Sunday, January 01, 2012

Truest statement of the week

I mean in the context of things, it's been quite remarkable as we've brought this to our listeners' attention over many years. And Heidi [Boghosian], you in particular, who have been working on the case and visiting for many years. I mean, here he is, no longer on death row. He's still in solitary but will be moved, we hope, to general population. And of course it's still thirty years and you can't get over thirty years and it's right now facing a life imprisonment sentence so it's still very difficult. But you look for -- I wouldn't call the difference between life and death a small victory -- it's a huge victory against the state. I mean, we shouldn't deny that it's the people's support that really made a difference here.

-- Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) on last week's Law and Disorder Radio.

Truest statement of the week II

To address something that you said in your note: yes, the Occupy Movement is very righteous and has some powerful grievances against the criminal elite class in this country and the world. But if I see a weakness in the movement, it's that it doesn't want to make any demands and enforce them with the power of its numbers and it seems to not want to hear the wisdom of the elders. If there’s one thing that I have learned, it's that we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time we begin a new action.

-- Cindy Sheehan, "Send a note to Lynne Stewart" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another late Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated 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.

And what did we come up with?

Michael Ratner scores one as the year starts.
As does Cindy Sheehan.

We didn't think 2011 would ever end.
Ava and C.I. take on the rank sexism in the Water Cooler Set.

We pick the best of radio.

All participating in this roundtable worked on all features except Ava and C.I.'s TV piece and "Highlights" which has its own byline.
Joss Stone's ultimate recording.
Black Widow. Color us underwhelmed.

Repost from Workers World.

Repost from Socialist Worker.

Mike and the gang wrote this (byline at the top) and we thank them for it.

It's a new year. May 2012 be better than 2011.


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

Editorial: 2011, over at last


2012 is here finally. The end of faux actions.

There was the 'brave' reporting Al Jazeera did, remember? On Libya? Remember when Elaine caught Al Jazeera correspondent Rawya Rageh re-Tweeting claims that the Libyan War wasn't about oil or empire? That was August 22nd. In the following day's New York Times, Clifford Krauss would open his with report with this fact: "The fighting is not yet over in Tripoli, but the scramble to secure access to Libya's oil wealth has already begun."

Al Jazeera TV is state-owned TV. It's not an exception. It is as brave as Press TV is (also state-owned TV). But didn't a lot of airheads in the US need to treat it as the holy grail or, more often, manna from heaven.

How did a War Hawk like Barack Obama who appears to have a serial hard on for destroying the Constitution ever end up in the White House?

Because so many idiots need a hero.

So many Americans play like a Bonnie Tyler song.

And so Ted Koppel reports on Rock Center with Brian Williams, with US Ambassador James Jeffrey next to him and agreeing, that the CIA will remain in Iraq (with "a healthy CIA mission"), that JSOC will, that the US FBI will remain and the US DEA. You've got US service members remaining as "trainers" for new weaponry the US government is selling Iraq, you've go the US State Department keeping over 16,000 employees (including contractors) in Iraq, but people want to pretend the Iraq War ended and the occupation is over?

We are a nation of Cinderellas awaiting a Prince who will put a slipper on our foot and whisk away.

Worse than that, we ae a nation of a Snow Whites deluding ourselves and sleeping on the clock.

Snow White was the Occupy 'movement.' Hey, kids, if you needed an excuse to camp out, couldn't you have come up with something better?

'We're not top-down so we don't have demands. Life is unfair. The system is unfair. Isn't it great that Barack's in the White House. Our government has betrayed us. I will be voting for Barack in 2012. Have you seen those Republicans? Occupy is non-partisan. Oh, but that pushy Adam Kokesh better stay out of our way because 'non-partisan' really just means all of us on the left who vote for Barack. I really love Barack, don't you? He makes me feel special. Just his being in the White House. What were you asking? Demands? No, we don't have any demands."

Maybe their Prince can awaken them to reality with a kiss?

2011 was America begging, repeatedly, to be sucker punched.

Over and over.

And that's what it got.

Over and over.

To complete the abuse cycle, Barack used the last day of the year to sign the National Defense Authorization Act which slams the door on the Bill of Rights and turns all Americans into potential terrorists.

Innocent until proven guilty? Jury of your peers?

Oh, don't be so quaint. Those days are going-going-gone.

2012 better be the year Americans get serious -- and learn to rescue themselves.

TV: The Toxic Drips Of Tiny Penises

As 2012 kicks off, we would believe that this is the year the Water Cooler Set gets its act together and starts doing the job the critics are supposed to as opposed to the self-stroking and doling out 'linkage love' to their peers in an endless circle-jerk. We'd love to believe that this is the year they step up to the plate and act like an adult. But they've repeatedly demonstrated they're incapable of behaving like grown ups.


First step in being an adult? Holding your peers accountable. That would mean ending sexism.

While racism isn't acceptable, sexism is. Homophobia is when it's presented by a White man who's a critics darling. Otherwise, even homophobia is out. But sexism reigns supreme.

And if peers won't hold one another accountable, maybe employers need to?

In other words, Green Bay Press-Gazette, it's time to fire Thomas Rozwadowski's whose soft-porn has stunk up TV criticism quite enough already. In his year in review, Thomas types as though he's writing for Penthouse, letting you know he finds Zooey Deshcanel enchanting -- even though he can't stand her show. He can't stand any woman. And he seems to think he was hired to express that. A year-in-review that fails to praise even one woman? A year-in-review that treats Whitney as if it's the worst sitcom of the year?

Did he not catch The Paul Reiser Show?

TV could last 100 more years and it is doubtful anything worse than The Paul Reiser Show could air.

Rozwadowski's piece is entitled "A look at the best, worst and just plain irritating of TV in 2011." Women, when mentioned by the 'critic,' make up the "worst and just plain irritating." Do the people of Green Bay really need to suffer through Rozwadowski's issues with women?

Then there's Phillip Ramati with The Macon Telegraph serving up his top ten "2011: Worst of the Year." He did see The Paul Resier Show and ranks it the eighth worst thing about TV in 2011. Coming in ahead of it, at number four? Whitney Cummings. He hates her in Whitney and he hates the other show she created Two Broke Girls. Of Whitney, Ramati insists, "Most people acknowledge the latter to be pretty god-awful, yet NBC keeps it around and in a plum timeslot (thought not for much longer)."

"Most people"?

You don't mean viewers. Even with the non-stop attacks on Whitney, it was still a ratings hit for NBC. Not only was it a hit on Thursday nights, it's delivering already on Wednesday nights as well. As Bill Gorman (TVbytheNumbers) reported December 20th, "On Wednesday, December 14 from 8-9 p.m. ET, a rebroadcast of 'Up All Night' averaged a 1.1/3 in adults 18-49 and 3.5 million viewers overall. Note that so far this season first-run telecasts of 'Up All Night' have been adding on average 47 percent to these next-day 'live plus same day' ratings when Nielsen issues “live plus seven day” results. From 8:30-9 p.m. ET, an encore telecast of 'Whitney' (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.2 million viewers overall) retained 100 percent of its 18-49 lead-in from 'Up All Night' and built on that lead-in among adults, men and women 18-34."

Unlike Ramati's treasured Community, Whitney actually delivered viewers. The first ten new episodes of the season never made it higher than 3.98 million. All but two new episodes of Whitney broadcast on Thursday nights scored better than that. In addition, Community's posting lower numbers than last season. "Most people" were watching Whitney and "most people" were not watching Community judging by the viewers. (Community has not been cancelled. It's not even technically "dropped." NBC is plugging it back in mid-season when they see which new show isn't worth keeping.)

Not only was Whitney not the worst sitcom of the year, it wasn't even the worst of the fall season. That would be Free Agents which, you'll notice, the Whitney bashers are rushing to forget. And could someone -- an editor maybe -- tell Ramati that "hot chics" really isn't the way to refer to women in newspaper?

Where there are attacks on women, there is Perez Hitlon, a hateful little sexist whose vile garbage has aged about as well as his bloated face (not at all). When when a woman's being stoned, Perez rushes over with his pebbles. Why? Jealousy? Vagina envy? Does it even matter?

Facts certainly don't. Matt Zoller Seitz, another bald White man weighing in on what's cool and doesn't society need that?, wants you to know how bad Whitney is -- though he allows it's not the worst show, it's "slightly better" than the worst show. And Matt won't be bound by facts or logic. Here he is yacking about TV at Salon:

The big problem is that the best half-hour comedies -- NBC's amazing “Community” and mostly very good “30 Rock” and “The Office,” FX’s “Louie” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” HBO’s “Enlightened” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the unfortunately just-canceled “Bored to Death” on HBO -- are so stylistically and tonally adventurous that when you see something a bit more traditional, like the Whitney Cummings shows or “Up All Night,” it just feels like a relic, a nostalgia act. You know? Why are invisible people laughing at everything? Why is the lighting so bright? And in order to make an impression on viewers who’ve grown to expect something more, a retro sitcom has to be either really beautifully constructed, as the super-traditional three-camera sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” was back in the day, or it has to be just total anarchy. Cute and just-sort-of-OK doesn’t cut it anymore. Nasty and just-sort-of-OK describes why “Two and a Half Men” was such a hit for so many years.

First please notice that all the sitcoms he praises are male dominated. That includes 30 Rock which, as we've long noted, has a ton of male charcters and Jenna. Tina and Alec may star as Liz and Jack, but the show is all male, male, male with Jenna and female extras Sue and Cerie who have been given just a splash more to say in five seasons than Holly Hunter had to say in all of The Piano.

These are not 'ensemble' shows. These are male dominated shows. Whitney, by contrast, is an ensemble show as was Friends. Note that he can praise the scum of TV (Two and a Half Men) and wonder why that is?

But notice the facts. Whitney? Yes, it is recorded before a live audience. Good. Desilu pioneered that and we applaud Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball for that and for giving us the three camera show. But, thing is, Up All Night?

No, Matt, it's not recorded before a live audience, there's no laugh track.

If you really are hearing laughter when you watch it and you're watching it alone (we'd believe that, who'd want to spend time with you), then we'd suggest you visit a doctor to talk about your inner demons because the show has no laugh track and isn't filmed before a studio audience.

While you're there, Matt, you might want to ask if lighting is really the way to critique a sitcom? And explore whether the fact that you're unable to physically produce or manufacture, that you write about TV -- and not sports -- is why you need to attack women so? If, in attacking women, you manage to ease your wounded male ego?

It's a sickness.

To be clear, not liking Whitney doesn't make you a sexist. It's the manner in which you write, both your word choice and the scope you provide (such as presenting the male as norm and the female as deviant). For example, James Poniewozik of Time magazine manages to critique TV all the time without ever resorting to sexism (even when sharing his distaste for Whitney) or expressing some latent need to kill Mommy.

Sadly, he is an exception. It's equally true that you don't need a penis to be a sexist and some of the worst attacks have come from women. We were reminded of that a few weeks back when The Huffington Post -- which, remember, teamed two women to attack the then-brand news show -- decided to feature a woman writing about food poisoning and the woman needed to work in her Whitney slam.

And then there's Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker who used the end of November to reveal what a hateful thing she is, what a coward she is and how she lacks the critics one sole super power (the ability to think). Nussbaum wanted you to know that she believes Whitney Cummings is hated because of the way she looks. She then stretched that plausible thesis by insisting that Olivia Munn, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman and Whitney Cummings have "model-skinny looks."

Whitney could be a model and probably Olivia. But Chelsea Handler is well groomed. Not pretty. Not beautiful. As for Sarah Silverman? Since Proctor & Gamble stopped doing their Good Pretty Blond and Bad Dowdy Brunette detergent commercials decades ago, we're having trouble figuring out exactly what work Nussbaum believes Silverman could book?

There's nothing wrong with Silverman or Handler's looks. But if you're going to insist that they have "model-skinny" looks, if that's the premise of your argument, the women need to have those looks. If, instead, readers are sitting there with furrowed brow in dropped jaw amazement, you've destroyed your own argument before you've begun.

Then lazy and illogical Nussbaum wants to tell you that Whitney Cummings problem is that she's like Lucille Ball was on TV. Ball was on primetime TV in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. She did not play Lucy Ricardo for four decades. (Though many viewers would have been just fine with that.) Nussbaum needs to stipulate which Ball persona she's speaking of. Her failure to do so goes to the fact that she's a poorly educated person in the field she chooses to specialize in. She writes (and she means I Love Lucy's characterization though she fails to note that):

In Ball’s era, this was a depressing but subversive perspective: it was exciting simply to see a woman clown, even if she always lost, even if she was literally spanked for her rebellion. But, in the age of "Bridesmaids" and "Parks and Recreation," "Whitney"'s battle of the sexes feels off, airless-- self-loathing disguised as self-assertion.

A battle of the sexes? Who's fighting?

Emily Nussbaum apparently brought her own relationship problems to work. And she may also be confusing Whitney Cummings' stand up with the TV show Whitney. Thus far, the show has utilized Whitney's stand up routine about the silent treatment not being seen as punishment by your mate. That's really it.

The show is about relationships. Not just romantic ones, relationships of all kinds. That's what the bad breakup between Alex and Mark was about. And, in that episode, we didn't see Whitney battling with Alex. We saw her understanding how important Mark's friendship was to Alex and we saw her step in to try to heal the rift.

These are moments Nussbaum deliberately avoids. That's not surprising when her argument is so void of logic.

What is surprising is that this woman starts out (rightly) describing a public stoning of a woman (Nussbaum maintains the stoning is due to Cummings' looks) but then uses the remainder of her column to join in the public stoning? It's as though she wrote a piece decrying the death penalty and then used the last third of her column to call for an execution.

These people are sick.

You can count the number of grown ups in the Water Cooler Set on one hand.

And that lack of maturity is why you have Terry Gross and her endless male critics (there's one token female, she reviews books). David Bianculli was gas bagging to Terry last week and, possibly because we've made such a big deal (and only us -- there's no sisterhood in the Water Cooler Set) about how he has managed to discuss the year-in-TV in the past without ever mentioning a woman by name, he switched it up a little bit.

In order, these are his name checks (we're leaving out some men who were mentioned in titles of shows such as "Ken Burns . . ."): Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin. Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, Joe Rogan, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, Rick Pery, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Howard Gordon, Dan Castellaneta, Amy Poehler, George Clooney, Grant Heslove, Sally Field, the Smothers Brothers, Edward R. Morrow, Randy Newman, Pery Como,

Only Claire Danes (Homeland) and Amy Poehler were featured in clips. Claire for a TV show he liked. Amy? Because a scene of her show mentioned David by name, they played it on Fresh Air. He didn't have anything to say about Parks and Recreation, really, just how great it was that he was mentioned on it.

The level of 'criticism' quickly sunk lower.

The Smother Brothers? Yes, that was an odd reference but David wrote a book on them. And George Clooney and Grant Heslove? They're optioning it for a film -- which is how Edward R. Morrow comes up as David and Terry gush over the film on Morrow that Clooney and Heslove made.

This was TV criticism?

This was journalism?

For those keeping track at home, 22 men were name checked, 7 women.

If you think NPR makes up for the sexist nature of Terry's all male posse by offering balance elsewhere, you are wrong. Remember that's the radio network that was pimping sexist stereotypes in September. And as we noted then:

It's on NPR where Terry Gross brings on TV and film critics. All men. But it's not just Terry, now is it? Over the summer, Morning Edition decided it was time to review Oprah's new channel. If you thought a woman would be assigned that task, you forgot how sexist NPR is.
That's how you got a commentary from a man which included, "This may be the most harrowing assignment I have ever tackled for NPR: spending a day watching Oprah Winfrey's new cable channel. [. . .] I consider myself a confident guy, but it's a little scary to enter a world where my concerns are among the least considered in the universe. OWN is aimed directly at women. It's a world of swimsuit dos and don'ts, lunch with the girls and makeovers."
In the 1970s that would have been considered patronizing and sexist and that's before we get to the man's knuckle dragging efforts in his cooking remarks.

He was back, the Oprah 'critic,' Eric Deggans, on Morning Edition Friday
. Like an Esquire "Women We Love" peep show feature from earlier deacdes, he opened with, "Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?" It never got better.

Why is it that NPR can't feature women providing TV criticism? Two leading papers (The New York Times and The Washington Post) feature females providing strong critiques of TV. But NPR can't find one woman to make a regular? Whatever happened to their supposed diversity mandate?

Part of the reason TV sucked so long in the first half of the '00s was the Water Cooler Set. The power they had they squandered and abused. As a result, networks listen to them less and less. Having wasted far too much money on bad, non-entertaining shows that the Water Cooler Set swore were wonderful (if you wanted to do a disseration on all the sources they plagiarized), the networks has learned that the Water Cooler Set doesn't reflect the viewers. Once upon a time, they were supposed to be a line of defense. They were supposed to argue for better TV and to rail against bad TV. In the '00s, a bunch of bald White men (and people of color and White women who enable them) took over and they've been jerking one another off ever since. No one wanted to see that, no one needed.

Radio show of 2011

Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner in the US. She's not the only political prisoner by any means. But among the things that differentiate Lynne from, for example, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, is that there was no attempt to frame her breaking a law.


Lynne's not even falsely accused of breaking law.

Nothing she did violated any law ever passed by Congress and only Congress -- check your Constitution -- can pass laws. Lynne is a face of the new political prisoner, the one locked away for breaking non-laws, for violating mandates or some similar garbage.

And her story is a very important one. It's also one that gets so very little attention.

One show that does cover Lynne?

Law and Disorder Radio. L&D is a weekly hour long program that started on WBAI (where it still airs Mondays at 9:00 AM EST) and is now syndicated around the country.

Law and Disorder Radio

If you have drive a clunker or like cars, you probably have checked out NPR's Car Talk and may listen weekly. That's because Ray and Tom Magliozzi are car mechanics and can provide you with their expertise. The hosts of L&D are attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights).

Last week, reading an article at POLITICO where the writer was unable to state clearly that US citizens are legally entitled to due process, Elaine wondered "Do US journalists even know the Constitution?" That question can pop up a great deal as you read through papers, watch TV, listen to the radio and visit various websites.

Heidi and the Michaels?

They know the Constitution.

They also know court verdicts.

They explore important issues and do so in an informed manner.

More than any radio program last year, Law and Disorder Radio repeatedly tackled the important issues and sometimes were the only ones tackling it.

Again to Lynne Stewart.

Lynne's imprisoned for issuing a press release to Reuters news agency. That's her "crime." That's what has a 72-year-old woman currently behind bars. The action Lynne took? She did so in the nineties. Bill Clinton was president. The Justice Department looked into it and rightly saw no law was broken and didn't pursue it. The Supreme Court installed George W. Bush and he and John Ashcroft were off on a witch hunt. They brought charges against Lynne.

Using 9-11 imagery, symbolism and comparisons to frighten a jury in NYC, they were able to get a conviction and a two year prison term. But then Hope and Change came to the White House.

Two years wasn't good enough for Barack and his Justice Department. They ordered a new sentencing. This time Lynne was sentenced to ten years. Not only did she break a new law, she never broke a law. And what passed for 'new' information was interviews Lynne had given where she expressed that, despite cancer, she thought she could handle the two years. That was the basis for the new sentencing.

Last week, the hosts spoke with Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter. Excerpt.

Ralph Poynter: And she is looking forward to her attorney Herald Fahringer presenting to the court once again testing the law in February, that will be February 29th at Federal Court and we are planning a Occupy the Courtroom -- and Occupy the Park the night before, the 28th through the 29th, the date of her -- not her appearance, the day that there will be a hearing of her case. And she says you take each struggle as it comes. And she has a way of being funny, her spirits are good. She said to me, "Little did I ever think that I would be putting my hopes in the hands of Clarence Thomas." And I say, "Lynne, that is funny, but not in your circumstance."

Heidi Boghosian: Right. Ralph, tell us exactly what the lawyer will be asking for.

Ralph Poynter: He will be talking about the sentencing. The change from the 28 months to the 120 months. Nothing changed [there was no new hearing on new charges, the jury had already rendered their verdict years prior] and the laws that Judge [John G.] Koeltl used to extend his rationale for extending it was as ridiculous, you might say, as the Weapons of Mass Destruction but they got over with that, so they might get over with these two ridiculous cases that he used. One where they didn't know about a sex offender putting on video of a 10-year-old that he was offending sexually and another one where the government, when the sentence was given, did not know that the person being sentenced had stolen far more money, federal money, than they had imagined. So they used that as an example of being able to extend sentences.

Over and over, the national and international issues that so many ignore are addressed by Boghosian, Ratner and Smith. Listening doesn't just inform you of the issues, it also educates you on the law. And in a country where those in charge so frequently break it, knowing the law just might be the most radical thing you could do.


Jim: Happy New Year, it's roundtable time! Our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; and Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts. Betty's kids did the illustration. Kat wants it noted that, in the words of American Dad's Roger, she is hung to over and you are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): Today is the New Year and we say Happy New Year to all of our readers. Karin e-mailed a Happy New Year and wondered if we ever expected to be still here in 2012? Hell to the nah! Drink up! No, seriously we're not having a drinking game in the roundtable. Though many of those here at C.I.'s house are drinking. Jess, Dona, Kat and myself have beer. Ava and C.I. are drinking both Diet Coke and Bloody Marys.

Dona: They have glasses of Diet Coke and glasses of Bloody Mary. They have not made a new drink featuring the two combined.

Jim: Yes, that is true. Ty, is that a screw driver?

Ty: It is.

Jim: And Betty's nursing a glass of wine. Also before anyone e-mails about Dona's breast feeding our baby --

Dona: Thank you, I forgot about that. There was some piece, not identified by the reader, that resulted in an angry e-mail to me about how I have a baby and breast feed and shouldn't be eating whatever it was I was eating that was so objectionable. That wasn't identified either. I breast fed for the first seven months and planned to breast feed for at least the first year. But about seven months in, we were at my folks and Jim and I ended up going out with some of my friends from high school. I did use the breast pump beforehand but when the baby was hungry that got dropped on the floor and my parents ended up using formula. Which is fine. But after that the baby didn't want to nurse. So I am no longer breast feeding. I didn't know that it was ever anyone's business that I was other than myself and the baby. Since it wasn't Jim's nipples, I don't think it was even his business. But apparently I need to make that note to reassure some people that our baby is fine and healthy.

Jim: And while we're doing our house cleaning, Wally wanted Ava, C.I. or Kat to say something about an event. Who wants to grab that? Kat?

Kat: Sure. It's four a.m. our time, PST, as we start this and nearly everyone's been New Year's Eve partying for the most part which is why everyone's not participating in this roundtable. I'm going to mention Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix and Wally of The Daily Jot and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Wally and Cedric do joint-posts, they do humor posts. Last week, there were some complaints about the two not posting on Thursday or Friday. You're lucky you got anything from them last week. Jess, Ava, C.I. and I were out in Florida early last week for a funeral. Wally had a death in the family. He tried to stay on schedule but everyone, including Cedric, knew that wasn't going to happen. And at some point, when things got quiet, Wally was going to need some time for himself. As a general rule, I would argue that, without any knowledge of a death, people should have been aware something was up. And they should have grasped that if the two weren't posting it wasn't due to Cedric because Ann and Cedric are married and she made no mention of any problems Cedric was having at her site and she posted Monday through Friday like she always does last week. After the funeral, Cedric had told Wally that if he needed time off, he should take it and if he was worried about the site, Cedric was willing to solo or bring Betty in -- because Betty had told Wally anytime he needed it to call her and she would fill in to help out. But Wally didn't want to put anybody out and was pretty sure he could make it through the week. But those two are writing humor posts. They're trying to make you smile or life. And when someone in your family has just died, it's not real easy to find the place to be funny. Wally and Cedric get on the phone together and are silly together for about 10 minutes about the news, then one thing sticks out that they've joked about and then they try to write a post around that. That's how they write. And he realized last week that he needed some time off. Cedric told him to take it and not worry about. Wally surprised him by calling on Saturday and saying he thought he could try a joint-post if Cedric had the time.

Jim: Anything to add?

Ava: I'll add a few things. First, Wally did want us to say something and that was basically just to toss out that there was a death because of questions that were popping up. Second, what Kat's saying? I agree. That's not what Wally wanted emphasized but I agree with her 100%. And this wasn't an unexpected death. I mention that because, in November, there was a hearing that C.I. and I covered -- I covered it at Trina's site -- and there were complaints of why didn't 'everyone' cover it? Meaning that Kat at her site, Wally at Rebecca's, me at Trina's and C.I. at The Common Ills. That's what usually happens with big hearings. Kat would explain, due to the outcry, that she was hung over at the hearing, she'd been partying the night before with an old boyfriend. Wally wasn't at that hearing and was spending time in November back and forth. Sometimes he'd be with us -- and if he was that week, he did a post at Rebecca's site on any hearing -- and sometimes he'd be back home in Florida. Wally's been dealing with this for some time and he's gone out of his way to keep his site going and keep things online as normal as possible. There were two e-mails here that I read of people noting it wasn't like Wally not to participate last week in our edition and wondering if he was okay? I'm sure there were others like that. For those people who were concerned, Wally wanted something said. But I'm like Kat, for the other people, grow the hell up.

Jess: On last week's edition, a number of questions came in. In the roundtable, C.I. noted she was moderating because Ava said she did it last time. Several readers disputed this saying Jim had moderated the roundtable last time. Jim always moderates the roundtable when he's here. That's because Jim came up with the idea for the roundtable back in 2005. However, when Jim is not working on the edition, someone else grabs the role. That's generally Christmas week but not just Christmas week. In the past, I've grabbed it, Ty's grabbed it. One time Kat grabbed it, leading to complaints that she wasn't part of the core group of Third -- complaints from readers -- and shouldn't have grabbed it. Ava and C.I. right now are taking the notes for the transcript that we'll type up. They do that every week. It's why they prefer not to guest moderate. But due to various objections, they've had to. The last time, that C.I. was referring to, was when a roundtable took place without Jim. At that time, Ava filled in as moderator so it was C.I.'s term. Who worked on what was also an issue? Ava and C.I. wrote the TV piece themselves as always. "Highlights" had the writing credit in it. The rest of the pieces? They were written by everyone participating in the roundtable. Some people last week -- as with this week -- worked only on "Highlights." That's fine. We could have gone into that more in the note but (a) we were tired and wanting to finish, (b) we also wanted to get it up early and, in fact, we had everything up at about the time we're doing this roundtable right now and (c) it was obvious to us who worked on what and we wrongly thought it would be to readers as well. Marcelo wondered why, "since it's just one day a week," Jim or Dona or anyone needed time off? Because they do. That's the explanation, because they do. The only people who have worked on every edition are Ava and C.I. Dallas finds links for us and is a sounding board and much more and we thank him but he'll tell you even he has taken time off. People need time off. And we have encouraged Ava and C.I. to take time off but they know that there are readers who would be bothered -- their pieces are always the most read of any week's edition. I think that covers all the questions from last week's edition.

Ruth: I will add that I always work on the Christmas edition because I do know that, especially if Christmas is on the weekend, it can be very difficult for people to spend time with their families and also taking part in the marathon writing sessions. I can work on the Christmas edition with no problem because I am Jewish so it is not my holiday.

Jim: Thank you, Ruth, and thank you to everyone who worked on last week's edition. The year has passed. Let me do this slowly because I know C.I.'s planning to tack this on to the year-end pieces at The Common Ills. The Common Ills year-end coverage included C.I.'s "2011: The Year of the Slow Reveal," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2011," Martha and Shirley's "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2011 in music." In addition, community coverage of 2011 also included Ann's "2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)" & Stan's "2011 in films (Ann and Stan)", Cedric's "Barack finally gets something right!" & Wally's "BARACK BEST 2011 MOVE!," Rebecca's "best of fall tv 2011" and Trina's "New Year's Parties." First question, Betty, why no year look back from you?

Betty: Honestly? I wasn't even thinking about it Friday when I posted. In years past, I have thought about it and sometimes offered something and sometimes not. At The Common Ills, it is a yearly tradition that C.I., Kat, Ruth and Martha & Shirley do year-in-review pieces. Three years ago -- three? -- Ann and Stan started up their look at film. That made sense as well because Stan covers film every week at his site and Ann covers radio but will frequently sneak in a movie when she can as well. Cedric and Wally ended up with a year-end piece this year. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It has to do with what they can come up with. Trina's happened in response to readers e-mails. So three of those were -- Cedric and Wally and Trina -- were completely by chance. Rebecca, what about your piece?

Rebecca: I find my way in the post. I start out talking about TV to reply to some e-mails. Then I was done with the e-mails and looked at my post and thought, "That's kind of short for a post." I looked around for some news that interested me enough to blog on and couldn't find anything. At which point, my husband comes into the room with the phone and asks, "The Good Wife or American Horror Story, which was the better show?" Because he's debating that with his brother. I gave my answer and then thought, "Hey, I can do that." And steal the always talked about piece here at Third but never done. We're always talking about a TV piece here where we basically lay out Emmy picks. Ava and C.I. wouldn't be a part of that, that's understood. It would be written by the rest of us. And usually, Betty, Stan and I are all for it but nothing ever comes of it. So I ran with it at my site to extend my post and it gave me a year-in-review type feel. C.I. called me when she was cross-posting it to a mirror site and said that two community members had already asked if it could be cross-posted. Of course it could. And Trina was so funny, her piece was cross-posted too, and she couldn't believe the e-mails, she checked her account at 7:00 pm her time to see if there were any party emergencies from her regular readers, she couldn't believe how swamped with e-mails she was. And she asked me, "Would Jim tell me how many views it got at The Common Ills if I asked?"

Jim: And I did. The only one who doesn't want to know that is C.I. I go in there and check and I check here as well. I'm interested in seeing what ends up popular and what doesn't. And C.I.'s attitude, which is correct, TCI is more hard hitting and news whereas this site is an online general interest magazine, C.I.'s attitude is that popularity doesn't matter at TCI, that you cover what needs to be covered and that you don't look at what was a hit and try to rewrite that to have another popular piece. And Ava and C.I. don't like hard numbers here. If a piece is over a year old, I can mention it got X number of hits. But less than a year, it's too fresh and they don't want to know.

Ava: There is enough pressure each week to come up with a TV piece without us trying to figure out how to make it like this one or that one or how to copy ourselves or any of that crap. This week, we're not even sure what we're writing.

Jim: Kat, your music piece was very popular and you've also gotten a ton of e-mails on it. How do you sum up 2011 in music?

Kat: If it was really worth listening to, it didn't make Top 40 radio. I can't stand top 40 radio, little boys who pluck their chest hairs and pop tarts who, regardless of age, all sound like 6th grade girls. I could have easily done a top 20 albums and still not included one album that broke out on top 40 radio. There's nothing but garbage. It's truly like right before grunge emerged, you've got this Tiffany-like crap and this New Kids On The Block-like crap and all this garbage.

Betty: I loved Kat's piece and downloaded Alexander O'Neal's 2011 album immediately, didn't even know about it until I read Kat's article. And I want to talk about Tell Me More, the NPR program, for just a minute. That show is embarrassing more times than not and those women talking about music -- pretending to talk about music -- so they can have a gossip session, and sounding like Rose and Mary on 227, that's not up to NPR standards. I'm getting real damn sick, as a Black woman, of NPR lowering the standards for Black people. We don't need the standards lowered. We don't need to hear, in a news story about federal funding, some Black 'reporter' telling us about a "baby bump." This is not E. And if that's the best of Black America that NPR can find, that says a great deal about the racism at NPR. There's this one Black woman who laughs in her reports. NPR needs to start imposing standards. And Black NPR on air employees, take your job seriously. You insult our race when you ignore your responsibilities -- and your age -- to try to have 'fun' on the air as if you're on shock jock radio. Tell Me More is nothing but a race to the bottom to determine who can demonstrate the least journalistic standards.

Jim: NPR has had some difficulties growing their Black audience and Tell Me More is seen as an attempt to foster that. Does anyone else want to weigh in? I'm not saying Betty's not right. I actually agree with her. But no one grabbed on that topic after her and I know that will be one of the comments we'll get the most e-mails on in this roundtable.

Isaiah: I'll grab it. Yeah, I agree with Betty. And, Jim, you're right that NPR thinks Tell Me More is going to increase their Black audience. But the mistake they're making is that what they do with Tell Me More is lower the standards. It's chatty little gossip that doesn't even pretend to be for adult thinkers. And while that might bring in a bit of audience -- I don't think it will -- that audience then does what? Goes to All Things Considered? No, they listen tot hat and they're like, "Where's my sugary snacks! Why are they talking news! I want my TMZ!" So, no, it doesn't work at all.

Jim: You say it won't work, that you don't think it will. Why is that?

Isaiah: Because that's an hour program. It's not like NPR, it doesn't maintain their standards. One hour surrounded by programs completely different. You can hear that sort of crap on any number of commercial radio stations -- because it's cheap and tacky. So if you like that sort of crap, chances are you're not going to seek out Tell Me More. You're just going to listen to some local radio program instead, especially with 'gossip to go's Flo.' I mean, that's the level we're talking about here.

Betty: Flo is a staple of the Tom Joyner show, just FYI. And an idiot, a world class idiot.

Stan: I'll jump in to add that it's insulting that NPR thinks that's the way to get us to listen. First off, as Isaiah points out, that sort of crap's already all over the radio dial and we can hear it if we want to. Second, it's really insulting that some White executive at NPR was thinking, 'Hmm. We need Black listeners. How can we get them? I know, let's offer a gossip who with dumb guests and dumb hosts and let's have them act like teenagers and talk like them and laugh a lot. That's what them Black folks like.' It's really insulting when you think about it.

Marcia: Like NPR was presented with two things. 'Hey, to grab Black listeners, how about we do a new show that explores the economic plight of Black America in this recession. Or we can do a gossip show, a sort of look at celebrities and shucking and jiving on the air. Which one should we do?' It really is insulting that someone thought the way to reach Black America was with the s**t that Tell Me More offers. And I agree with Kat that those bitches -- bitches is the only term for it -- were embarrassing. Saying they were talking about the year in music and how it was the year of the woman and then ignoring music to talk about divorces and TV commercials and reality shows and all the other crap. And let's be really clear, you're a stupid whore if you're calling Beyonce an artist. She's a flavor of the month that's gone stale as her sales indicate. Millie Jackson, that's an artist. Betty Wright, that's an artist. Aretha Franklin, that's an artist. Artists are people in control of their work. Beyonce just a puppet and when you can name check the producer of some one's album, that's your first clue that you're dealing with a studio creation and not an artist. And Adele, shut up already. Damn.

Betty: You're so Prince!

Marcia: I am. He says that in a song. I forget which one.

C.I.: "Housequake."

Marcia: I should have known you'd know. But, damn, Adele, we're tired of you and your relationships. Whitney's got an amazing voice, Whitney Houston, but not everything she sang was about the guy who screwed her over. One of her best known songs, one that she'll be remembered for is "The Greatest Love of All" and it's not a romantic song. "I believe the children are our future, teach them well . . ." I'm not sure whether Adele's turned herself into a joke or been turned into one by the women -- women, not girls -- who go around treating Adele songs as deep literature. Unlike Beyonce, Adele can sing. I will give her that. I can remember, growing up, complaints about Madonna and Janet Jackon's 'live' shows and how there were suggestions that artists 'sweetening' or replacing their vocals with pre-recorded ones in concert should have to carry a disclaimer of some sort on their concert tickets. I wish that had happened. If it had, it would be harder to treat fakes like Beyonce as 'artists.'

Jim: Okay. Well what was the standout album for you, Marcia, in 2011?

Marcia: For me it's Joss Stone's LP1. Like Kat, I think the top spot belongs to all three women. PJ Harvey explored serious topics and did so in a serious manner but never forgot the need for melody. Then there's Stevie Nicks who made the best rock album of the year and did so not when she's 18. I don't want to emphasize age too much here but it needs to be noted that she's older than Roy Orbison was when he died. This rocks way harder than Mystery Girl or any album by a man that got praised just because he was old. Stevie's made a vital album and I'm so glad that Kat gave it the attention it deserved. So both of those are year's best. But Joss is as well and, at the end of the day, when I want to wind down, when I want to open a bottle of wine, maybe when I want to make out, Joss' album is the one to put on. In fact, I'd argue the make out song of 2011 is Joss Stone's "Drive All Night."

Ty: I would agree that "Drive All Night" is the make out song of the year.

Ruth: It has a groove to it that make out songs pretty much require. It could be easily be side-by-side with a Marvin Gaye make out song and hold its own.

Jim: Dona's given me a wind down sign. But before we do, let's talk some more about "Drive All Night." Kat, you talked about Joss' vocal in your piece.

Kat: Right. It's the perfect vocal. She sounds sleepy, tired and turned on. It's not just that she hits some amazing notes, it's that she performs the song, she becomes it. She sounds a little f**ked up like maybe she's been at the club and had a few or maybe she went home and drank alone. And then her lover shows up in the early morning. "I'm glad that I was wrong, baby."

Rebecca: And the way she sings it. I mean, it blows me away. "And then you drive all night. Saying what use is a night when you can't sleep anyway. You might be tired but you're standing right in front of my face." She stops it in places and it really does sound like she's just talking, in the mid-morning, that her lover showed up at 2:30 or so, woke up her up, and she's letting him in the front door. Her vocals like she's smoothing back bed hair or something. It's very sensual.

Ty: And the drums on that are really good. They accencuate. It would be really easy for the drums to try to drive the song and most of the time they would. But instead they accencuate it. They puncuate it. They get louder as she gets more intense. It's just a really incredible track.

Jim: Who wrote the song?

C.I.: Joss Stone and Eg White.

Dona: I think it's a highly sensual song. I hadn't thought of it as the make out song of 2011 but I agree with that. In fact, I'd like us to do a feature on that. I'm not joking.

Jim: And on that note, we'll go ahead and wind up. This is a rush transcript.

The Make Out Song of 2011

"Tell me there's boom, boom, boom," Joss Stone notes in the final minute of "Drive All Night," the make out song of 2011, off Joss' LP1.

"There's this chap," Joss explained about the song at Festival dos Oceanos in Portugal. They were on the phone. And she mentioned something she had to do the next morning and he said he'd take her, he flew to England, drove to pick her and then drove her to the meeting.

I started to worry, do I smell nice?
Like a fool I left my gum on the side

Then I go and kiss you and the follow up from that was whole bunch of nothing

Wondering where you're at

In a sleepy, husky voice, Joss slurs and stumbles through the song (which she co-wrote with Eg White) in a barefoot vocal, sounding as if she just rolled out of bed at two in the morning.

The only thing it's missing is a remix that turns it into an elven minute slow jam.

2011 Trend: Sucky Comic Book Films

2011 produced multiple films made out of comic books. Only one showed any real creativity: The Green Hornet. And while Thor was at least mildly amusing, the bulk were the paint-by-number copies we've seen over and over and hoped had died off with the two Fantastic Four films. Sadly, Green Lantern, Captain America and X-Men First Class made clear that the generic, cookie cutter storyline would be used in film after film. If it looks especially familiar, it should, it's the origin issue in comic books though they pretend it's a great deal more in films.

The Avengers is supposed to be the big comic book film for 2012 and there's a lot of hopes for it. For one thing, it's thought that the story will move quickly since most of the characters (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor) have already had their own films in recent years.

But though that may allow the film to not get mired in backstory, there are still serious issues.

Mark Ruffalo is one of them. The actor's talent or charisma is not in question; however, this will be the Hulk's third live action film appeareance in the last nine years and Ruffalo will be the third actor to play him (first was Eric Bana, then Edward Norton), signifying the part's forever an open casting call.

Joss Whedon's directing and wrote the screenplay. He's many, many years away from his cultural impact high of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and all of his projects in the last decade crashed and burned. The Avengers is an expensive film and will need to make $300 million worldwide to be considered a hit. Nothing indicates Whedon's able to deliver that.

Maybe he'll surprise everyone?

Maybe so but the line up doesn't indicate he will. Alongside Hulk and Thor, Captain America and Iron Man will be . . . Black Widow.


The film's called The Avengers. If you think The Avengers comic books, you tend to think of two female characters. There's Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, a founding member of The Avengers. She can shrink to the size of a wasp, fly, shoot off stinger blasts, as well as (and this would be interesting on the big screen) increase to giant size with super strength. Imagine Wasp fighting along side Hulk in a battle.

scarlet witch

Then there is the Scarlet Witch (above), daughter of Magneto. Wanda Maximoff. Imagine the visual possibilities with the Witch's mystical powers. Scarlet Witch? That's cinematic. Not to mention a better choice when you're also introducing Hawkeye due to the long history between the two.

Instead they go with Black Widow who would probably be a good spy thriller character if played by a good actress and not presented cheesy.

Good actress?

With Sofia Coppola extracting a performance (Lost In Translation) and Bill Murray for a co-star, Scarlett Johansson seemed like a promising actress. That was 2003 and the hits and bombs that followed (mainly bombs) made her come off like a basic calbe copy of Jessica Alba. The many, many bombs (The Island, The Nanny Diaries and The Spirit among them) do not bode well for The Avengers. Nor does her only significant hit since Lost In Translation: Iron Man 2.

"Blink and you miss her" describes not only her brief action sequence in the last third of the film, it also describes her bland, fade into the woodworks persona. When Gwenyth Paltrow is out dazzling you (while Paltrow's in a dressed down role, no less), you're not quite the sex bomb you thought you were. That matters because Johansson was playing, in Iron Man 2, the same role she'll be playing in The Avengers.

Though they will forever recast the Hulk, they can't get a competent actress to play Black Widow?

Of course not, Joss isn't interested in anything but cheese which is why, in the two minute trailer, you get men cracking wise and Black Widow doesn't utter one line. You also see the male characters in battle but you get Johannson pressing her crotch into a man's face while she kills him (yes, it does imply: kills him with her vagina). It's cheesy, Freudian and subpar.

With Joss at the helm, there may have never been a chance at a real action epic (he tends to go cerebral) but at least another actress (playing another female character or even Black Widow) might have been something other than 'sidekick.'

And that's before you even get into the trailer raising the angst between reactionary Captain America and ribald Iron Man, leaving you with the fear that Joss will spend forever 'exploring' feelings.

NDAA=War on Bill of Rights (Sara Flounders)

Repost from Workers World:

NDAA means war on Bill of Rights

Published Dec 23, 2011 8:47 PM

Dangerous provisions inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA-2012) have created great alarm among civil liberties organizations, Muslim organizations, groups that defend anti-war activists and many activists of the Occupy Wall Street movement who have recently been targeted across the country.

Sara Flounders speaks out against NDAA at
news conference in New York City Dec. 15.
WW photo: Ellen Catalinotto

The wording in the defense bill has created alarm because it is in explicit violation of basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and long considered untouchable, even in a time of rapidly growing political repression.

This article will examine the NDAA, investigate its relation to U.S. military expansion, look at the history of the Bill of Rights, and see how this can help point the way forward toward expanding rights and defeating repression.

What’s in the NDAA?

The controversial provisions in the NDAA grant the U.S. military authority to hold in secret and indefinite detention people deemed a threat to national security without recourse to counsel or a lawyer and without charges presented in a court of law or the right to a trial. Such police-state tactics have already been used against thousands of Muslim immigrants in the U.S. and around the world as part of the so-called “war on terror” since Sept. 11, 2001.

Across the U.S., press conferences, rallies and petition campaigns were quickly organized by a whole series of organizations on Dec 15. Ironically, passage of NDAA by a final conference committee representing both houses of Congress coincided with the 220th anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791.

The bill’s provisions are an explicit violation of what is known as “habeus corpus,” the guarantee of the right to a hearing before a judge. They also violate the guarantee that the U.S. military will be kept out of all internal domestic areas. This is called “posse comitatus,” meaning the U.S. military cannot act on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens.

A statement released by the United National Anti-War Coalition sighted recent ominous national trends, including massive spying, entrapment and phony plots in the Muslim community, recent raids on homes of anti-war activists by federal agents and subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries, and the nationally coordinated, often violent police evictions of the Occupy movement around the country.

The statement also protested the refusal of the Chicago city government and the federal government to allow for peaceful protests when NATO and the G-8 countries come to Chicago in mid-May 2012 to hold summit meetings.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Coalition for the Protection of Civil Freedoms, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the International Action Center, the National Coalition to Stop FBI Repression, Occupy Wall Street, Muslim Peace Coalition and many other groups released statements and participated in organized protests and internet petition campaigns calling on President Barack Obama to veto the bill. This unified response is an essential first step in what is needed.

A veto is unlikely because the Obama administration requested the inclusion of this provision in the military budget bill, and has been actively involved in efforts to further restrict basic rights.

Unfortunately, many courageous civil rights organizations in attacking these reactionary provisions have made no mention or criticism of the NDAA itself. But highlighting this vital connection will help provide a perspective on how to fight back.

Military breeds repression

It is no accident that this assault on basic political rights long considered beyond the reach of government attack is part of the bill that funds the giant military machine. The military is the nut of the problem. This new unprecedented attack on civil rights at home cannot be seen in isolation to the ever-expanding role of the U.S. military on a global scale.

The NDAA is the annual bill that funds the bloated military. The U.S. military budget is already larger than the combined miltary budget of the rest of the world. The 2012 bill authorizes $554 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $115.5 billion for continuing the current wars and occupations. This appropriations bill funds 1,000 U.S. military bases in more than 150 countries around the world.

Other hundreds of billions of military expenditures hidden in the U.S. budget bring the war machine’s total cost to more than $1 trillion. This year’s NDAA further extends restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamo, and it contains new threats and stricter sanctions on Iran.

The demonization and criminalization, spying and entrapment of the Muslim community, especially since Sept. 11, 2001, has been used to justify aggressive new wars of conquest and expanding military influence. Increasing the budget for police and prisons is the domestic reflection of the growing weight of the military.

The U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq represents a significant setback for U.S. strategic plans. But as this NDAA confirms, the U.S. military is hardly closing down. U.S. wars and the threat of military action across the globe, invasions, subversion, sabotage, increasing drone surveillance, deadly surprise assaults, kidnapping, secret rendition and targeted assassinations are all treated as acts of defense and national security.

The Pentagon serves the interests of the corporate ruling class. It secures global markets, loots natural resources and subjugates the workers of each country to the capitalist owners of all production. Its mission is to destroy any opposition to this domination from governments and popular rebellions.

The bill signals that no concessions are on the drawing boards, only further repression.

Bill of Rights & class struggle

Many appeals to President Obama to veto this defense bill because of the new repressive provisions have glorified and idealized what the Bill of Rights is, what it stands for and how rights are secured and maintained.

The Bill of Rights was never a sacred document of grand wisdom arrived at by the “founding fathers,” as presented in popular myth and school history books. Nor was it just an academic debate between federalists and anti-federalists.

The Bill of Rights was from the very beginning a reflection of the early class struggle in the U.S. It was not part of the original Constitution drafted in 1787. That document was designed to protect the propertied classes, balance their competing interests and centralize the authority of the state.

These ruling-class elements were meeting in haste after a broad uprising in 1786 throughout New England of indebted small farmers against bankers and merchants known as Shay’s Rebellion.

When the Constitution was originally drafted, any proposal to include any individual rights was overwhelmingly voted down. Land seizures, food riots, debt protests and enormous social ferment made it clear that a Constitution written by slave owners, merchants and land speculators would not pass without some rights guaranteed to significant section of the masses.

This was especially true because the masses were armed and in motion. The top 1% of 1787 — slave owners, plantation owners, wealthy merchants — made this belated and grudging concession after four years of intense political struggle in many of the newly minted states. They gave in because they were anxious to quickly organize a centralized federal state to deal with the growing assertion of grievances and rights by poor farmers facing ruin.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. They include freedom of speech, assembly, press, religion; freedom from torture or cruel and unusual punishment; freedom from warrant-less searches, excessive bail, seizures or imprisonment; plus the right to trial by jury and protection from a standing army. From the beginning they were a contradiction to the Constitution that protected property.

Despite its progressive side, it is important to recognize that the Bill of Rights did not mean rights for all people. Most people in the South were kidnapped African slaves who could be bought, sold, branded, beaten or killed without any protection. Indigenous peoples were targeted for expropriation, removal or extermination. Women were considered the property of their husbands and were granted no rights or protections. Thus the amendments guaranteed rights to a small minority of white men who owned property and were the only ones allowed to vote or assured of having rights.

Every step forward in rights took enormous and often bloody struggles. The struggle for the abolition of slavery only began to be resolved by the Civil War. And 100 years later the monumental Civil Rights Movement struggled for decades for the right to vote and win formal equality.

Even when the rights to freedom of assembly, speech and trial by jury were assured, they did not exist for working people. It took strikes, shut-downs, plant takeovers to win the right to unionize. It took 80 years of marches and mobilizations for women to even gain the right to participate in political life.

It is important to remember this history of struggle to expand rights in order to understand how to push this fight forward today.

OWS & fighting to expand rights

Defending the right to freedom of speech, assembly and the press is important in the class struggle today — in order to have a voice to fight for the right to a job, the right to health care, the right to an education, the right to housing, the right to a safe and clean environment, and the right to oppose endless wars. Given the fabulous ability of technology to provide for all, these basic rights to a full life must be asserted, demanded and won.

But given the crisis of capitalism, all these basic human rights run counter to corporate survival.

Occupy Wall Street’s great contribution in this period of contracting capitalism is its focus on the 1% who have benefited from all government bailouts and policies at the expense of the 99%. This popular formulation is a leap forward in class-consciousness on a national scale. Occupy Wall Street has also found creative new forms of mass participation and inclusion. Though imperfect, they are a big step forward.

For these very reasons, the large legal and overwhelmingly peaceful protest assemblies that erupted across the country were threatening to U.S. corporate power, the police and the military, who want only fear and compliance and are driven to shut down all forms of activism.

On a national scale through the Department of Homeland Security, every major OWS encampment was targeted with mass arrests. HS coordinated local police attacks. Even Democratic Party forces, which had originally embraced OWS as an antidote to the Tea Party, complied with police crack-downs.

But the past three months of mass struggles since Sept. 17 confirm once again that the best way to push back reactionary provisions in the NDAA is to raise the level of resistance. Defend the courageous young OWS activists who have opened new political space, build solidarity with the Muslim community against the broad-scale attacks, and challenge racist police practices of stop and frisk. Unity, solidarity and resistance point the way forward.

Death sentence dropped (UK Socialist Worker)

Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence dropped

comment on article | email | print
Share on: Delicious | Digg | reddit | Facebook | StumbleUpon

Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces the death penalty after 30 years on death row.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia announced on Wednesday of last week that the state was abandoning its efforts to execute him. However it has not overturned his conviction and plans to keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

Mumia has been fighting to prove his innocence since he was convicted of killing a police officer in 1982.

Amnesty International is among many organisations who say his original trial was unfair. Socialist Worker has always argued his innocence. The evidence used to convict him was inconsistent and contradictory.

Mumia had been radicalised by police racism and joined the revolutionary Black Panther party at the age of 15. During the 1970s Mumia became a journalist for Philadelphia's local radio station. He was dubbed the "voice of the voiceless" because he spoke about those marginalised and oppressed in US society.

He was made president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black Journalists in 1980. He exposed the state's vicious campaign of harassment against the radical black organisation Move.

The radio station fired him for his comments on a brutal police attack on Move's headquarters, and he then worked as a taxi driver.

He was driving his cab when shortly before 4am on 9 December 1981, he saw his brother, in an altercation with a police officer. He got out of his taxi and approached the scene. Minutes later when more police arrived, the first officer had been shot dead, and Mumia had been near-fatally shot in the chest.

The police claimed it was an open and shut case. Yet the evidence used to convict Mumia has all since been shown to be flawed during his many attempts to have his conviction overturned.

The fight to prove Mumia's innocence will continue.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.


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, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

C.I.'s "2011: The Year of the Slow Reveal," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2011," Martha and Shirley's "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2011 in music," Ann's "2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)" & Stan's "2011 in films (Ann and Stan)", Cedric's "Barack finally gets something right!" & Wally's "BARACK BEST 2011 MOVE!," Rebecca's "best of fall tv 2011" and Trina's "New Year's Parties" -- the year-in-review pieces.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I See Ba'athists" -- Isaiah's cartoon on the political crisis.

"Turkey's continued Elmer Fudd approach to the PKK" -- Most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

"Charmed dreams," "Trends in Charmed season 7," "The worst moments of Charmed season 7,"
"Charmed and California," "The best parts of season six Charmed," "Biggest disappointment in Charmed season six" and "Nikita" -- TV coverage in the community and Ann covered radio:

"Cornbread in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a recipe and talks New Year's folklore.

"good for kelly clarkson" -- Rebecca applauds Kelly Clarkson.

"glenn greenwald?" -- Rebecca answers e-mails.

"Barack Obama, Continuity You Can Believe In" -- Ruth breaks down the truth.

"Who will save the net?" -- a very good question.

"Sandi Goldsmith is an idiot" -- Marcia's in no mood for fools.

"Pelosi makes her daughter lie" -- or for bad parents.

"Short Cuts" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" -- Isaiah dips into the archives to remind you of the kind of candidate Barack is.

"Do US journalists even know the Constitution?" -- Elaine asks a basic question.

"Drones" -- Mike covers drones.

"THIS JUST IN! SWEET VINDICATION!" and "As we were saying . . ." -- Before the economists said it, Wally and Cedric told you first.

"Cookies and WSWS" -- Another recipe from Trina.

"Confused" -- Ruth on writers who don't explain.

"Laptop problems" and "Laptop update and repair" -- Stan on laptops.

"Heard it before" -- Elaine's not impressed with recycled rumors.

"Get him a financial planner" and "THIS JUST IN! HE CAN'T MANAGE MONEY!" -- you know who is a financial disaster.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }