Sunday, March 07, 2010

Truest statement of the week

"The KBR contract only covers a single base year, but includes options for up to four additional years, meaning it could keep them in Iraq through 2015. The fact that the military is keeping its options open for contractors in Iraq in 2015 is significant, as officials publicly insist all troops will be out by the end of 2011."

-- Jason Ditz, "Troubled KBR Wins $2.8 Billion Army Contract" (

Truest statment of the Week ii

The White House press corps hasn't asked Mr. Obama about the Iraq war in months. The president was last asked about the conflict on Dec. 7, during an Oval Office press availability with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the question came from a Turkish reporter - after an Associated Press reporter asked about the economy.
In fact, the last time a White House reporter asked about the Iraq war was June 26, when National Public Radio's Don Gonyea asked an Iraq-related question during a joint news conference of Mr. Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to records kept by CBS Radio reporter Mark Knoller.

-- Joseph Kurl, "New issues push Iraq off radar for Obama, press" (Washington Times).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Another Sunday. And those of us still up are about to fall out. First, along with Dallas, the following worked on 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,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

Thank you to everyone. What did we come up with?

Jason Ditz earned it this week.
And who ever thought we'd have a Washington Times' sourced truest? (Probably the same who can't get that 'ii" is a typo."

Our editorial. Where is our Iraq piece, by the way. We didn't do it this week. Ava and C.I. are going to the Academy Awards and had a hard out at 4:00 AM. We hadn't done it by then so we didn't have it.

We did have this great commentary by Ava and C.I.

And we also had this one by Ava, C.I., Betty and Elaine.

For fun, we did an arts roundtable.

We worked long and hard on this one and illustrations will come shortly.
True also of this piece.
ETAN repost

And Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it. See you next week.

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

Editorial: March 20th

Are you:

1) A poser.

2) A sheep.

3) A fluffer.

4) A nutter.

5) A worshiper of the powerful

6) An apologist for war

If you're any of the above, we know we won't see you come March 20th.


That's when A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And this is for the people who care. This is for the people who want to end the wars. This isn't for the simplistic who write fan letters to George W. Bush or Barack Obama (or both). This isn't for the ones who go along with whatever their TV sets tell them to do.

This is for the people who want to say, "ENOUGH!"

Enough killing.

Enough spending.

Enough wasting.

Enough lie.

Enough war.

A war never ends because someone tells us "Trust me." A war never ends because you're told it will . . . in a year or so.

A war ends because the people demand that it ends, because they get loud enough and active enough that the government realizes it's no longer in the government's interest to continue the war.

March 20th, people will gather. The drones will stay at home.

TV: Why?

On TV, sometimes you see something and wonder "Why?" Not "How?" or "What?" Just "Why?" As in, "Why is that even on the air?"


Many people watching NBC Tuesday night may have been asking that question as Parenthood aired. Or the latest version.

Parenthood, for those not in the know, was a preachy, sexist, bad film from Ron Howard. The only saving moments of the film came from the storyline involving the 'misfits' Keanu Reeves, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix (then billed as "Leaf Phoneix") and Dianne Wiest. The misfits were so, so much more interesting than the moralizing prigs making up the rest of the film. They were not, however, enough to turn the bad film into a good one and that bad sitcom for the big screen is remembered today mainly for what may be the first filmed confession of womb envy. As Susan Faludi noted of Howard's film, "In the last five minutes of Parenthood, the whole brood crowds into a maternity ward, with virtually every woman either rocking a newborn or resting a proud hand on bulging tummy. As the camera pans over row upon row of gurgling diapered babies, it's hard to remember that this is a feature film, not a commercial break for Pampers" (Backlash, p. 132).

That was the original. Then, one year later in 1990, NBC and Ron Howard tried to turn bad film into bad TV and the show was thankfully canceled. It's ten years later and NBC just knows this piece of crap is what America wants to see.

And they might have been able to pull it off. Even with all its faults -- and, goodness, does this Ron Howard helmed show have problems -- they might have pulled it off had oldest daughter Sarah been played by Maura Tierney as planned and cast.

Health issues meant Tierney had to withdraw from the series and the role was recast and eventually went to Lauren Graham. (We know Maura and we also know Helen Hunt who almost got the role.) We're not saying that Graham can't act. We are saying that were this the theater, you'd cast Maura in Ibsen and you'd cast Graham in a Noel Coward play or something similar. In other words, Maura haunts a part, Maura is smoke and ash and singed memories. She inhabits a character. Graham tosses around a line. In the same detached way. Over and over.

If you saw Gilmor Girls, you've pretty much seen everything Graham can do . . . even if you only saw five minutes of one episode. If this were a laugh out loud comedy, Graham wouldn't have any problems with the role. But it's not. It's an hour long show that wants to be a dramedy. It's an hour long show and her 'quirky' line readings are so predictable and so tired that you really wonder what they were thinking when they cast her?

In fairness to Graham, if Maura were playing the role, a hundred other problems would still exist. Problems having nothing to do with the character Sarah. But Maura would have anchored the show. She would have given the show depth -- a quality it strives for but only ends up mired in melodrama as if NBC had decided to move Days of Our Lives to prime time.

To her credit, Graham has established believable chemistry with Peter Krause (Adam) and Erika Christensen (Julia) -- her character's brother and sister. She's got a reserve of past memories on display in scenes with those two -- especially with Christensen, where Sarah's memories (and Sarah and Julia's resentments) always threaten to flood over into the present. And it's in that triangular relationship that the show works -- however fleetingly.

Sadly Dax Shepard (so funny in Baby's Mama) is completely lost in the show and, despite the fact that he plays brother to all three, he comes off like he wandered onto the set by accident. Even worse is Craig T. Nelson who seems to think the way to approach a dramedy is to do it the same way he does everything else. The whole time you watch, you keep expecting Jerry Van Dyke to drop in. He'd certainly be more memorable than the woman cast as Nelson's wife: Bonnie Bedelia aka Miss Forgettable.

Bonnie's done a thousand roles and never rocked one. As far back as the sixties, she was modeling her way through Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and audiences were supposed to recoil when Jane Fonda's Gloria suggested Bonnie's character have an abortion. No one recoiled. No one even noticed the little mouse. The little mouse was so forgettable in Heart Like a Wheel (her supposed big-time moment) that the woman she was playing still objects to the performance. This is the woman who was briefly featured in Die Hard in a pivotal role and wasn't able to harness that into anything memorable outside of the Die Hard series or even within it.

In her fifth decade of performing before the cameras, she's still forgettable. Casting her implies that the producers didn't think much of the character -- while reading the scripts makes that point very, very clear.

If there's a reason for this show to be on TV, the first two episodes (the second airs this Tuesday) fail to make a case for it.


It's the same question viewers of ABC should have been asking Thursday. Thursday was when NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer rediscovered Iraq. Nightly News offered Andrea Mitchell reporting on the laughable claims of leaky mouthed and mind Karl Rove and then Richard Engel offered a look at embedding with US troops in Iraq. You can take issues with some details of the two reports are not but NBC led with Iraq and treated it as a serious issue. (We feel that both reports were far too mild.) You can't make the case that ABC treated Iraq seriously.


You had to ask that question watching Miguel Marquez's ridiculous filmed moments.

Flanked by bodyguards, Miguel stepped around a little in Baghdad and declared, "Today we can go places. Places we couldn't go for years. This is [al] Shurja market, it's the biggest in Iraq. [. . .] It has been five years that I've been coming to Iraq, it is the first time that I've actually been able to come down to this market and it's an incredible place to see."

Arms straight out at shoulder height, folks, we've got to do a balancing act while they move the line yet again in order to create the illusion of progress in Iraq.


In what world do we live?

Better question: In what world do they live?

To portray 'progress,' the MSM press repeatedly spits out a reporter (or 'reporter') who informs us -- in 2006, in 2007, in 2008, in 2009 and the present -- that there is progress in Iraq, honest there is, and s/he can prove it by the fact that s/he can now do something that they couldn't do at an earlier time.

Was it reported at an earlier time?


And that's the problem.

This is not reassuring to viewers. It's not reassuring at all.

We're not talking about the Crisis in Iraq, we're talking about the Crisis in Journalism.

Repeatedly tuning in to discover from one reporter (or 'reporter') after another that they 'forgot' to tell you something years earlier does not reassure. It just makes it very clear that as surely as they lied to you with their 'progress' report before, they're lying about it today.

Why is this even on the air?

Which brings us back to Parenthood.

Sarah's survived a bad marriage and she her two children have the street or her parents' home. Brother Adam and his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) are dealing with their son being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. These are serious issues and allow the moralizing to be turned down a bit. As a friend who's worked on "too many" Ron Howard projects puts it, "Moralizing really comes from the people with the least problems and the least connection to reality." To which we add, "True that."

Brother Crosby's storylines are nothing but moralizing. Cluck with the parents over Crosby's inability to commit, over his decision to have a baby with his 'love' if they're still together in three years (agreed to via haggling as if they were attempting to get a rug for wholesale). Shake your head and sigh as it turns out Crosby's already a father from a previous relationship. Or maybe marvel over that messed up Julia. Married to Sam (Joel Graham -- doing heavy lifting in an underwritten role) whom their child prefers to Julia. Now that could cause a few worries, granted. But it really takes idiots -- idiots knowing damn little about raising a child -- to write a family dinner table scene where a woman is consumed with doubts about her mothering abilities because her child would prefer her father cut her meat and willing to, in front of her parents and her siblings and their children, enter into a power struggle with her child over the issue. In the real world, Jason Katims and Becky Hartman-Edwards, a mother or father given a break from cutting meat and able to speak with their siblings and other adults sees it as a welcome vacation and doesn't look the gifthorse in the mouth.

While Crosby is supposed to have us clucking over his alleged 'irresponsibility,' Julia's nothing but her own cluck-clucking machine. Was she too rude? Was the there for her daughter? Was she there for her job? Was she there for her husband? And on top of all of that (time consuming) worrying, there's the Ron Howard glistening answer of "Yes, she's a failure." That's true of any Ron Howard project. It's most evident in Parenthood because that film had a more difficult time sidelining women since they didn't have fish tails attached and the men weren't able to escape to the no-women allowed Mission Control Center in Houston.

If there's a reason to watch the program, it's to enjoy what Graham, Krause and Christensen create together -- something more realistic than in any of their big 'showy' solo scenes. If Parenthood had any guts, it would stop trying to ape a film most people have forgotten and invest everything in exploring the relationship of the three siblings. That's the heart of the show and too bad everyone involved behind the cameras seems determined to destroy it.

Melissa Silverstein: Gender Reassignment Required

"And the thing I keep telling people is go support a woman directed movie," insisted Melissa Silverstein declared on WBAI's Women Media Center program January 4th. And yet she really doesn't.

In that interview alone, she was praising New Moon as speaking to women and blah blah blah. Left out of her raving over a bad, bad teeny-bop crap-fest was the fact that this sequel to Twilight was, unlike the first film,
directed by a men.

"And the thing I keep telling people is go support a woman directed movie," insisted Melissa Silverstein.

"Here's the thing," she said only minutes later, "I am -- I'm not going to take any props away from Kathryn Bigelow and what she did but she made a boy movie. She made a movie that blow things up. And that's why she's going to win, because the boys like her movie. [. . .] But it's a war movie and I'm just going to say it's a boy movie."

"It's a boy movie!" hollers Dr. Melissa spanking it on the ass and setting back the cause of feminism. Can we get Melissa signed up for gender reassignment because her behavior is not helping feminism but perfectly in keeping with the sexism we would expect from a man.

A movie is a movie, the audience is the audience. And women in film have had to battle for advances whether they're actresses, writers, directors, DPs, you name it. They have to battle sexist notions of what a woman can and cannot do and what a woman will and will not accept onscreen.

Melissa Silverstein opens her mouth and doesn't just stumble over "statistics" (she is unable to pronounce that word properly), she hurts the cause.

Gender stereotypes. Feminism exploded them. Among the many feminist battles (none of which Melissa seems aware of) was getting little girls on the packages of model trains. Girls played with trains. But the (male run) companies were convinced that if girls were put on the package, boys wouldn't want to play with trains anymore. Gloria Steinem wrote about that in her essay "Sex, Lies, and Advertising" (first published in Ms. magazine, later collected in Steinem's Moving Beyond Words). So Ms. couldn't get model train ads. So Ms. couldn't get this car or that car ad. Because of gender stereotypes.

And at this late date, Melissa's labeling films "boy movies" and "girl movies."

Not content to attack only in the New York region, she shows up at Women's Media Center last week yet again attacking Bigelow.

For those who do not know, Bieglow is only one of four women ever nominated for a Best Director Academy Award (feature film), only the second American woman. Tonight she may very well be the first to win. If she does, it will be because of her tremendous talent and she got a lot of support from women and men in the industry but she got very little support from women in the commentary set. Damn little.

They attacked her, they ripped her apart. It wasn't enough that she compete with the men nominated this year for Best Director, they also wanted to pit her against every 'good' woman who's ever directed a film.

And last week, Melissa typed up more of her drivel, "In spite of the deep and abiding desire to see a woman break through this particular glass ceiling, the real possibility that the first Oscar award winning woman director will win for making a war film is almost a kick in the gut to many who make the types of films that most interest female ticket buyers." A war movie isn't an area for women? Someone tell it to Kimberly Peirce who directed the powerful Stop-Loss (2008). Tell it to Nancy Dowd who won her Academy Award for writing Coming Home (1978). Tell it to Jane Fonda who not only won an Academy Award (her second) for acting in that film, but whose production company (IPC) made the film. Tell it to Dorothy Arzner who was often the only women director as the talkies came to the forefront and who directed the war film First Comes Courage (1943). Tell it to Lillian Hellman who wrote the script to The North Star (1943). Tell it to Dawn Steel who, as the president of Columbia Pictures, championed Casualties of War. Tell it to June Mathis who wrote the script to The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1921). Tell it to Joan Chen who directed Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998). Tell it to Ann Hui who directed Boy From Vietnam (1978), The Story of Woo Viet (1981) and Boat People (1982). Tell it to Nancy Savoca who directed Dog Fight (1991).

And you know what? We can go and on and on.

Because war is something that effects men and women.

Melissa Silverstein wants to grump that Kathryn Bigelow directed a film about war -- apparently neither the Afghanistan War nor the Iraq War has touched Melissa. How lucky for her. Listening to her plug her favorite film of late, by her favorite film maker, it was as though she were describing a spot of Earl Grey Tea, taken on the back porch, with an afghan tossed over her lap. That may be her idea of nirvana but many film goers would reject that notion.

Just when you think it can't get any worse, Melissa plays the card you'd hoped she wouldn't.

"Not surprisingly," huffs Melissa and you can just hear the long meow coming, "the men seem to love Bigelow the person. [. . .] It's just that the men like her -- a lot. They like the way she looks, the way she talks, and of course that she made a movie that blows things up."

Oh Goddess. We had thought, after all the catty attacks on Gloria Steinem during the early part of the second wave, all the carping about her looks and trying to discredit her because men found her attractive, we had thought the days of attempting to discredit a woman due to her being good looking were long, long gone. But, no, Melissa wants to make it about looks.

Excuse us, Melissa, you write about film. Could you please refer us to any other piece you've written where a male director's looks were commented on?

It's amazing that Melissa wants to reference a 2008 column by Gloria Steinem because Melissa's entire output reads like that of a writer who really needs to familiarize herself with the works of Gloria Steinem and other feminists.

Tonight, Kathryn Bigelow may beat the odds, may become the first woman to win Best Director, having directed the amazing film The Hurt Locker. If she does, it'll be a great moment for art, a great moment for directing, a great moment for women and a great moment for Kathryn. What it will not be is a moment that the commentary set, female division, can claim credit for because instead of attempting to help Kathryn become the first or even just shutting their mouths throughout the process so as to do no harm, they have worked overtime to actively defeat her. And that Women's Media Center ran Melissa's garbage is deeply, deeply disturbing. A woman's place -- pay attention, Melissa -- is wherever the hell she damn well wants to be.

This piece was written by Ava, C.I., Dona, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man and
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz).


Jim: This is the arts roundtable and will focus on popular culture. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude -- back with us and fresh from London; 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. Betty's kids did the illustration. This is a rush transcript. I want to start with Kat. "Kat's Korner: The ultimate torch singer Sade" and "Kat's Korner: Joanna Newsom's triumph" went up last week. The year's just started. Are you optimistic about it for music?


Kat: The year? The decade's just started. Yes and no. It's easy to look at both albums -- Sade's Solider of Love and Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me -- and get excited. But both are by artists who really don't attempt to ride trends. I remember some really bad Sade wanna-bes in the 80s but I don't think people try to copy her these days -- I could be wrong. And Joanna? I don't think anyone's going to even try. In an ideal world, Sade's album would inspire everyone to try to be a little more inventive in arrangements -- there are some wonderful arrangements on that album -- and Joanna's would inspire songwriters to dig deeper. But, no, I don't really see that happening.

Ruth: It would be wonderful if it did though. And if a whole school of people began exploring the musical themes Ms. Newsom's picking up on that Donovan --

Kat: Donovan! I'm glad Ruth said that. I want to note that she caught that connection. I missed it. I bow before you, Ruth. In "Women's (Musical) History Month," Ruth made that connection and I wished I'd done it.

Ruth: I am flattered. But it would be great if it inspired people to really attempt to explore the musical sounds. And, as Kat pointed out just a second ago, Ms. Newsom digs deep in her songwriting. "In California" has a line that haunts me, in part because of how she sings it, "And if you come and see me, you will upset the order." That just hangs with me.

Jess: That's true, for me, of that entire song. Especially when she sings, "But when you come and see me in California, you cross the border of my heart." And I think Ruth's right that it's in part the words and in parts the way she sings it.

Betty: Well, for those who downloaded but need a lyric sheet, you can go to this Lyrics Wiki page and get the lyrics to all the songs on Joanna Newsom's album. I'll also note that this week, it should be announced that Sade's gone platinum. And that this is very, very rare these days. Albums just do not sell. And an album by someone who has visibly passed puberty? This is a major accomplishment for Sade. On Joanna, she debuted at 75 on Billboard's charts which I think is a good showing for her because she is not a known to most people. Like Kat, I'd never heard of her until this year. So I think the solid week of praise she saw is going to combine with word of mouth and help the album see a nice climb.

Dona: Last week, Kat wrote about the album in every post. In addition, Ruth and Trina covered it. I was wondering about others?

Elaine: I didn't write about it?

Dona: No.

Elaine: No? Oh, that's right. That's because of the attacks on Kathryn Bigelow. I had planned to write on the albums and quote from Kat's reviews on Tuesday; however, the attacks on Bigelow became my focus for both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mike: I've got nothing to offer at present other than, "What Kat said." Joanna Newsom's album is big and long. I could make general statements but that's about it. And I'll be one of the people who uses that link Betty just referred everyone to in order to look up the lyrics.

Jim: Okay, let's turn to film and pick up on what Elaine just mentioned. She and Mike blogged about The Hurt Locker last week -- many people in the community did, but I'm thinking of the fact that the military arranged interviews with The Los Angeles Times, interviews with soldiers in Iraq who loathed the movie. Elaine?

Elaine: Well it's just a disgusting abuse of tax payer money and a clear indication that the military brass has no respect for the tax payers or any other elements of the civilian world. It also says a great deal about The Los Angeles Times.

Mike: I would agree with that. Why was the paper so eager to help the brass trash a film? Los Angeles? The film capital. And the home paper's trashing a movie because the brass is setting up interviews for them? And if I can just add one more thing, for about ten seconds, I was surprised that Amy Goodman didn't jump all over this and hump it into next week but then I remembered, "It's about war and Goody Whore doesn't care about the war."

Jim: Mike, you're not thrilled with Chuck this year.

Mike: No, I think the show has lost it. I don't care for Brandon Routh or whatever his name is. He's a bad actor and the character is not needed. I've grown to hate Devin because he's not that cool and he's overexposed. The problems continue to be the refusal to have women do anything on the show. We've got Sarah and that's really it. I don't think that people have even noticed that the woman in the military that they all reported to on the video screen no longer appears. And so the last thing we need is Doctor Awesome Devin. And, really, put a shirt on already. I don't need to see his chest and abs and I certainly don't need to find out that he shaves his armpit. What a prissy thing to do.

Cedric: I caught last Monday and noticed that too. I was like, "Mr. Big Sports Guy shaves his pits? Does he bikini wax too?" That was just stupid.

Jim: Cedric, I didn't know you watched it. Do you agree with Mike's take?

Cedric: About the quality? It's in decline big time. The new woman, who played Lana on Smallville, she's good but they don't use her. And when they do, it's all lovey-dovey. It's a comedy and action-adventure. Lovey-dovey doesn't make you on this show. Hell even the women who play the "Bond girls" do more.

Jim: Ann, do you watch?

Ann: Only sometimes. Kristin Kreuk is the actress Mike and Cedric forget the name of. She was great on her first episode and the idea that it was a one-shot really worked. Then they brought her in and she look stupid now and Chuck does as well.

Jim: Example?

Ann: Chuck realized last Monday that he loves Sarah. No surprise to the audience. And that's fine. And Chuck didn't want to hurt Kreuk's character. That's fine. So he decides he needs to break up with her. And that's fine. But here's the thing, he has already invited her to meet his family. Now she's returned the favor because her family is in town and she and Chuck are sleeping together. So Chuck shows up where they're having dinner, her and her parents, and pulls her away from the table to tell her he's breaking up with her? I'm sorry, I didn't buy it. It made him look like a total asshole.

Jim: Because?

Dona: Because! Ann just told you why. The woman's with her parents having dinner. Chuck's not there. He shows up late and then only to break up with her and she has to go back and explain to her parents why Chuck, the man's she's been bragging about, isn't joining them and why she looks she's been crying. Chuck came off like a major asshole there.

Jim: Hmm. I'm not sure I saw it that way. I get your point, however. Wally?

Wally: Chuck? I'm done with the show. My problems are the nonsense. I don't forgive them for writing off Anna. But the real problem is that this was a three season show. They should have been happy to be that. First season, the longing. Second season, the circling. Third season, Chuck and Sarah get together. And at the end of that season, they're either the best agents in the world or on a beach somewhere living off the scam they pulled on the CIA. But instead of being happy with a three year show, they've attempted to create one obstacle after another to postpone Sarah and Chuck getting together. I watched about three episodes at the start of the year and I was done with it. To me, the show's like masturbating when you're too tired to stay awake. What's the point?

Jim: Okay, well --

Marcia: Wait. I want to comment. I want to comment on Wally's joke there because we are all laughing right now at Trina's. I think that really describes how futile and unfulfilling the show is and agree that there must be nothing sadder than falling asleep on yourself when you're having sex with yourself.

Jim: Yeah, Wally did a good job capturing the futility of the show with that illustration. Marcia, what do you watch?

Marcia: Like my cousin, movies. Stan wrote about that recently. I just don't feel that involved in TV these days. Rebecca and Wally have explained how Heroes killed off the audience interest so that's a show I no longer watch. Now that the Olympics are over, there should be new shows so I'll probably go back to watching The Good Wife. Otherwise? I like The New Adventures of Old Christine but can't stand Gary Unmarried. Ruth wrote about that not long ago.

Jim: Any movie stand out recently?

Marcia: On DVD? Ann's "Movies" captured the worst film I've seen in a long time. I just loathed that movie and I'm beginning to loathe Matt Damon in everything he does. It's a case of overexposure as well as a lack of talent. He needs to take some acting lessons.

Rebecca: That's interesting to me. I wonder if you feel that way about Ben Affleck as well?

Marcia: No. Not even when he was supposedly overexposed due to the tryst with Jennifer Lopez. I felt he could do drama and he could do lighter things and I never got the idea that he took himself all that seriously. Even now, this was true in the 90s, but even now, I've seen every film he's made since Chasing Amy. Some I've liked, some I've hated. But I've never had a problem with his performance and think he's shown more range than many of his peers including Matt Damon. Matt Damon suffers not just from his prissy manner and high pitched voice, he also suffers from the fact that he's just too goody-goody. After awhile, you just want him to go away. For a long, long time.

Jim: There are some who argue that Matt Damon's the better actor.

Ann: I know some do argue that but I think they're confusing the films he's in -- more 'prestige' ones -- with the performance or, in his case, the lack of performance. He's so wooden and the more he tries to 'man it up,' the more wooden he gets.

Jim: Okay. Interesting. And it was interesting to discover Stan is a big fan of Cameron Diaz, as I did when I read "The Box, the Oscars" Friday.

Stan: Not that big according to one reader who can't believe I forgot to mention My Best Friend's Wedding. I had forgotten that film. I think she's very good in it but I think she's filmed poorly and that it was intentional because Julia Roberts couldn't take any competition. And to me Julia's part of the same crowd as Damon -- that whole grouping needs to take a lengthy sabbatical. Call them Clooney's Ball Sack, since they're too old for the Rat Pack. Clooney's Ball
Sack -- which includes the aging coverboy himself -- needs to go away.

Jim: Trina, any movie thoughts?

Trina: I agree with what Stan's saying. And I was a huge Clooney fan. I fell for him with Sisters and loved him in ER. And I waited and waited -- and waded and waded -- through all of his bad movies. I think prior to The Perfect Storm, the only good film he had was Michelle Pfeiffer's One Fine Day. Others will point to another film but that's the only one where he proved to be a leading man. And he never did it again. He never again found a way to act opposite a woman in any manner that suggested a man attracted to, let alone in love with, a woman. He's become a peacock strutting around and there's no greater turn off to women.

Jim: And does your husband know about your aborted affair with Clooney?

Trina: Oh please, like he can ever shut up about Angelina Jolie? But when you see a movie, to be involved in it, you need to believe the characters up there do care about one another and he's not able to convey that. I like Nicole Kidman, I like Catherine Zeta Jones. But he had no chemistry with them. He's had no chemistry with any woman onscreen -- on the big screen -- except Michelle Pfieffer.

Jim: I don't really picture you as a big movie watcher -- right or wrong -- so this is a weird conversation from you. What's the last movie you watched?

Trina: Deception with Bette Davis. Friday. Stan got it from Netflix and brought it over and we all watched.

Jim: Do you rent?

Trina: No. I'm that way with going to the movies. If someone wants to see something, I'll go along. But I'm not really driven to see a film most of the time, sorry. I see them. But it's more for the social aspect than because I'm wanting to see a particular thing.

Jim: Okay. Isaiah, you and movies?

Isaiah: I tend to like Billy Wilder's films best. After that? I like the 50s and 60s and early 70s films. I like the 50s for their pop art look and the same with the 60s -- something Stan and I share in common. In the 70s, I like the Alan J. Pakula films and others of that type.

Jim: Do you get excited about films or are you more like Trina?

Isaiah: I would say "More like Trina," except for one thing, Burlesque.

Jim: I don't know it.

Isaiah: It's Cher's new movie. I'll go see that. Cher may be the last one that I'll still make a point to catch everything they're in.

Jim: What's your favorite Cher movie?

Isaiah: Oh. Hard one. Mask is great. Moonstruck is a classic. I think it depends more on my mood. But it may be Mask. Maybe because, flaws and all, she's a mother who cares so completely in that movie. And you always hope someone, at some point in your life, will be as on your side as she is in that.

Ty: I'm trying to think about anyone I'd see in everything. Marcia says Ben Affleck, Isaiah says Cher. I'll see Cher's new movie, no question. Christina Aguilera and Stanley Tucci are starring in it as well. But in terms of actors, I can't think of anyone who wasn't famous before I was in college that I'd be willing to follow. What I guess I'm saying is that 2002 and onward hasn't really provided any actors worth following in films.

Jim: Interesting. Who do you think is the strongest film actor today?

Ty: Tough one. I'll go with Jennifer Jason Leigh who's got as much bravery as talent and really has an amazing career. Whether it's playing Dorothy Parker, or doing Georgia, or Fast Times At Ridgemont High, or eXistenZ or what have you. She just makes some amazing choices and is always worth watching.

Jim: Rebecca, your name is on the slip of paper Dona just handed me, she says you haven't spoken enough.

Rebecca: Ava and C.I. haven't spoken at all.

Jim: I believe they're calling their participation taking the notes. I'm serious. They've got a hard release date of 4:00 a.m. this morning because they're going to the awards show tonight and want to get some sleep first. So we'll be later than usual posting since they are our two fastest typists.

Rebecca: Okay. Well I love Jennifer Jason Leigh and agree with Ty on that. I also love Cher and will do my part to promote the movie at my site when it's released. I don't see a great deal of sexy men onscreen. I don't find Matt Damon remotely sexy. I think that explains his faltering box office. He just doesn't have it, he doesn't have what makes a star. Someone will toss out his franchise but it doesn't prove anything. Russell Crowe was probably the last one to emerge -- when LA Confidential came out -- that I thought was truly sexy. I see a lot of good lookers, but not a lot of sexual and sexy men onscreen. And to expand on Trina's point, which I agree with, when you're watching a couple interact, you're trying to put yourself in that relationship. And that's true straight or gay -- whether you or the couple onscreen are straight or gay, that's true. You're trying to relate to them. And if they're supposed to have chemistry, they should have it. I just thought of someone Mark Ruffalo. He's got sexual energy and he's sexy. I'm not sure when he first came across my radar but I'm thinking of In The Cut and he's really something.

Jim: Okay. You and Marcia did book posts the last two Fridays. That continues this coming Friday?

Rebecca: Yeah. Marcia, you want to grab that?

Marcia: Sure. We spent two weeks on one book and we're not sure if the second book will require two posts a piece or if we can cover it in just one post. In addition, we'll be doing a third book. Thanks to C.I.

Rebecca: Yeah. We're doing movie books and C.I. hates the book we're about to do and made a comment to us that there are real books that actually matter on movies and we were both like uh-huh. And C.I. tossed out one as an example. Actually, tossed out a name. We said, "Who's that?"

Marcia: And it's an influential African-American filmmaker that neither of us had ever heard of so we figured we'd grab that.

Jim: Okay, we're going to wind down. I'll ask Ava and C.I. for some Oscar predictions.

Ava: The slowest part of the show will be the performances of the nominated songs. This isn't a good year for songs.

C.I.: At least twelve actors will complain before the first hour is up that the men's bathroom backed up and flooded. A huge problem at the former location that was blamed on the facility's plumbing but the problem following to the new location indicates it's something more than that.

Jim: Alright. That's it for this roundtable. Rush transcript.

Political mags

As a general rule, we avoid most 'left' publications these days due to the fact that we're not huge fans of propaganda. If that seems harsh, just check out the cover of The Nation onsale now: "18 MILLION JOBS BY 2012: HOW OBAMA CAN SAVE HIS PRESIDENCY." Yes, the magazine
that allegedly represents people and social movements is nothing but a well used whore trying to turn one more trick before the bordello shuts down.


Katty van van and company rush in with an editorial entitled "Help Wanted" and, we're so sorry, Katty, there are no positions available. He who should seek employment elsewhere, John Still The Liar Nichols, calls Evan Bayh out for DLC-ness but rewrites history and facts to present Barry O as the anti-DLC. (Barack was a member of the DLC -- as Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford revealed some time ago -- until he grasped that it could hurt him.) John Nichols' competition for biggest joke on-staff just got serious. Page 8 proclaims LieFace Melissa Harris-Lacewell will now attempt to write a column. The Nation insists, "Readers may be familiar with Harris-Lacewell from her frequent appearaneces on The Rachel Maddow Show and Countdown With Keith Olbermann, where she brings her lively and dynamic teaching style to millons of viewers." Are you laughing? We are too. They couldn't very well mention Democracy Now! or Charlie Rose since that would demand that they note how unethical the liar is: When you go on
TV to comment on a campaign, if you're working for the campaign, you are required to disclose that on camera. LieFace couldn't be bothered with that.

Speaking of embarrassments, Katha Pollitt. Barack has disappointed her. Someone quickly alert the Secret Service that Katha is a self-confessed stalker! She's also an idiot. "I'm still glad," Katha says sticking her tongue out in a nah-nah-nah manner, "I supported Obama over Hillary
Clinton. If Hillary had won the election, every single day would be a festival of misogyny. We would hear constantly about her voice, her laugh, her wrinkles, her marriage and what a heartless, evil bitch she is for doing something -- whatever! -- men have done since the
Stone Age."

Uh, Katha, what world do you live in?

It's not the world those of us on terra firma are familiar with. Hillary's just the Secretary of State. Yet everyday on KPFA (listen to Kevin Pina's guest remarks especially), KPFK (Lila Garrett especially), WBAI (Taking Aim mainly), etc., you can hear non-stop sexist attacks on Hillary. See, Fat Head, when these people don't like Barack's policy on Haiti or the economy or whatever else, they trash Hillary. Point of fact, idiot, Hillary didn't get to be president but she gets to be the target of all the hate. Look at the writers at your own magazine, Katha, look at
CounterPunch, look at Dissident Voice, look at Common Dreams, look anywhere you want and you'll see writers trashing Hillary for . . . Barack's policies.

Not getting the presidency didn't spare Hillary or women a damn thing, you stupid idiot.

Had Hillary gotten the nomination, she would have won the presidency by a larger margin than Barack did. Would the sexist attacks continue every day? Well, if women were going to do as you did and largely stay silent, then, yes, they would have.

Then again, we might enter the hyper-sensitive era on sexism similar to what we've entered with Barack. Where any comment about race must be examined and addressed and, in the end, forbidden.

The Nation exists solely to promote Barack and to insist that the world would be much worse if the Corporist War Hawk had not been gifted by the DNC with the party nomination. Remember, Obama's entire career has demonstrated that earning anything indicates hard work and sweat and Too Cool For School Barry doesn't sweat.

In need of some reality, we quickly grab the libertarian magazine Reason where we find that Matt Welch can spend two pages addressing realities in "Back to the Drawing Board: Democratic fantasies face the bracing slap of reality." If The Nation had any real independence,
you'd read paragraphs like the following in it:

What about the lobbying scourge that Democrats (like all good opposition parties) opposed so vociferously in 2008? Progressive theory holds that regulation of K Street, as opposed to a cutback in overall regulation, is the key to "change the culture of corruption" in Washington, as candidate Obama repeatedly promised to do. How'd that work out in practice? In December Politico reported that "Washington's influence industry is on track to shatter last year's record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government -- and that's with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town."

From Reason, from their letter page, in fact, we learned that Ayn Rand looked like Emo Phillips. Who knew? But there's a past cover photo of her and it's Emo. Reason's present superiority to The Nation is best evidenced when it comes to health care. Barack refused to embrace single-payer, refused to propose anything other than the BigBusinessGiveAway which, by law, would order all American citizens to purchase insurance. If you're not familiar with this, listen closely: All Americans currently have the right to buy insurance.

Some choose not to. Either they don't want it or they can't afford it. There is nothing in his BigBusinessGiveAway that is a gift to American citizens. It takes an option that we now have and turns it into an order.

And where's the left objection? A few ho-hums. But, as sure as the sun will rise, the week will start with Danny Schechter, for example, trashing Republicans and using that to pimp Barack's gift to big business.

Jacob Sullivan, page 6, points out the false choices Barack creates in his never-ending speechifying. Every left outlet should not only be capable of composing a leftist alternative to Sullivan's "The Clairity of False Choices" but they should be offering it:

What about those who do not like the status quo but have a different vision of reform, not only because they want to go farther than Obama does, but because they want to go in a different direction, toward more choice and less government involvement? In Obama's world they do not exist. Instead we have his bold yet achievable plan, pitted against socialist utopianism and blind partisan intransigence. Let me be clear: This is a false choice.

It's hard to be a leftist these days. You'd think that would be the case under Bush. But under Bush, we on the left actually thrived. We planned, we organized. We protested, we brainstormed. Most of all we dreamed of a day when the Bush reign would end. Now we've got the administration of Bush III and we could probably navigate our way through that if we'd agree to stop being suck ups to the establishment, if we'd agree that our job is not to run defense for a Corporatist War Hawk namded Barack. If we'd agree that our job is to press those beliefs we held dear under Bush, we might really accomplish something. But that doesn't seem likely.
Especially when you survey the literature.


Needing a joke, we picked up the 'magazine' Extra! which the laughable FAIR produces. Extra! exists as an alternative Rodney Dangerfield. Instead of complaining "I don't get no respect," they brag "I don't want no respect." They confess to being a joke on page 14 when they want to talk
"Evnironmental Journalism in the Greenhouse Era." Let's talk environmentalism in that era, okay? A 13 page 'magazine' is not a magazine. A 13 page 'magazine' that exists to reproduce the transcripts of FAIR's radio program CounterSpin is wasting paper. Most of all, a 13 page
magazine that lists for $3.95 is a joke. (We did not count their one page ad, their cover, or their table of contents when calculating pages.)

The Humanist wants to inform, "Don't Despair! We're Not a Broken People." Well, we're not despairing, we're just trimming our reading lists and no longer funding certain beggar media outlets. Let's check it out.

And then we did. Non-writer David Swanson. David the Sexist and Racist Swanson. Here's a bit of reality on when we'll listen to David Swanson offer advice:

1) When he takes accountability for using his website to trash Hillary and destroy her campaign while pimping War Hawk Barack.

2) When he publicly apologizes for thinking he can APPROPRIATE the work of African-Americans. Cedric Wilson did not give David Swanson permission to reprint anything. Cedric was not informed that anything was being reprinted. Cedric never even got an e-mail from Swanson. Does Swanson think that because Cedric is Black that he, a White man, can just steal Cedric's
writing, repost it to his website and Cedric's supposed to be grateful? No.

3) When he publicly apologizes for his attack on Rebecca Winters. The short story? He e-mails Rebecca with a praise heavy e-mail (kissing ass being his speciality). Rebecca replies to his e-mail. That should be the end of it. She thinks it is. But he's forwarding her e-mail. She discovers this because one of the people he forwarded it to is on vacation and set his account (Lennox Yearwood) on automatic reply. Somehow, Rebecca ended up getting the auto reply and, below that, is Swanson's e-mail where he's talking about Rebecca and he's attached her e-mail. Rebecca confronts Swanson in an e-mail and he denies it repeatedly and attempts
to act as if she's crazy. She's not. She still has that auto reply e-mail.

So we don't have much respect for David swanson. We think he's a liar. We think he's a Whore. We know he's not "independent."

We know he's a tool for "Progressive" Democrats of America. David Swanson has demonstrated his racism and sexism and whoreism one too many times. And, as with him, we're done with The Humanist.

Needing something weightier -- The Humanist specializes in articles written on a second grade reading level -- we pick up the Winter 2010 edition of Dissent. We strongly recommend James B. Rule's "The Military State of America and the Democratic Left." From the opening:

The invasion of Iraq was a defining moment for the United States. This was the kind of war that many Americans believe formed no part of this country's repertoire -- an aggressive war of choice. Its aim was not to stop some wider conflict or to prevent ethnic cleansing or mass killings; indeed, its predictable effect was to promote these things. The purpose was to extirpate a
regime that the United States had built up but that had morphed into an obstacle to this country -- and to replace it with one that would represent a more compliant intstrument of American purpose. In short, the war was a demonstration of American ability and willingness to remove and replace regimes anywhere in the world. Even in the wake of the Iraq fiasco, no one in high places has declared repetitions of such exploits "off the table" -- to use the expression favored by this country's foreign policy elites. For those of us who opposed the war, there is obvious relief at the conclusion -- we hope -- of a conflict that has consistently brought out the worst in this country. But at the same time, those on the democratic Left look to the future with unease. Even under a reputedly liberal president, we have reason to worry about new versions of Iraq -- in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or venues yet undisclosed.

If you want food for thought, you'll find it in Rule's article. George Packer's response is predictable and we'd recommend everyone avoid it except for Danny Schechter who's recently taken to citing the War Hawk Packer. Before you next cite Packer again, Danny, read his brief response. Packer loves the Iraq War.

Washington Monthly is a Democratic Party organ but it shows more independence these days than does The Nation -- more independence and more honesty. Not to mention more awareness. While WM recently examined Agent Orange effects, The Nation wastes
money paying for Sister Citizen's New Orleans booty-call. The current issue (March/April) offers many strong articles but, if you read only one, we'd recommend you read Haley Sweetland Edwards' "Uncle Ali: If You Liked Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf, You'll Love Our Latest Ally, Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh."

For more maturity, pick up issue 69 of ISR (International Socialist Review) which seems to be so far ahead of its US version (Socialist Worker) despite being produced and written by more or less the same team. The editorial ("Meet the new boss") doesn't fluff or flatter Barry O but instead explains to you that you're looking at Bush III. Of Iraq withdrawal, ISR includes:

We have been asked to wait, we have been asked to be patient, and we have been asked to give the President and the new Iraqi Government 6 more months and then 6 mor emonths after that, and then 6 more months after that.

Guess what? They're not only, more or less, describing Barack's current policy, they're also quoting then-candidate Barack Obama speaking to Congress in 2007.

Barry O was sworn in back in January 2009. We're on this third six-month quarter. Peter DiLeo is the issue's must-read with "The Jobless Recovery: A lost decade for workers." And it's in that article that you find the difference between ISR and The Nation.

For The Nation, unemployment is something to examine in terms of how it can get Barack re-elected, for ISR, unemployment is something that effects the people. One outlet identifies up, the other struggles with the realities We The People live with.

Comic themes

As the year drew to a close Betty & Veronica fans were treated to the title issuing a "Spectaccular" promising "THRILLS! CHILLS!" and "ALL-OUT ACTION ISSUE!" in a trippy cover by Dan Parent that found the two women in action poses.


Some comic readers may have felt, "What's the point?" And while Betty & Veronica is not a title known for it's depth and shading of character, all you had to do was check out the X-Men titled on sale at the same time, "Dark Reign The List" to realize how needed the Betty & Veronica Spectacular was.

The X-Men are known for any number of characters but chief among them is Storm, Jean Grey (The Phoenix), Mystique, Kitty Pride and Carol Danvers. But there on the one shot, with five characters featured, was one low woman, far, far in the back. Matt Fraction (writer) and his editors apparently felt the "Men" in X-Men was non-inclusive but prescriptive. Which is how the tired and tiring Sub-Mariner, King Namor, became the most prominently featured "X-Man" on the cover -- this despite the fact thta this would-be Aquaman's tired act is so old, his appearances date back to WWII.

The death of a woman is played for drama, or at least for Namor to trot around holding her corpse. She's so unimportant that her death isn't actually portrayed as a blast hits a number of people who are underwater. But he drags her corpse to the X-Men and Dr. Nemesis, Cyclops, The White Queen, the Teleporting Pixie and Bestsy Braddock are on the job, among others. If you're thinking, "I count three women in that list," well, you're not mistaken. If you're thinking that the women get sidelined in the action (a common 'plot' development in films), you are mistaken.

The women are part of the battling forces. So what's going on?

Of the latest round of comics on sale now, the most arresting cover is Avengers: The Initiative, number 20. which features Yellowjacket and Wasp in a pose that recalls the final John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover. The cover implies the kind of drama and, yes, melodrama, that drove Marvel's rebirth in the sixties and seventies. And there are some interesting developments. Such as when Hellcat guesses that Tigra (eating strawberries and pickles)
is pregnant. Trauma then illustrates a potential problem, if Tigra, like a cat, has multiple births, a litter. More worrying to her?

"Being Hank's girlfriend is one thing. But being the mother of his child . . . Being his wife . . . I just don't know."

Nor does she know that Hank is having a cozy dinner with Jan who wants to be sure that when he hit her, it was Skrull, and not Hank. Jan walks out when he says, "I'm sorry. That was
me. It's all on me."

Just when you might want to applaud Jan (and the comic makers) for a firm stand, Jan becomes Jocasta. She impersonated Janet as Hank's request to figure out how Jan would respond to the truth. And while except for that minor nonsense, the storyline was involving, it was nothing like
what was promised on the cover. We didn't see Wasp once.

World of WarCraft always seems like it's title should be H.L. Menken's WarCraft. And it always seems like the comic, drawn to appeal to the very, very young, exists to sell war. Issue #25, entitled "Armageddon," does nothing to reject those assumptions. On the plus side, women are
portrayed as the equal to the male characters . . . in blood thirst. The volume ends with Garona declaring, "I am good at killing. So together, Meryl and I will teach the Hammer how to die. But Cho'Gall -- the last being on Azeroth who held sway over me -- is no more. For now, at least,
we have won."


The very, very young (and those who enjoy cartoons geared towards that group) has enjoyed a plethora of riches of late. Looney Tunes #183, entitled "Pepe and Delilah," feature the French skunk in earlier times. "Three thousand years ago (give or take a week)," you're informed at
the start of the delightful romp. To defeat Pepe, they send in "Agent Delilah" -- and anyone who's watched Pepe's animated antics already knows this is the female cat whom he's always chasing, the, as he puts it, "Yin to my Yang, ze peanut butter to my jelly, ze Marcel to my

Agent Delilah's task is to cut Pepe's tail off and thereby render him powerless. Cutting a tail, she whistles summing the army who are quickly defeated by the odor from the skunk's still-attached tail. Delilah cut off her own tail. The tale ends all too quickly and has many moments
to produce chuckles in all ages including when Delilah whistles to summon the military causing Pepe to flex and declare, "You whistle at your hunk of beefcake? I am flattered!"

A bad Elmore Fudd and Daffy Duck story follows. Bad? When the jokes depend on a variety of first-timers, not enough time has been spent appreciating the main characters. Daffy is much funnier in the final tale ("What Dis Country Needs") where he promises change and
a variety of other things as he runs for office. Bugs Bunny decides to take him down by working to get Tax elected.

"And just what makes you think that anyone's gonna vote for that drooling cretinous flea commune?" wonders Daffy but the race is on and where there are politics, there is Big Money and Big Corruption as well as Big Media.

Male host: Welcome to Droning On and On where we discuss politics till you can't take it anymore! Tonight the race between the Tasmanian Devil and Daffy Duck, pretty close at this point, isn't it Blaine? Female host: Absolutely, Mike, according ot the polls, there isn't anyone out there who'd vote for either of these candidates!

So a little truth enters the comics.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold also gears low or towards young readers -- depending upon your take. Badly drawn, the cover features Batman staring angrily at Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, Aquaman and Green Arrow who all have their own light signals in the sky. Battling the part ape, Sam Simeon, Batman is hurt and ends up in cast. Robin wonders "Who'd protect Gotham City then?" And that's the feeling in Star City (Green Arrow), New York (Plastic Man), Atlantis (Aquaman), Fawcett City (Captain Marvel) -- leading all the heroes to show up. As well as many villains, such as Penquin, Catwoman and Joker. Only Catwoman is written as the character you know. Joker's scenes might as well be Riddler's. It all ends with even more heroes showing up also dressed as Batman: The Atom, B'Wana Beast, Black Canary, Bronze Tiger, Guy Gardner and Red Tornado.

The badly drawn comic always looks like a bad episode of The 70s Super Friends TV show. So we checked in on the latest Super Friends or "Super Villians!" as the title tells you. The issue doesn't tell you much or offer you much. In fact, page 5 probably offers more of value in the ad
for the Emerald City Comicon taking place March 13 through 14th in Seattle, Washington (the Washington State Convention Center -- "FREE ADMISSION UNDER 7! KIDS PLAY AREA! AND SO MUCH MORE!")

We rounded out the survey with the latest Scooby-Doo! (#153). The Phantom of the Opal! plays out like someone watched Abbot & Costello's Who Done It? once too often but the drawings are worth noting. Drawn like the cartoon show, they still manage to show motion and bring the characters to life. And after the tokenism of Super Friends (Wonder Woman), it's always refreshing to see Velma and Daphne investigating.

If the last few months demonstrated anything, it's a disempowering of women in comics. At times it seems as though Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake The Laughing Corpse is about all you can count on.

ETAN on Indonesia's special forces

U.S. Training of Kopassus: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

Contact: John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN),
+1-718-596-7668; 917-690-4391,

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) warned President Barack Obama against renewing any U.S. training for Indonesia's notorious special forces.

"Training Kopassus will set back efforts to achieve accountability for past and recent human rights violations and will do little or nothing to discourage future crimes," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "This is a bad idea whose time has not come."

The Obama administration is considering resuming training of Kopassus and may announce a change in policy when President Obama visits Indonesia later this month.

"It's impossible to credit Kopassus with human rights reform when it retains active duty soldiers convicted of human rights violations," said Miller. These include soldiers convicted of killing West Papuan leader Theys Eluay and the kidnapping and disappearances of Indonesian activists in 1997 and 1998.

"For decades, the U.S. military provided training and other assistance to Kopassus, despite the demonstrated failure of international assistance to improve its behavior. Its widely acknowledged abuses and criminal activity simply continued," he said.

"Restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia provide leverage to support democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Working with Kopassus, which has a long history of terrorizing civilians, will undermine those fighting for justice and accountability in Indonesia and East Timor," said Miller.

The initial offer of training is likely to involve Kopassus Unit 81, which focuses on counter-terrorism. Unit 81 was co-founded as Kopassus Group 5 by then-captain Prabowo Subianto, who later admitted his involvement in the kidnapping of student activists in the late 1990s. He recently ran for Vice President of Indonesia.

The U.S. has praised Indonesia's successes in fighting terrorism, but it is the police – not the military - who have the major role.

"Greater Kopassus involvement in counter-terrorism will undercut police and civilian primacy in this effort, while strengthening the military's controversial internal territorial role. This will only undermine the reforms that the U.S. claims to support," he said.


The history of Kopassus human rights violations, its criminality and its unaccountability before Indonesian courts extends back decades and includes human rights and other crimes in Aceh, West Papua, Jakarta, and elsewhere. Kopassus was involved in East Timor from the killings of five Australian-based journalists at Balibo in 1975 prior to Indonesia's full scale invasion until its destructive withdrawal in 1999. Kopassus soldiers are alleged to have been involved in the 2002 ambush murder of three teachers (including two from the U.S.) near the Freeport mine in West Papua. The crimes of Kopassus are not only in the past. A Human Rights Watch report published last year documents how Kopassus soldiers "arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks."

Also according to Human Rights Watch, "The few soldiers who have been convicted by military tribunals for abuses have largely been reinstated into the ranks and promoted, including seven of 11 military personnel convicted of kidnapping student activists in 1997 and 1998. Col. Tri Hartomo, who was supposedly discharged from the military following his conviction in connection with the death of Papuan activist Theys Eluay in 2001, currently holds a senior position in Kopassus."

In 2005, the Bush administration exercised a national security waiver that allowed for full engagement with the Indonesian military for the first time since the early 1990s. The conditions for U.S. military engagement, which the Bush administration abandoned, included prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere and implementation of reforms to enhance civilian control of the Indonesian military. The Bush administration waited until 2008 to propose restarting U.S. training of Kopassus. The State Department’s legal counsel reportedly ruled that the 1997 ban on training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations, known as the 'Leahy law,' applied to Kopassus as a whole and the training did not go forward.

Additional Information

* More than 50 U.S. organizations signed a letter, urging the U.S. government to oppose "any U.S. cooperation with or assistance to the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus)." They wrote, "Those who favor engagement argue that U.S. training could lead to reform of Kopassus. This argument is clearly refuted by history. For decades, the U.S. trained and gave other assistance to Kopassus personnel, including General Prabowo and other leading officers. This relationship had no ameliorative effect; rather, it provided the equipment and skills used for repression."

* ETAN continues to collect signatures on a petition opposing resumption of U.S. training of Kopassus. Among the nearly 1500 signers so far are victims of Kopassus and witnesses to its criminal behavior

* Additional background on Kopassus can be found here:

ETAN was founded in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied East Timor [Timor-Leste]. Since the beginning, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:



John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Email; Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Skype: john.m.miller

Web site:

Send a blank e-mail message to to find out
how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

Winners: John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award for 2009



Nancy McDonald of HerStory Scrapbook notes:

March 2010 is the 30th anniversary of National Women's History Month. The HerStory Scrapbook is a "you-are-there" account of the women who were fighting for, and against, suffrage from 1917 - 1920, as reported by The New York Times.

To celebrate Women's History Month, the HerStory 360° Challenge on the HerStory Scrapbook will answer the question: "What's her story?" by highlighting a different story each day of ninety women who fought for the right to vote. Each woman's story includes internet links to rare, original source material.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"I Hate The War" and "Michael White & Steve Inskeep toss Gordon Brown's salad" -- C.I. ties with . . . C.I. The two entries received the most votes from the readers of this site. (Actually one received one more vote than the other but Ty didn't tell us which one.)

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Renews The Patriot Act" -- Isaiah's latest comic.

"Kat's Korner: The ultimate torch singer Sade" and "Kat's Korner: Joanna Newsom's triumph" -- Kat's two most recent reviews. We noted the Joanne Newsom one last week but will note it again now and note the Sade one that went up last Sunday.

"Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me," "Joanna Newsom," "Women's (Musical) History Month,"
"Joanna Newsom II," "Joanna Newsom III," "Joanna Newsom IV" and "Joanna Newsom IV" -- We're not making a mistake on the last two, they're two different posts by Kat. Trina, Ruth and Kat weigh in on Joanna Newsom's new album Have One On Me.

"My only Oscar pick," "Movies," "The Box, the Oscars," "Movies and Oscars," "My Oscar picks" and "Those scandals that never end" -- Oscars are tonight. These are the Oscar and movie posts from Stan, Trina, Ann and Mike.

"Deviled Eggs in the Kitchen" -- And Trina offers an easy snack recipe.

"that bad, bad book" and "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried (II)" -- Rebecca and Marcia continue their book posts.

"Playful Bully Boy" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"No clear picks for Sunday" -- Voting wraps up today in Iraq. Ruth's title may have made you think it was an Oscar post. Like Pee Wee, she meant to do that. :D

"The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Shuck & Jive" -- Marcia interviews C.I. to do some Congressional reporting.

"Los Angeles Times takes dictation from military" and "US military brass organizes attack on The Hurt Locker" -- Elaine and Mike's must read posts.

"John Edwards has a plan" & "THIS JUST IN! EDWARDS TO THE BIG HOUSE?" -- Cedric and Wally report on Sleeze-meister John Edwards.

"My awesome power" -- Betty's all powerful. At least one angry reader thinks so.

"Chris Dodd stays true to Chris Dodd" -- Trina breaks down what should have been obvious.

"Don't know why, but I'll take it as a victory" -- Marcia.

"The joke that is BuzzFlash" -- Betty notes the silences.

"l'oreal, iran" -- Rebecca wades through two prickly issues.

"ACLU celebrates women's history, WMC attacks it," "Dumb Ass Melissa Silverstein" & "Melissa Silverstein: Sexist and stupid" -- Ruth, Stan and Elaine on sexist Melissa.

"Charlie, Chuck, Iraq" -- Mike covers pretty much everything here.

"THIS JUST IN! BARRY SAYS HE'S WORTH IT!" & "Barack: No friend of working people" -- unemployment rises but have you heard what happened in Hawaii?
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