The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 1, 2007

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 22:35:39 -0500
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Columnist Molly Ivins Dies

Columnist Molly Ivins Dies

Star-Telegram (Ft. Worth, TX)
January 31, 2007

AUSTIN — Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed
liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at
5:30 p.m. Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up-
and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for
seven years. She was 62.

Ms. Ivins, the Star-Telegram's political columnist for
nine years ending in 2001, had written for the New York
Times, the Dallas Times-Herald and Time magazine and
had long been a sought-after pundit on the television
talk-show circuit to provide a Texas slant on issues
ranging from President Bush’s pedigree to the culture
wars rooted in the 1960s.

"She was magical in her writing," said Mike Blackman, a
former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ms.
Ivins at the newspaper’s Austin bureau in 1992, a few
months after the Times-Herald ceased publication. "She
could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard-
hitting point didn’t hurt so bad."

A California native who moved to Houston as a young
child with her family, Ms. Ivins was diagnosed with
breast cancer in 1999. Two years later after enduring a
radical mastectomy and rounds of chemotherapy, Ms.
Ivins was given a 70 percent chance of remaining
cancer-free for five years. At the time, she said she
liked the odds.

But the cancer recurred in 2003, and again last year.
In recent weeks, she had suspended her twice-weekly
syndicated column, allowing guest writers to use the
space while she underwent further treatment. She made a
brief return to writing in mid-January, urging readers
to resist President Bush’s plan to increase the number
of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq. She likened her call
to an old-fashioned "newspaper crusade."

"We are the people who run this country," Ms Ivins said
in the column published in the Jan. 14 edition of the
Star-Telegram. "We are the deciders. And every single
day, every single one of us needs to step outside and
take some action to help stop this war.

"Raise hell," she continued. "Think of something to
make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops
know we’re for them and are trying to get them out of
there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed

She ended the piece by endorsing the peace march in
Washington scheduled for Saturday. 01-27 "We need
people in the streets, banging pots and pans and
demanding, "Stop it, now!' " she wrote.

The spice of Texas

Born Mary Tyler Ivins on Aug. 30, 1944, in Monterey,
Calif., Ms. Ivins was raised in the upscale River Oaks
section of Houston. She earned her journalism degree at
elite Smith College in Massachusetts in 1965. From
there she ventured to Minnesota, taking a job as a
police reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune.

Growing weary of the winters in the Upper Great Lakes
and missing the spice of Texas food and its politics,
Ms. Ivins moved to Austin to become co-editor of the
Texas Observer, long considered the state’s liberal

Nadine Eckhardt, the former wife of the late Texas
novelist Billy Lee Bramer and who later married former
U.S. Rep. Bob Eckhardt of Houston, said Ivins soon made
herself a fixture in the Austin political and cocktail
party scene in the early 1970s.

"That’s where she became the Molly Ivins as we’ve come
to know her," said Eckhardt, an Ivins friend for nearly
four decades. "The Observer had such wonderful writers
doing such wonderful stories at the time, and Molly was
always right in the middle of everything."

Her writing flair caught the attention of the New York
Times, which hired her to cover city hall, then later
moved her to the statehouse bureau in Albany. Later,
she was assigned to the Times’ Rocky Mountain bureau in

Even though she wrote the Times’ obituary for Elvis
Presley in 1977, Ms. Ivins said later that she and the
sometimes stodgy Times proved to be a mismatch. In a
2002 interview with the Star-Telegram, Ms. Ivins
recalled that she would write about something that
"squawked like a $2 fiddle" only to have a Times editor
rewrite it to say "as an inexpensive instrument." Ms
Ivins said she would mention a "beer belly" and The
Times would substitute "a protuberant abdomen.”

So Ms. Ivins returned to Austin in 1982 to become a
columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald and reconnecting
with such political figures as Ann Richards, who would
later become governor, and Bob Bullock, then the hard-
drinking state comptroller who later wielded great
power as lieutenant governor.

Trademark language

The column provided Ms. Ivins the freedom to express
her views with the colorful language that would become
her trademark. She called such figures as Ross Perot,
former U.S. Sen. John Tower and ex-Gov. Bill Clements
"runts with attitudes." As a candidate for governor,
George W. Bush became "Shrub," a nicknamed she never
tired of using.

Surprised became "womperjawed." A visibly angry person
would "throw a walleyed fit."

Ms. Ivins, who was single and had no children, told
readers about her first bout with cancer in a matter-
of-fact afterword in an otherwise ordinary column.

"I have contracted an outstanding case of breast
cancer, from which I fully intend to recover," she
wrote on Dec. 14, 1999. "I don’t need get-well cards,
but I would like the beloved women readers to do
something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done."

Ms. Ivins authored three books and co-authored a
fourth. She was a three-time finalist for a Pulitzer
Prize and had served on Amnesty International’s
Journalism Network, but the iconoclastic writer often
said that her two highest honors were being banned from
the conservative campus of Texas A&M University and
having the Minneapolis police name their mascot pig
after her when she covered the department as a reporter
during one of her first jobs in the newspaper business.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

John Moritz, 512-476-4294

© 2007 and wire service sources. All
Rights Reserved.


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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 22:36:03 -0500
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Remembering Molly Ivins

Remembering Molly Ivins

by John Nichols

Washington Correspondent
The Nation
[posted online on January 31, 2007]

Molly Ivins always said she wanted to write a book
about the lonely experience of East Texas civil rights
campaigners to be titled No One Famous Ever Came. While
the television screens and newspapers told the stories
of the marches, the legal battles and the victories of
campaigns against segregation in Alabama and
Mississippi, Ivins recalled, the foes of Jim Crow laws
in the region where she came of age in the 1950s and
'60s often labored in obscurity without any hope that
they would be joined on the picket lines by Nobel Peace
Prize winners, folk singers, Hollywood stars or

And Ivins loved those righteous strugglers all the more
for their willingness to carry on.

The warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with
the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements,
Ivins understood that change came only when some
citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition,
called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the
bums out. The nation's mostly widely syndicated
progressive columnist, who died January 31 at age 62
after a long battle with what she referred to as a
"scorching case of cancer," adored the activists she
celebrated from the time in the late 1960s when she
created her own "Movements for Social Change" beat at
the old Minneapolis Tribune and started making heroes
of "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students,
uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits
and troublemakers."

"Troublemaker" might be a term of derision in the
lexicon of some journalists--particularly the on-
bended-knee White House press pack that Ivins
studiously refused to run with--but to Molly it was a
term of endearment. If anyone anywhere was picking a
fight with the powerful, she was writing them up with
the same passionate language she employed when her
friend the great Texas liberal Billie Carr passed on in
2002. Ivins recalled Carr "was there for the workers
and the unions, she was there for the African-
Americans, she was there for the Hispanics, she was
there for the women, she was there for the gays. And
this wasn't all high-minded, oh, we-should-all-be-
kinder-to-one-another. This was tough, down, gritty,
political trench warfare; money against people. She
bullied her way to the table of power, and then she
used that place to get everybody else there, too. If
you ain't ready to sweat, and you ain't smart enough to
deal, you can't play in her league."

Molly Ivins could have played in the league of the big
boys. They invited her in, giving her a bureau chief
job with the New York Times--which she wrote her way
out of when she referred to a "community chicken-
killing festival" in a small town as a "gang-pluck."
Leaving the Times in 1982 was the best thing that ever
happened to Molly. She settled back in her home state
of Texas, where her friend Jim Hightower was about to
get elected as agricultural commissioner and another
friend named Ann Richards was striding toward the
governorship. As a newspaper columnist for the old
Dallas Times Herald--and, after that paper's demise,
for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram--Molly began writing a
political column drenched in the good humor and
fighting spirit of that populist moment. It appealed
beyond Texas, and within a decade she was writing for
400 papers nationwide.

As it happened, the populist fires faded in Texas, and
the state started spewing out the byproducts of an
uglier political tradition--the oil-money plutocracy--
in the form of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

It mattered, a lot, that Molly was writing for papers
around the country during the Bush interregnum. She
explained to disbelieving Minnesotans and Mainers that,
yes, these men really were as mean, as self-serving and
as delusional as they seemed. The book that Molly and
her pal Lou Dubose wrote about their homeboy-in-chief,
Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W.
Bush (Random House, 2000), was the essential exposé of
the man the Supreme Court elected President. And
Ivins's columns tore away any pretense of civility or
citizenship erected by the likes of Karl Rove.

When Washington pundits started counseling
bipartisanship after voters routed the Republicans in
the 2006 elections, Molly wrote, "The sheer pleasure of
getting lessons in etiquette from Karl Rove and the
right-wing media passeth all understanding. Ever since
1994, the Republican Party has gone after Democrats
with the frenzy of a foaming mad dog. There was the
impeachment of Bill Clinton, not to mention the
trashing of both Clinton and his wife--accused of
everything from selling drugs to murder--all
orchestrated by that paragon of manners, Tom DeLay....
So after 12 years of tolerating lying, cheating and
corruption, the press is prepared to lecture Democrats
on how to behave with bipartisan manners.

"Given Bush's record with the truth, this
bipartisanship sounds like a bad idea on its face,"
Ivins continued, in a column that warned any Democrat
who might think to make nice with President and his
team that "These people are not only dishonest--they're
not even smart."

Her readers cheered that November 9, 2006, column, as
they did everything Molly wrote. And the cheers came
loudest from those distant corners of Kansas and
Mississippi where, often, her words were the only
dissents that appeared in the local papers during the
long period of diminished discourse following 9/11. For
the liberal faithful in Boise and Biloxi and Beaumont,
she was a lifeline--telling them that, yes, Henry
Kissinger was "an old war criminal," that Bush had
created a "an honest to goodness constitutional crisis"
when it embarked on a program of warrantless
wiretapping and that Bill Moyers should seek the
presidency because "I want to vote for somebody who's
good and brave and who should win." (The Moyers boomlet
was our last co-conspiracy, and in Molly's honor, I'm
thinking of writing in his name on my Democratic
primary ballot next year.)

For the people in the places where no one famous ever
came, Molly Ivins arrived a couple of times a week in
the form of columns that told the local rabble-rousers
that they were the true patriots, that they damn well
better keep pitching fits about the war and the Patriot
Act and economic inequality, and that they should never
apologize for defending "those highest and best
American ideas" contained in the Bill of Rights.

Often, Molly actually did come--in all of her
wisecracking, pot-stirring populist glory.

Keeping a promise she'd made when her old friend and
fellow Texan John Henry Faulk was on his deathbed,
Molly accepted a steady schedule of invites to speak
for local chapters of the American Civil Liberties
Union in dozens of communities, from Toledo to Sarasota
to Medford, Oregon. Though she could have commanded
five figures, she took no speaker's fee. She just came
and told the crowds to carry on for the Constitution.
"I know that sludge-for-brains like Bill O'Reilly
attack the ACLU for being 'un-American,' but when Bill
O'Reilly's constitutional rights are violated, the ACLU
will stand up for him just like they did for Oliver
North, Communists, the KKK, atheists, movement
conservatives and everyone else they've defended over
the years," she told them. "The premise is easily
understood: If the government can take away one
person's rights, it can take away everyone's."

She also told them, even when she was battling cancer
and Karl Rove, that they should relish the lucky break
of their consciences and their conflicts. Speaking
truth to power is the best job in any democracy, she
explained. It took her to towns across this great yet
battered land to say: "So keep fightin' for freedom and
justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun
doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be
outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all
the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get
through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a
good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how
much fun it was."


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interpret the world and to change it.

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>From film history through codework (notes):

Distinction between Lumiere and Edwardian silents: (L & E) Melies (M)

L: distance - veracity indicated by modernist neutral camera.
L: clean, framed.
E: intimate, communal - veracity disturbed by biased and externally-
articulated scenes.
E: dirty, unframed.

L: telescope, stationary
E: eye, saccadic

The distinction might not be between M and L but L and E.

L: Telephone, modern
E: Internet, postmodern
M: Cyclorama, mythic, premodern

E: paralleling early history of novel, other media.

In all of these: What constitutes narrative? To what extent is narrative
related to ordinary life?
Does narrative always have closure?

M: closure.
L: continuum
E: 'ruptured' events

E: as _codework_ - exposing the bones of the apparatus
within the production - not artifice (as in Godard) but within the _real._

>From this to codework in general: If codeworks are the problematic of the
surface and the bones, aren't these read as archaeological structures -
i.e. the need for an accompanying hermeneutics? In other words codework is
_always_ a contradiction since it is _always_ within the register of the
perceived; therefore a hermeneutics is necessary to reconstitute the depth
which is presented indexically only. It's the reading of signs, but the
signs are neither graphemic nor mythic - they're procedural within a
neutralized and technological chora.

How does this relate to the real, everyday life? Argue that the graphemes
themselves are the bones - the diacritique of spoken language. The
graphemic carries its own mythos, its own procedural. Writing is always
already interpretable, which is why that writing which isn't appears
uncanny, writing itself out of the abject, but no further.

What does it mean that a message is unreadable? Distinguish this from the
illegible, which is constituted to some extent by the erasure or
ambivalence of signs; here, I want to emphasize a total legibility which
nonetheless remains silent. The silence of the unreadable is coextensive
with mythos - what is not given up within the register of X, what is
suppressed, appears elsewhere, exfoliated, in the form(ation) of
narrative. But what happens in codework is different - again, there is
legibility and the problematic of readability, but the unreadable is _not_
silent; it (as if it) insists on the reinterpretation of language itself.
Codework's neutrality, techne, is codework's refusal of mythos, ideology -
instead it remains within the aegis of deconstruction, a skewed
deconstruction attempting a reassemblage of the unknown.


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