Saturday, June 03, 2006

Focusing on the paper to avoid my husband

I'm ignoring Thomas Friedman until he gets out of my pantyhose. He thinks it gives his legs shape. I think it just ruins a good pair on pantyhose. Let's face it, he's a very large man. So I've spent the morning going through the paper and I found two things I want to put on the computer so I remember them. First up, a TV review that was very interesting and, second, I have found a roundtable exploring a number of issues.

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"TV Review: Will & Grace -- goodbye, good riddance"
Thursday night, NBC's Will & Grace ended its eighth season and its series run.

For us, the funniest plot revolved around Rosario (Shelley Morrison) and Val (regular guest-star Molly Shannon). Having fought Grace, stalked Jack and been knocked out by Karen, it was past time Val set her eyes on Rosario."Hey, Nutso!" Rosario cried catching Val watching her wax the floors of Karen's mansion, "if you get off on household fluids, go stalk Mr. Clean!"

Of course Val did no such thing, but she did provide Rosario with a scheme to oust Karen (Megan Mullally) from the manse and make it her own. It was hilarious, and a long time coming, to see Rosario get the upper hand.

Meanwhile, Grace's water broke just as Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) showed up and learned he was the father of the baby. Accompanying Grace (Deborah Messing) and Will (Eric McCormack) to the hospital and listening to them bicker throughout the labor, he finally had to face the reality that, while there was a place for him in Grace's life, the friendship bond between Will and Grace will never fade or die.

Jack rediscovered the joys of performing when a recently out of the closet Harlin (Gary Grubbs) returned to announce he's purchased a legitimate theater on Broadway which will be where Just Jack: 2010 will debut. "Oh my God," Jack will realize, "that only leaves me four years to pull my act together!"

Best line in the subplot was probably when Harlin explained to Jack why it took so long for him to realize his own sexuality, "I'm from Texas, Jack. We watch a lot of football. Took me forever to realize it wasn't the cries of 'Hut one! Hut two!' that were getting me excited. It was the the buns in the air on the guy crouched over --"

"That's great," Jack replied. "Now about my revue. I see sequins. I think it's important to sparkle when I move."

Which leads him to recruit Bobbie Adler (Debbie Reynolds) to help him with arrangements and choreography -- a post she readily accepts because she's determined to sabotage the production in order to take the lead in her own show Menopause or The Men All Paused: Bobbie Adler's Salute to Rocking Pop Classics of the '80s and Life Changes.

Best of all may be the moment when Rob (Tom Gallop) and Ellen (Leigh Allyn Baker) put Leo straight: Will and Grace and Leo, without the buffer zone of Will & Grace, is just Rob and Ellen.

"Long term marriage without the sex," Ellen explained.

"Long term marriage without the sex, Leo," Rob confirmed nodding agreeably.

"That's what I just said, Rob!" Ellen snarls at her husband.

It was hilarious. It wrapped up threads and points you might have feared were forgotten.
It was a classic series finale . . . if, like us, you provided your own finale.

If, however, you merely watched the two hours on NBC (one hour of tribute, one hour of show), you should probably immediately head for the nearest police station -- you were robbed.You were robbed of laughter, you were robbed of joy.

Someone thought that instead of wrapping up details, we need an "experience." Despite having an hour, the laughs were in short supply -- but then when you time travel forward over eighteen years offering "experience" there's so little time for anything else.

You read that correctly. Will & Grace, the show that could utilize multiple minutes with the game of Hate Her/Love Her (where Will and Grace flipped through a magazine noting celebrities) suddenly decided it really needed to say something.

What it had to say wasn't funny and, hate to break it to them, it wasn't worth hearing.
We expect to hear from friends involved with the show about this review. If the critique hurts, consider the pain you inflicted on the viewers with that finale and accept the review as payback.
What was the heart of the show? Will & Grace, their friendship. Early on in the finale, that's destroyed. But, good news!, in two years time they make up! Of course, with the good comes the bad -- basically the full hour episode -- which is they then avoid each other for about fifteen years.

This is an ode to friendship?

This wasn't about fate -- a concept the cynical Will & Grace would normally sneer at before a half-hour episode's end -- it was saying that the friendship was too intense and needed a long rest. That was the message from beginning to end of the finale, belabored, underlined, highlighted and spelled out. If Grace hadn't broken with Will, she never would have been happy! Nor would he!

So we ask you, dear readers, are you unhappy?

A little or a lot?

Maybe you're just bored?

Well, look to the person nearest and dearest. That friend, the one that you think has helped pull you through? No, no, no, he or she has pulled you down. For years. And years. You must break with him or her.

Considering that we're talking about a show with two gay characters (and Karen), Will & Grace has seldom had anything to say about or to a community. What it has offered is the importance of friendship. It spits on that concept with the finale. The message is, if Will and Grace had moved out on each other sooner (and stopped being friends), they would have actually gotten on with their lives.

Maybe that message seems familiar? If it does, it's probably because the show has floated it before. As early as Jack and Rosario's wedding (season one finale), Will and Grace were splitting up. That moment repeated throughout the life of the show. But the thing was, the characters, all of them, knew that wasn't reality. Reality was that Grace could never make up her mind about men. (She was breaking up with Ben until he beat her to it and suddenly she had to have him. That's the basic Grace storyline throughout the show.) Reality is that Will couldn't have a successful relationship because NBC worried that gay love scenes would freak out viewers.
This is the post-Ellen show. And it did very little for gays and lesbians by comparison. Ellen ended with a roar. Will & Grace came along with the producers repeatedly belaboring that they weren't Ellen. And they weren't. They had to have many years of ratings success before they'd finally attempt a same-sex kiss that wasn't played for laughs. Will & Grace was some sort of regressive Hokey Pokey television program, you take two steps back and inch your big toe forward, you take three steps back and . . .

But on the show, we were supposed to believe that Will's relationships died because he was too controlling. For most of the series, we were told that and not shown it because the men were all offscreen (such as Michael) or the romantic/sex scenes happened out of camera range (which is also true of the bulk of Jack's love life as well).

As early as the show's seventh episode, Grace was blaming Will for the state of her romantic life.
Season two had them encountering the bitter, angry Joseph and Sharon -- a possible fate that awaited them both. This happened repeatedly, these warnings, and always the characters rejected it. The characters, like the audience, understood the importance of friendship. A full hour and over eighteen years to cover might have seemed like the perfect time for a 'life lesson' to the producers, but it spat on the audience who made this show a hit by embracing 'the destructive power of friendship' message as the show faded to black.

Until the last episode, the jokes were always there, the timing was always there and it was all built on the bedrock of the two main characters' friendship. On the finale, they decide to pull the rug out from under the audience.

What falls to the floor is their own understanding of what made the show a hit.
Refuting everything the show's endorsed didn't leave them any time to be funny. If, like us, you see the episode as one producer's attempt to demonstrate that he and his own Grace couldn't cut it as friends, but that doesn't mean they weren't important to each other, you may wonder why he can't grasp what the audience long had -- Will & Grace left the world of mortals some time ago.

No one needed someone's sorry reality to go out on. No one watching needed to wipe some bitter producer's spit off their face. Will and Grace surpassed their prototypes years ago (probably somewhere around the taping of the first episode), to drag them back down to someone's ugly reality wasn't funny, wasn't entertaining and wasn't worth watching.

Ty says we (Ava and C.I.) got a number of e-mails on Friday complaining that last week we didn't tell readers the character of Eric was returning for the final episode of the other Thursday night finale. We didn't. We told you that
That 70s Show paid up the debt to the viewers. We hinted several times. But they were attempting to keep Topher Grace's return a secret so we weren't going to spoil it.

Normally, we'd stand by that decision. However, having watched as puke was hurled from the screen on NBC, we think now that maybe we should have headlined that piece, "Watch That 70s Show season finale -- Topher Grace returns!" The surprise we may have spoiled for some would have been minimal compared to the damage Will & Grace did to its loyal viewers in the lousy, disgraceful finale.
The only good thing about the ending is we don't have to fear Will & Grace: The Reunion. Not just because the earliest they could do an update is about twenty years from now. But also because, who the hell would want to watch? In one hour, they destroyed all the good will they'd built up.

The thing with actors in comedy roles is that they some times get a little itchy for 'drama' to prove to everyone they can 'act.' Possibly that's why the actors didn't scream when they got the script? They should have screamed. They should have said no. The network couldn't. It was the final episode, they had no say other than to air or not air (they shouldn't have aired it, or else burned it off during the summer). The actors were the audience's last line of defense and they failed the audience.

Friday, friends started calling to ask "What the hell was that?" Good question. Hope no one involved with the show is dreaming Emmy wins because most of the people who would normally vote for the show and its team are pretty disgusted with the sh*t that made it on air -- maybe that'll fade by nomination time but right now the mood is disgusted.

It had nothing to do with the characters or with the audience, it had to do with one drama queen (with a St. Elmo's Fire fetish) wanting to work through their own personal issues. As a friend in programming said, "That's what therapy's for."

If you missed the finale (consider yourself lucky) but watched at other times, let's explain to you what you were spared. Having already had a dream sequence (that was actually funny) where the characters aged, you might have thought makeup wouldn't be overly taxed for the rest of the episode but you'd be wrong. We had to see three attractive performers "aged." (Three because the joke for the character Karen was that she avoided aging through repeated surgery -- the same joke they trotted out in the dream sequence.)

Deborah Messing, if you really look that way in 20 years, avoid the cameras. Really, no one needs to see that. And the thing is, these days most people don't see that. Not because of plastic surgery (though that helps some people) but because the boomer generation broke the concept of what middle aged looks like. But not on this show. On this show, finding the characters in the near future means finding them fat, tired and ugly. Which, by the way, wasn't played for laughs.

Now when you're sleek, shiny and pretty much all surface (Will & Grace was) appearance matters. The show that never wanted to say anything that couldn't be prefaced with a pop cultural reference suddenly had a "message." The message was that when a gay man and straight woman are friends, they will always stand in the way of each other's happiness and only by ending the friendship (sixteen years is ending, not a "break") can happiness be brought about. It's an ugly message and a bit like The Andy Griffith Show deciding to go out with a hard hitting look at police abuse. It was unneeded and unwanted.

Val? If you're wondering, she wasn't on. Nor Rob or Ellen. Who has the time to provide characters the audience loved, let alone laughs, when you've want to preach the sort of hate that usually comes out of Jerry Falwell's mouth?

Sure, Will kissed a homophobe in a hospital (don't ask, it wasn't funny, it was just preachy -- the whole hour played as though everyone had just graduated from some right-wing divinity school). But the real message was -- and Falwell, Dobson, et al can take comfort in this -- a friendship between gay and straight only brings misery. We've gone beyond the stereotpye that gays will lead unhappy lives to a new one that says not only are they prone to unhappiness (such as breaking off friendships), but they're bound and determined to drag down every straight person who befriends them.

The producers were right the first year when they told Entertainment Weekly that they weren't making Ellen. Where that show (with the coming out) offered a look that went beyond the stereotypical, Will & Grace didn't. If the same-sex possibilites (largely off screen) bothered you too much, you only had to wait a moment or two before Karen was using some stereotypical insult for gays and lesbians. Or maybe Jack would launch into yet another attack on lesbians -- fun for lesbian-haters of all orientations!

A braver show on friendship, Sex in the City, didn't feel the need to trash friendship as they offered up their final episode. Detractors may argue that Karen and Jack demonstrated the counter-opinion -- that a straight and gay could be friends and helpful to one another. Anyone making that argument has a very elastic concept of straight considering Karen's sexual history.

So here's what happened. You spent eight seasons celebrating friendship only to learn in the last episode that, indeed, the friendship held the main characters back, prevented them from living.

It's an ugly message and it's really too bad Will & Grace bothered to come back from the nonsense (and laugh killer) of Grace as fashion plate. They did come back from that. But now our attitude is why did they even bother? Over a year ago, we wrote "
We Will Miss Will & Grace." The last episode made letting go so easy.

It also made us fear tonight's finale, another show going off after eight seasons. We worry that if we watch the final episode of Charmed, we'll be informed that Piper could have had joy, happiness and non-stop good times if only she hadn't been held back by those two sisters (Phoebe and Paige currently; Phoebe and Pru originally). If Will & Grace can use the last episode to destroy all they stood for, sky's the limit for the super natural sisters of Charmed.

And here's the roundtable. "A Conversation in three parts."


Rebecca: So this is a joint entry and it was planned to be C.I. and myself and then I started thinking, "Why don't we see if Cedric wants to take part?" C.I. was fine with that but said that Betty should be invited because she's "trapped under Thomas Friedman" at her sight which is very true. So we invited both and it's now a joint entry of four people. When it was just the two of us, I asked C.I., "Will this be in lower case?" That is how I do it at my site and C.I. responded, "Are you going to type it up?" So no lower case if you're reading this at my site.

Cedric: That's Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty's site is Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. does The Common Ills and is part of The Third Estate Sunday Review, and I'm Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix.

Betty: Cedric and I are helping with the note taking and typing so it's not all falling on C.I. I'm thrilled to be invited to participate and even more thrilled not to have to figure out what idiotic mess Thomas Friedman's made for Betinna to clean up.

C.I.: Betinna is the main character in Betty's online, comic novel. This weekend may, or may not be, the fiction edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. Rebecca and I had discussed that and how a roundtable wouldn't be possible if it was the fiction edition, where short stories and other things are highlighted, and we wanted to address a few things. Cedric had noted something in an e-mail to me and in a phone call to Rebecca so we knew he was on the same page, to recap on why he was invited. Elaine and Mike weren't invited, nor was anyone else, but that was due to the fact that they have their own pattern for posting and also I'm not sure that they're posting this evening. If they do, it will be late because Elaine has plans. So they may be posting on Saturday instead.

Rebecca: Betty was our cut off. Four people we could handle. Besides the fact that she's always looking for a way to post an entry about anything other than Thomas Friedman, we were also curious about what she would think about the topics discussed. Add in that she got a promotion at her job and wasn't sure she'd be able to do a post this week as she got used to the new responsibilities and we really wanted to include her. But four is our cut-off for this. Anymore and Jim would be saying, "I think this should be a piece for The Third Estate Sunday Review."

Betty: I think the easiest way to start this off is to note Rebecca's grandmother's because she wrote about her last night in "more marine news and talking about my grandmother." As a result, I'm sure people are concerned. I read C.I.'s entry this morning and saw that everything was fine, then went to read Rebecca's entry and it still made me anxious, even knowing that her grandmother was fine.

Rebecca: She called me out of the blue and asked me to visit. We usually talk on the phone several times a week and see each other at least once a week. If she'd called Thursday about wanting to get together next week, it wouldn't have surprised me but when she called Thursday and asked me to come over that day, I was expecting either good news or bad news, and worried about it being bad. We had a nice visit and discussed a number of issues, personal ones, current events, etc. But near the end of the visit, I kept asking her if something was wrong because I was sure she had to have some bad news that she was waiting to break. When none was forthcoming, I worked myself up into a state of worry where I was convinced that she had some bad news about her health and this was one of those "Everything's fine" moments where, only after, you realize that the person was trying to say goodbye.

Cedric: But that wasn't it.

Rebecca: No. She phoned this morning and she was just very disturbed by the news of Haditha.

C.I.: Just to set the stage, November 19, 2005 something happened in the Iraqi town of Haditha. The military's official version, which the mainstream press was happy to parrot, was that 'insurgents' had attacked American troops, a roadside bomb had gone off, taking the lives of 15 Iraqis and a United States marine, following the explosion, 'insurgents' had began firing on American troops and, in responding with gunfire, eight insurgents were killed.

Cedric: Give an example of two who ran with the official version because you covered it this morning.

C.I.: Writing for the New York Times, Edward Wong and Hassan M. Fattah contributed "Road Bomb Aimed at Convoy Kills 15 Civilians and a Marine in Restive Iraqi Province" which offered nothing but 'officials say . . .' There is no correction to that item currently. If you access the article online, they've still not provided a correction.

Rebecca: And before we go any further, explain that paper's ads because I understood it in the second entry but you were on the phone with me for both entries and I don't think they were written the way they would have been if I hadn't been jawing your ear off. FYI, when I called C.I. I was blubbering and it took about ten minutes before I calmed down enough to explain that everything truly was fine, I was just filled with relief that my grandmother was okay.

C.I.: Hold on. Let me grab a paper so I can read it word for word. The ad runs all the time. It's an ad for the New York Times run in the pages of the New York Times. Okay, this is Tuesday's paper because I just looked at the backs of the sections to avoid flipping through them to find it. It's probably run since, more than once. They run it all the time. On Tuesday, the full page ad appeared on B8 which was the back page of "The Arts" section. It's a black and white ad, full page. You see the "T" and maybe the "i" of the "Times" in a square with an arrow, like the on you have with your computer mouse, resting on it. Big letters: "College students, meet your new research assistant." Smaller letters: "Looking for help with that research paper? Find it at TimesSelect, the premium service at With TimesSelect, you'll get access to 25 years of articles from The Times -- articles on politics, history, science, art, business, sports and just about any other subject you're assigned. And TimesSelect also offers e-mail alerts whenever a new article on your subject appears." Either in the same size or slightly bigger: "Find out about our special university discount for students and faculty." Then: "Visit" Then: "TimesSelect" with "" beneath it. This ad runs all the time.

Betty: So the point of the ad is that they're telling college students and, let's face it, high school and middle school students, that a subscription to the Times will provide you with accuracy but if you're trying to find out about Haditha and you search that looking for November, what you find is Wong and Fattah's article which still has no correction to it?

C.I.: Correct. And in case anyone's been asleep for the last few weeks, the official version has come undone. Civilians were killed. For more on that, you can listen, watch or read the transcript of "Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?" from Tuesday's Democracy Now!

Cedric: Before we go any further, can I ask what the service, the paper's, provides?

C.I.: I can't tell you the full service because I rarely go to the website. Links to articles we discuss each morning are usually coming from members' e-mails. There are tiers. For instance, the op-ed columns are now "behind the wall." You can't access them without paying for them. The opposite of the Wall St. Journal which makes those available to everyone at their website but makes people pay for news content. The first tier, as I understand it, is somewhere around fifty-five dollars for a year. That allows you to read the content online, new content, and allows you to search a certain number of articles, I believe. I subscribe to the print edition and the way it works for me is, if I log in, I can see anything in that day's paper with no charge, I can also see anything in the last seven days for free. After that, for anything older, I'm able to see 100 articles a month for free -- articles in the archive that I would be charged for otherwise.

Cedric: Okay. Sorry to go off topic.

C.I.: No, it's a question that pops up in the e-mails and now I can pull that post it off the computer. That's what I know of it, what little I know. I'm sure, and I'll even give the phone number out, that anyone at 1-800-698-4637 can answer any questions on it and, if I got a number wrong on that, it's 1-800-NYTIMES.

Cedric: Thanks. If anyone's wondering, my nephew's doing a college course, this summer, he's still in high school, and he's nervous about the research paper that will be a part of the class.

C.I.: Well, instead of signing up for something, just call me and I'll e-mail whatever he needs. I really do not go online that often and have never had more than ten of my hundred alloted articles for the month. So let me know, he can then look at what it has to offer, and if he likes it, you can go on from there.

Cedric: I will gladly take you up on that kind offer to test drive the Times. And I will get us back on topic by noting something, on Haditha, from the Iraq snapshot on Thursday. This was what a young girl, one of the survivors of what looks like a slaughter of Iraqis by US marines in November 2005 had to say: "They killed my father in the kitchen. They killed my mother, and my sister Noor. They killed her when they shot her in the head. She was only 15 years old. My other sister was shot with seven bullets in the head. She was only 10 years old."

Betty: That stuck in my head. More than any back and forth or "investigation is ongoing" or anything else, that stuck in my head. That little girl that Cedric quoted is only twelve-years-old. I forget her name.

C.I.: Safa Younis.

Betty: In front of her, she saw her father die, she saw her mother die, she saw two sisters die. Safa is just twelve-years-old. And that's what she saw. And if you spoke to other Iraqis, you'd probably hear some with similar stories.

Rebecca: Because this is the occupation.

Cedric: The illegal occupation. Dahr Jamail made a point on Tuesday's Democracy Now! about how this, Haditha, is getting attention but most of the other incidents haven't and, at this rate, won't. He specifically tossed ou Falluja and I want to note that. For a few reasons. First off, Jim, Dona, Ava, Ty and Jess always point to the Iraq coverage at The Common Ills as why they were reading from the first day.

C.I.: To cut you off for a second, it was the second day. There was a tiny post on a Friday, outlining the intent, as I saw it, and noting it would probably all be tossed aside quickly. Which it was. But when they say the first day, they mean the first day of real posts. But what happens is, I end up with e-mails saying things like, "It's so great that from your very first post, you were addressing Iraq." That's not true and if I come across those e-mails, I reply to correct that. So let me correct it here. It's the sort of thing that with a larger group, I'm biting my tongue on because there are more important things to discuss and everyone has a point to make. But this will go up at The Common Ills and I want it to be clear there.

Cedric: Okay, second day. What grabbed me was music. First thing I ever contributed for the site, December of 2004, was noting a song that I felt we should all take a moment to appreciate. On Falluja, all I had was what the mainstream provided. That's an issue I've learned about since. That is a huge issue to Dahr Jamail and to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! as well. They always note it. But the reason I'm noting it is because most people don't. That's really true. They ignore it. Or they tossed it out at the end of 2004 and 'moved on.' There are over, I googled, 200 entries at The Common Ills on Falluja. That's how you spell it, "Falluja." If you're highlighting and they spell it "Fallujah," that's how it goes up at the site, so I also searched that spelling. And I realize from trying to find stuff via google on my own site that google doesn't catch everything. But that's what it takes, it takes more than that probably, to get people to pay attention. You can't talk Iraq and not mention what happened in April of 2004 and in November of 2004.

Betty: I would agree with that. Rebecca called me when WBAI, during pledge week, had Robert Fisk's speech on the history of Iraq. That was a powerful speech and I was listening at work. The woman who had the desk next to me was listening and, after the speech, which may have been forty minutes long, she was asking me about Falluja. She knew the mainstream, rah-rah coverage and that's all she knew. She was under the impression that people had been allowed to leave in November, she didn't know about the April events, and that it was just Saddam Hussein's "gang" left inside. She didn't understand why "the British guy," that's what she called him, would go on about Falluja because wasn't that a "good moment" for the country?

Rebecca: So what did you tell her?

Betty: I told her about the fact that it wasn't just men. It was young boys and that many had tried to leave but were turned back. I talked to her about the use of white phosphorus, I talked about how the hospitals were under seige and not allowed to come to the aid of people. And -- are they talking about Mexico?

Rebecca: I'm listening to Flashpoints, sorry. Yes, Dennis Bernstein's speaking to a man named John about of the elections in Mexico. The election is July 2nd, by the way. Marcos and the Zapatistas.

C.I.: I'm not listening because I'm taking notes but I would guess it was John Gibler, independent journalist.

Rebecca: That sounds like the name.

Betty: Sorry to lose focus. But, just to tie what we heard in, that's on a Pacifica station. On a Pacifica station, you can hear that. You can't hear that on a lot of other stations.

C.I.: And we'll come back to that in the second half. There are three breaks planned if they're needed. This first one is the long one -- where, for Betty, she'll be sitting down with her kids for dinner.


Cedric: When we left off Betty was making a point about Pacifica Radio.

Betty: Rebecca had Flashpoints on and they were discussing the upcoming elections in Mexico in a way that was quite a bit more than the soundbyte manner of NPR. Cedric had brought up Falluja and some people have no idea of what happened in that city in April of 2004 and November of 2004 which led me to explain how I had listened at work to WBAI to hear Robert Fisk's speech on the history of invasions in and war on Iraq. A woman whose desk was next to mine before I got a promotion at work had been listening as well and what she heard was, really, a revelation to her. She does follow the news on cable, reads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution each day, tries to keep up and she was finding out that there was a great deal she hadn't been informed of.

Rebecca: Did she become a Pacifica listener?

Betty: Not yet. She has kids like I do and that's probably the biggest problem with listening online. If you're at the computer, and you only have the one computer, you've got a kid wanting to put in their Barbie game or whatever. Or else, you're all over the house running after them, in which case, there's little or no listening. But what did change was that she listens WRFG. At five o'clock, you can grab headlines, I do, from Democracy Now! as you're entering traffic after work and headed to daycare to pick up the kids.

Cedric: Could you give the information on where it is on the dial?

Betty: Sure. It's 89.3 FM, WRFG. [Atlanta.] So five to six, you've got it right there, on the airwaves and it works well there because in the morning, you're dropping the kids off and forget about paying attention to anything other than what's going on in the backseat. For me, the way it works out is that I'm alone in the car for the headlines and the first ten to fifteen minutes after depending on traffic. Then it's grab a parking spot, go inside and get the kids, come back and grab the last twenty-five minutes which, when it's hot like it is now, the kids are usually just listening along. They're tired and it's hot, in fact, today it was so hot there wasn't even any griping among them. So that's usually the whole make it home trip, that hour.

Rebecca: And your co-worker is listening to Democracy Now! through that station?

Betty: Yes. She's someone who tries really hard to keep up and we can grab that hour except on Friday when Democracy Now! starts a half-hour earlier but, to be honest, if it was on at the same time on Friday, the second hour would be lost on me in the car because there is no too tired on Friday, on Friday, the kids are always too alert, too active and too vocal to follow anything on the radio after they're in the car. Just a little over on the dial, and I'm not giving it's position, is WABE and I have no use for it. It's NPR. Drive time is the second of two hours of All Things Considered which, strange considering the title, really offers very little to consider.

C.I.: I think that works just reading, but what anyone reading will miss is that on "strange, considering the title, really offers very little to consider" was delivered in Betty's parody of NPR.

Betty: My "White voice." Everyone on NPR sounds exactly the same. And they also have this way of speaking at the end of the piece that seems to be an attempt to make you go, "Hmmm."

Cedric: No matter what the stories is, they always think they're "Things That Make You Go Hmmm."

Betty: If I can stay on that for just one more second, in Atlanta, the PBS problem, the Whiteness of it all, is brought home even more because all the programming seems geared to White people and about White people. To give an example that people brought up today at work, tomorrow there will be a special on skincare --

Rebecca: What?

Betty: I'm not making that up. The woman's name is Adrienne Denese and everyone's making fun of her at work. It's going to teach us how to avoid aging -- public monies for Mary Kay basically. But who is that audience? There's a saying, I bet Cedric knows it --

Cedric: "Black don't crack."

Betty: Right. I mean, African-Americans do get wrinkles. But it's just one more example of WPBA causes the very large Black community in Atlanta to scratch their heads and wonder who they think watches?

Cedric: Do you watch a lot of public television?

Betty: I don't have cable. Or "satellite" since that's now the big thing. Don't have it, won't have it. If broadcast TV ends, the kids can watch their DVDs. TV's never going to be something I'm going to waste money on. Not with three kids. So when we get home in the evening, they'll watch Arthur and I'll work on dinner. In the morning, they're watching Maya and Miguel. Teletubbies is really too young for them. And I really think they should move Sesame Street much earlier. It broadcasts at ten a.m. I don't think most kids catch it.

Cedric: And it's probably the only show for kids where there's actually different races.

Betty: Right. And you get asked that by your kids. I used to lie and say Francine, on Arthur, was "mixed." But my oldest got too smart for that. With the hair on the characters on Arthur, when kids get to a certain age, they know it's drawn White. I've really gone off topic, sorry.

C.I.: Don't apologize. These are points worth making. Someone needs to be saying it and good for you for doing so.

Cedric: Because there is no "public" in public television. It's White with a few guests brought on. That's all they are, guests. And that's not how it was when I was a kid but these days you're more likely to see a Big Red Dog, Clifford, than you are to see an African-American character. And, as Ava's pointed out, Maya and Miguel is a fifties show airing today. Maya's not really that active. Miguel's the adventurous one and Maya's basically saying, "Oh you boys, be careful." There's a lot of social conditioning going on with that show. The muppet characters on Sesame Street really were a breakthrough and that's obviously one person's idea and never what PBS wanted to reflect. On their own, they go for White characters in gender roles. Even when the characters are animals, they have characteristics that clue you in that they're White, either the bits of hair that are drawn on their heads or the person hired to voice the character. But let's get back to the war.

C.I.: Wait, no. For this section, let's focus on race. At The Third Estate Sunday Review each week we've tried to fit time in to address the topic but it hasn't been possible and if it is a fiction edition, there won't be a roundtable or an easy way to address it outside of fiction, so since that's a topic that's come up, let's stay on it.

Cedric: Well, we're always wanting to discuss KPFA's The Morning Show, there are many shows but that's the program most of us have started noticing really will address race.

Rebecca: The hosts are Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari. It's a two hour broadcast, Monday through Friday.

Cedric: I really like Andrea Lewis. Betty had a good phrase for her.

Betty: "Down home." She's just really comfortable on air. She can do the serious interview or she can be funny. She's just really down home on air and I have to say thank you to Kat here because my chances of hearing online are limited, Kat knows that and makes a point to put in a cassette most mornings and I get a weekly shipment. Kat always apologizes that she doesn't have time to turn the tapes into a weekly best of but she'll note which things she thinks I'll really enjoy. When I'm cleaning the house on the weekends, I'm listening to The Morning Show. And not to take anything away from Philip Malderi who does a fine job himself but, as a Black woman, I listen and wonder why we don't have a thousand Andrea Lewises all over the airwaves. What we get instead is a lot of women with an attitude on air that translates as, "Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to prove to you that Black women can speak and think." Andrea Lewis is just down home. Like most non-Whites, it's never occurred to her, nor should it, that we can't have an opinion and express it.

C.I.: That's a point that Ty really wanted made, when we've talked about this for The Third Estate Sunday Review. That the relationship on air between Andrea Lewis and Philip Malderi is very much an equal one, Malderi is White, and that there's a balance there that you don't get very often. For those who've never heard the show, it's two hours, like Rebecca pointed out, and it's a morning show that has news breaks, anchored by Sandra Lupien, and they have guests on who discuss issues of the day and the arts. And among the many issues they are comfortable addressing is race.

Cedric: And I agree with that summary you just gave but I want to add to it because you listen to Pacifica and when you say that, it's going to make sense to people who listen to Pacifica. They're going to understand even if they don't listen to KPFA. But if they're listening to commercial radio, they're going to be nodding, if they think they get it, and thinking, "Soul Food on the radio!" They're going to be thinking it's Tom Joyner or something where there's this one big guy, and it's always a guy, surrounded by a lot of people on air who basically say, "You are so smart, tell us more."

Rebecca: Or they're going to be thinking, it's a bunch of ha-ha, "And then I went to the beauty parlor and, girl, let me tell you."

Betty: I was just thinking that. I'd call it the shuck-and-jive hour, shows like that. And in terms of radio, that's really often all you get. The thing Ty's pointed out where the Black staff member or co-anchor is basically there to say, "You White Guy are so smart and I am so lucky to be at this mircophone with you." Where they're scraping and bowing the whole time. They may do it for jokes or, if it's a more serious program, they may do it from a kind of eternal wonder position. But that's your one model and then you have the loud laughter, "So she comes up to me in front of all the ladies at the beauty parlor saying, 'It's not a weave. I have my hair processed.' And I said process! Girl, looks like your hair done been served! Ah-huh. Ah-huh. Ah-huh." On Fraiser, they had a character called Dr. Wendy and she was that type. Look, I'm from the south. There are women like that, I know them and some of them are wonderful friends, but that's one of two types we get and there are so many other types. You just don't hear them.

Cedric: And to fall back to Tom Joyner, he does the male of that character over and over and then his voice will get a little higher and it will be the and-now-we-get-serious moment. When we were all in California, Ty would be asking, "Who is that woman?" about Andrea Lewis. Over and over. And his point was, because by the first day, he knew who she was. We'd all be listening as we went here and there and all over, but his point was, this is an African-American woman that is like many women we know, she's smart, she's funny, she's obviously educated, and where is she on the radio? She's on KPFA and good for that. But where are women like her otherwise? I'm sure there are other women like that because she's not some creature that just landed on the planet. But I mean, what we get instead is "Gossip to Go with Flo."

C.I.: Florence Anthony.

Cedric: C.I. told me last week, when I brought this up, that Flo had gone to Howard University and graduated from there and I was shocked because --

Betty: Wait! Flo, went to Howard University?

Cedric: Yeah.

Betty: What a waste. There are some people at work that listen to her "Gossip to Go" thing. She also does that magazine . . .

C.I.: Black Elegance Magazine.

Betty: That's it, thank you. But I mean, for an educated woman to be doing that? God, I'll shut up before I start sounding like Bill Cosby.

Cedric: (Laughing) I know exactly what you mean. When C.I. told me that, I was just floored, Flo at Howard University? So why does she want to come off like the loud woman screaming into her cell phone on the bus?

Rebecca: I'm sorry, I don't know her. Fill me in.

Cedric: It's just a waste of a few minutes each day as she summarizes whatever made the gossip page in the New York Post --

C.I.: Where she used to work.

Cedric: That would explain why she plugs it. It's just trash. And Betty's "Ah-huh, ah-huh, ah-huh" really applies to her. If she were in Vegas, she'd be screaming, "Drum roll!" after every sentence but she's not funny. There are women like her and they can be very nice women. I'm not picking on that so much as I'm pointing out that that's what we get instead. We get a million Flos and if there are Andreas, we have to search high and low, long and hard just to find them.

Betty: Because, and I'll wrap up on this, when that's one of two types presented and only two types are presented, Flo doesn't come off as Flo but as one more touring in a never ending minstrel show.

Rebecca: I know we want to get back to the war, but we've just talked about portrayls or, maybe, access is the better word. Do we want to talk about anything else since Betty just pulled a Dona and said "wrap up"?

Cedric: Yeah, but that would probably be better to hold on. In terms of topics. I mean, you know what we're talking about, Rebecca, but there are a lot of people who will be scratching their heads over this and thinking, "Wait? They don't all go around grinning and laughing every minute of the day?" Probably not in this community, but there are people who have really strong stereotypes. And I don't just mean racists. There are people who -- I don't know how to word it.

C.I.: How about this. Colin Powell is seen as a living miracle because he can speak and think. And it's a bit late in the game that that should come off as somehow an exception to a race. But in terms of who is given access in the mainstream media and who is denied, Colin Powell stands like a giant just for how he carries himself because, despite reality, strides made still aren't reflected in the media?

Cedric: Yes. Yes, I'd agree with that.

Betty: I would too. I'm not a fan of Powell's and I know no one here is. But he comes off as an exception only because White America isn't presented with more reality.

Rebecca: Well, if I can add on a few more seconds here, can we talk Powell without talking Harry Belafonte since, if the mainstream media created Powell as the "good one," they spent a lot of time demonizing Belafonte recently?

Betty: I'm glad you brought that up because I read C.I.'s thing responding to someone's impression that this community had a war with The Nation. I don't think there's any more ridiculous claim. But if someone wants to toss that out, I'll toss back, "Is there a war with Black people?" There's Patricia J. Williamson and then whom? And I'll be honest, that thing of Katrina vanden Heuvel's pissed me off.

C.I.: She wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post and an expanded version was at her blog, Editor's Cut. She's the editor and publisher of The Nation. Cedric wrote about it, so he should probably do the set up.

Cedric: Well, she wrote a piece about the way people are talking, the political discourse. And to prove that it was on all sides, she included many examples, one of which was Harry Belafonte. You didn't agree with the column?

C.I.: Me? No. I noted that here. I don't buy into the tone arguments. People should speak in their own voices. That includes Flo. The problem is when the range of voices is so narrow that a wide variety isn't presented. But people should speak in their own voices. She was, KvH, calling out to our better natures, that was the theme of the column. More power to her but I think we need a lot more voices and they need to speak in the way that suits them. I wrote about it because she got trashed online, basically called a hypocrite, and I didn't see it, the column, as being hypocritical when contrasted with a TV appearance either the same day or the next day. You were offended by the inclusion of Belafonte in the examples and I honestly hadn't read the examples.

Cedric: I had a real problem with that, more so than the tone argument. I didn't think it read "reasonable." I thought she'd entered into, unwittingly, racially charged territory and that it was a mistake on many levels to have included him in her call outs.

C.I.: Because he was already under attack and had been for a lengthy period. He'd even been disinvited to the Coretta Scott King funeral. So for the publisher of The Nation to join in the chorus of tsk-tsk Belafonte was upsetting.

Cedric: Right. And that sets it up. Harry Belafonte was trashed and there was no reason for someone on the left, considering all that he'd gone through, to engage in, "He shouldn't have."

Betty: And it's not that he's above criticism. It's that there was a reaction, which she probably wasn't aware of, in the African-American community of "back off." We were tired of it. We were tired of the nonsense. I didn't speak to anyone who wasn't tired of it and sick of it. Whether they had grown up admiring him, as I did, he's an important person in my family, or whether they didn't care for him, they were sick of seeing him trashed. To her credit, she was comfortable with him in terms of being able to discuss him as she would anyone else. You could argue, and I hate this term, that she was "color blind." I hate the term because I don't think we can afford to be because we don't have racial parity in this country. But I think she was comfortable enough with him, in terms of her thoughts of him, I didn't think she hated him, to treat him as she would anyone esle. But where she came into the dialogue, because possibly she wasn't aware of what was going in, the reaction to the trashing of him, it was, my attitude, "Back off."

Cedric: The comfort factor was something I hadn't given her credit for and hadn't thought of it so I'm glad you brought that up. That's probably true. To her, it was probably one more example of how a statement or statements, and I agree with his statements, but there's a reaction, like Betty said, that she was completely unaware of. And my attitude was, and still is, I don't need you to tell me your non-endorsing opinion of this African-American who is under attack. This wasn't Michael Jackson where someone was accused of a crime --

Betty: Again!

Cedric: (Laughing) Again. This is someone who has lived his entire life in a way that uplifts so many of us and encourages so many of us. At a time when he was under attack, I didn't think her including him was helpful, needed or wanted.

Rebecca: It was personal, the attacks on Harry Belafonte and the reaction. And it's easy to say, "Well, that's how I would treat anyone." But I don't think that allows for the reality of the attacks or the reality of the times or, for that matter, the mood of the country. I disagreed with the entire column. For me, "I'm not ready to make nice," like the Dixie Chicks sing. I have no interest in being seen as "reasonable." We don't live in "reasonable" times. My reaction was, "Why is she including him?" I didn't see his statements as equivalent to others included. And maybe I'm remembering this wrong but it seems like only days after Amy Goodman was interviewing him on Democracy Now! and he was talking about the reactions to his comments and then I got even madder that he was included in the column.

Betty: I loved that interview Amy did. But back to Katrina vanden Heuvel, I think she is trying to rally and to inspire and that is needed in these times. I don't fault her for that. I don't even think it occurred to her that including Belafonte would be hurtful, nor do I think it was intended as such. But I do think it struck many as hurtful and it's something that bothers me even now.

Cedric: Just to repeat, and then we can close, one more time, I want to thank C.I. because I was really bothered by it and thought, "Well I can't write about this. The community, and that includes me, likes Katrina vanden Heuvel. " And that only made me more upset. So I called C.I. for input and was told, "Write it. I'll link to it. Just write what you feel and speak in your own voice and it's not a problem." I appreciated the support.

C.I.: Don't be silly. We all support one another in the community. We're going to take the second break and then return to the issue of the war.

Back to Iraq

Betty: We looked over the other two sections and the first one was our intro and the second was about race. In this section, we're going back to the war. And we're going to start off with Rebecca talking about her grandmother.

Rebecca: The news of Haditha, and this was before othe incidents began breaking in the news, just really upset her. The alleged crimes upset her, but what upset her even more was the reaction. Which is "oh, that bad Bully Boy!" She wondered if this was how our own "descent into hell" as a nation really began. And she is under no illusions that the last six years have been beneficial to Americans or the Constitution or the world. There's an effort to heap all the blame on the Bully Boy. He is to blame for setting the tone and creating the conditions under which the alleged abuse would have taken place. But she's bothered that those who are alleged to have participated in crimes are not responsible for their own actions.

Cedric: Which is how it's playing out in the discussions. Not with Michelle Malkin who's on a tear that the media's just going after the military. They're not. They're not even going after the accused. We're running behind --

Betty: My fault. It was supposed to be a short break, but one of my kids had an upset stomach.

C.I.: Not a problem. I used the time to run to the store.

Cedric: Yeah, no one was just sitting there thinking, "When is Betty getting back?" Rebecca and I ended up deciding that we'd do Mike a solid and open with a Democracy Now! news item when we posted this at our sites and Rebecca also noted that if this is tagged, we should do it at the top like Betty's been pointing out for some time because long entries don't get read, although mine never get read.

Rebecca: Hold on one minute. Sorry, I wanted to check something. C.I. published and republished Friday morning while we were on the phone together and the tags were never read in terms of showing up.

C.I.: Tags, quickly. I don't mind spending time exploring the real topic but I don't want to waste it on tags. There are people who never get read and they contact Technorati and get no reply nor is anything done so that they are read. I don't like tagging, it takes up too much time and Rebecca's the one who discovered it and thought it was a way to get the word out on the community. If it's not showing up anywhere and that continues, I'll stop tagging gladly. It's been a hassle from day one. The time it takes could be spent cross-posting at the mirror site or on any other number of things.

Rebecca: Okay, so Cedric got cut off, sorry.

Cedric: No problem. I was going to note the Hannah Arendt quote that went up at The Common Ills Friday: "Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing." Who is guilty? If the Haditha reports are true, who is guilty?Betty: Because in the coverage, it's Bully Boy alone. I have no problem with directing his share of the blame to him, and it's big, his share, but at what point are we going to stop saying, "Oh, well these things happen." That's what bothered your grandmother, right?

Rebecca: Yeah. She was very bothered by that. In Abu Ghraib, it became a lot of "Oh, but we can't punish these poor soldiers because they're not responsible and they're getting all the blame."

Cedric: If I hire the assasin, I'm just as guilty as the person who did the killing. So it's perfectly well and good to portion out to Bully Boy but the idea that we're going to look the other way on the individuals who may have actually killed someone is really sad.

Betty: I think there's responsibility at both ends and on up the chain of command between. And instead, I feel like, and I'm more disappointed in the left here, there's this attitude of, "We must not criticize the soldiers involved."

C.I.: That attitude . . . One of the things that's often asked is, "Where is the outrage over this war?" A lot of people are outraged. But it's equally true that there's a lot of attempts to divert that outrage and to tap it down. Abu Ghraib was a scandal on many levels but what happened to it? It became this elephant in the room that we can only talk about in the most general terms.

Cedric: I wrote this down from something you put up on Friday: "Pay attention to what Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show this morning, Donald Rumsfeld said 'Things that shouldn't happen, do happen in combat.'" I think I got the implication but I was hoping you'd talk about that.

C.I.: What that reminded me of first of all was Rumsfeld's idiotic comment about the looting, how it was just one vase. And we know that it was easily over 14,000 pieces that were stolen. People should have been outraged about the looting but instead it became, "Oh well, these things happen in a war." These things happened because the concern was with protecting other things, such as the oil fields. By the same token, Abu Ghraib became a "these things happen." And here comes Rumsfeld to talk about an alleged massacre and to say, "These things happen." And the fear is, he'll be successful at it because no one wants to call out the individuals who allegedly did the killing. That's sad and it's honestly sick.

Rebecca: Which was my grandmother's feeling, that's what had bothered her so much and why she called and asked me to visit that day. If it's not called out, it creates another lowered expectation, another pass. We're no longer appalled by Abu Ghraib and the next massacre will be a yawn. A shrug. It's like Betty said, it's the left here that's refusing to confront the reality. They're too busy directing all the blame to Bully Boy and letting off the accused perpetrators of the act.

C.I.: And if, in the face of these allegations, can't express disgust and can't draw a clear line that says the behavior is not acceptable, for any reason, under any reason, then what are we saying about ourselves and about our country?

Betty: Well you saw, and Elaine covered this, you saw the usual bullies, and the left has bullies, come along and say, "Oh don't you dare call those men 'baby killers!' I will come after you if you do!" Well what did they do? Are we going to invent new terms to avoid calling killing "killing"? Is that where we are now? Have we all left the reality based world?

Cedric: And this on the day that someone got sentenced for Abu Ghraib.

C.I.: He didn't really. I almost included in that in the snapshot but I assumed everyone knew it. Santos Cardona was sentenced to X number of days of hard labor. I think it was something like seventy days. He'll lose about $600 dollars a month for twelve months. His lawyer is calling it a win for Cardona. And it is. It's very much a win for him. He's found guilty of a multitude of crimes and he's basically walking. I believe his lawyer pointed out that the hard labor doesn't include any prison time. While it's one thing for your heart to go out to the people put in that situation and to say that people being punished shouldn't be just the low-level ones, it's another to say, "Go torture Iraqis and don't worry because there's no real consequences." But that's the message. By the same token, this effort to point only to the top sends a message.

Rebecca: What does everyone think about the investigation into Ishaqi?

Betty: That's where the BBC just got a hold of the tape and, from the tape, it appears that a slaughter went on but that, Friday, the military finished their investigation into the events and cleared everyone, right?

Cedric: I don't know what to think about that.

C.I.: I think we were played. I think the administration knew they had a scandal with Haditha. At which point they floated to the press that there was another scandal being investigated.

Cedric: Why do you say that?

C.I.: The story for the weekend is "Military cleared!" That's the headline. Look at tomorrow's papers and see how many run with that, I bet many will. There are three scandals right now and most people are having trouble, if they're not following it closely, keeping up. They'll see "cleared" and they'll think it's Haditha or they'll think, "Oh, that's that scandal." They probably won't know Haditha by name.

Cedric: So you think it was leaked on purpose?

C.I.: I think that's very likely. You've got a scandal breaking. Suddenly you want to leak about a supposed ongoing investigation into another? No. If you wanted to leak, you would have leaked while it was ongoing. It's only after Haditha captures attention and it's known that a finding, and they knew what the finding would be, that Ishaqi is leaked. It was damage control, plain and simple. What do you think, Rebecca, you're the one with the p.r. experience?

Rebecca: I agree with that. Look at Haditha where the leaks revolve around charges. It's not completed yet but they have a sense of where it's headed. The Ishaqi one, they knew where it was headed, it was, as you point out, winding down when it was leaked. This was damage control and it's a laughable investigation and one that should have been prevented from releasing a conclusion since the conclusion was written prior to the BBC's announcing that they had just gotten a hold of a tape. That's a bit like a jury coming back in with a decision while someone who's been watching the trial stands up in the court room and screams, "It wasn't him! I killed her and here's how!" I can't imagine a judge would say, "Shut up and sit down. Jury deliver your verdict." They would investigate the person's claims. The fact that the BBC broke the news of the tape, I believe Thursday evening our time, and Friday morning the conclusions of the investigation are released indicate that it was damage control because a real investigation would say, "Let's look at that tape." But it was judged important to do damage control and the results had to come out on Friday so that all weekend people could say, "Oh, they were cleared." Confusing Ishaqui with the other two investigations.

Betty: I didn't know that the man sentenced on Friday wasn't going to be serving time. For Abu Ghraib. That's really sad. And it does send a message which says there are no serious consquences. If you're serving and you say, "I'm not going to do that because it's wrong and I don't want to go to prison," the logical reply, now, is, "Oh, but you won't go to prison." And I think that gets at the problem. When all we're doing is saying, "Oh, it's all the Bully Boy's fault!" and when we're refusing to say, "These actions are horrible, they're criminal, and they must be punished," we're saying that we'll tolerate anything and look the other way because, darn it, nobody better use a word like "baby killer."

Rebecca: I think you're exactly right and to get back to the "Where is the outrage?" -- when even the left won't express their disgust and their outrage over torture and killing, then go ahead and pack it in. Don't expect the cheerleaders for the Bully Boy to express outrage. We've gone from the nonsense of everyone is guilty, Hannah Arendt's point, to one where "Only the Bully Boy is guilty." And that's only by the left. Others don't even offer that much. So another massacre happens and people are a little less shocked, a little less appalled. The war's never going to end if we're all going to supress our outrage over crimes and make a point to say, "Oh well, the Bully Boy put them there! It's his fault!" He started the illegal war, he trashed our understanding of warfare from just and unjust wars on down the line, he set the tone. But the people participating in war crimes need to be held responsible. Whether it's someone who commits one in Iraq or Bob Kerry with his war crimes in Vietnam which we're also supposed to just forget because he gave a p.r. conference where he owned up to being "troubled." Too bad other war criminals, at other times, didn't realize all they had to do was say, "I'm troubled by my actions" and they'd get off scott free as well. There's no sense of scope or magnitude, just a lot of idiots weighing in with, "Look what the Bully Boy has caused!" Well what has he caused? Can we talk about that? Can we talk about the actual events and expect to be allowed to hear that war criminals must be held accountable at every level? I don't think so. My grandmother who can see hope in any situation doesn't either. That's why she really feels that our reaction to Haditha, as a nation, may be the real beginning of a "descent into hell." Bully Boy's done awful things but the difference here is that we're confronted with murder and our attitude is, "We can't and mustn't talk about the actions of the ones who allegedly killed. We must only talk about the Bully Boy." If that's where we are, then forget about right and wrong. People can do whatever they want in Iraq and they should know now that the right will look the other way and the left will play Pin-the-blame-on-the-Bully-Boy. It's very sad. And he may have pushed the nation into lowered expectations on accountability, but the nation's responsible for embracing it.

C.I.: Unless anyone else has a closing thought, I think Rebecca just covered it all in her summary?

Betty: Nothing to add. Thanks for inviting me.

Cedric: Just to back up Rebecca, if you're okay with this, get used to more because there was a huge failure to discuss it, just a rush to blame Bully Boy. A rejection of consequences and an ignoring of the fact that Iraqis died. Or maybe it doesn't matter when it's Iraqis? The message that was sent out was very disturbing. Can I use the slogan?

C.I.: Cedric's referring to a slogan that we avoid at The Common Ills because it's a p.r. created slogan created in order to avoid discussion and debate. Go ahead.

Cedric: "Support the troops." In what? And which troops? The left proved that they could do so blindly as they bent over bakwards to avoid discussing what happened on the ground as they rushed to carry every bit of the blame to D.C. Not a proud moment.

Monday, May 29, 2006

News & TV commentary

As I wait for Thomas Friedman to finish shaving his legs in the shower (he's very excited about a new swimsuit he's purchased -- I'm assuming it's another g-string and wishing he'd take some of that shave time to do something about his hairy back), I'm looking through the paper. I found some news and a TV review. Both worth reading so obviously, I'm not reading "The New York Times." Here's the news:

Good morning, it's Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2006. Here are a collection of news stories put together by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen
and Dallas.

Starting with the Iraq snapshot.

In Baghdad Sunday, Sheik Osama al-Jadaan and at least one of his bodyguards is dead as a result of an ambush. al-Jadaan had been seen by some as an ally with the US administration. al-Jadaan and the bodyguard were among the at least nine Iraqis who were killed on Sunday, roadside bombs continued to be a party of Iraqi daily life and another daily feature continued as at least ten more corpses were found in Baghdad. There have been sixty American military deaths for the month of May bringing the fatality count to 2464 since the illegal invasion in March of 2003. In addition to American military helicopter pilots are missing, the AFP reports, after the helicopter crashed on Saturday. In Baquba, a new feature to the occupation emerged as three severed heads were flung out of a moving vehicle. Near Baquba, Monday has already seen eleven die from a bombing, Reuters reports. This as the United States Pentagon believes their investigation into the apparent slaughter of civilians in Haditha is winding down -- the estimated 24 civilians died in November. United States House Representative John Mutha maintains that what happened in November is as important as apparent attempts to cover up the events and to stall an investigation into them. United States Senator John Warner has stated that the Senate Arms Committee, which he chairs, will hold a full investigation into "what happened . . . when it happened . . . what was the immediate reaction of the senior officers."

Meanwhile Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, has failed to meet another one of his predicitions. He set a date for himself to establish his cabinet and he didn't meet it. He just managed to meet the constitutional deadline (May 22) for the cabinet but did so only by leaving posts vacant. Last week, he announced that he would be fill the vacant posts this weekend. Unless Iraq's having a three day weekend, he's again failed another of his own predicitions -- there remains no heads for the interior, defense and homeland security ministries.

This as Andy McSmith reports (Independent of London) that British troops in Iraq are now being attacked attacked sixty times a month since the start of the year, an increase of 26% since last year. This as the BBC reports that at least 1,000 British troops have deserted since the start of the illegal war.

In Indonesia, an earthquake on Saturday has now claimed the lives of at least 5115. Heavy rains are preventing some attempts at rescue. This as the Phillipines have been hit with an earthquake that measured 5.3 on the Richter scale -- no injuries or deaths are reported. The Indonesian earthquake was measured 6.2 on the Richter scale and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) immediately went on alert with news of the quake. Aid agencies, including the Indonesian Red Cross, began providing assistance on Saturday including foods; however, as noted earlier, heavy rains are preventing some attempts at rescue and relief. IPS reports that this is Indonesia's worst disaster since the tsunami in December 2004 and that doctors and medical supplies are in short supply. "The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an emergency appeal for 12 million Swiss francs ($9.79 million USD/ €7.68 million) to support the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) in providing assistance to the survivors of the earthquake." As noted on KPFA's Evening News Sunday, people are sleeping in the streets as they await emergency assistance and the United States government has pledged 2.5 million dollars while the Euopean Union has pledged 3.8 million dollars.
In the United States, fire fighters have discovered the body of another victim of last fall's Hurricane Katrina "in the rear laundry room" of a New Orleans house they were searching. The current official count of those killed by Hurricane Katrina is 1577.

In Afghanistan, a demonstration was held following a traffic incident. The BBC reports that four died when a US convoy entered rush hour traffic. The AP reports that three humvees were involved on the US side and quotes eye witness Mohammad Wali, "The American convoy hit all the vehicles which were in their way. They didn't care about the civilians at all." At least four demonstrators have died, shot by "U.S. and Afghan security forces."

Meanwhile, as the situation on the ground in East Timor grows more dangerous and deadly, the United Nations is relocating UN family members and non-essential staff to Darwin Australia. Last week, East Timor handed over security duties to Australian forces following shootings, houses being set on fire and other violence. East Timor's president and prime minister are holding talks to discuss resolutions to the current situation while crowds have gathered outside the presidential palace calling for the resignation of the prime minister. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Screscent Socities trace the current wave of violence to March of this year and are attempting to assist over 25,000 displaced persons. The IFRCRSS's estimates that 50,000 have left their homes due to the current violence. As the violence continues Australia's Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison has been quoted as saying,"The United Nations, though, was the lead agency in all of this and the United Nations was, it had planned to pull out in a month's time. So I think really it's a question of the United Nations in this issue of whether people pulled out or not. It was the lead agency, not Australia." Peter Lewis reports that the New Zealand embassy in East Timor had to temporarily relocate the the Australian embassay due to threats from "armed thugs."

Yesterday, though the San Francisco Giants lost to the Colorado Rockies, Barry Bonds broke Babe Ruth's record for home runs. Bonds' 715 home runs now leaves him ahead of Ruth but behind Hank Aaron (755).

Though it seems long ago that Harriet Miers was in the running for the United States Supreme Court, those who remember the media coverage will remember Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. The media friendly Hecht has received an admonishment from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for "improperly using his position" to promote Miers in an estimated "120 newspaper, TV and radio interviews" after he offered his services to the White House as some sort of go-to-guy for the media. Hecht is appealing the admonishment. In other United States governmental news, Feminist Wire Daily reports Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia "by a 57-36 vote." The Washington Post once described Kavanaugh as "a protege" of Kenneth Starr. In The Clinton Wars, Sidney Blumenthal recounts David Brock's statement that while watching the 1998 State of the Union address, Kavanaugh hissed "b*tch" at the TV when Hillary Clinton was shown onscreen. The co-author of the Starr Report now holds a lifetime seat on the court.

In news on the NSA warrantless, illegal spying on American citizens, Bully Boy is attempting to invoke the "state secrets privilege" to stop legal actions. The Center for Constitutional Rights Shayna Kadidal notes, "The Bush Administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument. This is a mysterious and undemocratic request, since the administration says the reason the court is being asked to drop the case is a secret. I think it's a clear choice: can the President tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the President accountable for breaking the law. If the Executive Branch can secretly squash legal challenges to its conduct like this, then American democracy as we know it is in danger." The administration filed papers Friday arguing that "New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets." Also attempting to quash legal actions that might lead to further embarrasment is AT&T "which filed a 25-page legal brief" arguing that the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action suit should be dismissed. The AT&T brief had contained redactions but a few simple computer steps allowed the redactions to be made visible. The brief does not confirm the existance of the secret room (reported on in Wired's "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut" and "AT&T's Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, 31 December 2005") but argues that "'the same physical equipment could be utilized exclusively for other surveillance in full compliance with' the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

In other news, Amnesty is launching to highlight "governments using the net to suppress dissent."

In Cannes, director Ken Loach has won the prestigious Palme d'Or for his film on Ireland's fight for independence from England -- The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Reuters reports "The 69-year-old film maker told Reuters in an interview earlier in the festival that the Irish fight for independence against an empire imposing its will on a foreign people had resonances with the US occupation of Iraq today."

Amy Goodman noted the scheduled topic for today's Democracy Now! (noted on Thursday's Democracy Now!):

On Monday, we bring you an exclusive interview with British Lieutenant Commander Steve Tatham, former head of the British Royal Navy's Media Operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf during the Iraq invasion. He’s author of Losing Arab Hearts and Minds.

In addition to being able to watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio, remember that you can listen, watch or read (transcripts) online at Democracy Now!

This morning on KPFK (time given is PST):

Uprising! --Weekday Mornings from 8:00 to 9:00 am
Coming up on Uprising on Monday May 29th: A memorial day special with Stephen Kinzer on Overthrow : America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.

This evening on WBAI (time given is EST):

7:00-midnight: Building Bridges-Your Community and Labor Report
With Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash, a five-hour marathon special featuring Greg Palast's latest investigative book, Armed Madhouse : Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.

Thought for the day from the Mamas and the Papas's "Too Late" (off the album The Papas & the Mamas) : "Cause when the mind that once was open shuts / And you knock on the door, nobody answers anymore/ When the love and trust has turned to dust/ When the mind that once was open shuts . . ." ("and no one can get in").

Now here's the TV review, or, I should say, the TV commentary:

"TV commentary: About the women"

The sun's up and streaming across your face. You wake knowing things are going good. You've got a nice promotion that puts you among a very select few -- that takes care of professional life. And you're been thrilled to learn that you're pregnant -- that takes care of personal. Things just seem wonderful.

Then one day, you hear rumbles. Office rumors. They pop up all the time. They don't mean anything. Just something to fill the boredom, right? You're busy focused on your work, focused on your family. Then comes the meeting.

Everyone's acting a little strange. You're not sure what it's about but thankful that it has nothing to do with you. Right?

Not exactly. See, you're not fired, you're just demoted.Why?Well you'll be instructed to say publicly that with the pregnancy, you just aren't up to the duties required in your new position. You'll play along because the only thing worse than being demoted would be to be fired publicly. Besides, play along, and the promise is dangled that the guy (yeah, they went with a guy) who's grabbing your position will retire in a matter of years and maybe, just maybe, if you make nice, you can have your promotion back then.

So even though you've made comments, publicly, about how after the baby's born, you're going right back to work and, indeed, you'll be hitting the road for the job, you find yourself having to mouth words that really don't match up with you or anything you said before.

As you do that, most people just act like nothing big happened.

Doesn't it sound familiar?

It should. It's the story most didn't want tell last week. Argubably one of the biggest broadcast stories of the year. Why? Well it's sexism and it's against the law.

It was noted that ABC had stood behind Elizabeth Vargas originally but, with the tragedies Bob Woodruff experienced while attempting to report from Iraq, they seem to be weakening their show of support in the face of the news that she's pregnant. The word for that, as pointed out repeatedly, is "sexism." When a woman's job may be in jeopardy because she's pregnant, that's sexism. Family leave guidelines aside, her pregnancy has resulted in whispers of ABC's losing support for/interest in her as an anchor.

We (Ava and C.I.) wrote the above for "Katie Was a Cheerleader" (The Third Estate Sunday Review, April 16, 2006). We knew Vargas was being shoved out. E-mails came in during the week asking if we were going to update the topic? Or comment on the coverage?We hadn't planned on it. Then friends started calling. Not all women, but all concerned about what happened and the rah-rah coverage of it that refused to seriously address what went down.

Elizabeth Vargas was promoted to co-anchor World News Tonight on ABC. She's now out of that position. No one seems to want to seriously address it in the coverage thus far. To focus on The New York Times, Wednesday Jaques Steinberg had a front page story entitled "ABC Rejects Dual Anchors In 2nd Shuffle" (continued inside on page two of the Business section). Now front page means something news wise. So we both read the article eagerly thinking Steinberg might address it. That didn't happen.

Steinbereg does note (on C2, not A1):

But in the end, Mr. Gibson not only got the job he sought last year, but he also got it alone, as Ms. Vargas was shunted to the sidelines. When she returns from her maternity leave in the fall, it will not be to "World News Tonight," but to the prime-time news program "20/20." Mr. Gibson said in a telephone interview yesterday that he was most comfortable, at least on an evening newscast, as a solo anchor. "I am not a particular fan of two people sitting next to each other in a studio," he said. [Ava and C.I. note: Tell it to Diane, Charlie.] "It's a half-hour broadcast."

Gibson goes on to blather about Vargas' "joyous event . . . that affected us all."Oh really, Charlie?Yeah, it effected you. It got you a promotion. You went along with it. What does that say about you because we don't think it says "company man" or "team player" -- we think it says backstabber, we think it says hypocrite.

And if that's harsh, what we're hearing from friends ABC News is a lot harsher, a hell of a lot harsher.

They're bringing up the habit Gibson has of falling asleep on camera or pretending that a feed is lost when he doesn't want to address a topic a guest brings up.

Gibson, years ago, did a little news. Years ago. This isn't someone working their way up the chain. This is someone who willingly elected to turn their back on news and work in the entertainment division in some apparent desire to become the next David Hartman (with far less class, said one correspondent at ABC).

He's not just taking Elizabeth Vargas' job, he's also taking Bob Woodruff's. Let's deal with Woodruff first because we're also disgusted with the way Woodruff has been treated.

Woodruff was injured in the combat zone. ABC sent him there to cover Iraq. He was injured there and he's now lost his co-host seat at the anchor desk. Now, remember, we're talking about journalism here. But to us, that's a bit like someone being injured while serving in the military and returning stateside to find out that their employer doesn't want to hold their job but instead wants to give it to someone else.

He's injured on the job and ABC's answer is to give his job away publicly. It's rotten, it sucks and people at ABC News are very unhappy with the decision.

Now let's turn to Vargas. Steinberg, rightly, notes that the spin right now is spin. It is. She didn't want to leave -- everyone knows that, everyone whispers it. She was forced out because she's pregnant.That's sexism and it's illegal:

Title VII was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.

No one wants to note that. Steinberg gets credit for noting that the current talk doesn't fit with the talk a few months back. But why the reluctance to call it what is which is discrimination?Vargas got pregnant. She didn't lose her mental competency. She didn't prove she was unfit for the job. As she'd indicated publicly, prior to this decision being announced, she intended to return to work "soon" after the child was born (as Steinberg notes).

The average reader of Steinberg's story can grasp what happened. So why the reluctance to call it what it is?When we learned the decision was going to be announced, we thought we'd take a pass on it because a) we'd noted the rumors last month and b) we really didn't want to get into it. We don't care for Gibson, we're not impressed with him and we never have been. So there was really no reason to write anything else on the matter.

But that was dependent upon the press doing their job. And they're apparently not going to do it. Steinberg, we'll give credit to. The article lines it up perfectly. But Vargas didn't go willingly and to stay silent when publicly the press has taken the attitude of: "Oh well, things happen, what you gonna' do . . ." -- we didn't see how we could do that (especially not in the face of the e-mails from community members and the phone calls from friends at ABC and another network).

So since we're all supposed to look the other way (again, credit to Steinberg for his article), you know we've got to speak up. We know it too.

So here's some of the talk at ABC News among the people who aren't pleased with the decision/discrimination:

* It was one thing to have Vargas and Woodruff come to the anchor desk with less qualifications than Peter Jennings because they're much yonger but Gibson elected to make his career nonsense.

* He won't be able to pull off the ratings without Diane Sawyer by his side.

* Good Morning America will probably benefit from a change in co-hosts (not anchors, they're hosts of a morning talk show) because Sawyer's more important to the viewers.

* Vargas is making a big mistake by playing nice. She won't sue. Everyone feels she won't. And that it's a mistake to to believe anything she was told when she was informed of the decision. Too many broken promise (to women especially, but to men as well) indicate that there's no second shot for Vargas. When Gibson's gone, she won't be considered for the slot and they'll have a new reason. Probably tell her that they need her on weekends.

* With this demotion, her career is over at ABC. She needs to find a new network. She needs to do it quick. She can get out of the current contract by asking ABC if they want her to go public with why she wants to leave the network.

* "This is such a slap in the face to Peter [Jennings.]" It is.

But as we noted in "Peter Jennings Reporter leaves a bad taste:"

Remember how viewers were left hanging as to whom Fox was speaking of that silenced him? Well now it's time for Jennings' report on little league baseball and child abuse. The clips highlighted in the montage, 3 minutes and 31 seconds, focus on a father, Chris, and a son, Jeremy. Their last name isn't provided in this special (it was in the original reporting that Jennings did). We see Chris threaten his son and we're told about abuse (Jennings confronts Chris on camera about his threats and Chris admits he beats his son). What does that segment call for?
If Jennings were around, from what all said on camera, we think it would call for an update. That was some time ago, the baseball special. But we're not given an update because not only do viewers not get to savor Jennings' reporting, they aren't treated to any real reporting from this special. (For the record, Jeremy just completed a season playing baseball for Hagerstown Community College and Chris has a listed phone number. We're having a hard time believing ABC News couldn't track down what we did and actually get one of them on camera for some sort of update.)
We think even the most optimistic viewer must have given up any hope of a "tribute" that honored what Jennings stood for (we're told constantly what he stood for -- interest in the world and in covering the news). Apparently no one left at ABC News is too concerned with what interested Jennings.
Which is why we now are firmly in the land of fluff with 1 minute and 14 seconds on Jennings' love of the Constitution and statements such as "Jazz was one of his thriving passions" and "He loved his kids."
Let's be really clear that Jennings' work and his goals weren't honored. Think Disney is displeased by that? Think again.
Bob Iger, president of The Walt Disney Company, comes on camera to complain that too much coverage "in the last few days" has been about Jennings' career -- don't worry Iger, no one will accuse Peter Jennings Reporter of being about his career. Or of honoring it.
[. . .]
Bob Iger made it clear what he wanted -- the person, not the career. That's what he got. So why call it Peter Jennings Reporter? Why the testimonials of people who continually stressed how interested Jennings was with the world, how important what made it on to the newscasts he anchored was? Because the news department wanted one special and the bosses wanted another. The news department fought to work in what they could (they're especially proud of the sequence on tobacco -- which includes a tobacco exec raving over how fair Jennings was, showing "all sides"). Management wanted what they saw as a two hour Oprah special.
The special demonstrated the continued conflict between the news departments and the bosses who see it all as another form of entertainment. And in this round, news lost. (Though people in the news department fought very hard.) We heard grumbles about some of the news "stars" included in the special but the message came down that the network wanted their own highlighted. Some stress to us that it's a miracle that two hours of prime time television was turned over to news. We'd agree with that if we'd actually seen any news.

What are we hoping to accomplish with this? Really nothing. Most readers of this site and members of The Common Ills community know what happened, they were clued in back in April. But we will note it and note that it's disgusting. We'll also offer Woodruff some advice -- leave the network. Woodruff's injuries speak to his dedication . . . to news people. ABC News is not being run by news people. (You could argue that is true of all the networks but more so ABC.) It's being run by entertainment people. Don't think that means Woodruff justs need to learn how to navigate a new channel or venue.

Entertainment people run from an injury -- run from anyone's injury or disease the same way they do from someone on a string of flops. Woodruff's tainted now with "bad luck." That's his "crime." As long as Iger and the entertainment squad call the shots, he'll be avoided like the plague. He'll hear from some that they'll fight for him (we're told he's already heard that) but they're not up against news people, they're up against entertainment people -- ten pounds of weight gain freaks them out and can result in a shunning so that they don't 'catch' the bad luck.

We're sure ABC corporate will deny this. They did on another item with a laughable cover story -- more damaging than the original event itself. And yes, we have still have the videotape. Like Simply Red, we'll keep holding on (to the tape).

So that's what happened, Elizabeth Vargas got pregant and ABC got nervous (we noted that the first week of April). As expected, they demoted her. Not because of ratings or because she couldn't do the job and certainly not because she wanted some down time, but because she was pregnant. We hear about "the Mommy wars" and there's a book put out by a magazine and an organization but they don't seem to want to address this. It's obvious what happened. It's obvious to everyone at ABC News.

So that's our first look at TV and women. This is a grab bag commentary.

Let's talk ER and Neela. While the left worked itself into a frenzy over a standup comic's routine, ER addressed the war -- not in one episode, but in many. And guess what? The right wing noticed. News Busters has clips from some episodes. They're frothing at the mouth over what went down. Also blowing her right wing lungs is Sister Toldjah -- who by the way carries an ad endorsing Condi Rice for president in 2008 which means she at least has some sense of humor, right? (Oh, she's serious? . . . . Okay.) She takes time out from being alarmed that Barbra Streisand called Bully Boy a "C student" long enough to let her right wing base know what's been going down on ER.

She notes this March episode:

Dr. Neela Rasgotra: My duty is to be a good doctor and to be a good wife, not to be brainwashed into falling in line with some pseudo-patriotic delusion.

And that when a woman declared "our loved ones are serving our country and it's a small price to pay," Neela responded, "I think it's a huge price to pay, especially under the circumstances. . . . Well, the way the whole thing's been handled, how we got into it, how it's been managed . . . I still haven't seen any weapons of mass destruction, have you?"

We noted that episode here. (And it was also noted at The Common Ills.)

So why is that the left isn't there to offer support?

James Spader delivers a court room speech against the Patriot Act (Boston Legal) and he 'da man, he 'da bomb. Neela tackles the war in multi-epiosdes and the left's just not interested?

Another episode was noted on May 11th:

Tonight on ER, the war comes home (came home in some time zones where it's already aired). But Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela Rasgotra was ignored last time when her comments on the war weren't as important as some flashy speech. I'm sure that there's some White male who did something on TV that will be deemed as more important.
Just like last time. This wasn't just a court room speech, this was a storyline that they worked very hard on. It's actually given the show life. And it's created a wonderful starting point for a dicussion if any viewers are still playing the Quiet Game or sitting on the fence. I know people involved so someone could argue that's why I continue to note the program; however, Ava and I both know people involved and when we did our review at the start of the fall season and we didn't pull any punches. ("Pull the plug!" isn't pulling punches.)It does matter what the alternative weeklies cover. It does matter what we hear on the radio or see on TV. Ending the war doesn't come via secluded conversations with only our nearest and dearests. It comes by putting the war front and center.

Another episode was noted May 18th:

To, again, note ER, Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela Rasgotra attended the funeral of her husband Michael, a doctor serving in Iraq. As Michael's father puffed out his chest and talked to some men (of course) about the "kind of boy I raised," the "mindset of a warrior" and sharing stories of Sitting Bull telling people "this it was a good day to die," Neela walked over, shoved Michael's medals at him and refused to take them back.
She informed him that, "To me all they mean is death [. . .] How dare you, how dare you stand there and say that. 'A good day to die'? [. . .] You could have kept him here. You could have saved him. But instead you made him want to go back. For what? Because there was something 'noble' in it? Why did you do that when it would have been just as easy to convince him to stay for a much better reason? Because we loved him. Because we loved him." A powerful moment and one that addresses the cost of war beyond dollars and cents. But don't expect it to be noted. This has been an ongoing story on ER as Neela has been vocal about being against the war. That's not been noted. It wasn't noted in the episode when she was informed Michael died. There's always some White Male to praise week after week. Usually doing a funny. Maybe that's a little easier to relate to?
It's not like they don't watch ER -- Noah Wylie's return and cause was noted -- but then Noah Wylie is a White Male. As, week in and week out, we can giggle at a comic or get excited by a Saturday Night Live skit or bluster about a speech in a courtroom on the Patriot Act, we never can find the time to note this ongoing storyline that's provided many powerful moments. Maybe that's it? Maybe it's easier to look away at the pain that's on the screen. It's a character Nagra's playing. She's doing a powerful job. Maybe we just don't want to note it because it's too powerful. I don't know if John Kerry's going to be on Mad TV this week, but, if so, I'm sure it will suck up all the discussion online.

So what's going on? The right wing noted it. Where was the left? Was it her race? Was it the fact that she's a "she"? It wasn't the fact that she was a character because noting James Spader already demonstrated that TV characters could be raved over. Provided they were White and male apparently.

Now, yes, we know people working on ER. We knew this storyline was coming. Is that why we're so offended that it didn't result in all the back slapping every moment involving a White male did?This is the first show to really tackle the war on broadcast, commercial television. (American Family -- A Journey of Dreams did a wonderful job while the war was just starting -- it didn't air on commercial television.) This was an important moment, this storyline. It's a shame it couldn't garner the attention it deserved. But the war came home, on your TV screens, invading a TV drama. It's the sort of thing that will be noted in cultural studies of this time period -- hopefully, by then they'll have a conclusive answer as to why a left so quick to applaud a con-man lawyer (that's what Spader plays and that's being kind) for talking about the Patriot Act, to win a case and sway a jury (and after it's been reauthorized by the Congress), couldn't match that applause for the storyline developing on ER? Couldn't even find the time to note it let alone applaud it.

By the way, please don't think we're under any delusions that males were the only ones not noting it. There are plenty of women as well. They didn't bother to note it either.

Take one site which actually blogged on Iraq this week (for a change). They did it about an Abu Ghraib trial and only because a female carried a book to the trial with a one word title that rhymes with "runt," but hey, they're doing their part, right? No comments on Iraq or even Abu Ghraib but that book title, gotta' love it!

Why they're so on top of things they also noted the 'clarification' Newsweek offered this week for creating a "fact" about a woman being more likely to be killed by a terrorist than married after a certain age. They even noted that Susan Faludi revealed (in 1991) that the claim wasn't true. After that, it got a little confusing for them. They started wondering if now Newsweek would apologize to Susan Faludi?For what exactly? They ran a story in 1986 and she debunked it in 1991 (in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women). Why does the magazine owe her an apology? They may owe everyone, male and female, who read the article in 1986 an apology, but why would they owe Faludi an apology? It makes no sense (neither does ignoring the war). But for the sake of argument, let's defy logic and just nod and say, "Newsweek owes Susan Faludi an apology!" Well it's a shame they waited so long, a little while ago and they could have just written "I'm sorry" on her paycheck. (The screamers for an apology to Faludi from Newsweek are aware that Newsweek hired Faludi as a contributing editor in the late nineties and that she worked for the publication until recently, right?)

While Backlash was a wonderful book (and Faludi's a great writer) some seem to be under the impression that Backlash came out and the mainstream media said "NO!" Time put Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi on the cover together. Faludi's debunking of the myth was well noted. Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle refers to the book with Meg Ryan's character saying that the terrorist figure isn't true and that there's a whole book written to refute that myth. A male character asks, "Did anyone read the book?" We did.

But we wonder if all the finger pointers on the web did? Why? How about this from Newsweek's "Twenty Years Later: It turns out that getting married after age 40 wasn't quite as difficult as we once believed" (no link, we don't link to trash):

Much of the ire focused on a single, now infamous line: that a single 40-year-old woman is "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than to ever marry, the odds of which the researchers put at 2.6 percent. The terrorist comparison wasn't in the study, and it wasn't actually true (though it apparently didn't sound as inappropriate then as it does today, post 9/11).

No, it wasn't true and, as Faludi reported (page 100 of Backlash), a Newsweek intern explained that the lie started as a joke reporters kidded each other about "and next thing we knew, one of the writers in New York took it seriously and it ended up print." Newsweek doesn't tell you that. They just tell that you that it wasn't true -- fifteen years after Faludi already did and, if you think about it, twenty years after people at Newsweek knew it wasn't true. (They knew when the story ran.) And guess what else? Readers of Backlash know this, Newsweek went with a faulty study for the rest of that story. And "months later" they had actual census data that disproved their cover story. That got "a two-paragraph item buried in the 'Update' column." The current article doesn't tell you that either. Newsweek's new story really admitted nothing. A real admission didn't require an apology to Susan Faludi, it did require that they admit to knowing the figure was false when they ran it and that when they had census data months later that refuted the Harvard-Yale study (on which they based their cover story), and upon the magazine noting that data that they didn't issue a correction but instead buried the real data in the magazine.

Another great Susan (Sontag) had an excellent suggestion (that was vilified when she made it) encouraging us not to all be stupid together. We think it applies today as much as it did then.

Stupid is as Reba McEntire does. And Reba's thankfully cancelled (and then gets an order for 13 episodes -- which will hopefully never air). But we grabbed a few minutes on Friday to see if we wanted to run an update review? Nope. It was an episode where the Hurricane Katrina evacuees were staying with Reba at Barbara Jean's invitation and Reba felt the need to say, "Barbara Jean, you're the whitest person in Texas! Stop talking like that!"

No, Reba is the Whitest person in Texas. In front of the cameras and behind them. Which is why, despite the fact that the show was supposed to take place in Houston, which the 2000 census found to be 25.3% African-American, there were no supporting actors who were African-American. In fact, to watch Reba you'd never know that Houston is only 51.2% White. That is reality, even if it wasn't what the star cared to show you.

Last Sunday, Charmed ended eight season with a one hour finale that wrapped up loose ends. Unlike Will & Grace, happiness for Piper, Phoebe and Paige (Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan) did not entail them exiting one another's lives for sixteen years.The bulk of the episode revolved around them (yet again) saving the world (and returning magic powers to one of Piper's sons). They touched on many things during those fast paced scenes (and long time viewers were probably happy to note a child at the end with Pru-like powers, closing the front door as Pru used to do -- without her hands touching the door). Then, having vanquished evil yet again, they returned to their home and Piper brought the Book of Shadows down from the attic because, "I think we should write everything down . . . Just so we can pass it down like it was passed down to us."

Will & Grace trashed friendship and also left you wondering if Will or Grace even had a job anymore? Charmed? In a very quick wrap up, you saw the sisters in their immediate futures. Phoebe continued her advice column but focused on love since fate had paired her with a cupid. She had three children, a job, a husband and, most of all, her sisters. Paige also had children, embraced her "inner white lighter" and her marriage to Harry (Ivan Sergei). Piper noted that she "filled the time" when they weren't fighting to save the world with opening her own restaurant (a success), her marriage and her children. ("Leo reclaimed Magic School and went back to teaching.")

As Piper finished her story, we saw her (in make up) as an elderly woman, reading from the Book of Shadows to one of her granddaughters who asked her to read more. Piper explained she was tired but told the young girl that she could look through the book herself, "After all, it will be your's one day." As Piper heads upstairs with Leo, more grandchildren come running through the front door.

Though Will & Grace wanted to do bad (melo)drama and spit at the loyal viewers (while disowning the message of the show), Charmed tied up all the loose ends, name checked several no longer on the show and left viewers with the knowledge that, through it all, the Halliwell sisters were always there for each other.

As we noted last year (May 29, 2005), Charmed was the longest running hour drama starring women. Eight seasons put them ahead of all the other shows. (It also put them ahead of the sitcoms, Laverne & Shirley had seven seasons.) They could have chosen a "downer" -- they could have killed off one of the sisters in a battle. They didn't. The sisters remained strong and they remained together.That may not seem a whole lot to some but in a TV landscape that pits woman against woman, it did say something. (Charlie's Angels, to name another long running show with three female leads went out on their fourth season with Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd's characters battling over a man, guest star Patrick Duffy, when they came back for the fifth season, the entire storyline was dropped and never mentioned.)

Last year, Ty informed us, we noted that Desperate Housewives would see a ratings decline (it has, not as steep as many expected but that's what next season is for), we even noted Susan Faludi's Backlash in that feature. But he thought the section that needed quoting was this:

Season after season, it has presented female leads as actors in their own lives, not reactors, not passive victims. Four sisters (counting Pru who never shared space with Paige) have fought demons and each other yet always managed to pull it together despite everything else that was going on in their lives. Their paid careers, such as they are, can be described as hobbies. But that's due to the fact that unlike the Desperate Housewives, they actually have a purpose -- saving the world.
Saving the world. Let's repeat that because while a show like Desperate Housewives portrays women as narcissistic, self-serving and self-focused, Charmed has repeatedly addressed the issue of sacrifice for the larger good.

Charmed lived up to its part of the bargain with the audience on the season finale. And for eight seasons it presented women as we rarely see them on TV: working together, not against one another. "The power of three" wouldn't work without all three (as they sometimes had to learn). It may not have had the promotion and zeigeist to satisfy the trendy water cooler critics, but it had what mattered (what networks stopped caring about long ago): the power to satisfy the audiences.

[Semi-related end note: On Sunday, May 14th, hours after the post defending Alysa Milano from slime merchant Mike McCurry went up, we both were advised over the phone that there was another reason McCurry slimed Milano. She'd come out strongly for net neutrality -- the post doesn't have an indivual http address, the title is "Internet Freedom." If only she'd given a fiery speech -- and been a man -- on TV, she too could have been applauded all over the net. We'll note that we stuck up for her without knowing of her stance on net neutrality and we're glad that we did. We'd hate to have been one of the sites posting McCurry's slime about Milano and then taking him to task for other things but letting his attack on Milano slide.]