Saturday, November 20, 2004

Christmas in My Soul

I love my country
As it dies
In war and pain
Before my eyes
I walk the streets
Where disrespect has been
The sin of politics
The politics of sin
The heartlessness that darkens my soul on Christmas.
-- "Christmas in My Soul" words & music by Laura Nyro

As most of us have learned, after Thanksgiving the days tend to pass quickly (unlike when we were children). With more people ordering gifts online each year, consider this post and the last post a heads up. It's also hoped that by getting this done with, the focus can go on other issues instead of attempting to address this in the days after Thanksgiving.

As before, please add to the discussion on both what you would put on the list and also on what holiday you'll be celebrating. Here are ten suggestions of DVD gifts. Unlike the book list, these are in the order of rank that our panel of five voted.

1) Orwell Rolls In His Grave.

This documentary is one of the two best on the media that I've seen this year. (The other, Danny Schechter's WMD, was one I saw at a film festival but will soon be going into general release. If it comes to a theater near you, please attempt to see it.) Robert Kane Pappas takes a hard look at the news media today. This film makes for great after viewing conversations.

It's only available via buzzflash and for a minimum donation of thirty dollars at In addition, buzzflash has two interviews with the director and The interviews should give you an idea of whether the film is one you'd like.

2) The Dreamers.

Bernardo Bertolucci focuses on three young people in Paris as the tensions of the time (1968) explode. More a look at romance than politics on the surface, undercurrents of the same initial desires do surface in the political dance that shadows the romantic one. The soundtrack is strong and film buffs will enjoy the allusions to film classics. (All three of the leads are film buffs.) The film is rated NC-17 and contains nudity.

3) Dick.

The sky is falling, the sky has fallen. The prospect of four more years of Bush has damped the spirits of many. Dick might be just the thing to get them laughing.

Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst are high schoolers in 1972, another dark time in our history. Having just mailed a letter to a teen magazine (for a win-a-date-with-Bobby-Sherman contest), Dunst & Williams re-enter the Watergate building Williams lives in just in time to bump into G. Gordon Liddy. Chance and a school trip to the White House bring them back into the orbit of the Nixon gang. As Official White House Dog Walkers, they see the dark underbelly of the administration and work to expose it.

This Andrew Fleming film also features Dave Folely, Will Ferrell, Bruce McCulloch, Ana Gasteyer, Jim Bruer and Harry Shearer. It's a funny movie for anyone but even funnier if you know the basics of Watergate. And the message here is "four more years" are far from certain. Or as Michelle Phillips whispers near the middle of the Mamas & the Papas "Dedicated to the One I Love": "the darkest hour is just before dawn."

3) Hearts & Minds.

This film by Peter Davis won the Oscar for best documentary film of 1974. Via interviews and location shoots, it traces the Vietnam conflict. This is a Criterion Collection which means sharply restored and plenty of special features. As with the others on the list, this film really requires time after for discussion.

4) Unconstitutional.

Robert Greenwald and company are back with this follow up in their documentary series. (The three others are Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, and Outfoxed.) With Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties, they're walking you through the damage to civil liberties post-9/11. Of the four documentaries Greenwald's produced on our current political climate, I'd argue this is the best and the most alarming.

5) The Company.

For Robert Altman fans this is not only a brilliant film but a further utilization of time and space to convey the distances between us. The basic plot regards Neve Campbell's effort to become the prinicpal dancer for a ballet troupe. This is an Altman film where the main story is less important than the subtext. And, as with most of Altman's films, the camera itself becomes a character and commentator. (Special features include a commentary track with Altman and Campbell.)

6) Coming Home.

Jane Fonda won her second best lead acting Oscar and Jon Voight won his first for this film. (Nancy Dowd, Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones also won Oscars for writing the film.) The late Hal Ashby (director of Being There, Shampoo, The Last Detail, Harold & Maude and The Landlord) directs the film. As some film critics have noted, Platoon gave you a look at Vietnam, Coming Home gave you a look at the domestic scene in the same period but where was the film (non-documentary) that explained how we got to Vietnam in the first place? A question still worth asking.

This 1978 film features strong performances (including Bruce Dern and Penelope Milford who were both earned Oscar nominations in the supporting categories) and some powerful cinematography by Haskell Wexler. In addition, it utilized songs from the period to capture and underscore the unrest. (And would become one of the first films to use soundtracks in the way we know them today. Pauline Kael, among other critics, complained in her real time review about the music: "It's disconcerting to hear words like 'strawberry fields forever' when you're trying to listen to what people are saying to each other.")

A strong portrait of a turbulent time, the V.A. hospital scenes are a must see. As is the scene where hospital volunteer Sally (Fonda) and combat veteran, paraplegic Luke (Voight) speak of the perceptions of others.

Luke: I'm still the same person. It's funny, when people look at me they see something
else, but they don't see what I am, you know?

Sally: I think people have a real hard time seeing who other people really are. People don't
see me like I really am. People look at me, I think, and they see "Cheery Sally, the
captain's wife. . . . Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming what people see.

Special features include audio commentary by Jon Voight, Bruce Dern & Haskell Wexler; a featurette on the movie and one on the director Hal Asbhy; and the original theatrical trailer.

7) The Royal Tenenbaums.

Yeah, yeah, you've seen Wes Anderson's masterpiece, but that doesn' t mean everyone has. And with Anderson's latest film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, about to come out, why not take a moment to share this classic comedy? Strong performances from Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke & Owen Wilson, this two disc set (Criterion Collection) features far too many special features to list.

8) Searching for Debra Winger.

Rosanna Arquette's documentary on art and the sacrifices entailed. In the course of addressing the pressures on actresses, Arquette gets insight from many (including Alfre Woodard, Robin Wright Penn, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meg Ryan, Salma Hayek, Diane Lane, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Frances McDormand, Emmanuelle Béart, Teri Garr, Theresa Russell, Holly Hunter and Jane Fonda) before finally sitting down with Debra Winger.

9) Blow Up.

Michelangelo Antonioni's classic sixties film Blow Up was reissued with special features this year.
(Special features include original trailers for Blow Up and commentary by Peter Brunette who wrote The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni.)

The basic plot is fashion photographer takes a photo without realizing what was in it. Complications ensue. (That's almost a TV Guide slug!) Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings and Sarah Miles star in this British classic.

10) Thorougly Modern Millie.

The sixties look of Hollywood films seemed sometimes to be a bad attempt at aping Roger Vadim's color sense. But when it works best, it adds a vibrancy to the screen as it does here.

The film itself works best for me as Throroughly Modern Cheney. Picture Cheney as Millie and substitute "neocon" for "modern" and you're off and running. Colin Powell fills in for Mary Tyler Moore's Miss Dorothy. Watching on that level (and substituting) you can really enjoy when Dorothy/Colin gasps at Millie/Cheney, "You're a modern!" (neocon).

Donald Rumsfeld fills the spot of Jimmy (and the actor James Fox, in those glasses any way, even looks a little like Rumsfeld) . Mrs. Meers would, of course, be Condi which adds to the enjoyment of Mrs. Meers/Condi's attempts to knock Dorothy/Colin out of the loop. Here, arguments break out over whether Bush would be Trevor Graydon (Millie/Cheney's boss) or Muzzy. I argue Bush is Muzzy and that Tony Blair is Trevor. (Hence Trevor's attraction to Dorothy/Colin.)

A great gift for those who say "It's laugh or cry." And a lot of fun to watch as a group while "casting" the roles with the current administration.

With the book lists (twelve), I went with my gut. For the DVD suggestions, five of us voted in a group effort. Some argued their choice based on current events making a film more relevant and some argued on sheer entertainment. Whether or not they fit or spoke to the "mood" of the country, we'll leave for others to debate.

Michael Moore's classic Fahrenheit 9/11 was eliminated early in the voting rounds with the reasoning that it will make every other blog list. Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 were eliminated because, as one person argued, "You're supposed to like the person you buy a gift for." Meaning? The DVDs are useless and will be reissued with all the special features they're now missing (such as a commentary track from Tarantino) in a matter of months. Are you going to turn around and regift then? No? So you've given a gift that will be useless and out of date fairly quickly.

Christmas is sparklin'

Christmas is sparklin'
Out on Carol's lawn.
This girl of my childhood games
Has kids nearly grown and gone,
Grown so fast
Like the turn of a page.
-- "Chinese Cafe" words & music by Joni Mitchell

With the gift giving of the various holidays on the horizon, here's a list of twelve books that could both make wonderful gifts and also increase knowledge (and membership in the reality based community). As editorials this year bemoaned, readership is down in the United States. So book gifting is something we could all try to work in.

Local bookstores and web sites such as are good sources for these books. In addition, I'll occassionally note other websites.

Twelve books that come to mind as worthy holiday gifts (listed, not ranked in any order):

1) Benajmin Barber's Fear's Empire. 220 pages. $23.95 list price.

Where are we and what are we doing? Barber writes:

Preventive war against terrorists is reactive, since it is only the terrorists' overt act (or acts) that identify adversaries as terrorists in the first place. America's war on terrorism is in fact a responsive conventional war (if by unconventional means) against an aggressor who has already shown Americans the "smoking gun."
The problem for the preventive war doctrine comes when the appropriate logic of a war against terrorists whose acts are known even when their orignins are not is applied to states whose addresses are known though their connections with terrorism are not. Here the subjunctive logic of preventive war comes into play, raising questions about its slippery slope reasoning, the reasoning that constantly moves it from certainty to uncertainty, from claims that "our enemy has committed aggression" to "our enemy might/could/may commit aggression." Preventive war as a doctrine is designed to apply to known terrorist perpetrators who have committed aggressive and destructive acts but whose location and origins remain uncertain; it has been applied however, to states whose location is known and indentity obvious even though their connections to actual aggression is far less certain. Terms like states that harbor or states that sponsor terrorism are used in place of explicit casual explanations that would show such states to be actual or even imminent aggressors. To make sovereign states -- themselves self-evidently inappropriate candidates for preventive war -- appear more appropriate targets, fuzzy terms like rogue state are introduced that putatively link states that can be militarily defeated to terrorists who are far more elusive. (p. 105).

2) Amy & David Goodman's The Exceptions to the Rulers. 318 pages. $21.95 list price.

Goodman hosts Democracy Now! with Juan Gonzales. Fans of Democracy Now! (of which I am one) are used to Amy Goodman's no nonsense approach to the news. She takes journalism responsibilities very seriously and has a strong code of ethics. Whether charting her own experiences reporting in and on East Timor, or taking on the mainstream media for it's unwillingness to play the role of watchdog, Goodman's (or the Goodmans', to note her brother David who is also a journalist) book will make you think about what stories make the news, how they are reported, what stories don't make the news and why, as well as the line between journalists and their sources.


[Richard] Holbrooke got up and thanked all his "friends in the media." "The kind of coverage we're seeing from The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN,, and the newsmagazines lately has been extraordinary," Holbrooke said. "You are all doing this on a twenty-four-hour-a-day basis with great skills so far, and I commend you. . . . That kind of reporting can have a great impact. . . . I want to say how important it has been."
Holbrooke then continued with a major foreign policy address. Midway through, he made an announcement. "Eason Jordan [then president of CNN International] told me just before I came up here tonight that the air strikes hit Serb TV and took out the Serb television, and at least for the time being they are off the air. That is an enormously important event as Eason reported it, and I believe everything CNN tells me."
Laughter broke out in the room.
"It is an enormously important and I think positive development," Holbrooke added.
Here were hundreds of reporters supposedly upholding the highest principles of journalism, and they chuckled on cue -- at a war crime committed against journalists.
Now, what would have been different if Milosevic had stood up to announce "We just bombed CBS!" and a bunch of Serb journalists had laughed? Radio Television Serbia, whatever its faults as a mouthpiece for Milosevic, is not a military target. We went back to our office later that night to see the pictures of body parts being pulled out of the wrecked TV studios in Belgrade. It wasn't soldiers blown to pieces in the rubble. It was the people who apply makeup, the cameramen, and the journalists who were inside. People like 27-year-old technician Ksenija Bankovic, whose mother Borka, we interviewed on Democracy Now! Borka asked how journalists could laugh at the killing of her daughter, whose only crime was going to work that night. In all, sixteen media workers were killed in the bombing (pp. 286-287).

Another resource for purchasing this book is which also contains reviews and comments on the book.

3) Nancy Chang's Silencing Political Dissent, 168 pages, $9.95 list price.

Chang's book, with an introduction by Howard Zinn, focuses on the the climate post-9/11 where civil rights were trumped by a vague undefined "security." This is a strong book dealing with Constitutional issues but it's far from dull. Chang looks at the complete domestic landscape and finds many strange things going on:

Even more troubling than the timidity of the television news organizations are signs that the press has been censoring itself. At least two newspaper columnists were fired for criticizing President Bush's actions on September 11. Dan Guthrie, an award-winning columnist for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Oregon, wrote a column entitled "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tender Turn Tail," in which he accused President Bush of "hiding in a Nebraska hole" on September 11, in an act of "cowardice." A week later, the paper's publisher fired Guthrie, and the editor ran a front-page apology for having printed Guthrie's column. In a similar scenario, Tom Gutting of the Texas City Sun was fired for writing a column in which he accused President Bush of "flying around the country like a scared child" on September 11, and the paper's publisher ran a front-page apology for having printed Gutting's column. These attacks on journalistic freedom send a clear message to all members of the press that they would be wise to fall in line behind White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and "watch what they say" (p. 131).

This book from Seven Stories Press can also be purchased at where you can also find reviews of the book.

4) Peter Phillips & Project Censored's Censored 2005. 352 pages. $17.95 list price.

In their annual collection of unreported and under-reported stories in the mainstream media, Project Censored ranks their top twenty-five. But that's just the first chapter. In the fourteen other chapters, they deal with media coverage, newspaper circulation numbers fraud, media consolidation, junk food news and so much more. (The comic strip This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow also pops up throughout the book.)

Concluding paragraph from "Junk Food News and News Abuse":

As this chapter illustrates, much of that sacred and rare space is taken up by programming that is essentially garbage. Americans seem to be less and less concerned about real issues, about the real reality. While perhaps initially unpleasant, concering oneself with what is really going on will allow more individuals to gain a unified voice, increasing the chance to change and further the concept of equality for all. People need to become outraged at the complacency the majority of individuals and our corporate media feel towards the discrepancies around this world. If the Junk Food chapter is a window into the soul of America, the sight is not pretty. Our country should be sick and tired of the trash that is filling our airwaves. It is time that America get out of their comfort zone and stop tuning out the real truth and real reality that is happening around them. And it starts with you (p. 176).

I'll cite two additional resources for this book. First, it can be ordered directly from Project Censored at (where you can also find more information about the book including the top twenty-five censored stories that make up the first chapter). Secondly, it can also be purchased at for a minimum price of $23.00 -- the additional cost goes to support buzzflash a web site I'm sure everyone's aware of. Providing links to breaking stories in various media, interviews and columns done by buzzflash staff (the number one censored story "Wealth Inequality in Twenty-First Century Threatens Economy and Democracy" notes that one of four sources for coverage of this issue is buzzflash; the number twenty-four store "Reinstating the Draft" notes buzzflash columnist Maureen Farrell as one of four sources covering the issue -- Farrell also writes an update for this book), buzzflash
provides a wealth of information. So if you haven't already, check out .

5) Elizabeth Drew's Fear and Loathing in George W. Bush's Washington. 68 pages. $7.95 list price.

With an introduction by Russell Baker, this collection of essays by Drew traces the rise of the neocons and fear as the primary tool used by the administration.


The neocons' assurance that the United States could not only remove Saddam Hussein but also convert Iraq and the rest of the Middle East into democratic nations relies on several false analogies. Wolfowitz, his neocon allies, and the journalists who circulate their ideas often cite Germany and Japan after the Second World War as examples of countries that were transformed into democracies. But unlike Iraq, Japan had a largely homogeneous culture and a symbol of national unity, the Emperor, who kept his title if not his power. Japan, in any case, has had essentially one-party rule since the end of the war. And Germany, which also had a cohesive society, had a democratic constitution and parliamentary institutions until Hitler was barely elected chancellor in 1933. Moreover, the US occupied Japan for seven years and Germany for four. Rumsfeld has said that no time limit can be set on the occupation of Iraq, but US officials are aware that the longer it goes on the greater will be the danger to US troops there -- and perhaps domestic pressures to bring them home. (The neocons -- as well as officials of previous administrations and some academics -- also assert that democracies don't make war on each other, but this is a highly debated proposition.) (pp. 38-39.)

An additional resource for purchasing this book is:

6) Alice Walker's Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart. 213 pages. $24.95 list price.

One of only two novels on the list, Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart speaks to larger issues of our time (which naturally led to it being slapped down on the pages of the New York Times).
Kate Talkingtree leaves the meditating hall in the first chapter to go on her own journey. Along the way, Walker addresses issues of identity, connections and responsibility.

For any fan of Walker's fiction, Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart will be a satisfying and nourishing read.

7) Seymour M. Hersh's Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. 370 pages. $25.95 list price.

Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib prison abuse stories in The New Yorker. Hersh takes the reader through the aftermath of 9/11 to present day. This is the primer, filled with everything some know but many of us either missed completely or didn't fully absorb. Whether it's how JAG was cut out of policy decisions early on, the death of Abdul Haq and what N.S.A. intercepts revealed about the Saudi royal family, this book is full of details that were either ignored or lost in the news cycle. On the flights provided out of Afghanistan, Hersh writes:

The airlift "made sense at the time," the C.I.A. analyst said. "Many of the people they spirited away were the Taliban leadership" -- who Pakistan hoped could play a role in a postwar Afghan government. According to this person, "Musharraf wanted to have these people to put another card on the table" in future political negotiations. "We were supposed to have access to them," he said, but "it didn't happen," and the rescued Taliban remained unavailable to American intelligence.
None of the American intelligence officials I spoke with were able to say with certainty how many Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters were flown to safety or may have escaped from Kunduz by other means. Operatives in India's main external intelligence unit -- known as RAW, for Research and Analysis Wing -- reported extensively on the Pakistani airlift out of Kunduz. RAW has excellent access to the Northern Alliance and a highly sophisticated ability to intercept electronic communications. An Indian military adviser boasted that when the airlift began, "we knew within minutes." In interviews in New Delhi soon after the airlifts, Indian national security and intelligence officials repeatedly told me that the airlift had rescued not only members of the Pakistani military but Pakistani citizens who had volunteered to fight against the Northern Alliance, as well as non-Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. Brajesh Mishra, India's national security adviser, said his government had concluded that five thousand Pakistanis and Taliban -- he called it "a ballpark figure" -- had been rescued (pp. 131-132).

8) James Wolcott's Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants. 312 pages. $22.95 list price.

Wolcott's written a very funny, very lively book. Attack Poodles are the pundits we see on the chat shows, sometimes they also write, but mainly they exist to "advance the narrative of the political power struggle; they supply the 'beats' in the storyline, the weekly soap opera crisis" (p. 8). The chapter on Peggy Noonan ("Best in Show") is hilarious and a must read. The book works as a humor read only as well as illuminating the state of mainstream media. No excerpt because the pleasure of the humor is often in how it sneaks up on you.

9) Bonnie M. Anderson's News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-Line Business
of Broadcast News. 235 pages. $26.95 list price.

Anderson's focus is on what has happened to mainstream media. A veteran of print, broadcast and cable, someone who's been in front of the camera and worked behind the scenes, Anderson's documenting the very serious crisis in our "news" resulting in the wall being torn down between "entertainment" and "news"; the bottom line mentality of news existing only to make profits; "pretty faces" trumping experience and training; the news cycle and being first trumpeting being correct; and assorted other issues.

Commenting on the stories of content left out to focus on other "issues," Anderson notes, "And what it boils down to is that airtime that could be used to truly inform the public, to educate viewers about important topics relevant to their lives, is wasted on this sort of fluff. And it becomes self-perpetuating" (p. 105).

Anyone who's gotten frustrated with a friend of family member who is still defending the "news" we see on TV, this is the gift you need to consider giving.

10) Gore Vidal's Imperial America. 172 pages. $18.00 list price.

Vidal's essay collection opens with the essay ("State of the Union: 2004") and moves on to deal with the issues such as the national security state, informed democracy and the meaning of patriotism.

In addition to the dealers noted before the list, this Nations Book publication can be purchased
directly at along with many other titles of interest.

11) Sara Paretsky's Blacklist. 415 pages. $7.99 list price.

Newly out in paperback, this is more than a mere page turner. Mystery book lovers will enjoy this latest V.I. Warshawski adventure but it should reach beyond that core audience because Warshawski's bumping up against the Patriot Act as she attempts to unravel a murder.

12) Langston Hughes' Let America Be America Again and Other Poems. 21 pages. $6.50 list price.

With a preface by John Kerry, this collection contains nine poems by Hughes. Poet, essayist, playwright, novelist and the author of children's books, Hughes' creative genius is always worth noting. A brief biography of the late Hughes can be found at

Excerpt (from the poem "Some Day"):
Once more
The guns roar
Once more
The call goes forth for men.
The war begins,
False slogans become a bore.
Yet no one cries:
Like angry dogs the human race
Loves the snarl upon its face
It loves to kill.
The pessimist says
It always will.
That I do not believe (pp. 14-15).

Though you can't order the book on this page, click on "ordering info" and it will assist you in finding a bookstore near you that carries Let America Be America Again and Other Poems.

There are many other books that would make strong gifts. Feel free to utilize the comment sections to note some of your own.

You make me smile

You make me smile
You make me sing
You make me feel good's everything
You bring me up
When I've been down
This only happens when you're around.
-- "Too Shy to Say" words & music by Stevie Wonder

"You" are the five people who e-mailed and "you" are Laura Flanders. I appreciate the heads up re: Dhar Jamail reporting on Laura Flanders' radio show. Had I known he'd be on, I would've attempted to give a heads up in the post.

One person who e-mailed said the post prior (Here Come the Madmen) was not "supporting our troops." I'll address that in a future post (hopefully tomorrow). I'm already working on some posts for tonight (ideally two more) but, as I e-mailed JB, I do intend to address the issue he raised tomorrow.

As usual, Laura Flanders' show is worth listening to. If you've never checked it out, here's the website:

I did appreciate the feedback and wanted to say thank you while I'm listening to Flanders and while I'm working on the two posts I was hoping to get up tonight.

Here come the madmen

Here come the madmen, they're too excited for atoning
"Burn the mosque" they're shouting, "Burn it down!"
-- "Share the End" words & music by Carly Simon & Jacob Brackman

As if the actions in Falluja weren't enough, today's New York Times reports that:

American and Iraqi troops raided a prominent Sunni mosque in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least three Iraqis in an opertation that may have been aimed at a cleric said to have incited insurgent violence.

The story's tucked inside on page A7 as opposed to on the front page where one would think it belongs. Guess "At Penn State, Concerns Grow Over a Fading Football Legend" among other front page stories impacts our lives more?

Common sense dictates that this is a front page story. Common sense also asks what's being accomplished other than enraging people? Raiding mosques as a way to spread democracy (the stated goal for staying in Iraq)?

The Times' "G.I.'s and Iraqis Raid Mosque, Killing 3" goes on to note:

At the mosque, called Abu Hanifa, blood was splattered on the floor after what witnesses described as a chaotic raid in which Iraqis soldiers opened fire after becoming involved in a melee with enraged worshipers.

Dahr Jamail goes a little deeper than the Times' James Glanz & Richard A. Oppel Jr. , he adds perspective and the kind of details that are missing from the Times' report:

Abu Talat calls me frantic. The deafening roar of hundreds of people in a confined area yelling, “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) reverberate behind his panicked voice.
“I am being held at gunpoint by American soldiers inside Abu Hanifa mosque Dahr,” he yells, “Everyone is praying to God because the Americans are raiding our mosque during Friday prayer!”
He makes short calls, updating me on the atrocity. After a few sentences of information he hangs up because he is trapped inside the mosque and trying to let me know what is happening. Being Friday, the day of prayer and holiday, this was supposed to be an off day for us.

The stated reason for these actions is to prepare Iraq for January elections. You don't have to be a middle east expert or someone who's followed every event since we invaded to wonder how actions in Falluja or Baghdad or elsewhere are going to calm things down for elections in two months. You only need to use some common sense. You're worshipping in the place of your choice and suddenly, as you pray, you're under attack? Is this spreading hope, goodwill? Or is it further inflaming tensions?

The administration wanted this war. But they've yet to demonstrate that they want peace. The situation grows ever more deadly for Iraqis as well as for U.S. troops on the ground. Does the administration have any kind of a plan?

Or are we left with only planned chaos as Naomi Klein argued so well in her piece "Baghdad Year Zero" ( )?

This is Bush's war. He initiated it and now he needs to figure out how he's going to end it. Attacking mosques, denying people the basic things they need (such as clean water), destroying homes -- none of those things are winning hearts and minds.

And yet today's Times tells us, via their choice for front page stories, that whether or not Joe Paterno steps down as head coach of Penn State is a more pressing concern than what happens in Iraq. I can think of two things missing from the editorial choice the Times made today, perspective and common sense.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Common Ills

"It is only if we step outside the divinely ruled moral universe that we can really put our minds to the common ills we inflict upon one another every day."
-- Judith N. Shklar, Ordinary Vices, p. 1.

The Common Ills exists to comment primarily on the media & politics. Shklar identified the "common ills" as cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery, treachery and misanthropy and noted that "they have both personal and public dimensions." Sounds like a strong frame for discussion and one that, no doubt, will quickly be forgotten as we dive in.