Sunday, February 20, 2005

Note to the readers

Another Sunday, another edition. And as always, it started off with so much promise.

Our feature on The New York Times and Judy Miller was completed on Wednesday. We brought in C.I. of The Common Ills as usual and then C.I. suggested we bring in Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude for the piece as well. We were quite pleased. (And hats off to C.I. for coining the term "The New York Timid." One we'll do our best to popularize because it's so apt.)

Ava and Dona worked on a campus story and it's a good story. Hopefully one we'll run next week. But it was a case of it never coming together in any form during the draft stage. We were working on it until eight tonight when we realized we'd have to bail on it.

Which created a huge problem because we had intended to run an interview but the interview never took place. (Maybe next time.) C.I. and Rebecca were helping us with our editorial and we were still working on the Tori Amos cutting as well. Having just interviewed Rebecca last week, we didn't think we could so quickly put her back in this issue.

[Disclosure, Rebecca, Folding Star of A Winding Road, C.I. and all of us here at The Third Estate Sunday Review are Common Ills members.]

Since we were running a blog highlight featuring Folding Star, C.I. was able to get ahold of Folding Star and pull together a last minute interview. We really love it. Not just because we know it was a last minute save our ass kind of thing. Folding Star and C.I. really get a conversation going. (Ty says it's like reading a transcript to Terry Gross's Fresh Air.)

We had thought the Judy Miller & The Times would be our editiorial. But we finished that Wednesday and then on Thursday, those silly scamps at CJR Daily surprised us when Brian Montopoli decided to throw caution to the wind and make it appear that for the first time someone (Rebecca Blood) had noticed that their "Blog Reports" always focused on the same limited number of blogs. That was too good to pass up. And, as we note in the editorial, we called in C.I. for what we knew would be a heavy hitting editorial.

But we didn't know how heavy hitting. While C.I.'s interviewing Folding Star, Dallas (a Common Ills community member) sends us e-mails regarding Brian Montopoli's own blog. Before you can say, "Holy conflict of interest, Batman!" we suddenly had a much harder hitting editorial. One that backed up our concerns expressed in this editorial and the earlier one on CJR Daily.

As soon as C.I. transcribed the interview with Folding Star we read over it while we waited for feedback on the Tori Amos cutting. Then, when that was done, we discussed the editorial we were working on and what we'd just learned.

For the next four hours we worked on that with us, Rebecca and C.I. debating and discussing.
We note in the editorial that C.I. objected to a comment about Montopoli's necklace. We kept the comment in. We think it's funny. And then Rebecca or one of us would have a problem with another point. The thing just posted before we started on this note to the readers and I'm sure Rebecca and C.I. will be cursing us all day tomorrow since we kept them up way too long.

We appreciate their feedback. And we appreciate their generosity with their time. And it's funny because I don't think anyone reading it will be able to tell what C.I. fought to have included and what Rebecca fought to have included or what one of them fought to have taken out. It was a free for all (Dona has a "throbbing headache") among the seven of us with some point being objected to and some point being fought for.

What emerged was, to use Brian Montopoli's term, a "clusterfuck." But it's a glorious clusterfuck. And though I doubt the seven us can all agree 100% on every sentence included, we hope that overall it's got a little bit of something for everyone.

At one point, Rebecca noted, "You realize CJR Daily will now never report on any of us in their 'Blog Report.'" The laughter that greeted that remark was a great tension release. C.I. has already noted that it doesn't matter a bit whether The Common Ills is ever covered on CJR Daily. Though we lack C.I.'s level of readership judging by e-mails, we don't care either. Because we honestly feel that their "Blog Report" is superficial. (And we felt that way before we were working on this editorial.) CJR Daily seems to forget it's also a web site by the amount of space they give to the "Blog Report." It seems to also forget that as part of CJR proper, it needs to be very prudent about journalistic ethics, omissions, disclosures, etc. We said in our last editorial that great oversight was needed from CJR proper -- and we didn't know the half of it. Which left Rebecca who said, "I did a post called 'Cocks and Dicks' -- you think there was ever a chance they'd link to me!"

No "spoiler alert" because we aren't going to spoil it for you. But you really do need to read it to the end. We were already pretty much set with it when Dallas e-mailed the new information in.
Had it not been so late and had we not been debating over so many points, we would have moved the bigger issue up front. Instead we bury the lead. Or we give you a surprise ending.
See, it's all in the way you look at it.

Hopefully, next week will go more smoothly. But we'll probably hold off on the editorial until the last minute since CJR Daily ended up bumping the intended editorial.

The TV report (readers love that feature and it seems like we'll be doing one every edition) was another last minute thing. As of Saturday morning, we were still debating with some pushing for a syndicated show and some pushing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As one of the ones against Buffy noted, "The show's been off for years!" To which it was noted Mutant X ended it's run last spring. Ava then pulled the ace out by dumping printed copies on the table. E-mail after e-mail noting the Medium review and requesting that we address Buffy the Vampire Slayer which they felt was a show that "cowed" the female lead. That settled the issue. And we want to thank C.I. for help on this as well as Folding Star.

If you don't see an early entry by C.I. blame us because C.I. was pulling twenty-four hours without sleep to help us. And should have already crashed as soon as we posted the editorial.
And Folding Star had better things to do on a Saturday night then sit down for an unscheduled, last minute interview. And poor Rebecca, we pulled her out of bed. But she reassured us that was fine since she'd finished having sex 15 minutes prior. We are really luck to be part of such a great community that always is willing to pull together to pull our ass out of the fire.

As always, we at The Third Estate Sunday Review hope there's something in this edition that makes you react: happy, angry, laugh, scream. See you next week.

Editorial: We Once Noted That the Watchdog as Lapdog, Now We Note That Whatever It Is, It's Inbred!

Oh those wacky kids over at CJR Daily, what a week they've had. It's not enough that silly scamps attempted to correct Media Matters when Media Matters was correct. They also embarrass themselves with Thursday's "Blog Report."

Starting out in CJR Daily's usual snide (and very non CJR attitude) tone, Brian Montopoli proves that time at The New Republic set him up for his spot on E!, if not for a media critic:

Excuse me, bloggers? Can I have a moment of your time? I know you're busy and everything -- that "Daily Show" segment last night was pretty aswesome . . .

Snide, bitchy and totally irrevelant -- it may soon become CJR Daily's slogan! (Poor CJR proper -- drug through the mud the unruly children.) [More than we knew! If this were a movie, we'd say, "You do not want to miss the ending!"]

But we're used their friviolity -- they blog on sports coverage after all! Hard hitting issue of the day, you won't find them at CJR Daily!

But it is cute how Brian Montopoli allude's to blogger Rebecca Blood saying about their "Blog Report:"

[Y]ou link over and over to only a few sites, as if they were representative of the entire blog universe. . . . To find them [thoughtful voices] would require more than just skimming a familiar set of links. I've seen you take down traditional media over and over again for this very thing. I think you usually call it "lazy reporting."

Ouch! Smack down for Montopoli!

Brian quotes her, you say, what's your point? And what's this "alludes" bullshit?

What indeed.

Well to read Montopoli's Thursday entry (if you must) you get the impression that Rebecca Blood has just stumbled onto something completely new. A criticism that Big Boy Bri has never heard. That no one at CJR Daily has ever heard.

Fact check for CJR Daily -- you've heard it. You've heard it for months and months. You've heard it over and over. You've heard in private e-mails that you responded to. You should have heard it from CJR proper where people have taken their complaints to. And you should have seen it on the posting comments section of CJR Daily. In fact, one of the most popular posts (or at least most read) deals with just that.

In fact, if we can quote from the top entry of the thread, let's note this:

Another update on what Atrios is up to? Is there a star lust going on here? Atrios posts his mistakes ("lies") from his weekly Majority Report appearence and its . . . news for CJR.
Hey, maybe Paris Hilton can start posting her manicure schedule and Thomas Lang can write about that as well?
I'm really glad to know Atrios managed to toss out some morsels to the masses . . .
I thought CJR was about something but when it's time to do the "Blog Report" it's suddenly "star f***ing time."Atrios posts how often a week on his "interactive" blog?
Then we get a write up of Kevin Drum playing bitter Scrooge. Who cares?
It's like Lang got a TV but it only gets the big three channels so he's going to the same stupid inane chattering idiots over and over.
I'm tired of it. Do we need to hear about the same old people all the time over and over even though they've got nothing to say. There's something at play here and I don't know if it's some sort of snobbery or some sort of mutual love fest but it needs to stop because it's not about journalism and CJR needs to cut this s*** out.
. . .
One would think that CJR would want to do something more than run a gossip column on the bloggers so adapt at self-promotion. But apparently Lang's got a desire to be Lloyd Groves. If that's the case, quit calling it "Blog Report" and start calling it something like "Titters and Tatters with Our Star Bloggers That We Love to Suck Up To Even When They're Blogging About Themselves Because It Turns Out We're Just as Vapid As Everyone Else." For something shorter, you could just call it "I'm a MWO" and fans of the late, lamented site would instantly grasp that it's shallow time.

[We like that poster here at The Third Estate Sunday Review. And we like him even more as we got late breaking news that suggested "I'm a MWO" might not just be a clever line, but something more. Read on. Yes, we've buried the lead!]

And in the second post, CJR Daily is taken to task yet again. Montopoli even gets a special mention for calling the esteemed Kathleen Hall Jamieson "Katheleen Jamieson" -- though the poster does note that at least he didn't get call her "Kathy Jameson."

Hey, Bri? Can I have a moment of your time? I know you're busy and everything -- that "Daily Show" segment last night was pretty awesome -- but I'm trying to figure out how the hell you work for CJR and fuck up Kathleen Hall Jamieson's name?

The date on that thread? It started December 23rd. No shit. We kid the CJR Daily kids not!
The complaints that Montopoli's just stumbled across -- they were public access to anyone as early as 12-23-04!!!

Well it's easy not to notice every thread, right? I mean it's not like it's a popular thread . . .
Oh wait, it's been read 387 times!

But CJR Daily never noticed it apparently. And apparently they reply to e-mails without noticing what the person is saying -- even when they're commenting on the critiques.

We did a little editorial on CJR Daily. We're too modest to think the pranksters at CJR Daily read it. But it was entitled "The Watchdog as Lapdog." And we'll be damned if that wasn't our most popular editorial. E-mails flooded us. People forwarded the e-mails they'd sent CJR Daily writers and the replies they'd been sent. Guess what folks, CJR Daily's begin complaints similar to Rebecca Flood's long before Montopoli tries to make you think this issue just popped up.

We were going to devote a special story to just showing the e-mails. We had the permission of the people who'd contacted CJR Daily. But C.I. of The Common Ills said, "Do what you want but I can't look over that piece or add any input to it if you do because a private e-mail is a private e-mail unless it has to do with the government or some serious abuse."

So we went back and forth over this and thought about the other point C.I. was making -- when you start posting private e-mails from journalists to readers you make it very unlikely that in the future readers will get any sort of a reply.

The two reasons combined made us decide not to post them. But they sure are a hoot and a holler to read, let us tell you. We especially like the one sent to a CJR Daily reporter that mentions Brian Montopoli, sent on January 10, 2005.

We also have two copies of complaints sent to CJR proper about CJR Daily's "coverage." We especially enjoy one written by a reader who'd "just got home from mass." Hint, to CJR proper, the e-mail is entitled "Serious Concern," is 30K and was sent on December 24, 2004.

So what a silly week last week was for CJR Daily. First, they attempted to throw their light-weight around by slapping Media Matters on the wrist when, big surprise, CJR Daily was the one that got it wrong! Then, adding to their embarrassment, Brian Montopoli does a "Blog Report" on Thursday of the same week where he acts as though Rebecca Blood has just raised an issue that no one's ever raised before.

That's a false presentation, Bri, and it's a no-no in journalism. [But who knew there was more going on! Read on to the end when we start citing Brian's blog that someone brought our attention to just as we were about to post this entry.]

When we started The Third Estate Sunday Review, one of the things that ticked us off the most was CJR Daily. Then we did our editorial and were frankly done with them. (As Big Babs Bush would say, "I'm done with you.") But heck, now we can't wait to see what the wacky kids will come up with next!

How much lower can they drag the CJR brand?

Ah, CJR proper, what you gonna' do? You know kids. They wreck everything in the house. How many times have our own mothers told us, "You are the reason we can't have nice things!"
CJR proper, we feel for you.

Now in our editorial "The Watchdog as Lapdog," we noted a number of issues. (Read it, you'll get a kick out of it, we swear. Everyone loved that editorial.) And one of the issues we noted was the "Magazine Report." And how The New Republic was mentioned frequently but The Nation never. Now back then, we didn't realize that Bri-Bri the falsehood guy used to work for them. Is this a tit-for-tat, Bri? How about when you work in a plug for Washington Monthly ("Magazine Report" for Oct. 5, 2004) where you also used to work? That's real above aboard Bri . . . except there's no disclosure in the entry that states, "Turning now to Washington Monthly where I used to work . . ."

But damn, you're doing shout outs for Ezra's photo (you're really swooning over that photo, Bri). And we must have missed your disclosure about how cool you think Ezra is. [See note at the end for Brian Montopoli chatting up Ezra's photo.]

Course, we learn all about over at your own blog (August 12, 2004):

I got to spend some time with a bunch of people I really like, including Ezra and Jesse of Pandagon, Big Media Matt, TalkLeft’s Jeralyn Merritt, Duncan Black of Atrios fame, the almost-legal Zoe of Green Pass, and a bunch of others. It was such a media clusterfuck that you ran into a lot of people you knew or knew of, and I guess I’m supposed to be cynical about that, but, well, stuff like this happened: one night I was at a party, standing with my colleague Tom Lang and talking to Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the American Prospect’s Harold Myerson. Up walks the E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, and when I get introduced he tells me how much he liked a piece I wrote in the Washington Monthly. That made me feel good. (As a side note, I’ll just mention that E.J. can expect an email next time I’m looking for a job.) Anyway, when the conversation ended, I floated back over to Duncan (aka Atrios), and we proceeded to get drunk and talk politics with Janine Garofalo. I mean, that shit is cool.

[By the way, Bri, although we do typos as well, we know it's Janeane Garofalo and not "Janine." And we don't pass ourselves off as professional journalists.]

Ezra and Jess must be cool and Duncan and all the rest. The names are so familiar, why is that? Oh, yeah, the CJR Daily "Blog Report!" Silly us. All along we thought CJR Daily was just lazy and going to the same site's over and over. We had no idea that you knew those guys, partied with them, had a "clusterfuck" with them. (Thanks to Common Ills community member Dallas for sending that to us.)

I mean we start out thinking CJR Daily is just lazy. And last week is one embarrassment after another for you kids. But who the hell knew you were plugging your old mags or that you and Lang partied down hardy with the bloggers you recommend (over and over) at the CJR Daily "Blog Report?"

We know you're so very tired of bloggers discussing Jeff Gannon. Maybe they can discuss you?
Maybe they can note your sweet ass conflicts? And maybe when readers go to the trouble to contact CJR proper about the cluster fluck (to use Bri's term) that is happening over at CJR Daily, CJR proper should listen. It is past time for some oversight.

CJR should have been concerned all along. They didn't need to know that Bri and Lang were partying with the bloggers they were singling out for attention on the "Blog Report." They only needed to note that inclusions such as "Finally, at The Weekly Standard . . ." in a "Magazine Report" dealing with general interest mags gives the false impression that mainstream mags are somehow liberal and must be balanced out with a right wing rag. They only needed to note that "Blog Report" was one long echo chamber. (Did no one read your Thursday shout out to Ezra's photo and think, "Why the fuck are we covering this photo again?)

After quoting Rebecca Blood, Brian Montopoli writes: "It's a fair point. Unfortunately, it can be tough to uncover the most thoughtful posts, coming as they often do from obscure sources." Well, if obscure sources means people you don't party down with in a giant "clusterfuck" we guess so!

Hey Bri, if we can plug our earlier editorial once more, we noted in it that CJR Daily (back when it was still Campaign Desk) declared in it's "opening statement:"

A few assurances are in order: The Desk will be politically nonpartisan. While it will call attention to journalistic sins, both of omission and commission, it will by no means be exclusively a finger-wagging operation. It will have a lively, engaged tone, not a grim, censorious one. One of the Desk's important functions will be to praise work of high quality, and one of its most useful aspects will be its ability to bring distinguished work in the local press to national attention, instantly and (through links) in full.

Looks to us like you've committed the journalistic sins of ommission. Not telling readers that Rebecca Blood was not the first to one to make this complaint and that, in fact, it was a complaint being made months prior and repeatedly. The falsehood as omission. And what was covering the magazines you used to work for and the bloggers you partied with while not disclosing each time you cited them: "Hey we were all in the same 'clusterfuck' at a junket! It was wild!" Omission. Maybe Brian Montopoli and others have confused "omission" with "mission?" Maybe CJR needs to get serious about the crap that's going down at CJR Daily?

Maybe they need to read a "Blog Report" by Thomas Lang that starts out:

The pressure of talk radio often brings words before thought. And the format of talk radio leaves little room for host or guest to reach back to the same audience that was listening hours or even minutes before to inform them of a mistake. Last night, after appearing on Air America's "Majority Report," Atrios did the next best thing -- publicizing his mistake on his blog in a post entitled "Fact-Checking My Ass." He writes, "Tonight on the 'Majority Report' I said that I thought the average monthly social security benefit (for retirees) was $850 (I think that's what I said. I may have said $800). I lied -- it's $926."

And maybe CJR can then explain how any reader reading that is supposed to know that Lang knows and has partied with Duncan Black. Was Thomas Lang really in a position to judge what was the next-best-thing? Might readers have wondered that if the minimal disclosure requirements had been imposed ("My buddy Atrios, did the next best thing . . .").

And if CJR bothers to look into that, they might also look into Montopoli's " Bloggers Attack The Regulation Bogeyman." That's where Montopoli wants to join:

join the litany of bloggers wondering what, exactly, senior political writer David Paul Kuhn was thinking when he put together a piece lamenting the fact that there are no government regulations keeping bloggers honest -- a piece that itself was inaccurate. As Kevin Drum puts it, "IF-YOU'RE-GOING-TO-COMPLAIN-THAT-BLOGS-HAVE-NO-STANDARDS, YOU-PROBABLY-OUGHT-TO-HAVE-SOME-YOURSELF."

See any problems in the above CJR? Well for starters Montopoli doesn't disclose his partying relationship with Duncan Black (the subject of CBS's David Paul Kuhn's piece). Then futher blurring the line, he runs to Kevin Drum for a quote. Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly. Of one of the magazines Montopoli used to work at. Doesn't it all seem a little under the table and incestous? This is the piece where Montopoli also can't get Kathleen Hall Jamieson's name correct:

"People are pretty smart in assuming that if a blog is making a case on one side that it's partisan," [Kathleen] Jamieson [dean of the Annenberg School for Communications] said. "The problem is when a blog pretends to hold neutrality but is actually partisan."

That's Kuhn's piece and Montopoli has inserted "Kathleen" but not "Hall." It's her name. Get it right. But it gets worse, CJR, it gets worse. Just when you thought the insider club couldn't go further, Montopoli trots out this:

And what of the quote? "Jamieson's quote has nothing to do with the situation, either as it exists or as CBS seems to lay out," says Pandagon's Jesse Taylor. "You might as well have had someone from the Southern Poverty Law Center talking about the proliferation of racist hate groups on the internet -- it would have been about as relevant, and done a lot more damage. I'm not even sure what, editorially, the rational for the quote is." Of course, the quote's placement suggests that Black is among those who "pretends to hold neutrality but is actually partisan" -- and is thus somehow trying to pull the wool over his readers' eyes. "I have never made my political views secret, any more than has the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal," Black writes in response.

Jesse! Of Pandagon! Slapping down Kathleen Hall Jamieson! And Jesse partied down with who? Why with Brian Montopoli. And that's mentioned where in this entry? No fucking where!

Jesse slaps down Jamieson for the quote but we would argue "you might as well just call up all the people partying down with Montopoli because they're natural desire to defend one another makes just about as much sense when it's not DISCLOSED!" I don't know that Montopoli should be giving Jesse stones to toss at Kuhn when Montopoli isn't noting the relationships he has with three people in this entry: Black whom the entry defends; Drum who works at the magazine Montopoli used to; and Jesse whom Montopoli parties down with away from the eyes of the CJR Daily readers.

It must be nice to have a prominent position at CJR Daily where you can plug your old magazines and your party buddies. Nice for the person whoring, but not nice for the image of CJR proper.

(Speaking of images, Brian, Ava wants to know if that "sweet" necklace you're wearing in your photo on your profile is edible? Ava swears she had a candy necklace just like that "when I was seven, but of course I was a little girl." Reading drafts of this, C.I. asked us, "Do you really want to say that?" Hell yes! I mean it's not like Bri's not mentioning profile pics -- in Thursday's "Blog Report" he links -- in CJR's second time linking to this -- to a photo of "Ezra's looking pretty fly with that open shirt." Hey, if it makes Bri happy, then . . . why the hell does he write so bad? As Sheryl Crow might ask. And if the bar on this editorial is set low, hey, we're not the one calling readers "punks" and urging them to go read an interview we did with a new editor . . . of a magazine we used to work for. And we have the guts to say "shit" when we mean "shit" and not "a big fat pile of crap." And while we wouldn't be caught dead reading The National Review, should Montopoli be writing for CJR and making statements like that about a National Review writer? Doesn't that sort of call into question whether he can live up to the CJR standards?
Nor did we or would we ever write something as tacky as "Kristen Breitwiser, a Sept. 11 widow presently more overexposed than Larry Sabato." So we're not real concerned as to whether or not Brian Montopoli is offended by our smart ass attitude. C.I. helped on the early stages of this post and suggested we bring Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Attitudes and Screeds in. Which we did. Thank you to C.I., to Rebecca and to Dallas who sent us the stuff from Brian's site as we were working on the final drafts of this.)

The Big News of the Week: According to TNYT it was Judy Miller

If you read The New York Times mid-week (Wednesday) you were left with the impression that one of the most pressing issues to the nation, to the world, is the fate of Judith Miller. The front page featured an article by Adam Liptak ("Jailing of Reporters In C.I.A. Leak Case Is Upheld by Judges"). This thirty-three paragraph story continues inside the paper where it's paired up with a story on the same topic by Katherine Q. Seelye ("2 Reporters Express Dismay But Say They're Resolute"). That was apparently needed in the mind of someone at the paper to "put a face on the issue." But which article was doing that? Seelye's shorter article (16 paragraphs) or Liptak's lengthy article?

Get ready because we're going to quote from Liptak's lengthy article. And brace yourself because we're going to quote every paragraph in this article that deals with the actual issue of the situation that's led to all of this. Ready? Need to run to the bathroom first? Okay, we'll wait.

Did you wash your hands? You always should but especially during flu season. Go on back to the bathroom, we'll wait.

Okay. Now from the article:

The case has its roots in an opinion article published in The Times on July 6, 2003. In it, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat, criticized a statement made by President Bush in that year's State of the Union address about Iraq's efforts to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa. Mr. Wilson based his criticism on a trip he had taken to Africa for the Central Intelligence Agency the previous year.
Eight days after Mr. Wilson's article was published, Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist, reported that "two senior administration officials" had told him that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."
Mr. Wilson has said the disclosure was payback for his criticism. Others have said that the disclosure put his criticism in context by suggesting that Mr. Wilson's trip was not a serious one but rather a nepotistic boondoogle.

Guess what folks, that's it. That's all the news that's fit to print apparently.

Valerie Plame is outed. And the best The Times can do is to offer that some say Wilson went to Africa, according to "others," as -- well the word basically means graft.

Plame's been smeared. Now The Times joins in.

To what won't this paper stoop to protect their little Judy Miller?

(Someone should have chosen a more flattering picture for the article -- Miller's chins are more frightening from the side and rolling over her turtleneck sweater.)

Does the paper feel any sense of responsibility?

The answer has been obvious and we suggested it some time ago. You put your reporters on the story of who outed Valerie Plame (not on writing mash notes to Judy) and let them find out who outed Plame. You print that story and Miller doesn't have to go to jail.

We noted two weeks ago that this wasn't a good time for The Times to be pressing this issue in a court of law. We aren't at all surprised with the judges' verdict. Which isn't to say that we support it. It is to say that the press (including The Times) has done a shit-poor job for some time now so expecting America to rise to the defense of the press is expecting a bit much. And expecting a favorable judicial climate when the Bully Boy has declared war on the press for four years now (while The Times has largely remained silent) indicates the people behind the paper left the reality based community on the last train to Clarksville sometime ago.

The paper's reluctance to address the very serious issue of outing Valerie Plame as retaliation for Wilson's op-ed is shameful. And they can puff up Judy as plucky, as Norma Rae and Places of the Heart combined. But just because Sally Field (a trained actress) could pull off those roles (and win deserved Oscars for them) doesn't mean Judy Miller can.

And statements like her ridiculous claim that her WMD pre-war reporting resulted in "I was proved fucking right!" won't endear her to many. Her archaic tendency to hold on to the term "proved" (largely replaced with "proven") is as out of touch as the paper's belief that they can still throw their weight around and get the verdict they want.

They could once upon a time. But, like the CIA which has always provided so many "scoops" to the paper, they're out of favor with the current administration. So when the "officials" in D.C. aren't rooting for you and you turn to the masses thinking you can stir up the kind of passion that Moveon.Org can, you need to realize that many of us feel you sold us out in your attempt to curry favor with the administration.

The Times is not a brave paper. It hasn't been for most of it's history. But it's "official timeline" tendency on each and every story have left the readers indifferent to the paper of record. The paper seems to feel we will rally behind Judy Miller due to a belief in freedom of the press but The New York Times hasn't utilized the First Amendment in years. They want people to get passionate about a principle that they've long ignored.

When you're a medicore paper offering Juan Forero's apparent cheat sheets from the State Department as reporting, or when you're killing a researched story that the Bully Boy may have used an electronic device to cheat in the first debate, or when you're mocking the concerns people may have over the legitimacy of the Ohio vote . . . You may be asking too much to expect that anyone frankly gives a damn as to what happens to one of your reporters who's seen as the administration's chief propagandists.

The New York Timid has rolled over repeatedly and it didn't happen with the current administration. They have a long history of rolling over. But they've never been as useless for so long. Whether it was burying the lead on the recounted Florida votes post-9-11 (Gore won) or selling the war in Iraq, or failing to connect the dots on any story, The New York Timid has acted like a scared bunny fu-fu (imitating the Bully Boy) skipping from one story to the next, always acting as though each development is a first and not one more layer of deception.

Their big non-scoop last week was revealing (by a few hours) the report that the airline industry recevied multiple (which may be too weak a term) warnings in the months prior to 9-11.

Did they once mention in the article that FAA managers destroyed tapes? Did they bring up any past revelation (printed in their own damn rag) that might have strengthened the article?

No, because they don't do that these days. It's not just that they kill important stories, it's that when they report on something, they apparently lose all their long term memory capabilities.

In case the Gray Lady's got a touch of Alzheimer, Matthew Wald wrote a story on May 6, 2004 that began:

At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording that same day describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said in a report today.
The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, where about 16 people met in a basement conference room known as "the Bat Cave" and passed around a microphone, each recalling his or her version of the events a few hours earlier.
But officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, and it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. official described in the report as a quality-assurance manager there. That manager crushed the cassette in his hand, shredded the tape and dropped the pieces into different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.
. . .
The inspector general, Kenneth M. Mead, said that the officials' keeping the existence of the tape a secret and the decision by one to destroy it had not served "the interests of the F.A.A., the department or the public" and could foster suspicions among the public.

The industry had advance warnings. Hmm. Tapes were destroyed. Hmm. Might anyone on the tapes have noted the repeated, advanced warnings? Even if that wasn't the case, we've got another thing that we, the public, should have been informed of that the industry didn't inform us of. So isn't that pertinent to their report last week?

They want us to be outraged over the the attack on reporters when they've offered us, at best, headline news repeatedly. It's as though they've spent the last three years shooting up smack in the newsroom (instead of doing their job) and Judy just got pinched with possession. They want to play this as a national tragedy but they've destroyed their own credibility.

One way they could restore it would be to focus on what was done to Valerie Plame and by whom. Again, they need to turn their reporters loose on the story. And it is past time that they cover this story from an angle other than As the World Turns Around Little Judy.

The slam against Wilson (grift) wasn't "balance." It was a cheap shot from "others" who couldn't have their name to put to false charge. That type of tacky reporting does nothing to rally people behind Miller or the paper.

Strangely enough, we don't want to see Miller behind bars. But if the paper continues down this path, that may be exactly where she's headed. If the paper really cares about this issue, they need to do a self-inventory because Judy as the little match girl just ain't cutting it. If that's the strategy, if that passes for a full force press from The New York Timid, things are much worse at the paper than even we thought.

[We note and thank C.I. of The Common Ills and Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude for their help with this entry.]

Folding Star interviewed by C.I.

We had an interview planned that fell through at the last minute. And we were hoping as late as midnight Saturday night, we'd have it. Just before midnight, noticing the gaping hole that would be left in this edition, C.I. of The Common Ills started making a list of people we could interview.
Since we were highlighting A Winding Road, Folding Star was at the top of our list. And since we were unable to get an entry we were working on to come together, C.I. agreed to interview Folding Star. We thank them both. And we think you'll really enjoy this interview that they conducted via e-mail. We think it sets a new standard for our interviews and may end up enlisting C.I. into doing more of them for us. And we thank Folding Star for agreeing to this unplanned, very last minute interview. Without the two of them, there would be one less feature in this edition.

Folding Star interviewed by C.I.

We're talking with Folding Star of A Winding Road who started blogging on January 2nd of this year. You're coming up on your second month full month of blogging. What's been the biggest surprise for you?

Folding Star: I guess the biggest surprise is how much I've had to say! I really thought, when I first started, that I might end up deleting the whole blog after a week or so just out of a lack of interesting things to talk about. I wasn't sure that what I had to say would be enough to do a daily blog. As it's turned out, there are days when there's almost too much to talk about for one post a day. The other surprise has been finding a focus. When I started, I thought I'd just talk a little about whatever crossed my mind, politics, books, music, current events. I didn't plan to focus on the Senate. It just sort of happened.

And you still do write about books (every Saturday you do a book chat) and music but your focus has been on the Senate. You wrote about when you were a child, you used to think about ending up in the Senate. And you noted that back then you weren't aware of how much money played into campaigns. What are your hopes regarding campaign finance reform?

FS: I dream big when I think of what our political system COULD be. We need to take the money out of politics. It's that 'simple'. Campaigns should be publicly funded and limited to a set amount. No campaign should be a multi-million dollar affair. That's corrupting in and of itself. If there was public funding of campaigns, and I believe if I'm not mistaken the state of Arizona has taken some steps in that direction, and each candidate was allowed free time on the public airwaves to discuss the issues,we'd see negative campaigning drastically reduced. We'd see actual issues discussed, things that are relevant to all of us, but never seem to be more than a cursory mention between personal attacks in politics as things are now. Those are my hopes. Publicly financed campaigns with free air time for the candidates to discuss issues. Eliminate the big money, and you reduce corporate influence drastically. But, in the short run, I'm forced to be a realist. In that sense, my hope is that the work begun by the McCain-Feingold reforms is just the beginning of more serious reform.

You're talking about free air time and how that would provide time for things to be actually discussed. Am I correct in sensing that you weren't impressed with the press coverage of the 2004 campaigns?

FS: You're very correct. I think if you asked the average person on the street to sum up the issues of the 2004 Presidential Campaign, they'd mention swiftboats, whether or not medals or ribbons were tossed, and flip flopping. It was so ridiculous. Here we are in what many of us regarded as the most crucial election of not only our lifetimes, but probably in the history of this country, and the press isn't focusing on the dire state of our economy, on jobs lost to overseas sweat shops, or on the very real problems of our new 'shoot first, ask questions later' foreign policy. There was no substance at all. People claimed that Kerry didn't really stand for anything, they never heard him discuss the issues. Of course they didn't, not if they were watching mainstream news coverage or reading mainstream newspapers! I saw Kerry speak more than once on CSPAN and he discussed nothing but the issues. But the media didn't care about that. And as for political campaign ads, what can you get across in a 30 second spot? With the media not doing its job, the public doesn't have a clue what the candidates really stand for. All they know is what they see in attack ads and what passes for campaign coverage in our sorry media. So giving the candidates a chance to actually sit down and talk issues on TV, for free (the public owns the airwaves, after all), would be revolutionary at this point. We've got to take things out of the hands of the media and the campaign ads.

And is doing your own blog part of taking things into your own hands? I know you gave a heads up on a bill this week that I don't think a lot of people are awareof. (The New York Times, for instance, hasn't had a reporter covering the bill.)

FS: It is a way of trying to take things in my own hands, yes. I was down, as I'm sure all progressives were, after the election. But the more I thought about things, the more I realized that we actually did a remarkable job, overall, of turning out the progressive vote and in getting new voters registered and to the polls. We're building the foundation of a real movement. But we've all got to do our part. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I personally could be doing more. Other than in private discussions with friends, I'd been largely silent on issues. I could bemoan the lack of real news from morning to night, and that's not going to make a difference. But if I start speaking out, it does make a difference, however small. Every voice matters. To quote Howard Zinn, "You can't be neutral on a moving train."
I just decided that 2005 was the year I started speaking out. And if I can cover something that the mainstream press is ignoring, great. What I'm offering is essentially my opinion on the facts. I'm not an unbiased news source. But maybe, as with the Count Every Vote Act, someone will read what I've had to say and then look elsewhere for more info. And if they notice the lack of press coverage, maybe they'll send an email to the Times saying "What gives?" And maybe the Times will be that much more likely to cover real news afterwords. It's a ripple effect. But either way, I'm speaking out, and that's what matters. We all need to be speaking now. We need to remember that this is our Country and that everything that's being done is being done in OUR name. If you're not okay with that, start saying so.

It is a ripple effect and that's a point you stress on your blog. I'm thinking of your post regarding Randi Rhodes' advice to the Dem Senators. But I'm also thinking of this from your essay on the Senate:

One of the key fights of the early progressive movement, though, was for direct election of United States Senators. And it was a fight that was won. So, less than a hundred years ago, we managed to bring the Senate that much closer to the ideal with a bit of electoral reform. So reform is possible, and I hold out hope that by making electoral changes, we can open the Senate up to the sort of people who should be serving in it.

You mentioned Zinn and I'm wondering how his writing has spoken to you and if its given you any sense of a history that we aren't often provided with?

FS: Perfect question, because just today I've been re-reading some of Zinn's People's History of theUnited States. Zinn is able to show us just how much history glosses over. How much it's written with a goal in mind. Essentially, that goal is to keep us all happy with the status quo. We're taught this golden history of our country that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
It ignores so much of what the everyday, average people went through, fought against, and most importantly, fought for.
When change does come, the official record tries to paint it as if the change was given out of the goodness of the powerful's hearts. They ignore the struggle, or gloss over it. Thus, women who had to fight for many decades for the right to vote are said by history to have been 'given' the vote. President Lincoln, who freed the slaves as a last resort and because it benefited the Northern elite, is given to us by history as a saint among men who knew it was morally right to free slaves and even went to war to do so.
Zinn has shown me above all that the common people, you and me, are the ones who make things change. We fight for, we force those in power into bending to our demands. It doesn't get written that way, because they want to keep the average person from realizing how powerful we truly are.

That's a very powerful comment on Zinn. I'd like to believe that we could access that power, but I'm thinking of your post Friday, the part on Negroponte, and I'm in agreement with you over the disappointment regarding Senator Rockefeller's comment. I don't know if you're familiar with Sting's music but after meeting the victims of torture from all over the world on an Amnesty tour of 1986, he wrote a song focusing on Chile called "They Dance Alone."

Why are these women here dancing on their own
Why is there this sadness in their eyes
Why are the soldiers here
Their faces fixed like stone?
I can't see what it is that they despise
They're dancing with the missing
They're dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They're dancing with their fathers
They're dancing with their sons
They're dancing with their husbands
They dance alone.

I think about that song and about Honduras (among other places) and wonder where is the outrage over Negroponte? Do you think that we're growing immune to the outrage and would you see Chertoff and Rice's confirmations as making Negroponte potential confirmation any easier?

FS: Those are haunting lyrics. I don't think it can be said that we've grown immune to the horrors of Honduras and elsewhere. For us to be immune to them, they'd need to be very present in our daily lives. We'd need to look them in the face and shrug our shoulders.
We don't do that. At least, the average American doesn't. Those in politics are a different story, sadly. I think the problem is that Americans haven't got a clue as to these realities. The press doesn't cover these things, not really. Take the Iraq War. Americans have no idea of the horrors. None. Everything is sanitized down to facts and figures. How do you comprehend the bloodshed and destruction if you don't have to see it? Vietnam aroused the disgust and horror of Americans because they saw it live on their televisions. They weren't immune then and they're not now. They're just safe in their own world until you bring the realities home to them.
And this Administration and it's lapdog media is masterful at keeping that reality at bay. They don't even show the coffins returning home, let alone the horrors visited upon the citizens of Iraq.
The Abu Ghraib pictures began to open people's eyes, and I think it's inevitable that they'll be opened even further and the outcry will grow. But with things like Honduras, most Americans haven't got a clue. They're not awake to these realities yet, just as they're not fully awake to their own power. We're a slumbering populace. The disgusting thing is the politicians who DO have a clue, who know what happened, and who don't do anything about it.
I do think Negroponte will be confirmed with very little resistance. If these Senators confirmed Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzales (with some show ofresistance on both) and completely looked the other way on Chertoff, Negroponte is a shoe in. Especially given his own confirmation just last May to be Ambassador to Iraq.
What we need to do is start holding our elected officials accountable. They're scared of being too controversial, most of them. They've seen how Bush and co have been able to twist votes. And if they vote against a Director of National Intelligence, they'll be labeled weak on National Security.
We need to hold them accountable and tell them what we want of them. They're there to represent us. If we don't like the job they do, we can vote them out. We have the power, if we'll just wake up to it. But there's a lot we need to wake up to.

Those are some solid points and your comments about the visuals reminds me of something Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive told Matthew Rothschild in "America's Amnesia" for The Progressive.

"If we had photographs of what our so-called allies in Honduras and El Salvador and Chile were doing based on training they had received from us in the 1960s,1970s, and 1980s, the American public would have been even more horrified."

In the same piece, Rothschild makes the point that "memory is a prerequisite for morality."
Is your discussing Negroponte or how the government's case against Lynne Stewart smacks of an earlier time (McCarthyism) your way of attempting to help us remember? What I'm getting at is you do a number of historical pieces and I'm trying to figure out if that just happens or if it's intentional on your part?

FS: Well, it's a mixture of both, really. I think we have to know our own history if we're going to have any sort of a future. Gore Vidal has referred to this country as the United States of Amnesia, and he's not far off from the truth. It benefits those in power- economically, socially, or politically in power- to keep the rest of us from knowing our true history. It benefits them to keep us ignorant overall, actually. That's why our schools today are adept at training us to memorize textbook answers for tests and nothing more. No critical thinking skills are developed. If they were, you'd have a population that was more quick to question power, to realize their own power. I remember the first biography I ever read. This was elementary school and it was on Abe Lincoln. It fascinated me. I think that kicked off my desire to know more about everything. Of course, in and of itself, that biography was a huge work of fiction aimed at presenting that myth of a golden history. But it still got me curious. And that's what people need. Before they can know their history, they have to be curious about it.
Nothing in our society today fills us with curiosity towards our history. Instead, we're supposed to be curious about celebrities personal lives. So when I write about some aspect of history, it's because it has fascinated me, but it's also because I'm hoping to spark people's curiosity. There is such a wealth of information in our libraries and online that's just waiting for us.
To understand who we are, we need to know who we've been. Not just the textbook version, but the real story, or as close to it as we can get. To know our history is to know our power.

You've noted the power of our public libraries and bemoaned the budget cuts they're experiencing. From your book chats on Saturday, we know you're a long time reader. Do you remember the first time you visited a library or checked out a book?

FS: My first library was the library of my elementary school. In Kindgergarten, we'd go there once a week to be read to by the Librarian. The Easy Section was in this little alcove all it's own, and that's where we'd sit on the floor and listen. At the end, we were able to each choose a book to check out and take home for our parents to read to us.
It was all very exciting. When I learned to read the next year, it was even more exciting because I could take them home and read them on my own. Surprisingly enough, I didn't go to a public library until I was 11 or 12. I constantly had books checked out from the school library and neither of my parents, though both readers, have ever been big users of the public library.
So I remember that experience very well, when my mom took my younger sister and I to the public library for the first time and got us library cards. I became a regular after that. The school libraries just couldn't compete! I'm a regular to this day of my public library. I'm usually there once a week.
If you stop and think about it, how amazing is it that we all have access to these books and other resources? It's just incredible. They need to be protected because they're truly a front line in the battle to keep us all placid and content with the status quo, to keep us unquestioning and unenlightened.
I think everyone should be using public libraries, from cradle to grave. They're an incredible benefit and resource and one that we need to fight harder to protect, especially now.

And you also obviously believe in the power within books themselves. Saturday, you noted the finalists for the Man Booker Prize. Of the names on the list, I'm honestly only familiar with the works of Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Doris Lessing and Philip Roth. (I've read Updike, he didn't speak to me.) Someone e-mails you and writes: "I'm new to everyone on the list. Where should I start?" What do you tell them?

FS: Well, a lot of the names on the list were of author's who's work I haven't yet read myself. I've read Atwood, McEwan, Roth, Updike and Marquez. A few others have long been on my to read list. But a great many of them are authors I haven't had much exposure to at all.
Personally, I'd probably given a strong recommendation to Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan. They're both amazing writers who's work speaks to me on some level, a level that only reallly good literature can ever truly reach. But you never know what will speak to you as a reader. I've had books recommended to me by friends or family members who have just raved over them, but which I found to just be okay at best. Everyone's tastes are so different. So really, what I'd recommend, after a personal note about how much I enjoy the works of Atwood and McEwan, would be that they visit their library, see what's available from each author, and maybe take the time to read the opening paragraphs. It can be an arbitrary way of choosing a book. Some opening paragraphs will fool you. You'll think "Wow!" and then the book won't live up to the promise of it. Or, on the other hand, it will seem forgettable and the book itself turns out to be incredible. But if you're just browsing and want to experience an author you've never read before, that can be a fun way to sound them out, so to speak. When you find the one (or more than one) where you just don't want to stop with that first paragraph, you've found the one you should read. Really, though, I think the beauty of these sorts of awards is that they get people to move outside their own experiences as readers and try new writers. We all have our favorites, the ones where we wait impatiently for them to put out something new, but it's a big world and there are many incredible writers and incredible books out there. We hear about most of them, or stumble across them on our own, merely by chance. These awards up our chances of hearing about some amazing writers.

And your highlighting them allows them another shot at attention if someone missed the list when it came out. You've also highlighted a number of CDs, usually on Sundays. I was wondering if there's any CD you're really excited about currently or one that you're awaiting the release of?
FS: I recently bought the new Ani DiFranco cd, KnuckleDown. It came out a few weeks back and I already have every track committed to memory, I've listened to it so often. It's an incredible CD. I'm also waiting for the new Tori Amos CD, which comes out on the 22nd. I've practically worn out her Tales of a Librarian collection! I didn't get Scarlet's Walk until just recently, but it too is amazing and I'm really excited to hear what she's coming out with next.
Also, I used to be a big Matchbox 20 fan (still am, I suppose, I just don't hear much about them or from them) and I heard that Rob Thomas is doing a solo CD. I'mlooking forward to that, though I don't know when it's coming out yet. I always really liked Rob Thomas's voice and the very first Matchbox 20 cd was one which really was special to me, in a way, so I'm pretty interested to hear what he comes out with. I'm hoping the Indigo Girls will have something new before too long, as well. They're just amazing. I think I could follow them around from concert to concert like a groupie and be pretty content with life. At least in theory! In a lot of ways, though, I'm still finding my way with music as I go. So there's a lot to be excited about. A lot of old stuff is new to me. I'm new to Dusty Springfield, for instance, and Carole King. I've been listening to both of them a lot lately and they're just incredible.

Well you'll be happy to know that as we speak, TheThird Estate Sunday Review is assembling a cutting of Tori Amos' lyrics for the issue you're interview will appear in. You noted in an entry that you were giving up some performers as a result of their politics, the drawing the line post. Has that been difficult?

FS: That's great about the Tori Amos lyrics. Can't waitto read that. Actually, it's been easier than I thought it would be to turn my back on performers who are Bush supporters. With music, I've discovered (and continue to discover) so many new artists that there isn't as big a hole in my life as I might otherwise have expected from turning my back on Reba McEntire, for instance. There will be times when I'll catch myself humming a song of her's and feel sad when it sort of occurs to me all over again. But for the most part, I just think about what these people chose to support and that makes it easy. I don't want my money going to someone who's going to give it to Bush in favor of pre-emptive war, disastrous economic and social policies, and discrimination against gays and lesbians.
I think it's a decision we're all going to have to make. We on the left need to start making sure we're supporting others on the left. We need to think about where our money is going.

And that's a strong point to go out on.

FS: And thank you to The Third Estate Sunday Review for their interest.

Blog Spotlight: Folding Star of A Winding Road on The Count Every Vote Act and Negroponte

Usually, we tell you about the entry we highlight but this week, we're trying something different. We asked Folding Star (of A Winding Road) to write a few words about this entry we wanted to highlight. What goes into selecting what to blog on?

Folding Star: I logged on last Thursday to write about the lack ofa nomination from Bush for the new post of Director of National Intelligence. Senator Rockefeller of WestVirginia, who is on the DINO side of the spectrum more often than not, had raised the issue the day before in Committee and I felt it needed addressing. As soon asI got online, I saw the headline announcing that Bush had nominated John Negroponte. I'm sure the timing of this, the very day after Rockefeller scathingly pointed out the lack of action on Bush's part, was merely a coincidence!
At any rate, Negroponte isn't someone who should be confirmed to ANY position by the United States Senate, given his dark history in Honduras. But as we've seen time and again, the majority of the Senate seems willing to look the other way on the most grievous human rights violations where this man is concerned.
This time will be no different, apparently, as Senator Rockefeller has already come forward to comment that 'People grow and change over 20 years'. This comment, in this context, marks Rockefeller out strongly for a place in the DINO Hall of Shame.
While I was working on the post about Negroponte's nomination and feeling outraged and disgusted, the news about the new election reform bill, the Count Every Vote Act, came out and I was at least able to balance out the post with something I was very happy about. After all, it's not every day I get to write about being thrilled over something the Senate Democrats are doing! Though this Act doesn't go nearly as far as we need to go, it is a huge step and something to be excited over and to stand strongly in support of.

A Long Awaited Bill and an Insulting Nomination

Another day with much to talk about.

First of all, the Count Every Vote Act is finally underway. If you missed the news, Senators Boxer, Kerry, and Clinton, along with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, announced this new legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Clinton and Boxer, which would do the following:

-Make Election Day a Federal Holiday to give more people the opportunity to vote
- Require a verified paper trail for electronic voting machines
-Require uniform standards for Provisional Ballots
- Allow Ex-Felons to vote
- Provide $500 million to states to bring their voting systems and equipment up to date.

And it would require that all of this be done in time for the 2006 election.

We now have a job to do, my friends. Each and every one of us needs to let our members in Congress, in both the House and the Senate, know how strongly we support this legislation. There needs to be an outpouring of progressive voices on this issue.

Remember, our voices joined together to help convince Senator Boxer that she should sign on to the objection being raised by House members over the Ohio Electoral vote. Thousands of people signed that petition.

Now we have to make sure Congress knows we want this bill to pass.

It doesn't go as far as electoral reform needs to go, it's true. But it goes much farther than anything I've seen in recent times and we've got to do everything we can to make sure it passes without being totally stripped of meaning by the Republicans and the DINOs in Congress who'd like to water it down.

So far, I know of one online petition you can sign in support, and it's at the Friends of Hillary website. This is a website devoted to Re-electing Hillary Clinton to the Senate in 2006. Whatever your feelings about the junior Senator from New York, signing the petition in support of this VERY important bill does not commit you to supporting her in any way, now or in the future. Please take the time to sign it.

I suggest you not only sign the petition but that you also directly email or call each of your Senators and your member of Congress, to let them know you're in strong support of the Count Every Vote Act and all of it's provisions. It's so important that we support this Bill strongly from day one all the way through to it's conclusion.

I'll keep an eye out for other online petitions you can sign in support, and if you happen to come across one that I don't know about, please drop me an email and let me know so that it can be highlighted here.

I'd recently begun to wonder if all those speeches on January 6th about the need for electoral reform were going to come to nothing where most of the Senate Dems were concerned. I expected that Senator Boxer would come through with a bill, though. And I'm glad to see Senator Clinton as a co-sponsor. Though the media will (and already is) making much of this being about a potential Clinton Presidential campaign in 2008, the fact is that the Senator from New York falls on the centrist portion of the spectrum where Democrats in the Senate are concerned and her co-sponsorship could mean broader support within the party itself.

This will be a battle, there's no doubt of that. The last thing that the conservatives in Congress want is a bill that's going to make it easier for more people to vote! They will fight this. How easy it is for them to do so depends on us, though. They won't want to do anything that flies in the face of strong public opinion, lest they endanger their own re-election chances.

So make yourself heard today, tomorrow, and often and we can get this bill passed! There is a lot of support out there, on both sides of the political spectrum, for electoral reform in this country.

Now, on to the darker news of the day.

Yesterday, CIA Director Porter Goss and several others, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about what they say is the very real danger that terrorist groups are still plotting against the United States and may soon move to the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in future attacks.

Now, we all know that there's one thing that the current Administration is great at: playing the fear card. They've played it many times for political gain in the past and will no doubt continue to try and do so in the next four years.

This could well be more of the same. Keep the people scared, and they'll do whatever you tell them will keep them safe, which is invariably voting Republican! Ugh.

So, on the one hand, we need to recognize that there is a good chance that what we saw before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday was more of the same. After all, Bush is pushing for huge increases in Military spending as well as the renewal of portions of the Patriot Act that expire this year, and these dire warnings could be paving the way for an easier course through Congress for these two wishes dear to Bush's heart.

We also need to recognize, though, that we do live in a world in which many people have cause to hate the United States. Many more now, in fact, than had cause to hate us before Bush and co's dirty Iraq war, which could serve as a How To course on creating terrorists.

We've been attacked before, and Bush has made it much more likely that we will be attacked again.

In light of this, Senator Rockefeller raised a very important question yesterday- if all of these dire warnings are true, why hasn't Bush nominated a Director of National Intelligence?

The junior Senator from West Virginia called this 'unacceptable' and he was very right. The US Congress pushed the legislation through late last year to create the new post, which the President had from the beginning been opposed to. And ever since then, Bush had been silent on nominating someone to fill it.

Talk about weak on National Security! Yet, somehow, the Bushies have yet to have that very real charge stick to them. They can label a decorated war hero as weak and have it stick, with the help of the media. But this group of people who avoided serving in a war themselves, yet rush to send others to die in wars they've created, are able to come off looking tough on these issues when the record says otherwise. They think by talking tough, they don't need to back it up with any real actions that make our country safer. And of course, so far they've been right, thanks to a lap dog media that deals not in facts but in myths.

At any rate, the charge clearly got to the Bushies, who just one day later have rushed out the announcement of their nominee. Do they think we'll forget the valid point that they've waited MONTHS to nominate someone just because they rush to do so the day after a Senator points it out?

But, this isn't the worst of it. The man they've nominated is an affront to all decent human beings. I'm talking about John Negroponte, the man who, when he was our Ambassador to Honduras during Ronald Reagan's first term in office, is alleged to have looked the other way and allowed CIA trained death squads to murder and torture countless people. As has happened far too often, the US looked the other way on human rights violations because the regime responsible for them was beneficial to the United States in other ways.

Negroponte has claimed that he didn't believe such death squads existed, in spite of evidence to the contrary which suggests he knew full well what was going on. As Senator Dodd of Connecticut said at the time of Negroponte's confirmation as our Ambassador to the UN in 2001,"Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports."

Negroponte was confirmed by a voice vote in 2001, just days after 9/11, to be our Ambassador to the United Nations. This means that, unlike with a roll call vote, there is no record of who voted for or against the confirmation. At the time, Senator Harkin of Iowa did rise to state his objection to the confirmation and have entered into the record news articles from the Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times going into Negroponte's time in Honduras and the discrepancy between what he said and reported at the time and what was actually going on. Senator Harkin also noted for the record that had there been a roll call vote, he would have voted No on the confirmation. You can read these articles and Senator Harkin's comments in the official Congressional record.

In his latest confirmation, just last May, Negroponte was confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate in spite of his dire history. The vote was 95 to 3, with only 3 Democratic Senators, Dayton of Minnesota, Durbin of Illinois, and Harkin of Iowa, voting against his appointment as Ambassador to Iraq. One Democratic Senator, John Kerry of Massachusetts, wasn't present to vote, but every other Democratic Senator serving in the last Congress voted to confirm this man to represent our country in Iraq.

This fact makes it all but certain that, barring new evidence or testimony against Ambassador Negroponte, he'll be handily confirmed by the Senate to be our first Director of National Intelligence.

There needs to be serious debate on this nominee and a serious look at his record, but he's been confirmed by the Senate time and again and I fear that this time will be no different.

Senator Rockefeller's words yesterday clearly pushed Bush to do something he'd be dragging his feet on, but his own form of revenge has been to nominate someone he knows will be a controversial nominee. Perhaps he hopes to paint anyone who objects as weak on National Security? That is, after all, the way the Bushies operate.

TV Report: The Cowing of Buffy

The e-mails regarding the review of Patricia Arquette's NBC show Medium keep coming in. One point that gets raised is that Moonlighting wasn't the last show to cow a female. Of the various shows offered, we've decided to focus on Buffy the Vampire Slayer which began life on the WB.
But after we note the destruction of the TV character by the writers, we'll also turn a critical eye to two actresses who are doing more damage to "strong women" than some man behind a TV show.

For those unfamiliar with the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we'll sketch out the basic details. Buffy lives in Sunnydale where's she's a high school student . . . and a vampire slayer. Giles is her watcher (which is sort of like one of those women offering make up consultations at the make up counter). Xander's her class mate who has the hots for her and is kind of nerdy. Willow is her bookish best friend. Angel's the big nosed, brooding guy trying to look slim in black leather.

Slowly, we learn that Angel is a vampire -- a good vampire. He becomes one of the 'Scooby gang' or 'the Slayerettes' (we preferred the latter term then and continue to do so now that Sarah Michelle Geller has gone on to disgrace herself post-Buffy as Daphene in the Scooby Doo movies). They battle all sorts of people and school bitch Cordelia begins tagging along.

The show was one of the Xena-waves, a powerful action figure who's a woman. Early on it mixed laughs and observations with action and commentary. It was a good blend.

As the story rolled along (with a variety of villans), Angel and Buffy moved from glances and the occassional smooch to doing the deed. Then all hell broke loose because Angel isn't just a vampire, he's a cursed vampire and part of the curse means if he ever experiences passion, he reverts to evil vampire. Passion was doing the deed with Buff (apparently he's never sampled Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia).

In what would remain a high point for the show, the two hour "Becoming" attempted to wrap up a variety of storylines and did so amazing well. We won't focus on the subplots.

Buffy has to confrot Angel and kill him both to save the world and because there's no hope for him now that he's crossed over to the dark side. Xander's supposed to tell her that Willow (who begins dabbling in white magic) is working on a spell to return Angel to his frigid state. But Xander (remember, has the hots for Buffy) doesn't. So Buffy's left without the knowledge that Angel's soul might possibly be restored. Buffy and Angel have a sword fight and throw around a lot of snappy dialogue. In the end, as she's about to kill the evil vampire, Willow's spell works.

Faced with the real, loving, caring Angel (who won't stop weeping), Buff does the only thing a gal can -- kill him apparently.

Seriously though, if she doesn't kill him, the world's over (trust us, we're doing a favor by sparing you the details). So she kills him after repeated kisses (and while he has his eyes closed).

That was a knock out episode. And there wasn't anyone in school the next day talking about it (including people pretending to have seen the episode). It was the show at it's finest.

Sadly, the next year Angel returns. (TV buff Jim points out that it's the same reason Lindsey Wagner's Jamie returned from "death" on The Six Million Dollar Man: spin-off monies, baby!)
There was no point to it in terms of adding to the story.

Let's note that David Boreanaz played Angel and you'd do well to not remember that name because his limited range is such that we're amazed he got cast as Angel and aren't expecting any major developments in his career. (A good drama coach might allow him to make liars out of us.) With no passion and nothing to do, Angel mopes along, marking time for his spin-off.

Angel finally gets his spin-off and Joss Whedon gets to guy it up and act macho. (Angel slaps Buffy on one episode of Angel.) Characters come and go on Angel as the show attempts to find it's voice (but never does). Women never fair well in the cast. Which is a reason to fear future projects by Whedon.

But it's not enough that he has to render women obsolete on Angel (Susan St. James on McMillian & Wife was more integral to the action than any of the women on Angel), he also seems to really lose interest in Buffy and then lack of interest turns to outright hate.

Before we get to that point, Buffy is off to college. After a bumpy start (a sign of things to come), the show hits its stride with Lindsey Crouse as a questionable teacher who's actually running a monster-spy program underground. Riley is an agent and Crouse's T.A. Fortunately, he's good looking because he's either not much of an actor or he wasn't given much to do. But he did play sincerity well. And after a bumpy start, the season built to a huge season ender that rivaled the X-Files for it's complexity, multi-threaded storyline. And like the X-Files, it found new life in the "evil government programs you aren't supposed to know about" stories. The show held promise.

And then? Season five (which starts off with one of the worst "stunt casting" episodes: Buffy meets Dracula) begins. Suddenly Buffy's got a younger sister, teenaged, curvy, ditsy Dawn. (Rumors were Joss would be creating a Saturday animated show with Dawn in the lead.) Now there were all sorts of reasons for this (including that Dawn wasn't her sister) but the point was, Joss didn't seem interested in the show. He was more focused on his macho bullshit Angel. And the whole Buffy takes on the government storyline was out the window.

Critics like Ken Tucker (who slobbers over at Entertainment Weekly) would praise individual episodes like "Hush" but the show was faltering badly. (We agree "Hush" was excellent. It was largely a silent episode. And anytime we didn't have to hear chattering in season five was a high point.)

A huge mistake according to Edna, K240 and Shannen was in breaking up Buffy and Riley.
We agree. The show wasn't Riley the Vampire Slayer. It was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And, with Buffy as the lead character, Riley was a nice romantic sidekick. But apparently Buffy (powerful women?) can't find happiness with average Joes. So Riley's gone (episode ten, we think). And the show muddles along by bringing back vampire Spike who's been off and on for years and is to masculine sexuality what Donald Duck is to . . . masculine sexuality. Did we mention the Buffy-bot? No? Then let's just avoid that embarrassment.

And then? Buffy dies (again) to save the world (again). And that's the last episode the WB airs.

The show should have ended then and there. (And the WB was smart to dump it.) But UPN picked it up. And by now Joss was really into his destroy Buffy mode. (He's referred to season five as being "dark" -- like a depressive off the meds.) Buffy's brought back to life. Why? To flip burgers apparently. And to face how miserable her life will apparently be. (It's the Batman Forever season -- reference to Val Kilmer's infamous "I can Batman no more!" turn in that weak sequel.)

Along the way, Willow's been demonized for using her witchcraft apparently excessively. (Does Buffy use her powers excessively?) Willow's also become a lesbian. Xander's got a girlfriend (Anya) after Cordelia moves on to the Angel spin-off (where she exists largely as the wacky receptionist who often becomes the damsel in distress -- apparently she's forgotten everything about fighting she learned on Buffy -- before it turns out she's really an evil bitch -- surprise ending only to those who hadn't noticed how much joy Joss seemed to take in degrading Buffy).

The show's a huge downer. We've had to suffer through Buffy being with Spike (something that pleased the masochists in the Buffy viewing audience). We've had to suffer through Buffy being Queen of the Mopers. We've had to suffer through ditzy Dawn who added nothing at a time that audiences wanted to focus on Xander and Willow. How bad is season six? The opening episode is considered by many to be the best of the season.

We also get the episode "Once More With Feeling" where Joss tries to do for the musical what he did for the silent movies (with "Hush") but a song and dance Buffy plays like Cop Rock and no matter who tells you "they really can all sing!" they really can't.

The show has no focus (it should have ended on the WB with season five when Buffy died). Willow's become the "evil lesbian" stereotype. Funny how that happened, isn't it? And funny how Buffy's avenged each and every loss she could but let Willow try to avenge her lover's death and suddenly she's got to be evil. Even funnier, we're about to get the rapist who really isn't so bad storyline that we would have thought, or at least hoped, was a storyline long ago banished.

What can you say about season seven? Where were the regulars? Why did Buffy turn into Dr. Phil barking out motivational speeches to potential slayer-ettes (who ate up way too much time, were too numerous in number and had no individual appeal)? It ends thankfully. (But not before Spike's assured that even a rapist can be loveable).

When the show ended, the New York Times ran an editorial, AN EDITORIAL, noting the feminism in Buffy.

Uh, what were they watching!

Let's recap. Riley leaves because he's suddenly threatened by Buffy's strength. Spike tries to rape but that's a-okay. Shit happens, apparently. Willow turns into evil lez stereotype. (And Tara, Willow's former partner, ends the noble way: the only good lesbian, according to the stereotype, is a dead one.) And via the creation of new slayers (don't ask), Buffy is now normal.
We don't remember Lois & Clark ending with Superman losing his special knack. This is empowering? Rapist as good guy, lesbian stereotypes, Buffy reduced to "normal."

As usual the Times got it wrong.

There's another thread running through the show that led many to grow disenchanted. It largely didn't take place within the episodes of Buffy but it bears remarking on because the Medium review prompted a number of e-mailers to make comparisons between Buffy and Alias and feel both shows had turned to shit.

Jennifer Garner tried to add bangs last year. Big mistake unless she was attempting to emphasize her horsey face. After season four, Sarah Michelle Geller's hair alternated between oily and overlong or both. Neither woman's a great beauty. (Garner does qualify for pretty.) And there's something really off-putting about bad makeovers that attempt to make them look "girly."

But were that hair was the most of the problems.

Apparently tired of being known as a "tough chick" both SMG and JG hit the talk show circuits to prove that we were nothing like the characters they play. They largely succeeded because some fans had identified them with their strong characters. After watching a chat session with Jay Leno, for instance, viewers were appalled to discover them both attempting to pass themselves off as brainless bimbos (and succeeding!).

Theresa e-mailed that both women hit a level of success and then "attempted to sport their breasts on talk shows and, let's be harsh but honest, Sarah doesn't have much to sport."

So while we criticize Joss Whedon (and stand by the criticism), SMG's own efforts to expand the way Hollywood saw her resulted in weaking Buffy (on the show and off) as well. Sarah Michelle Geller has had one strong movie role in the dog of a movie Cruel Intentions. Otherwise, she's played the victim. And to quote Wednesday Adams, she will, "all her life." It's a real shame to watch her and Jennifer Garner both attempt to make themselves over into cartoon versions of Jennifer Love Hewitt (who can actually act).

Garner would be well advised to cool the jets in her personal life. A divorce, a supposed affair with co-star Michael Vartan and now a supposed pairing with Ben Affleck (what, one version of Bennifer wasn't enough for America to suffer through) have left Garner looking not like a sexual being but instead like a woman who loves too much. (Further stripping away the strong image Alias originally provided her with.)

Geller would be well advised to return to a more flattering hair style and to stop appearing onscreen with her husband (Freddie Prinze -- who's yet to meet a role that he couldn't perform the same way he did every role prior). Someone could also advise her that when she's distant and strong, she draws you in with a sense of mystery. When she's playing bubbly bimbo, you just can't help but notice how unattrative her face is. Shot from above, she can almost pass for pretty. This is a woman who needs careful lighting and planned camera shots. She needs to stop kidding herself that she can be mistaken for beautiful. (Well groomed may be the highest she can reasonably aspire to.)

Joss Whedon appears to have fallen into the "I'll prove to them I can write exciting male characters!" syndrome so many TV creators fall into (which usually includes the cowing of the female character that brought them fame). But blame goes to SMG for the fate of Buffy as well. And Garner's proving in real time that you don't need anyone else to destroy the "magic" -- you can easily do yourself in with no assistance at all. The show Alias remains her show. She remains the focal point and the writers have not tried to cow her character. But her bimbo eruptions on talk shows are destroying how she's seen.

It's apparently not just some men who fear strong women, it's also some women. And while the two women may or may not be responsible for their movie roles -- they may be picking from the best they are offered (we'd argue there's still no excuse for the Scooby Doo movies) -- they are responsible for how they promote themselves. They both benefitted from a rare interest on the part of TV in strong women. And they both appear to shrink from being seen that way. Maybe they believe this is the way to build an acting career ("See, I don't have anything together! Not even my bra straps!") but they'd do well to remember that Henry Winkler once went to great lengths to prove in TV interviews that he was nothing like Fonzie and his post-Happy Days acting career didn't set the world on fire.

Art: The Lyrics of Tori Amos (A Cutting)

When C.I. of The Common Ills mentioned a book by Tori Amos yesterday, we were surprised. We hadn't heard anything about Tori Amos: Piece by Piece by Tori Amos and Ann Powers. We weren't even aware that Tori has a new album coming out this Tuesday (The Beekeeper).

But we're big Tori fans here and so we tossed out the cutting we were working on and decided to focus on the lyrics of Tori Amos instead. Hope you enjoy it.

I walked into your dream
And now I've forgotten
How to dream my own dream
You are the CLEVER one aren't you ["Mother"]

I could use a big loan
From the girl zone ["Caught a Lite Sneeze"]

I'm wishing for my best impression
Of my best Angie Dickinson
But now I've got to worry
'Cause boy you still look pretty ["Putting the Damage On"]

I had the Story of O in my bucket seat
Of my wanna be Mustang
Auditioning for reptiles in their
Raquel Welch campaign ["Glory of the 80s"]

I just want a little passion to hold me in the dark
I know I've got some magic buried, buried deep in my heart ["Take to the Sky"]

And we make it up
As we go along
We make it up
As we go along ["Gold Dust"]

Sometimes I thinkyou want me to touch you
How can I when you build
A great WALL around you ["China"]

So you found a girl
Who thinks really deep thoughts
What's so amazingabout really deep thoughts
Boy you best pray
That I bleed real soon
How's that thought for you ["Silent All These Years"]

All the world just stopped now
So you say you don't wanna stay together anymore
Let me take a deep breath babe ["Tear in Your Hand]

Things you said that day
Up on the 101
The girl had come undone
I tried to downplay it ["A Sorta of Fairytale"]

So then love walked up to like
Said I know that you don't like me much ["Cooling"]

Yes I know what you think of me
You never shut up
Yeah I can hear that ["Silent All These Years]

I never was the fantasy
Of what you want
Wanted me to be ["Playboy Mommy"]

And I'm so sad
Like a good book
I can't put this
Day Back ["A Sorta Fairytale"]

I guess you heard he's gone to L.A. he says that behind my eyes I'm hiding and he
Tells me I pushed him away that my heart's been hard to find ["Baker Boy"]

He don't show much these days
It gets so fucking cold
I loved his secret places
But I can't go anymore. ["Northern Lad"]
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