Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Camilo Mejia and an interview with Dona of The Third Estate Sunday Review

Good evening. Let's start out with two things from Democracy Now!

Anti-War Camp in Crawford Texas Vandalized
In Crawford Texas, Cindy Sheehan has announced her 11-day-old anti-war vigil will move locations - in order to get closer to president Bush's vacation ranch. A local Crawford resident has offered her to set up Camp Casey on his property. Sheehan has vowed to remain in Crawford until the president meets with her. Last year Sheehan's oldest son Casey died in Iraq. He was 24 years old. The right-wing attack on Sheehan is intensifying. Last week Fox News host Bill O'Reilly described Sheehan's actions as treasonous. On Monday night a Texas man drove his pickup truck through the vigil site running over hundreds of white wooden crosses and American flags that had been put up to honor soldiers killed in Iraq. The man -- Larry Northern - was arrested and charged with criminal mischief. Sheehan vowed there would be no retaliation. "We're all here for peace, and we're not going to lower ourselves down to the level of the violence," Sheehan said. "And we're going to let them get us off our mission either. This isn't only about my son. This is about all of the 1,800, over 1,800 people who have been killed in this mistake of a war. This is about the 130,000 who are still over there for no reason. This is about the millions of Iraqis in harm's way for no reason. We want this to end." Meanwhile support for the anti-war protest in Crawford is growing. Tonight MoveOn is helping to organize more than 1,000 candlelight vigils around the United States to support Sheehan.

Report: UK Police Lied About Shooting of Innocent Man
In Britain the tv network ITV has obtained leaked information that indicate the British government may have lied about key details involving the police shooting of an innocent Brazilian electrician aboard a subway car. According to the leaked witness statements, the Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was being restrained by a member of Scotland Yard's surveillance team at the time that he was shot. In addition, the leaked information indicate Menezes was wearing a thin denim jacket -- not a bulky jacket as police said. It also now appears that Menezes never ran from the police. He only began to run when he saw his train pull into the station. Menezes was shot by police shortly after the July 21st attempted bombings in London.

Those are two disgusting bits of news. In the first one, Camp Casey is vandalized and in the second one, we knew the guy was innocent, the news here is that the police tried to cover up their actions.

Now I want to note something that C.I. sent me, it's from La Prensa San Diego and it's
Camilo E. Mejia's "A veteran of the Iraq War addresses potential recruits"

I'd like to tell young people what awaits them if they join the military and go to Iraq.
You will find yourself patrolling the alleyways and streets of Baghdad or Fallujah. Improvised explosive devices will be going off. You will see some of your fellow soldiers get blown up. And you yourself may get seriously injured or die. Your whole mission will be to get back home alive in one piece.
It is only when you -- if you are among the lucky ones -- make it home, when you yourself are away from the inferno you just left, that you start asking the questions: the "why" and "was it worth it" questions.
I know.
I've been in the military for more than 10 years, serving as an infantryman and later as a reservist with the Florida National Guard on active duty in Iraq.
It is only when we try to find answers to the questions that haunt us that we begin to question our participation in the war -- as a military, as soldiers, as individuals.
Sometimes it takes years. In other cases, like my own and those of some other veterans I've talked with, the realization hits us right away.
That realization is that we were used and abused, that we signed to protect America and
fight for freedom, but the government tricked us. Instead, we realize we are killing and being killed so that President Bush can strut and corporations can haul off the profits.

Normally I dip into the e-mails except on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays lately, I've been interviewing people from The Third Estate Sunday Review. This Wednesday, I'm lucky to have Dona.

I want to start out by talking about how you have been one of the strongest voices pushing for a "best of" edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. I wanted to get you to talk about that.

Dona: Okay well, you know, the things generally start on Saturday afternoon or evening and they tend to go all night. Where there's a problem is when it's Sunday morning and it's 7 am or later and we're just getting done. That's asking a lot of people. And when it's something that happens week after week it gets old and wears on people.

But when people were saying that the "best of" would be last Sunday, you ended up voting no on that.

Dona: Well, two Sundays ago, we had the problem with getting things posted to the site. It wasn't fixed until Thursday evening. That's really not enough time to do an edition. But the issue of the press corp shrugging their shoulders, basically, over John H. Johnson's death was an important one. So we went from feeling that Sunday would be the "best of" edition to feeling like there was no way we could do that and be silent on something this because this is really the sort of reason we started The Third Estate Sunday Review.

What do you think of this Sunday's edition?

Dona: I told Jim you were going to ask that. Well I'm really not in favor of the push, push, rush, rush, inspiration will come school or view. I'm someone who believes that you really need to prepare ahead of time. I'm not saying my view is better and it's certainly not the only way. But I do think the editions are stronger when we've batted around ideas and actually started drafts before Saturday rolls around. I say all of that to say that despite that, I think the edition is one of our strongest ones. I believe the reason is that we were bothered by the treatment of John H. Johnson's death. That really motivated us. I think you can see it in the pieces dealing with Johnson like the essay and the parody of World News Tonight as well as in the pieces that don't address him like the editorial, the news review and the TV review Ava and C.I. did. I think, in terms of media criticism, it's the strongest edition we've done. But, having said that, I think that's the exception. I don't think strong work often results from this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of putting an edition together.

I wanted to talk about the news review because you came up with that feature?

Dona: A great deal of our features go through many, many drafts. We're all adding something to each one.

Except the TV reviews.

Dona: Correct, those are the work of Ava and C.I. But the other features go through drafts and go through everyone tossing out things and looking at what's been pulled together. That's great and probably makes them stronger more often than not; however, it does take up time. One of the hopes with the roundtable feature was that we could get an easy feature. Just a transcript of what was said and we're done. As you know, a roundtable can go on for four hours. So with the news review, we stop at 59 minutes if possible and do not go over 60 for any reason. It's our roundup of news stories and we do it in a manner similar to Democracy Now! which we all love.

C.I.'s the anchor.

Dona: And hates being an anchor. But the anchor needs to be someone who can stretch because it's got to go in real time. Someone who can stretch shouldn't be asking, "So how are you today?" C.I. is someone who, when told to stretch, can bring up points that go to what's being addressed. Look at when Betty was reporting on Marilyn Monroe in the first news review. The e-mails on that were really impressed with the exchange between Betty & C.I. which wasn't planned by either and only came up because I told them to stretch since the next story up wasn't ready. I mean, I read some of the e-mails on that and people would write, "Marilyn did say she made up things up for her sessions!" Did you know that? I didn't. I couldn't have gone there. And this time we saw C.I. bring up things from, for instance, The New Yorker when it was time to stretch. They add, they round out the story.

I think C.I. doesn't like doing that.

Dona: Because of the spotlight issue and not wanting to be in it as well as because C.I. would rather focus on putting together a story. I know and I understand that. If we had anyone else that could do it and wanted to, I'd be the first to say, "Thank you for anchoring now go put together a story this time." But the reality is the reality. You know, from when we're all working together, that C.I. may bring up anything in passing. It might be a movie or something historical or whatever. You need someone well versed in case you end up needing to stretch. But the feature's done with me holding a stop watch and we stay on time for it so you're looking at one hour of time basically.

I really enjoy it and think it's exciting because, for me at least, I'm thinking, "Will I be able to pull this together?"

Dona: Which is part of the fun and does fit Jim's belief that the pressure can be a benefit. I wish Elaine's piece could have gotten into the news review. But Elaine said the fact that I wish something had made it in instead of wishing that we'd taken something out should always be the goal and I agree with that.

Cedric feels bad about that.

Dona: He doesn't need to. We had, I think, 52 seconds left and it was easier to cut the report he did to fit that then it was to cut Elaine's. But we tried. Jim, Cedric, Elaine and I were all trying to make it fit but her report was complex and cuts just made it confusing.

I'll close by congratulating you. Yesterday was The Third Estate Sunday Review's seventh month anniversary.

Dona: Really? Some days it seemed like we only started last week, other days -- usually the day after an all nighter -- it feels like we've done it for 60 years. 7 months? Wow. Hopefully we've learned something in that time and hopefully it shows a little. You've interviewed Ava and Jim already and I was told to ask who was next?


Dona: Well I look forward to reading that and I'll let him know that it's relatively painless.