well, the CBO doesn't say that. Six million people are going to lose their plan. Preventive care saves money. That's not true. It's going to cost $90 billion a year. That's not true. It's probably going to cost twice as much when it's fully implemented. Government will be out of health care decisions. He tells one thing after another, making it seem so easy. Well, believe me: This is not easy. It's going to take some sacrifices and some really painful cuts for people to get this system under control."

A stark contrast between Bill Moyers Friday on his Journal, "So you can see, perhaps, why it's hard even to describe as protests what's happening today -- the raucous disruption of town meetings that deny others their right to free speech. The cries of tyranny, the analogies to Hitler on the signs and in postings on the internet. That's not conscience at work; it's the product of colicky, cranky unconscionable anger, fueled by lies." Colicky and cranky? Bill, were we you, we wouldn't go there.

And it hurts to watch Bill Moyers become such a damn liar. Bill damn well knows what bioethics is -- he's certainly spoken to enough bioethicists. "Death panels"? Hmm. It's not as if people need to reach to some bad movie for those issues. They can look at a president's council for example. They could, after all, just click here.

These are issue that are largely debated away from the public. They're not pie in the sky musings. They will effect our lives and they already do in that insurance companies already have their own "death panels" which determine what you will get covered and what won't. The bean counters, you understand, are always with us -- forever trying to turn a profit.

And that's why it was so laughable to watch Bill and his goons defend something of so little merit. As long as health care is a for-profit and not a right, we'll never see any change. We'll never see universal coverage, to be sure.

But there was Bill and his guests whoring like they were tossing out half-and-halfs for a buck-fifty. And maybe they would, who knows?

Dr. Kathy (Hall Jamieson) would declare that, "People who are angry and frustrated and not necessarily well informed in part driving by people who are on the other side of the reform effort." No, that's not really a sentence but when you're lying and whoring, grammar flies out the window.

Dr. Kathy is the one who's not "well informed" because it's so very hard to be informed of any legislation . . . before it exists.

What the public has is a bunch of talk often presented as a plan. And for the left, it's nothing to be excited about. Drew Altman at least noted that fact, "It's part of our democracy, but I think it's actually kind of sad because the left, doesn't like this legislation a lot. They're not really enthusiastic about it. They would prefer a single-payer approach with more government."

Barack's hugely unpopular 'plan' is one that doesn't exist.

But he's out selling it to the people.

The conservatives are rallying people against it and it's a great deal more than cries of "socialized medicine" that has them objecting though people pretend otherwise. We went through 40 conservative e-mailings and found HR3200 popped up in half of them -- specifically objecting on the issue of abortion. To pretend that abortion is suddenly not a lightening rod issue is to attempt to fudge your reporting. Ourselves, we believe in and support abortion on demand. But we're not going to be Bill Moyers and lie about the other side just because it's easier than actually doing the work.

Something very ugly is taking place in the country. But it's not the right-wing using their freedom of speech. The real offense is a left that will lie for several proposals that promise nothing to the poor or the working poor just because the proposals are coming from Democrats in Congress and a Democrat in the White House.

It's really ugly to see just how far some will go to whore themselves.

And it's really interesting to note that consumer advocate Ralph Nader is not invited to sit at the table with Bill. Ralph observed Friday, "We have now learned that one Obama promise was to continue the prohibition on Uncle Sam from bargaining for volume discounts on drugs that you the taxpayer have been paying for in the drug benefit program enacted in 2003. Unknown is whether the health insurance companies were also promised continuation of Medicare Advantage with its 14% added taxpayer subsidy to induce the elderly to make the move out of public Medicare. Also unknown is whether the Medicare public option that Mr. Obama formerly espoused but since has wavered on has been put on the concession table." Ralph offered apparently too much reality and too little spin for Bill Moyers' taste. Remember when Bill used to present as "voice of the people"? Now he just whores it for Big Money. What a difference a political party makes.

The left should be demanding not only single-payer but that Congress and the White House stop this circus and takes their lazy butts back to DC and work out a proposal they can then present to the American people. Instead, they've assigned their hopes and dreams to a "death panel" because worshiping Barack is more important to them than fighting for the needs of the people.

Telemarketer in Chief

Barack's taken to the road (illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Telemarketer in Chief") and we're all supposed to just believe some more of his airy promises. Remember his promise to filibuster any retroactive immunity for telecoms who broke the law in illegally spying on the American people? Airy promises. Remember his promise to withdraw one brigade a month from Iraq upon being sworn in? Airy promises.

And now he's back with more. Put it in writing, if you mean it, Barack. Until then you're just a Flim Flam Man.

Hands off the man, the flim flam man.

His mind is up his sleeve and his talk is make believe.

Oh lord, the man's a fraud, he's flim flam man.

He's so cagey, he's a flim flam man.

Hands off the man, flim flam man.

He's the one in the Trojan horse making out like he's Santa Claus.

Oh lord, the man's a fraud, he's a flim flam man.

He's a fox, he's a flim flam man.

-- "Flim Flam Man," words and music by Laura Nyro, originally appears on her The First Songs

News from Iraq

Iraq map

M-NF, Multi-National Forces, will be called USF-I starting in January: United States Forces-Iraq. This will take place due to the fact that country's have pulled their forces out; however, if you factor in contractors -- over 130,000 of them on the ground in Iraq -- it's still a multi-national affair.

Last Sunday found the press reporting 6 deaths and 12 people injured. Monday saw 61 deaths reported and 252 injuries. Tuesday saw 11 dead and 57 wounded. Wednesday's numbers were 11 dead and 21 injured. Thursday 25 lives were claimed and 51 people were wounded. Friday there were 2 reported deaths and 6 reported injured. Saturday saw 6 dead and 15 injured. That's 122 reported deaths and 414 reported wounded in last week alone. Reported. Many deaths go unreported.

And where's the coverage?

Last week the Defense Department released figures backing up the premise that suicides in the military continue to rise. Friday, DoD released the July figures and noted that "four of the nine potential suicides [for June] have been confirmed and five remain under investigation." (Previously, DoD reported no suicides for June.) For July they are investigating eight possible suicides. They also state, "There have been 96 reported active-duty Army suicides during the period Jan. 1, 2009 - July 31, 2009. Of these, 62 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 79 suicides among active-duty soldiers. During July 2009, among reserve component soldiers not an active duty, there were four potential suicides. During the period Jan. 1, 2009 -- July 31, 2009, among that same group, there have been 17 confirmed suicides and 28 potential suicides; the potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 32 suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty."

Earlier this month, three Americans were arrested by Iranian forces when they went hiking in northern Iraq and allegedly crossed over into Iranian territory. Last week, the three were moved to Tehran. They are Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Last week, Mother Jones published Bauer's "The Sheik Down."

US servicemembers stationed in Iraq already suffer multiple risks but there's a new one for the 130,000: Swine flu. Last week, Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported 67 US service members were confirmed as having swine flu and when these cases are combined with Iraqi cases, you have 96 confirmed cases. But that number may be imprecise. Iraq has a broken down health care system and it also has a shortage of swine flu detection kits. Little noted (except in an Iraq snapshot), the World Health Organization's Iraq country Office issued an invitation to bid on H1N1 detection kits -- that's swine flu and swine flu is what it's known as -- July 12th. And when did the bidding process end? July 26th. So there's a shortage currently on swine flu detection kits in Iraq.

The hot press 'trend' story last week was: Blame the Sunnis.

No matter what happened, just blame the Sunnis. It's easy and allows journalists not to ask questions or do their own thinking. And pack mentality always covers the ass, right?

Camp Ashraf remained under lock and key and Amnesty International continued calling out the targeting:

Thirty-six Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq remain at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran where they could face torture or execution. The 36 have been detained since Iraqi security forces stormed the camp, about 60km north of Baghdad, on 28 July.

At least eight Camp Ashraf residents were killed and many more injured during the raid. Most of the 36 are reported to have been beaten and tortured. At least seven are said to need urgent medical care. Camp Ashraf is home to about 3,500 members of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group which has been based in Iraq since 1986.

Following the raid, the 36 were taken to a police station inside the camp. They were held there for an hour and are reported to have been tortured and beaten before being transferred to a police station in the town of al-Khalis, about 25 km south of Camp Ashraf.

According to reports, the detainees were told to sign documents written in Arabic by those detaining them, but refused to do so. They have also sought access to lawyers, so far unsuccessfully.

Of the seven reported to need medical treatment, Mehraban Balai sustained a gunshot injury to his leg and a broken arm after being beaten by Iraqi security forces. Habib Ghorab is said to suffer from internal bleeding and Ezat Latifi has serious chest pain. He is thought to have been run over by one of the military vehicles used by Iraqi forces in seizing control of the camp.

The PMOI established itself in Iraq in 1986 (during the Iran-Iraq war, 1980-88), at the invitation of the then President Saddam Hussein.

In 1988, from its base at Camp Ashraf, the PMOI attempted to invade Iran. The Iranian authorities summarily executed hundreds, if not thousands, of PMOI detainees in an event known in Iran as the "prison massacres". For a number of years it was listed as a "terrorist organization" by several Western governments.

Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the PMOI members disarmed and were accorded "protected persons" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This lapsed in 2009, when the Iraqi government started to exercise control over Iraq's internal affairs in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a security pact agreed by the governments of Iraq and the USA in November 2008 and which entered into force on 1 January this year.

US forces in Iraq provided effective protection for Camp Ashraf until mid-2009, after which they completed their withdrawal to their bases from all Iraqi towns and cities.

After they disarmed, the PMOI announced that they had renounced violence. There is no evidence that the PMOI has continued to engage in armed opposition to the Iranian government, though people associated with the PMOI still face human rights violations in Iran.

Since mid-2008 the Iraqi government has repeatedly indicated that it wants to close Camp Ashraf, and that residents should leave Iraq or face being forcibly expelled from the country.

Amnesty International has urged the authorities not to forcibly return any Camp Ashraf resident or other Iranians to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other serious human rights violations.

The organization has called upon the Iraqi authorities to investigate all allegations of torture and beatings, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The organization has also called on the authorities to provide appropriate medical care to the 36 detainees and to release them unless they are to be promptly charged with a recognizable offence and brought to trial according to international standards for fair trial.

Read More
Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents (Public statement, 4 August 2009) Eight reported killed as Iraqi forces attack Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf (News, 29 July 2009)

Amy Goodman doesn't give a damn about Iraq

Amy Goodman loves to play, as Ava and C.I. have long noted, Last Journalist Standing. Catch one of her self-praise sessions across the country and she'll tell you all about bad Judith Miller, The New York Times and Iraq and she'll toot her own horn about how she took the Iraq War seriously.


Seriously requires providing the time. Goody Liar rarely does.

Last week, she offered five hours of programming. Not one segment was devoted to Iraq. But in headlines, when she had a minute, she might mention the six-year-old, illegal and ongoing war which has claimed the lives of over 1 million Iraqis.

Monday Iraq fared best. Mainly because Amy loves to hate Christians -- seriously, this woman has some issues that need to be addressed. And to be as specific as possible, she hates White Christians -- be they Anglo White or Latino White, she hates them.

The Nation magazine reports the Obama administration has extended a contract with the company formerly known as Blackwater for more than $20 million for "security services" in Iraq. Since President Barack Obama took office in January, the State Department has contracted with Blackwater for more than $174 million in "security services" alone in Iraq and Afghanistan and tens of millions more in "aviation services." The latest contract was extended just days before two former Blackwater employees alleged in sworn statements filed in federal court that the company's owner, Erik Prince, views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.

That's how the above ended up as the fifth headline of the day. The chance to play angry mob venting at Christians was too much for Amy to resist. So that came in at number five and this was the tenth headline on Monday:

In Iraq, at least forty people have died and another 200 were injured in a series of bomb blasts earlier today. In the deadliest incident, two truck bombs exploded in a Shia village near the northern city of Mosul, killing at least twenty-three people and injuring around 130. Thirty-five houses were leveled in the blasts.

40 people died. Didn't lead with it, didn't even make it the lead headline. It was number ten. Followed by:

Iraqi authorities have arrested a British contractor accused of murdering two colleagues in the Green Zone in Baghdad. The suspected gunman, Daniel Fitzsimons, could be the first Westerner to face an Iraqi trial on murder charges since a security pact lifted the immunity that had been enjoyed by foreign contractors for most of the war.

Monday was the best Iraq ever did in headlines and, as already noted, Iraq got no segments. In headlines, Iraq either remained unmentioned or buried all week long.

Tuesday Goody had nothing on Iraq. Wednesday, Iraq made it into one sentence when 9 peace activists were arrested: " The activists had completed a three-day walk to protest the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the US nuclear stockpile on the sixty-fourth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "

Thursday Goody offered a whopping two sentences: "In Iraq, at least eighteen Iraqis were killed in nationwide violence on Wednesday. Another thirty-one were wounded." If she'd grasped that a man in another headline was an Iraq War veteran and identified him as such, Goody could have had three sentences.

Friday Goody served up two more sentences, "In Iraq, at least thirty Iraqis were killed in nationwide violence Thursday. Another fifty-six people were wounded."

In all Goody gave Iraq 283 words last week, 217 of those on Monday. After Monday, Good's serious concern translated into 66 words.

By way of comparison, Free Speech Radio News is a half-hour radio program airing Monday through Friday. In five hours, Democracy Now! could only offer 283 words on Iraq last week. In two-and-a-half hours, FSRN offered actual reports on Iraq.

In fact, just three of them -- Friday's report on journalists protesting in Iraq, Wednesday's report on the War Time Commission's hearings on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan (click here for a transcript of that report) resulted in over 1,000 words. That wasn't all FSRN offered.

Africa Jones reported Friday on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans fighting in court for mental health care. And there was also Monday's report about the assault on Camp Ashraf, Tanya Snyder's report is over 950 words. (Transcribed this edition here.)

It's really amazing how damn little Amy Goodman had to 'spare' for Iraq. And when you put it into context, it becomes shameful.
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