Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

It's Sunday, we're about to call it a "night" (at 10:26 a.m.)

Before we do, let's credit the ones who helped with the writing of this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

We thank all the above for their help. We also thank Dallas for locating links, for being a soundboard and more. We thank Rebecca for her photo shopping of our illustrations.
We honestly were supposed to have people taking off this edition. The parody we were tossing around until Whine On whined to C.I. and, while noting Whine On's comment, C.I. came up with the perfect title for the parody.

Editorial: The Unknown War Resister -- you know what, people are dying. We're not going to play nice and say, "Great job!" It's not been a great job. After three years, you'd think they could do better. When you think of the 'biggest story' (the one they can all get behind and cover -- which certainly isn't Falluja), it's Judith Miller. That's independent media's biggest contribution to ending the war. Covering Judith Miller's PRE-war coverage. Maybe they didn't just take a vacation this summer?

TV Review: Confessing to no talent -- There's a line in this review, a question that Ava and C.I. asked a friend. He laughed and, on the phone, told them they had to put that in. Others told them the same thing. They went back and forth. They went with it after consulting everyone they knew basically. It's funny. And it's the perfect reaction to Madonna's hideous special (which came in fourth in the overnights -- fourth). This is a hilarious review that's all the more humorous if you sat through part or all of it. When we were doing the illustrations, we had it on the background because Ava and C.I. wanted to be sure that they hadn't missed something, something they could see as redeaming that would allow them to trash this review and start over. (They wrote this ahead of time.) They found nothing. The line made it. We're happy. Regular readers will be as well.

Magazine Parody: The Elector -- This is not one magazine, but three. "Lazy" is based on two writers. Everyone else should be one person (except for the editorial in the parody). And one thing is not written by us. The last lines of the parody, sad but true, were written by an actual writer at a left magazine.

Iraq's civil war -- hair splitting isn't ending the war. It's a civil war, it's been one for some time.

TV Review: Burying the living -- Yes, you have two reviews from Ava and C.I. Consider it your holiday gift. Why two? They didn't feel like the two specials could be lumped together. They didn't care for either but in one case, "Someone had nothing to say, in the other case, they weren't allowed to say anything."

MyTV's Fascist House -- yes, Kat is back with the core six. She came back from Ireland two Thursday's ago and stayed with Betty on her way back home. She got out here Monday of last week. Kat back? Collage! Madonna was chosen for the photo, that's the "neck brace" Ava and C.I. note in their review.

Junior wasn't all that? You don't say -- thank God for independent media like . . . The New York Times? Well at least they reported it.

Taking care of the most pressing business first -- Rebecca and Dona smoke regularly ("All the time!" shouts Dona). Others involved have quit (like Elaine) or "stopped" (like C.I.). I (Jim) take a puff or two every few weeks. There's your disclosure. It's not needed. As the article points out, it's the silliest focus the 'empowered' could have. Way to defocus.

Highlights -- still can't e-mail to the site so this is a round up.

See you next Sunday.

--Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The Unknown War Resister

Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown war resister

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown war resister
It's all over
For the unknown war resister

We've altered Jim Morrison's lyrics ("Unknown Soldier," Waiting For The Sun, The Doors). In "small media," it really does appear "all over" for the war resister. You could easily argue that The Full Brobeck, not the beat, goes on. John A. Rogowskyj Jr. seems like a very likely candidate for The Full Brobeck but, honestly, who doesn't these days?

The US Court of Appeals in DC heard arguments in Agustin Aguayo's civil case last week and ask yourself where you heard or saw about that? Ehren Watada held a press conference last week and no one even had to travel, it was done via phone. The fear is that this might be Watada's last chance to make any sort of public statements before the court-martial begins. His attorney thinks it's likely the US military will impose a gag order.

Court-martial? Oh, yeah, that. The US military decided to court-martial Watada (scheduled for February). That didn't get announced last week, that was the week before. So that's two weeks that you haven't heard about that.

What's that? You're feeling "left in the dark"? You're wondering if anyone in indymedia knows about it? Oh, they all do. They all do and most of them took a pass on covering it.

That's why we have a parody of the three best known print publications in independent media. That's why we're already planning our next parody.

"Surely," you say, "if they had decided to court-martial Watada, I would have heard about it on Democracy Now!"

Well, Amy Goodman did address the subject. On CNN. Not on Democracy Now!, but on CNN. She was on a panel for Paula Zahn Now discussing it, right after Zahn interviewed Watada. Wasn't mentioned on Democracy Now!? No, and let's turn to Ruth for more on that: "That is especially surprising to me considering that the panel that addressed the issue: war resister Joshua Casteel, Mommy's Pantyhose, and Amy Goodman. Ms. Goodman, of course, host Democracy Now! which airs on radio, TV and online Monday through Friday. When Ms. Goodman appeared on Comedy Central, it was noted on the next Democracy Now! So it was something as a surprise that the appearance on CNN was not. While not attempting to be a nudnik or a drag, I do think it is worth noting that a silly interview on a comedy network is somehow "news" but a panel to discuss Lt. Watada is not."

We're reminded of an observation Danny Schechter the News Dissector makes in the book The Death of Media, this may be paraphrase, "Put another way, when an issue is not on TV, it doesn't exist in a media saturated country like the United States." (We believe that's page 114.)
Or as Joni Mitchell once observed, "Looking at them on my T.V. set, Oh the power and the glory" ("For The Roses," For The Roses). There is no power and glory because war resisters really don't exist in independent media, not in the coverage.

Let's go over a list of just some of the war resisters who have gone public with their resistance: Watada, Rogowskyj, Joshua Key, Kyle Snyder, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Joshua Casteel, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. How many of those names are familiar to you?

Who's covering them? Who's covering the movement of resistance with the attention it warrants or do they all feel, like Mommy's Pantyhose, that it's not a movement?

If you know even a few of those names then you're probably following the work of Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) and Dennis Bernstein & Nora Barrows Friedman (Flashpoints).
And that list is only some of the names of those resisting who have gone public. In addition, over thirty US war resisters are currently in Canada attempting to be legally recognized.

You can contribute to show your support for the work of Goodman or Bernstein & Barrows Friedman (or for all). But what about the things you pay for? What about our independent print media?

Since we're all currently subscribers of two of the magazines (two of the three)* we spoof in our parody this issue, let's note that. like a growing number of subscribers, we're starting to wonder what we're paying for?

You can only dig it out of the mail and flip through with high hopes for so long. After awhile, it becomes a case of, "The new ___ is here. No, they didn't cover the war resisters. Again! No, they didn't cover the peace movement. Again!"

How long do you put up with that before you start to wonder if, by subscribing, you are becoming part of the problem?

There was actually a piece recently. Our joke was, "Hey, they finally covered someone protesting the war." The completely unfunny punchline was that they "covered" it via the letters page by printing JoAnn Sohl's letter. (Sohl's son is serving in Iraq. She is a member of Military Families Speak Out.) It reminded us of the sad fact that Gail Greer has to attempt to drum up coverage for her husband (Darrell Anderson).

What do you think would happen if some of the protests outside CNN in recent times instead targeted our leading independent magazines which can't seem to find the time to cover war resisters or the peace movement?

Are they all, like "Truth," living in neighborhoods untouched by the war? If so, are they unfamiliar with what goes on in the world?

In the lead up to Jimmy Carter's election, there was a magazine, a publisher in fact, who made the decision to put all his weight behind getting Carter elected. If you asked him, he'd tell you he assumed the amnesty Carter did offer would be more "inclusive." He'd tell you that he would not have guessed that Carter would be the one to bring back registration with Selective Service.
On a good day, he'd laugh about how he thought he would have 'influence' as a result of all the magazine did to pimp Carter.

We think about that as we read one Eureka! story after another about the 2006 elections. We think about that and we think about how a search engine query on "Iraq" will probably produce many results but, for the most part, the results from our independent print publications would be heavily weighted with election stories that mentioned Iraq in passing.

It's not cutting it and as contributors take their stories on war resisters, movements and Iraq elsewhere, we're getting the message that our independent magazines really aren't interested in addressing Iraq in any way beyond elections.

It's not cutting it.

For information on war resistance within the military: the Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. In addition, Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

John A. Rogowskyj Jr.? He was deployed to Iraq this month, despite a Marine captain and a major agreeing that he was a C.O. They were overruled by D.V. Odell Jr. who felt that Rogowskyj was "theologically confused" and that his belief did "not reflect any officially recognized faith." Recognized faith? Is Odell not familiar with the "Selective Service System: Fast Facts"? "Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest." That is the policy regarding Conscientious Objectors. Maybe if the likes of Odell had to worry about being called out for their decisions, they'd feel compelled to study policy?

What gets covered matters. And what doesn't get covered says a great deal in its silence.

[Note: *Elaine doesn't subscribe to anything other than journals. She does purchase one of the three each week, a second she purchases only when Howard Zinn has an essay in the magazine.
Note: The paraphrase because everyone's loaned out their copies of the book. C.I.'s is "72% certain" that is a quote and "64% certain" that is the correct page number.]

TV Review: Confessing to no talent

Wednesday night, NBC aired their second music special of the week. Though many believe the performer's hit making days are far behind, it's also true that the special was based on Madonna's huge money making tour. Tony Bennett was reduced to an hour but NBC carved out two full hours for Madge.

As the first hour dragged on, we realized several things. First, we grasped that Madonna's returning to her inner pre-adolescence. The clue there was her obsession with horses -- male dancers had saddles strapped to their backs, Madonna carried a riding crop and at one point was on a merry-go-round horse attempting some sort of pole dance which mainly consisted of rubbing her crotch against the pole -- and the 'lyrics' to her new songs which feature all the 'insight' that only a twelve-year-old locked in her room doodling horses in a spiral notebook can provide. She's been "The Material Girl," she's been "The Spiritual Girl" and these days she appears to be "The Stunted Girl."

The special was billed as Madonna: The Confessions Tour and "the confession" appears to be: "I have never had any talent and now I don't even know how to market myself." We felt it should have been billed as Jerk: De Old Lay.

How bad was it? During the second hour, as we saw all she had to offer these days, we phoned a friend to ask, "You really put your cock into that?"

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Going in, a friend, who thinks the world of Madonna and considers her a friend, warned us not to expect much from Madonna's dancing. The rumor is the knees aren't holding up and the days of the high impact dancing she made her name with are long over.

If true, we could accept that. She's not a singer, she's not a beauty, she's not an actress, she's not British (the faux accent was not on display) and she's no longer a hit maker so it's sad that she's no longer a dancer but no one's immune to the laws of gravity.

We weren't surprised when she didn't do any real dancing. We were, however, appalled that she couldn't even handle the catwalk. In the second hour, she attempts to 'work the runway' and you could hang out at a truck stop for hours and not come across more graceless lumbering.
What the hell happened?

We're told that's partly a "creative decision" -- the concert's supposed to blend Thwarp and Fosse but really comes off like Hymn to the Rhythmically Challenged and Graceless choreographed by Corky St. Clair. More importantly, it comes off like the work of someone who has nothing left in her.

Madonna's interested in the Resurrection. You grasp that not only when an imposing cross drawfs the stage but when the music plays throughout. Someone's explained to Madge that disco died. They just forgot to pass on that it died for a reason. Had they done so, she might still top the charts.

The fear, for many, with Madonna was that, at age 80, she'd still be slithering across the stage, in her panties. After "Justify My Love," Erotica, dripping wax on a bound Willem Dafoe in Body of Evidence and the Sex book, that fear seemed valid for some. Us, we would have preferred that she pursue that track. It would have been interesting. Instead, the same fawning and thoughtless critics that led her to believe she was gifted and talented, stage managed her into something else: boring.

That's pretty much all she's been now for over a decade. Boring.

We blame the critics who applauded her 'soft' side move.

They're the 'thinkers' that were seeing 'meaning' where there was none for most of Madonna's career. (In better days, Madonna laughed and sneered at them. Choosing to embrace them has killed any excitement in her career.) They're the type who, as early as the Who's That Girl tour were seeing 'empowerment' in the performance of "Live To Tell" where, for the song's ending, Madonna slumps then stands erect. They penned over-thought, embarrassing praise like this:

". . . a pose that suggest surrender and desolation, and then . . . as if recovering her strength and courage through an act of titantic will . . ." (We'll be kind and not name the 'author' of that crap.) People, she just stood up. The really bad rewrite of Joni Mitchell (lyrics) with the drone that would dominate in her later music had come to an end. She needed to do something on stage. (Another nitwit saw in that brief moment the battle against AIDS. We'll spare you his tripe.)

It was that kind of crap that led her away from actual songs ("Cherish," "Like a Prayer," "Holiday," "Angel," "Dress You Up," etc.) into what she is today: 'inspirational.'

With her more recent work (heavily on display in the concert NBC broadcasts) grafting banal lyrics onto the never ending wump-wump beat of a drone, some saw the influence of the Kabbalah. While she does now repeatedly present herself as the modern day Aimee Semple McPherson -- it's Church of the Madonna. Don't blame Kabbalah, these days it's all about her.

There was a time when that might have made for an interesting tour and, certainly in the past, she's been able to mount stage shows that grappled with the tensions between sexuality and spirituality, conventionalality and iconoclast. These days, she's just another boring celebrity and who would have ever thought you could say that about Madonna?

Sister Madge's following eats it up, they pay hundreds for a ticket and (due to ticket pricing more than anything) the last two tours have been seen as financially successful. Anything resembling art (even pop art) long ago left the building, but there are people across the country, around the world, willing to waste a couple of hundred to listen to her dither on, with the drone behind her, about how tough it is to be Madonna.

It's a specialized audience, a niche one, and possibly TV's become so segmented that even the big three can chase after the niche these days? We don't think so. And we don't think her Thanksgiving special offered much of anything.

Or at least, not anything of use. If you needed confirmation that she's not pretty, you got it.

People have long wondered why is it that she doesn't come across on the big screen? She has no eyes. In film terms, she has no eyes. That's why she passes for pretty when she closes or hoods them but repells (on the big screen) when they're wide open. Eyes are very important in film, they have to draw audiences in. If they do, you're Paul Newman, if they don't, you're Julia Ormond.

Along with settling the fact that she's not beautiful, she also may have shocked a few who dropped out (as many have in the last years) -- the body is gone. The shoulder development that upstaged Ricky Martin at the Grammys in the 90s is somewhat still there but the upper arms are flabby to the point that, should she be cast in another movie role, her big line should be "Want some cream corn?" as she dishes out food in the cafeteria of some teen sex-comedy.

The trunk's rather disturbing as well, it continues to thicken. Now most with that problem wouldn't wear a white body suit with stripes running across the hips, but when your Sister Madge, apparently no one tells you how laughable you look in that ensemble.

Just like they don't tell you that your hair looks greasy (not shiny) and limp and lifeless and it's the sort of 'style' you might expect on a 70s porn queen but not on someone who fancies themselves the artist of their time.

If it seems bad taste or vulgar to dwell so much on her appearance, the special was vulger as well. In fact, the first hour contained the f-word repeatedly. This was when she highlighted three dancers. They made awkward moments, each one, in their solo spots. There was a White man who spoke about how his father tried to strangle him when he was a kid but it was love -- check the empowerment and common sense at the door when entering the Church of the Madonna. Then a woman seemed to be babbling on about self-mutiliation but who knows? Last up was an African-American male.

Madonna's had a much more difficult time with the African-American community than some in the White world realize. They seem to think that because she's had a string of dance hits, back in the day, that she must be beloved. That's not really ever been the case. Some of the strong (and apt) critism of her Blond Ambition Tour should be dogging The Confessions Tour.

The African-American male with the solo spot detonates the f-bomb repeatedly, because he's 'real,' you understand. He's talking about gang-banging and drive bys and using words like 'homies.' How out of it is Madonna that she thinks 'homies' is cutting edge street talk? More importantly, why is she stereotyping African-American males as gang-bangers?

As the taped inner monologue broadcasts during that last solo dance, we're supposed to feel that they're just 'keeping it real,' so why did we feel like it was 'keeping it racist'?

Now Madonna's never going to be upstaged by a mere backup dancer, so she was front and center repeatedly in the second hour with f-this and f-that. But saying it wasn't enough for her, she also had the need to repeatedly flip the bird. Her finger was repeatedly blurred. Her f-words were repeatedly bleeped.

There may be no calls to the FCC due to the special but can someone call the art police?

This all comes during the part of the concert when Madonna seems to want to become the Courtney Love of dance. She's supposed to be playing guitar (most of the noises aren't coming from her guitar) and she's supposed to be hard rocker (with a disco beat). She sounded as though she'd forked over a couple of million to Love to teach her attitude. (When Madonna needs help with attitude, the career's in the toilet.) She looked even more ridiculous with some black, feathery crap around the high collar of her jacket. Whatever the fashion statement she thought she was expressing, the result was it looked like she had decorated a neck brace and only reminded you how old (and tired) she is now.

Was there a reason for the f-word? We're not opposed to it. We say it quite often. We believe it can be used, in art, in a powerful way. This played out more like her much bleeped 1994 Letterman appearance. And it made about as much sense.

Chrissie Hynde, an actual rocker who got her start in the punk period that Madonna seems to want to set to a disco beat, has used the word onstage many times. We've never been offended. There are songs she performs with that and other words and we're not bothered.

The difference is Chrissie Hynde has something to say. Madonna just wants to shock. And then, when she's shocked, she wants to scream "Censorship!"

We're told she leveraged the crucifixion that's part of the current tour (but didn't air in the NBC broadcast) to slip past the f-word.

Madonna repeatedly flipping the bird is not art. It's her trying to steal from the art of others, no question. But the magpie didn't reassemble it in any way that said 'art.' It was just Madonna, boring as she is today, trying desperately to create something shocking.

Something shocking really isn't the way to prepare for a holiday on network TV. Around the second flipping or the umpteenth time she used the f-word, we had to pick up the phone and call the friend to ask, "You really put your cock into that?"

We're not Madonna haters. Or we weren't until the special. We didn't follow the adoption 'controversy' or cluck over any of the other psuedo controversies the career is built upon. We've been very grateful for her soundtrack work which is the only time she still bothers to craft a song these days. We think Like A Prayer still stands up as not just her finest album but one of the better ones coming from the pop music scene in the eighties.

We've rolled our eyes at the oft noted "I chained myself" excuse, but we've never called for her head or a public stoning.

Who knew she'd do that herself? While in her 'soft' period?

And who at NBC saw the tour before they made the deal?

Madonna in concert, to your average broadcast TV viewer, is going to mean some of the hits. Maybe you won't hear them all, but how could you? 1997 and 2004 are the only years she didn't release a top forty hit. Many years have contained multiple hits. So hopes of "Into the Groove" (not technically a single -- though played constantly on radio, it was on the dance mix of "Angel"), "I'll Remember," "Dress You Up," "Keep It Together," "Rain," . . . well it just wasn't going to happen. What Sheena Easton calls hits are blips for Madonna.

But is it too much for the average viewer to assume that a special starring a performer with something like 46 top forty hits might offer up at least five of those hits over a two hour span?
If you want to be generous, you can count the strains of "Live To Tell." If you want to be really generous, you can say that Madonna sang them from offstage.

"Singing"? Let's note first that "Live To Tell" was while she was off stage (changing) and that was a recording until she walked out on stage (not danced) and sang 36 seconds of vocals to the audience. If you didn't catch that one was complete playback and the other was 'live,' you must have missed the panting into the mike she did during her 36 seconds of 'singing.' She was out of breath just from walking on stage? (The outfit she'd changed into wasn't that complicated -- boots, black pants and a loose, red blouse.) Maybe they were too busy noting that, in her 36 seconds of 'live' vocals, she basically had two notes? One was intentional, the other was when her voice cracked throughout the 36 seconds (pay attention to end words she holds like "inside"). She used her one in-tune note as well as could be expected, tossing it down to the throat and then, when the voice was actually supposed to go up a few notes, hitting the same note but tossing it up to her nose. (Pay attention to the very nasal tone on "tell" -- "If I live to tell.")

Onstage or off, she didn't sing for most of the two hours. She moved her lips semi-convincingly but she rarely attempted to actually sing -- and when she did, it was scary to hear her attempt hitting a note and notice how she went up to it, then flat, then around it all while she was supposed to be hitting and holding. Not since she toured with the then new guys of the Beastie Boys as her opening act (yes, that's how long she's been around) has she really attempted to sing onstage for a concert. The voice is "banked" so it can be sweetened.

Long ago, she chose dance over singing. With her range, it was a smart choice. But these days, when she doesn't dance, exactly what's the crowd playing for? Her self-help sermonettes?

No one dances in this show except for 'busting some moves'. We use that dated terminology intentionally because the little actual dancing was nothing but a bunch of tired moves you saw from the mall set in the eighties plus some break dancing.

Otherwise, the backup dancers tended to crawl around on the stage and did something akin to shadow boxing. They punched the air and space around them a great deal. There was also some sort of tribute to Bernadette Yao who did the arm dance on Zoom years ago. Two male dancers did this hand and arm thing. We're told it was supposed to represent the barriers to same-sex coupling that still exist and we'd buy that were it not for the fact that Madonna got in on it, putting herself between the two men, stroking them one at a time (she seemed to favor the one stage right). Is Madonna the last barrier to same-sex coupling?

Or is it just that she's got no message left to deliver that doesn't make herself the message?

When we called our friend, he said, "Oh come on, she's singing." He wasn't watching. He turned on the TV. He saw her moving her lips, heard the voice do things that a voice can't (Madonna's got a serious case of "Believe" envy) and agreed that there was something "very hollow" about the act. Why did the crowd put up with it?

Because they're not music fans, they're disciples of Madonna. Which is why she could, and did, pluck a cowboy hat off one urban type (we're being kind, the concert was filmed in London) concert goer, put it on top of her head for a bit and then toss it into the crowd without the owner screaming at the top of his lungs. We're told the bit was a phoney as the 'singing.' True though that may be, the crowd reaction was in keeping with the cult feel.

It's not a Garland type feel or a Diana Ross type feel, where the audience gets moved via expression. It's not the golden oldie cult feel (which recently led a reviewer to compare a non-rapper's inability to sing with rapping -- the voice is gone but the dream persists for the nostalgic). It's a cult around being Madonna and it's one that will have to die with her because there's no other Madonna.

"No one else like her," at one time, would be praise. These days it's thanks. Which may have been the only thing about the special that was in keeping with the holiday. Or, as our friend put it, "She had a quality back then."

Yes, long ago and far away. The special arrives about sixteen years to late for anyone to give a damn. A year prior, 1989, Madonna and NBC had another connection. On their Thursday night ratings powerhouse (built around The Cosby Show), her commercial for Pepsi aired (loosely based on the video to "Like A Prayer"). It was quickly pulled. The Jesus imagery and the interracial aspect enraged the reactionaires. There was talk of it being the end of her career. Madonna: The Confessions Tour played out like the long predicted funeral so it may have made sense that it aired on NBC -- sense in the scriptures of Madonna. In the real world, which gave up its obession with the English Rose long before she became part of the horse set across the Atlantic, it made no sense.

Last year, NBC aired the best Thanksgiving week music special, Faith Hill's Fireflies. This year, they have nothing to be thankful for -- even the ratings tanked.

Magazine Parody: The Elector

Our special issue that continues our non-stop 2006 election coverage that we'll only drop in a few weeks when we gear up for the 2008 election. No one owns The Elector!

Editorial: They Are in Charge Now!
Congratulations! We did it! You did it! We rocked Congress. Now we have to focus on the next step: the 2008 elections. Always remember that you have no more power than the average fan in a football stadium. Your sole role in the public sphere is to cheer or boo.
That is all you can do, all you can ever do. Be good soldiers and fall in line. We have.
That's why "independent" translates as "Democratic Party" here. But don't sweat it, we hold Democrats accountable. Look at what we did to Joe Lieberman! In fact, look at how we gave Ned Lamont a pass after the primaries! We really stuck it to Joe!
Being a forward thinking magazine, it's really important to us to continue the false stereotype of "Red" and "Blue" states. If you loved our features on "Red" state governors who were "Blue" (and at least two out of 50,000 of you did!), look forward to us providing much more of that. We know we're starting to look a lot like Guns & Ammo but we really get off on the stink of pit stains and anti-choice.
And it pleases the DLC. In fact, we'll soon be hawking a book by one schill who attacks "Hollywood hacks." Of course, "Hollywood hacks" made their own names and their own monies without any need for a sugar daddy. So the real hack is probably someone on the speculation payroll, someone you've never heard of but we intend to change that.
What can we tell you, we can peddle and swing the ass as well as any in the mainstream. That's why the we'll promote the book that slams Joe Eszterhas for the audacity of objecting to Joe Lieberman in 2000.
Now, yes, we've made all of 2006 about rejecting Joe Lieberman (we intend to make 2007 all about embracing him!) but we don't like any truths to get out until we're willing to tell them. Eszterhas' two crimes are (a) telling the truth too soon and (b) failure to cast Davey in the lead of Showgirls. (Has he never seen Davey lick his own nipples? Trust us, Davey may be a square, but he's also a full on freak!)
So get ready because 2007 and 2008 will feature in depth coverage of the 2008 elections. Lots of horse races, lots of cheerleading. We're not afraid to use our independence by becoming a party organ!
-- the editors of The Elector
[Editor's Note: We just realized how we've offended some of the magazine's strongest supporters in the last two decades. Woops!]

AlterPunky: Confessions of a Media Savant
There have been so many complaints that all I ever do is tell you, two to three weeks after the fact, about some minor cable chat & chew incident that you've already heard about on Air America Radio and at Media Matters in real time.
The carping seems unwarranted, I think, as I listen to my Best of the Bread. Take Bread, they haven't done anything in years, but I still listen to them. So people should see my columns as an attempt to ride the oldies circuit with tired retreads.
But the carping scare me because I was recently fired from a web/cable position I held for years. If you never caught my act there, don't worry, I did the same thing that I do here. It's the same thing I do in book form as well. In fact, I'm really good at saying the exact same thing, day after day, year after year.
I put my name to it!
That's important to remember, AlterPunky Brewester puts his name to it. (I prefer AlterPunky Brewester to the "Cindy Brady of the faux left.") I sign my columns . . . and my angry e-mails too.
But you know who doesn't sign stuff? The New York Times. I look at those editorials and where is the byline? What's the point of that?
They're written by committee and I loathe that sort of writing. Anytime I've attempted it, I've found that either I get shouted down or end up hanging from a flag pole by my Fruit of the Looms. Can I help it if I hate people? (They hate me? Well I hated them first!)
When The New York Times does an editorial and it's not some sort of note on Sex In The City or one of the other pressing issues of our world, they refuse to sign it and seem to think that people will give it more weight, They seem to think that by not tossing on "by Joe X," people will say, "Did you hear that The New York Times endorsed ___" Like the paper has some sort of weight behind it or something.
Most importantly, without a name attached to it, I can't send a nasty e-mail where I show off the latest swear word I've learned.
I'm learning a lot more these days now that I'm coaching basketball. Well . . .
Not really coaching. It's more like I show up at the local middle school and beg and whine until a seventh grader feels sorry for me and says, "Come on guys, let the little squirt play so he'll stop crying."
I'm totally Jock Punk now.
I even bought a cup.
It came with a saucer which confused me. I also couldn't find any straps but it has a handle. My weenus is too small to go through it so I'm not sure what to hang the handle on?
But I am sure of one damn thing, it's not cool not to sign editorials. I have no respect for publications that don't sign their editorials. It's wrong and it needs to stop!
[Editor's Note: AlterPunky was asked if he was aware that here, at The Elector, we do not sign our editorials or commentaries. He said that he wasn't because he never reads the magazine "but Mommy clips all of my columns for my scrapbook!"]

Christmas is here and what gives?
December 25th rolls around and we're supposed to all act "happy" and "rejoiceful."
It's one of the oldest conspiracy/cons in the book.
Sure there's "Jesus," the "Son of God."
But after awhile, you get used to those nuts.
The ones who really annoy are the conspiracy nuts who won't shut up about "Santa Clause." "Saint Nick."
Wherever you go, it's hard to avoid those kooks this time of year.
You'd think it would be safe in your local mall but you walk in and there they are, circled up in a long line, jabbering away.
They are sick.
You can't reason with them.
They won't listen.
Or they cry.
Here's what the "Santa" believers buy into:
*"Santa" lives at the North Pole (don't try to get them to discuss how that's even possible with the Greenhouse effect, they'll just play dumb).
*"Santa" has a toy shop where he and his elves make toys (sounds like sweatshop labor to me, I'm sure the elves aren't unionized).
*"Santa" has a list on everyone that notes whether they are "good" or "bad" (don't try to engage them in conversations about how unwarranted spying is illegal, they just don't get it).
*"Santa" spends all years making toys and then, on December 24th, "Christmas Eve," he distributes them all over the world which he travels via his "magic" sleigh.
Try telling any one of them the truth, bringing a little reality into their conspiracy-based worlds, and they ball like little babies.
"Mommy! Mommy! He said Santa Clause doesn't exist!"
Then you've got some Fascist in a Parka threatening your free speech.
It doesn't matter that you told the truth.
It doesn't matter that you were factual.
They don't care and, you quickly discover, neither does mall security who can't eject you from the party fast enough.
With all that's going on in the world, stuff you'll never read about in The Elector, to focus on "Santa Clause," to fixate, is just a blow to democracy.
Enabling these conspiracy cry babies are the Fascists in Parkas.
You never buy for a moment that these Full Grown Fascists believe in Santa Clause.
But they perpetuate the myth.
It's all over the country this time of year, no matter where you travel, you'll find it.
And the Fascists in Parkas will try to shout you down, telling little Johnny or little Beth not to listen to you. Telling them that you're a liar.
But you'd be surprised how many of those Fascists in Parkas know the truth.
The second Beth, Johnny or Sequoia runs to hop into the lap of "Santa," the Fascists will call you a "kill joy" or worse.
Then they'll hiss that you're trying to destroy a "magical moment" and "innocence."
Get over it!

Our Popular Cultures by Lazy
I do not understand why Studio 60 is not doing better in the ratings.
I feel like it hasn't gotten enough promotion from CBS.
Note: I typed "feel like."
No one needs to again rake me over the coals as they did when I wrongly said that Commander-in-Chief was not promoted by ABC. When two TV critics did that, I was mortified. Apparently, it had a big advertising budget including billboards and the sides of buses. Who knew?
Then they mocked again over the failure to make even one phone call before declaring Moronic Mars was the story of class struggle. They, no doubt, thought they were so funny with their rejoinder, "Yes, it is -- if you believe that the class war will be costumed by Nordstrom Brass Plum and Neiman Marcus."
Mocking is really mean. I can support grown ups tormenting fourteen-year-old boys online and bullying them into retracting opinions with threats, I actually feel that's kind of cool and "liberal," but how dare anyone mock me or anyone else for failure to do research.
That's just like rude.
You should treat adults with kindness.
I am really busy and never quite sure what outlet I'm supposed to be associated with from week to week, but do they give me a break?
Hell no.
It's gotten so bad, I keep thinking they're on the verge of outing me for plagiarizing a blog. Hey, I just stole the idea for an entry and reworked the opening a bit to make it a little less explicit and more PG or at least "girly." That blogger should have been flattered that I thought his writing was worth stealing! I don't have time for research or for giving credit.
But do I get cut any slack? No.
So I'll be using "feel" statements more in my writing because "feelings" are never wrong.
I feel that Studio 60 is making the biggest contribution to the current cultural divide raging in this country: Are semi-pretty boys taken more seriously when their semi-looks fade?
I remember the shock I had, as I left my teen years, when I realized that Kirk Cameron was not all that. After all the years I sat in front of the TV, drooling over him in every episode of T.J. Hooker. And before that, when he was on Police Woman. Oh, Kirk, what happened to the home perm?
It's a question worth asking today as you study Matthew Perry and grasp how far behind him the days of Suddenly Susan are. Oh, Matty, what happened? You were my first young lady crush. Now look at you, you're not even funny.
I stuck by Matty through the reports of rehab, through the fat days and even the rumors that he married Jim Nabors. But this is the last straw. He just doesn't do it for me anymore. I think CBS would be wise to cancel Studio 60. That's how I feel it anyway.
[Editor's Note: Lazy was wise to stick "feelings" but, even so, a correction is in order. Some feelings are, indeed, wrong.]

The Elector Interview With Ralph Nader
Four times consumer advocate Ralph Nader has run for president. He's an industry unto himself. We at The Elector were happy to sit down with him in light of the 2006 election results for an in depth, wide ranging discussion.
The Elector: Well, Ralph, the Dems cleaned up.
Nader: While they did regain control of Congress, it's also true that actually advocating a position, any position, might have increased their number of wins. As it is, they'll be held hostage in the Senate by Joe Lieberman.
The Elector: Interesting, interesting. So, Joe Lieberman.
Nader: Beg your pardon?
The Elector: Joe-mentum. No-mentum. Joe-mentum. Huh?
Nader: What?
The Elector: Yeah, you feel me? Electoral College.
Nader: Are you asking my thoughts on the outdated institution that circumvents the direct voice of the people?
The Elector: Fantastic! Corporatism.
Nader: What is the question?
The Elector: Some call you the "spoiler," some call you "the space cowboy"!
Nader: What?
The Elector: You said a mouthful. La Vida Loco! Well, Ralph, we're out of time now.
Nader: You barely asked even one question. You just tossed out phrases.
The Elector: It really was a wonderful interview, wasn't it? In depth. Wide ranging. Provocative!
[Editor's Note: A podcast of this interview is available in full, both minutes, by clicking here.]

Truth Confessions From A Gated Community
People ask me, "Truth, what do you think about the illegal war?"
I always reply, "When one of those Shias or Slavs tries to breach my gated community, then I'll worry about it."
Until then, we have so much more to talk about. Like the lovely Evan Blah.
Over crumb cake and lattes -- we just got our own Starbucks! next to the club house! I never need leave my gated community again! -- Blah and I discussed the state of the Democratic Party.
As a woman, I felt it was important to ask a question that I know many women like myself are concerned about.
"Yes, the issue of abortion --" Blah began.
I stopped him. My question was who does his hair?
His stylist sounds like a wonderful man. Probably gay. We have a gay couple just outside the perimeters of our community. They tried to buy a home inside but, as my husband pointed out, "We let in the gays, the next thing you know, the Blacks will want in too."
Sad but true.
But we are not all Anglo.
Like myself, we all tend to employ Mexican domestics. They get dropped off by the bus each morning at six and enter through the pedestrian gates. How exciting that must be for them!
Leaving the ratty old bus, walking down our well maintained and heavily guarded streets, focusing on the joys they'll soon experience scrubbing our toilets!
They are so lucky to have so little.
It allows them to be delighted by all that we have and, honestly, I probably take it for granted now.
I envy them their excitement. Some nights, when my husband is working late and my children are hoarse from screaming how much they hate me, I'll go into either the his or her bathroom off the master bedroom and try to pretend like I have no grasp on English and am living on mere pennies. I'll "ooh" and "aah" over the steam shower, the dual flush toliet, the copper sink but then I'll be sad again as I remember that those people probably see running water as a treat.
I can never understand them, so why bother?
I see by MicroSoft's Word Count that I'm only fifty words away from my column limit so I'll wrap up by noting that it's not easy to slave over these columns but it was really easy to talk to Evan Blah. As my husband said, he's our kind of people.

"The Peace Movement" by I Married An Economist!
Hey, everybody, over three years after the illegal war began and I'm writing The Elector's first piece about the peace movement. I called "Dibs!" on it and was surprised that no one seemed ticked off. When I call "Shotgun!" most people usually pout, well AlterPunk. And I can feel Truth pouting over the phone lines. I don't think she's left her gated community in years, at least not mentally.
But I have!
I was at the Steny Hoyer victory party, for being named House Majority Leader-elect.
It was a blast!
Full of jokes about how that old Steny Voo-Doo had worked a miracle again! He certainly is a lucky guy, isn't he? Gladys, John, no one can stand in his way!
The booze was flowing so much that I had to wonder if Frosty, though not back in Congress, was in da house?
Someone let out a cry of "Blue Dogs Rule!" and next thing I knew I was crowd surfing. Balloons were falling all around, but I was passed around.
I started thinking about how the peace movement could use some of this excitement? I mean, where are the victory speeches at the rallies, you know?
Okay, the war's still dragging on, but they could still give a victory speech, right? Like one of the leaders (I don't know the names of any, sadly, does anyone?) could stand before the crowd and shout, "Only 42 corpses discovered in Baghdad today!"
I bet the crowd assembled would yell back "Yee-haw!" or at least "Semper Fi!"
See, that's the problem with the peace movement today, not enough victory speeches.
Wow, this was really a hard thing to write. If I wrote any more, I might have to actually find out the names of some leaders or organizations and maybe even call one or two up for a quote. I see now why The Elector doesn't bother to cover the peace movement! I can tell you this, Steny's party rocked! He may be headed towards 70, but he's still the "Boy Wonder" in my book!

The Arts
Courtney Love Flings Her Crap Against The Wall Again
by Prissy and Out of Work and Loose With Facts
With the magazine I worked for tanking so badly that they're trying to sell off the domain name and with my rent due, I figured I could pick up some quick cash by reviewing Courtney Love's newest CD How Dirty Girls Get Clean.
I haven't heard it but fortunately, no one at this magazine ever seems to check for those sort of things. (Little Lee-Lee was so right!)
I made up lies about track lengths last time, and got away with it, so I figure sky's the limit.
It's easy to trash Courtney Love.
And fun too.
Courtney Love's new record is called How Dirty Girls Get Clean. Take that. She's responding to the rumors. She's taking pride in them. It's a type of aggressive solipsism (I have no idea what I'm writing, but I slid that through last time, so I'm sure I can get away with it again).
Courtney Love wrote no lyrics or music for this album.
I'm pretty sure.
So it was a surprise to me that I hated it so much.
"My Bedroom Walls" is probably about all the men she's slept with. The title has almost as many letters as "Edward Norton" and I'm sure he's mentioned or alluded to in the song somewhere.
"Letter to God" is her attempt to get forgiveness. "Too Late For That Now!" is God's unreported response.
This album really sucks. Really, really sucks. (I'm being paid by the word.)

Deep Thoughts From The Marrakesh Express by That Is All
Not only does the Nobel Prize-winner and economic heretic have wonderful ideas, he is also a great guy!

Iraq's civil war

Press reports continue to caution that Iraq might be on the brink of civil war which leaves one wondering how they might have reported Sherman's March to the Sea?
-- "Iraq Snapshot," The Common Ills, November 24, 2006

A day after the Thursday violence that had claimed over 200 lives in Baghdad alone, while what was portrayed as retaliation killings and violence rocked the capital, most reporters refrained from stating the obvious: Iraq was and had been in a civil war.

That might seem strange until you realize they usually avoided noting a total figure for Iraqis who had died since the start of the illegal war until Bully Boy himself cited the figure (a vast undercount) from Iraqi Body Count. Suddenly, they could all toss around the low ball.

Because, apparently, it doesn't happen until an "official" says it has.

Today's New York Times contains a piece by Edward Wong where he attempts to address the issue, "Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq meets the standard definition of civil war."

Scholars knowledgeable on the issue, scholars who specialize in that field, say it's "civil war." The New York Times? Balance, balance, balance. It's all about the 'balance,' baby. Scholars say this, administration says that. And The New York Times doesn't exist to inform readers what is actually happening. Better to play out like a print version of the children's game Telephone. There are on 'facts' to be determined, just 'choices' to be noted -- for the paper of record, it's The Pepsi Challenge way of covering war.

Solomon Moore (Los Angeles Times) gets right to the point in his report, in the first sentence: "Iraq's civil war worsened Friday as Shiite and Sunni Arabs engaged in retaliatory attacks after coordinated car bombings that killed more than 200 people in a Shiite neighborhood the day before. A main Shiite political faction threatened to quit the government, a move that probably would cause its collapse and plunge the nation deeper into disarray."

The week before last (on November 16th), Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) could report:
"While American commanders have suggested that civil war is possible in Iraq, many leaders, experts and ordinary people in Baghdad and around the Middle East say it is already underway, and that the real worry ahead is that the conflict will destroy the flimsy Iraqi state and draw in surrounding countries."

We like the Sherman's March to the Sea analogy because civil war didn't break out Thursday, it didn't break out last week or this month. It's been ongoing. While it's good that some reporters are starting to report what they see and know, as opposed to playing the on-the-one-hand-on-the-other game, it's also true that the civil war started some time ago.

Why wasn't it reported sooner? Paul Farhi notes the continued decline in Nightline for AJR. Nightline, never as good as the press made it out to be, was a rusted out hooptie even when Ted Koppel held the title and license. For one thing, there was a not-so-slow leak in the front and rear tires on the passenger side, causing it to lean to right. These days, the airs out of all the tires.

Drop back with us to a TV review Ava and C.I. did last August where they noted that the March 20, 2006 broadcast of Nightline addressed the 'newsworthy' issue of the ABC broadcast entertainment show Grey's Anatomy. As Ava and C.I. noted, it was the anniversary of the illegal war, the day before (a Sunday) 45 Iraqis had died, the US troops scandals involving alleged killing of Iraqis (in Haditha and near Balad) and former puppet of the occupation Allawi had told the BBC, "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

But Nightline, the 'news' program, was schilling for ABC entertainment product.

They must be so proud, providing such an informative public service to viewers.

Speaking of ABC, today on their chat & chew (This Week), George Stephanopoulos promises:

Under Siege: The latest bombings in Iraq include the single deadliest assault on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad since the start of the war in 2003, and place Iraq on the verge of all-out civil war. Our headliner this week is King Abdullah II of Jordan. With President Bush scheduled to meet with both King Abdullah and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman next week, King Abdullah joins me to discuss what can be done to stem the growing tide of violence.

As long as he has King Abdullah II on, how about asking what he thinks about the US administration's recent decision to discontinue training Iraq police officers in Jordan? As more US troops head to Iraq to do just that (train police officers), shouldn't the press be raising the issue?

Don't count on it being rasied anytime soon.

But take a moment to be thankful that some are raising the issue of civil war and be really thankful that some are actually reporting that it is a civil war. Those journalists aren't waiting for a government official to give an okay for reality to be reported. Friday evening, on CNN, Michael Ware broke it down, "Well, firstly, let me say, perhaps it's easier to deny that this is a civil war, when essentially you live in the most heavily fortified place in the country within the Green Zone, which is true of both the prime minister, the national security adviser for Iraq and, of course, the top U.S. military commanders. However, for the people living on the streets, for Iraqis in their homes, if this is not civil war, or a form of it, then they do not want to see what one really looks like. This is what we're talking about. We're talking about Sunni neighborhoods shelling Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelling back. We're having Sunni communities dig fighting positions to protect their streets. We're seeing Sunni extremists plunging car bombs into heavily-populated Shia marketplaces. We're seeing institutionalized Shia death squads in legitimate police and national police commando uniforms going in, systematically, to Sunni homes in the middle of the night and dragging them out, never to be seen again. I mean, if this is not civil war, where there is, on average, 40 to 50 tortured, mutilated, executed bodies showing up on the capital streets each morning, where we have thousands of unaccounted for dead bodies mounting up every month, and where the list of those who have simply disappeared for the sake of the fact that they have the wrong name, a name that is either Sunni or Shia, so much so that we have people getting dual identity cards, where parents cannot send their children to school, because they have to cross a sectarian line, then, goodness, me, I don't want to see what a civil war looks like either if this isn't one."

That pretty much says it all.

TV Review: Burying the living

Last Thanksgiving weekend, we reviewed the music offerings of ABC (Kenny With A Z!) and NBC (Faith Hill) and were expecting Kenny Chesney to provide the better music special. We were wrong. This Thanksgiving, NBC offered two specials, one on Tuesday, the other Wednesday. In terms of 'success' (we define that as audience enjoyment), well, at least they can look back fondly to the Faith Hill special last year.

First up was Tony Bennett: An American Classic. The title should have given pause, it's the sort of thing that conjures Aged In Wood (the Margo Channing play that Eve Harrington can't shut up about in the early scenes of All About Eve). Sadly, as indicated by the title, the hour long 'special' had about as much life in it as one of those Kennedy Center Honors.

"I love Tony Bennett. You know why?" Dyan Cannon's character asks in Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice before answering, "He just sings."

That thinking seems to have been the operating principal of this special: Tony Bennett can't do anything but sing. Alice might have enjoyed Tony Bennett: An American Classic, but we doubt it.

Things started off promising enough with "Smile" which opened the program. It's not a natural opener, it's not upbeat. But using it as the opener indicated that the makers might be interested in shaking things up. When Barbra Streisand joined Bennett for the second verse and they began their duet, there was life in the air. Singing, she made her ways towards him, moving around the piano slowly.

And then?


Streisand was in fine voice, Bennett was in fine voice throughout the program. But when you open with Streisand (a closer), exactly where do you think the special is going? More importantly, when you put Streisand and Bennett on the same stage, you don't have them perform one song and then quickly wisk Streisand away.

Yeah, it would have been great if Streisand had been kept around for at least one more song but that's not what we mean. There they were on stage and nothing. The two sang amazing well together and the audience had a right to expect something, anything. But this wasn't a special, it was an assembly line and before you could say "Gotta Move," Streisand was gone.

It was a pattern that repeated throughout the non-special. Others that would come down the line were Stevie Wonder, k.d. lang, Chris Botti, Michael Buble, Elton John, John Legend and Christina Aguilera. We may have forgotten someone. If so, no great loss.

Diana Krall, at the piano, on "The Best Is Yet to Come" managed to stand out. Who knows what was being smoked when someone decided to turn the number into 'a happening' with dancers straight out of the sixties (the really well scrubbed sixties) but it was one of the few moments when someone registered as something other than a prop. k.d. lang's ease packed more power than did her vocals. That's no doubt due to the fact that she and Bennett actually have chemistry. To watch, you grasped that. To listen only, you may have have been confused.

Though the audience was robbed of even bad stage patter between Bennett and his many partners (or for that matter, his dancers -- even Dean Martin talked to his dancers on The Dean Martin Show), really inane, boring moments of speak were provided.

Catherine Zeta-Jones did not embarrass herself. That's because, more than many today, she conjures up the old Hollywood style. Coasting on her own wattage and likeability, she didn't embarrass herself as she read the dumb, on camera, narration required. Also coming off well was Bruce Willis. That's because his smirk is built in. So the pompous 'tribute' he was given to read was brought down to earth by his own personality -- he made it work.

Then there were the less fortunate.
Billy Crystal? Billy Crystal talking about Tony Bennett? What? Jackie Mason was booked elsewhere?

That fey, love-me, auter quality killed his career -- even returning to sub-standard vehicles hasn't brought it back to life. His lifeless recitation was hard to recover from.

John Travolta? We were in Lifetime: Intimate Portrait territory as he mumbled his way through lines about how Bennet "not only bridged the generation gap, he demolished it." Demolished sums up Travolta's moment and reminded us of the actor doing voice over for commercials who's attempting to circumvent a lifeless voice by providing hard "kk" sounds. (It's the most hilarious voice over since Brenda Vaccaro's 'deep breathing' in the eighties -- and, as with that, people are at work trying to smooth it over.)

The absolute worst was Robert DeNiro who had no place in the special and seemed to know it judging by the way he squirmed -- he hasn't looked that uncomfortable since he allowed himself to be used to provide redemption for Eli Kazan.

The lesson here is no one wants a lecture. Not in a special. Bring loads of personality (as Zeta-Jones and Willis did) or prepare to put the audience to sleep (the portion that's not making jokes about you). In fairness to the three losers, no one could have saved the show.

Streisand didn't. She gave you hope and then she was gone. Krall did the same. But this wasn't a special. This was an obit delivered early with "Happy Birthday" tacked on at the end to fool everyone.

When Tony Bennett passes (hopefully, many years from now), we think he deserves a lively wake but his son (who was the 'brain' behind this special) apparently has other ideas.

Bennett is capable of magic. He's been providing it for decades. But it's not just the moments where he sings (sorry, Alice) that provide that. Anyone fortunate enough to see him onstage is quite aware that its the quiet moments as well as the toe tappers that make him a living legend (living -- absent from the special, though he is still very much alive).

The special didn't provide viewers with those moments. And anyone afraid that the problem is the magic wouldn't translate to TV needs to think again. Two weeks ago, we reviewed SNL and noted the performances of Christina Aguielra. The last of her three performances was "Stepping Out" with Tony Bennett.

It was a lively, giddy and goofy moment. They got up onstage and they spun some magic. Seeing the same song done in Tony Bennett: An American Classic with better costumes, intricate choreography, multiple dancers and, most importantly, annoying camera changes, it was obvious that all the life was left somewhere on the cutting room floor.

As bad as the dopey narration (honestly, celebrity endorsements do not belong in something billed as a music special unless they're funny), what the special really reminded us of was the coffee commericals which try to shake things up by making it look as though they're using various film stock to film the commerical. They're not. It's phoney and done in editing. That might be fine when you're hawking a product but, unlike his son apparently, we don't see Tony Bennett as a product.

Okay, we reminded ourselves, we were wrong in our expecations last year, that still left Madonna.

MyTV's Fascist House

This week on MyTV's Fascist House, they get a jump on the seasonal themes by airing their HomoErotic X-Mas special.

When soccer star David Beckham starts strolling/trolling the streets of DC shirtless and with who knows what above his mouth, there's something in the air. Lourdes gets a whiff of it and holds her nose (air out the pits, Beckham, air out the pits!) but it's enough to get Madonna singing her latest non-hit and pulling "Erotica" out of mouthballs for the DC boys.

John McCain tosses on a fur and struts his stuff, Donald the Rumsfled and Bully Boy get all touchy-feely but, LOOK OUT, there's a new man in town, John Abizaid testifes to Congress and prays they DON'T ASK what he's thinking about because he WON'T TELL that he's picturing a kicky Karl Rove on the one hand and Dennis Hastert doing GOD KNOW WHAT on the other.

Hastert locks himself away with his page (special guest star Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz) to make sure the p.o. (pit odor) of Beckham doesn't break up their his happy home.

And, via the geniuses at ILM, it all ends happily with Bully Boy providing good eats.

MyTV's Fascist House airing 365 days a year, 52 weeks. All new episodes!

Junior wasn't all that? You don't say

See through in the sunlight

-- "Lemon" (U2, Zooropa)

Update to Harold Ford Jr. (see "Junior campaigned in strange places" and "Meet the Donkaphant Harold Ford Jr.") It would have been nice to be able to "see through in the sunlight" Junior but independent media didn't want to. (Bruce Dixon, Glen Ford and Margaret Kimberley, now with The Black Agenda Report, weren't afraid to address the realities of Junior.)
Which is why it was Adam Nossiter and The New York Times, not independent media, that tackled Junior on November 21, 1006 (A20, "Political Memo: Is the South Truly a Dead Zone for Democrats?"). Nossiter informs readers that they need to hold on just a second, the conventional wisdom that Junior was defeated due to his race doesn't bear out to Democratic "Party officials in Tennessee."
No __?
Nossiter writes:
Voters knew that several members of the politically active Ford family had been caught up in legal and ethical problems, including Ford's father and predecessor in Congress, Harold Ford Sr., who was acquitted on federal corruption charges.
"The Ford name has a lot of baggage in West Tennessee," said Will T. Cheek, a member of the Democratic National Committee in Nashville.
That voters might have considered the Fords less than trustworthy could have been reinforced in the Senate race, in the view of some Tennessee Democrats, by the candidate's own late-breaking genuflections towards his faith, by his denunciations of same-sex marriage and by other signals of a swing to the right.
Or even by his voting record.
So why is it that independent media before the election ran a puff piece on Junior (who loves the Bully Boy and loves the illegal war -- thought the full weight of the magazine was going behind anti-war candidates) and the Friday after the election, on Democracy Now!, an "analyst" who wasn't couldn't seem to stop singing the praises of Junior?
Lot of cover was given to Junior. Lot of people looked the other way. 2006 was supposed to be the year that Dems absorbed the message (fully) that, given a choice between a Repube and a faux Repube, voters would vote for the genuine article? Running to the right of the Bully Boy hadn't worked out too well in 2004 and 2006. But here came the Juniors and we were all supposed to look the other way. One got elected, one didn't. Neither should have even been in the race on the Democratic ticket.
As some fret about Junior and "really hope" he gets a CNN job, we hope he does anything, but run for public office again. Ford Junior got pantsed, pulled over the lap and spanked till his legs were kicking and his eyes were running tears. Politics isn't for children and Dems need to learn to be Dems. Maybe he'll grasp that when he's done with his corner time?

Taking care of the most pressing business first

In January, the Democrats will control the House of Representatives. For the first time since 1995. But don't set your hopes too high on any real efforts to address the problems that have plauged the nation over the last five years.

Speaking to Lesley Stahl for the October 20, 2006 edition of 60 Minutes, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi addressed the issue of impeachment: "No, impeachment is off the table." Stahl asked her if that was a pledge and Pelosi responded, "Well, it's a pledge in the -- yes, I mean, it's a pledge. Of course it is. It is a waste of time."

According to Pelosi, gay rights are also a waste of time, or as she responded to the issue of same-sex marriage, "Well, that's an issue that is not an issue that we're fighting about here." Stahl also observed that Pelosi (like many Congressional Democrats -- our comment, not Stahl's) appeared to have backed off from her strong pro-choice stance.

So let's recap, impeachment is off the table, basic rights are off the table, and, with the character assassination (from the left and 'left') of John Murtha (Pelosi's pick for House Majority Leader) "off the table" and War Hawk Steny Hoyer inserted to the post in January, you might want to rethink that whole "Dems will end the war!" excitement.

But fear not, the Dems in the House are rolling up their sleeves to address the really important issues, not petty power plays here, not at all. Jackie Kucinich (The Hill) reports that Henry Waxman has surveyed the scene and is now hard at work . . . ending the policy of smoking in the Speaker's Lobby.

Now smoking isn't mandatory. There's no rule that all who pass through, the relatively few who do, must shove a butt between their lips and light up. But those who wanted to, could. Though few American citizens -- you know, those average Joe and Joans the Dems are supposed to represent -- will ever be in the Speaker's Lobby, Waxman obviously knows it is one of the most pressing issues.

When contacted, Average Joan replied, "My chiefs concerns are probably the war and the cost of health care." Asked about smoking in Speaker's Lobby, Average Joan quickly replied, "Oh that! Yes, yes, by all means that should be the top priority. I know my diabetic child, myself, and indeed the entire country will benefit from addressing that. Thank you, Representative Waxman, suddenly my son's dialysis seems so much more manageable."

Speaking of Bully Boy and Dick Cheney, Pelosi told Stahl, "This election is about them. This is a referendum on them."

And clearly Americans turned out on election day to issue a referendum on smoking in the Speaker's Lobby as well. Next up for Waxman, installing breathalyzers on the House floor to make sure no Congress member has been sneaking nips between votes.


Noting our picks for posts and entries you shouldn't have missed last week.

"Guns and Butter (Ruth)" -- Ruth filling in for Kat write of when she learned JFK had been assassinated.

"Abeer (Betty filling in for Kat)" -- Betty filling in for Kat tackles the issue of the silence surrounding the murder of Abeer and her family, Abeer's rape and setting Abeer on fire.

"Back to posting" -- and Kat's back!

"Thanksgiving" -- Elaine explains a difficult moment this Thanksgiving.

"Reality in the Kitchen" -- Trina covers the difficult meaning and those who would stick their heads in the sands.

"A Crossdresser or Two" -- Betty's latest chapter, we weren't kidding you when we said you should be paying attention.

Wally's "JUDITH REGAN: BORN TRASH, DIE TRASH AND STINKING UP THE WORLD IN BETWEEN" and Cedric's "Trashmouth Judith Regan" take on the gutter that is Fox, Murdoch and Regan.

"Law and Disorder, Abeer, Third Estate Sunday Revie..." -- Mike turned in a term paper. (Mike, we're joking.) Seriously, he's covering a number of topics including the four-part series Law and Disorder has been doing. (Forth installment is scheduled to air Monday.)

"Ruth's Report" -- Ruth wonders who will cover Ehren Watada and Agustin Aguayo.

"Ruth's Report" -- Ruth files a second report to let you know that no one did.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'A Bully Thanksgiving'" -- We love this as a stand alone but we've seen today's comic and you should look at this one first.

"passports, robert altman, iraq" -- Rebecca addresses one crackdown on our freedoms.

"NYT: It looks just like Skinny & Sweet" -- four of our readers who are 9 to 5 fans e-mailed to say, "Pick this one by C.I.!"
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