Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year of the Slow Reveal

Whether it was learning George W. Bush was a 'man of peace' or that media fakery only goes so far for so long, 2011 was not only full of surprises, it was the year of the slow reveal.

Take Bully Boy Bush. 'The Iraq War ended,' media wanted you to know. And withdrawals took place not because of Barack Obama but due to Bush. In November 2008, Bush rammed through the Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq. Barack's administration spent most of the year attempting to negotiate a new treaty to replace or extend the Status Of Forces Agreement which would expire today if not extended. They failed. They failed, some argued, because of WikiLeaks and the exposure of War Crimes enraging Iraqis.


Iraqis needed WikiLeaks to know what was going on in their country? Iraqis needed WikiLeaks to know about the September 2007 slaughter in Baghdad by Blackwater?

As per usual, disinterested Americans tried to pass their own limited scope and view off as "universal." Surely, if they were only now learning of (or remembering) the Blackwater attack, then the same must be true of Iraqis, right?

Unlike most Americans, Iraqis never had the luxury of zoning out for months of Lost marathons. All humans practice escapism and certainly those in war zones need it more than others; however, you can only escape from reality for so long in a war zone.

Another reason offered for the refusal by the Iraqis to extend the SOFA or come to a new agreement came from US Senator John McCain. McAin's hypothesis is that Barack purposely tanked the talks (see the November 15th Iraq snapshot and Kat's report on the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing). Were that true (I personally don't buy that proposal), then the administration should be paraded before Congress due to the fact that, when the country was in three overseas wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya), plus drone attacks of Pakistan and in an ever increasing economic mess, for Barack to have wasted some of the administration's most valuable players on negotiations that were intended to fail would be criminal negligence. Far more likely is that, as with his attempts to land the 2016 Olympics (for Chicago) which included traveling all the way to Denmark only to see the Committee rebuff him and select Rio instead. Barack's embarrassing failure was lampooned in Isaiah's 2009 "Dream Team Take Two" which found the players (Barack, Michelle, Oprah and Valerie Jarrett) attempting to bring the Mary Kay Convention to Chicago.

Dream Team

Barack failed, again, and yet negotiations continue. (Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testfiying before the Senate Armed Services Committee November 15th, "Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotiations. We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero trops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there.")

Failure on renegotiating or replacing the SOFA was not intentional, it was just another example of bungled leadership. Yet after the very public failure, it was sold as "Barack Kept A Promise!"

The reality, as James Cogan (WSWS) observed, was, "The Obama administration and the US military agreed to remove all combat troops, as stipulated in the Status of Forces agreement reached in 2008, only after they failed to bully the Iraqi regime into allowing thousands of troops to remain under a blanket exemption from prosecution under Iraqi law."

Never one to deal with reality, Idiot of the Year Tom Hayden (or possibly one of his interns) wrote the pathetic "In Iraq, peace at least" (Los Angeles Times), a high-spin, low-fact concoction that was wrong in every way possible including the lie that Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to be elected while campaigning on a promise to end a war. No, Tommy, not the first, you damn well should have remembered Tricky Dick ran on that promise as well.

And peace at last?

Hayden made that assertion December 15th. Two days later, December 17th, Liz Sly (Washington Post) was reporting that Iraq was "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." Adding, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders." And so began the political crisis that has gripped Iraq.

Peace at last?

Somebody buy the old drunk a bottle of booze and send him staggering on his way.

Hayden claimed the peace movement was responsible for what was being called the 2011 "withdrawal." Yes, Leslie Cagan had gotten leathery over the years, long in the tooth and even sprouted a few chin whiskers; however, we didn't realize she actually was George W. Bush.

As Tom and other charter members of the Cult of St. Barack took to the airwaves, print and online to praise Barack, they were praising him . . . for following . . . a Bush agreement . . . and then only following it . . . after his attempts to replace it . . . failed.

So those hailing the 'end' of the war were hailing 'Man of Peace' George W. Bush.

Reality, when voters supported Barack in the 2008 election, they weren't electing him to follow Bush's lead. Nor was Barack claiming he would follow Bush's lead. In September of 2008, as McCain-Palin was rising in the polls, Barack insisted, "Now, the choice for the American people could not be clearer. John McCain has been talking a lot about change, but he's running for four more years of the same foreign policy that we've had under George Bush. Senator McCain will continue the overwhelming focus on Iraq that has taken our eye off of the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11."

The American people didn't want four more years of the same foreign policy that Bully Boy Bush had provided. That's why they went with Barack . . . only to discover he'd give them four more years of Bush.

When you campaign promising to have all troops out of Iraq in 16 months (qualifiers in lengthy interviews don't replace the generic and simplistic statements he delivered in tent revivals across the country -- always begun with his cry of "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!") and then lower that to 10 and swear up and down that the first thing you will do upon being sworn in is to start the withdrawal process with one brigade out each month starting in January, people believe they're getting something different. Yes, dirty little whores in Panhandle Media refused to tell the American public that (March 2008) Barack's chief foreign policy adviser told the BBC that this was not a promise and that Barack would decide his plans for Iraq after he was in the White House. But that's not what Barack promised the voters.

He promised to immediately end the war and that's what voters wanted. He got into office and followed Bush's plan and did so only after his attempts to extend it failed. He kept no promises made on Iraq and that's probably the year's biggest slow reveal.

The lack of promises kept may explain why so many 'independent' (Democratic Party organs) stayed silent on Iraq in the last months (such as The Progressive). Lesson for Team Obama? Even whores need rest.

Joseph Kishore (WSWS) provided the reality missing from the pages of The Nation:

Repeated attempts by the American people to put an end to the war were blocked by the Democratic Party, culminating in the election of Obama in 2008, whose victory was due in no small part to mass antiwar sentiment to which candidate Obama cynically appealed.
The official "antiwar" groups, having undermined organized opposition to the war by channeling it behind the election campaigns of the Democrats in 2004 and 2006, seized on the victory of Obama to wind up their protests. Far from representing a break from the policy of Bush, however, the Obama administration has continued it in all essentials. Not only did Obama maintain the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, he expanded the Afghan war into Pakistan and launched a new war in another oil-rich country, Libya.
The same organizations that proclaimed their opposition to the Iraq war supported the invasion of Libya. These middle-class organizations and publications such as the Nation magazine seized on the election of Obama to make their peace with imperialism.

Yes, the Libyan War. The illegal war that allowed a bunch of sad 'peaceful' people to make like the Bush groupies of 2002 and 2003 and foam at the mouth (and in their undergarments). Time and again, we saw a rush to reject the law, humanity and so much more all because a Democrat was in the White House.

Fortunately, not everyone on the left was an idiot, whore or groupie. The Libyan War, more than any other development, demonstrated lives were at stake. Another slow reveal which forced many to speak out and many others to raise the volume of their voices. Law and Disorder Radio, with hosts Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith, chose the rule of law, the Constitution and ethics over a cult of personality.

Michael Ratner: Well the use of military force by the president has to be authorized by Congress under the United States Constitution. That's very clear. And it's not just war, it's use of -- it's hostilities, it's really any military action anywhere in the world other than in self-defense. So we start from the premise that military actions, whether in Libya, killing people in Somolia or Yemen, etc., has to be authorized by Congress. In some cases the president claimed that the authorization to use military force passed in 2001 -- after 9/11 -- gave him authority. But in other cases, he's just asserting raw, naked power. He's claiming that because these don't amount to large wars that the Constitution doesn't apply and he doesn't have to go to Congress. Now then what happened because this is a common claim of presidents whether it's in Libya or Somolia, Congress after Vietnam built in a safety trigger. They said, "Lookit, you still need our consent to go to war, or to go into hostilities or bomb people, etc. But we're going to put in a safety trigger. If you do that, if you engage in hostilities and you don't come to us first like you're required to do under the Constitution, then you have sixty days to come back to us and get authority or within sixty days all troops have to be automatically withdrawn." So it's a safety figure because they knew the president would do exactly what Obama is doing, violate the Constitution. They put in a safety trigger that said you have sixty days to get authority, if you don't have authority then you then have 30 more days to get all the troops out, a total of 90 days. So in the case of Libya, of course, the 90 days have passed and the War Powers Resolution had required that all those troops be brought out. So we had a sort of double system.

Barack was insisting that the Libyan War wasn't a war. And much of the press -- Big and Small -- were letting him get away with it. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network) refused to play. Among their segments was a conversation with Lucy Grider-Bradley about what she saw on her trip to Libya (on the July 4th show):

Glen Ford: We asked Lucy Grider-Bradley if what she saw felt like a war to her?

Lucy Grider-Bradley: Absolutely. I felt bombs, the effect of bombs dropping in the distance. I saw billowing clouds that came up after the horrible sound and the building that I was in shaking. Billows of white, smoke-like substance that turned black as if watching a horror movie. I saw the effects of that bomb. I saw a 30-fooot crater in the middle of a home that belonged to Muammar Gaddafi's son -- where his son was killed and 3 of his grandchildren also murdered from the effects of that bomb. I mean, how do you get a 30-foot hole in the middle of your house? Well I can tell you what I saw -- the results of a UN-US-NATO bomb. The delegation saw a lot. We saw people trying to go about their daily lives, not knowing when the next bomb was going to drop or knowing where the bomb was going to drop. But in spite of it all, they gathered ever evening at the place where the grandchildren and the son were killed to show their support for their leader. I wonder if that kind of thing was happening in the United States, if we would get out and rally behind a leader who was dropping bombs and murdering people -- Black people especially. I don't think I'd be part of that party. But the Libyans definitely support their leader and show it every night despite the fact that there might be bombs dropping. And I also want to say civilians have been murdered. Not just military folks. So the bombs aren't dropping just on what the UN calls military outposts, they're dropping in residential areas in Libya. I think it's important that that point is made over and over and over again.

Glen Ford: And when President Obama denied that he had to comply with the War Powers Act because he was not engaged in hostilities with Libya, how did you feel having just returned from there?

Lucy Grider-Bradley: Well can I just say that I don't listen to him so I didn't hear him say that so I really don't have an opinion. I think about him like I felt about President Bush: If you see his mouth moving he's probably lying.

Glen Ford could also be found at Black Agenda Report with Bruce Dixon, Margaret Kimberley and other truth searchers and tellers. But for every Ford (or for every Professor Francis A. Boyle, to name another who refused to tailor their opposition to empire just because a Democrat now occupied the White House), there were hundreds and hundreds of useless people trying to gain control of the narrative yet again for reasons other than truth.

For example, Elaine (rightly) called out John R. MacArthur for his attempts to resurface and bring a few gutter dwellers and lower level demons with him. Wow, the truth about Barack just isn't known, John? Well you run Harper's magazine so, on the eve of Barack's fourth year as President, whose fault is that? John never looked as much like the indecisive Should-I-vote-in-the-French-elections-or-the-US-elections dabbler (he holds dual citizenship) as when he thought he could get away with re-branding Bill Moyers and Barbara Ehrenreich as truth tellers.

Understand that this Cassandra -- who told the truth about Barack from the start and took boos from college audiences in 2009 but kept on telling it -- isn't about to pretend like the little whores of 2008 don't owe the world an apology. Babsie and Billy are two useless, dried up, mentally stunted, nut cases. Bill Moyers disgraced himself (and PBS) with Bill Moyers Barack Journal -- which is what the show became to promote Barack over and over throughout the 2008 primaries and general election. As for Babsie, she grew so unhinged in 2008 that she destroyed whatever was left of her tattered reputation in the mainstream. And her daughter went to work for the administration further disgracing the family as she advocated for the registration of journalists. (Rosa left the administration this year.)

John wanted to (a) promote the notion of a left challenge to Barack in the 2012 election and (b) redeem his fellow whores. Either aim was going to be a serious struggle. By combining the two, he reduced himself (yet again) to dilettante rich boy spending the family money and, at fifty-five, the spoiled little prince in short pants really doesn't play . . . except for laughs.

As 2009 drew to a close, John wrote:

Following President Obama's war speeches at West Point and Oslo -- two breathtaking exercises in political cynicism that killed any hope of authentic liberal reform -- I've got only one question: Have the liberals who worshipped at the altar of "change you can believe in" had enough?

Yet only two years later, he thinks he can pimp two whores from the Cult of St. Barack as ethical and trust worthy?

Let's put this into terms even Babsie can understand.

Ehrenreich, you know how you finger-bang yourself to fantasies of Stalin? Well, here's one you can live out in public with your clothes on: Re-enact The Great Purge by confessing to your sins and you can even pretend Stalin had you tortured beforehand. Then later on, you can fantasize about it all while declaring, "At night alone, I marry the bed" (Anne Sexton's "The Ballad Of The Lonely Masturbator").

Masturbation, public masturbation, replaced news as the sport for the semi-photogenic as viewers of network news discovered throughout 2011.

Stock footage was really all televised 'news' had to offer. And they went to great extremes creating ad copy for that footage. The slow reveal that the network evening news is even more shallow and fake than most Americans thought.

Even two weeks after the Iraqi political crisis started this month, you had the network evening news -- on ABC, CBS and NBC -- ignoring it, refusing to tell the American people what was taking place.

See, they'd spent a few bucks to get some 'last troops out' footage and they wanted rah-rah feel-good for the holiday week and -- We've heard of budgets effecting network news. Generally, that means that a story can't be pursued, it's too costly. But that money had been spent gathering rah-rah footage meant that the news had to go on hold, that the news had to be denied?

If it's happened before, I'm not recalling.

Try to grasp that during this two week period, they were happy to tell us of last troops out but not wanting to tell Americans that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq, had declared Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi a terrorist and ordered his arrest. That alone was news. When the ruler of a country orders the arrest of a vice president, that's news whether the country's Iraq, Venezuela, Yemen or Spain. But that wasn't all. Nouri also demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections. Nouri is the leader of the second place political slate State Of Law.

Operation Happy Talk was at work throughout the Bush administration. But that resulted in reporters usually soft-pedaling the truth (such as the vicious November 2004 assault on Falluja being turned into a moment of glory). Not in denying it, not in ignoring it, not in erasing it.

When the charges came down, Tareq al-Hashemi was in the KRG on official business. That's the Kurdish Regional Government, three Iraqi provinces that are semi-autonomous (meaning they don't answer to Nouri and his Baghdad-based government). al-Hashemi didn't just refuse to return to Baghdad, he became a house guest of Jalal Talabani. For those unfamiliar with the name, Talabai is President Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq.

Again, this would be news, actual news. But for two weeks, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams refused to tell the truth (see Ava and my "Media: Ashes, ashes, they all fall down" and "TV: News on the 'news'"). During this two week period, a series of Baghdad bombings claimed over 70 lives and left over 200 injured in one day alone. That did make the network evening news but, somehow, they 'forgot' to tell you this was in the midst of the political crisis.

While the evening newscasts on broadcast, commercial TV ignored the political crisis in Iraq, PBS' The NewsHour covered the crisis. It made the news on a Saturday (in the US with Liz Sly's report noted earlier) and three days later, they were offering two segments (here and here), the next day including it in the news wrap, then an ITN report by Inigo Gilmore, Jeffrey Brown moderating a discussion of whether or not the US should have remained in Iraq, and more.

In fairness, two things should be noted. First, Diane Sawyer was on vacation and others were responsible for running ABC World News at that time. Second, all three networks morning shows managed to cover what the so-called evening news wouldn't. (CBS' The Early Show deserves special credit for being the morning show leader on that story.) We should probably also note that my gripes here during this period were nothing compared to the gripes of network correspondents who saw the political crisis as news but were unable to successfully lobby the managing editors (anchors) to include the crisis.

It should never have been that way.

And not just because it was actual news.

But also because, mere days before the political crisis erupted, Ted Koppel had filed the best report on the state of Iraq and the state of the war.

Ted Koppel. With the death of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather leaving CBS in disgrace, Peter Jennings passing away, there really are only two elder statesmen for network news currently: Koppel and Tom Brokaw.

So when Koppel files a important report on Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC), it's supposed to make a difference. Excerpt.

MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?

AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.

[. . .]

Ted Koppel: If those Iranian backed militias were to launch a full scale attack on this consulate, would the US calvary ride to the rescue?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: We depend upon the Iraqis and if we need security support, we will turn to them and we will tell them, "I've got a problem in Basra and you need to help us.

Ted Koppel: The question is will they?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I believe they will.

Ted Koppel: That's what an ambassador has to say about his hosts. This is the man who might actually have to deal with that nightmare, Lt Gen Robert Caslan. General, how are you going to get 1320 people out of there? I mean if you've 24 hours notice that something like this was going to happen, you're telling me the Iraqi government would evacuate immediately? Would get them all out of there?

Lt Gen Robert Caslan: I would argue that we do have, in theater, whether it's in Kuwait or elsewhere in theater, that we fall under the central command, Centcom, and I feel confident that Centcom has the necessary assets to take whatever measures they need to to counter that attack.

And pair that with the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing -- specifically, this exchange between Chair of the Joint-Chiefs Gen Martin Dempsey and Senator Kay Hagan (see the November 16th snapshot and Third's "Gen Dempsey talks "10 enduring" US bases in Iraq").

Senator Kay Hagan: Well with the drawdown taking place in less than two months, what is your outlook for the ability to continue this training process to enable them to continue to do this on their own?

General Martin Dempsey: Well they will be limited. They don't have the airlift to deliver them to the target that we might have been able to provide. They don't have the ISR target to keep persistent surveillance over the top of the target. So they'll be limited to ground movement and they'll be limited to human intelligence and we'll keep -- But part of the Office of Security Cooperation provides the trainers to keep the training to develop those other areas, but we're some time off in reaching that point.

Senator Kay Hagan: We'll, as we continue this drawdown of our military personnel from Iraq, I really remain concerned about their force protection -- the individuals that will be remaining in Iraq. So what are the remaining challenges for our military personnel in Iraq in terms of managing their vulnerabilities, managing their exposures during the drawdown?

General Martin Dempsey: Senator, are you talking about getting from 24,000, the existing force now and having it retrograde through Kuwait?

Senator Kay Hagan: The ones that will remain over there.

General Martin Dempsey: The ones that will remain --

Senator Kay Hagan: Their protection.

General Martin Dempsey: Yes, Senator. Well, they will have -- First and foremost, we've got ten Offices of Security Cooperation in Iraq bases. And their activities will largely be conducted on these bases because their activities are fundamentally oriented on delivering the foreign military sales. So F-16s get delivered, there's a team there to help new equipment training and-and helping Iraq understand how to use them to establish air sovereignty. Or there's a 141 M1 Tanks right now, generally located at a tank gunnery range in Besmaya, east of Baghdad and the team supporting that training stays on Besmaya so this isn't about us moving around the country very much at all. This is about our exposure being limited to 10 enduring, if you will, Offices of Security Cooperation base camps. And doing the job of educating and training and equipping on those ten bases. Host nation is always responsible for the outer parameter. We'll have contracted security on the inner parameter. And these young men and women will always have responsibility for their own self-defense.

Senator Kay Hagan: So we'll have contracted security on the inner-paramenter?

General Martin Dempsey: That's right.

Yet, this somehow became "ALL" US troops were coming "HOME" as mis-reported over and over. No, they weren't. And at this site and Third, we heard about that from military families. We wrote about it and covered it and called out the repeated lie that "ALL" were coming home. If it were your child, spouse or parent remaining in Iraq as a 'trainer' or embassy guard or remaining in a surrounding country, you wouldn't appreciate the media lie that "ALL" were coming home. Starting in the last week of November, we repeatedly called this out. And yet the lie persisted.

Friday, Geoff Ziezulewicz (Stars and Stripes) reported on Andrea Thune who's husband remains in the region, who had to explain to their child that Daddy wasn't part of the "ALL" coming home yet: "It has also been painful to see news articles in the past week touting the fact that all U.S. troops are home from Iraq, Thane said." May Ziezulewicz's article start the next slow reveal: No, "ALL" aren't coming home.

In addition, US Sgt Ahmed Altaie isn't part of the "ALL." He's classified Missing In Action. The "all" doesn't include those who were sent to Iraq and died there while serving. Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) observed this week:

The President and Vice President of the U.S. may be celebrating the "end" of the Iraq War, but on Monday, December 19, 2011, that war of choice for profit claimed another innocent victim: handsome, sensitive, and compassionate, beautiful soul, Brian Arredondo.
How many more will suffer? The country of Iraq is spoiled with depleted uranium and babies are being born with birth defects and children are dying from leukemia and other war-related illnesses every day, still. How many years will it take the Iraqi people to recover from the decades’ long devastation the U.S. has caused?
How many of our veterans will commit suicide, or die from long, painful deaths from DU poisoning, emotional scars, or other wounds?
Wars never truly end, so the best thing to do is never allow them to begin in the first place.

The war didn't end for Iraq. The political crisis could be resolved tomorrow and it still didn't end. The US occupation didn't end either. 16,000 US staffers (some contractors, some diplomats, some military) will be working for the US State Dept. This in addition to the forces Ted Koppel noted in his interview with the US Ambassador to Iraq. That's not the end of anything. This in addition to the expectation by Panetta that, early in 2012, the administration will be able to close a deal with Nouri al-Maliki allowing more US troops to be sent back into Iraq.

As the year came to a close, McClatchy Newspapers and NPR closed their Baghdad bureaus. The broadcast TV networks did that at the end of 2009. (CNN didn't and CNN is not, at this time, planning to close its bureau, I'm told.) It's a real shame because the war has not ended. And because some of the best reporting -- such as this by Tim Arango, Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidtt (New York Times) -- was emerging.

One of the most annoying trends of 2011 was writing about Iraq.

'How can you say that? You write about it!'

Yes, I do. I write about what's going on in Iraq. I'm not talking about that or what Chris Floyd or others are producing. I'm talking about the people who did nothing for the last three years and now think that their pieces on the start of the Iraq War, dusted off and placed in a shiny new binder, are somehow helpful or informative.

As with the US press withdrawal, those pieces really don't say a damn thing about war or peace. Iraqis continue to live in misery and poverty (most, anyway). Your stale columns on what Bush did nine years ago does not illuminate the devastation today. But it's easy to write, right?

You just grab an over-gasbagged topic from eight years ago, re-write it and call it "new." And pretend like you did a damn thing.

As much of the US press retreats and simple minded fools churn out the WMD pieces all over again, no one seems to notice that what they're doing is exactly what they criticized in 2003.

They're focusing on themselves.

What was the big complaint about the war coverage? 'They showed the bombs going off but not where they landed.'

It's where they landed, it's where the illegal war landed, that matters. And that's what won't be covered. The effects of this war will be felt every day in Iraq for years and years to come. Real coverage would show these effects of war. Instead, a lot of lazy fools rush back to when the war started, ignoring everything that's taken place and that will take place because of the illegal war.

Deborah Sweet and others with World Can't Wait didn't need a slow reveal to motivate them to get active. They treated the changing of the guard at the White House in 2009 as the empty ceremony that it was and stay focused on what mattered.

They're not surprised by what Ruth's dubbed the "Continuity You Can Believe In." Nor is Michael Ratner who bears quoting again:

Both Bush and Obama have claimed the right to kill and capture alleged terrorists anywhere in the world or hold them in military detention indefinitely -- ie Guantanamo.
In their view the world is a battlefield -- not just Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their claim is that alleged terrorists -- at least those related to al Qaeda, Taliban and associated forces (whatever that means) are at war with the United States and that the US can make war on them which includes capturing them and holding them forever without trial -- no matter where they are: Yemen, Somalia, United Kingdom, South America or anywhere.
The determination of whom to capture and/or kill is made by the President without any court.
Bush and Obama have always claimed that US citizens can be so treated as well -- so that is why under Obama we saw the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen -- al-alwaki.
Both Presidents have also acted as if they can kill and capture alleged terrorists that have no relationship to 9/11 -- the new law confirms this practice.

The slow reveal is that there is no respect for the Constitution on the part of the administration or for rule of law. That was made even more clear today by how Barack elected to celebrate the last day of 2011. Amanda Simons (ACLU) explains:

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today, allowing indefinite detention to be codified into law. As you know, the White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use it and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations.
The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.
Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.

That's monumental and you better believe future occupants of the White House will eagerly use that tool. As Grace (Debra Messing) once put it, "Oh, oh, and by the way, once you let Jeannie out of the bottle, there's no way she's going back to that little circle couch.*"


(*From Will & Grace's season one episode "Alley Cats" written by Jhoni Marchinko and Alex Herschlag.)

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

rock center with brian williams
nbc news
ted koppel
the new york times
jack healy
tim arango
michael s. schmidt

Ruth's Radio Report 2011

Ruth: If radio got behind one story in 2011, it was the Occupy story. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, etc. And if one report stands out in all the reports it would be the one on the homeless man dying at Occupy Denton.

Throughout the Occupy movements or 'movements' the homeless were used and never was it more clear than in the radio report on the homeless man dying featuring college kids (University of North Texas in Denton, Texas) explaining they were sorry for him . . . sort of. Like the young college woman explaining that she really felt bad about the death . . . unless it turned out he was doing drugs.

Because, if a homeless man, in freezing temperature, did drugs, he got what was coming to him?

Much of the Occupy coverage passed for little more than advertising copy.(See Ava and C.I.'s analysis "TV: Scandals and bumper stickers" from November.) That was especially true of most Pacifica Radio programs. Strangely enough, of all the endless hours of coverage, the only report that lived up to that name was done by attorney Heidi Boghosian (Law and Disorder Radio) who went to Occupy Wall Street when the likes of Amy Goodman still were not yet willing to. Ms. Boghosian filed a real report and spoke with activists involved, with supporters and with detractors. It should have been the template for all the coverage to follow but agenda advertising, and not reporting, is what was on display.

And the constant need to inflate what was taking place went a long way towards explaining the boredom that greets it at present. As Betty would explain in November, the hype included the false and repeated claim on Pacifica Radio that the majority of Americans supported Occupy. Betty would note:

Marisol Bello (USA Today) explains, "Two months after the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to dozens of cities and colleges, six in 10 Americans still don't know enough about its goals to decide if they are for or against it." And Gallup's analysis of the poll states that's been consistent throughout OWS -- that six in 10 have been saying they don't know enough. Of those who do have an opinion? That's only been 43% of the population. More of them support than oppose OWS. 19% opposed it back in October, 19% oppose it now. The change on support? 26% supported in October, 24% support now.

Annoying hype also included, as Trina pointed out, the claim that Occupy was the most important activism since the 60s. As though the anti-war movement of the '00s did not count for anything? And what of the 1980s which saw tremendous work on the nuclear freeze and anti-nuclear movements, the ACT UP movement raising awareness on HIV at a time when silence was the preferred option of the government and much of the press, the anti-apartheid movement which was the student movement of the 1980s and which succeeded in changing the discourse on South Africa in the United States, the Central American solidarity movement, and so much more. The 1990s would see the anti-globalization movement and, throughout both decades, record numbers of people participated in efforts to protect reproductive rights.

Most importantly, all of the above had clear goals.

Occupy was the student whose dog at the paper and needed an extension. Demands to be made at a later date. That is not a movement. It is not even activism.

It is bumper-sticker-ism.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King did not say, "I will have a dream. And get back to you in a couple of months. But, right now, we can march from Selma to Montgomery while I try to figure out what we are demanding."

As NPR, Pacifica, and various radio programs obsessed over Occupy non-stop, they ignored real issues like the ongoing wars, the environment, the attack on our civil liberties and our very legal system, and much more.

Occupy was nothing but a distraction, a defocusing, the pretense that action was -- or would be -- taking place. If the complaint was that Wall Street was rewarded while the average citizens were stuck with the bill ("if" because Occupy always lacked clarity), then a real occupy movement would not have been Occupy Wall Street.

It would have been Occupy the White House. But though they loved to target Republican politicians repeatedly, they only once targeted a Barack Obama event -- once in all the months and months of 'bird-dogging' politicians. That action came about only after weeks and weeks of charges that Occupy was a front-group for the Obama re-election campaign and, even then, it was so weak that most press reports did not even note it was an occupy action. By contrast, Makana, all by himself in Hawaii, would show far more bravery. Isaiah captured it "Occupy."


Cindy Sheehan made an important point this week:

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


Meanwhile, imagine what could have been accomplished if the press had reported on actual events and not been consumed with their dreams of what might someday be?

Or spent even a fraction of the time wasted on Occupy instead focusing on the legal implications of Barack Obama declaring the right to assassinate an American citizen, one who has stood before no judge or jury? Or if NPR had spent time actually exploring the use of predator drones instead of Rachel Martin serving up breathless gushing over their alleged wonders?

Or maybe they could have gotten the Iraq War story correct? Was it really too much to ask that they do that?

They closed the year, Pacifica and NPR, telling us over and over that U.S. combat troops had left Iraq. Strange because following President Obama's August 31, 2010 speech declaring an end to combat operations, they told us that U.S. combat troops had left Iraq.

They were also fond of the term "all" when speaking of U.S. troops. They were fond of lying that all were leaving and then that all had left.

One of the few exceptions to the non-stop lying was the December 13th broadcast of Talk of the Town where Neal Conan spoke to Ted Koppel. Excerpt:

CONAN: Though the president cheers his accomplishment, you say not so fast.
KOPPEL: I do say not so fast, and I think he knows better. But he's right, he did make the campaign promise to get all the troops out, and all the troops will be out, save 157 who will be guarding the embassy, and a few hundred U.S. military trainers. But as you pointed out, 16 to 17 thousand others will be remaining behind [. . .] Muqtada al-Sadr is -- he and his party are now actually coalition partners with the Iraqi prime minister, who stood next to President Obama just yesterday. And it's interesting to point out -- I mean your question is right on the money because Muqtada al-Sadr told his followers that when the U.S. troops leave -- and this is not the exact formulation but pretty close -- that those who remain behind, the U.S. diplomats who remain behind and the contractors who remain behind, should be regarded by his followers as foreign occupiers who must be driven out of Iraq.

Whatever happens in the next phase of the occupation of Iraq, no one can claim that the bulk of NPR programming or Pacifica prepared America for it.


Smartest political move of 2011

Cedric and Wally today selected the smartest political move of the year. We're cross-posting it here and their linked names goes to the joint-post at each of their sites.







[. . .]

RECOMMENDED: "Kat's Korner: 2011 in music"
"Iraq snapshot"
"al-Nujaifi issues a list of denials"
"Turkey's insincere regret pose"
"Iraq snapshot"
"Turkey's continued Elmer Fudd approach to the PKK"
"'We want to normalize a government that really doe..."
"Cornbread in the Kitchen"
"Stop shopping at Sears and K-Mart"
"The economy"
"Charmed dreams"
"Trends in Charmed season 7"
"3 men, 3 women"
"2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)"
"2 men"
"best of fall tv 2011"
"good for kelly clarkson"
"glenn greenwald?"
"Barack oversees attacks on wages"
"Barack Obama, Continuity You Can Believe In"
"Who will save the net?"
"The worst moments of Charmed season 7"
"Charmed and California"
"Sandi Goldsmith is an idiot"
"Pelosi makes her daughter lie"
"Short Cuts"
"2011 in films (Ann and Stan)"
"Laptop update and repair"
"The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing"
"Do US journalists even know the Constitution?"
"Jet lag"
"As we were saying . . ."


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

2011: The year in films

Ann ["2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)"] and Stan ["2011 in films (Ann and Stan)"] have done a year-end piece on movies and, as we always do, we're cross-posting it here.

Ann and Stan with our annual look at the year's ten best DVDs/Blue-ray/Streaming/Astral Projections.

bad teacher

1) "Bad Teacher." The most surprising and entertaining film of 2011. Cameron Diaz turned an iffy-film into reality yet again (see also "There's Something About Mary"). Greedy Elizabeth Halsey is thankfully leaving her teaching job and marrying a rich man until his mother and his accountant nix the pairing. Elizabeth has no choice but to return to 'teaching' (showing films in class). Between getting high and getting drunk, she does have a purpose, a mission, to get $10,000 for a boob job. Larger breasts, she just knows, will provide her with the life she desires. Along the way she encounters and pursues Scott (Justin Timberlake) who can offer money but little else besides dry humping (see above). He's the 'perfect' man, attractive, wealthy, everything she wants. And having him for a dry hump may be her awakening that it's time to rethink her priorities. Before that happens, she'll have to faces charges of stealing the state's appitutude test and a great deal more. Fortunately, she and the script never go soggy. The best film of the year and laugh-out-loud funny.

the green hornet

2) "Green Hornet." 2011 had a few good DVD releases but if there was one dominant strand it was how played out the turn-the-comic-book-into-a-movie was. The last time a super hero film actually surprised was "Green Hornet." "Green Lantern" had to be the worst film of the year -- super hero or otherwise. An action film with a cerebral storyline is a failure. "Thor" was smart, and a decent popcorn movie, but "Green Lantern" was pretentious. And dull. As was "Captain America" which lost its main thread about half-way in and a photo-finish ending didn't distract from how quickly the film went soggy. "X-Men: First Class" went through the motions without any major lows but it lacked even one giddy high. It was all rote. Breaking the formula was Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet". With a script by Seth Rogen (and Evan Goldberg) and Seth in the title role, the film wasn't afraid to take chances. As a result, it rarely stopped surprising. That included the conflict and comradery between Seth's Britt Reid and Jay Chou's Kato and it includes Cameron Diaz's Lenore Case. And special applause for Diaz who took a supporting role and made it come to life. It reminded us of how much she life she brought to "My Best Friend's Wedding" and how Julia Roberts' refusal, since the 90s ended, to really share the screen with strong actresses (the last time we remember is Joan Cusak in "Runaway Bride," everything else has been cameo women or rivals) goes a long way towards explaining how Julia committed box office suicide repeatedly in the last ten years. In "The Green Hornet," nothing felt forced, nothing felt done to death. It was the only super hero film of 2011 that really gave you hope for the genre.

movie the help

3) "The Help." The only drama to make our list and a film that ended up 'controversial.' A number of Black and "Black" academics ("Black" would include bi-racial Melissa Harris of the multiple marriages, we'll include her latest last name if the latest marriage lasts more then 5 years) hated the film and found it an insult to Black America. Yet the audiences we first saw the film with were primarily Black and loved the film. We did too. And we thank Betty for taking on the acadmics at her site because we had planned to avoid the film until Betty waded in. Avoid it? There are enough problems in the Black community without splintering over a film. So if we avoided it, we didn't have to weigh in, right? That wasn't fair to the film or to, most importantly, the amazing performances in it including: Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek and Emma Stone. It's not a racist film. It's not a documentary either, nor does it present itself as such. It's a film based on a popular novel that gives Black actresses -- Davis and Spencer especially -- more of a chance to shine than anything in years.

movie the black power mixtape

4) "The Black Power Mixtape." This film didn't come to us via a loud outcry from Black academics. A reader (Glen) suggested it to us last week. This is a great documentary (and, if you're a Netflix member, you can stream it online currently) that includes many important moments and voices. Some, like Angela Y. Davis, reflect on the past from today and are also a part of the historic past. Some, like Erykah Badu, speak to not just what has been but what could be. A very powerful documentary.

movie burlesque

5) "Burlesque." Maybe some were expecting "Moulan Rouge"? We were expecting a film that lived up to its own title and "Burlesque" certainly did. Cher and Christina Aguilera headlined a cast that also included Alan Cumming, Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet and Kristen Bell. The film was the typical let's-put-on-a-show adventure that depended on performances to lift it and Cher and Christina provided the needed performances. Near the mid-way point, as she contemplates losing her club, Cher sings "You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me" and it may be one of the film's best moments. A better musical than "Chicago" and other overly praised disasters. ("Chicago" wasted the talents of Catherine Zeta Jones and Queen Latifah while spending a lot of time on a woman whose musical talents were then and remain questionable. It was also a little too concerned with being "respectable" guaranteeing little life would make it to the screen.)

movie phil ochs there but for fortune

6) "Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune." There are two documentaries that make our list. This one focuses on the late singer-songwriter Phil Ochs. Unlike Ani DiFranco, Phil didn't whore for a president and pretend he was a protest singer. But little fake Ani (who rode to fame as a 'lesbian' and, of course, is now married to a man) has nothing to offer. She can't stand up against the empire so she decided to whore for it. If you're wondering what bravery looks like -- as opposed to Whore Ani's trickery -- view this film. (And it's another you can currently stream online if you're a Netflix member.)

movie you again

7) "You Again." This comedy features, among others, Kristen Bell. We don't like her. Not on TV, not in movies. But in this film, she stops posing and actually creates some moments. We were truly surprised and actually willing to see a film just for her in the future. We saw this one for Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver. They are the mothers of Bell and Odette Yustman. Those two young women were high school enemies. Bell was a misfit tormented by head cheerleader Yustman. When Yustman gets engaged to James Wolk (great supporting performance, by the way), she becomes a part of Bell's family and JLC advises her to learn to live with it. Easy words until, right before the wedding, it turns out Weaver is Yustman's aunt. JLC was the head cheerleader in high school. Weaver was her best friend who felt JLC left her in the shadows. Generations of issues come to bear in this comedy (including Betty White and Cloris Leachman's) which really seems to exist just so Jamie Lee can remind everyone again how talented a comedian she is. We wish she'd remind us of that every year.

movie tangled

8) "Tangled." We're not big fans of animated films and after the sad sack "Toy Story 3," nostalgia really doesn't belong as a primary emotion in children's films, were willing to write off the genre. But this musical comedy really surprised us. You may resist, as we did, and tell yourself, "Five minutes and then I'll watch something else." If so, you'll find yourself extending the five minute period repeatedly, all through the end of the film. Rapunzel is the template for the film and Mandy Moore gives voice to her while Zachary Levi brings Flynn Rider to life. This is probably the finest Disney animated film since "Beauty & The Beast." And it's got thrills (you have to love the chameleon), chills and spills, songs and dances, good and evil. Two screen caps don't do it justice but maybe they'll give you a sense of the scope.

movie tangled2

movie whitney cummings money shot

9) "Whitney Cummings: Money Shot." This is a comedy club performance by Whitney Cummings (star of NBC's "Whitney") and we again give praise to Betty who sang its praises. It had more laugh, energy and surprises than most scripted comedy films this year.

10) "Bridesmaids."

This is a . . . good film. Okay, anyway. It ranks this high really just because of Melissa McCarthy's comic zeal. Overpraised and endlessly flattered, it's not that funny without Melissa. Maya Rudolph is completely wasted in the role of the nag. The outstanding Rose Byrne goes through the entire film -- as the antagonist, no less -- without generating even one laugh. The character is so limp that it's practically Charlotte on "Sex In The City." Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the film) is sometimes great as Annie but sometimes needed to scream for a better writer. Everything, including the Wilson Phillips concert finale, screams typical "Saturday Night Live" film (see "Tommy Boy" -- among others). Melissa's character really makes little sense in the film overall (bad writing, really bad) but the actress' energy and likability allow the otherwise generic film to hit giddy comic highs when she's around. Sadly she's not around enough and the dull and typical relationship between Wiig's Annie and Chris O'Dowd's Nathan makes the film a plodding nightmare. Every "SNL" film features a name performer from a past time doing a bit of screen magic, in this one, the late Jill Clayburgh steals your heart early on in her first scene but, sadly, the writers never thought to give her another comic moment though she appears throughout the rest of the film. Without Melissa McCarthy, this is just "Coneheads II" or "It's Pat Goes On A Road Trip With Toonces."


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

2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)

Martha & Shirley here again with our look at the year in books. This was a very tight race, both within the top ten and to make the top ten. We'll run the top thirty in Thursday's gina & krista round-robin. But these are the ten books that spoke the most to this community in 2011.

One thing that really stands out is that books need to be talked about and blogged about. Nine of the books making the top ten were. One wasn't. Despite it being by one of your favorite authors (who placed on our yearly best-ofs two times before), that book had no push in the community and no real push outside. All voting for it explained they first learned the book even existed when they saw it in a bookstore. When the community chose to talk about books, either in newsletters or at websites, community members listened.

As DeShawn explained, "I like reading. I don't have time to go through a list of titles every week. I also can't browse my bookstore because my bookstores were Borders Books -- which closed -- and a local independent -- which also closed. So what I'm really left with is what someone recommends. And if someone in the community takes the time to write about a book, even for just a few sentences, that says to me it's worth checking out. That's the only way I am going to pick up a book these days -- except for the small number that make it into Target. But if someone mentions a book, I will go online and order it."

As usual, the bulk of the picks were non-fiction. In the past, political science and politics were big on the lists. These days, perhaps signifying a change in mood in not just the community but also the culture, reflections were more popular.

Now for the list . . .

1 book

1) "Two months after Dad died, Al admitted in the safety of the therapist's office what I must have always known: He never had any intention of marrying me. What he wanted was out. And that's what he got. He got out. I watched him walk into the light of the California sun without so much as a glance back." Al, if you don't know, is Pacino. And Diane Keaton maintains that unique straightforward manner throughout Then Again, a book as noteworthy for its tone as it is for its look which includes photos of collages by her late mother. This was the clear community choice as the best book of 2011. As Keaton reflects on life and death and love, the journey the book provides is sweeping. This was the most popular in text and also in audio (here for the audio version). Also on audio, Ann noted that Diane Keaton was a guest this year on The Diane Rehm Show discussing the book (and Ann ranks that hour as the best hour of The Diane Rehm Show in 2011).

chris hedges

2) Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class. It made last year's list and we noted then that we wouldn't be surprised if it also made this year's. Books that come out near the end of the year (in hardcover, this book came out in October of 2010) tend to overlap onto two years. Since last year's book round-up, Hedges' book has also been chosen by The Third Estate Sunday Review as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years. If you believe that actions have consequences and that ethics and beliefs matter, this is the book for you. If you just blow in the wind waiting for a face on television to tell you what to think, you should avoid Death of the Liberal Class or risk your brain exploding.

book 7

3) Shirley MacLaine's I'm Over All That And Other Confessions. We followed up on many votes with a series of e-mails to determine what helped a book make the list (among other things)? All the community members who made this their top choice cited "Books: One writes, the other types (Ava and C.I.)" (Shirley was the writer, Tina Fey the typer, for those who missed Ava and C.I.'s piece). Time and again, a book mention here or there resulted in interest in a book serving as a stark reminder just how little time our culture now spends on books and book discussions. We're both old enough to remember not just when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show, but also when it was 90 minutes. Back then, authors were frequent guests, especially during the show's final thirty minutes. And Shirley MacLaine's lived a few years as well and ready to impart learned wisdoms. This book is fierce, funny, feisty and highly enjoyable. Micah probably said it best in our follow up with him, "I didn't just enjoy it when I first read it. I still pick it up and will flip around and find a section that interests me at that moment. And it's just as much a treat to re-read."

book 5

4) Out Of The Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis On Rock Music, editor Nona Willis Aronwitz. Ellen Willis was one of the pioneers of rock criticism. In this collection, edited by her daughter, Willis rock writing is presented in such a manner that not only does the reader grasp the pivotal moments of 60s and 70s rock, but you also see clear connections between the Willis who would focus solely on politics in the second half of her writing career. Did anyone capture Patti Smith better? Especially the subtext of Smith? We doubt it. Did anyone capture Elvis in Las Vegas with more insight? These are the questions you ask as you read the various essays in this book. (This book was noted several times by C.I. including in Iraq snapshots, as those selecting it as their top pick reminded us.)

jane fonda prime time

5) Jane Fonda's Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit, Making the Most of All of Your Life. Numerous community sites noted this but Ruth probably noted it the most including here. Most ranking this as their number one pick cited Ruth's posts on this book that examines health in all forms during our third acts. Joan told us she saw the book as a companion piece to Fonda's Women Coming of Age and a more fully developed discussion of many topics "that seem to greet me each day of late. That is both because I am the target age for this book and also because so much of what Jane covers in this book is in the news. She's really at the forefront in this book."

book 8

6) Harvey Kurbernik's Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. In March, this book comes out in softcover. This 2009 book covers the California rock scene of the sixties and seventies. Beth fell in love with the book this year and did a brief piece on it for the gina & krista round-robin. Then she, Gina and Elaine did a piece focusing on the photographs of Henry Diltz featured throughout the book. In hardcover, this is the very definition of coffee table book and it's large size is really necessary to give Diltz's photographs their due. Striking standouts include page 233 of Joni Mitchell, page 53 of Cyrus Faryar (and a groovy car), page 123 Barbara Hershey, page 152 of Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliott, page 293 of Cass and her daughter Owen and page 163 of Linda Ronstadt. There are many, many well known and famous people in the book. But the photographs we note are ones that, as Elaine, Gina and Beth wrote, "Show you someone you recognize but in a light you don't normally see them. Time and again, Henry Diltz captures the side less often seen."

7) Dyan Cannon's Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant. We do not alter the results of the voting. Every year, despite the tallies being published in the gina & krista round-robin, someone is sure we took the community's votes and put them to the side. If we were altering results, we'd put this book at number ten and not number six. That's no offense to Cannon, it's just that if it were at number ten, we could write, "We started with a Diane and we end with a Dyan . . ." All who ranked this their top pick cited Elaine's post on the book. Actress and director Dyan Cannon was just emerging in her career when one of the screen's most romantic stars began pursuing her. They would marry and the picture book wouldn't be so pretty up close but they would have a child (Jennifer Grant) and Dyan would learn a great deal about herself. This really is a moving book and, as Elaine noted, you really will enjoy the ending. (We're not going to spoil it.)

Book 3

8) Carrie Fisher's Shockaholic. You love Carrie Fisher's writing. If one thing's been loud and clear, it's how much this community loves Carrie Fisher's writing. Wishful Drinking wasn't just your number one pick in 2009, it was also your number four pick in 2010. We're sure this book will make it onto the 2012 list as well. We weren't surprised that it was number seven and not higher. It was only noted once by a community site (Third Estate in their piece picking Wishful Thinking as one of the most important books of the last ten years) and, even then, it was in passing. And the book came out in November. A bit hard to compete with books that were out for months and months when our voting ends in December. So we do expect that this book will make next year's top ten as well. This go round, Carrie's exploring life after shock treatment. It's the funny and honesty you come to expect from this writer. Those making this their top pick cited . . . nothing. No community coverage (again, only the Third piece exists -- that's community sites as well as community newsletters) and no media coverage. As Tori explained, "I went in to buy a book for my sister and as I was heading towards the registers, I saw the Princess Leia cover and stopped wondering what it was? The minute I saw it was a new book by Carrie, I grabbed it and didn't even notice it was a 30% off selection until I was in line to pay. A lot of writers, I'm going to study the cost of the book and think, 'Do I want this now?' With Carrie Fisher, it's a grab, pay and rush to read." And that's what all of you told us, you were at the bookstore and, as you walked through it, you saw her book and grabbed it.

book 6

9) John Russell's My Bright Midnight. This novel, the only one on the list, benefitted from the rave review Hilda gave it in Hilda's Mix. Everyone ranking it as their first choice noted they learned of the book via Hilda's review. Brady noted, "In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Psycho. Remember how that film starts? Janet Leigh runs off with some money? Walter, living in Germany before WWII, steals money from his boss Eckart and rationalizes it's okay because Eckart is a friend of Hitler's and 'I reasoned that stealing from hateful, stupid men was no crime.' And that money starts him on his trip to the US. It really is a book you'll treasure."

book 4

10) The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton. "Oh, how the years roll by," as Vanessa Williams sings. We can remember when community member Goldie was 12-years-old. Now she's a high school senior. And the writer she did her English paper was on Anne Sexton as readers of her column in the community newsletter Polly's Brew know. They know because Goldie did six different columns on six different poems of Anne Sexton's from October to November. Which is how this 1999 collection became something the community started picking up. It's the only collection of poems to make this year's list and it's the oldest book on the list. Our personal favorites? "Flee On Your Donkey," "Her Kind" and "For My Lover Returning To His Wife."


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