Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Democracy Now!, Dahr Jamail and my interview with Jim

Good evening, let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

More Military Families Join Cindy Sheehan in Texas
In Texas, more military families are heading to Crawford to join Cindy Sheehan in an ongoing vigil in Crawford where President Bush is vacationing. Sheehan has threatened to stay in Crawford until the president agrees to meet with her. Sheehan's son Casey died last year in Iraq. He was 24 years old. Military families from Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia and Arkansas are expected to join Sheehan at the vigil site. "He doesn't have any children in harm's way. You know, if there are more soldiers and marines killed today, it's not going to worry him if one of them is his daughter," said Sheehan. "I mean, he's insulated. He's safe. Nobody in this administration has to worry about their children. And if I have to stay out here all month in this heat, it's nothing compared to what our soldiers are going through or what the people of Iraq are going through."

Poll: 57% of U.S. Says Iraq War Has Made Nation Less Safe
Meanwhile a new poll by USA Today in this country has found that 57 percent of respondents believes the war in Iraq has made the United States more vulnerable to another terrorist attack. Only 34 percent said the war had made the country safer.

People are getting wise. We need to make sure we get the word out on Cindy Sheehan. Remember that the rumor is they may try to arrest her tomorrow. Tell everyone you can about Cindy Sheehan. I was talking about it when I stopped for lunch between work and campus today.

Now let me give some good news, The Third Estate Sunday Review is working again. Not because of anything Blogger Support did. They never replied to the e-mails and they never fixed anything. Jim was trying this evening and before I phoned him and it still wouldn't work. I go, "What about C.I.'s suggestion?" Jim didn't talk to C.I. but the light was blinking on the machine. So I called Jim back after he had a chance to listen to the message. C.I. said just try a test post and see if that goes through and knocks everything up. It did.

I want to note something C.I. did this weekend, Dahr Jamail's latest, which is "What Have We Done?" and worth reading:

Camilo Mejia, an army staff sergeant who was sentenced to a year in military prison in May, 2004 for refusing to return to Iraq after being home on leave, talks openly about what he did there:
"What it all comes down to is redemption for what was done there. I was turning ambulances away from going to hospitals, I killed civilians, I tortured guys…and I'm ashamed of that. Once you are there, it has nothing to do with politics…it has to do with you as an individual being there and killing people for no reason. There is no purpose, and now I'm sick at myself for doing these things. I kept telling myself I was there for my buddies. It was a weak reasoning…because I still shut my mouth and did my job."
Mejia then spoke candidly about why he refused to return:
"It wasn't until I came home that I felt it-how wrong it all was and that I was a coward for pushing my principles aside. I'm trying to buy my way back into heaven…and it's not so much what I did, but what I didn't do to stop it when I was there. So now it's a way of trying to undo the evil that we did over there. This is why I'm speaking out, and not going back. This is a painful process and we’re going through it."
Camilo Mejia was then quick to point towards the success of his organization and his colleagues. "When I went back to Iraq in October of 2003, the Pentagon said there were 22 AWOL's. Five months later it was 500, and when I got out of jail that number was 5,000. These are the Pentagons' numbers for the military. Two things are significant here-the number went from 500-5,000 in 11 months, and these are the numbers from the Pentagon."
While the military is falling short of its recruitment goals across the board and the disaster in Iraq spiraling deeper into chaos with each passing day, these are little consolation for these men who have paid the price they’ve had to pay to be at this convention. They continue to pay, but at the same time stand firm in their resolve to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq and to help their fellow soldiers.

Now I want to get started with Jim because he's got stuff to do and I'm running late for a date. I noted trapping bears last night and I was referring to a story that C.I. had e-mailed me about yesterday afternoon that was going to be in today's paper, John Holl's "As Bear Complaints Rise, New Jersey Considers a Hunt" because Jim is interested in this topic. In New Jersey there's concern by some that there are too many bears and some say it's not a problem.
So let me get this interview with Jim started so we can both get on with our nights.

The bear situation, what do you think about it?

Jim: I think it's really nonsense. I think we're seeing something that is alarmist. If it is a problem, the answer's not to hunt them. Put 'em in a zoo. There are zoos all over the country and there are cut backs and the economy is in the toilet. I read Holl's article this morning and almost missed it so thanks for the heads up but it seems that just as easy as it is to kill a bear, we could trap it and get it to a zoo. But kill, kill, kill seems to be the answer to everything. These are bears native to this country so there should be a reason for zoos to want to preserve them. Maybe it's not as cute as some panda from China, but it is a native animal and at a time when our eco system is under attack and we are losing so many species, you'd think people would be saying, "Okay, if we do have a surplus, let's get some into a zoo."

Right. I thought the bear in the photo in the New York Times today was pretty cute but it looked sad. There was something in one of it's eyes.

Jim: Yeah, made it look like it was crying.

Why do you think the answer is "kill, kill, kill"?

Jim: Because it's always easier to destroy something. Easier than preserving, easier than maintaining, easier than saving. Kill, kill, kill. It's that blood lust that Elaine's talked about.

Right. Cindy Sheehan is a big topic this week and your thoughts?

Jim: Well she's doing what we should all be doing. She's expecting our government to actually be accountable. She's making a difference. That's why we all said, "This is the editorial!" Saturday night when we were going over topics. This is someone doing something amazing and it's so amazing because she has to know the attacks that will come. But the thing everyone's been stressing, you, Elaine, C.I., Cedric, everybody is that if we get the word out, this will have impact. Every little bit has helped us get where we are and what Cindy Sheehan's doing can take our country even further towards an honest discussion. But only if we get the word out and only if we stand up for her and stand with her.

What's the other big topic this week?

Jim: Sadly, Peter Jennings death. The death is sad as it is when anyone dies but let's be honest ABC turning over World News Tonight to the story of Peter Jenning's death was not news. It was not good journalism. It was maudlin and it was self-serving. And meanwhile real stories and tragedies were going on. Note his death in the last five minutes, no problem. Lead with the story, devote the first segment to it and come back to it after the first break . . . That's overkill on any story and the death of a news personality doesn't warrent it.

Do you think it will stomp other stories?

Jim: I think it already is. C.I. has a thing up at The Common Ills about John H. Johnson. I forget how many excerpts there are in that thing --


Jim: Seven. And C.I.'s noted that death on Monday and on Tuesday. But where are you seeing it? This is a little more than a news reader. Johnson was active in the civil rights movement, Johnson's Jet publicized the Till story. This is a big story and it's a big story on campus. Not with only African-American students. And yet to look at the news on TV or to hop around the net and it's not a big story and it doesn't seem to matter. It does matter.

Cedric's writing about it tonight. I talked to him today.

Jim: Good, he should. We should all be writing about it. We'll note it this weekend. C.I.'s comment was so on the money. It is another missing blonde girl. You've got two men dying, both from the world of journalism. One gets headlines and nonstop coverage and the other is largely ignored. I'm glad the New York Times covered it. They did the obit that C.I. noted earlier this week and they did the story from the arts section that C.I. excerpted today. But I'm not seeing any TV coverage. And the blog world seems to be ignoring it over all. It's hard to believe that race isn't playing into this. Good for C.I. for, as usual, stating what no one wanted to say.

C.I. made a comment about a special on Peter Jennings and I bring that up because there is one and it's starting now.

Jim: I know, I don't know if that was something someone had passed on to C.I., if it was stating the obvious, or if it was one of those synchonistic thoughts. I haven't spoken to C.I. about that so I don't know and if I did know and didn't have permission, I wouldn't speak about it.

I interviewed Ava already, so you're now my second interview.

Jim: I know, I laughed at Ava's interview. I think she enjoyed it because it read like she did. So are you going to work your way through The Third Estate Sunday Review each Wednesday.

That might be an idea. I don't have anything scheduled for a specific day the way C.I. does with the "rest of the world reporting" thing on Sundays, the Indymedia on Thursdays, etc. So yeah, that might make for a pretty good idea. I should have noted that I'm talking to Jim who's part of The Third Estate Sunday Review that publishes their edition each Sunday.

Jim: Well don't forget Cedric, Kat, Betty, Elaine and Rebecca.

What's on deck for this week's Third Esate Sunday Review edition?

Jim: I honestly can't tell you because we don't have anything planned. We've been busy wondering if we were moving the site somewhere else. And trying to get it fixed. We will do something on Johnson because it's honestly disgusting that he's been so ignored this week. Dona's gone with Ava to the group Ava's putting in all the time with --

On the Save Roe thing?

Jim: Right and when they get back and I tell them about the site finally working, we'll start brain storming. I know C.I.'s wanting a book review thing and wanting Edith Wharton's Custom of the County but I'm not sure how many people have time to read so I guess we'll be pulling it all together Saturday night.

I like it, it's exciting.

Jim: I like it too. I like pushing that deadline and that feeling that we might miss it. I think we get more passion in our writing that way. We may miss typos as we rush around but we get more passionate writing. And I just find it a lot more exciting. But, Mike, I think we are in the minority. People have stuff to do on Sundays and the all night sessions wear people down.

So what's the answer?

Jim: Maybe there's no answer. Or maybe it's to start earlier or get more stuff in a final draft form earlier.

I like how a piece goes through everyone. We're all tossing stuff in and then when it's typed, it's still not done unless it's a roundtable or a transcript. I'm rushing for time and so are you but do we have time to talk about the news review.

Jim: We better make time. C.I. wanted that noted in our "A note to our readers" and I blanked on it. We were trying to do something different because two things weren't working and we killed those pieces. You know there was a feeling that since one was hard hitting we should have something heavy in news. Then Dona said, "Let's do Democracy Now!" and we really got behind that idea. It was a way to use Kara's thing and not just repost it as a blog spotlight. C.I. didn't want to be anchor but we thought that would be better and less stressful since we were pulling it together at the last minute. But Ty and Maria were the sacrificial lambs and they went first to get something up and then started helping all of us with our bits. We did that "live." That's a transcript and Dona was keeping time the entire time. You know how crazy it was. And the thing with Betty and C.I. on Marilyn Monroe, the conversation they go into, worked so well. I was surprised by that because, you know this, nothing was ready to go yet so Dona starts going for C.I. and Betty to stretch that part out. And it reads perfect. We're all Democracy Now! fans and we have so much respect for what Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalaz do. But it was really amazing to try to do it in our own way and really get what they do each day.

I wish I could have been there in person. C.I. was and that's okay to note, right?

Jim: I hope so but I'll note it anyway. I think the thing is not noting when travel's taking place and there's a reason for that. But I think it's fine to note it after. C.I. was speaking in the area and swung by to help out in person. And I think it needs to be noted because there are people complaining about weekend posts at The Common Ills, feeling like there should be more. And the simple fact is that C.I.'s traveling a lot and people need to be glad there's anything up there at all. We always enjoy it on phone but when C.I.'s there it's usually more fun. And if C.I. hadn't tossed me the Vanity Fair after we started that thing, I wouldn't have had a story. I hadn't even thought of what I was going to do.

I got the issue today for the recruiter story and I just read the Sibel Edmonds thing. I think you did a great job summing up a very long story.

Jim: Well it was an experiment and we all had a lot of fun with it and hopefully covered some topics that might not get noted otherwise.

Jim, thank you.

Jim: My pleasure, Mike.