Sunday, November 14, 2010

Truest statement of the week

Maddow is a pampered child in a nation whose discourse is badly broken. She rarely shows any sign of understanding the depth of that problem -- of how much effort it will take for real progressives to fix it. If a tax cut proposal makes sense to her, she seems to assume it "makes sense" in an absolute way. But it may not make political sense in a nation full of people who get their ideas from Rush Limbaugh and Fox, as Maureen Dowd's brother does.

The tax cut issue pretty much isn't a gift, especially after last week's elections But Maddow doesn't understand this. She's full of self-confidence -- but she isn't especially smart about politics. (Beyond that, she isn’t real honest.) Sadly, she's making the liberal world dumber -- as she stuffs those millions of dollars down her self-confident pants.

-- Bob Somerby, "TWO MILLION DOLLARS OF CRAP! Maddow doesn’t understand politics, as she made clear Monday night" (Daily Howler).

Truest statement of the week II

The Barack magic is over or at least very challenged.

-- Hermene Hartman's "The Barack Magic Is Over and the White House Is Out of Touch" (Huffington Post).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Latest we have ever been.

Thank you to all who worked on this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

It was the worst edition ever. Time wasted, you name it. This will be a shorter note than usual because I (Jim) am aware that C.I.'s still got to do The Common Ills and she's also got to do two entries because Isaiah wanted to continue working with Third which meant C.I. benched him. We had worked or 'worked' all night and only Ava and C.I. had an article. At which point a stoppage was called and everyone went to sleep. Isaiah wanted to rejoin the group this evening and C.I. allowed that only if Isaiah would take the night off. So she's got two entries tonight.

To speed up our process when we regrouped, we farmed truest out to Mike and the gang -- to Mike, Cedric, Elaine, Rebecca, Ann, Stan, Marcia, Ruth, Isaiah and Trina. I think that's everyone. I hope so. That ended up being more work for them than they planned. This one went to Somerby.
And this one went to a writer new to truest.

We had two long editorials we did this evening. They didn't work. Finally, Dona said: "Let's just do what we threatened last week only with Gates." So we did. We hope to roundtable the SOFA next week, FYI.

Strongest piece of writing. Ava and C.I. wrote this. They were done and rejoined us in the midst of a loud argument. They said, "You know what? We're going to polish our piece." And they left. When they came back there was no more arguing but nothing was accomplished. At one point -- Dona was sick -- Dona was saying, "Let's just post Ava and C.I.'s article and leave it at that." We did come close to doing that.

Elaine suggested this piece. We were desperate for content and quick content this evening when we regrouped. Elaine said the midterms were the easiest thing to write about and that ended up into this piece. Rebecca found the photo and if her photo shop had worked, it would have been a standalone. She wanted to emphasize the woman on the far right by making a square of her as big as the photo but Rebecca had problems with photo shop.

This is explained in the roundtable. I believe this is Betty, Wally, Jess and Ty. The illustration is of Fisherman's Wharf and Kat and Rebecca worked on the illustration which is a photo Kat added touches to physically and then Rebecca photo shopped electronically.

We had the gang pick truests. As part of their picking process they had to search. The problem with that was that it led to a discussion that they ended up writing up. "You don't have to use this," Mike and Rebecca told us over the phone. Don't have to? We're thrilled to be able to. Great piece and thank you to them for that. Ask Rebecca or Mike where the illustration is from, we have no idea.

While they were picking out truest -- and, it turns out, writing an article -- we were roundtabling. We grabbed as many e-mails as we could. Christian, I hope to grab your e-mail next week. We ran out of time. If I'm not able to, Ty says he'll try to write a Ty's Corner on it.

A parody piece we planned for back when Valerie made her idiotic remarks. We were unable to find time for it then. When we regrouped, Ava and C.I. worked hard on finding pieces that we never made time for. That's how Betty, Wally, Ty and Jess' poem ended up in this edition as well.

From ETAN.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

And we thank you for reading. We'll see you next weekend. Peace.

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

Editorial: Robert Gates speaks

robert gates in malaysia

Last week, Anne Gearan (AP) broke the news (Tuesday morning) that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated publicly today in Kuala Lumpur that the US military may stay in Iraq beyond 2011. She quotes him stating, "We're ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us." Donna Miles (Defense Dept's press department) adds, "But Gates said he wouldn't expect such a request, at least until the Iraqis have selected a president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives and made ministerial-level appointments."

[Refer to "Editorial: Everybody knows?"]

TV: Comedy dos and don'ts

This week, Meryl Streep continued her performance as Camilla Bowner. At the 2004 AFI Tribute to Meryl, Goldie Hawn likened the sixteen times Academy Award nominated actress to a Stradivarius, Shirley MacLaine hailed her as "other worldly," Diane Keaton used the term genius -- and those were just some of the sung praises. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, Cher takes her turn praising Meryl. Meryl's considered one of the finest actresses of all time and we're rather surprised that when she wades into new waters, the press shows so little interest.


Camilla Bowner is Meryl's first online role, therapist to Fiona Wallace's politician husband whose in the midst of a sexual scandal being the latest in a long line of conservatives outed as gay. Camilla is practicing "aversion therapy" to "cure" Kip Wallace -- in part by having sex with him.

Camilla: If I can reveal myself to you, I can tell you that God touches me -- down there, I feel a little tingling. And he taps me for this work he says, "Get in there and do what you can, Camilla."

Fiona: How interesting that he taps you there when a shoulder is so available.

Meryl's done a three-episode appearance on Web Therapy -- Lisa Kudrow and Don Roos' online situation comedy. The Emmy winning Kudrow (for her performance as Phoebe on Friends) plays the vain and shallow Dr. Fiona who, after some Wall Street 'indiscretions' in her previous career, has now recast herself as a therapist, specifically as an online therapist. Kudrow's been consistently touching and hilarious and her guest stars -- Rashida Jones, Molly Shannon, Courtney Cox, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Alan Cummings, Selma Blair, Julie Claire, Dan Bucatinsky, Jane Lynch and more -- have done the same. Kudrow's breathed life in Fiona from the start and long before her sister Shevaun (Louis-Dreyfus) recounted some of Fiona's issues.

Shevaun: Our childhood was the -- polar opposites. I was adored. You were detested. I was beautiful. You were hideous. I was thin. You were obsese. I was intelligent. You were possibly mentally challenged. I was elegant. You were -- what is the opposite of elegant?

Fiona: Coarse? Unrefined?

Shevaun: Thank you, perfect

Fiona: Well frankly all I can remember from my childhood is sun dappled meadows and lollipops dispensed and -- and rainbows. I don't know -- gambling lambs.

Shevaun: I-I'm not surprised you remember lollipops dispensed. They weren't really dispensed. They were stolen. Do you remember that you stole those lollipops? Don't you remember that you were beaten? Do you not remember our father hitting you with his shoe? You don't remember this? Remember, it was right after they shaved your head for lice?

Fiona: Yes.

Shevaun: Remember they had that big thing of lollipops?

Fiona: Yes.

Shevaun: And they would give one to the child when they left because they were sick and they had their prescription filled and blah blah blah blah blah.

Fiona: Right.

Shevaun: And you took the entire container. Do you not remember this?

Fiona: Yes -- oh, yes. That's right. Because I felt like I deserved something. They'd never given me one before.

Shevaun: And then Daddy took his shoe --

Fiona: Yes.

Shevaun: -- and remember he hit you in the head. Don't you remember?

Fiona: Oh, yes. Like a tap in the head.

Shevaun: It was a tap shoe. It wasn't a tap in the head. It was a tap shoe, remember? Because he was dancing.

Fiona is screwed up. But Fiona doesn't think she's screwed up. And whether it's Kudrow or any of her guest stars, all the characters have their own humanity. The jokes spring from the characters, the characters are not the joke.

And all of the above is not just our effort to encourage you to check out Web Therapy if you haven't already, it's also our way of noting how you do comedy as opposed to how you don't.

For examples of how you don't, you can generally check out the career of Greg Garcia. And you don't have to stop with Mayberry on Crack (My Name Is Earl). It also includes Yes, Dear and Family Matters. None of the three had a thing to do with life. None of the three -- despite major efforts on the part of Jaime Pressly -- dealt in characterization. It was all sketch, it was all thinly drawn characters and the entire point was to feel superior to them. You could watch every episode of all three shows and never, ever recognize humanity in any of it.

Greg Garcia is a hack. While he did shows like Family Matters and Yes, Dear, he was to be avoided and easily so. But doing the same bad show but without a studio audience gave the hideous My Name Is Earl 'depth' to the Water Cooler Set. The show was a huge bomb -- Union Square did better on NBC Thursday nights than did My Name Is Earl -- and drove off viewers each season. Alyssa Milano was added at one point with the network hoping that she could provide "heat" but she couldn't. No one could have, not with those scripts.

Earl's biggest problem was not just the thinly written characters, it was also the fact that these characters were mocked and ridiculed. It made for bad TV but, as one multiple Emmy winning sitcom producer pointed out, "Who would have thought that someone responsible for Yes, Dear would have the audacity to look down on anyone?"

Indeed. And it was this sneering, snotty point-of-view that doomed Earl. The show was like the first episodes of Roseanne, before Roseanne staged her walk out and made clear that as long as the scripts were ha-ha-look-at-the-fat-woman and ha-ha-poor-people-are-so-stupid-and-crass, she wasn't doing the show. That took real strength, it took an artist.

Greg Garcia has/is neither.

Which is why it's so surprising that Raising Hope is the rare Fox live action sitcom (second hour of prime time Tuesday nights) which actually works -- so far.

Give credit to Martha Plimpton first and foremost. The always amazing Plimpton can't be praised enough. And it's good to see her for more than a single episode. If you write mere sketches, you need an actress who can flood your thinly drawn role. Martha doesn't find the humanity in the role, she creates it, she births it.

Martha's playing Virginia Chance, mother of Jimmy (Lucas Neff), wife of Burt (Garret Dilahunt), granddaughter of Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) and grandmother to the infant Hope that they're "raising." We can't think of another woman who could play Virginia and make this show work. Martha's bringing so much more than the scripts to each performance and taking the on-the-page ridiculed Virginia and turning her into a relatable and recognizable woman. We're not sure how long Martha can pull that feat off because we've read the scripts and still marvel at all that she's managed so far.

The show was sold as a look-at-these-idiots series. The premise is that Martha and Burt move in with Maw Maw and never leave. Maw Maw suffers from a highly fluid memory which is constantly in flux. Martha and Burt's young son Jimmy works with Burt in the landscape business while Martha cleans homes. On a really bad day, Jimmy hooks up with a gorgeous woman (Lucy played by Bijou Phillips) in what appears to be a life-changer for Jimmy. It does turn out to be such an event, but in a different way. Lucy's killed several men and ends up on death row and pregnant. Shortly after she gives birth, Lucy visits the "electric bye-bye chair" and Jimmy is left to raise their daughter (Princess Beyonce until Jimmy changes his daughter's name to Hope).

A gifted talent could take that premise and turn it into a screwball comedy. Greg Garcia's not gifted. And the scripts never fail to demonstrate that. For example, who has a problem with words? This can be a character trait. Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker was infamous for his malapropisms, for example. But what might be a trait for Virginia gets shifted to Burt, gets shifted to . . .

Are their characters being written here because, on the page, there's no evidence that they are. Character traits shift from episode to episode. Garcia's very lucky to have a talented cast who can make this believable and flesh out stick figures.

And if it were a single-season show, we'd be less concerned about how all this turns out. But Garcia's record demonstrates that he gets worse with each season. If that turns out to still be the case, not only will the cast be unable to save him but some of the Water Cooler Set might have to notice what they've ignored: Just how hateful this show is written.

Do you see the working poor as idiots? That's how Greg saw them in My Name Is Earl and how he sees them in Raising Hope. The pilot is the worst episode of the series thus far because the actors were still feeling their way around and were too dependent upon the script which really drove home the ha-ha-these-people-are-stupid-and-poor.

It's rather amazing that no one wants to notice that aspect of the show and how Garcia's stil sneering and looking down at the characters. Not only does spoofing really not work for a longtime audience, there's also the reality that if Garcia finds these characters something to sneer at, he might try remembering that he's the one who created them.

Fox might try remembering Garcia's record and, at the first sign of a significant drop in viewers, muscle Garcia out of the way and bring on a real writer. Right now the actors are able to rise above the 'jokes' about how lazy the poor are but, as far as we can tell, the most indolent person -- and the real unskilled worker -- is Greg Garcia.

Easy Come, Easy Go

Taking the shade out of the sun,
Whatever made me think that I was number one?
I ought to know easy come, easy go.

-- "Easy Come, Easy Go," written by Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller, recorded by Cass Elliot on her Bubblegum, Lemonade, and Something for Mama album

Poor Barry, it was never supposed to be this way for the Christ-child. Having been gifted with both the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and a press pool too timid to point out his robotic way of speaking -- a stop-start style only heard prior in the monologues of Sandy Dennis, Barry was supposed to soar in the polls and it would be left to history to point out that the Corporatist War Hawk pulled the wool over everyone's eyes in real time.

Poor Barry, like a model turned actress, he believed his own hype.

He mistook celebrity for talent and his already well known vanity only grew and grew.

As he prepared to push his Corporatist War Hawk agenda which would alienate the left, the right and the center, he was convinced his own popularity was neither fleeting nor an aberration. US House Rep Marion Berry would explain that when he brought up the 2010 mid-terms and expected losses, "The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, 'Well, the big difference here and in '94 was you've got me.'"

But that turned out to be no great gift at all, did it?

"It feels bad," whimpered Barack.

Segments of the press corps continued to shower Barry with press love immediately after the election such as when some made a big to-do over whether Sarah Palin's endorsed candidates won or lost but 'forgot' to rank Barack as king maker. His losses were much more great. Equally true, unlike Palin, Barack endorsed a large number of incumbents and incumbents generally have more resources than their challengers.

The 2010 mid-terms saw the Dems lose seats in the Senate and in the House -- in fact, control of the House flipped to the Republican Party. Barack thought the big difference between 1994 and 2010 was that Dems had him. Turns out having him was no great plus.


Desperate to escape the humilitation of the midterms, Barack traveled overseas for photo ops -- in which he came off less than impressive -- and for his big 'get' -- the G20.

But Barack struck out there as well. One of the kinder evaluations was found in Sewell Chan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David E. Sanger's "Obama's Trade Strategy Runs Into Stiff Resistance" (New York Times). Not since he attempted to bring the Olympics to Chicago had he failed so publicly overseas. And this comes on the heels of the embarrassing rejection of Barack by puppets in the US-client state of Iraq, whose actions Thursday left the bragging White House with, as Michael Jansen (Irish Times via Gulf Today) pointed out, "nothing to boast about."

Slowly, the press begins to break ranks and talk about how "touchy" he was, how "prickly" and, yes, how "vain."

Carol E. Lee (Politico) portrays him today as "defensive and frustrated" and quotes him -- sounding like Norma Desmond all over again -- asking the press, "What about the compliments?"

Yes, Barry, what about the compliments?

Never has he come off more like the caddish Corliss of A Kiss Before Dying.

And never before has he so alarmed the Democratic Party power structure that once embraced him.

In today's Washington Post, Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell get quickly to the point, "To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012." They note:
We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents.

Hermene Hartman (Huffington Post) may have beat the two to the punch, observing last week, "The Obama administration is at a critical stage; they may very well have destroyed the Democratic Party. Their creditability is seriously impaired. It would not be surprising if the party asked Barack Obama not to run for a second term, for fear of losing."

Taking the shade out of the sun,
Whatever made me think that I was number one
I ought to know easy come, easy go
. . .

Sundays before dawn

On Sunday mornings,
in the hour before sunrise,
when the world hasn't quite woken up

You can walk through the street
Encountering nearly no one
Exchanging a complicit, shared smile
With that rare stranger

Who may tell you
"Sundays before dawn
are a New England morning."


On those truest statments . . .

[This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; 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; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.]

How do we determine a truest?

Each week we offer "truest statement of the week." Some think we play favorites. That's not the case.

Dalia Hashad was really the inspiration for the feature because she would just lay it out there on any number of topics when she was a co-host of Law and Disorder. And we might not be covering an issue that week so we couldn't include her in an article. Dona's always urged short features to break up the visual spacing of the site and we came up with "truest" as a result.

Most readers of this site are familiar with David Sirota's bullying e-mails to C.I. (Click here for one example, if you're late to the party.) Despite those e-mails, C.I. has nominated Sirota for a truest -- the rest of us shot it down both times. The truest has to stand as a truest and, if it does, it ends up with the honor -- many times there are two truests each week.

Dalia probably has the most -- or close to the most -- "truests" of anyone and she's probably closely followed by Cindy Sheehan who will overtake her this year if the pattern holds. We've gone with politicians and MSM journalists when they've earned it. There's no set rule other than what you state has to be true, strongly true.

Visiting Corrente this weekend, we saw this post by Lambert. He recommends two posts by two women. And as we read along with one of the posts, by Riverdaughter of The Confluence, we think, "Oh good, we can give it to Riverdaughter this week." We are not close to her, we are not one with her but we're happy to give out an accolade to anyone in the PUMA-sphere even Riverdaughter.

But then we read her next paragraph. Where she refers to "the delusional left, like Chris Hedges and Will Bunch . . ."


Oh, so sorry. We didn't realize that Riverdaughter was the arbitrar of political good taste. Probably because we well remember 2008 and what rumors Riverdaughter ran with. And now she wants to slam Chris Hedges?

Chris Hedges who worked overtime to alert people to the reality of Barack Obama? Chris Hedges who was trashed repeatedly in 2008 by Ton Hayden and others?

If we disagree with Chris Hedges today, we don't say a damn word. Now if he came out for war (which would require him pulling a Chris Hitchens), okay. But otherwise? Chris Hedges has a pass from us. When he stood brave in 2008, C.I. called a phone conference and said she'd heard that not only was Hedges standing brave, he was about to endorse Ralph Nader. At which point, we all knew that meant he would get even more villified. We made the choice at that time (and, yes, he did endorse Nader) that we would not engage in any public stoning of Chris Hedges, any calling him crazy or delusional or anything else.

Because he stood brave when others caved. When people who endorsed Barack publicly would tell us privately that they thought he was a failure but that they had to because there was so much pressure on this (especially true of C.I.'s friends in the entertainment world who were getting attacked by George Clooney and Susan Sarandon -- which is why we're all so thrilled Tim Robbins bailed on Sue), Chris Hedges stood strong.

We remember what 2008 was like. We remember being popular with lefties, independents and Democrats and suddenly losing huge portions of all three. We remember the strong arm tactics, the offers of "recant and we'll link" -- we remember it all. We are fortunate that we already had a community built up before 2008 so we lost some people but not enough to really suffer. But we also don't try to make a living at our writing. Chris Hedges does. At his writing and at his speaking. And yet he told the truth when you can be sure he had plenty of offers to hop on board the Bambi Bus and ride the gravy train to Corporate Moneyville.

So when Riverdaughter wants to insult Chris Hedges as part of the "delusional left"? She's yet again showing her immaturity and ignorance. And, in the end, that is why we had to break with her and insist that she delink from our site. She's not very educated, she's woefully uninformed and yet she writes and writes and writes.

Her positions are often good ones, it's just she lacks the maturity and the knowledge to back them up.

Today she trashes Chris Hedges as part of the "delusional left" and yet he never drank the Kool-Aid. And yet, he's a Socialist not a Democrat -- a fact that -- like so many others -- Riverdaughter seems unfamiliar with.

As stupid as she is in that post -- and she's pretty damn stupid in that post -- we'd still be willing to highlight her as a "truest" one week. But that will never happen while she's attacking the people she should be making peace with. And it will never happen while she praises a man (Jim Webb) who's shared -- in writing, check out those novels -- violent and racist attacks on women. Again, it is her lack of knowledge that forever weakens any argument she might make. As she flirts these days with endorsing the sexist Jim Webb ("women can't fight"), Riverdaughter mainly reminds people that before she came around to supporting Hillary Clinton's primary campaign, she was supporting John Edwards.


Jim: We're doing a brief roundtable with fewer participants than usual. Our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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); and Wally of The Daily Jot. Betty's kids did the illustration. And this is a face to face roundtable.


Jim (Con't): Why face to face? Because the edition fell apart. Dona was sick, Ava and C.I. were tired -- they'd already written their TV feature and, when they rejoined us, they found Dona sick and a lack of focus. They suggested we all go to sleep -- which we did -- and regroup later. What we've done, to try to turn out an edition, is a lot of farming out. And we're doing a round table. First up, in reply to last week's "Roundtable," Carl e-mailed. Ty?

Ty: Carl insists that the number of seats Dem lost was 36 "not 9 as C.I. insisted last week. I found that to be very surprising. And I expect a correction."

C.I.: First off, I believe I said -- I know I said -- that I wasn't following this and it was an approximate. Also true is that the numbers being cited by Carl were not the numbers from last week. I said 9 and that was net loss for Democrats. Since that time, the net loss has dropped to seven because other results have come in. I stated I was tired, I was asked for a number and gave one. The net loss -- last Sunday -- stood at nine. What Carl's doing is adding in the Republican wins and I don't know what else. But currently the net loss is 7. The Republicans picked up seven more seats -- governors seats -- than did the Democrats.

Jess: I'm looking at the link -- and Carl, I'm the one who provided a link last week and stated -- with no qualifiers -- that it was 9, that wasn't C.I., that was me. Check the transcript. Dems got 19 seats in the mid-terms and Republicans got 29 for a total Republican gain of 7 and a Democrat loss of 7. That's according to the New York Times which notes one race went to an independent and one race is still undecided. So, Carl, don't e-mail next week, after that one race is decided, telling us that our numbers are one off. We're not predicting the future, we're talking about where things stand on the day this is published.

Ty: Jim, how do we determine each week that Ava and C.I.'s articles are the most popular? That question came from Denise in Key West.

Jim: We determine that by the fact that they result in the most e-mail. We've always determined it that way. Equally true is that web searches turn their pieces up at higher volume than anything else. For the last two months, we've had a new tool. At some point Blogger/Blogspot added "Stats" feature -- or we finally noticed it. It tracks page views and views for single articles. We can, for example, see the ten most viewed articles here and, no surprise, they're all Ava and C.I. pieces. That's not a surprise to us, it doesn't upset us. We're glad to have them. Just to recap for anyone new to this site, in 2005, we started it. You know what, I'm going to kick this over to Jess who doesn't speak a great deal during these roundtables. Jess, tell us the story.

Jess: Okay, well the site started in January 2005. We had wanted to start it, C.I. was speaking at our campus, Jim drug C.I. back and she worked on the first edition with us. She did a few others as she said she would and then it became every edition. We did group writing -- meaning we all worked on the articles together. Ava and C.I. did not want to do a TV piece that first week. They were very against it. Jim said we had to have TV as a beat. We were gearing up to be a site for college students -- because that's what we were then. And Jim pointed out that a lot of college students watch some form of TV. So, over their objections, we did TV as a beat. And the first two or three weeks, it was a group piece. And the e-mails came in and people loved this sentence or that paragraph or . . . And it was always what Ava and C.I. had done. In fact, let me toss to Ava.

Ava: I was Dona's roommate back then. Jim, Jess and Ty were roommates. Jim obviously had a crush on Dona. I always felt that I was only invited to get Dona to come. In all of the talks about doing a site that really took hold in the fall of 2004, I was not included. I'd hear about them, but I wasn't included. C.I. actually already knew my family and we knew of each other. So there was that in the first writing edition. Also true, Jim and Dona were fawning over one another's ideas during that writing edition so that went in. Ty and Jess were more focused on what they thought worked. And everything I was suggesting -- for a topic or as part of an article -- was being shot down. C.I.'s the one who said, "Hold on a minute is anyone listening to these suggestions?" And the way it developed in those first weeks is that C.I. and I -- especially on the TV piece -- would be off to the side lobbying our spit wads from a distance. Some of it would get included, some of it wouldn't. But we teamed up for a number of reasons including the fact that we had and have shared ideas and beliefs on many issues.

Jess: And those "spitballs" were always the heart of the TV piece, what people responded too. And that includes our own families. But we turned it over to Ava and C.I. because they clearly knew what they were doing and how to reach readers. They didn't want to receive credit because we were doing group writing and they didn't want to be the ones who ended that. So for about a month or so we didn't announce that they were writing on their own. But then Jim just got sick of hearing from his family how great the piece 'we' wrote was. And if we hadn't disclosed on the writing, we probably would have built up resentments which would have led to this site closing down long ago. But as Jim has noted many times, he's proud to say, "Yeah, that was great, wasn't it? Ava and C.I. can really touch a nerve and reach a reader."

Dona: Jess, one more thing. Talk about the visual.

Jess: We didn't have visuals when we started. We didn't do that. We'd never thought about or anything. Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts became the community cartoonist in early 2005. He did that to give The Common Ills a visual look. We would include his cartoons here for articles. And Dona was always pushing for visuals. But I date Ava, we live together now, and I really wanted the weekly feature she and C.I. do to have an illustration so that, just by looking, you knew it was them. And I worked on a few by myself -- most were awful, some of which were used -- and then Rebecca and I worked on one together and, for about a year, that was the illustration. It was later replaced with people in front of a TV screen -- Condi Rice, Donald Rumfseld and I forget who the third was -- and now they use Barack and a TV screen. After we started using my bad visuals for Ava and C.I., we started using visuals for other pieces and today we try to have visuals for most of our pieces.

Ty: Loraine e-mailed wondering if we were going to cover the issues over The Morning Show?

Kat: I'll grab that one. Actually, we'd planned to and Isaiah even did an illustration to go with that article. But the whole edition just lost its focus when Dona got sick. Ava and C.I. returned -- from writing their TV piece -- to find the whole edition in shambles and they were tired and others were tired and no one wanted to grab the leadership reigns -- those are usually held by Jim and Dona. The two of them will squabble and square off and it's not something the rest of us look forward to or desire. I doubt we're doing a KPFA piece since we're doing a roundtable.

Jim: We might do one next week. When we regrouped, Ava and C.I. were mainly looking at past ideas that hadn't been worked on before. This is an odds and ends issue. For example, Jess went on a candy run early Sunday morning. He came back with a story about a guy who made a comment about New England -- we're in the Bay Area. Ava and C.I. pointed out that Betty had an idea for a short story a few weeks back about Bay Area mornings. So Betty, Wally, Jess and Ty worked on the piece that became a verse piece. And we've got an illustration of Fisherman's Wharf -- here in the Bay Area -- for that piece.

Dona: And I need to speak on the KPFA issue because we're getting a lot of e-mail on that and some indy sites have posted links or quotes from articles we've written here -- sometimes the full article -- because we've been covering KPFA for some time. If you're writing about that and want to include us, please do. We're not offended. If you want to repost an article in full, please do and please include a link to our original piece. I'm not interested in being quoted -- I did speak to two reporters on background for pieces last week, one knows C.I. and played the friend card, the other wrote a very convincing e-mail -- I don't know that anyone is -- quoted in terms of being interviewed for an article. Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I. are on the road Monday through Friday, so they're not doing interviews. But anyone's welcome to use the pieces. A link's great but if you're trying to figure out how to credit you can say "Third Estate Sunday Review" or "Third Estate." Or "The Third Estate Sunday Review." Ava and C.I. wrote a lot of those articles themselves. We've long noted in Jim's note when that happens but on more recent stuff we tend to add "(Ava and C.I.)" to the title of the piece so people will know right away. I'm sorry that we don't have a KPFA speech but everyone's tired, C.I. still hasn't had time to work on The Common Ills. We've got to do an editorial still and we're hoping to do one more piece. We may not have time.

Ty: Wally, Carrie e-mailed wondering why, at your own site, you rarely note Iraq but here you are always bringing it up?

Wally: At my site, Cedric and I do joint-posts and have for some time. Our focus has always been the White House. That was true when Bush was occupying it, it's been true since Barack was elected. We're doing a humor site. It can be difficult to find humor in Iraq. If we're able to, we do an Iraq piece -- though, regardless, we always include C.I.'s "Iraq snapshots" each day. In a roundtable, I tend to bring it up because it's an issue that matters.

Jim: Betty's been working with us on each edition since March of 2005. That's in reply to Renee's e-mail and Renee wondered if Betty noticed any big changes during that time?

Betty: This roundtable's going very briskly and the reason for that is it is a smaller number of people. When everyone's participating it goes much slower. In part because some participate by phone so after someone speaks, there's usually a pause as everyone's polite waiting to see who's going to jump in. In fact when you read -- in these pieces -- someone saying "I'll grab that," it usually follows a lenghty silence. In addition, it's more difficult when there are more people. You have to listen more closely than you do otherwise. If Kat or I'm popping off being funny and we're all facing each other, that's obvious by our body language and faces. But if it's happening while people are participating by phone, it requires more consideration or more processing. I don't know if that's clear. On articles that get written -- as opposed to transcript pieces -- they tend to be stronger because someone will point out, "That's not quite right" or "That's a weak spot" and we'll spend forever trying to strengthen or fix a section. So what goes up here these days is probably a lot stronger than it was in 2005 or 2006. The writing process can be a lot longer.

Jim: Jude e-mailed to say, "I love Ava and C.I.'s writing and I know they have to grab current events as well but the fall season is going on and I'm really hoping they'll weigh in on an entertainment show this week. I'm thrilled with the last four articles taking on the news and more. But I'm really hoping we can have at least one week where the focus is on entertainment." Ava or C.I.?

Ava: Well this week we are doing entertainment. If it's any consolation to Jude, he's waited patiently and so have friends with new shows. As Jude realized, we have to grab somethings. For example, we did the way Big Media covered WikiLeaks and then we had to do a piece on how Beggar Media covered it. I do understand Jude's frustration and when Jim was trying to pitch a current events angle to us, we both rejected it, C.I. and I, saying we'd gone too long without reviewing a TV show.

C.I.: Ava's explained it very well. I'll just add that I'm sure Jude has a favorite or two and some shows he dislikes. And the favorites need support and 'buzz' and we do understand that, Ava and I, and we honestly feel badly that we've not been able to cover more TV entertainment shows this year. I would ask Jude to please e-mail whenever he feels we've gone too long on that because we do need the reminder. I'm guessing Jude sat on his complaint for a week or two before e-mailing. And we have done a string of non-entertainment TV pieces. That's why Ava and I were adament to Jim that we would be covering a sitcom this week. But what was noticeable to us was probably noticeable to Jude long before. So my apologies on that.

Jim: Okay and Dona noted this would be a mini-roundtable with a strict time limit which we have now met. So this is a rush transcript, errors and all.

Valerie Wants To Share (parody)

Prepared remarks for White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to deliver November 18th to the Orange County Cancer Coalition.

valerie jarrett

Good, afternoon. It's a real thrill for me to be here in Santa Ana, speaking to everyone here. I share your interest and, like yourselves, have had my own life impacted by cancer.

For example, when the media finally started explaining how toxic Jeremiah Wright's hate spewed lectures were -- despite the efforts of many to kill the issue -- and Barack was writing his distraction speech where he never addressed the hateful things Wright had said, I was the one who said, "Hey, let's use cancer as a distraction here."

I'm the one who said, "There's this woman, Ashley, I met her while we were campaigning in South Carolina. She's got nothing to do with Jeremiah Wright's damning the United States, with his screaming that "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as means of genocide against people of color! The government lied!", his blatant homophobia -- while creating LGBT groups to keep the coffers overflowing, I mean it was just endless.

But I said, "Hey, here's something we can use cancer for -- it's not like it's good for much else." And so we did. And that worked out pretty good.

So I don't consider myself to be 'anti-cancer' and just want to let all of you know that I and the White House respect your lifestyle choice. Now let's open the floor to questions."

US targeting Papuan Churches

From ETAN:

see Allan Nairn's original article with embedded Kopassus document -

Watch, link to Democracy Now! interview with Allan Nairn, ETAN National Coordinator John M Miller

As Obama Arrives in Jakarta, Secret Docs Show U.S.-Backed Indonesian Special Forces Unit Targets Papuan Churches, Civilians”


President Obama arrived in Indonesia today on the second stop of a 10-day trip to Asia. It’s Obama’s first state visit to Indonesia after having lived there for four years as a child. Democracy Now! speaks with Jakarta-based investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn, who has just released secret documents from Kopassus­the feared Indonesian special forces­which has been responsible for human rights abuses since the 1950s. Earlier this year, the Obama administration lifted a 12-year ban on funding the training of Kopassus. While Obama talks about human rights, the documents indicate that Kopassus targets churches and civilians and includes a Kopassus enemies list topped by a local Baptist minister in West Papua. We also speak with John Miller, the National Coordinator of East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.


http ://



We posted the segment on our Facebook page so you can let people know about the interview that way.


Support ETAN make a contribution here
Thank you for your support.

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Email Skype: john.m.miller



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.

"Lying can make you very popular" -- the most popular piece of last week according to readers of this site who selected it over everything else including (by 40 e-mail votes) the second runner up, "I Hate The War".

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "MSNBC's Boldest Lie" -- Isaiah's latest comic.

"Iraq: No end to the stalemate," "The Press Doesn't Read," "Iraq," "accuracy," "Administration attempts to spin," "Leila Fadel, get your s**t together," "Bloomberg News lies," "He failed on the Olypics, now he fails on Iraq" -- some of the Iraq coverage last week.

"You start to wish he'd go play for the other team" & "THIS JUST IN! HE TREATED THEM LIKE DEMOCRATS!" -- Sad but true from Cedric and Wally.

"Quesadillas in the Kitchen" -- Need a quick and easy spinach recipe? Trina's got one for you.

"Racist Blogdrive" -- Important post by Ann.

"Pelosi Buys The War" -- Isaiah dips into the archives for this classic.

"You haven't seen the last of Cher" -- Kat talks music.

"High Anxiety," "stop me before i watch it again" and "suspect" -- Stan and Rebecca go to the movies.

"Fringe," "Desperate Housewives," "Soledad is many things but . . .," "No Ordinary Family" -- Mike, Betty, Marcia and Stan talk TV.

"Barack's silence on the slaughter of Iraqi Christians" and "Iraq"-- Mike and Ann on Iraqi Christians.

"Barack wants you to all eat cat food," "Can he learn?," "The assault on Social Security goes public"and "The Cat Food Commission" -- Cat Food Commission coverage from Betty, Trina, Kat and Ruth.

"Unemployment," "Economy and ObamaCare," -- Trina and Ruth on the economy.

"Where did The Nation's readers go?" -- Elaine asks the obvious question.

"Try to do something nice for an asshole . . ." & "THIS JUST IN! OFFENDING ALL OVER THE WORLD!" -- Cedric and Wally.
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