Friday, September 30, 2005

DeLay, Abu Ghraib, and a question

Good evening. As always we'll start with two items from Democracy Now!

Judge Orders release of More Abu Ghraib Pics
A federal judge ruled Thursday that graphic pictures of prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released, despite government claims that they could damage the US image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic." The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison as part of the ongoing lawsuits over Abu Ghraib. The government is being given 20 days to appeal the decision. Last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, Rumsfeld said "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

So what's going to happen? You think they'll release them or not? I think we have a right to know what happened and not some scrubbed version of it. The pictures are part of the story. Without them, you got Rush Limbaugh and all the others minimizing and making jokes. Guess what Nina just put on the stereo in here? Cass Elliot. No real reason to throw that in but she's been shuffling around my CDs for about ten minutes now and I was wondering if she was ever going to find something she wanted to hear.

DeLay Court Date Set
A Texas judge on Thursday ordered former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear in court next month to face the charge that he conspired to funnel corporate money to state political campaigns. The summons calls for DeLay to appear in the court in Austin on Oct. 21. A grand jury indicted DeLay and reindicted two of his associates Wednesday in an investigation of a political fundraising group DeLay founded, Texans for a Republican Majority. DeLay's lawyers have been scrambling behind the scenes to prevent Delay from being handcuffed, photographed and fingerprinted when he appears in Austin.

Another "what do you think's gonna happen?" I think he should be tossed behind bars but then I think about the prisoners who will have to be in there with him and start feeling sorry for them. :D

People like that think they are untouchable. If you're lucky, their public humiliation happens while you're alive to enjoy it. I heard on the radio that DeLay's lawyers are trying real hard to make sure DeLay doesn't get handcuffed and have to do a perp walk. Considering what's happening with Senator Meow-Meow, this ain't a good time to be Repub leaders in Congress. And like maybe not even to be a Repub in Congress cause you got Bully Boy dragging you down and now DeLay and Frist. If Jeb ran through Miami Dade in broad daylight, drunk, with his wanger hanging out, I'm not sure things could be much worse. :D

Rebecca wrote earlier this week that she wished I would declare myself a feminist. Okay, Rebecca, I'm a feminist.

No smileys because I'm serious. Jess is a cool guy and he's a feminist. I agree with Rebecca that the word needs to be used and I also agree that it needs to be used by guys too.

Elaine wrote a really great post called "Democracy Now!" and it's about why Democracy Now! is so important to our country.

Cedric wrote a thing about how people are pressured to be couples by society and all.

Which brings us to the e-mail question and I know I haven't had time really for those lately. With the fall semester starting up and all I've been real busy.

But Nicole e-mailed to say I seemed different and distant these days and she thought it was like everybody she knew when they got in a relationship and let everything else in their lives turn to crap.

I don't think that's happened. I think I'm working and going to college and the heat is killing me though today wasn't so bad. When I started blogging I was doing 1 course and working and the course had already started. Now I've got a full load and work.

I still hang out with my buds on Saturday afternoon and shoot some hoops or crash with them on the couch in front of the TV. And I work with The Third Estate Sunday Review on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

But like I don't think I've changed. We did see Flight Plan this week, Nina and me. But I don't see a lot of changes. Maybe I'm missing them but I just asked Nina and she goes she doesn't think so. She's over here when I'm blogging most of the time but she's usually listening to music and working on her assignments. Tony was over twice this week while I was blogging too.

But I think Cedric raised a real good point about the pressures and all to be in a couple. I don't have that from my folks. Maybe when I get out of college but right now they're not saying, "Oh you and Nina should get married." They like her a lot. But they're not doing that and Nina's parents aren't either.

But there is pressure from society and all so maybe that's something Nicole's seen or maybe she's had friends just toss her aside because they were in a new relationship?

We can talk about that and it's cool but I think Nicole was just asking about me right now and there I don't think I've changed because of a relationship. I'm still Mike talking about stuff I don't know the half of and still scratching my nuts. Probably 1 thing that's changed is right after I take a shower when I get home, I get dressed because Nina's over. If it was just Tony and my friends, I'd be sitting here wet from the shower in just a towel.

But I know my body is so fine and so hard to resist so I don't want to be tempting Nina all the time! :D

I'm going to post this amazing thing by C.I. and then put this whole post up. I won't tell Nina about my joke and we'll see how long it is before she reads it and I hear about it! :D Remember to check out Seth's new site. Here's C.I.:

"Editorial: Not so brave Matt Cooper"
Okay, let's talk Plamegate. Judith Miller is out of jail. Scoots Libby has given her permission to testify. But let's not talk about it like everybody else is going to talk about it.
David Johnston and Douglas Jehl (that might not be the order, I don't care) turn in "
Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify" in this morning's New York Times.
Maybe they've accepted the media spin? It hasn't really been their beat (despite all the attention Jehl received -- and back slapping -- for doing the obvious in one story on Plamegate) so maybe they're not familiar with the details?
I don't know.
Warning, this isn't a trash Judy piece. (Nor is it a defend Miller piece.)
I was asked to hold my tongue on one aspect of Plamegate. The reason being Miller was in jail and for the stated principle of why she was in jail, I held my tongue. She's out now.
She (and her attorney) spoke to Scoots and got his permission for a release.
And Jehl & Johnston tell you, in passing, of a similar thing that happened with Matt Cooper. But the thing is, it didn't happen with Cooper.Cooper didn't hear from Karl Rove. Cooper's breathless announcement the morning of what would have had him joining Miller in jail, there was nothing new. There was no new release. It was the same thing Cooper had in 2003.
And if you check Adam Liptak's original reporting in the New York Times, you'll see that.
But the pack protects its own.
So Cooper (married to a Democrat) is given a pass. And the Los Angeles Times (among others) rewrites history. What's really surprising is when Michael Wolff points out the obvious (and public record) fact that Cooper didn't have anything to breathlessly announce, he gets attacked for it. The attack is sideslam that won't deal with the real issue, but that's why he got attacked.
It's interesting the way this will go down: Matt Cooper is a brave journalist who got a release from his source at the last minute. But that's not how it happened.
I held my tongue because two at the Times said it would hurt the principle Miller was standing up for. (Whether you believe she believed in that principle or not is your business.) I held my tongue here. In private conversations and e-mails, I've not been so silent.
And the reason is Cooper lied. Wolff told the truth. Wolff got broadsided for doing so. (Though he may or may not be aware of it.) He broke from the pack. And some of the voices who pride themselves on being so independent attacked him. Why? That's for those voices to reveal.
If they attacked out of friendship with Matt Cooper and a desire to protect him, they should come forward and admit it. They shouldn't act as though they just picked apart Wolff's writing for no reason.
We noted Wolff's article here twice. The second time we used the single paragraph that led one person especially to attack Wolff. They didn't make that the basis of the attack because that's not how you do it.
If you're protecting Cooper, you don't say, "Wolff says Cooper lied about having a new release!"You don't draw attention to what's vanishing down the memory hole. You find another reason to attack. (Murray Waas and Wolff had a lively exchange on
Democracy Now! but it wasn't re: Cooper -- due to that exchange, some may assume Waas is among the people I'm referring to, he's not.) You try to find another way to pick apart the article, to slime it and Wolff, so that if anyone does read it and they find the Cooper paragraph that strays from the revised narrative they just assume, "Oh, there's Wolff again, lying!"
Wolff didn't lie, he didn't skew.
Cooper wasn't going to go to jail. It wasn't important enough to him to go to jail. If that was the deciding factor, then say so. Don't invent a new release that didn't exist. (And in real time, in the public record, you'll find Karl Rove's attorney pointing that out.)
The narrative is now that Cooper got a release from his source at the last minute. That's the way the LA Times reported it, it's the way the New York Times does today -- going against their original reporting (again, see Liptak's original articles).
The narrative may well become two reporters stood up for their sources until their sources released them. But that narrative is false and a lot of work has gone into creating it. A lot of work went into attacking Wolff as well. It required pouring over his article to find something other than the offending paragraph to pick apart in an attempt to tar and feather him a liar.
Floyd Abrams did not accept the 2003 waiver. (The only waiver that Cooper had.) The attornies and the clients, while Miller & Cooper were standing side by side on this, both agreed that a release someone was forced to sign wasn't a real release. Miller's deal to disclose was ironed out by a phone call between attornies and Miller and Scoots.
Cooper didn't get honest. And the press, other than Wolff, has been willing to look the other way. That was bad enough but maybe they held their tongues for the principle? If so, now might be a good time to discuss what really went down.Cooper didn't want to go to jail so why didn't that just get said? "I don't want to go to jail so I'm offering information." Instead a last minute release is invented, one that never happened. (Again, check the public record.)
There was nothing journalistically brave about what Cooper did. He may be "All Too Human" but he's not a brave reporter and he shouldn't be allowed to pretend he is.
Wolff pointed out reality. Here's the paragraph that led to the attacks (from"
All Roads Lead To Rove") :
There is Time's Matt Cooper, a very decent fellow of my acquaintance (married, it is impossible in the ironies department not to note, to Mandy Grunwald, whose father, Henry, ran Time magazine, where Cooper works, in an era when the government was not so sharp when it came to the media, and who, herself, is a very sharp media political consultant who has advised both Clintons, and who has, it is likely, done some leaking herself), marching with seeming stoicism to his protect-my-source jail cell. But who, beyond ritual denial, seemed awfully relieved when his bosses took it upon themselves to release his notes and name his source (perhaps he felt a little guilty about his secret). And then, when that didn't get him excused, he announced a breathless last-minute release from his source, which turned out to be, according to Robert D. Luskin, Rove's lawyer, nothing but a reconfirmation of the pro forma release the White House had already required the source--and all potential sources--to sign (and which Cooper had said before was not good enough). So, baloney. And then there is the piece about all this that he did in fact write for Time nearly two years after he might just as well have written it.
This is nothing new. When Barbara Walters' name came up during Iran-Contra, the press circled the wagons then too. Walters should have been held accountable by the public but, for that to happen, they'd have to know what she knew and when. For a brief moment, they did. Then it was circle the wagons and down the memory hole.There's no real news in this article in the Times. But I'm sure it will be examined and probed and discussed. That's fine. The outing of Valerie Plame by an administration swearing to change the tone (and boy did they) deserves to be examined intensely and discussed.But I was offended when a publisher explained, the day Walters was briefly (a newspaper publisher) a news item in Iran-Contra, that she wouldn't be by the next day's news cycle.
That's what's happening with Cooper.
It probably will continue. No one will question it because the spin is so intense that most people now think it happened that way. It didn't. I gave my word to hold my tongue on this (after I called Cooper "Fat Boy" -- either here or in a phone conversation) because the issue was the freedom of the press and pointing out Cooper's obvious flaws would lead to a defense and counter-defense (publicly by the press, not legal) and the "waters would be muddied if not bloodied." So I agreed to hold my tonuge here while Miller was in jail.
We're not discussing Miller in this entry, we aren't discussing Valerie Plame. What we're discussing is how the press will protect its own and how friends in various places will rush forward to attack someone, in this case Wolff, who states the obvious truth but never say, "Oh by the way, me and Matty? Friends!"
The attacks on Wolff might not have been so convincing if people knew they were coming from friends of Matt Cooper. (Which is not to say Cooper encouraged the attacks, just that he benefitted from them as he benefits from not being asked to explain his supposed new release that doesn't appear to have existed unless he's kept silent on it -- which, all things considered, would be amazing on his part.)
There are people who say they're in it for the truth. They say they just want to inform. A lot of them didn't do that -- not because they fell for the spin, but because they actively promoted it when they knew better. And there's also the issue of private conversations Cooper appears to have had which surfaced in the press while he was still supposedly not coming forward and standing with Miller on the First Amendment.
You can think Miller was self-serving or whatever. That's not the point for this entry. The point is that Cooper's story didn't hold up. And we saw that in real time. But then friends got a hold of it and it was hammered into a narrative that doesn't reflect reality.
This will be studied in journalism classes because there was an investigation, reporters were threatened with jail, many came forward. When it's studied, it's really not fair for Matt Cooper to be held up as an example of someone who bravely stood up against a prosecuter for the First Amendment because that's not what happend. And if anyone needs the truth about journalism, it's the young adults who will be stuyding to become journalists.
Cooper may be a nice person, he has a lot of friends. But an honest person would have stepped forward and set the record straight. He hasn't done that. And he's aware of some of the attacks on Wolff for raising the unmentionable in a single paragraph of a lengthy essay. (Wolff's been especially attacked on the D.C. party scene.)
Scoots told Miller, according to the article in the paper today, that he thought Valerie Plame sent Wilson on the trip. (That's spreading the rumor and that rumor pops up a lot in some of the revisionist writing benefitting Cooper.) His claim right now is apparently that he didn't know she was CIA. That deserves to be picked apart. The nonsense of "I didn't use her name!" deserves to be picked apart as well.
But here we're going to focus on the Cooper aspect because I don't like having to hold my tongue while history is rewritten. I agreed to do so while Miller was in jail. Maybe others got caught up in the larger principle as well? Miller's out of jail. There's no need to continue to maintain a "friendly" environment because the First Amendment is at stake.
The narrative flew in the face of common sense and public record but it took hold and maybe everyone wants to stay silent on it (except Michael Wolff) but I don't have a need to take part in a lie or play circle the wagons.
Cooper was initially vauge about his new release. Rove's attorney, in real time, publicly denied such a release. If Cooper has a release that justifies his actions, he can come forward with it. Don't hold your breath for that to happen because a lot of people have invested a lot of time in creating and maintaining this narrative.
You hear a lot of criticism of the press, justified, but one of the things that they do best, that rarely gets commented upon, is this circle the wagons approach. It allows certain individuals to not be held accountable. Take Judith Miller. Her articles in the lead up to the invasion and while taking part in it are obviously wrong. (She was proved f**king wrong.) But she wasn't held accountable for that. You had Jack Shafer and a few others who did hold her accountable (a few others within the ranks -- you had a lot of people outside those ranks holding her accountable). But it took a grand jury for her work to be seriously addressed. (The Times still hasn't done that.)
That's because they protect their own. They circle the wagons. And they've done it with Cooper and they need to called on it. They did it with Walters and today most people don't even know her ties to Iran-Contra. Matthew Cooper sat on a story, an important one that might have impacted the election (as Wolff points out) and here we won't act like a rewrite is reality.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Short post because Blogger acted up

Good evening. As always we'll kick things off with Democracy Now!

First sad news but hopefully her life was as happy as it was productive.

Civil Rts Lawyer Constance Motley Baker Dies at 84
And finally, the first African American woman to serve as a federal judge has passed away. Famed civil rights lawyer Constance Baker Motley died Wednesday in New York. She was 84. As a young lawyer, Motley represented Martin Luther King Jr. After a brief political career, she began a distinguished four-decade span as a judge in 1966, becoming the first black woman appointed to the federal bench. Motley earned her degree in economics in 1943 from New York University, and three years later, she obtained her law degree from Columbia Law School. In 1945, she became a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall, who was then chief counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In the late 1950s, Motley took an interest in politics and by 1964 had left the NAACP and become the first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate. In 1965, she became the first woman to serve as president of the borough of Manhattan, where she worked to promote integration in public schools. In her career, she worked on some of the nation's most famous civil rights cases, including preparing the draft complaint in 1950 for what would become Brown v. Board of Education. From 1961 to 1964, Motley won nine of 10 civil rights cases she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now for this.

Reuters Protests 'Long Parade' of Media Deaths in Iraq
The Reuters News Agency says the conduct of U.S. troops in Iraq, including increasing detention and accidental shootings of journalists, is preventing full coverage of the war from reaching the American public. In a letter to Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reuters said U.S. forces were limiting the ability of independent journalists to operate. The letter from the agency's Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger called on Warner to raise these issues with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee on Thursday. Schlesinger referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by U.S. forces in Iraq." At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. U.S. forces acknowledge killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled who was shot by American soldiers on Aug. 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. The Pentagon says the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth Reuters journalist, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a U.S. sniper. Schlesinger said the Pentagon has refused to conduct independent and transparent investigations into the deaths of the journalists, relying instead on inquiries by officers from the units responsible, who had exonerated their soldiers.

I asked C.I. today if the New York Times would join in on this and C.I. said it was really doubtful. They haven't been highlighting the Reuters issues or calling for accountability in the deaths of reporters (although now that they lost someone that might change). If a number of others join in, the Times might have the guts to but it's not been a leader on the issue of harm to reporters in Iraq via the U.S. military. Remember to check out Elaine.

I want to thank Betty again for the interview. I appreciate everyone who's granted an interview but I know how little time Betty has and I know she was giving up the little time she has to do stuff by herself and just relax before going to bed. So I really want to say thank you to Betty. Let's note Betty's latest thing which is called "Thomas Friedman's Endgame Should Start With A Shower"

Gail Collins has some very interesting choices in men. Carson Daly? Elaine and I both exchanged looks on that one. I mean, I guess I could see the attraction, if I really looked hard enough but he seems so non-Gail Collins-ish. I had to wonder if the fumes from Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock strap had effected her as well?
(Thomas Friedman swears that
the fumes from Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock are like a jolt of warm coffee in the morning. He is just sniffing, right?)
After that a long lull set in as Gail Collins had discussed walking hand in hand with Daly back to her place and then tying him to the bed . . .
We were honestly a little shocked. But after we realized it, we all had a good laugh."Is it that I'm too old for Carson Daly?" Gail Collins wondered.
I explained that he just didn't seem her type -- which I always pictured to be more Village, more intellectual, and a lot less photogenic. Sighing, Gail Collins said she was a little envious of me because I had seen
Davy Brooks in a sock. I tried to assure her that it was a very empty sock but she wasn't having any of that. She likes his teeth. Says they remind her of a hamster she had as a child, Cuddles.

It is now 10:30 p.m. I'm leaving the time stamp from when I started this entry. I saved to draft at this point and intended to add to it but I couldn't get back into it because Blogger was down for maintance. Nina wanted to see the new Jodie Foster movie so we had already planned to do that and then we hung out for a bit. Now I'm back here and this is going to be it.

New blog from Seth called Seth in the City. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Interview with Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man

Good night or morning. I hate typing. We've got an interview with Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man coming up but before I get to that, we'll note two headlines from Democracy Now!

Lynndie England Sentenced to Three Years For Abu Ghraib Abuses (Democracy Now!)Lynndie England has been sentenced to three years in prison for her role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Her sentence fell well short of the maximum 10-year sentence she faced. The 22-year-old army reservist was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and pointing to an inmate's genitals. Meanwhile an Army Captain has accused the Pentagon of being more concerned about tracking down soldiers who report detainee abuse than in investigating the accusations. Army Captain Ian Fishback recently helped provide Human Rights Watch with information on new cases of abuse and torture taking part in U.S. prisons in Iraq. Fishback said the Army is now threatening to file charges against him if he disobeys an order to disclose the names of two Army Sergeants who also spoke to Human Rights Watch. Fishback told the New York Times, "We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem."

Soldiers Posted Photographs of Iraqi Corpses on Web
The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site. Many of the photos depict dismembered Iraqi corpses and body parts. Some also were submitted by soldiers in Afghanistan.

Elaine's commenting at her site so click here to read her thoughts on the two.

I loved interviewing Betty but there are some things I never got around to asking. One thing was supposed to be, "What is your favorite post?" I didn't have time to ask. So I'll note that Ma's favorite post by Betty is "Every Day is Husband's Day," Dad's favorite is "The Great Thomas Friedman Cracks Another One," Nina's favorite is "My husband Thomas Friedman says 'The world is going to hell in an Enstrom's Gift Basket'" and my favorite is "The World May Not Be Flat But Thomas Friedman Has A Bearded Butt." Betty blogs at Thomas Friedman is a Great Man which is a humor site and she's really talented. I interviewed her last night and I'll type up the interview now. I think you'll enjoy it.

Tonight, I'm interviewing the one and only Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man. Betty, you've got a great blog. It's funny, it's a novel, it's just great. So tell me what the deal is with people like you who beat yourself up over every post?

Betty: (Laughing) I don't know. I just want it to be so much more than it is. I see the problems. There are many problems.

Name one.

One? Betinna. I've used various spellings and, if I had the time, I'd go back and fix that. But the spelling should be Betinna on every entry.

Okay, that's it. You need to stop blogging, missy. You just turn over your keyboard right now.

Well it's a big deal to me and it's only one example. I have typos.

Oh my God!

Well I do.

So does the stupid New York Times. I don't think it's a big deal. Give me something else.

Well, this is a good thing actually, the for-pay at the New York Times with the columns now because I don't need to worry about responding to Thomas Friedman's nonsense. I can focus more on Betinna's story now.

You're not reading the columns?

No, I still am. I don't subscribe to the paper. C.I. does so I get them e-mailed. But most readers won't be subscribers and they won't see his column so my reply is more of a touching on what he wrote and not really a reply. Sometimes, he can really make me mad. I was working on an entry before D.C. but I scrapped it when I couldn't get into my blog Saturday. It was about what an idiot he was and just a line by line reply to his column.

D.C. was great and we'll talk about that in a moment but what was the deal with the computer problems?

I don't know. Was Blogger having problems? I'm sorry but I don't think it was just Blogger and I couldn't get into my e-mail on anyone's laptop until Sunday afternoon when I got on Krista's laptop.

We can talk about that now, right?

Yeah, I think so. Gina and Krista were doing special round-robins for the protests. That ended up being the backup for The Third Estate Sunday Review and the editorial and the piece that should be up there but still won't display went into the round-robin plus their interviews with all of us.

It was very weird. So let's talk about D.C. It was my first time and it was your first time. I was really shocked that so much poverty could exist in the city of the nation.

That was really sad. And you wonder what people think, you know? I mean, I'm the leader of a small country in Africa and I fly into D.C. and the land of the free and I look around and see that it's not that different from my own country when I see the slums and all of that. There's no excuse for it other than Congress doesn't care about their own hometown. It's almost like they're trying to starve, and some might say that's what they are doing, the poor people out of the city so they can do some sort of urban renewal.

Who was your favorite speaker at the rally Saturday morning?

Cindy. I think Cindy Sheehan was everyone's favorite. I felt like she was rushed though. Didn't she say something like "I'm almost done"?

Yeah. That was weird.

After Cindy, I'll go with Cynthia McKinney because she is a home town girl for me and I really respect her. But everyone was great. I read your thing about "the Dads." They were like high school boys when Jessica Lange was speaking.

She did a great job but I didn't know who she was.

She did do a great job. I'm surprised you didn't know who she was because your parents, who are wonderful, really love movies. I like Crimes of the Heart best because it's set in the south. That's one you should see. It's a comedy. Sissy Spacek has a line about being a "Democratic" that will crack you up. I think I've probably seen almost all of Jessica Lange's movies. Even Blue Sky which she was great in but I hated it.

How come?

I don't like Chris O'Donnell for one reason. He's in Men Don't Leave as well but he was still cute then. Most kids are. But when he became a man he just . . . He seems like one of those guys that hits 18 and thinks, "Okay, now we do it my way" and he just has to try so hard to be the man and wear the pants to prove a point that you just think, "Go away already." He's so boxy too. He should be playing a TV dad! (Laughing) I'm thinking of one of Ava & C.I.'s TV reviews.

Were you nervous in the march?

A little, honestly. I wasn't afraid that anyone would hurt us intentionally but I did worry because I had my kids with me. We were a pretty big bunch and if something had gone wrong, I was trying to think about what I would do. That's why Kat insisted everyone stay close to me because I'd told her about that and she said, "Betty, we'll all grab a kid, your kids will be fine."

Kat's so cool.

She really is. And Friday night, I bet she wanted to go to the party Ava's family threw but she knew I wasn't going to leave my kids and it really wasn't a kid's party, so she insisted on watching them. Your parents offered too.

Everybody wanted you to have a night of fun.

I did. And it was sweet of everyone but Kat said, "I'm not going. You can stay here with me and your kids and miss the party but I'm staying here regardless so you're really just missing a party if you don't go."

Your kids loved Kat.

I know. From the first moment. They're usually stand offish until they get to know you. But really, they took one look at Kat and they just ran over to her from the second they saw her.

Was it hard interviewing people with your kids?

I told everyone that I had done it before and I could do it again --

Right because you helped with The Third Estate Sunday Review piece on the rallies in March.

(Laughing) I was the Atlanta correspondent! But some people don't want to talk to anyone and I can understand that because these days who knows who is anyone is? You might be FBI or something. But I found that the kids were an icebreaker and also tended to calm people down. That was true in Atlanta and that was true in D.C. The only problem I had was in the middle of one interview, they go charging off. They're not like that and I'm rushing after them and see Kat and think, "Okay, that's what's going on."

They really loved her.

I know. It's so cute because my youngest calls her "meow" and "kitty cat." My daughter just loved Kat's hair. I don't think it was anything but that. Kat has all that long hair and it's so shiny and wavy. I told Kat, "Tell her to quit playing with your hair" but Kat said it didn't bother her.
We're getting a red headed Barbie after church tomorrow.

Which will be when this goes up because we're doing this interview on Tuesday because Wednesday is a church night for you.

It is. Church is important to me. I grew up in my church and I know the people and they know me and my kids. It's like an extended family. I don't think I could ever move because I don't think I'd ever find a better church.

You missed Sunday and that was a big deal for you.

I know. I talked to my mother and I said, "We're coming back Sunday" and she told me I was stupid. She said chuch will be here Wednesday night and that this was important so go and stay on Sunday. This was my mother speaking, so of course I listened. (Laughing) If she reads that, she'll say, "Oh that time you listened!"

Did your kids have fun?

Yes, they did, thank you for asking. They really did. They warmed up to everyone by Saturday and they were on their best behavior. That wasn't my doing. I wasn't reminding them all the time because they were just doing what they needed to do and, as a parent, that was great to see. If we go to McDonald's, it can be a nightmare so I was really surprised. But it was a trip for them and they were excited. And they had fun and were always begging you, Jess, Jim and Ty for piggy back rides.

They seemed intimidated by Cedric.

I noticed that. I need to call him about that. I was wondering if anyone else noticed. Cedric looks a lot like my preacher and my preacher can be intimidating. That sounds bad and I don't mean it that way. But in church, you behave. He doesn't call anyone out or try to embarrass anyone. I know of preachers that do that and I think it's disgusting. But he will zero in with his eyes if a kid's getting too lively during a sermon. Not at that parent, at the child and it works. They liked Cedric. They gave him those drawings they did. But when Cedric would walk into the room, they would always fall silent or act real innocent.

Blog Betty, as Rebecca used to call you --

Still does.

You were the new one for a long time.

I know. I don't think there was anyone after I started until you did. But I'm not sure when Kat started her own site and because of her album reviews, I always thought of her as having her own say and all. But until you started, I don't think there was anyone else.

You blog twice a week.

If I'm lucky. I have something I'm almost done with and a friend's agreed to post it for me so I can work on it right until it's time to go to church. I'll probably ask her to proof it before she posts it. But I blog when I can. I feel guilty when I don't but it doesn't end my day. It's just the way it is. Do you like blogging every day?

During the week. Yes. I like it and I'm juggling right now because of school and, honestly, because of the heat and all. But it's probably much hotter where you are.

But we're used to it. That said, it seems like every summer lately gets hotter. But I was pregnant during one summer, six months when the summer started, and I made it through that. When I start feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes I do about the blog, I will remember that and how hot it was and how sweat just poured off me with every step I took. I was so huge. I say it was the largest I ever got during a pregnancy but my sister says I just think that because it was so hot so every pound really weighed hard. I feel like everyone's thinking, "Oh God, she's talking about her kids." Let's talk about something else.

I bet everyone's as interested as I am but I'll change the topic since you want me to. Why did you decide to start blogging?

The Common Ills was an oasis of sanity. It was a place where I felt welcomed. There was no "stupid women!" posts or no subtle or not so subtle jokes about race. And there were issues I believed in and supported being discussed. I was showing it to my sister especially but, really, to everyone. And there were people, members, who would find stuff and get C.I. to link to it. So I started out like that. And I was one of those, "Just link to it, please don't mention me" for the longest. So it would be, like it is today when someone asks that, "we'll note . . ."

How come?

Well you've got some smart people, a lot of smart people, and you don't want to be the one that's tossing out Mad Magazine when everyone else is off Harper's or something. It can be intimidating. So then I stopped being intimidated about that. Then I started e-mailing C.I. about a few topics in particular. Not for links, just to sound off. And C.I. would reply. This has to be the most frustrating thing, to be honest. When we're weighing in and C.I.'s going, "Share this" and we're like, "No, it's not that good." So that went on for a while and then C.I. started saying, "You really need your own site." I was flattered and mentioned it to my sister who said, "I've been saying that forever!" But she's my sister and she has to be kind. But I finally said okay but that I wanted to get a feel for it. And C.I. said, "Would you like to try working on some stuff with The Third Estate Sunday Review?"
I waited three days before replying to that e-mail. I was so intimidated. But then, on Thursday night, I said, "Could I observe?" And so I was on the phone with them and hearing how they did it and how much fun and how much of a pain it was. And I started doing things, tossing out my two cents and I thought, "I can do it." And all along I was planning what was going to make my site different and I'm a huge fan of The Color Purple and I love to laugh so I thought that maybe I could somehow merge the two.

Thomas Friedman wasn't your first choice.

No, I wanted Bob Herbert because I really love his writing. But due to the way the storyline was working out and the fact that I didn't want anyone to misunderstand the humor, I decided not to go with him and went with Thomas Friedman instead.

Pretend I've never been to your site and explain Thomas Friedman is a Great Man to me.

Okay, well it's a humor site. You're supposed to laugh. The story is that Betinna is married to Thomas Friedman. She can't remember her past but Thomas Friedman is always bringing up, throwing in her face, that she's from some backwater village and how he saved her. Early on, she was an idiot because he was feeding her vitamins that were actually drugs to make her more compliant. That's the sort of thing that you can't picture Bob Herbert doing but Thomas Friedman you can. They went on the book tour and around that time, she stopped taking the "vitamins." She started giving them to him without him knowing. So right now she has the upper hand and she's wondering why she can't remember and what her past was like. That's the journey. All of this, and hopefully people have laughed, but all of this is just leading up to that. Which is why I'm glad I'm not in a back and forth with his columns anymore. It slows down the story.

You've got this all plotted out.

Right. And if I'd written on his column Friday, I would've rushed my own storyline because of a part of the column. So we'll note it in some way, but it's not a call and response to Thomas Friedman's columns.

I really appreciate you giving me this time because I know you're busy and I promised you I wouldn't keep you so I'll start winding down with a 15 minute warning here. So tell me how you would change the world?

That's a tough one. There are so many things wrong with the world. But I'm a mother and I struggle with bills so I think if I was told I could do one thing and only one thing, I would insist upon universal health care. I always love Ava & C.I.'s TV reviews but I really loved their review of Three Wishes because that show is so offensive. Having Amy Grant come in and we're supposed to applaud because there are no more medical bills for the family. That's a quick fix. And there are millions of families in that situation and only one Amy Grant. The answer isn't to have some singer go town to town, the answer is for universal health care. I'd also say that we need to stop trying to destroy Head Start and start increasing the funding of it. I know that's two but I really did need to say that. I was a Head Start kid. If I weren't, I might not be here.

No problem. Tell me one thing that most people don't know about you.

Something most don't know. Hmm. Okay, this is embarrassing, but here goes. You know that candy, the balls. They're chocolate. Malt balls? Well I buy Whoppers. I keep them at the top of my closet because I don't want my kids to see Mom reaching for a chocolate fix everytime something goes crazy. But there are days and evenings I get through by telling myself, "As soon as the kids go to sleep, you're having three Whoppers." If it's a really stressful day or night, I might go up to five. (Laughing) Is that okay?

That's perfect. What's the routine on that?

The kids are asleep and checked on. I grab them from the top of the closet, go to the rocking chair and just sit there in silence, read a chapter of whatever book I'm reading as I chew them slowly. I'm sure it sounds crazy but I bet if a young mother reads this or a woman who has kids, she'll understand and know that you really need some sort of private routine.

We interviewed community member Maria for The Third Estate Sunday Review and she spoke of how she feels her children are too young for her to be dating. You've said something similar.

Actually, I said almost the exact thing. And that's the only time anyone was upset with me in e-mails. I had a few mothers saying I had slammed them. I wasn't slamming them. Maria's not slamming them. We both have young children, plural. We both work and are the sole support of ourselves and our children. That's a big responsibility. And other women can handle that and handle children and handle dating and I say, "You go, girl." But I can't. Unlike Maria, I tried it. Maria was smart enough to know her limitations right up front. I wasn't. And I had the experience where your kid is sick and you have to call and explain that and the guy's upset and either doesn't call you back or when he does he expects you to be so apologetic because your kid was sick. I'm not going to beg for forgiveness because one of my kids was sick. And with one guy, I found myself tempted to just dump the kids at my sister's twice. The first time it was just a thought and I'm sure every mother has that fantasy. But the second time it was really more than that. And there are women who can juggle it all and keep their kids top priority. Great. I know from that moment that if I fell hard, I would really have to work to make my children top priority because I can be a romance junkie. I can get totally caught up in everything. "Is he calling? Why isn't he calling? What will he be wearing?" That's fine for me if I was single but I'm all my children have besides my parents and their aunts and uncles. I'm the primary support and they are too young to be pawned off as I'm afraid I might do if I fell hard. It would be real easy for me to tell myself, "Oh this is just for a little bit," them staying the night with my sister for a few evenings or whatever, "and in the long run, they're going to have a great father come into their life!" I've been through the romance cycle and have work I need to do there. Even if I didn't have kids, I'd have work to do there. But with kids and knowing my cycle, there's really no point in dating because they would suffer. That's me. That's not every woman.
So when Maria spoke of that, I wanted to talk to her privately, outside of the interview, about it. Our society has a lot of pressure to date. They like couples. So there's that. Then there's the whole demonization of the single mother and I'm so glad, I mean this is why The Common Ills is my community, I'm so glad that C.I. stuck up for single mothers. I couldn't believe, when I was forwarded the copy and paste, that someone who is supposed to be whatever would sit there and defend a right winger just because John Edwards backed him up.

I don't like John Edwards. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy are my senators.

I voted for Kerry. I wish he had fought for a recount. But I don't get these people who want to say "There's no problem with the Ohio vote!" and then, in the next breath, they argue that Edwards would have fought for a recount. You wrote about that and I agree. I also don't get, and this is a point C.I. made, rightly, why someone feels the need to push someone for president when the year's 2005 and no one's declared. I mean come on. Let's take Rebecca, okay? I love Rebecca. If she was toying with the idea of running for president, I would be hoping she would. But I wouldn't be blogging "Rebecca is the only choice for president!" because who knows who might run against her? It's like with my oldest, who loves corny dogs these days. I'll put them in the oven and hear, "These are the best corny dogs in the world!" and I'll have to say, "Honey, they aren't cooked yet. We don't know that they'll be the best." I mean wait for the meal to arrive before saying it's the best.

On a similar topic, you're pretty much ignored online outside of the community.

Right. I wish I could be like Cedric and take the attitude of "Well I'm black, so big surprise." But the reality is it did hurt. Ron links to me and I'm thankful for that. It's like C.I. says Ron's going to have his say and tell you what he thinks and you can agree or disagree but it's right there, no hidden agenda. So I'm glad I link to Ron as well. But he linked to me before I linked to him and I'm grateful for that. It was really nice of him to do. And my sister found out that I was linked to by a site called Thomas Friedman Is A Jackass. So I link to that site and the guy was very kind to link to me. But that's really it, as far as I know, outside of the community. I know there are people who wanted Rebecca to link them, women, and Rebecca did and they didn't return the favor. They asked her to and she did and then they didn't feel the need to do the same. So I was so happy when Elaine cleared Rebecca's site of all the bloggers who didn't link to her. I wish Elaine would sub for C.I. because I'm of the opinion now that that should be the policy. I know C.I. doesn't trade links and I know, especially after that e-mail from the blogger who stopped blogging because there was no link to him, that this is an issue everyone in the community is thinking about. But where I stand on it is if you're not providing a blogroll link to me, why should I be providing one to you? I'm not talking about magazines or organizations or newspapers. I'm talking about bloggers not helping each other. And I don't see the point in helping you if you're not willing to help me. C.I. didn't grasp that because The Common Ills built up without getting a link here or a link there. And C.I. was happy to share the good fortune and all of that. But that's something that doesn't just happen. It was, a lot of it, luck. It was having a strong voice for women, against the war, for all races, for every group that gets spit on basically when someone wants to look "moderate." And my sister's in college and she's the one who turned me on to it.

Right because that's how I knew about it. There were some classmates who were talking it up. Mom already knew about it because she is really against the war and she'd told Dad but I think I heard about it from my friend Tony.

And it was word of mouth. And it's also not luck. C.I.'s a strong voice. There's none of that nonsense that one jerk wrote about "We have to respect James Dobson." Maybe you do, but don't tell me, a single mother, a black woman, that I have to respect James Dobson. Or the b.s. about T.D. Jakes the other week from another blogger. Look, Billie gave us the 411 on him because he's in her community and I wouldn't take my children into that church but even if you have to rely on the public record, this isn't a man of god, this is a man of commerce who is right-wing and he doesn't belong, his remarks, on a non right-wing site. I read that when it was forwarded and I thought, "Oh since he's black you think we must all be going, 'Yea TD Jokes!'"
That man is so offensive. He's offensive from a Christian perspective for one thing because he's subverting the Bible and Jesus' teachings and that is public record.

I'm going to wind down with this question: other than the war and the hurricanes, what news topic has touched the most this summer?

Good one. I'd say the death of John H. Johnson because he was a big figure in publishing and proof that, if we get the breaks and work hard, we can achieve. And then I'd say, and I won't go into this too much because I honestly will cry, Coretta Scott King's stroke. She's a beacon and . . . Trying not to cry. MLK died before I was born. I think she's done as much as humanly possible to carry on his work and to keep his name alive. And she is someone that I really admire and respect. She is someone who means so much to so many and the thought of her in faltering health is just incredibly sad. I hope she recovers and I'll stop because I am tearing up.


No, it was a good question and that's the sort of thing, her stroke, that is a clue to black people. Is it dealt with, is it noted? If not, the site's not really for us. They may throw out a TD Jakes and think, "He's black so black people will just love me for this!" but if they can't acknowledge Coretta Scott King's stroke, they aren't really interested in black readers. Those were the two biggest stories in my church, Johnson and King. And it's interesting how they weren't big online with few exceptions. With Coretta Scott King I can be more understanding because my reaction is not to want to talk to much about it or I'll lose it. So I can understand more on that. Maybe someone else didn't acknowledge it because it was painful for them as well. But if they ignored Johnson as well . . . They're not for me. They're off in their own little gated community and they didn't bother to give me the code to get inside.

Betty, I want to thank you so much because I know you're busy and I know this was hard to do in the middle of a week when you'd already just gotten back from D.C. I really would like to follow up on some other things so hopefully you'll have time again.

Absolutely, Mike. You're a puppy!

Elaine meant that as a compliment but it's become a curse.

Who's next week?

It's up in the air right now. But hopefully I'll have more information later in the week.

Thank you, Mike.

Thank you, Betty. Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man. Check her out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Short post because I'm doing an interview for tomorrow

Good evening, as usual will kick things off with Democracy Now!

Nearly 400 Arrested in D.C. For Civil Disobedience
In Washington D.C. anti-war protests continued on Monday. Police arrested nearly 400 people for taking part in civil disobedience. 41 people were arrested in the morning at the Pentagon. Later Cindy Sheehan and Cornel West were among the over 300 arrested at a sit-in outside the White House. They refused to obey police orders to leave. Sheehan was the first protester to be taken into custody.

I don't know, I understand that you go in knowing you'll be arrested but I just don't get how anyone can be arrested for a sit-down? The White House doesn't belong to Bush. It's America's White House so I just don't get how you can be arrested for peacefully sitting. I think, and I know this goes back before Bully Boy, but I think this is about the bunker mentality I saw in D.C. That was probably as depressing as the poverty.

Jess' Dad was telling us about you could walk around and all but with each administration it gets like there is less and less chances for you to move in. It's for "protection." But it's like all the people on the street are putting up fences and it's just you the guy or gal renting an apartment that's being kept out.

St. Patrick's Four Acquitted of Conspiracy Charges
In Binghamton New York, four peace activists known as the St. Patrick's Four were acquitted on conspiracy charges Monday but convicted of two lesser charges. Their legal advisor Bill Quigley declared the verdict to be a "major victory." The four defendants - Clare Grady, Teresa Grady, Peter DeMott and Daniel Burns - were the first peace activists facing conspiracy charges since the Vietnam War. They were all arrested on March 17, 2003 after spilling their own blood inside a military recruiting station. The jury convicted them of misdemeanor counts of trespassing at a government facility, and damaging a government facility. They each face up to 18 months in prison.

Again, I scratch my head and go what is going on here? Did the four slaughter Falluja? No. So what are the guilty of. Trespassing at a government facility. This ain't Los Almos, people. The "facility" expects foot traffic. They were in a government building open to the public. They made their statement, they were taken out by the cops. So what's still left to settle?

That took care of it right then. Print, process 'em, you send 'em home. So why instead did money get wasted on two trials for these people? What was there try?

They made a statement, they got escorted out. End of story.

Instead we tried them not once but twice. And now we're going to imprison them. This when prisons are overcrowded and funds are short?

I don't think they did anything wrong but especially when we're so short on funds and our prisons are already overcrowded. It makes no sense.

On the phone, Elaine and I both were talking about how C.I. was noting voices from The Third Estate Sunday Review's "'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" and how we should be doing that too so here's my pick for today:

24) Christopher, 28, firefighter: I wasn't in NYC when the towers went down. But after, when they were calling for assistance a few of us flew up. What we heard about was stuff like the radios didn't work and they couldn't communicate inside the towers. And there was George Bush saying he'd fix things, saying he appreciated the fine work and he didn't fix anything. Firefighters were just a prop. It's the same thing with the military. Where's the body armor?I mean that's so basic. But it wasn't a concern. Getting his picture taken holding a fake turkey was a priority. Doing anything to protect the troops wasn't a concern. It's all about the photo-op. And think about this, everyone seems to have forgotten, but think about it a minute, we sent our troops over there without the equipment they'd need if they did face a chemical attack. Now we know that Bush knew there were no WMDS so he wanted to be cheap and knew there was no risk. But explain the fact that they weren't furnished with body armor? You can't. It's because he will say anything to look good but as soon as he looks good, he moves on to the next photo-op and forgets every promise he made at the last one. The change is that people aren't looking the other way. He's been exposed for the fraud he is.

If you haven't read the piece, get over and read. Tomorrow, here, exclusive Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man. (Read it like I'm talking like Larry King. :D) (This is short because tomorrow is church night for Betty so we're doing the actual interview tonight.)

Monday, September 26, 2005


Good evening. I have some thoughts on D.C. but as always, we’ll open with Democracy Now!

Up to 300,000 Protest Against War in D.C.
Hundreds of thousands rallied around the world Saturday to call for President Bush to bring troops home from Iraq. In Washington DC, between one and three hundred thousand gathered for the city's largest anti-war demonstration since the Vietnam War. Thousands more marched in London, Copenhagen, Damascus, Helsinki, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities and towns.

30 Die in String of Attacks in Iraq
In Iraq, at least 30 people have died over the past two days in a series of car bombings and shootings. Earlier today a suicide car bombing killed at least seven in front of the oil ministry in Baghdad.

So things aren’t any better in Iraq. Is it a surprise?

People keep acting like things will get better and their numbers are thinning, thankfully. Most people are starting to wake up.

Which brings me to D.C. this weekend. It was awesome seeing all those people standing up for peace, standing up against the government. I got a few e-mails from people who weren’t able to go but who did take part in their area and I think that’s so cool.

Know what else I think is cool? All the people who showed up and all the people I was with. I want to do some thank yous to The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report and her granddaughter Tracey, Jess' parents, Jim's father, my folks and Nina. All of us taking part made it really something.

I couldn’t have had more fun with another bunch of people. My folks and Nina went and they had a great time too. My mother said I better put in here thank you to C.I.’s friend who turned his house over to us for the weekend. It was really nice and it was nice of him. I won’t put his name in because he wants to be unnamed. But we had a great time and we were lucky to have a base of operations.

Sidney wrote that he was sorry about all the problems with Blogger. Mee too. It was really depressing. The post with all the voices is up. But we all either wanted to scream or cry or hit something when we lost that the first time.

Blogger’s been a huge problem for everyone and Rebecca did try to blog at her site and couldn’t even get in. Reading C.I.’s post this morning, I see that there are still problems. Dona had some ideas on posts from now on so we’ll all be doing something to make sure we have a copy in the future that’s outside of Blogger.

Sidney wondered if it was so frustrating that we just felt like the weekend was a wash? No, we just got more active and stuff. It was so cool and not even stupid Blogger could dampen our spirits. Taking part in something so huge and all, standing up and saying, "Bully Boy, you are wrong" was what it was about.

We left Sunday evening. Jess too. He wanted to spend some time with his parents so he rode with all of us back. We were all tired but not like the drooping tired. This was like a tired where you feel good because you know you worked hard.

I think it makes a difference. Dorinda e-mailed to say the war’s still going on and so nothing changed. I don’t believe nothing changed. I believe we went there and we shared in protest and that it has effect. People will talk about the march, about the rally, about the music, the speeches and maybe the New York Times won’t talk about it, but the people who went will. Today, everyone was asking me what it was like. People care, they want to know.

And all of us, all 300,000 of us, are going to be talking about and people will be listening. It makes an impact.

I’ll be talking about this for the rest of the week, on and off, probably.

Someone asked me on campus if C.I. was depressed and I knew C.I. was tired but I was all, "What are you talking about?" And it was about this morning’s thing at The Common Ills.
C.I.’s depressed about the New York Times, not about the protests. We were hearing about this coverage or that coverage and we pretty much missed it. We saw reporters talking to people and all but we didn’t read or hear the coverage. We were too busy taking part. Saturday’s New York Times we read, those of us who were up early. Sunday, we really didn’t have time. C.I. read that one article on the Times and was just sure that there had to be a real article on Monday. When there wasn’t, C.I. was depressed.

That’s not a protest thing, that’s a general depression about the state of the Times. I don’t expect anything from the Times. It’s a rag. But C.I. always has hope that the paper will turn around and when it doesn’t, that’s depressing.

But there was too much great stuff for even the Times to take away the power of the weekend.
The Dads' high point was Jessica Lange. I got to be honest, I didn't know who she was. But Jim's dad, Jess' dad and my dad were all like, "Jessica Lange!" :D

She's a beautiful woman. And she gave a great speech. But if the Dads hadn't been so psyched over her, I probably would've thought she was one of the mothers or something. She's also an actress and we'll be renting her movies to show our support so I'll be seeing her acting. But I think it was great she was there. And great that she gave such a powerful speech. But I gotta tell you, the Dads were highly impressed. I guess it would be like if me and my friends went to a rally ten or twenty years from now and saw Natalie Portman speaking.

I'll be talking about D.C. all week and I'll probably talk about it with Betty too for our interview that goes up Wednesday. Her kids were there this weekend. Almost forgot that. That makes a difference too. It was protesting with loved ones.