Sunday, May 09, 2010

Truest statement of the week

Over this past weekend, we were regaled with another lame performance by a president. Of course, with the audience laughing hysterically as if Obama were smashing watermelons, you wouldn't think the performance was lame -- unless you can and do still think.

Obama joked about the new draconian and un-Constitutional law in Arizona -- which isn't funny to millions of people. NAFTA and CAFTA and GMO's are deadly serious business and instead of joking about human right's violations, our government should be repealing these programs that force Latinos to risk their lives to come north to support their families.

Since the day the Nobel Laureate was sworn is as emperor, he has increased the use of CIA controlled drone bombings in Pakistan. In fact, the raw numbers are triple those of the final five years of the Bush regime. Obama is the Drone Bomber for sure and thousands of civilians have been killed or chased from their homes into filthy refugee camps by Obama’s war of terror.

To these people, joking about dropping Hellfire missiles on the Jonas brothers is no laughing matter. Are presidents really that freaking insensitive, or do they just not care if their "jokes" are in the poorest of bad taste?

-- Cindy Sheehan, "The Drone Bomber" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).

Truest statement of the week II

Identity crisis: Even as late as April 2008, I sat in at a meeting with top brass where they claimed to still be committed to actual reporting. Reporting is/was/and always will be Newsweek's strength. Its biggest stories are rarely the blustery opinion pieces, but its scoops, exclusives, and thorough pieces of journalism/analysis. (Think of great and inspiring reporters like Mike Isikoff, Chris Dickey, Mike Hirsch, Mark Hosenball, or the expensively reported yet popular Newsweek election project, which comes out every four years.) But soon after that meeting, the dreaded Money Men came in, and as Newsweek "insiders" tell me, said that the reporting paradigm was a no go. (Never trust the Money Men! Really, what do they know about journalism? Aren't we supposed to be the experts on that?) In just a few months, the magazine went from a dedicated "mass and class" strategy to an "elite opinion" strategy. Newsweek then wanted "edgy" voices -- so the powers that be bragged about getting Christoper Hitchens to write for them . . . (Hitchens, no offense, was edgy in like 1993. )They tried a bunch of gimmick covers, overexposed guest essayists, and took on a sort of junior National Review editorial tone. (Why Dick Cheney Should Be President etc….)

This decision -- to basically abandon reporting -- I think sealed the magazine's fate. Maybe it was inevitable, maybe the Newsweek execs had no choice, but it suggested to me that the end was near.

-- Michael Hastings, "Newsweek: What Went Wrong" (The Hastings Report, True/Slant).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Sunday and, amazingly, we're done before six a.m. PST. We're usually working six more hours most Sundays. Early for us is two hours more. (Unless Ava and C.I. are doing the edition and the rest of us are on vacation. When Ava and C.I. steer the edition, articles are posted quickly.)
Along with Dallas, the following helped 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.

We thank them all. And then some.

What did we come up with for this edition?

My fingertips are holding on to the cracks in our foundation
And I know that I should let go but I can't
And every time we fight I know it's not right
Every time that you're upset . . .

You think it's wrong that Dona wants that Kate Nash song played at our wedding reception? I'm joking. ("I" is Jim.) We'd wanted to work in a Kate Nash feature but that didn't take. Next week, you may have a DVD review. Ava, C.I. and Dona were discussing a movie during breaks -- one Dona wanted to love and forced me to watch -- and I was scribbling down what they were saying so that might run next week. But no one even wants to look at it right now, let alone type it.

"Jim," Ava just declared, "this will not be an essay. We're not going to be up for an hour more so you can churn out an essay." As I was saying, what did we come up with?

Cindy Sheehan continues her run as a truest.
I actually nominated this one. Michael Hastings from his article explaining why he thinks Newsweek has failed.

We could have done an Iraq editorial here and there was talk of doing one even after the roundtable. But it was noted by Jess that there was a sameness to doing weekly editorials on Iraq. "Duh and/or Hello!" to quote Archer. So we tossed around several ideas and when Ava proposed the topic we ended up going with, it immediately clicked.

Ava and C.I.'s classic. I think you can read this and just, on the most basic level, enjoy it. However, they've done a few things in this that actually mimic the show. FlashForward fans may be upset that Ava and C.I. couldn't give it a strong endorsement (and Ava and C.I. will hear about that non-endorsement from friends with the show); however, there are little treats in here even for fans of the show.

This wasn't planned as the Iraq roundtable. I wanted to tackle Iraq first and move on to other topics. But there was some strong participation on the topic and it ended up being a longer conversation than we'd expected so we just made it the Iraq roundtable. And our e-mail address, for those having trouble finding it, is It's hard for a lefty to pin down the most embarrassing thing about our side but certainly what passes for our 'independent' press has to top the list. A regular reader got deployment orders and asked if we could do a magazine survey because it is one of her favorite features. We gladly did this one . . .
. . . and this one as well. It's music magazines. And news on three tracks you can download for free. Don't miss them.

A book feature.
This is a repost of Workers World -- and it's Workers World not "Worker's World." I do the headlines so let me go in and fix that typo right now. We'd planned to do a repost from this outlet at least once a month since they let you repost in full.

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

And that's what we ended up with. "Foundations" was playing when I started this and now "Birds" is playing. From Kate Nash's debut album Made Of Bricks. (We love it and we especially love Kate Nash's new album My Best Friend Is You.) Since Jess told me to wrap this up in three minutes over ten minutes ago, I better wrap it up. We'll see you next week.


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

Editorial: Some lives matter less

Some lives matter less. That's the message the judicial system consistently sends. We're speaking of the US judicial system but it's true of all judicial systems and certainly true of the New York State Supreme Court.

Ecuadorean Jose O. Sucuzhanay and his brother Romel Sucuzhanay were walking down a New York Street on December 7, 2008 when a car driven by Keith Phoenix pulled over with Phoenix and Hakim Scott shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay remarks. Phoenix and Scott got out of the car and began attacking the two men. Jose ended up in the hospital.


Wednesday December 10, 2008, Jonathan Lemire and Albor Ruiz (New York Daily News) reported that Jose had been taken off life support Tuesday, December 9, 2008. Jack Healy (New York Times) reported December 13, 2008 that Jose had died and his mother had been en route from Equador to see her son. Jose passed away after the assault in which he'd been beaten with a glass bottle and an aluminum baseball bat.

Hakim Scott was convicted of manslaughter on Thursday. He was not found guilty of hate crimes. C.J. Hughes (New York Times) reports:

Mr. Scott, who sat expressionless in a dark suit while the verdict was read, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. His lawyer, Craig Newman, said he would appeal, because, he said, hitting someone with a bottle should not rise to the level of a manslaughter conviction.
"He's upset that he was in the car with someone who committed these acts and was dragged along with him," Mr. Newman said.

Poor killer. All he did was smash a glass bottle over Jose's head and go after his brother with the glass fragments. Poor killer. He's upset, is he, that he was "dragged along" with Phoenix, someone "he was in the car with"? If Hakim Scott had kept his ass in that car, it's doubtful he would have been charged with anything. But he wasn't just a passenger in the car.

And he didn't just step out of the car, he attacked Jose, he busted Jose's head open and left him bleeding for Phoenix to attack with the baseball bat.

Hakim Scott is a killer, a homophobe and a xenophobe.

He is, in fact, many, many things; however, innocent is not one of them.

By avoiding the hate crime charges, the jury gave Killer Hakim Scott a maximum shot at 40 years. It's doubtful he'll serve forty years.

WYNC spoke with NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who stated, "The fact that this jury didn't get it right and clearly the fact that this hate crime occurred at all sends a clear message that we have more work to do in this city."

Phoneix's jury is deliberating still and may deliver a verdict Monday or may continue deliberating.

But one jury's already sent the message that some lives have less value. It's a message that echoes throughout US culutre. For example, click here to go to Jose Sucuzhanay's Wikipedia page.

What's that?

You clicked and found there was no page. Right. Again, some lives have value, some don't. That is the message.

It can be found at The Village Voice as well. Steven Thraser writes:

The attack took place in Bushwick on November 30 of last year. The two Sucuzhañay brothers had been walking arm in arm when Scott and Phoenix attacked them. Scott was convicted of breaking a bottle over José's head, then chasing Romel with it. He stood by while Phoenix reportedly beat José with a baseball bat on the ground so hard, he cracked his skull open.

November 30th "of last year" would be November 30, 2009. Uh, no. Wrong year, wrong month. This morning Albor Ruiz (New York Daily News) explains, "On Dec. 7, 2008, Sucuzhanay, 31, and his brother, Romel, 36, who was visiting from Ecuador, had been drinking at a church party and later at Mexican restaurant. The two were holding on to each other as they walked home along Bushwick Ave. at 3:30 on that fateful Sunday morning."

An NYC story. A hate crime story. A man attacked and killed because he was thought to be gay (he wasn't) and because he was thought to be Latino (he was). An immigrant, in fact. Amy Goodman should be all over it. Only last week she played stupid. It wasn't always that way.

For example, Jose's mattered December 12, 2008:

Ecuadorian Immigrant Clings to Life Following Apparent Hate Crime

Meanwhile, in New York, an Ecuadorian immigrant is on life support following an apparent hate crime. Thirty-one-year-old Jose Sucuzhanay was attacked early Sunday by unknown assailants. The attackers reportedly shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs before assaulting him with a baseball bat. Sucuzhanay has been declared brain dead and is on life support.

And his death was in the December 15th headlines:

Ecuadorean Immigrant Dies After Brutal Beating

In New York, an Ecuadorean immigrant who was brutally beaten with a bottle and baseball bat by men shouting anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs has died. Jose Sucuzhanay was thirty-one years old.

After that, Goody lost interest. Maybe because the next development was in March 2009 when suspects were arrested? Maybe because the suspects were African-Americans?

If it's White-on anything violence, Goody's all over it. But Black-on-Brown violence? Goody's just not interested. Which is why there were no further updates, which is why this attack on an immigrant, this attack on an immigrant assumed to be gay, suddenly became a non-story to Goody while every other NYC story is treated as NATIONAL NEWS!!!! by her.

The thing that will really stir tensions is Latinos noticing just how many left outlets are staying silent on Jose's death and the trial of his killers. But, as we noted at the top, some lives get valued more than others.

TV: FlashBackward

It's 1969 and you've been on Fulton Street at the wildest party most people will ever see. Maybe, like Grace Slick, you're passed out on booze or, maybe like Paul Kantner, you're tripping on something harder, but everyone's passed out and, when they finally come to, turns out time did not stand still. Tack on forty years and that's, more or less, the premise of ABC's FlashForward -- only on a global scale.

On October 6, 2009, the world goes tripping via some unknown scientific experiment executed by some unknown people. For two minutes and seventeen seconds, the bulk of the people are passed out and the bulk of those go on to see visions.


The visions take place six months in the future and they have included that you're going to have a baby, that you're run over by a car, that you'll be with someone other than your current spouse, that you'll be president and that you'll go flying 'round the world with the Banana Splits. Sadly, we're joking on the last and the show could certainly use a lot more humor.

For example, Demetri Noh (played by John Cho) had no vision. That basically makes him the guy who's hitting the group's stash while repeatedly insisting, as he puffs away, "Marijuana never does anything for me." On and on he goes, "I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to die." It's a rare episode (and we've seen 21 -- all in the last week) that he's not whining. We imagine the audience is feeling like John Lennon when Peter Fonda wouldn't shut up about "I know what it's like to be dead." Sadly, no great Beatles song will come of this.

FlashFoward flips and changes from episode to episode. In fact, episode 19 (which aired last week) is called "Course Correction."

Over the years, a number of e-mails have come in with one basic point: "Why don't you review Lost?"

We (Ava and C.I.) were not big TV watchers before this became our job here at Third. We had never watched Lost. That show started in September 2004. We started reviewing here in January 2005 (the first month was a group effort that also included Dona, Ty, Jess and Jim). The show had already been on for a season and we didn't have the time to play catch up. Back then, we were catching things on TV. (After six months of doing that, we began asking friends for episodes and scripts and now we do the bulk of our reviews off those. We were asked -- for the fourth time -- by friends with the program to do this review you're reading.) Now Lost is going off and we will have made it all these years without ever weighing in.


Is this what Lost is like? After we got done with all the episodes, we started asking that of anyone we could including a friend in the Lost cast. He said that FlashFoward is nothing like Lost and more like the episode of Dallas where Pam (Victoria Principal) wakes up and realizes the whole thing was a dream.

And of all the feedback we got on FlashForward last week, that rang the most true.

So much never makes sense. Take Janis.

Mark: You know I can't stop thinking about Frost's last words, "In the end you'll be saved by the lady you see every day." What the hell does that mean?

Janis: Well clearly that means I'm going to save your ass, Mark.

It turns out "the lady" is a queen on a chess board. But Janis' remark works in that scene because we're at the FBI and she's apparently the only woman agent. There was another, Marcy, but Janis (played by Christine Woods) aided her downfall.

Janis outed her. She was a mole. So is Janis. Are you confused?

Watching FastFoward, are you ever not confused?

Janis' flashfoward was that she was at the doctor's for a sonogram and she was told she was going to have a girl. That's a bit of a problem for Janis. She's single, yes, but that's really not her problem. She couldn't legally marry someone she loved if she wanted to in most states.

Yeah, Janis is a lesbian. And somehow she ends up pregnant? Well not somehow. There's a subtext about these 'visions' that has some people bringing on their own deaths, but they're also bringing on other things. Janis, in Somalia on a bad trip (and in a bad episode), is so worried because the window of time for her to get pregnant and to have what she saw in her 'vision' is slipping away. She tells that to Dimitri who -- apparently thinking it counts as foreplay -- again trots out that he's going to die. 'So, what the heck, let's do it.' What a charming seduction.

Janis ends up pregnant by Dimitri. Did her 'vision' come true or did she make it come true? Seems to us she pretty much forced it. Seems to us that without having seen that vision, she never would have felt the need to get pregnant in six months.

There's a difference between plans and destiny.

Destiny earlier brought Janis together with a lesbian -- in the FlashFoward universe, one other lesbian exists in all the world -- for a nice little dinner followed by some intense making out. The morning after, the woman and Janis meet up in the kitchen. Janis has no time for breakfast, has to rush off, tells the woman to make sure she locks the door when she leaves (those doors, that you can lock and then close, always exist on TV). She tells her to eat breakfast, relax, even snoop through her things. Janis meets her after work and again brings up that the woman could snoop through her things. The woman didn't. But she did kind of "Google" her, she "Mosaic"ed her.

All the people who passed out that had visions or didn't have visions are encouraged (by the FBI) to share them online. Demetri urged Janis to put her vision online. She did. And she put her name to it.

So we're really not getting why Janis suddenly glares at the woman, serves up a how-dare-you speech and tells her it's over before walking out.

Again, Janis posted her 'vision' online. With her own name to it. She told the woman to feel free to snoop around her apartment but she's upset that the woman found her online?

The woman was asking for a very basic reason. She and Janis were moving towards a relationship and she asked if Janis also dated men because she was confused how exactly Janis was supposed to get pregnant?

Janis makes no sense. She helped Marcy's downfall, as we noted earlier. Marcy was a do-nothing minor character (like the one Seth MacFarlane also plays on the show) until suddenly she was the mole! She was the mole, it was figured out and Marcy quickly figured out that it had been figured out. Brandishing her weapon at the FBI office, she should have alarmed a nation. She shot like crazy and was able to take out a good number of agents while herself never getting hit once.

She even made it out of the basement of the building where she hopped on the back of a motorcyle driving by an unknown person (who waited down the street every day in case it was the day she was outed?). Janis came running out and shooting and fighting ensued. First the driver of the motorcycle was shot and s/he crashed into a fountain. As s/he stays submerged, Marcy decided to use this brief spotlight for all it was worth and she and Janis slug it out. Janis is the victor.

Mark (Joseph Fiennes) grabs Marcy and asks her how could she?

When the viewers were probably asking: How could they?

Do what?

Not unmask the motorcyle driver. They leave him or her in the fountain. No one removes the helmet. No one's even remotely interested in who the dead person was.

Janis rarely makes sense. In the episode we're talking about? It ends with an exchange between Janis and Simon (Dominic Monaghan) where it's revealed that Marcy wasn't the only mole, Janis is also a mole working for the other side.

But that's episode 15 (we think) and by episode 19, Janis is not just a mole. Being a FBI agent who is really working with the bad guys behind the blackout would make her a double agent. Janis, it turns out, is a triple agent. She's actually working for the CIA who want her to work for the FBI because they know something big is coming and they need her to be a mole.

If you follow that, tie this onto it: We learn that in a flashback which took place two years ago.

For a show called FlashFoward, there sure are a lot of flashbacks. In fact, viewers spend a large amount of time in the past and a little in the present. Not a great deal in the future.

That's too bad because scenes set in the future would be free of Demetri's whining that he's going to die (either because he died or because he didn't and found something new to whine about).

A woman went on the equivalent of Larry King in the episode last week and explained she was supposed to have already died from a car accident and she hadn't and things could change and we control our destiny and it's all so uplifitng and spiritual and life-affirming . . .

By the time a car's tires were squealing, you were practically begging the driver to run her over.

That woman makes no sense. Or made. She died. But she made no sense. How did she know she was going to die? Demetri knows (or 'knows') he's going to die because he had no vision during the blackout. People who had no vision are supposed to die (as he constantly reminds everyone within ear shot). In fact, in the second episode, he and Mark team up with a sherrif to stakeout a mystery guy and around the time the sherrif's saying that she doesn't believe in the visions because she didn't have one, you know she's going to die shortly after she steps into that abandoned factory. Which she does.

So how did this woman on TV see her own death? You can't reconcile that with Demetri's theory.

A man who also was supposed to die (he taught high school which many would argue is its own form of eternal death) didn't and he began killing people who were supposed to die. He was aiming his car at her (she's be his second victim). He ends up thrwarted but the woman's run over by Alex Kingston who's suddenly shown up for no reason. Maybe she missed her one-time brother-in-law Joseph Fiennes?

Kingston (beloved by TV viewers for her portrayal of Dr. Elizabeth Corday on ER) plays an inspector named Fiona Banks who is apparently on loan from the FBI headquarters in Bristol. Regardless of how the character came over, the show needs her and Kingston manages to overcome the bad dialogue, the confusing storylines and the often poorly written scenes.

Back to her former real-life brother-in-law's character, Mark. Mark's vision is that six months from now, he's in his office (drinking, he's currently in AA) when masked intruders break in apparently to kill him. He's married to Olivia (Sonya Walger) and a young daughter Charlie. In Charlie's vision, she's at her home and her brother Dylan's there. Dylan? Olivia's vision finds her married to Lloyd (Jack Davenport), a man she's never met when she has her vision.

She meets Lloyd when he seeks out the doctor who treated his son . . . Dylan. When Charlie sees Dylan she knows his name and him. The same way Dylan calls Oliva "Olivia" the first time he sees her.

Mark and Olivia play the half-honesty game when it comes to their visions. He leaves out the part that, according to the vision, he'll be back on the sauce in six months. She leaves out the fact that she's now met Lloyd. She does tell him . . . after she shows him to Charlie to see if Charlie recognizes him (her daughter doesn't -- which Olivia sells to Mark as a good thing).

In the episode that aired last week, Olivia and Lloyd end up at his house after some intense sharing and they kiss. There's a knock at the door. Lloyd opens the door. It's Mark. He looks at Olivia, she at him. She says she has to go and leaves with no further word. Mark then talks to Lloyd about the blackout (Lloyd's a scientist and the mentor of Simon). Mark never mentions Olivia is his wife. Olivia's not filled Lloyd in on that either.

Does any of that make sense? Does any of it sound remotely like humor behavior?

Maybe four episodes from now we'll learn Olivia's not just a doctor, she's triple agent. And then we can excuse the character's lack of consistency?

But what of Mark?

The show's already pushing it when they have Olivia offer the common sense solution to Mark that they pack up and move to Denver with their daughter and then she (Olivia) will never meet Lloyd and Mark's vision won't come true either. He refuses to do that.

Everyone refuses to attempt to break out from their visions.

So we're already supposed to stomach that plot convention and they want to add on that a guilty wife and a jealous husband encountering one another at the home of the man she's supposed to leave him for aren't going to say anything to one another? Aren't even going to exchange such a look that Lloyd would ask: Do you two know each other?

In Sleepless in Seattle, Rosie O'Donnell advises Meg Ryan, "Your destiny can be your doom." FlashForward is a highly verbose show and, as the season draws to a close, you might expect a few serious conversations to take place about fate and self-deterimination and, in fact, self-fulfilling prophecies. But that doesn't happen.

Instead we get a lot of bad conversations -- especially if the character is an immigrant which tends to lead the writers to create borderline racist scenes -- that rarely make sense but often manage to name check something -- like a Pixie's concert. The show would probably offer a lot more meaning to viewers if some of those pop-cultural references were dropped long enough to allow for some serious discussion about how much impact we actually have on our outcomes. In one episode viewers were treated to a man who saw himself as a great leader . . . turned out to have had a vision of himself as president. Only the president was Abe Lincoln. He didn't have a vision of himself at all. And like an LSD vision, how accurate are any of these? How dependent are they on the person's own fears and beliefs and personal make up?

By episode 21, this should have been addressed. It hasn't been. If, like us, you watch 21 episodes of this show in one week, it's not a bad show. But we honestly couldn't put up with waiting a week for each episode, especially when everything's always changing. Now maybe this is what made Lost a hit? We don't know. But we do have to wonder how many drugs it took for this show to get the greenlight?

Iraq roundtable

Jim: We're doing a roundtable to pull in a number of topics including some things that happened Congress that didn't get a lot of media. We're also doing it because we're actually on schedule and if we can discuss Iraq in this that will basically just leave an editorial to write -- on what topic we don't know -- and then we can actually get some sleep. 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. Dona, explain where we're at in terms of this issue.


Dona: Sure. Ava and C.I. cover FlashForward in a lengthy and often humorous essay. It'll be a huge crowd pleaser for our readers. One of our readers just found out she's being deployed. At her request, we did another magazine survey. She's also a music fan so we not only did our political magazine survey, we also did an article that's a survey of four music mags and also offers some bands to check out. Rebecca and Marcia lead on books in the community. That's not taking anything away from Shirley and Martha who do a great look back at the year books each January. But in terms of book discussions, it's Rebecca and Marcia. They've done a two part discussion -- two parts on each of their blogs, so a four-part discussion -- on William Mann's book on Elizabeth Taylor, they've discussed a book about pioneering director Oscar Micheux, they've discussed a book about Steve McQueen, one about Warren Beatty, one by Pam Grier and it feels like I'm forgetting one. [See "book 'em friday" and "Oscar Micheaux"; "book 'em friday" and "Oscar Micheaux"; "book 'em friday" and "How To Be A Movie Star"; "book 'em friday," "skimming kitty kelley," "How To Be A Movie Star II"; "he wasn't gay, he just swallowed our ..." and "Steve ordered us to rape him"; "Foxy: My Life In Three Acts (Pam Grier)" and "book 'em friday."]

Marcia: Rebecca also did a piece, an overview, on the new Kitty Kelley book on Oprah ["skimming kitty kelley"].

Dona: Thank you. And while they lead, we've done a number of features on books of late and due to the positive response, we're trying one more. This is 4 Books You Should Avoid. We went through books sent to C.I. and picked the four worst ones. One is softcover, the others are hard cover. And we explain why they should be avoided. Mike and the gang have written this week's "Hightlights" piece. We've picked out two truests for the week. We've still got to do an editorial and we've got a lot left to cover so a roundtable seemed a way to tackle that. For one thing, we'd hoped to do a magazine parody last week and that was kicked over to this weekend. Elaine and C.I. would lead on that piece and they're not in a very funny mood. They'll tell you that right out. So that piece is postponed and may not take place. Iraq's our big concern so let's start with that. Ty, you have an e-mail about me.

Ty: In Mike's "Barack's got troubles," he explains that you edited out references to Iraq's religious minorities in last week's "Editorial: It matters." It was noted, less specifically, in Jim's note last week. Reader Carrie thinks it was a mistake and wonders why you did that?

Dona: Thank you. Carrie, I make a ton of mistakes and I won't argue you're wrong to see this as one. First off, Mike did check with me before noting the edit at his site. He didn't have to but he did and I told him he could write about it. Was it wrong for me to edit it out? I favor short pieces and the paragraphs in question took the editorial in another direction. Now with what ended up happening much later that day, I made a huge mistake. Late Sunday, Iraqi Christian college students were targeted with bombings. At least eighty were injured. That had not happened or hit the wires when the editorial was published, let alone when I was editing it. It would dominate the Sunday evening Iraq news but it wasn't in the cycle that morning or I would have left the paragraphs in. I'll also note that Carrie feels we haven't done enough hear on Iraqi Christians and I will absolutely agree with her on that. We haven't. We're not a religious site, for one reason. For another, we average about one Iraq piece -- this will probably be it for this edition -- per week. Now here, Ava and C.I. have managed to cover Iraqi Christians in pieces over the year. And, of course, at The Common Ills, C.I. covers Iraqi Christians all the time.

Mike: And Ruth's covered them. Which makes me feel bad to be honest because Ruth is Jewish and she's covering Iraqi Christians. I'm Catholic and even with the Church being one of the few organizations consistently issuing alerts and, via Vatican News, covering the assaults, I don't note it at my site.

Betty: I'm never shy about discussing my own beliefs, religious beliefs, so I should actually be blogging about the subject, Mike, and I haven't either. For me, that's due to my middle child having difficult homework this semester. Work is work and that's tiring as anyone who works knows. But then I come home and I've got to help with that. Let me back up and note that Dona, Ty, Jess and Jim are helping my kids with their homework all the time. Dona's like the math expert and all three of my kids make her their go-to. But there's a subject I'm helping with that requires me and I'm usually wiped out because I've worked, I've done that and I've tried to spend some time with the kids and wasn't that a long winded excuse for why I never note the subject. In reality, offline, I talk about it a lot. And not the recent attack, but when the Mosul attacks flared up again a few months back -- the bombings from last week were just the latest wave in the Mosul attacks -- I was discussing this with four friends at work and I should have written about it because one of them, 62-years-old, female, Black, said she didn't know about any of this and couldn't believe that things like this still happened. She's a Christian, by the way. And it's really amazing how little attention the attacks on Iraqi Christians receive in this country. C.I. had a comment online last week about the sources she was highlighting and she noted that she didn't want e-mail drive-bys about 'this is a right-leaning site you're quoting' because you go with what you have and on this topic the political left has been grossly silent.

Rebecca: And that is true, the political left largely ignores this. I think that's very telling. Iraqi Christians are a small part of the country's population but they are a huge part of the refugee population. And they're certainly news when they're being targeted.

Betty: How many Christians were in Iraq before the US invasion?

C.I.: That's difficult because that's an estimate and the most accepted estimate is that there were 750,000 Iraqi Christians prior to the US invasion.

Betty: So that's like 1/26th of the population or there abouts.

Mike: I'm going to insert something here from John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need and I'll i.m. Dallas with it so Ava and C.I. can just put "quote" in their notes and not take it down word for word:

Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul spoke of possible collusion between anti-Christian terrorists and fringe political parties and criticised the authorities, saying they were “too busy holding meetings” to ensure the safety of minority groups. In his interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians, the Syrian Catholic prelate said that a failure of Iraq’s army, police and government to “coordinate” meant that they were “opening the door to terrorists”. The archbishop, who has called for UN intervention to protect Christians, was speaking after going to hospital to visit some of the 163 people – most of them youngsters – who were injured in a bomb blast which targeted a convoy of buses packed with Christian students. One male student – as yet unnamed – died instantly and two female students were reported to be in a critical condition following the attack which took place on Sunday (2nd May) on the edge of Mosul, in the north of the country. Describing how one student had had a leg amputated and another had suffered a serious eye injury, Archbishop Casmoussa said three students were in a critical condition and that plans were underway to transfer 15 people to hospital in Turkey. The violence is the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks since 2004 which are widely understood to be part of a coordinated campaign to extinguish the presence of Iraq’s ancient Church, which dates back to earliest times. Amid reports that Sunday morning’s explosions took place between two checkpoints, Archbishop Casmoussa blamed the authorities for failing to clamp down on terrorists. He said: “We feel angry about what happened – and we are full of sadness for those who have suffered so much. “We feel there is no central power here. The authorities are too busy holding meetings and not enough is being done.” He continued: “The army is not close to the government, the government is not close with the police. “You have people who are responsible but they are not coordinated in their actions and this opens the door to terrorists.”

Mike (Con't): I wasn't aware that there were deaths.

C.I.: As many as four deaths have been reported. These were apparently deaths from injuries -- I mean that the people were injured and efforts to treat their injuries did not pan out. By the time the deaths were taking place, there was so much other news out of Iraq that the Sunday events seemed very, very long ago.

Ty: So whose targeting Iraqi Christians?

Trina: Well no one knows. That's part of the problem and an issue that's been brought before the Vatican: There have been no arrests in any of these assaults. Betty was pointing out that Sunday's bombings were part of a wave of attacks that had been going on since at least February and she noted it was "this wave." There have been non-stop waves. 2008, for example, saw a wave. No one has been caught, no one has been tried. The hunches include the always popular scapegoat al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The hunches also include Shi'ite militias and Nouri's own forces. The hunches also include the KRG's peshmerga. In fact, a Human Rights Watch report pretty much pinned it on them. No one knows --

Jim: Why the KRG peshmerga? Why would they be behind it?

Trina: The hunch -- I don't call any of these guesses a "theory" -- is that the KRG wants the support of the Iraqi Christians in getting more areas declared Kurdish and so they create violence for the Christians that they then ride in as the big protectors on and make the Christians grateful.

Jim: Really?

Ava: Yes. That's a hunch. And the report Trina referred to included quoting Iraqi Christians who felt that way but they've been quoted stating that for some time now. For years now. The 2007 wave of attacks led to many Christians charging that the peshmerga were behind the attacks. I'm not saying they are, I have no idea. I'm just stating this isn't an uncommon hunch. No one knows, as Trina pointed out, and there have been no arrests in all this time.

Jim: And last Sunday's bombings may have resulted in as many as four deaths?

C.I.: The Vatican expressed sympathies for four dead. That was -- I think -- on Tuesday. A telegram was sent on behalf of the Pope to the Archbishop in Mosul.

Jim: Jess just slid me a note saying I need to amend the earlier list of who has covered the persecution of Iraqi Christians to read Ava and C.I., C.I. solo, Ruth and Trina because Trina's also covered it at her site.

Trina: Like Betty, I have no worries about talking religion at my site. Thank you, Jess, for remembering my coverage.

Jess: No problem. Now if the worst case scenario came true, Iraq could be Christian-free.

Ruth: The way the Jewish population has been driven since the start of the Iraq War?

Jess: Exactly. Iraq had a Jewish population. It no longer really does. How many are estimated to be in Baghdad now?

C.I.: There is supposedly one Jewish Iraqi in Baghdad. That may or may not be true, the number may even be larger. The person that is being trusted with that count was caught lying publicly to a committee and insisting -- while there were seven Iraqi Jews in Baghdad -- that they were all out. When he found out, after his testimony, that reporters were present and going to be reporting on his testimony, he berated them. In terms of all of Iraq, it is thought that there are less than ten Jews in the country.

Jim: Ruth, you are Jewish. How does it make you feel to see Iraq's Jewish population killed or turned into refugees?

Ruth: I am not really surprised. Look at the Palestinians in Iraq who have been relegated to a 'camp' on the border. It's not as if Iraq treats any minorities with respect. What does bother me is a story that was in the news last week. When the US invaded, one of the things they found was a Jewish Archive in an old police building. It had been damaged by water and the Americans saved it. They brought it back to the US to finish preserving it. Now Israel wants it and so does Iraq. Should Israel get it? I don't see Israel as the sole repository for all things Jewish. It may deserve it, it may not. But I do not believe we should hand it over to the Iraqis. The Iraqi government did nothing to protect the Jewish people. They've either all left or still have one in the country. They don't deserve it. Send it to Israel, keep it in the US, turn it over to a Jewish organization. But the Iraqi government has no right to it. The treatment of Jews in Iraq demands that the Iraqi government have no right to it. That is my opinion. As a Jewish woman, that is my opinion.

Betty: I agree with Ruth. Nouri and others have allowed the Jews to be targeted, the Christians to be targeted, go down the list. And now because something has historical value they think they have a right to it? No. Jews have a right to that, the Iraqi government has no right to it. And there lack of right to it predates even Nouri's government.

Ruth: Right. Jews under Saddam Hussein's regime regularly had their books confiscated. So it needs to be made clear that these papers are not the work of non-Jewish people. They were the property of Jews in Iraq and they were taken from them. They were stolen from them by the police. To now say, "Well the Iraqi government has a right to them," is a huge insult. The government stole from the Jewish people and now the Iraqi government wants to claim that these stolen goods are their property? That makes no sense at all.

Jim: Other violence last week included the death of Sardasht Osman. Cedric, I'm going to toss to you for his backstory.

Cedric: Okay. He was a 23-year-old Iraqi journalist. He was also in his last year of college. He was regularly calling out corrupt figures in the KRG. Early last week, he was on his college campus when he was abducted. He emerged two days later, his corpse did. He was kidnapped and murdered. Just a few minutes ago, it was being pointed out that the people behind the assualts on Christians were never tracked down. That is also true of those who kill Iraiq journalists. Due to that, a number of Iraqi journalists called on the KRG to find Sardasht's killer. And Saturday, college students and journalists demonstrated to underscore the call.

Jim: Great job, Cedric. Thank you. A truest nominee came from Wally this week and it was a good one but we ended up going with others -- Wally's nomination wasn't the only one not to make it as truest statment. But I told Wally after the votes were tallied up that we'd bring up Sardasht Osman during the roundtable and he could include it here.

Wally: Thanks, Jim. This is from Sam Dagher's "Abducted Kurdish Journalist in Iraq Is Found Dead" which ran in Friday's New York Times:

The family and friends of the journalist, Zardasht Osman, 23, said he was killed because of his scathing articles about the region's two governing parties and its leaders, including the dominant Barzani family. Mr. Osman was a university student who freelanced for a number of publications and often wrote on the Internet under a pseudonym.
"I am in love with Barzani's daughter," read a satirical and irreverent Web post by Mr. Osman in December, which appeared to violate a taboo in the region’s deeply conservative and clan-based culture by referring to a female family member of the region's president, Massoud Barzani. Mr. Osman mused about how he could rise from his poor surroundings by marrying one of Mr. Barzani's daughters.

Wally (Con't): I think it's appalling that he or anyone else died. But I think I was especially appalled because of what Cedric and I do at our sites. We're doing humor sites and we're doing parody and we aim at the most poweful. Before November 2008, that was Bully Boy Bush. Now it's Barack Obama. And even living in a safer country, I don't think we'd do a piece that kicked off, "I am in love with Obama's daughter." I think Osman had real guts and courage and applaud him and his memory for that.

Ty: I can see why you and Cedric would feel that way and I agree that Osman showed real bravery. And, knowing the hate mail that comes in when you don't drink the Kool-Aid, I'd add you and Cedric show bravery. But I wanted to just note that in Friday's snapshot, C.I. called out James Kitfield of The National Journal for his performance on that day's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) where he was praising the drone attacks in Pakistan -- which have killed a large number of civilians -- and saying "we" over and over, that "we" did this and, as C.I. pointed out, it's not only demonstrating a lack of objectivity, it's putting at risk every US journalist stationed overseas because Kitfield's drawing no line between a government and a reporter, no line between military actions and reporters. When he does that, he begs for US reporters to be kidnapped in other countries and worse.

Jim: Solid point, Ty. Back to Iraq and we've still got a few things on the agenda. C.I., this morning an e-mail came in insisting that you are backing up Max Boot -- a conservative -- with your comments about Chris Hill because Max Boot calls out the administration in today's Los Angeles Times.

C.I.: Of course. I picked up my Early Edition newspaper last week and saw that today Max Boot would publish a column and I decided I would spend a larger part of last week paving the road for Boot to drive down.

Jim: That was sarcasm.

C.I.: It's a grossly uninformed e-mail. You're accusing me of doing something last week that copies Max Boot today. Am I a prophet? So I don't understand the e-mail. I haven't read Max Boot's column and, as far as I know, I've never read a word Max Boot has written. I couldn't pick him out in a lineup. I've called out Chris Hill since his confirmation hearing. I heard good things and I heard bad things and I heard really bad things after Barack nominated him to be US Ambassador to Iraq. I decided I would attend the confirmation hearing with an open mind. Hill hung himself in that hearing. He didn't know what he was talking about, he was ignorant of the region and uninformed on all the issues -- including the dispute over Kirkuk -- and, on top of that, he not only had a stain on his shirt from lunch, he forgot to comb his hair which was flying all over the place. This is how he appears before the US Senate when he's asking them to confirm him?

Kat: We were at that hearing -- Ava, Wally and myself -- with C.I. And I swear, you could have taken someone with maybe a glancing knowledge of Iraq and put them in the chair and they would have been able to tell you more about Iraq than Hill did. It was embarrassing. And C.I. warned what would happen. C.I. gave two warnings actually. The first warning was that Hill was unqualified. The second warning was that Republicans wanted him confirmed because they intended to make Hill the anchor around Barack's neck.

Wally: Right and we were present when C.I. confronted a Republican senator -- one she knows -- about how he wasn't backing up some Republican, I can't remember who, that had strong, public objections to Hill. She was furious because Hill was unqualified and she didn't understand why the Republican Party was just objecting and not blocking the nomination. He stood up and closed his door and then explained to C.I. and us that the Iraq War was not going well, had never gone well and that probably wasn't going to change. He explained that they could take the failed war and sell it as Barack's failed war if he was stupid enough to put Hill in charge in Baghdad. At which point, C.I. finishes his sentence for him saying that the Republicans could never attack Odierno because that would play poorly with their base but they could easily put the blame on Chris Hill. Because he's an egg head, he's the stereotype of an absent minded professor.

Jim: Just to add, Odierno is General Ray Odierno who is the top commander in Iraq. And we've called out Chris Hill here. Last week demonstrated yet again how inept Chris Hill is. Ava, I'm going to toss to you and anyone else can jump in -- that's Kat and Wally or anyone. C.I.'s big concern with Iraq being the focal point of the roundtable was that it would be her talking so I'm tossing to you, Ava.

Ava: And a valid concern. I'm sure the previous parts where she's speaking, largely reads like a mop up as she provides information and numbers that were left out of the discussion. Okay, March 7th, Iraqi held parliamentary elections. The big winner getter was Iraqiya with 91 seats in Parliament. That is Ayad Allawi's political slate. He is a Shia and his slate is a Shia and Sunni combination. The next biggest winner was State Of Law, which is Nouri al-Maliki's slate. Ayad Allawi is a former prime minister of Iraq. Nouri is the current one. By the Constitution, Allawi has first dibs on forming the new government. Last week, Nouri sidestepped that and it was announced that State Of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance -- another Shi'ite slate like Nouri's -- had formed a coalition. The formation puts them a few seats shy of the needed seats. But they weren't supposed to do this, it was supposed to be Allawi's chance first. Last week also saw Nouri get the start of recounts in Baghdad. Despite international observers feeling the elections were basically clean. Both moves can be seen as driving Sunnis away from a feeling that they will be part of the new Iraq. Both moves happened with Chris Hill as the US Ambassador and with him doing nothing. He was useless the entire time. At various points since the elections, I'm speaking of what I know from DC, not from what I've read or seen on TV, the KRG was shaky and needed reassuring or counseling or something else. When that took place, Hill was useless and Joe Biden's office stepped in. As a result, Hill's duties were even less but he still couldn't use his diplomatic abilities to provide any assistance or help. He enraged the White House and he's now going to be replaced. He never should have been confirmed.

Ann: And if Nouri goes through with his coalition, Iraq's probably going to face a return of the 2007 levels of violence. And that means in the next two years. That means in the lead up to the presidential election here, in the US. It was not smart to have put an idiot in charge of the US Embassy in Iraq. Last week saw a huge number of articles arguing that point. But, in reality, for months and months, there were only two people who called Hill out: C.I. and Thomas E. Ricks. They were warning about this, they were highlighting it, they were drawing attention to it. People should have paid attention. The White House should have paid attention. The press should have paid attention.

Stan: The press can't even get his name right: "Christopher Hill." He's made clear that he prefers to be called "Chris Hill."

Jim: Betty, you were writing last week, right after the power-sharing coaltion was announced, "I did have a preference on prime minister. I was hoping it would be Allawi. Not because I think he's a wonderful guy. But because I liked the idea of his party, Shia, Sunnis and others, coming together. And I liked the idea of the thug Nouri not being given four more years to destroy Iraq. You know union busting comes right after he pushes through the last bits of the oil law. I'm not sure he'll be prime minister but check out C.I.'s snapshot and you'll see his party has formed a coalition that puts them within four seats of forming a government."

Betty: Right. I just see as very demoralizing for the country that Allawi's party was shut out. In the press, people keep talking about the Sunnis and I agree that's part of it. But are we not grasping that Sunni votes alone would not have put Iraqiya over the top? It took Shi'ites as well. There were Shi'ites supporting a political slate that wasn't sectarian. They had hope. Their hopes got dashed as well. I don't know how to make it any clearer? Okay. I'm Christian, Ruth's Jewish. She and I work together on an issue and we think we've succeeded. Then we're trumped by someone else breaking the law. It's not only demoralizing for us personally, it's demoralizing that we did some thing interfaith and it didn't help any. It's personally upsetting to us but it also upsets us in terms of the message that even working as a team we didn't accomplish it. I see it as a huge setback for the Iraqi people who have already suffered more than enough.

Jim: Really good points, Betty. Isaiah, I'm looking at your comic from two Sundays ago, The World Today Just Nuts "Iraq's Got Tyrants." It features Allawi, al-Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr. Now explain why Sadr's in there because, believe it or not, some e-mails insisted it should be Ammar al-Hakim.

Isaiah: Really? Okay, Ammar is the 'head' of a political party in Iraq. He inhereted that post. It had been his father's. But his father died last August. He is part of the National Iraq Alliance. So is Moqtada al-Sadr. Moqtada's supporters won 40 out of the 70 seats the National Iraq Alliance got in the elections. Meaning Moqtada is in the driver's seat. Ammar is not seen as a leader or anyone with driving ambition. Moqtada was the one to be wooed. He loathes Nouri al-Maliki and for the National Alliance and State Of Law to form a coalition, he was the one that had to sign off.

Jim: The comic features Nouri in a dress, Allawi in a suit and al-Sadr in his usual outfit.

Isaiah: Yeah. It's a spoof on America's Got Talented, the TV show. And so I put Allawi in a cheap suit -- it's cheap look at it -- and I threw Nouri in a dress because his security forces attack men they feel are feminine acting. For Moqtada? That's how the press always pictures him and I thought it be kind of funny to have the other two in that garb and then him not. The underlying message is that both Allawi and al-Maliki have catered to the US. Moqtada has never catered to the US. Even a week ago, he was calling attacks on US forces appropriate.

Jim: Is the comic saying Moqtada could be the next prime minister?

Isaiah: It's saying that "Here are three tyrants who want more power." That's my take on three. Remember, like Cedric and Wally, my job is to mock the leaders, my job is to show no mercy for the ones calling the shots. That's called accountability and everyone participating grasps it but so many on the left now see their role as cheerleader to a world leader, Barack Obama. I have no idea who's going to be prime minister. As I understand, from reading C.I. mainly as well as PRI programming, if it were being chosen right now, it would either be the second post-invasion prime minister of Iraq or it would be a weakingly that the National Alliance favors -- a man who's a cousin of Moqtada al-Sadr's.

Jim: It's now been two months since the elections. Any guesses on how long before we know something?

Stan: Well the last go round, elections were held in December 2005 and it wasn't until April 2006 that Nouri was picked as prime minister. So we may only be half way there.

Jim: True. And glad you spoke up because Dona said we had to wind down in a note she just slid me and she noted that you needed to speak more and Elaine needed to speak because she hasn't spoken once.

Elaine: I'm sorry. I was listening. Can I do closing thoughts?

Jim: Sure.

Elaine: For any drive-bys, no one is saying Chris Hill should have declared what Iraq should do. We are saying that as the ambassador from the US -- a country Nouri depends upon for financial support and for military support -- Chris Hill had powers he could have used and instead he sat it out. Chris Hill's a joke. He appears to have thought that he'd go to work each day, goof off for most of the work day and then find other things to worry about. Iraq was not a country that could watch itself. It's an emerging country and what it's going to become no one knows. He could have provided feedback, he could provided cautions. He did neither. Nouri has demonstrated yet again that he has no respect for the process and no respect for the Constitution. That sends a message that's chilling to many Iraqis and that's encouraging to future tyrants in Iraq in that Nouri got away with it so so can they. Iraq's a disaster. The US broke it, they can't fix it. That is why all US troops need to leave Iraq and need to do so immediately.

Jim: Thank you, Elaine. We're going to call this the Iraq roundtable since there wasn't time to touch on other issues. This is a rush transcript. Mike made a reference earlier to Dallas, Ava and C.I. Ava and C.I. take notes during the roundtable that we type up the transcript from. Dallas hunts down links during the roundtable. We thank all three for that. Our e-mail address is Reader Page wrote she had to "search like crazy" to find it because it wasn't on our profile. Again? It wasn't. It's back up again. I'll try to also include it in this edition's note to the readers.

The spin machines

A regular reader is being deployed to a war zone and she explained that in an e-mail last Tuesday and that the magazine reports are among her favorite pieces here at Third. We wish we could call off the wars for her but we don't have that power. We can, however, do another magazine survey article.

What can you learn in the left's leading propaganda player Mother Jones? Little of real value, of course. But an advertisement in the June 2010 issue for Credo 'phone service' relies upon Sarah Palin's image, thereby indicating how desperate so many are to raise money. In terms of writing?

Reading the 'articles,' you should wonder how anyone got paid for churning out this garbage. In fact, the best writing in the magazine takes place on the ltter's page and we'd recommend Michael P. Carete and Ira Edelman's letters as well as this one by Hank Conier:

Your editors' note ("Patriot Games") says politics has gone too far in attacking the president. Would you have written such a piece when George W. Bush was under personal attack? The president is both the head of state and the head of government. As the foremr he deserves respect in those functions, but as the latter he's just one more politician. It was an overreaction when Ann Coulter went around crying "treason," and it's an overreaction when you do.


Harper's magazine features "Cell Phones Cancer And You" on their cover to promote Nathaniel Rich's article hedgingly titled "For Whom The Cell Tolls Why Your Phone May (or May Not) Be Killing You." Hodge informs you that, "Cellular phones emit radiation at a frequency between 450 and 2700 MHz." And that's pretty much the last time he gets concrete in this eleven page story. If the topic interests you, the article will bore you. We recommend you instead refer to this PRI report (text and audio).

Turning to The New Republic we'll first note the issue (May 13, 2010) features the best layout and look the magazine has had in years. And that's it for the praise. Michelle Cottle wants to attack Liz Cheney and Sarah Palin and then have a ha-ha. Neither she nor The New Republic have earned that. In fact, the article only reminds us of all the sexist attacks the magazine served up against Hillary in 2008. If you've forgotten or never knew, click here. You'll also marvel that Jonathan Chait has the nerve to pen a piece on "SPIN AT ALL COSTS The pernicious comedy of Frank Luntz." Hello, Jonathan, it's Frank, your conjoined twin. Being The New Republic, it must, of course, lash out at any and all critics of Israel. This month, Benjamin Birnbaum goes hunting for Human Rights Watch.


The Progressive's May 2010 issue is out and the big news here is that Terry Tempest Williams is no Barbara Kingsolver. That actually was known by several. So maybe the big news here is that Terry Tempest Williams thinks she is Barbara Kingsolver? She certainly thinks she can write like Kingsolver. But while Kingsolver can find the life in any human, animal or object, TTW just renders everything flat and unreadable. About the seventh time we tried to make it through her turgid article was when we gave up. It runs three pages. We never got past paragraph three.

Matthew Rothschild conducts an interview with Ed Asner we'd like to enjoy. Like to. Can't. At the end, he asks Ed what Lou Grant would think of the print publications declining. And that's it. Uh, Lou Grant was a newspaper editor on Lou Grant, Matt. That is correct. The show ran five seasons. It was a spin off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which ran seven seasons and, on that show, Lou Grant was a TV news producer. [Correction: Mae e-mailed 5-16-10 to inform that Ed Rampall does the interview with Asner, not Matthew Rothshild. Our apologies for the error, thank you to Mae for catching it.]

So where's the question about TV news, Matt?

Considering that Lou Grant was a critical hit more than a popular one and that it's never really taken off in syndication, whereas The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a TV classic that never stops airing or being released on DVD sets, we'd argue more people know Lou as the TV producer.

More and more, people know Kate Clinton as a failed comic and a hateful person. For the record, her being a lesbian does not give her an excuse to sport homophobia and as little as we think of Clinton, we were still surprised to discover her using the "tea ba**ing" term. If we took her seriously, it would have really hurt. Fortunately, you can never take a columnist seriously when they waste seven opening paragraphs on being seven-years-old only o then waste a lengthy paragraph on a film before finally semi-getting to the point.

"Why can't I call them stupid?" says Kate of her political enemies, apparently unaware that she's already expressed homophobia and thereby insulted them. That anyone ever thought her monthly marketed hate could replace Molly Ivins' kind-hearted wisdoms is funnier than any column Kate's written in years.

Lastly we arrive at UTNE which is the Readers Digest of the left. Like a giant magpie, it flits here and there, grabbing previously published articles to assemble an issue. Hey, we can relate, there are many weekends when we think how easy it would be to just do a best-of issue. Actual writing is hard. The thing we learn most from Utne is how little worth reading there is the 'big' left magazines as evidence by the fact that Utne's avoided all of them except American Progress for their May/June issue.

Discovering music

Spin is celebrating it's 25th anniversary -- and they said it would never last. Should! They said it should never last. The May issue serves up "100 Moments That Rocked Our World" which reminds us of the history of punk article Spin offered early in its print life. In other words, since day one, the magazine's being compiling lists.

The anniversary issue largely exists to remind you how lousy the magazine's gotten. For example, in their eighties section, they spotlight the release of Pretty in Pink. In real time, any mention of that or any other John Hughes' film was to deride it. Spin's audience was never the Pretty In Pink crowd.


They also don't have their facts correct. They claim Bono (U2) was seen by 400 million people while performing at Live Aid (1985) when the band performed and he jumped into the audience during the July 13th concert. Wrong. The 400 million figure was worldwide and requires ABC's three hours of prime time on Saturday. Bono did not perform at night, U2 performed early in the day when MTV -- not carried by a large number of cable companies -- and some small UHF stations carried the concert.

As Prince once sang, "Baby, don't waste your time." Move over to Hip Hop Weekly which fills the need for Tiger Beat readers who like Hip-Hop. That's not really an insult. The reading level appears to be third grade (and lots of pictures!) so depth shouldn't be looked for. In terms of covering music on that easy-to-read level, they do a strong job. We were surprised at how much information they packed into a single issue. Prepare for headlines like "BOUNTY KILLER GETS KNOCKED FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE!" and "NAS ORDERED TO SHOW EX-WIFE KELIS THE MONEY!! RAPPER TO SEEK OVER $299K IN SUPPORT!"

Q features The Ego That Killed Rock on the cover, Bono wearing rose colored glasses, fronting the 100 Greatest Frontmen issue. They're not total sexists, please note. They find seven women to be great "frontmen." No women make the top thirty but maybe that's just as well on a list Liam Gallagher tops? Hey, we actually like Oasis (and C.I. and Elaine know the Gallagher brothers) but Liam is really the all time best "frontman" the world has seen? Really? Seems like the real story is the one Q didn't publish, the one about all the drugs they ingested while compiling the list.

MoJo features Janis Joplin on the cover -- remember that in death a woman can be a legend. If she's lucky. (Talented is never enough.) Of course, you have to fit a stereotype if you're a legendary women and Janis is "pathetic loser." Mark Paytress uses eight pages to paint Janis as "Woman Is Losers" and it's nothing worth reading. It's as if the 90s recasting of Janis (a restoration actually) never took place. Search in vain for the cover story on Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix or any other man who smack-ed out, drugged out or died much to early being a "victim" of the life they actively courted and enjoyed. (Paytress will disagree with that take but it does sum up the article and whenever Bobby Neuwirth is your 'source' women will come off poorly.)


Like Hip Hop Weekly, Under The Radar breaks from the pack to feature a living woman: Joanna Newsom on the cover. Chris Tinkham profiles Newsom in an 8-page article entitled "Persistence of Vision." In addition to that article (Newsom declares "my best friends would definitely describe me as morbidly shy"), the magazine offers some strong album reviews (not reviewed is Newsom's album, for a review refer to Kat's February review) that will get you excited about various releases. As do various articles and brief write ups. We'd recommend you check out Club 8 (via their MySpace page which features multiple tracks you can stream by the Swedish band) and Plants and Animals (ibid, they're from Canada), Tanlines, The Love Language (especially make a point to listen to "Heart To Tell") and Cults.


In fact, at their website currently, you can download Cults "7 which features three tracks: "Go Outside," "Most Wanted" and "The Curse." Or, we're sorry: You can download the three tracks (and cover) for FREE. Repeating, for FREE. It's a detail not in Under The Radar -- which only notes that the group doesn't have a MySpace page.

Cults is Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion and Follin tells Under The Radar's Kyle Lemmon, "Institutions like cults get immediately frowned upon, but in reality you can find parallels to cult-like activity in any popular subculture. It's about questioning authority and finding your own sense of meaning, whatever that may be. That's the kind of attitude that we're really trying to attack with both the name and the music."
Under The Radar is the clear winner ($4.99 for the Spring 2010 issue) and we'd list Hip Hop Weekly as a close second. The rest? Well maybe you'd like to clip a few photos from them but not worth reading. But if you want a sense of discovery, a sense of life, the two to check out are Under The Radar and Hip Hop Weekly, they set the standards for others to aspire to. (We eliminated Rolling Stone -- featuring 'rocker' Robert Downey Jr. on the latest cover -- because . . . well, the rag's been a joke for years.)

Four Books To Avoid

Each month a ton of books are issued. Each month a ton of books are forwarded to the remainders. Some for good reason. Over the years, we've tried to spotlight books we think you should check out. This month, we offer four that you should flee from.


Molly Ringwald fancies herself an actress. Not "a former child actress," she fancies herself an actress. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that she's also deluded enough to fancy herself an author. At least HarperCollins had a smidgent more sense: They teamed her with Ruben Toledo ("as told to") for Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick.

Were Molly really able to 'Get the Pretty Back,' she wouldn't be hitting you up for 25 bucks to read this scrapbook in oversided type and bad illustrations (illustrations by Toledo). She can't get it back and she can't churn out a readable book. Page 197 finds Ringwald and Toledo sharing:

There was a long week when my daughter Mathilda's response to any question was "Liar lair pants on fire." This was a vast improvement upon the previously and often used "Nana Nana, butt butt."

And that passage is an improvement on much of the book. Such as when the spoiled whine that ended her brief ascent in films surfaces. She's on vacation, visiting Greece. "I finally," she (and Ruben) shares, "lost it one night as my husband and I were driving around a Greek beach town, looking for an Internet phone card. (The remote location still hasn't heard of WiFi). I dissolved into tears and screamed out my frustration and feelings at being steamrolled by the culture."

Poor Molly! Now ask the average American if they'd like to take an exotic vacation and many will offer some version of "I can't afford it" or "I'm afraid I'll be laid off next month, I can't spend money." But Molly's got problems, real problems. Where or where can she find an "Internet phone card"!

It's at that point that you really grasp how spoiled she is and then you start to wonder why she's writing a book about raising children to begin with?

We're sorry, did Molly's children just join Doctors Without Borders to assist those in need? Did they just win a Nobel Peace Prize?

No and no. In fact, they're not even grown up. So maybe before Molly considers herself an expert on raising children and markets said children to sale a bad book, readers might be entitled to see some proof that the 'author' does in fact know what she's doing?

Isn't her writing a book on how to raise your children a bit like someone planting their first seed and deciding they're not an expert on gardening as they rush off to write that first book?

Barack Erotica is now available in softcover: Richard Wolffe's Renegade: The Making Of A President [And The Unbreaking Of Wolffe's Heart]. Professional Progandist Dick Wolffe goes slack jawed for Barry O. Not since Monica Lewinsky fancied herself a writer has such purple prose decoarated an allegedly non-fiction book. (To Lewinsky's credit, she waited until the affair was over. Wolffe lacks even temporary perspective.)

Page after page reads as if Wolffe typed them with one hand while the other busied itself: "As I write, I can hear the president's helicopters readying to take him to Camp David for the first time.They swoop overhead as decoys or the real thing. All you can see are the dark green underbellies and the sun glancing off their bright white tops."

Little Dickie adds an afterword just for the softcover edition which largely serves to insist that he captured a moment and if Barack's polls are dipping, that's not because Dick Wolffe hyped or whored, no sir. Equally hilarious are the pull quotes pimping this mastabatory material such as Ken Burns "Marvelous." Obviously the filmmaker hasn't read a great many books. Even at $16.00 it's overpriced.

Whip Smart may pull you in if you spy it on the bookshelves and mistake it for a book by Liz Phair. Sadly, this is an S&M book or, as we like to think of it, Richard Wolffe's sequel to Renegade. St. Martin's Press used to be known for text books. These days they do text books and softcore porn. At $24.99, this may (or may not) be cheaper than a 1-900 sex line but we found Melissa Febo's attempts at erotically conveying her life as a whore to be as predicatble as her insistance that she's really smart. In an earlier time, Febo would have had a press agent to insist she had a genius IQ. Today, she pretty much has to do it all by herself (with a little help from Terry Gross who found this tired smut worth discussing on NPR).

If there's anything worse than taking money from someone for sex, we think it's then whining about them in print. Take Rick, one of Febo's regulars. Half of her sessions with Rick were great fun, she informs, but then he wanted her to play "Mean Mommy" and, goodness, his "high-pitched and nasal submissive voice did turn her off.

You know what? You took the money, quit you're whining. You sold yourself and you didn't like the customers. Sounds like a professional problem and we're not sure writing a dull book will address it.

Another Terry Gross fave is Roxana Saberi who self-presents as a 'reporter' but is really more of an international trouble maker. She sort-of tells her story -- for $25.99 -- in HarperCollins' Between Two Worlds. The busy body details (somewhat) her recent time in Iran and her arrest leading to her parents pleas and global tensions. It all ends when she claims another journalist (she names him) is a spy and she's allowed out of Iran. The whole book has an "As told to Eli Kazan" feel.

There are many books worth reading for various reasons. The above four have no redeeming qualities. Storytelling is beyond the 'authors,' style escapes them and, worst of all, no tree should have given its life for such drivel.

Workers World calls for an end to the violence

Reprint from Workers' World:

End the violence — stop U.S. wars abroad

While truth of Times Square car bomb remains unknown
Published May 6, 2010 9:26 PM

We never trust what the state authorities say regarding someone held completely in their power. Nor do we trust what the corporate media spreads about the prisoner, his or her history or alleged motives. Even less would we trust what they say about someone charged with “terrorism.”

We do know, however, that the story spread against the person accused of trying to explode a car in New York City’s Times Square has a political context. The government and corporate media spin the story to defend U.S. imperialism. They defend the policing of the population here. They defend U.S. war policy toward Pakistan, Afghanistan and the entire West and Central Asian region.

We also know that the local and federal government, with the help of the corporate media, will attempt to use this incident to further increase repression in the U.S. They will use it to justify their attacks on the Pakistani immigrant community — at a time when at least two Pakistani political prisoners, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Fahad Hashmi, languish in New York prisons. They will attempt to legitimize the increasing militarization of the country — cops with submachine guns on the subway platforms; increased screenings at the airports.

During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression — in the days following a massive, national upsurge of workers on May Day — they will attempt to divide with their continuing racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaign.

Whatever the truth behind the Times Square incident, it is U.S. imperialist aggression in that region that has created a political context for such an act. Any attack aimed at civilians is grotesque, but this one would be minuscule compared to the deaths, injuries, destruction and utter chaos that U.S. imperialism has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan and has begun to inflict on the 170 million Pakistanis.

Over the last 20 years U.S. sanctions, war and occupation have killed 2 million Iraqis, made 5 million refugees and divided Iraq in three parts in order to rule it. Its 30 years of subversion, invasion and outright occupation have prevented progressive development in Afghanistan. Now it is sending more troops. Only the Pentagon’s iron control of the media prevents more frequent revelations of U.S. atrocities against civilians, committed both by troops flying U.S. and NATO flags and by the U.S. mercenaries “contracted” as substitute hired killers.

For the last two years, at least, Pakistan too has been a U.S. target. In two ways.

Washington continually presses the Pakistan government to order its army against the people living in the border areas with Afghanistan. When the army goes in, it may kill some fighters but it unquestionably kills many civilians, provoking what can turn into a horrible civil war in this vast country.

The Pentagon also carries out a war from the safety of high-tech bases in the United States. Remotely piloted planes fire rockets on houses in Pakistan. They hit extended families at wedding parties. They hit farmers. The Pentagon claims they hit “Pakistani Taliban.”

There is a courageous civilian opposition in Pakistan to the attacks by the army and the drones. It has demonstrated that it can mobilize hundreds of thousands and has mass support. Of course, U.S. policy is aimed at stopping this movement.

Those in the U.S. who want an end to the violence should remember how this was achieved during an earlier war — the war on Vietnam. A massive opposition here to that war helped end it and stay the hands of the war profiteers.

More than ever, we need a mass movement of people in the United States demanding the troops be pulled out of Iraq, Afghanistan and no attacks on Pakistan. We want the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on war to be spent on jobs, homes and health care here.

Let’s build solidarity, not hatred, between the working class of the U.S. and the farmers, workers and progressive people of Pakistan, as well as with the Pakistani community here.

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011 Email: Subscribe Support independent news DONATE


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" -- most requested highlihght of the week, C.I. takes on the outgoing Chris Hill.

"Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snasphot" -- C.I. reports on three Congressional hearings.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Joan Rivers Presidency" -- Isaiah's latest comic tackles the moron-in-chief.

"Sideboob's Tiny Tits moment on Martha's Vineyard" -- Elaine came within 4 votes of being the most requested highlight with this post.

"Escarole with Lemon Bread Crumbs in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a popular recipe. Apparently a lot of people are looking for meatless dishes.

"Foxy: My Life In Three Acts (Pam Grier)" and "book 'em friday" -- Marcia and Rebecca cover Pam Grier's latest book.

"Cracker love to scream" and "THIS JUST IN! MAMAS DON'T YOU BE RAISING NO LIBBYS!" -- Cedric and Wally take on the insanity.

"Frances" and "furry vegeance flops" -- Stan's Friday night at the movies with this Jessica Lange classic and Rebecca explains why a recent movie flopped.

"Caprica," "TV thoughts," "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "One Tree Hill," "heroes,"
"The disenchantment," "Medium," "Cancel Melrose? Cancel the CW first!," "Did they forget The Forgotten?," "Fringe and Barry's hometown problems," "Chuck," "The Good Wife, V" and "24 and Chuck" -- Trina, Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Ruth, Kat, Marcia, Stan, Elaine and Mike cover TV.

"Bully Mama Babies Bully Boy" -- Isaiah dips into the archives to remember when Bully Boy Bush got beat up by a federal judge -- boo hoo!!!!

"The Story," "Terry loves her men," "Music," "morning edition talks iraq," "Juan Williams frets over male pregancy rates," "Horror movies and cell phones," "Surprised by Michel Martin,"
"All birds considered" and "Queer Voices" -- Betty, Ann, Trina, Rebecca, Ruth, Kat, Marcia, Elaine and Mike cover radio and Ann continues the coverage with:
"THIS JUST IN! ROCK & MAMIE IN D.C.!" and "I see 'lavender'!" -- Wally and Cedric's hilarious posts about the for-show nature of 'date night.'
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