Jon was in my 10th grade geometry class. For two semesters we sat catty-corner in Mrs. Hedrick's room doing proofs, comparing the sides of isosceles triangles, and pretending we'd never met. In fact, we'd known one another for years. Our mothers had spent time in the same mental hospital in the early '60s. Soulmates, they'd kept in touch through the years and every so often they'd set off on an escapade together. As kids, Jon and I got dragged along. By the time we hit high school, we'd shared more escapades than either of us cared to remember.
We'd both learned to compartmentalize: There was the weekday world of home and school where normalcy reigned. Our fathers had each remarried and formed new families; during the week we lived in orderly households. Weekends were another matter. On weekends we swapped our fathers' suburban routines for our mothers' bohemian fantasies, stability for spontaneity.
I'm guessing that Jon's mother was also bipolar -- not that we ever discussed our mothers' diagnoses, but they seemed wild in the same way. Laughing at things we didn't find funny, turning ordinary events into high drama, talking non-stop about inappropriate subjects, waylaying total strangers in the supermarket aisles, buttonholing sales clerks and gas station attendants, toll collectors, receptionists, and waiters to talk, talk, talk. At the very least it was embarrassing, being out in public with the two of them. And on occasion it was frightening, not knowing when or how the escapade would end.
Today there are support groups for family members . . .
That's the opening to Lisa Lieberman's "The Legacy of Madness: The hidden costs and continuing legacies of growing up with a mentally ill parent" from the Hartford Advocate.
In the Seattle Weekly, Rick Anderson's "Six of Their Own" looks at the continued casulaty rate and how the recent bombing in Mosul effected Washington state residents:
"It's very bad," the voice over the phone said to Maj. Timothy Gauthier, who was groggy with sleep early on the morning of Dec. 21. "You need to get in here right now."
"Little did I know how bad it was," Gauthier said Wednesday, Dec. 29, recalling how he felt after learning six members of his Fort Lewis Lancers, part of the Stryker force, had been killed by a determined suicide bomber in Iraq. Apparently wearing an Iraqi army uniform over explosives strapped to his body, the bomber sat chatting and eating with the troops of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, before the mess hall bombing. Killed were 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers.
The blast brought to 80 the number of troops with Washington state connections killed in Gulf War II in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty-two soldiers based at Fort Lewis have died, 11 from Gauthier's division.
Most of the focus in the alternative weeklies this week appears to be on New Year's Eve (hot spots and how to party) and on reviewing 2004. I'm noting what I see as the strongest pieces and I'm sorry if something you enjoyed didn't get picked (no one's sent in any suggestions except Billie and we'll be linking to that one).
Joe Conason has a strong piece in The New York Observer on what we can expect from Bush's next budget proposal:
The President will reveal further details when he sends his 2006 budget message to the Capitol next February, although the intention has been clear since last spring. What we can anticipate is the usual slashing of domestic programs. This conservative pattern dates back to the Reagan era: spend big on the military and tax breaks for the wealthy, then cut back on school lunches, Medicaid, veterans’ health care and clean water.
Soon we’ll be hearing sonorous speeches from Republican leaders—including Mr. Bush himself, no doubt—about all the "wasteful spending" they so fervently oppose.
Such declarations would be more credible if only these politicians could curb their profligate enthusiasm for missile defense—a truly wasteful program that proved again last week how badly this government manages our money and our security.
In case anyone missed the news, the latest test staged by the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency concluded in an embarrassing failure on Dec. 15. The target rocket launched on schedule from Alaska, but the interceptor rocket never left its pad in the Marshall Islands for their planned rendezvous in space. The cause, according to the Missile Defense Agency, was "an unknown anomaly," which in plain English means that the Pentagon, after spending roughly $100 billion over the past two decades on this system, has no idea why it still doesn’t work.
Doug Ireland pays tribute to Susan Sontag in "Remembering Sontag":
I was quite pained to learn just now of the death of Susan Sontag. I first encountered Susan on the page when I was a teenager, through her groundbreaking essays in the Partisan Review — where she helped introduce Americans to European intellectuals of the first rank, like Roland Barthes, among many. We finally met in the late ’70s, when Dick Sennett asked me to be a fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at New York University — a sort of glorified chat shop for intellectuals which we used to refer to jokingly as "the Humane Society" — where Susan was a regular at the seminars. We became friends, and I passed many agreeable hours in her company in the years before I left for France. On several occasions we shared a joint together — although I felt rather guilty about giving one to her, as she had already had lung problems and bouts of cancer. Most of the obituaries will undoubtedly speak of Susan’s brilliance.
In The Austin Chronicle, "The Hightower Report" [Jim Hightower] discusses and disses the Hummer (that's not a complaint from this web site) and then turns his attention to chips being embedded in people:
Have you been chipped, yet?
You could be soon, for the Food & Drug Administration has now cleared the way for a Florida corporation, Applied Digital Solutions, to market a tiny electronic device called VeriChip that is surgically implanted under the skin of your arm or hand.
Don't worry, says the corporation soothingly, being chipped doesn't hurt you, and it's really for your own good. For example, they say, if you have an accident, your implanted chip could contain vital medical information that could be accessed by an ambulance crew (assuming the crew has bought a hand-held, chip-reading scanner, which Applied Digital also happens to sell).
In The San Antonio Current, Lisa Sorg wonders "What is the role of the Peace Corps in a bellicose world?":
In the Peace Corps' 43-year history, the agency's goals haven't changed: to reduce poverty, engage in cross-cultural exchange, and educate others about America. Although volunteers are required to remain politically neutral while abroad, the Peace Corps itself is subject to domestic and foreign political pressures.
So when Peace Corps volunteers enter an international stage where their mission can conflict with the United States' actions abroad, such as the war in Iraq, do they serve as goodwill ambassadors or as extensions of its foreign policy?
The answer: Both.
Philadelphia Weekly has strong interview (done by Kia Gregory) with Democratic state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, the head of the Black Caucus in Pennsylvania:
Where does change begin?
"Our folks haven't been listening to these young people. These kids don't want to act out. They don't want to be uneducated. They don't want to be on drugs. They don't want to be locked up or truant. But they want something, and it's something positive. If you keep putting a negative in their face, and telling them to make it on their own, that's what they'll do. We have to provide, and find out what they're thinking, what their wants are and needs are, and then meet them at those needs."
About 80 percent of homicides in Philadelphia are committed with handguns. What priority will gun legislation have on PLBC's 2005 agenda?
"Last session I introduced legislation asking the governor to put together a task force to investigate why and how guns are coming into poor minority communities in such large numbers. This isn't about gun purchasing from your local gun dealer. This is about the black market. Black-market guns are being sold to our young people, and we need to find out how they're getting into our communities. And the penalties on the people selling these guns need to be extremely high. The legislation didn't make it out of committee, but it's going to be one of the first things on the list as we enter this next session."
In the Nüz section of the Metro Santa Cruz, one of "the Shrivers" (as Gore Vidal Is God likes to call them) pops up:
All this got Nüz wondering whether misrepresenting a group of nurses at a women's conference earlier this month as being among the special interests who "don't like me in Sacramento because I am always kicking their butts" actually bodes well for Arnie's presidential ambitions.
In the North Bay Bohemian "Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Commission member Hank Mattimore argues that juvenile offenders should not be sent to adult prisons:"
The last time I saw "Paul" (not his real name) was in a dinky cell at Juvenile Hall in Sonoma County. It was hard to believe this 15-year-old baby-faced kid and his buddy had broken into an older woman's home, tied her up and demanded that she tell them where she was hiding her money. When the frightened woman would not respond, one of the boys (it was never clear which one) beat the victim with her own cane. They left the house with a small amount of cash and some credit cards. Fortunately, the woman was able to untie herself, received treatment for her bruises and eventually testified at the pretrial hearing.
Paul and his 17-year-old buddy, a registered gang member, were arrested the next day trying to use the woman's credit cards. Paul was never more than a gang wannabe. Both boys were charged with aggravated assault and robbery. The district attorney, intent on making an example of them, insisted they be tried as adults. On the advice of their public defender, who feared they could receive life imprisonment if the case went to trial, both boys pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 20 years in a maximum-security adult prison.
I looked at the kid sitting across from me in his prison sweats and tried to picture him in 20 years.
In The Orange County Weekly, Jim Washburn weighs in on our obligations and the current administration (in "Call Me Irresponsible Yes, It’s Undeniably True") :
As Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson or Skipper Alan Hale once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." They weren’t talking about standing at our borders with a pickaxe, but about keeping a scrupulous watch over ourselves, our intentions and our institutions.
And we simply don’t do that. When more Americans can tell you what Donald Trump did this month than what Donald Rumsfeld did, it’s no wonder the Bush administration gets away with murder.
We are supposed to be a society, and very few of us are doing all we can to act like it. I’m lucky I get to vent here because aside from penning an occasional unpublished letter to the Los Angeles Times, I don’t do all I should. We should all be calling our congresspersons—as well as ABC daily to ask why Scott Peterson gets more coverage than the mercury poisoning our kids.
In the New York Press, Russ Smith trumpets some bad news: the New York Times has hired William Safire's replacement. On the plus side, it's someone of color and the paper desperately needed to move beyond it's "Whiter Shade of Pale" op-eds. On the negative side, it's a male colunist. (Apparently a person of color who also happened to be a woman was just too revolutionary for the Times.) And on the "Oh my God!" side, he's a conservative (according to Smith) Gregory Kane. Well it's nice to know that someone will finally be able to play with little Davy Brooks in the sandbox, Uncle Willie was far too old for that. I'm not linking to the article because Smith's going orgasmic over him and (call me a prude) I firmly believe masturbation is not a public event.
I will, however, link to Matt Tiabbi weighing in on Time's choice of the Bully Boy for their person of the year, bloggers and Andrew Sullivan:
An argument I see sometimes and occasionally even agree with is that bloggers don't have the same factual and ethical standards that the mainstream media supposedly has, which leads to such fiascoes as the bogus Kerry-mistress story sweeping the country, or the name of Kobe's accuser being made public.
But more often than not, the gripe about bloggers isn't that they're unethical. It's that they're small. In the minds of people like Sullivan, not being part of a big structure intrinsically degrades the amateur, makes him a member of a separate and lower class; whereas in fact the solidarity of any journalist should always lie with the blogger before it lies with, say, the president. Journalists are all on the same side, or ought to be, anyway.
Not Time magazine, though. Time lay with the president. Time big-time lay with the president. What was great about Sullivan's "Year of the Insurgents" column last week was how beautifully it threw the rest of the "Person of the Year" issue into contrast. Here's Sullivan bitching about bloggers needing to stay on the margins where they belong; meanwhile, his "respectable" media company is joyously prancing back and forth along 190 glossy pages with George Bush's c--- wedged firmly in its mouth. [Common Ills Note: "c---" is our edit, not The New York Press's.]
The East Bay Express highlights "The Year in Comics" (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/yearcomics/) and we'll note this one (it's in pdf form) entitled "The Price of War" by Mike Mchanic and David Lasky http://www.eastbayexpress.com/yearcomics/5.pdf which Billie sent in because she enjoyed it.
Eugene Weekly is highlighting policits (local and national). Those who've followed Ohio will be interested in the second item:
A lawsuit filed by the Green Party/Libertarian Party with the Ohio Supreme Court charges that a fair vote count would give the state and the presidency to John Kerry rather than George Bush. Deposition notices were sent Dec. 21 to Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to appear and give testimony regarding the legal challenge of Ohio's elections results in the case Moss V. Bush et al.
I'll also recommend this Oregon paper's main page (http://www.eugeneweekly.com/) because it includes a "Tusnami Relief" resource list.
Of the year in movies pieces I've read, I'd recommend Susan Gerhard's "Reason to Disbelieve"
from The San Francisco Bay Guardian:
Another cross to bear, The Passion of the Christ, actually offered me the best recovered-memory moment of my filmgoing year. Mel Gibson made Catholicism almost as appealing as the Sister Mary Margaret I tried so hard to avoid in my childhood. She was a corporal punisher and a corpulent presence, and I had a very tangible reminder of SMM right there in the movie theater with me. Midday at the Metreon had never looked like this before: an audience mostly dressed in black and smelling of church mustiness and whiskey. The nun seated behind me was perpetually indulging a vice most regular filmgoers had long abandoned: shouting curses at the screen. Every blow struck to her Lord Jesus Christ seemed to hit her in the gut, which then ricocheted off my seat. The nun's many bathroom/tippling breaks allowed the only relief I got in a film that did, truly, bring me back to three-hour Eastertime masses and make me feel like I was walking through those stations of the cross myself. For all that can be said against it, Gibson's horrorscope Catholicism wasn't a perversion of this religion's message; it was an accurate distillation of it – the way I learned it at least – and a timely reminder of the excellent reasons to run screaming from that church.
Of the year in music pieces, I'd recommend Peter Relic's "Music: It's Not Hot: This Year, Hip-Hop Went Stone Cold" from The Cleveland Free Times:
Hip-hop isn't hot anymore. It's a cooled-down form with its major statements behind it. While it stays busy cannibalizing itself for profit, its revolutionary potential is buried beneath a mounting heap of what Gil Scott-Heron once called “party and bulls---.” [Common Ills note, that's our edit, not the weeklies.] Public Enemy's Chuck D famously said that rap music is the black CNN, but in 2004, hip-hop conclusively devolved into being the jive E! Network. The biggest single of the year, “Yeah!” by Usher, Lil' Jon and Ludacris, was not really hip-hop at all. But cloaked in the basest stylistic trappings of the culture, it proceeded to stink up the charts like a Snickerdoodle dookie in the shallows of a kiddie pool.
There are also two stories on the media worth linking.
Las Vegas City Life features Saab Lofton:
I've been a fan of Geov Parrish's commentaries for years. And after reading the aforementioned paragraph, it occurred to me that 2004 was defined by the mass media's complicity with the Bush administration and the Democratic Leadership Council.
"The most important election in our lifetime," my ass! If Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader was treated with the proper respect by the media from the beginning, one of them might've actually won -- and who knows how much life would've improved for the poor and oppressed as a result. ...
Whatever potential 2004 might've had was ruined because America either fell head over heels for Dubya's Andy Griffith-like charm or for the DLC's claim that nominating a left-wing presidential candidate is tantamount to expecting Halle Berry to choose Urkel as a prom date over Denzel Washington -- even though most Democrats are against the war!
. . .
The good news is that after years of CNN insulting the poor and oppressed by having wimpy moderates like Michael Kinsley represent the left on "Crossfire," Michael Moore officially broke into the mainstream in 2004 with Fahrenheit 9/11 -- which covered the "negative news" Parrish referred to. The bad news is Moore's already facing a backlash for all the great, eye-opening work he's done. Check out what Al From, CEO of the DLC, recently said about the Oscar-winning and critically acclaimed Moore: "We've got to repudiate, you know, the most strident and insulting anti-American voices out there sometimes on our party's left. ... We can't have our party identified by Michael Moore and Hollywood as our cultural values."
So even after reluctantly picking Kerry over Nader, and after touring the country on behalf of the Democratic Party, Moore is still betrayed by the DLC!
In Atlanta's Creative Loafing, Steve Fennessy's "Idiot Wind" examines the soft balls the press has thrown to Bob Dylan (Newsweek and 60 Minutes are cited) to demonstrate that it's not just the big stories that the mainstream media is blowing:
Omissions, as it turns out, that are glossed over by those handpicked by the Dylan camp to conduct interviews with him. In fact, after the Newsweek story ran, [David] Gates sat for an online forum in which readers could ask him questions about his one-on-one with the Bard of Hibbing. One reader wanted to know if Gates had asked Dylan about his motorcycle accident in 1966, or his divorce. "No," Gates responded, "and perhaps I should have."
. . .
When he wasn't asking about Dylan's dining habits, [Ed] Bradley returned to the same question that Dylan has been answering for 40 years -- about his role as "voice of a generation." What's amazing is that for 40 years, Dylan's answer to that question hasn't changed. No, he never saw himself that way. Next question.
It's no wonder Dylan hates the press. What's to like?
From the Ms. archives, we'll note their past choices for Women of the Year as 2004 draws to a close:
2001 Women of the Year (http://www.msmagazine.com/dec01/woty.asp)
Marleine Bastien, Jennifer Erikson & Roberta Riley, Magda Escobar, Jane Fonda, Rebecca Gomperts, Naomi Klein, Barbara Lee, Yoko Ono, Sylvia Rhone, Venus & Serena Williams, The Women of Afghanistan, World Trade Center Heroes and Michelle Yeoh.
(Planned Parenthood has an article on Roberta Riley & Jennifer Erikson at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/articles/women_year.html.)
2002 Women of the Year (http://www.msmagazine.com/dec02/womenoftheyear.asp):
Lourdes Portillo, Lisa Leslie, Greenblatt and Shamas, Barbara Blaine, Nia Vardalos, Sisters for Economic Dignity, Patty Bellasalma, Cristina Saralegui, Nancy Pelosi, whistleblowers, Ruth Simmons, Jill June, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
2003 Women of the Year (http://www.msmagazine.com/dec03/woty2003.asp):
Eileen Fisher, Loune Viaud, Salma Hayek, Martha Burk, Sima Samar, Pamela Thomas-Graham, Jessica Neuwirth, Joan Blades, Carla Diane Hayden and Niki Caro.
And we've posted on Ms.' 2004 Women of the Year picks (remember that issue is on sale currently) but this year's honorees are certainly worth be noting again (http://www.msmagazine.com/winter2004/womenoftheyear.asp):
Jersey Girls Samantha Power Betty Dukes Saudatu Mahdi Kathy Najimy Maxine Waters Lisa Fernandez