Found in the paper.
Rebecca: Joint entry that you will see at a number of sites. We're doing a roundtable on a number of issues. C.I. made me laugh with an e-mail comparing me to Liz Smith. When I called to talk about the e-mail we ended up discussing a number of things and I thought, "Okay, we can bring this up here." We will touch on Iraq but we're going to be dealing with a number of issues.
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; and Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Rebecca: Okay, I'm going to start the topic off with Tom Cruise. Ava?
Ava: We actually attempted to work this in two reviews, the slaughtering of Tom, two of the TV reviews we did this week. But we weren't able to.
Mike: She means her and C.I. and I'll toss out that what we're talking about is the coverage of Tom Cruise. I noted a recent Zogby poll, that Zogby did just on Cruise. It's crazy. The kind of coverage this has gotten is crazy.
C.I.: I'm going to jump in here and will probably say the most on this of anything.
Rebecca: You don't know the topic list!
C.I.: No, I don't. But this is such nonsense. A fuzzy, overly ripe peach fell to the ground and his name is Bummer Redstone. Bummer Redstone doesn't know crap about entertainment. He knows how to please Wall Street. That's all this is about. Wall Street is upset with the box office returns of the last few years. Wall Street wants heads to roll. This happened before. Marilyn Monroe was made an example of to please Wall Street. At the same time she was filming Something's Got To Give --
Betty: Which was never completed.
C.I.: Which was never completed, Fox was in trouble with the overruns of Cleopatra. They intended to fire Elizabeth Taylor. They couldn't get away with that. This wasn't about what Fox wanted for entertainment, it was about what Fox wanted for Wall Street. Paramount is in a free fall. Paramount needs to do something quick to show they're serious. So they do a show-firing of Tom Cruise. This doesn't have to do with Tom Cruise other than he was made the example, the same way Monroe was. This has to do with the investors. Disclosure, I like Paula [Wagner] and Rick [Nicita]. I'm netural on for Tom Cruise. I'm not saying what I'm saying to defend Tom Cruise. We're not friends, I don't care for his acting, I never have. This isn't about his acting. This is about a war on talent. They're also tossing out Lindsey Lohan. It's not about Cruise about her. Redstone wanted to put the blame for the box office of Mission Impossible III on Cruise's personal life. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with you don't hire a shitty TV director to do on the big screen the same meandering crap he does on the small screen. It's a testament to Cruise's box office power that the film made what it did. With the first two MI's, you had a directors, film directors, making pop corn features. With MI: III, you had a touchy-feely TV director trying to turn in Felecity Learns To Spy. It wasn't going to play, it wasn't going to draw in a huge audience. The fact that it did, the film was a hit, one of the bigger ones of this summer, is a testament to Cruise's box office.
Cedric: I hope all that got down.
C.I.: Sorry. I am talking very fast but this isn't a topic I care to discuss. However, it's one I feel I have to because I am so sick of the New York Times and everyone else lining up to take their shots. Of course the Times is applauding. They applauded the firing of Monroe. They always applaud when money boys try to throw around what they think is their 'power.' Redstone has no power. He can claim all the phone calls he wants and he may have gotten a few but he's damaged the studio. And the pip squeak running it or 'running it' . . . If Sherry Lansing were still heading things, this wouldn't have happened. But it's the difference between someone who knows movies and someone who knows how to do one deal. If you're in the deal business, get your ass back to managing or agenting. Don't try to run a studio. Let me take a breath. Rebecca had a point she wanted to make.
Rebecca: Well, what's hurting the most, what's allowing the garbage to stick, is the fact that media press, not the Times, isn't eager to rush in and defend and that's because they're still smarting over the fact that they can't get a photo of his child. As someone who used to be in p.r., the smartest thing he can do is to immediately grant a photo-op with him, Katie Holmes and the child.
C.I.: Right. At this point, it probably has to be done which is too bad because it shouldn't have to be. But Cruise isn't unbankable. He's still bankable. He's a man and they have a longer shelf life or a perception of a longer shelf life. For a leading man, he's young.
Betty: I didn't understand the criticism of Lohan.
C.I.: That made no sense. She's not a producer, she's not a writer. She starred in what was offered and though she should have picked better, Scarlett Johansson does, blaming her for box office in crap you cast in her is insane. She's starred in some awful movies. Her fan base gave those movies some sort of an audience. She's a very young woman, still finding her way.
Rebecca: Is Hillary Clinton going to take her to Iraq?
C.I.: No. And she needs to let go of that fantasy. Hillary going to Iraq with Lindsey Lohan has "Hollywood" written all over it at a time when Hillary's trying to avoid anything that might get her dubbed "liberal." If we were talking about someone with less publicized personal drama, it might be a go but right now, there's no Iraq trip. If Loham wants to go, she'd be wise to look to the House and not to the Senate period.
Rebecca: In the Times today there was an article on the guy who wrote The Player --
C.I.: Michael Tolkin.
Rebecca: Thank you, did you read it?
C.I.: No. I'm avoiding their arts coverage. They're trying to pull a corpse into Wall Street so they can all stomp it.
Rebecca: Did you see it, Ava?
Ava: I try to avoid that paper period.
Rebecca: Well Tolkin was talking about how film was suffering from a hero track. I'm trying to think . . .
C.I.: Joseph Campbell?
C.I.: Campbell's hero's journey has been used in a number of films including Terminator II and Silence of the Lambs. I didn't read the article. Was he saying it was too predictable?
C.I.: Well he's fairly attuned and ahead of the curve which is why he's a strong writer. You can't be a strong writer if today you sit down to write what's on the screen right now. Geez, I can see his point but --
Ava: I think it's more than that. I haven't read the article though.
C.I.: Right. Did he talk about the format of scripts themselves?
Rebecca: No, but that's what I thought about because we've sat through enough films in the last ten years where you've been bored out of your mind.
C.I.: Because they think they seized on the formula. So now everyone does it. By the eighth minute, you've got that turning point after the set up, you've got your first act turning point, you've got your mid-point, you've got the second end turning point that's supposed to speed the last thirty minutes along. Everything is done by this formula and it's so obvious, the formula, that there's no thrill, there's no surprise. We really are seeing the same movie over and over. Sometimes it is well acted and/or has strong dialogue, but it's the same damn movie over and over.
Ava: Right. If you know the formula, you know the movie in ten minutes. You've got everything there but the supporting characters. Once you know the formula, there's no point in sitting through most movies because they're so obvious and the surprises to come have been set up in the ten minutes that started the film.
Cedric: What damages someone's box office?
Ava: A woman? Just about everything you can think of. A man? Hardly anything.
C.I.: Harrison Ford isn't unbankable but how he is bankable has changed and there doesn't appear to be any awareness of that thus far. His biggest hit since his divorce was when he played Michelle Pfieffer's evil husband in What Lies Beneath. Ford's image was as a family man, devoted husband. That marriage didn't last. When it didn't and he ended up with the younger Calista Flockhart, there was fallout. He can't play the usual character in a caper right now and get the usual audience. There's got to be some strong recognition of the change in audiences perception. But it didn't make him unbankable. It just meant that more care needed to be taken with roles selected.
Cedric: Well then what about Tom Cruise. He broke up with Penelope Cruz and he divorced Nicole Kidman before that.
C.I.: His box office didn't depend on an image. By the time he married Kidman, he'd already divorced Mimi Rogers. He'd married Rogers when he was a star. He's not marketed his personal life in a confessional. He's marketed it in the most general terms.
Ava: This is the man who was on the cover of Time and other magazines talking about his love for then wife Mimi Rogers when news broke that they were divorcing.
Ava: The conflict with Brooke Shields isn't that big of thing. Sean Connery's done worse and gotten away with it. The couch hopping was extreme but consider the show. You're practically begged to make a fool of yourself and when you don't, Meg Ryan didn't, it's obvious that the big O isn't pleased.
Rebecca: But all of that could be wiped away with some photos of him with child and Holmes.
Ava: I think so. It's more a puzzlement than a turning away. It's more a "What's up with Tom Cruise?" than a Michael Jackson.
Cedric: So why Cruise?
Ava: You want bragging rights.
C.I.: Redstone's got nothing if he did that to Lohan. In fact, he'd look like the prick he is, my opinion, if he did it to Lohan because she is so young. It would create a sympathy factor. Cruise was selected to make an example of and by choosing someone with that big of a name, he gets to look like he's whipping the entertainment industry into shape when all he's doing is driving people away, predominately to Warner Bros. which has had nonstop meetings.
Rebecca: Talk about that.
C.I.: You're not going to set up shop with some asshole that's going to stab you in the back. What Redstone did is appalling. The entertainment industry works on perception to a great degree, he's attempting to destroy the reality of Cruise's box office with this perception that his career is over. Long after Redstone's name is forgotten by all but the Times, Cruise will still be known. Most don't remember the name of the man who fired Marilyn Monroe. This is the same thing that happened then and I'm about to get really long winded. We're seeing a fundamental shift and people want to pin it off on techonology. It's not about technology. It's about a shift in mood in the country.
Rebecca: Tolkin talked about that.
C.I.: Again, he's very attuned. But this is the shift that the entertainment industry spent much of the sixties trying to address. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper tapped into something and then, realizing they knew nothing, studios started letting others have that opportunity. Some succeeded, some failed. But the traditional fare had gotten moldy and people weren't lining up for it. It's the same thing today. The three act structure is as predictable as any Doris Day & Rock Hudson sex comedy was then. None of this has anything to do with Cruise. But it lets Redstone look "tough" on Wall Street while driving away a lot of people who will not work for that studio as their first choice. There's talk of "I'll never work for them again." That's true until they offer the better dea, for most people. But Paramount is damaged and Wall Street can do cart wheels and the Times can cheer Redstone on, but they'd do well to remember that Darryl Zanuck ended up back in charge at Fox following the firing on Monroe. But, Mike, you go to movies, do you find them exciting?
Mike: Not really. I love V is for Vendetta and wish I'd gone to see that at the movies. But most of the movies are just boring. Superman was boring and too sweet, like I was getting a cavity just from watching.
Betty: Well, I don't see anything at the movies except animated films, I only go with my kids, but, I'd say when Quentin Tarantino came along, it seemed like there was going to be some life but what I got instead were a lot of bad rip-offs.
Cedric: Rip-offs of the stories. There was none of the excitement of Pulp Fiction. I wouldn't have put it the way you did, C.I. did, but thinking about it now, it is the same story. I'm not talking about the story of the hero as much as I am that I can see those breaks you're talking about and I know instinctively when I can go to the bathroom and not worry about missing anything.
Ava: Right. Because everyone's following Syd Field's three act structure. It's supposed to have been the miracle cure the: Do this and even you can write a script. And it should be noted that a lot of the edges that would make it onscreen get destroyed in test screenings that lead to reshoots.
Rebecca: Anything else before we move to the next topic? No. Okay, next up, and I'm sure C.I. will sit this one out --
C.I.: Unless it's Iraq, I will. Otherwise I'll take notes.
Rebecca: It's not Iraq. Cedric, Betty and Ty responded to an e-mail to Cedric in Cedric's "Noel, who's not in the US military, wants to send them to fight his war." As someone whose own posts led to Cedric be put on the spot, my apologies.
Cedric: No need for that. I was glad to weigh in. Noel tried to make an appeal to me that, as an African-American, I should be on his side regarding Darfur and want the US military over there.
Betty: As a rule, I tend to get nervous when White people are rushing to 'save' Black people. As a Black women, if the 'saving' isn't being advocated by reliable Black voices, I'm already suspicious and the Out of Iraq Into Darfur groupies are White. You can call me racist if that makes you feel better, but this Black woman has seen too many White 'saviors' that have only made things worse.
Cedric: And it's a one-note story that doesn't go into the historical or even recent events. And if you can meet with Bully Boy before your mini-demonstration in March, you're really not a protest group, you're an extension of the administration.
Kat: Good point. What I liked about that response, well what I liked most, was the fact that it was turned back on Noel. The military isn't his toy to be sent here and there whenever he wants. And military solutions are not diplomatic ones. I really enjoyed what the three of you wrote.
Betty: Well, Cedric wrote it up. We all talked about it, but give Cedric the credit for writing it up.Mike's "Lotta Links pushes Voice of America -- the war crimes of indymedia" tonight made me laugh. Mike usually cracks me up. But I thought that was an important point to make, that the Darfur movement/craze must be supported, a website seems to suggest, and proves it by linking to a story from Voice of America.
Kat: I didn't see that yet. Fill me in.
Mike: Lotta Links linked to a Voice of America story on Darfur.
Mike: Yeah, I was shocked too. They're linking to a propaganda news organization that if legally forbidden to broadcast in this country because it's a propaganda unit of the government and Congress said American citizens could not be propagandized by their government.
Cedric: I'm sorry, Mike, I hadn't read it either. I was just getting home from visiting Three Cool Old Guys when the roundtable was about to start. But they really did that?
Cedric: Then let me you and say, "And this is why the left sucks."
Mike: The Sammy Powers movement, I understand what Betty's saying and agree, but if you ask me, they're nothing but this centuries Carrie Nations. Samantha Powers, grab your axe.
Kat: That is a hilarious comparison.
Rebecca: We're all opposed to sending US troops into Darfur. Do we want to stay on this topic or move on?
Betty: Well, before we do, Guns and Butter, as Kat's noted, did a wonderful two part discussion on Darfur.
Kat: They actually did a show while I was gone, while I was in Ireland, as well. July 17th, I think. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet but a lot of e-mails say I need to recommend that as well as the two-parter.
Cedric: And I want to back Mike up. Independent media should not be providing the same voice, Eric what's his name, that's all over the mainstream. There are independent journalists, have them on. Have on Keith Harmon Snow or Joshua Frank or . . . .
Betty: Sara Flounders. And it's Eric Reeves.
Cedric: Thank you.
Kat: And to be clear, Z-Net and others have covered this. This Sammy Powers craze is not representative of all of the left. I don't think it's representative of even most of the left. It's made up of a lot of evangical right wingers which is why I find the Carrie Nations comparison so humorus.
Rebecca: Okay, now we're turning to The New Yorker. See, I really did make a list of topics. The August 28th issue had two features that I thought somebody might want to comment on. For the record, I hated them both. First up, George Saunders "Proclamation." In this piece, Saunders attempt to comment on Iran with humor and to do so from the perspective of their president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Kat: I know that article. I picked up the issue at C.I.'s. Did you want to comment on it?
C.I.: No, you go.
Kat: I just found it offensive. It's supposed to be making fun of the president but I felt like it made fun of Iranians, made fun of people who didn't speak English, go down the list. I found it insulting, not funny and thought, "Oh look, The New Yorker's doing 'shit' jokes now. And using the word 'shit.'" This probably can't go up at The Common Ills now.
C.I.: It was already iffy. It'll go up at the mirror site.
Rebecca: Well I agree. It just seemed so pompous, so ha-ha, let me make fun of how the foreigners talk. I wouldn't have cared if the president was a fool, any president of any country, but that really did seem to treat Iranians as backwater, undeveloped, unthinking, simple-minded fools. I found it very offensive too. Anyone else?
Mike: I don't read the magazine unless Seymour Hersh or Jane Mayer have an article in it.
Rebecca: Then you can't comment on the next article, also from that issue, Malcolm Gladwell's "The Risk Pool." Anybody?
Ava: I actually read that because Jess was outraged by it. I was as well. We're in a crisis. I love how we're always in a crisis. But Gladwell tells you we're in a health care crisis and a pension crisis and he pins it on the fact that, he says, there are more retirees than workers. Didn't Paul Krugman already tackle that myth and disprove it? More importantly, people didn't go from 31 to retirement age. Big business doesn't need bail outs, they need to be asked what they were doing all those years when they should have been preparing for retirements. People pay into pensions. Where did the money go? I know where it went, it went to stock points and bonuses. Gladwell wants to act as though the number of people hitting retirement age was an unknown. It was a known, it could be calculated and planned for. If the same companies, he focuses on GM, had forecast so poorly regarding a product, Wall Street would be up in arms. Instead, what you get is, "These things happen and the population bulge is so big" and wah, wah, wah. The bulge was big when those workers started, the bulge was big when those workers were ten years away from retirement. To ignore the bulge was bad planning on the part of big business unless the plan all along was to deny promised benefits.
Cedric: I wish I'd read the article because I'm sitting here nodding along with everything Ava's saying.
Kat: No. I read the Saunders thing mistakenly thinking it would be funny. I was so disgusted with it, I had no interest in the rest of the issue.
Rebecca: Okay, we're turning to The Progressive. Ava wanted one thing put on here. Ava?
Ava: I just wanted to say that while I appreciated what Luis J. Rodriquez was saying, he overlooks a perceived threat and if the immigration rights movement is going to confront the obstacles being put in front of the movement, then what people see as threats need to be noted.
Betty: And The Nation had an article on that very topic recently.
Ava: I'm not trying to put you on the spot, but could you talk about that. I haven't read that issue yet. We're all at C.I.'s -- Dona, Jess, Ty, Jim and I -- and the magazines tend to make there way from person to person slowly.
Betty: Okay. It was written by Bob Moser. I don't know the title.
C.I.: "White Heat."
Betty: Thank you. I'm looking for my copy. Moser went to Nashville to attempt to grasp where this anger/fear was coming from. He met a woman who saw herself as a free spirit and she felt she'd usually supported the 'right' left causes but on immgiration, she was vocally and actively opposed to it. He spoke with her, Bob Moser, and to other people as well. Including a dee jay who'd joked that the answer was to "shoot them." The dee jay, and I've got the issue now, so I'm flipping, said his remark was meant as a joke and just off the top of my head but the response at the rally he was attending to his remark was positive. Okay, his name is Phil Valentine. It's the August 28/ September 4, 2006 issue and the article starts on page eleven. He speaks with Stephen Fotopulos who is there trying to create a dialogue and get people to move beyond fear. He says, "What I really value about being in Tennessee right now is that this is Middle America, and there's no winning this immigration debate without understanding what people think here." Here is Nashville which has had a very vocal segment opposed to immigration.
Ava: I think that's a strong point. My point with regards to Rodriguez' article on pages seveteen and eighteen of the September 2006 issue of The Progressive is that I'm not sure whom he's talking to. He's addressing the English only movement. Now, we were all speaking on Tuesday and a number of people my age, we were talking to students, wanted us to speak to some of their parents groups so we stayed over an extra day. I'm Latina so maybe that's why middle-aged women felt that they could raise the issue with me, I hadn't spoken about immigration, we were largely speaking about the war --
C.I.: Jess had spoken about immigration.
Ava: Right, Jess had. But I was approached, at three different events, by three different women, White Anglo women, who felt they were really wronged. Their issue was that they worked in offices, all three did, I don't think they worked at the same offices, but they told the same story. They felt that in their offices, co-workers spoke Spanish to talk about them with others who spoke Spanish. Now, we were in New Mexico by the way, they felt the need to tell me that while they were not in favor of building a wall between the US and Mexico or in turning immigrants into endentured servants, they were in favor of English Only because they felt such a policy would make their office lives run more smoothly. When we got back to California, we were talking to some friends in the immigration and the anti-war movement and I brought that up and was surprised that so many had heard similar stories. I'm not passing a judgement on the women in this roundtable, I'm just noting that this was their fear and it was apparently a not uncommon fear. I wasn't aware of that until we got back to California, that it wasn't that uncommon. If you're addressing the English Only push, if you're responding to it or trying to help people see that this is not an attack on English, I think you need to be aware of it. I wasn't until this week. I was surprised. Then we got back and I heard everyone saying, "Oh yeah, I've been told that." Then I was shocked. I don't cover English Only, I would assume someone who did would be aware of this. There were other issues as well that they raised but I feel llike I've talked too long.
Betty: I will note that I had a supervisor who attempted three years ago to implement an English only in our office for that reason. It only caused more problems. But there were a number of people, Black and Anglo White, who felt that when people were speaking Spanish, they were talking about them.
Ava: Did you ever feel that way?
Betty: No, but I was friends with most of them. I knew them. And when we'd all go out to lunch, they'd mix the two languages and I knew that it wasn't to talk about me but because they were bilingual and it was sometimes a word that came to mind quickest, or a phrase, and sometimes it would be that they weren't sure of the phrase in English, and would say that to me, and other times it's just that it's part of who you are. If you know how to speak another language and someone else does, of course you're going to want to speak it with them.
Ava: But there were tensions in the office for others?
Betty: Yes, a number of people were convinced that anytime something was said in Spanish, especially if laughter followed, they were being talked about. This wasn't true of every Anglo White or Black person in my office but it was true of enough of them that they got together and complained to the supervisor.
Mike: So what happened?
Betty: She implemented a policy. I was outraged. Especially since some people were dealing with people who only spoke Spanish. That was their job. If you've hired someone for that as their job, I don't see how you can then tell them, "Well don't do it." If you have a skill, you need to practice it. But, long story short, too late, upper management got a complaint and the policy was dropped.
Mike: Then what happened?
Betty: It really wasn't an issue after that. I don't know why. Maybe because those complaining about the Spanish in the office realized upper management wasn't going to support them, maybe because while it was briefly in place, they heard that they weren't the topic of conversation. But it went from about nine people being really angry and mad to just one. But it was fear based and I agree with you that it's something, if you're trying to help people get over their unreasonable fears, that you need to be aware of.
Rebecca: Anything else?
C.I.: I'll just add that Rodriguez makes the point that the second generation, the first born of immigrants, tend to immerse in the dominant culture and that is true but it's also true that, regardless of what ethnic or racial group you're talking about, the third and fourth generations tend to have a reclaiming of heritage. The reclaiming isn't noted. But you're avarage majority-minority relations sociology class addresses that in the first weeks of the class.
Cedric: I'll offer my opinion on that, and I did learn that in sociology, when we discussed it, the feeling of the class was that when you're first generation born in America, your like every other kid in America wondering if your parents are embarrassing you? Are they hugging you too much? Are they babying you? Go down the list. So it's part of the growing process that every generation has. And when you add in that you're dealing with language and other issues, that's just more that you're moving from to establish who you are. Your children are, the grandchildren of immigrants, coming at it differently because they have assimilated parents so there's not the same concern when they're attempting to define themselves plus we all love hearing our grandparents stories. That was our spit balling of it.
Rebecca: Our second article from The Progressive, September 2006, is Adolph L. Reed Jr.'s "When Government Shurgs: Lessons of Katrina." By the way, Bety can't italicize at her site without it running together into the next word. Are we using quotation marks?
Kat: Not in sections I've typed.
Rebecca: Okay, well we'll all just not itacilize and assume that people are smart enough to grasp. We have very smart readers.
Cedric: I loved that article. It was my favorite in the magazine. I felt it was the best look at the realities of Katrina. Race is involved but there's class and other issues that factored in as well. I really enjoyed the information and the way that was written.
Betty: He did have an engaging writing style. And what's been done to the evacuees could not have been done without assiatance from Blacks. There's always going to be some who will stab their brothers and sisters in the back and that's been true forever and a day. In New Orleans, they sided with the establishment Whites to do away with public housing and reasonable rents.
Cedric: And the whole concept of who was a 'stakeholder' and how the ones in charge based it upon ownership.
Mike: But it's Bully Boy's method. I'm not giving the ones in New Orleans a pass, but I'm saying it could only happen under Bully Boy. He's done the same thing with Iraq, turned it into a 'free marketers' wet dream. With a real president, the actions taken in New Orleans could not have been taken because a president who truly represents the people would have been disgusted by the choices made and hesitant to rely on big business as the almighty savior.
Betty: Absolutely. He set the tone. And the decision makers knew they had not only a free hand but encouragement. They acted accordingly and it's the people who suffered in the hurricane and in the wake of it that are still suffering.
Kat: The poor. And what stood out to me the most was that section on the distribution of the DVDs. That might have been covered a year ago by the news media, but if it was, I had forgotten it. But, I'm going to quote here because I think this is really important: "Two months before Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin's administration determined that it couldn't afford to provide public transportation to evacuate residents in the event of a major storm. So the city produced DVDs to distribute in poor neighborhoods, alerting residents that they would be on their own. There was no attempt, as part of the evacuation plan, to promvide transportation for the nearly 100,000 New Orleanians who didn't own dependable cars and couldn't afford to pay their way out of the city. This was triage without the name or the courage of its convictions." Reed goes on to write that this determination is at the heart of the Katrina tragedy because issues of public good always took a back seat to cost ratios. The government's first job is to protect its citizens. If it's not maintaining that, then it's not doing anything.
Cedric: Right, he writes: "The Nagin administration couldn't afford to deploy enough buses as part of its evacuation plan because it gave higher priority to dedicating funds to other purposes -- such as subsidizing development and keeping taxes and fees low."
Rebecca: Which brings us back to the point C.I. made in real time about the difference between tragedy, the hurricane, and injustice, the response.
C.I.: I was noting Judith N. Shklar's The Faces of Injustice. That's was her concept. Just to give credit where it's due.
Rebecca: Okay, great roundtable and C.I.'s got to do "And the war drags on" still so my apologies for breaking the agreed upon half-hour. Cedric upped his participation via Katrina, but Mike, you're lagging!
Mike: I'm sorry, it's the heat and it's past eleven my time. I'll try to participate more.
Rebecca: You're forgiven. By the way, everyone was invited but this was last minute and Wally, Jim, Ty, Jess and Dona had plans to see a concert and, of course, Elaine has group on Thursday nights and I didn't invite her for that reason. She would have tried to participate but after doing therapy all day and then doing it at night, she is wiped out. She would have been here and I'll hear tomorrow that I should have invited her but she would have been exhausted before we started and I wasn't going to do that to her when she still has to go into work tomorrow. But we're in the home stretch, boys and girls, and we're finally on Iraq. "There Is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?" by Andrew Rosenthal ran in this morning's New York Times and, C.I., I don't want to hear that it's an op-ed because this isn't going up at the main site for The Common Ills so you can engage in this conversation.
C.I.: But I haven't read it. I don't usually read the opinions.
Rebecca: Grab the paper, I know you've probably go the main section by the computer in the bedroom still.
Kat: Well, I did read it because Jess and I discussed it. I'll note that it doesn't perpetuate the lie that people are streaming out of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concerts when "Let's Impeach the President" is played. They didn't when I saw them live. But there's this myth, sort of a Pearl Jam redux, that says it is happening. That's the only thing nice I can say about it.
Ava: That was the only nice thing Jess could say as well. He kept trying to get me to read it and I kept saying, "Get that crap away from me."
Mike: So --
Rebecca: We've just delted a lengthy section that I wish we could keep because C.I. had a funny line about Fleetwood Mac. But we'll go back to the Rosenthal column.
Mike: He's basically saying that the generation, younger, of today isn't active and doesn't care to be. He makes comments and comparisons to his day and I don't think he's bothered to look around, he's another desk jockey who didn't see a story in the New York Times so he's convinced nothing must be happening because action is ike a tree falling in the forest, if the paper didn't write about it, did it happen?
C.I.: It's an opinion piece. While I strongly disagree with it, it's also true that he's expressing frustration and on some level may be attempting to goad people into activity, or shame them. Obviously, there's action in the peace movement, whether or not the paper covers it, but I'm not so sure the article wasn't a prove-me-wrong type piece on some level. I'd also add that his comparisons have a built-in problem because he's comparing today to, largely 1968 and after, and we're really just recently arriving at the point where a groundswell could effect in a similar way.
Kat: That's a good point. Kent State is 1970 and it's after other protests have taken place. That's why the National Guard was sent in by Nixon to begin with.
Ava: And if Elaine were here, she's make the point that the peace movement has existed without mainstream support and that it's existed with very little independent media support.
Cedric: Never more so than in the last two months.
Ava: So, it's foolish to compare the two.
C.I.: Today's movement will be led by the people of today. He's staring in the rear view mirror and people are ahead of him on the crosswalks. The sixties had a youth culture before it had an anti-war movement because the youth culture began in the fifties as the baby boom came of age. College students and high school students are involved and their involvement will only grow. Only someone who was out of it at the beginning and out of it now would think that there's been no measurable progess.
Ava: And look at what we had to go up against.
Kat: Like Baby Cries a Lot. Annointed as our liberal voice on radio and he still can't call for the troops to come home.
Rebecca: Exactly. And when C.I. made that point a long time ago, it was considered controversial. Now it's accepted and you can read it in most places. But he did hurt the movement. Now he's not taken seriously and who cares what he thinks. But a lot of people with microphones and platforms were clamping down and saying, "Oh, we've got to stay over there."
Cedric: Well, let me say The Common Ills because I know C.I.'s going to get ticked off, but the community did address the war in the post-election 2004 period and most people didn't. Most people were off drooling over ways to gather up the mythical 'vangical voters. When you think of what we've had to overcome not only from outside the left but from within the left, it's amazing that it's progressed as far as it has.
Betty: And talk about the distractions. We're trying to end the war and the Sammy Powers are trying to pull the troops out so they can go to Darfur. We're up against a lot and the Bully Boy doesn't meet with us and we don't get fawning coverage from the media and we can have 300,000 rally last March --
Ava: At least 300,000.
Betty: At least, and we're treated to less mainstream attention than the small number of Darfurian Saviors. And on Democracy Now, we're presented as the same because we're given the same amount of time, a headline, in the Monday after the protests. Mike?
Mike: And let's be real, independent media lost interest in Iraq for over two months. There has been little support for the movement and the support that it has gotten has been from very few but that was appreciated. But really, dropping Ehren Watada, not going to Camp Casey, that's nonsense. The independent media failed. Plain and simple. There were exceptions. But collectively they failed. C.I.?
C.I.: I don't disagree with you on that. They dropped the ball. Iraq vanished completely. You could go whole weeks listening to independent media and never hear a thing about Iraq beyond headlines. It is very sad. I'm saddened by it. I think those who dropped it should ask themselves some serious questions. It shouldn't have happened, it shouldn't happen again and it shouldn't be the case that the coverage has still not picked back up -- however, the coverage has still not picked back up. I was on the phone with Rebecca's grandmother today and I agree with her completely, when your country goes to war, you don't drop the coverage to grab every other topic in the world. When most people are finally at a place where they want to talk about the war, you don't say, "Oh, okay, we did that now let's move on." But that's what's happened. It's very sad. And don't think Bully Boy didn't know he could divert attention by encouraging and approving of Israel's armed aggression and war crimes. He knew that would defocus attention from him. He or someone with a brain in his inner circle. It was a perfect play in that regard and people got played because instead of offering that story, which did matter, in balance with coverage of Iraq, we got that story wall-to-wall and little else.
Mike: Will you be promiting the upcoming book by --
C.I.: Don't say their names. No, I won't be. Why would I promote them and their book when one of the writers elected to ignore Iraq and still largely ignores it? We won't be noting the book, we won't be noting personal appearances, we don't even note the program. The community turned on it. As I said, I'm not the Bully Boy. I grasp that when opinion has hardened, there's nothing you can accomplish by ignoring it. But more to the point, when someone drops Iraq, they're not someone I'm interested in getting the word out on. Even were we covering the program today, which we no longer do, I wouldn't be promoting the book. Independent media rode Iraq to a larger audience and then, this summer, they turned their back on the war. Overt or not, a pact was made with the audience, you support me and get the word out because I will cover Iraq, I will address it seriously, blah, blah, blah. That pact was broken. I hope that answers your question.
Mike: It does. But I was worried we'd see upcoming appearances and the book noted.
C.I.: Worry no more, it's not happening. If you don't treat the war seriously, the community has no interest in you. There's no point in publicizing something the community doesn't care about. I know you've expressed that you hope the book does poorly. I don't share that wish but I won't be surprised if, as with Baby Cries a Lot, the authors find a smaller audience this go round at publishing. What passed for bravery in 2003 and 2004 doesn't cut it today and, honestly, that program isn't even maintaining that level, they've fallen. As Ann Wright said in July, we have to be upping the ante.
Rebecca: And on that note, I'm calling this to a close. I know C.I.'s still got an entry to do. Thank you to everyone who participated. Thank you to Kat, Ava and C.I. who typed up the transcript throughout. Cedric, do the summary.
Cedric: We started out with Tom Cruise as an example of when big business attacks. We also addressed the so-called unexpected 'crisis' in pensions, Hurricane Katrina, immigration, English only, bad humor and Iraq. See, you can cover more than one topic.
C.I.: Jumping in, Camp Democracy starts next week in DC, September 5th.
This on Iraq.
Thursday, August 31, 2006. Chaos and violence continue, another war resister goes public and Dr. John Gee accuses the CIA of interfering with the work of the Iraqi Survey Group and points fingers at others who couldn't grasp that "there was no WMD in Iraq."
Starting in Australia. Dr. John Gee is considered "an expert on chemical weapons" and was part of the Iraq Survey group (a group of scientists made of British, Australian and American scientists sent into Iraq to attempt to find the WMDs). Gee and other Australians have been truth telling with little attention from the US domestic press. Rod Barton, who resigned in March 2004 from the Iraq Survey Group at the same time as Gee, has published The Weapons Detective which, UPI reported, maintained that: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard both knew before the invasion that the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was false. . . . When shown the pre-war Iraqi WMD Australian intelligence assessment, Howard even asked, 'Is that all there is?'" Peggy Lee remix: "Is That All There Is To A War?"
Apparently so. Lies and more lies.
Speaking to Samantha Hawley on PM, Gee stated: "There were no WMD in Iraq and we were all wasting our time pursuing the illusion that there was something there." Australia's ABC reports that Gee "says he quit his job in 2004 because the group was focusing on trying to justify pre-war judgements rather than establish facts." Appearing on the 7:30 Report, Gee discussed his interaction with Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer which was dismissive. Appearing on the show, Rod Barton backed up Gee's account. Alexander Downer states that Gee is "a scientist and we took his advice very seriously."
That's one issue. Samantha Hawley (PM) noted another: "At the time of his resignation, Doctor Gee was serving under a contract with the Defence Department. He claims his resignation letter never even made it to his superiors there, because it was stopped by the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer." Downer denies blocking the resignation letter, which included references to CIA interference, and states that he "raised it [the issue] with Mr. [Charles] Duelfer himself."
Australia's Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security, Kevin Rudd states, "The Australian weapons expert sent in to help came back and told Mr Downer to his face that there were no WMD there at all. What did Mr Downer do? He covered it up. He didn't want that message to get out to the Australian public before the 2004 Federal elections. That's where this thing stinks." Rudd is also calling on Downer to release the six-page resignation letter Gee wrote.
On the letter that Downer denies suppressing, Marian Wilkinson (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that it "outlines in detail interference by the CIA and the Bush Administration in first reports abou tthe weapons hunt to avoid finding that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction."
The Scotsman notes: "The CIA analysts in teams searching for chemical and biological weapons were the same ones who concluded before the invasion -- officially called Operation Iraqi Freedmon -- that they must exist, Gee wrote in his resignation letter. 'Much of the two teams' work is geared to trying to justify pre-OIF judgements rather than any attempt to establish the facts surrounding Iraq's WMD programs,' Gee wrote in March 2004."
Gee and Barton resigned in March of 2004. In the United States, members may be more aware of David Kay who resigned January 23, 2004 and stated that he didn't believe WMD "existed." Kay headed the Iraq Survey Group. When he resigned, Charles Duelfer took over after being appointed by the then-CIA director George Tenet.
The Duelfer Report would come out in September 2004 and an 'epilogue' in March of 2005. No WMD were ever found. However, despite admitting that Gee informed of the fact that there were no WMDs in Iraq, Downer still stood side by side at a press conference with Charles Duelfer in April of 2004 and called the search "a work in progress."
Possibly, instead of scientists, they should have sent Donald Rumsfeld who claimed, to George Stephanopoulus on ABC's This Week, "We know where they are. They're in Tikrit and Baghdad and East, West, South and North somewhat." (March 30, 2003.)?
As with the Downing Street Memos, this story may have trouble getting traction in the United States. Two dailies are apparently having a real struggle dotting their "I"s and crossing their "T"s which would explain why, though they were made aware of this story on Tuesday evening, there's still been no report of it.
Turning to Iraq, where the chaos and violence continues.
CNN reports a car bombing "in a southeastern Baghdad neighborhood" ("near a gas station") that took the lives of two and left at least thirteen wounded, one in the eastern section of the capital ("near a restaurant") that wounded three and a car bomb in Harthiya that left two civilians and two police officers injured. On the bomb near a gas station, Reuters notes that "four police commandos" were killed and 11 other people were injured. (Which may mean two of the injured in the CNN report may have died.) Also in Baghdad, AFP notes that six children were wounded by mortar rounds and roadside bomb injured eight "travelling in a minibus." Baghdad. The site of the 'crackdown.' Is it time for another of US spinmeister William Caldwell IV's "three-day 'quick look'"s? Reuters reports: "A convoy of British diplomats and guards was blasted by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad on Thursday but the British embassy said no one was injured." Rebecca Santana (AP) reports on a bomb "at a popular market" in Baghdad, that combined with two other bombings in the capital, has led to at least 20 people dead and at least 75 wounded.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that, in Mosul, "[a]n Iraqi soldier wearing civilian clothing was shot and killed while walking". Reuters notes that in Samawa four people were wounded by gunfire; in Ramadi, "[a] former Iraqi Air Force commander" was shot dead; and, in Mosul, two police officers were killed by gun fire and two more were wounded. AFP reports: "Police from the Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital, said that at least nine people were killed in the province on Thursday" including two borthers when a store was attacked. AP identifies the store as "a cotton shop" and notes that, in Baghdad, a security guard for the oil ministry was shot dead and another was wounded.
AP reports that a woman's corpses ("riddled with bullets") was discovered "dumped on a main road." Retuers reports that, after four days missing, Turkey al-Duleimi ("a civilian judge") was discovered in Samarra.
In the most recent report, Rebecca Santana (AP) reports: "A series of attacks killed at least 46 people across Iraq Thursday, including 39 within a half hour in a Shiite section of Baghdad, officials said. At least 118 people were wounded."
In peace news, following Ricky Clousing's lead, another AWOL soldier has come forward. Speaking at Camp Casey III, Angela K. Brown (AP) reports, Mark Wilkerson announced that, after "a year and a half" of being AWOL, he would be turning himself in. Brown reports: "Wilkerson said his views of the war changed and he realized he could no longer stay in the military, so he applied for conscientious objector status. But his request was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq. He said he was told his appeal would not be considered until after he came back. So Wilkerson then decided not to return from the two weeks of approved leave before the January 2005 deployment."
On August 11, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) broke the news that Ricky Clousing, who also checked himself out after returning from Iraq, would be turning himself in. As the war drags on, the resistance grows with the Pentagon estimating that 40,000 have deserted or checked themselves out of the military since 2000.
Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks covers the stories of some war resisters, including Jeremy Hinzman and Kyle Snyder, who've gone to Canada and it will air on Global TV October 7th.
Meanwhile in the United States, Ehren Watada awaits the military determining what they will do (the recommendation has been court-martial). Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Like Clousing and Wilkerson, Watada sees the war as illegal.
Speaking to Caroline Aoyai-Stom (Pacific Citizen), Watada explains his duty: "Despite conflicting loyalties, I am fighting for the allegiance to which I swore an oath to uphold and defend -- the Constitutional laws and principles of democracy. My decision brings honor to veteran JAs. Instead of perpetuating war crimes and a war of aggression, I am actively trying to put a stop to it. Instead of being the 'quiet, obedient Japanese,' I am fulfilling my oath to protect my soldiers and this country from our government. This is all at great expense -- when the easier, safer path would have been to do my tour in Iraq."
Susan Palmer (The Register-Guard) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob Watada "spoke at a Eugene [Oregon] peace rally on Tuesday in support of his son and called for change in Washington, D.C." Bob Watada tells Palmer, "My son has taken a stand for a very good reason and he is willing to suffer the consequences that the military wants to mete out."
More information can be found at Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org. and Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use firstname.lastname@example.org to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco is on hold as the attorneys and those on sitting on the board of inquiry practice shooting guns. Luke McIIveen and Gemma Jones (PerthNow) recap some of the hearing's moments of this week. They also note that Soldier 14 has claimed to be in the room after hearing a shot -- strange since the unit's commander didn't testify to that.
And this TV critique.
TV: Washington Weak
Once a week, PBS airs Washington Week aka Washington Weak. (Air date and time varies from market to market). The show stars Gwen Ifell who suffers from many things including a surname that sounds like a follow up hit for A Flock of Seagulls. As a result, we tried not to hold it against her that she's such an obvious aficionado of the TV series Family Affair that her chosen hairstyle is a clear homage to Mrs. Beasley.
Ifell is famous for many things including once remarking that the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by people in the administration was "only a summer scandal." Fortunately for Ifell, accuracy isn't a big thing in the gas bag biz so she remains not only still employed but also still the star/host of the show. We wouldn't call her a "moderator" and we'll get to the why of that in a bit.
Let's instead turn to some real news: Nancy Walker Lives!
And she's apparently raided Rhoda Morgenstern's jewelry box!
How else do you explain Bloomberg's Janine Zacharia who favors the right side of her mouth when speaking and apparently mistook herself for a Christmas tree and jewelry for ornaments? While some might see the ear rings alone as 'over done,' Janine demonstrates that "tacky" is a foreign concept and piles on an equally ridiculous necklace (with ten 'charms' on the chain). We kept expecting her to turn to the camera and explain that, for just $19.95, the costume jewelry could be delivered to your home in four-to-six weeks.
Wearing a 'funky' Rhoda-like sweater, Janine got a healthy chunk of air time and, in fact, the first segment was more or less a free-association monologue for her as she rambled on about Hizbollah and Lebanon. Fortunately for her, all the mavins accepted the premise that Israel's motives were pure and just and filled, as Joni Mitchell once put it, "with fantasy and fairies, rainbows and butterscotch."
That's because even conventional wisdom is a reach for Washington Weak. Instead, the guests follow the host's lead and kibitz for a half-hour. Anything more than simple patter leaves Gwen feeling and looking all fartootsteh -- like the time, a few years back, when she infamously attempted to weigh in, on air, about the First Amendment and got it so wrong that a guest dared to correct her leading to (and remember this airs on PBS) her laughable reply of "Well, whatever it says . . ."
Last week's show (or today/night's depending upon when it airs in your market) found Gwen surrounded by the types she likes: folks eager to editorialize and opine. The much maligned (oft deservedly so) Elisabeth Bumiller earned herself a scowl and exile from Gwen when she refused to offer speculation while discussing the Bully Boy's alleged National Guard service. The hint seems to have taken and all panelists now eagerly race to prove that they can offer so much more than just facts.
The big stars this week were Gwen (of course Gwen, it's always Gwen!), Janine and the Bobble Head Pundit -- from The New York Times, Helene Cooper. Did she think she was on Springer and attempting to stay loose for the head roll? Who knows? And who knows what Helene said most of the time? Watching her head dip and bob, weave and thrust on every word, we were mesmerized by the swaying earrings she appeared to have borrowed from Polly Holiday back when Holiday played Flo. There were three tiers to those earrings. Exactly who costumed Helene? And if this passes for professional dress at The Times these days, color us shocked.
Not to be outdone, Gwen Ifell went for matching slivers on her ears and around her neck. The choice must have been very taxing for Gwen -- which would explain her confusion when she attempted to note Bully Boy's comment from last Monday about the effects of the Iraq war on the country: "These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that." Gwen phrased it thusly: "He said . . . he understands that the nation's psyche is kind of bruised -- it's not the word he used, but kind of". Kind of always passes for 'good enough' on Washington Weak.
While most might assume that a host should be prepared with the quotes she plans to note, Gwen settles for "kind of". (There is a word that follows 'kind of' and repeated attempts to decipher the word she squeals -- her voice rises and rises -- were unsuccessful. Lots of luck to the transcriptionist who posts at the show's website on Monday.)
The Iraq discussion was as trivial as everything else on the show (and we hope our review has treated the program with all the seriousness it treated the issues). A clip was shown of the Bully Boy stating "We're not leaving so long as I'm president" which led to Gwen questioning Janine about "what did the president's response tell us about what the president was really thinking?"
Damn determined to haul The Nancy Walker Show out of mothballs, Janine opened with, "He's really thinking that we're going to be there for a long time!" as she seemed to look around in anticpation of a drum roll or canned laughter. (Neither were provided.)
Gwen then turned to Helene who was so busy head bobbing and gesticulating that she must have lost her already loose grip on common sense. That would explain Helene's declaration that "so many American are getting tired of seeing these soldiers coming home dead." Seeing them where, Helene? Seeing them where?
There's a ban at Dover, so exactly where are most Americans "seeing these soldiers coming home dead"? Shortly after that, Helene almost inadvertantly struck Janine (who did flinch) while she was gesturing.
There were four guests and let's note the other two. Paul Singer (National Journal) and David Wessel (Wall St. Journal).
David, please, buy a suit that fits. He looked as though he'd borrowed David Byrne's suit from Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense tour. And let's point out the obvious, that beard doesn't convey maturity; instead it makes him look as though he's starring in Teen Wolf . . . Blitzer.
Paul would do well to learn that his body language must accompany his words. Not only did he demonstrate a lack of rhythm when he clapped his hands but he also illustrated some cognitive challenge when the phrase he was using was "snap the fingers." You do that with a finger and thumb, Paul, not by clapping together two hands.
Paul also suffered from an askew tie that looked like a clip-on and from a tendency to hold his breath whenever anyone asked him a question. (Considering how wordy they can all be, we feared Paul might pass out.) We'd also suggest that, although shaving isn't the requirement for Paul that it is for some males, he'd still be better off shaving before going on television.
If it seems like the guys aren't getting much focus, they aren't. And that's largely due to the fact that the segments they monologued in (each guest got one segment to monologue in) were the two shortest (together they didn't even add up to ten minutes). One of the segments was on the housing market and Helene felt the need to inquire: "So David, at the risk of sounding like I only care about what is happening in my neighborhood, is this localized or is it national?"
After David answers (the south's the only region that's doing well), Gwen can't resist the urge to prove that she's the Orson Bean of the newsy set by interjecting, "For the record, Helene really does only care about what happens in her neighborhood." It's those sorts of little bits that lead us to refrain from calling her a "moderator."
We're supposed to laugh, we're supposed to chuckle. But the biggest laugh was yet to come because David dared to ask, "And you?" To which Gwen replied, full of sarcasm, "No, I care about everyone."
Oh the zingers. Oh the wit. Oh the 'observations' which couldn't even pass for superficial.
The newsy show ended on a note that struck us as even more real than Gwen's laughable, facetious claim to "care about everyone." It ended with Gwen grabbing her glass as the guests grabbed their's. Gwen clinked glasses with Paul and soon everyone was clinking glasses. But, silly Gwen, no one took a sip because no toast had been delivered.
As the voice over plugs were going on, we could see Gwen giving a toast and, finally, they all took a sip. Seems as though everything got plugged except the most obvious one: "Jewelry provided by the Joan Rivers Collection." We fear she also scripted some of the zingers.
All in all, it was a very weak week.