Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Late Sunday when we're coming back for the note. It was a long, long edition.

Let's start by noting who participated in 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 of the above and we thank Dallas for helping with links and being a soundboard. We thank Rebecca for photo shopping our illustrations.

It was the weekend of a national call for support of war resisters and we were all participating in that. (Not just those of us on the West coast.) We hope you did something as well.

Let's get to new content.

So what's going on this edition? -- We had one feature that just was notes, we had one feature that needed rewriting, we had one feature that needed heavy editing (it's still a very long piece, it was much longer). We had Wally out on the West coast with us and we wanted his ass in bed because he was leaving today so we sent him packing at three with the promise to wake him back up. (Wally worked on all features except three.) We also created our own problems. In the first hours of the writing session, we had company who ended up raving over Ava & C.I.'s TV reviews and normally they say "Enough" and it's dropped. But the rest of us (Kat, Dona, Ty, Wally, Jess, Ava and me, Jim) were feeding into that. At the end of it, Ava and C.I. were wondering if they could write a thing this weekend? We forget that they never read their reviews after they're up. They had planned to knock out the review early. Instead, they avoided it and avoided it. So in the final hours of the edition, Dona and I went off to edit the long piece, Ava and C.I. went off to write the TV review and Mike, Kat Rebecca, Ty and Jess did this note to give a heads up.

Highlights -- Mike, Kat, Rebecca, Ty and Jess also selected highlights and posted this to get it up. We love their choices and we're so glad that they did this. We know the longest part of this is selecting the highlights. We think they made good choices. As soon as Beta mode for Blogger/Blogspot, we intend to return to e-mailing highlights to the site. There is no way to do them any other way. We used to attempt that. It took hours. When we copy and paste, every sentence, every paragraph, runs together and we end up having to respace the whole thing. That's time consuming. C.I. figured out that if we e-mailed we could do it more quickly. Even so, that's one hour of time. That's selecting the highlights, e-mailing and hoping that they hit the site (if not, we have to e-mail them repeatedly). Beta mode does not allow you to e-mail to a website. So for now, we're doing highlights this way. Our apologies to Kat (who helped us pick highlights last week) because we offered nothing from her site. That was an oversight on our part. Thanks again to Mike, Kat, Rebecca, Ty and Jess for getting two posted while everyone was wondering, "Are they on vacation?"

Bully Boy Jokes -- This had to go up third. And to get Wally to go to sleep, we'd told him we needed him fresh because we wanted to come up with our own joke. These are three blonde jokes that Rebecca enjoyed (a long list was e-mailed to her by a friend this week) and this was our "short feature" (as planned by Dona). It should have been up earlier but we were avoiding waking Wally to allow him to get as much sleep as possible. (Since we're scattered all over, Wally is usually EST time. When we say he went to sleep at three in the morning, we mean PST because he was out here on the West coast.) Wally, Jess, Dona and Jim came up with the original joke, Rebecca, Mike, Kat, Ty and Jess selected the blonde jokes to adapt and Ava and C.I. polished the original joke (which was much longer and wordier).

The end? -- the long piece. Everyone worked on this. It was huge. Dona says that two-thirds were cut by us (Dona and Jim). That sounds right. On the writing, we spent hours and hours on this. Ava and C.I. worked the phones for stories and almost all of those are included. Two were pulled. The first by someone who felt it would be obvious (identity) and didn't want the wrath of Baby Cries A Lot. The first called another person Ava and C.I. had spoken with for this feature and the second asked that we obscure a bit. We weren't sure we could so we offered to pull it. We were told to forget it and just include it. But because there was a concern, we (Dona and I) pulled it when we felt it still came off too obvious. (Three incidents are very obvious and the people passing those on don't give a damn. They are among those who were included. Though Ava and C.I. did call everyone back, after Dona and I edited this, and said, "Last chance." No one wanted anything pulled.) Is it the end of Air America Radio? We'll find out shortly. We avoided the weekend shows because (possibly due to not being promoted) they evolved on their own and are usually far stronger than anything you can find during the week. We skipped the issue of race. Betty suggested that because there have been only two African-Americans as co-hosts during the week (there's currently one), they've never had a Hispanic during the week as a host, go down the list. Why is that? Maybe because behind the scenes, it's primarly White and male? It is an issue but Betty suggested we note the absence of people of color and focus on the problems with what did make it to air. Cedric was in agreement on that and Ty proposed that if there was time, we go back and add more. The writing of this took forever. There was no more time. Why is this feature important? Well, books are being shopped. (Sh, no one's supposed to know.) The network may be out to go under. If it does the right-wing will be screaming, "The left isn't even big enough to support a radio network." How do they know? The left didn't get a network. It got a few programs, but the majority of what was offered was centrist crap. It didn't reflect the left. It reflected desired election outcomes for the Democratic Party. And it's not been a leader on Iraq. In fact, it's done more, as a network, to suppress the peace movement than anything else (and that is a topic of a book proposal). We also think it could pull through (Ava and C.I. said they didn't feel hyped on a call to one board member but they wondered if there was some self-delusion involved in the claim that it would pull through). If it does, people need to be demanding more. The left needs to quit settling. "We have to do this" is the biggest cop out in the world. You don't have to settle for entertainment. Let's see some life and spirit in independent media and less desire to be generic enough to appeal to the right. To take AAR, the right-wing has not listened in significant numbers and they never will. Stop trying to middle-of-the-road it and start getting ideas out there. If you don't, we have no use for you. You water down the left and damage it otherwise. Just like AAR has harmed the peace movement. (We love that book proposal and thank ___ for faxing it to us while we were writing this feature.)

Bully Boy amused by the Beltway Babies -- This was the piece we only had notes for. We had notes and we had the illustration. We felt it was our strongest illustration and there was no way we weren't writing a piece to go with it. All illustrations this edition were done by Kat, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, Wally, C.I. and me (Jim). It was a blast to have Wally with us for the weekend by the way. We wish he could have stayed longer and were sad to put him on a plane this evening.

Alice in Pressland -- This illustration was intended to go with a piece on Danny Schechter's Death of the Media. This is now the second week that got postponed. That was due to too many calls coming in from people saying they'd been approached about the 'rescue' of AAR and said no. The text was written for another feature. C.I. felt it could be adapted to fit the illustration or we could write the Schechter piece? We finished this edition (posting it all) after one p.m. Sunday (PST). Those of us who were on the West coast, woke up Saturday morning at six a.m. That's thirty-one hours and we had peace events to attend. We were exhausted. We went with revising something we'd already written. However, as Dona points out, though not noted in the feature, it does have to do with the Schechter piece we're writing. We are writing it. It will be next week. There's another feature we repeatedly had to postpone because other things came up. That one ended up being a popular editiorial when it went up after it had been repeatedly postponed so hopefully this will as well. (C.I. says, "More likely we'll have lost our energy.") We have discussed the book before. That's not what this is. Hopefully, you can see it next week. The book is a very brief one, but it's an important one.

Baby Cheney-Poe, the facts of life -- Every site received e-mails about the Mary Cheney pregnancy. Rebecca almost wrote about it but grabbed the trial (Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Patti Ackerman and Missy Comely Beattie) instead. The trial mattered. So we covered the pregnancy here.

Laura Flanders spoke with Yanar Mohammed and Carol... -- If you missed Saturday's show, you missed a lot.

Editorial: Peggy Kerry the War Moron -- The court case. Verdict is expected tomorrow morning. (Monday morning.) They're asking supporters to come to the court tomorrow.

TV: Stand Back, Standoff -- Ava and C.I. wrote this, they do the TV commentaries. How hard was it after the praise? (They really hate the praise.) Ava says do the fact that the sessions had gone on so long, that they didn't think anything was up at the site yet (some features were), they didn't have time to think about it and just plunged in. They both hadn't intended to include the opening (or the strands it picks up on later in the review) and just put that in to get started. When they finished their first and only draft, they were too tired to try to rework it and called the friend the questions were asked to, read it (the entire review) over the phone, and made sure it was okay to include. It was so it stayed.

And that's it for this week. We're finally done. Now we can rest. See you next week.

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

Editorial: Peggy Kerry the War Moron

The illustration is Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts which went up this morning. It's Cindy Sheehan, Peace Mom, being blocked from view by Peg Kerry -- a one time peace activist during Vietnam but now just part of the problem.

So here's the deal, in 2005, a petition was delivered to the UN Mission to the United Nations's Peg Kerry, who happens to be John Kerry's sister, by the way. No need for applause, it's her job. She was contacted ahead of time, told of the petition and, as a government employee, accepted a petition signed by the American people.

That was 2005.

In 2006, CODEPINK had collected signatures on another petition calling for the end of the war. As before, Peg Kerry was contacted ahead of time.

As before she agreed to do her job (accept the petition).

But then something happened, something that was too much for Bitter, Bitter, Bitter, Bitter Peggy Pooh.

See, once she emerged from her buidling, she saw that the group of women included Cindy Sheehan.

The Peace Mom.

And there were reporters too!

How many?

Pegs said "a gaggle of press"!

A gaggle! Yikes!

Doesn't everyone know that under Bully Boy's Executive Order "Natural Disasters We Ignore, Belly Lint We Explore and Damnation to Sunshine" that the US government will conduct no business in public where prying eyes might tip off the 'enemies' and 'terrorists' who are just waiting to see someone in the government accept a petition or cook some intell?

Apparently not!

And Pegs Kerry was no Peggy Bundy. She hopped to it, cell phone at the ready, calling in just about everyone but the Marines. (Maybe they were there as well and just thus far non-reported on?) Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Missy Comley Beattie and Rev. Patti Ackerman ended up being arrested. That was March 6, 2006. Last week, the four women went on trial.

The New York Times' covered the trial but seemed to miss all the important details. The above is sketched out in Samuel Maull's AP story. (Though we enjoy best the creative recreation Peace Mom.)

Pegs seems especially peeved that the "gaggle of press" was there because of Peace Mom. As opposed to being there for the sister of a US Senator? Ah Pegs, the plans you must have had to be the next Neil Bush or at least the next Billy Carter.

Bitter, bitter, bitter, bitter Peggy Pooh.

Now can someone explain how calling to say you're dropping off a petition, showing up to drop of said petition and then being refused and pounced upon by law enforcement is the women's fault?

Hey, NY tax payers, Peggy Kerry's wasting your tax money and tying up the court.

If she didn't want to accept the petition (though in a transperent administration, accepting the petition would be considered her job), she should have told them that when they called. But she was fine with it. She just wasn't fine with Peace Mom.

Maybe she's been rubbing shoulders with John Bolton?

Regardless, they are American citizens on American soil, the women have a right to deliver a petition. They'd even called ahead and been told it was fine.

But it only takes one nut job and Peg's appear to be the one. Samuel Maull reports:

Kerry replied loudly: "I said I was angry at the fact that Reverend Ackerman did not tell me in good faith who was going to be at the meeting and I thought that as a minister that was hardly the thing."

Apparently angry in court too. What's up with the mood swings and hostility?

Oh Bitter, Bitter, Bitter, Bitter Peggy Pooh, step off your high horse. You've got no cause to play injured party. You, in your official capacity, agreed to accept a petition. You broke your word. It was bad manners and it was bad government.

The women are facing charges for trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental business. Friday the testimony ceased and that jury was sent off to reach a verdict. If the jury can reach a verdict this weekend (and Pegs' road rage on the witness stand shouldn't make for too many lengthy deliberations), it will be announced Monday when the court reconvenes at 9:30 a.m.

Now there's a good chance that the jury could go another way. They could ignore the facts and realities and punish the innocent. (Maybe they want to play the 2000 Supreme Court?) Because that is a possiblity, if you're in the NYC area Monday morning, 100 Centre Street, the fourth floor, is where you want to be.

Medea Benjamin explained the events of March 6th as follows: "We were a peaceful group of women who simply wanted to give our petition to a representative of the US Mission headed by John Bolton, But in classic Bolton-style diplomacy, instead of taking our petition and thanking us for our efforts, the UN Mission called the police to arrest us. It’s outrageous."

TV: Stand Back, Standoff

"How much do you need the money?"

That was the question. Followed by, "Exactly what won't you do for money?"

Standoff airs Tuesdays on Fox. We're supposed to add "for now" but despite the talk of pulling the show shortly, they've got nothing to replace it with other than wall to wall American Idol. Translation, although viewers blinked, snoozed and ran, expect the Standoff to continue for a bit longer.

How much longer? A full season is what a friend working on the show's hoping for. A full season and then on to other things. That's what he told us when we asked the questions.

The whole thing reminds us of another friend, who did a pilot in the eighties to meet some bills, thinking the show was so hideous there would be no pick up. The thing made it to air. Not only that, it got some good reviews. She ended up stuck with a show she hated and she couldn't stop bad mouthing it in public. It didn't last a full season but she didn't need it to.

We kept waiting to hear a similar story from our Standoff friend, that the whole thing was never supposed to make it to air. According to him, the problem is just that you can't blend certain elements. Romantic comedy and hostages seemed like a winning idea (to someone) but it didn't play out that way.

Possibly because there's no romantic comedy?

Hart to Hart was escapist fair. No one would call it a romantic comedy. Successful romantic comedies in the last two or so decades, on TV, have built around the will-they-or-won't-they bit. Will Maddie and David sleep together? Will Sam and Diane sleep together? Will Fraiser and Niles sleep together?

Okay, maybe not that last one.

But a romantic comedy needs hurdles. Instead of providing hurdles, Standoff treats the still not developed character Emily, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, as one. She's the hurdle Matt, played by Ron Livingston, leaps pretty much every episode. There's no suspense of will-they-or-won't-they because, in the show's first episode, it's announced they're lovers.

Now you could work with that and fall back on a sex comedy or a battle of the sexes comedy, but you really can't shape a romantic comedy that way. That those developing the show couldn't grasp that explains a great deal of why Standoff is unwatchable.

It wasn't created, it was assembled. With a check list. Crime? Check. Low comedy? Check. Loose cannon? Check. Glowering African-American woman? Check. Right there they had covered the franschise shows, the action shows and the reality shows. Someone decided romance would help them with viewers.

Probably the same someone who thought Matt being dubbed the "jack hammer" would have all the Grey's Anatomy gals tuning in. Those are the elements, we'll get to the scripts in a minute.

First, let's talk acting.

Whether you want to pin it on Brando, Kazan, Tennessee Williams or a spurt of life in Broadway, a new era in acting was ushered in following A Streetcar Named Desire. A decade later Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Al Pacino and others would usher in another era. With vehicles masking as films for some time now, there's really not been a new 'new era.'

If things are standing still for film, it's worse for television -- never have so many given so little.

Already people are wondering how the nominations (lead and supporting) will manage to field a full slate next fall when it's time to hand out Emmys?

We blame it on the franchise shows. Those paint-by-number scripts don't require acting and to try to act in any of those usually leads to embarrassment. The quick cuts and music, the gore and the moralizing are supposed to provide the entertainment and the blank cyphers stand around reciting their lines.

What could be worse than a cast made up of performers who ignored their craft in the work factories of Dick Wolf and Jerry Bruckheimer? How about tossing in one who emerged from Joss Whedon's?

Watching these rejects trying to act may provide you with a few moments of laughter. Someone tell "Jasmine" she's a long, long way from Angel. Gina Torres barks out a lot of orders like Omarosa and, after awhile, you start to wonder if she grasps that America tuned in to The Apprentice to hate Omarosa? The role of Cheryl, as it is barely written, really shouldn't make the viewers seethe anger.

The biggest embarrassment is DeWitt because Emily is a lead character. Her past work hasn't prepared her for a one-shot, let alone a lead. As if to help you grasp how limited DeWitt is as an actress, Tuesday's episode was followed by House with Sela Ward guesting.

Sela Ward? Oh, yes, an actress. An actress who can handle romantic comedy. Ward can also handle a brush and the hair department is strongly encouraged to take one to the heads of all the females on this show -- regulars and guest stars.

DeWitt comes off like Oscar from The Odd Couple in clothes and appearance which makes the scene where Emily explains to Matt that "girls talk" all the more laughable. If you're going to try to girly-girl it, you probably shouldn't butch up every other minute to the point that audiences wonder if Emily and Matt bonded over a farting contest?

There's no explanation for them as a couple. They have nothing in common, the actors have no chemistry and, from all the talk (but oh so little shown) the sex isn't all that. Maybe their affair was part of the job description?

Standoff is about an FBI team in the Crisis Negotiation Unit -- or CNU: Dullsville. Emily and Matt are hostage negotiators who rarely find themselves in a crisis that bad banter can't worsen.

Like Emily, Matt appears to believe rumpled is the new high fashion. Any acting Livingston might provide (he can act, even on this show) is undercut by a ridiculous haircut. Some obsess over how someone as talented as Livingston never found the breakout role. Us, we can't believe his Hall of Bad Hairstyles didn't land him on daytime TV. When you have that jaw, you stay the hell away from hairdos that make you look like a Ken doll. It's as though he's attempting to be the new Wallace Kurth and if you just asked "Who?" -- we respond "Exactly."

While wondering that, you might want wonder about the writing as well. On Tuesday's episode, the FBI team goes out to a hostage situation after they're called and . . . Oh wait, it didn't happen like that at all.

There was no call for help. No, the FBI found out that a bankful of hostages were being held by illegally monitoring phone calls. They overhear a woman being given a demand. They rush to the woman and question her then dismiss her. Dismiss her may be too nice to describe how they treat her. She's providing them with answers and observations and, in fact, tells them that she used to work at the branch, know the layout, knows the employees and they tell her they'll call her if they need her.

Turns out they quickly do. Instead of calling her, they send out several cars to block her on the street. These aren't cop cars so there are no sirens, just big SUVs trying to run her off the road for all she knows.

If any of the above offends you, or the fact that she leaves her car in what will be the middle of the street once the SUVs pull away, this was actually one of the better episodes, this is the one our friend praised. He brought over tapes of other episodes.

In one, a man is holding hostages and talking to a shock jock on air. Omarosa, er Cheryl, wants the broadcast ended. Wants it ended right away. They scheme, the Feds, and plot for ways to take the station off the air, for ways to cut the call, and for ways, if they cut the call, to prevent the hostage taker from getting through to the station if he attempts to call back.

As with the illegal eavesdropping on phone calls, some of the above might bother anyone with even a slight grasp of what we believe is still supposed to be the First Amendment.

As if trashing that isn't bad enough, next week they head off to Mexico where, as Matt puts it, their "stinking badges" don't mean a thing -- no jurisdiction. But that doesn't mean you won't get plenty of gun fire, folks. It's as though they're channeling the James Baker Circle Jerk and Thomas Friedman.

If the whole ugly thing reminds you of anything, it's probably the thankfully cancelled Threshold.

After you start picking up on a detail here and one there, you wonder if this may actually be worse than Threshold (which had a police officer keeping a suspect -- never booked -- hostage in a 'cargo pod' for days and days) and begin to question why they didn't just call the show Badges Knows Best?

That's what it plays like. There's not a law that can't be broken, there's not a person up to their moral fortitude (not even the Christian woman who actually is more on the ball than anyone on the team). "Stinking badges" is exactly right, they give off a strong odor in this show.

All the more so because the audience is supposed to be amused, supposed to root for these bullies.

With less fawning or a different point of view (the show told through the victims' eyes?), the whole thing would be hard to sugar coat. The fact that there's no attempt made shows you how far down the toilet TV has gone.

We were provided four episodes on tape. We watched two. Yeah, we blinked.

We wonder if, anytime soon, people will start rebelling and refusing to work on shows like this?

Yeah, everyone needs to put food on the table. But at some point, shouldn't people be asking themselves about the morality of doing these debasing shows? Oh wait, if they asked that, 'reality' TV would die in an instant.

So we're stuck in the gutter. And what's even worse, we're stuck with performers coming up the pipeline who did guests shots in the gutter and are now being elevated to regulars and leads.

We'll repeat the question (which was only answered with a laugh), "Exactly what won't you do for money?"

You can't win a standoff with Standoff. But you can, as audiences have, retreat and, though Bully Boy can't grasp it, sometimes that's the smartest thing to do.

The end?

It's guys like him who's the reason this network won't survive, if he has this attitude. You know, what he said to The Times. You know 'We can't go to far. We got to play it safe.' You know, playing it safe was what got us into this mess.
-- Michael Moore, Left of the Dial

On the first half-day the radio network Air America Radio began broadcasting, Michael Moore made the above observation. Mark Walsh is the person Moore was referring to. Walsh was a co-founder and the original CEO of Air America Radio. Here's the section of the piece from The Times Moore was speaking of:

He [Mark Walsh] draws a bell curve on a marker board, then makes lines dividing his curve into sections. The sections on the far left and far right are almost flat, but as you approach the middle, both sides grow. He draws an oval around the swollen area to the left of center. ''I think Al and voices like Al's really blend in here,'' he said. ''I think Michael Moore, for example, is a very talented writer and performer, but a lot of what he says starts to go out on the curve -- much like Michael Savage, who is pretty far out on the other side. Everybody is fighting over a very skinny slice of the independents, because those are the people who are persuadable.''
The chart is Walsh's way of characterizing the electorate/radio audience. Air America, he said, intends to tilt leftward, but not too far.

Air America Radio is not the left. (It's still "is" as we write.) And it never was set up to be. There are and have been left voices, as hosts and guests, on the network but the plan was never to provide a left radio network.

What was the big plan? Honestly? To elect the Democratic candidate president. It was never about issues, it was never about listeners, it was never some laughable notion of 'family,' it was always about election results. If that's not clear to anyone, watch Left of the Dial. In their first financial crisis, which began two weeks after they went on air, at a time when people are not being paid, when they have no insurance, when workers need to buy food and their rents are -- workers with bounced checks -- what's an executive whining about? "It's too bad, I hate to give this ground in an election year."

Yeah, that is too bad. People aren't getting paid, it's 2004 and that 2004 election is the be all end all, right?

The failure of the network has been, from the beginning, the lack of long range vision. It's why the commerical networks has had nonstop financial problems from the beginning and it's why, if they cease to exist, it's not great loss. They've built nothing, they've left nothing. There is no impact.

Does that seem overly harsh?

In today's Washington Post, Marc Fischer quotes WTNT's operations manager Bill Hess explaining why The Randi Rhodes Show will not be carried live, "She's got unbridled passion, which is good, but my ears are going to bleed after 15 minutes. Man, how about a laugh now and then?"

Now if you've ever listened to Rhodes, you know there are jokes mixed in. If you're like us, you think they're funny jokes and you know she provides an informed and entertaining program. But what you need to ask yourself is why, three months shy of its third year anniversary in March, Rhodes can be dismissed as loud ("ears are going to bleed" is saying "loud" and much more).

There's a reason for that, she's a woman. Women have not gained ground in radio for some time. Green Stone Media is attempting to address that. But with almost three years of airtime to show for it, a really liberal or even slightly liberal radio network would have attempted to address that.

Air America Radio? In the beginning, Sue Ellicott was on Morning Sedition, Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow were on Unfiltered, Katherine Lanpher co-hosted Baby Cries A Lot's show, Rhodes hosted The Randi Rhodes Show, and Janeane Garofalo carried Sam Seder's annoying ass on The Majority Report. By summer of 2004, The Mike Malloy Show would follow The Majority Report rounding out it's new content for the day.

Of those original weekday shows, Rhodes is the only woman who's still there. First to go was Sue Ellicott with a laughable excuse given as the show became the two Mark/cs. Then came the moment that should have alarmed everyone, when Lizz Winstead was vanished as the network approached the one year mark.

Winstead wasn't just 'on air' talent, though, due to the lawsuit, the party line these days is that's all she was. Winstead was behind the scenes talent as well, shaping the shows and the format. Rhodes was already a radio success story. As a woman she was an underreported radio succes, but she was a success. Rhodes brought her show, that she developed, to the network. The other shows? Winstead was the one arguing that it needed to be a conversation, that you couldn't just have someone talking into the mike (especially since very few on airs had any radio experience) and pushed the concept of teams.

Winstead saw the network as offering comedy, something she knows a great deal about having co-created The Daily Show for Comedy Central. Winstead's vanishing was the first public indication of serious problems with the network.

There are several threads running through the tale of the disappearence of Winstead. The most serious issue was the network allowing itself to be co-opted. That's what happened and anyone who tells you differently is kidding themselves. At least one investor believes that Clear Channel was a "trojan horse." Clear Channel, a right-wing, Bully Boy loving, freedom hating, no-free-speech zone began picking up programming and carrying it over their stations.

If you're asking why a 'liberal' network would get mixed up with Clear Channel to beging with, you haven't paid attention. In markets where the programming was airing pre-Clear Channel, the shows, all of them, were gaining audiences. Once Clear Channel began involved noises begin made. Unfiltered, with two women hosts and Chuck D rounding out the trio, was the "take down." Mumbles and grumbles. It was a 'little too left,' it was 'a little too soft,' 'it was a little too female.'

Which was why the network opted for 'star power' and began talks with Jerry Springer, talks of TV's trash merchant filling the spot that Unfiltered currently occupied. This wasn't discussed with the Unfiltered team and when Winstead found out, when they all found out, she was outraged. She should have been and we'll leave it at that due to the lawsuit.

What happens next is that Winstead is off the show. The show was still on, it would continue airing through March (the April Fool's prank AAR played on listners was debuting Springer on the Radio). But where was Lizz Winstead?

On air, Rachel Maddow originally said Lizz was out because she was sick. When one day became two became three, that lie wasn't flying. The lies continued. Rachel Maddow got very angry on air when the program's message board posters insisted to know where Lizz was. A caller slipped the question in on air and Maddow didn't want to talk about it. Chuck D wasn't there to hide behind and what you saw was a host lie and then evade listeners, day after day.

There was no "family." Not among the people working for the network, as Winstead's appearance made perfectly clear, and there was no "family" between the listener and the host as Maddow's evasions made perfectly clear.

During this period, people (not listeners) took to posting on the program's blog that Lizz Winstead was seriously ill. Readers of the show's blog were told they need to shut up about Winstead, that Winstead's health hung by the thread and that this wasn't helping her because she just wanted to be left alone.

No one bought Winstead as Garbo. It made Maddow a liar to listeners, someone as clumsy with the truth as Donald Rumsfeld. When it was finally decided that the listeners could know a tiny bit of the truth, that the show was being cancelled, listeners were also encouraged, by Maddow's father (who thought she was doing a great job) to bombard Air America Radio with e-mails so that Maddow would have a post-Unfiltered career with AAR.

On March 31st, the supposedly seriously ill, at death's door Winstead was on the show (as a call in) and, as anyone with a brain grasped, they'd been lied to. They'd been suckered. They'd been fooled. It's one of the lowest points in the network's history and even a court of law may not be able to untangle all that went down.

As Winstead vanished so did the thoughts of comedy. (Springer's not a comedian.) And the network was on a new direction (and Danny Goldberg was now at the helm of the network) where they'd be more 'newsy'.

Randi Rhodes does do comedy bits in her show, she always has. She does tell jokes. But, if you missed it, the problem now is that the network's just not funny enough.

So, yet again, it tries to do a personality transplant.

In the meantime, Baby Cries A Lot has lost his female co-host (but take heart, he brags that a woman brings in coffee and doughnuts on Mondays, just like a good little secretary of old). Mike Malloy was going to be back for another year, it was announced, and then it was announced he was gone. Janeane Garofalo's show became Sam Seder's show (while she was doing The West Wing) and began tanking in the ratings. Rachel Maddow did a "news" show with comedic bits that was buried in the early morning hours that no one heard (due to time, due to host) and now she bores listeners for two hours each night while Seder (talk about "ears going to bleed") sends them running from nine to noon each weekday.

On the weekdays you have Randi Rhodes and that's pretty much it. Randi Rhodes and a bunch of second bananas who got elevated to unearned star status. Should the network find a last minute cash infusion (some people are very stupid with their money though ones we spoke to who had turned the network down said there "no"s are "hard nos"), who knows what will be on air in six months? Radio is not the fall TV season, something that no one seems to have ever grasped.

Unfiltered wasn't tanking. It was doing well where it was aired. Clear Channel enjoyed another show and broadcast it instead of Unfiltered. AAR could have stood by the show but didn't. Their 'answer' was to go running to a trash TV male (whose show didn't garner ratings) and erase women from the lineup.

You can't do that with radio, you can't repeatedly muck up the schedule. It's not TV and the relationship between listener and program is very different from the relationship between viewer and TV program.

But they never understood radio. They still don't. They thought they were going to sweep the nation and do it immediately via radio stations carrying their programs. They never grasped how difficult it was to build a nation wide audience or grasped that they could have built a very successful model around online streaming.

Though it's largely forgotten now, Air America Radio set records for online streaming. In the early days, you could hear it live with Windows Media Player or Real Player. They had to muck that up too.

Their first attempt there was to reduce the amount of hours a listener could listen to. Now, in talk radio, getting people to listen for more than 15 minutes is a goal everyone shoots for. So the decision to limit the stream to three hours was a huge a mistake. That got dropped shortly after it began. But not before the damage was done.

Their next great idea (that is sarcasm) was to prevent Air America Place from archiving their shows. If you're new, you need all the help you can get. If someone might stumble onto a show because they can hear a past episode and be interested in hearing a new one, you don't muck that up. If someone can play an episode for a friend and possibly garner you a new listener who will listen to the live programs, you go with it.

More importantly, as the Napster nightmare can tell you, you don't screw with the new technology and techies without a backlash. But they did screw with it and Air America Place was no longer able to archive shows and then it was instructed to take down all the archives they did have up.


The commercial network was now going to be "listener supported" as well. The two don't mix. Not even NPR airs official commercials and also expects listeners to donate. We'll do this blind item style but it was really tacky the way someone was used to bring in name acts (including bands) and was then stabbed in the back by the network.

But if you donated money, you could watch and listen. You could hear old shows. You could see video feeds when a name band was on the show.

Now if any of that seems beside the point, it's because it was. It was a desperation measure and it looked desperate and it smelled desperate and that was when AAR shot itself in the foot with many would-be investors.

But they weren't done mucking up the online stream. As we noted last week, we got e-mails on Saturday from readers complaining that they couldn't listen to Laura Flanders. "Please tune back later." Over and over. This week, an e-mail confused the hell out of us. So we e-mailed back asking if we could call and figure out what was going on?

In the original days of streaming, when you could choose between Windows Media Player and Real Player, the player popped up. Now days the player is part of the AAR webpage. Now days, who knows what they're to sell, it's causing problems. No surprise.

The reader who'd e-mailed explained the problem over the phone. (We are not the Air America Radio Support team. We do enjoy Flanders' show and encourage people to listen to it.) She held the phone up to her computer speakers and she was caught in a loop. The same phrase was repeated over and over. She told us she could make it go away.

This was by clicking on "Security Alert" (either yes or no to the alert) or by closing that "Security Alert" window. The alert reads something like: "You are about to leave a secure connection." She wasn't leaving anything.

She was on the AAR page, to listen to Flanders, and missing most of the show. It's a three hour show and she doesn't sit in front of her computer during it. She turns up the speakers and takes care of things "like cleaning the bathroom while I listen." The first time it happened, she let it go on for a few minutes. It was a commercial and she figured it was a broadcast error and not the stream. But as she realized that Carolyn Ho (mother of Ehren Watada) should be speaking by now, she put down her sponge and went to her computer. She had the "Security Alert."

She got rid of it, went back to the bathroom to finish cleaning. Every two-and-a- half minutes that alert popped up (and every time it did, the stream went into a loop). She stated, "I love this show but I am not going to sit in front of my computer for three hours to click off a Security Alert every two-and-a-half minutes." We gave her a radio station website she could go to and hear the show away from the main AAR site and she had no other problems. Actually, she had bit of praise for the station and we'll get back to that in a minute.

Now they could have created an online model in this new century. They didn't want that. They wanted to be big-and-nation-wide. And there's actually a problem with that for the left as well though we're all supposed to hold our noses and pretend like it's not there.

What's the biggest beef with Clear Channel that doesn't revolve around politics? Canned programming, no on air talent, just broadcasting canned programming. That was actually a safety issue for the town of Minot in North Dakota. As Bill Moyer's NOW reported, a train deraliment led to a toxic hazard that citizens needed to be warned about but six of the seven commercial radio stations couldn't be reached because they aired canned programming so people of the town listening to those stations had no idea that an emergency situation was taking place.

The AAR network never wanted to grow naturally and apparently didn't give a damn about the need for local programming. Some detected, after the relationship between AAR and Clear Channel began, the same reluctance as NPR to address big oil and other issues due to their own financial relationships.

Well it was never really about serving listeners, just about elections.

Serving listeners doesn't allow for on air hosts to simply disappear with some mumbled, weak ass explanation. When Mike Malloy was dropped, the same pattern of denial and evasion surfaced again. (Possibly a reflection of the network's business model?)

The non-stop focus (electing candidates) has allowed stations airing the programs to begin substituting non-AAR programs that are even less left than many on AAR. (No, Matthew Rothschild, she's not talented.)

Early on, it should have been obvious how some didn't give a damn about whether or not listeners were being served. In fact, that very issue was aired publicly on The Majority Report early on. In an infamous show, the artist Peaches was on in a long interview that bombed. It bombed so bad the show's blog was saying to end the interview. It bombed so bad that "Peaches" would become Janeane Garofalo's sign off while/when she was on the show.

Listeners to the live program discovered the interview wasn't live when Garofalo put a halt to it.
Noting that the interview was taped ahead of time and that it wasn't working, Garofalo said they'd do something else. "No," replied Seder, we'll air the interview. A back and forth ensued and since Seder was not then the toast of the social climbing set, Garofalo and listeners won out.
But that's the issue. That's always been the issue.

Are listeners going to be served or not?

Sam Seder's attitude was the interview was taped, it was airing. Didn't matter how bad it was. (It was hideous say three participating who heard it.) You have to no respect for listeners to put them through an interview that's bombing, a taped interview, that you can easily pull.

Garofalo's no longer with the network, Seder still is. That tells you what 'model' is followed.

What went down on The Majority Report, over the history of the show, also tells the story of Air America Radio. In the early days and the high ratings days, Garofalo would have conversations with guests. Guests from the left, who might be women, might be people of color, might or might not be Democrats. And the second banana knew his place though he chafed in it (and frequently got off little barbs).

When Garofalo took her first vacation, there was an effort to pair Seder with guest hosts which included women (such as Naomi Klein for one broadcast -- Seder argued and interrupted a lot). That quickly went out the window. When Garofalo was on leave (not intended as such), Seder had the whole show to himself and you could listen in vain waiting for a woman.

He'd always been rude and dismissive on air to Garofalo before she started working on The West Wing. He would only become more so as the show went on.
Who the hell is Sam Seder? Someone who couldn't even get a call back for a sitcom. Someone who wrote a bad book that you can find at any store that stocks unsold remainders.

But he and his cheerleaders somehow convinced the network that he had an audience (he didn't then, he doesn't now). And suddenly, his chauvinism wasn't one line every half-hour, it was on display repeatedly. When Janeane Garofalo returned to hosting duties the self-dramatizing Seder had to take a long vacation (for which listeners across the country say "Thank you!"). When he returned an event took place on air that never should have. But so stoked was he by his new set (which can't elect candidates and couldn't make him a star) that he felt it was time to prove who the 'man' was. The on air bickering had long ago lost any playful quality but he'd never been so rude to Garofalo on air before. He stormed out of the studio on air (the sort of thing that at a real commercial network gets your ass fired) and that was really it for the show.

His social climbing was evident during the 2004 DNC convention when he all but begged his way onto Sean Hannity's TV program. (He wasn't invited, though he never seems to have grasped that fact. Hannity blew him off, on air on AAR, and was only interested in Janeane Garofalo. Garofalo didn't even want to do the program but ended up doing it because Seder whined and whined. It was an echo of their interview with Ed Koch who also treated Seder like the nobody he was and is.)

A little nobody gets his ego pumped up by would-be-players? That's also the story of Air America Radio.

The best current grapevine news is that Baby Cries A Lot may be out. The Senate run's the conventional wisdom, alternative speculation is that, were that the case, an exit would have been announced and the reality is he's hoping to go with the challenger to AAR (from the center) but all the details haven't been worked out yet and the big announcement comes after he returns to the country.

But they can't announce his departure (if he is leaving) even if they wanted to. Why?

They made him the face of the network.

They put him out there on billboards, put him out to the press, and he wasn't about to share the limelight. The little nobody who spent the seventies sending Saturday Night Live viewers running from their television sets was now a somebody. A media created somebody, but still.

And blame your left press for that crap. Blame The Progressive and The Nation for doing cover stories on him. (He's not that left, he confessed, in his Progressive cover story -- a shocker only for the willfully stupid or the brain dead.) It was all about Baby Cries A Lot. And The Nation managed to slam Garofalo, who was actually a reader of the magazine long before AAR and a supporter of it, in their piece that fawned over Franklin (they reduced her entire contributions to one joke she'd made on air -- not even a joke, they didn't tell the joke, they just repeated a few words in a tsk-tsk manner). That the center would focus on a man was hardly surprising, that the left's own media would do the same was appalling -- all the more so when you consider that to build up Baby Cries A Lot a lot of women had to be torn down and that, by his own self-disclosure, he's not that left.

Women were torn down and/or ignored. Such as Randi Rhodes who, let's repeat, had radio experience, had a successful radio program, before AAR was even in the early planning stages. Think how idiotic you have to be to make Baby Cries A Lot your public face before your network airs a single program when he's got no radio background and he may or may not be able to perform. That was a concern about all the weekday programs. All but one, The Randi Rhodes Show.

But Rhodes was rarely mentioned in publicity for the network, didn't get billboards, didn't get much of anything. In the end, it doesn't really matter. While the network's fate hangs by a thread, she's one of two who doesn't have to worry. The Randi Rhodes Show will continue regardless of what happens to Air America Radio.

Having pushed aside all women from their daytime lineup, only Rhodes remains and when some operations manager now wants to whine about Rhodes not telling jokes while he replaces her with a centrist moron (male, is that redundant?), let's not kid that it's not sexism and let's not pretend that AAR has made any impact on radio.

In terms of weekday lineup, Randi Rhodes is it. She's the only radio star they have. (That's true whether Baby Cries A Lot stays or goes.) After Flanders finished her show Saturday night, we checked back with the reader who'd had the "Security Alert" problems. The first thing she wanted to tell us was that it was such a relief (listening online to a station broadcasting AAR for a few weeks more) not to have to hear Baby Cries A Lot.

That's because the program manager of that station (and he's not alone) operates out of a station that 'loses' Baby Cries A Lot plugs. More than anything else, Baby Cries A Lot has harmed the network. He's done it by eating up promotion time that could have gone to others. (Since it didn't, should they manage six more months, if he leaves, many investors will see it as the end.) He's run off listeners with his I'm-not-really-left program which always has room at the mikes for an AEI drone but can't book females on the left as guests. That was obvious in the show's first three days when fourteen guests were paraded and only two were women (one of the two played a character, the other was Hillary Clinton -- insert joke here). (Only one was African-American but AAR's record with regards to race is so awful that to tackle that would make for an even longer article.) (Oh, but that wasn't a full week! It was full enough to offer up 14 guests. For the record, the third week had fourteen guests as well -- only four were women -- but there was time to bring on Neal Boortz because the implied sign at the door only said "NO WOMEN ALLOWED," it said nothing about right-wingers.)

So the program manager (a friend of C.I.'s) regularly makes sure that Baby Cries A Lot's plugs don't get airtime because "he runs off listeners, we get complaints, he's just too much trouble."
B-b-but, he's the network's star -- he's the media created star.

For listeners? Baby Cries A Lot cries on air that US troops can't be withdrawn. Not because the Bully Boy won't withdraw them but because Baby Cries A Lot thinks troops shouldn't be withdrawn. He cries on air about this and that. It plays out like his embarrassing moment with Bill O'Reilly that non-thinkers applauded as "brave."

He really showed O'Reilly! That's what we're all supposed to state from the script, right?

Only he didn't. He was on the verge of tears and looked close to a mental breakdown. Don't worry, he's not. According to those who have observed him over the years, the tears are just a ploy when he's losing on a point. That's why he trots out the tears when the reality that US troops must leave Iraq comes up.

It also needs to be noted that when the mainstream media went into hagiography mode on Ronald Reagan, Baby Cries A Lot was there to lead the way (thankfully, no on air hosts followed his lead) at Air America Radio. In fact, Greg Palast found himself hustled off air for daring to inject the realities of Reagan presidency into a discussion.

Which was a lot like when Jeremy Glick was a guest. Glick's father died on 9-11. In an 'interview' with Bill O'Reilly, O'Reilly tried to shout him down and then insisted on his trademark "Shut up!" repeatedly to prevent Glick from making a point.

Early on, Baby Cries A Lot booked Glick and couldn't stop back patting himself on air about how Glick could talk on his show. Only Glick couldn't. He could talk about O'Reilly. Baby Cries A Lot wanted that but when Glick attempted to discuss the very real issue of blowback being responsible for 9-11 (Mid East policies), Glick was cut off and the subject changed. Can't allow criticisms of US policies to air when you're really not left.

O'Reilly was flat out rude to Glick but we think the rudeness was more honest. Anyone watching could tell what was going on. With Baby Cries A Lot, Glick got silenced more covertly.

There was the time, on air, where Baby Cries A Lot wanted to make sex jokes to an elderly African-American woman (whose mother was probably raped) but that probably doesn't make any highlight real. Probably others have the sense he doesn't and won't include the 'jokes' about her (White) father nailing her mother in the garden (her mother was a maid). (Rape? The deep south, pre-Civil Rights era, the woman was a maid. If you really think she was thinking, "I love the young lord of the manor!" you're delusional.)

There was the time an entertainer smiled through gritted teeth while Baby Cries A Lot insulted entertainers who are political -- did this on air. ("Know your place!" is how the entertainer remembers that on air spiel.) (And now the network wants people in the entertainment industry to consider bailing them out? They're lucky they have any guests from the entertainment world at all after the backstabbing following the move to get listeners to pay for extras.) (And another point, one musical guest made was, "I didn't know I was doing a fundraiser.")

When the network was in clamp down mode on Iraq a piece ran at CounterPunch. It offended Laura Flanders, who is anti-war, because it seemed to say that everyone was pro-Iraq war. Flanders isn't but she's on weekends and the article was addressing the weekday shows. But to be clear, if Flanders wasn't wanting the troops brought home, we wouldn't give shout outs to her show here. Randi Rhodes? Rhodes is to the left of Franken. "Which isn't saying much!"

Joke made. Rhodes wasn't calling for withdrawal then. She has since and has consistently addressed it. While she can, and has been doing it for some time on air, we know it's over a year-and-a-half and we'd guess it's longer than that, Baby Cries A Lot has stuck the establishment script. It was annoying in 2004. It's appalling today.

And that's who the network elected to build their network around, to make the public face. He couldn't shut up about troops staying, that they had to stay. Rachel Maddow made the same argument (though we're aware that irks her when it is brought up, too bad). The writer of the article noted Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder. We're not sure how Garofalo ever got lumped into that group. [Two of us heard that on air call in that was included in the article. Possibly it had to do with her being so frequently cut off (even in the early days) by Seder (because, after all, if a woman's speaking, no one can follow -- right? -- that was saracsm).] But her stance long before AAR was the US troops needed to leave. Early on that appeared to be Seder's stance, early on in the program, then he started waffling. When the caller called in Seder was ballistic. Too damn bad. Seder, Maddow and Baby Cries A Lot were not calling for the troops to be brought home.

(We believe the article says that Maddow was. That's not true. Maddow had used the false Pottery Barn analogy before the article appeared -- "You break it, you bought it" -- and would continue to do so after the article appeared -- during the last month of Unfiltered, she was still prone to making that argument on air -- while worshipping the likes of Mommy's Pantyhose.)

By putting all their weight behind Baby Cries A Lot, AAR made that the unofficial position of the network as well. The refusual of left publications (other than CounterPunch) to address that reality doesn't bode well for them. But with or without it being pointed out, listeners caught on.
And he's remained the biggest image problem for a network that's wanted to present itself as "liberal talk radio" and radio 'for the left' when the reality is they were never aiming for more than slightly left.

If the network announces it's going under in the next few days, don't write it up as a failure of the left. The left didn't get a commercial radio network. Not in terms of topics, not in terms of guests, not in terms of hosts. Some hosts and some guests could be labeled left.

Many couldn't be. AEI 'scholars' aren't left and no left network would toss them softballs and give them time to self-promote and demonstrate how 'likeable' they were. No left network would have aired a weekly segment entitled "Ask A Vet" that only presented the voices of veterans in favor of continuing the illegal war. No left network would present "Ask A Vet" as a weekly segment without also offering an "Ask An Activist" segment. No left network would feel the need to follow an interview with Tariq Ali by issuing a disclaimer on the views he expressed.

If it fails, it fails in the same climate it was supposed to provide an alternative to -- where "from the left" is a joke as centrists play 'left' to an audience. The sad thing is that beyond the face of the network, a lot of people have done and are doing strong work. But when you make the face of 'left' radio someone who's not left and publicly brags that he's not that left, you end up bearing the fallout.

They could have had a face to offer the left and instead they went with a dart board.

Randi Rhodes will go on and Laura Flanders will as well, regardless of what happens to the network. But as it again teeters let's hope that the point is made: it was not a left network. Let's also hope that we've all learned a little from it whatever happens.

Chief point that should be learned is that we don't stomach that crap again. Left magazines should never have played follow big media by making Baby Cries A Lot a cover. (The Nation article was about the network's weekday programs -- it could have gone with a group shot or highlighted someone who truly was left. But, if you haven't noticed, White male tends to be a repeated theme of The Nation covers. Don't get us started on the other issue we're tracking -- the lack of female writers.)

Don't stomach it tomorrow, don't stomach it today.

When many listeners still cared about the network, you'd often come across a brief debate at one of the show's blogs. The topic would be an issue. We'll use the war because it was the most frequently cited and the nation is at war. It would usually note the ones who were for troops staying and the ones who weren't, it might offer up opinions on the b.s. of the "Pottery Barn" defense. Then it would move towards addressing a real issue, the refusal to call the war out by many at AAR. At which point, when the elephant in the room had been pointed out and named, someone would immediately blog, "Guys, it's the best that we have. Don't criticize it."

You know what? Americans have been settling for too damn long. A little bit before, it was "Bill Press may not be left but he's the best we have!" Or any of his faux left ilk. Now if all the Nervous Nells weren't always shutting down the topic, we might be able to actually address the issue of "settle."

Why in the world do you have to settle for a radio station? Or a magazine, or anything else. How little have you been conditioned to think of yourself that you're going to go out of your way to listen or pay for something that you know is a "settle." It's not reflecting you, it's not reflecting your opinions (or the opinions of many) but we have to "settle" for it?

If the issue had been explored, at any blog, instead of being immediately shut down, maybe Air America Radio wouldn't once again find itself waiting to see if the plug was about to be pulled.

In earlier times, various movements have demanded representation. These days, we're supposed to roll over and settle?

No, nothing is perfect but to note that is one thing. To urge people to 'settle' for things that don't even attempt to address the issues, concerns and opinions of the left is insane. No wonder a third party has yet to emerge as a significant challenge, when we even "settle" on our listening and reading choices.

The issue of "settle" is addressed by Michael Moore's quote in the opening. Things won't get better for the left by pretending to be something they're not or by settling for faux left posers. For those who are genuinely left (in any degree other than 'slightly'), they need to know that 'settle' isn't an option. Maybe they aren't aware of some are failing to address? If so, then drawing attention to it would be doing them a favor. Maybe they just don't care? If so, then knowledge of that would inform a great many.

The history of AAR thus far has played out as many thought it would. In Left of the Dial, an AAR exec whines, "It's taken them 22 years to get to where we are now." Them is the Republicans. Who is "we"?

We're not seeing much "we" these days. We're seeing lectures, we're seeing puffery, we're seeing cheerleading. That's not cutting it. If AAR goes under, it's not because the left wasn't a large enough audience to support a left, commercial network, it's because the left wasn't given one.

Bully Boy amused by the Beltway Babies

So have you just about had enough of the James Baker Circle Jerk just yet?

The laughable report from the blue-ribbon-in-conflicts panel sucked up all the news space.

The worst death toll of the year for US troops in Iraq came along on Wednesday, 11 dead, and The New York Times was so wrapped up in the Circle Jerk, they couldn't even cover it in the next day's paper.

Even the wire services were in non-stop Circle Jerk coverage mode.

And where did the laughable report get anyone? The chaos and violence didn't stop (though the coverage of it did) and Bully Boy's already singing "It's my illegal war and I'll pout if I want to, pout if I want to, pout if I want to . . ." Well you would pout too, if it happened to you.

If you lied a nation, a world, into war, if many of your lies had been exposed, if you were tanking so low that the polling firms may need to add negative numbers below the zero shortly, you would pout too. One moment he was strutting shipboard in front of a banner (which the White House made) that read "Mission Accomplished." The next?

America's own little Evita can no longer sing, "I'm their savior!/ That's what they call me/ So Lauren Bacall me/ Anything goes/ To make me fantastic." Sure the mainstream press still tries to pimp the war and the Bully Boy but the people aren't buying it.

So while everyone glommed on and fawned over a useless report, roadside bombs continued in Iraq, educators continued to be targeted and killed, car bombs didn't vanish nor did the daily crop of discovered corpses with signs of torture -- nothing changed. But give silly fools a chance to gas bag and and the James Baker Circle Jerk report could be turned into the Gettysburg


Best interview on a Iraq topic last week? It involved war resister Kyle Snyder who is currently traveling the West coast speaking out against the illegal war despite the fact that it would be easy to silent, there is an arrest warrant out for him. Kyle Snyder was lied to by the military recruiter, by the Bully Boy and by the US military. Trained for reconstruction, he ends up being an escort in Iraq probably because, as he's noted, there was no construction going on. In April of 2005, while on leave, he self-checks out and goes to Canada where he begins a life. Then, in October of 2006, he returned to the US and on October 31st, turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again when it turned out the military had burned him yet again.

If you don't know that story, you must not be listening to KPFA's Flashpoints. Last Thursday, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed Kyle Snyder again. He explained he went to Iraq thinking it would be what he was told. It wasn't. Not the job he was trained to do ("asphalt and concrete, laying foundations for schools, hospitals, roads"), not the reality on the ground where there was no reconstruction and an Iraqi who was mained for life when shot by a US soldier wasn't cause for an investigation even when a complaint was made by Kyle Snyder.

But that wasn't all. He told Barrows-Friedman:

The things that I saw there for instance, you know, when we're told that we're liberating the people of Iraq and we're doing positive things you know I expect to at least see the civilians and stuff, you know, accepting us more. And basically accepting what we're doing. But children were flipping us off, they were begging for food and water almost all the time when I was out. I had seen people killed, I had seen people injured and it's just basically what led me to leave the war in the first place were the policies that drove the war. You know, when the Bush administration in 2004 and 2005 were saying 'We're liberating the people of Iraq' like I said I expect to see some of that happening. You know, no matter what rank you are, I think that we deserve to know why we're fighting. And basically it felt like a lie. It felt like a lie. And mainly because we couldn't explain what the mission was.

This weekend has seen Courage to Resist's National Days of Action to Support GI Resistance and we've all taken part in that. Haven't noticed a great deal of coverage of it, but The Full Brobeck hardly surprises us.

But the media's still yapping about the James Baker Circle Jerk.

You think the report bothered Bully Boy too much? He's dimissed it. And as the gas baggery on it continues, things like Saturday's Shi'ite attack on Sunnis in a neihborhood of Baghdad don't get covered. Bully Boy's probably pleased as punch that words on paper from a useless panel have lulled some to sleep.

That's what the painting at the top is attempting to illustrate. We call it "Bully Boy Among Beltway Babies" -- who've tuckered themselves out from all their gas baggery while Bully Boy smirks. We were using Paul Gauguin's Night Cafe in Arles as our inspiration (and the women staring out from that painting actually does look a great deal like the Bully Boy).

As reality continued, the press got swept up in delivering standing o's for a half-baked, laughable 'report.

Information on this movement of war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month.

Alice in Pressland

Alice was beginning to get very tired of the War Hawks flapping their wings and their bleeding gum so she decided to ignore Beltway Pundits and go straight to reporting one Saturday morning.

Sitting on her porch, she was surprised to see White Rabbit deliver the paper at 7:45. Every day the paper was delivered. The surprise was how each day it arrived later and later.

Skimming through The New York Times, she happened upon an article by Sabrina of Tavernise. The article was titled in a 'balanced' manner: "U.S. and Iraqi Accounts Vary Concerning Airstrke That Kills At Least 20."

"Oh, a difference of opinion," thought Alice excitedly because she knew how this turned out.

The article was about a Friday, US military airstrike. The first sentence noted that Iraqis and the US military disagreed on the results of the airstrike. Paragraph three told her that the Iraqis claimed "as many as 10 children" were killed in the airstrike while the US military said only 20 adults had been killed.

For nine more paragraphs, she read the American side and a lot of boring background.

Then she quickly came to two paragraphs explaining the Iraqi side

Then it was a denial by the US military.

"Will this article ever get to the point?" wondered Alice, because she knew how the events turned out.

Finally, Sabrina of Tavernise wrote that images had been shown on "Iraqi satellite channel, Sharqiya".

"At last," said Alice aloud as she waited for the next point to be made.

But it never came.

Where was it?

Had the words slid off the page into a puddle on the ground?

No, they were still on the page.

But no matter how hard she searched, how closely she read the article, she found nothing it about the Associated Press had a photo of one of the corpses and it was the corpse of a ten-year-old boy.

No matter how hard she searched, how closely she read the article, she found noting in it about the AFP having reportes in the village who saw children among the corpses or that when, confronted with the photos, US military flack Christopher Garver denied them as proof that children had been killed by the air raid.

Giving up, she took the paper inside and used it to start a fire in the fire place.

"At last, the paper has a use," declared Alice. "Since I do not fish, I had no use for wrapping fish in it. But now the paper has a use it fits rather beautifully."

Watching the flames, Alice wondered about this Sabrina of Tavenise. How could someone who wrote so much say know so little?

Baby Cheney-Poe, the facts of life

Hey Baby Cheney-Poe, we're sure you're adorable and that after you grow some hair and can pick out your own clothes (we're sure your grandparents Cheney gifted you with the "WAR" t-shirt), you'll look nothing like your grandfather.

But we want to set you straight, no pun intended, early on so the hurt that's going to come can be prepared for.

Now you have two mommies and that can be a good thing. Mary Claire Cheney and Heather Poe probably love you a great deal.

They've already been together for fourteen plus years so, chances are, it's an established home that will be warm and welcoming.

But sometimes you're going to leave your home.

Now we're sure your mothers have told you that some strangers can be close-minded and get upset that you have two mommies. If it helps any, just write it off as jealousy -- they may have only had one mommy.

But we don't want to warn you about strangers because strangers you can avoid.

We want to warn you about your family. After that interview in 2000 with Cokie Roberts, your grandmother Cheney appears to be in some serious denial. When you're around her, don't call Mommy Poe, "Mommy." Call her "Mommy's friend." If Granny Cheney is cranky, watch how you say "friend."

If Granny Cheney gets to be too much of bitch, just slap a copy of her book Sisters down in front of her and ask her to read to you from that.

Now there's Gramps Cheney. He's the one with almost as little hair as you. It's okay to call him Grumps Cheney. That old stick in the mud is always disappearing into bunkers and never letting you tag along to play.

You know how Grumps gets angry with you when you cry and starts 'teasing' about having Homeland Security run a check on you and how he understands there are playpens in Guantamo? Well, don't worry. He's not really talking about you.

He's projecting.

Yes, that is a big word.


It means he accuses others of doing what he does.

In 2004, when John Kerry brought up your mother's right to live the life she was born into, your Grumps got so angry and mad. He said, "You saw a man who will say and do anything to get elected." He didn't want people to know that Mommy Cheney loved Mommy Poe. And Grumps truly would say anything to get elected -- and, honestly, has.

When you're out in public with your mommies and with Grumps and Granny Cheney, you need to understand that Grumps is going to explode if you say they are both your mommies. In fact, instead of calling Mommy Poe "Mommy's friend," you might try calling her "an old family friend."

Now if you're out in public and both grandparents Cheney explode, you can expect Granny to say that Mommy Cheney has never declared anything about her private life and you can expect Grumps to scream and holler until he grabs his chest.

What you can't expect is for Mommy Cheney to speak up for you or for Mommy Poe.

Maybe she's shy.

But the truth is, anytime anyone might have counted on her publicly, they've been disappointed.

In fact, saving herself from mythical terrorists was more important to her than telling the world that she loves Mommy Poe.

Now sometimes Grumps and Granny are going to throw parties. You might think that because it's all friends and family, things will be much easier?

It won't be.

At those, not only are you not allowed to say you have two mommys, you also need to say that Mommy Cheney adopted you.

How come?

Well . . .

See, a woman loving a woman freaks out some of your grandparents' friends.

Yes, Uncle Man On Dog is one of them.

When you're older, we'll explain how he got that nickname.

But right now, you need to know that not only does two women in love freak out some of your grandparents' friends, but so does single mothers.

Yes, you have two mommys, but remember you can't say that.

And Mommy Cheney can only be a single mother if she adopted.

How come?

Well they don't like it when single women have babies. In fact, the Republican vice-president before Grumps couldn't shut up about the topic.

Yes, Dan-Dan. We bet he is fun to play with and we're sure you will teach him the alphabet.

Who can you tell?

Honestly, we don't know. We hope your grandparents Poe, we hope when you're around them, you don't have to pretend you're adopted and that you don't have to pretend that your parents are just friends.

But even if that's the case, you can only do that around them, in their house. If you do it outside of the house and anyone else hears, you know Grumps and Granny Cheney will have a fit.

No, honey, it doesn't seem right. But it doesn't seem right that when Grumps sings you to sleep, he changes the words in "Mockingbird" to:

Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
No one knows if no one heard.
But if it looks like you might do time,
Grumps get'll you in the presidential pardon line.

What else can we tell you except: thems the breaks. Sorry, kid.

Laura Flanders spoke with Yanar Mohammed and Caroly Ho Saturday

RadioNation with Laura Flanders Saturday found Laura Flanders interviewing Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammed (MADRE) about conditions in Iraq that get little attention and Carolyn Ho, mother of war resister Ehren Watada, about her son and about the war.

Yanar Mohammed addressed the issue of the killing of women on the streets of Iraq which, though you may not read about, has become quite common. All quotes are paraphrases (one or two words may be off in each -- we didn't take notes and C.I.'s got a killer headache -- we're all tired).

"Laura," Mohammed explained, "believe me that the Iraqis are also surprised that it's possible to take us back 1,000 years in time."

Because these honor killings weren't a part of pre-illegal war Iraq. Honor killings? Death of a Princess took place in Iran. But Iraq's not Iraq for many Iraqis. It's why those who could afford to, left the country early on in what's been dubbed the 'brain drain.' It's why each day, more become refugess in neighboring nations such as Iran, Syria and Jordan. What's left, for most Iraqis, doesn't feel like Iraq because Iraq was an advanced Middle East country with women's rights written into their constitution. Pre-US invasion, of course.

Speaking of life on the ground today, Mohammed noted, "You go to the areas that are controlled by Islamists" who were installed by the US government and "it turns out that public execution of women is a common thing to do in those areas." She cited one execution/assassination of a woman that occurred last month, November 19th, where a woman was "dragged out of her house" by fundamentalists (Iraq had a secular government before US intervention) who "beat her, they flooged her in the middle of the street. Then they brought a cable and wrapped it around her neck." Thinking she's getting hanged?

It didn't happen that quickly. First they "dragged her. They go to the nearest football field and they hanged her . . . They bring their machine guns and kill her."

The woman's brother attempted to intervene and they fundamentalists shot him dead. And the fundamentalists?

"They are the political groups who are ruling right now under the blessing of the US administration," Mohammed observed.

This wasn't the only incident last month or in that area and, with great sadness, Mohammed declared, "This is something that we did not believe ever to happen in Iraq. I have lived there most of my life and we have never heard anything like that. This is the situation that women are living in . . . right now."

'Liberation'. 'Democracy.' The sick jokes of the Bully Boy administration.

And the targets' religion of choice isn't the issue. It's not sectarian violence, it's the targeting of women. And as most now grasp, you can judge how free a society is by the rights women possess. For Iraqi women, the illegal war brought no march of progress, it just destroyed all the freedoms that were guaranteed.

Women could go to college. (Today, at least a third of the children do not to school, forget college, in Iraq due to the daily chaos and violence as well as displacement.) Wome made up 40% of the "of the public [work] force." They could (and did) run for public office. The clock's gone backward and degraded and destroyed "all our social status . . . for generations to come." And the aid money Bully Boy used to brag of, none of went to NGOs "and women's groups have seen nothing of it."

On the topic of the James Baker Circle Jerk, Laura Flanders noted that neither woman was included on the panel nor anyone with similar circumstances. Mohammed agreed, stating it "did not bring anything new" and refuting the idea of "sitting down with Iran" and noting the report was "idiotic" and did not offer "any solutions" that reflected life on the ground.

Her opinion is that US forces need to leave now. She charted out the reasoning for that belief:

"Well my answer to that is that the more the troops stay in there the more that we have fundamentalists, Islam terrorism pouring in from all over the globe. . . . All of these [people] come to Iraq in order to liberate their so-called home land from the occupiers. If the US troops are not there, why would these fundamentalists be heading to Iraq? The more the US troops stay the more terrorism we have in Iraq."

And the Shia-Sunni divide was created by the Americans, Mohammed said, explaining that in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, American officials would ask her a question that wasn't a pressing concern to Iraq then though it now is: ". . . whether I was a Sunni or a Shia."

Discussing her son's decision to become the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, Carolyn Ho noted that she "implored my son not to do this" because she knew he would be "vilified for this by the press and the public. I was just so hurting for him" and he explained to her that the decision was in keeping with everything he had been raised by his parents to stand for. His standing up could make a difference and the troops serving below him were people he was accountable for: "He felt the best thing he could do for his men was to remain behind and speak the truth."

On the topic of Iraq, Ho noted that she hadn't been there "but there have been people who have said that we are contributing to the chaos . . . I just don't see that we are contributing much to stabillizing the area and that perhaps there's a lot of self-interest involved."

[Bob Watada, Ehren's father, is very public about his feelings that the illegal war is an empire building move and never had a thing to do with freedom.]

At one point, Ho stressed that "[t]he Constitution is the supreme law of the land" and explained how other things stem from and add to that. The reason the point was made is the contingent of Watada-bashers tend to screech that an oath to the military was taken. It was and if they knew what they were blowing out their ass they'd know that service members are compelled to refuse any order that they feel is illegal. But the Constitution, which everyone in the service swears to uphold, is the supreme law of the land and it trumps up every other national law or oath required for military service.

Carolyn Ho was in the studio in NYC and Flanders said she was now doing a speaking tour. The reason for that, Ho explained, was "to appeal to the new Congress" because her son committed no crime and "he stands on the fact that this war was entered into illegally -- it's an immoral war and, consequently, he refused to deploy."

The incoming Congress, supposedly, is going to examine the intel and other aspects of the war.

Carolyn Ho is asking that her son's court-martial (scheduled to begin February 5th) be deferred until Congress holds hearings.

"How can the judge [in the court-martial] make a judgement on whether or not the war is illegal," Laura Flanders wondered, if the Congress has yet to explore the issue.

Carolyn Ho noted the oversight duty of the Congress and stated it was their responsibility "to make sure that military justice meets out true justice."

So what she's asking for is for all groups and organizations, women's group, religious groups, everyone (United Methodist is publicly supporting Watada) contact their Senators and Representatives and press "them to make this clear" that a court-martial proceeding should not even start before Congress (finally -- our words, not her's) does the oversight job they've neglected for almost four years now and "that what you are saying is an extension of the vote which was a referendum on this war."

Ehren Watada is not someone off on some tangent that no one else sees. He is a part of resistance within the military to the illegal war. Others who have gone public include Kyle Snyder, Darrel Anderson, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman.

Information on this movement of war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month.

Bully Boy Jokes

Rebecca gets jokes in her e-mails all the time and one last week was a set of blonde jokes. We've adapted them to fit the ultimate joke: Bully Boy. (By adapted, we've inserted "Bully Boy" where "Blonde" was). We've paired them with Isaiah's portrayal of Bully Boy attempting humor.

What do you call a zit on Bully Boy's ass?

A brain tumor.

Why did Bully Boy drive into the ditch?

To turn the blinker off.

Why is Bully Boy's brain the size of a pea in the morning?

It swells at night.

And for those who worry "clip job feature," we came up with our own Bully Boy joke.

Why does Bully Boy lie?
Because he wants people to trust him.


Our picks of community writing you shouldn't have missed.

"Choke a Moron and Send Him Packing" is Betty's latest chapter and, without hypnosis, Betinna's remembering.

"Baked Bananas in the Kitchen" is Trina's pick your battles essay. Highly enjoyable.

"Wednesday was one of the deadliest days for US troops in Iraq, but NYT missed that story" is C.I. commenting on how news takes a holiday when a reporter's star turn is more important than content.

"THIS JUST IN! 216-YEAR-OLD SPINE MISSING!" and "The missing spine" are Wally and Cedric's look at the current state of the Democratic Party.

"Jim Lafferty, Law and Disorder, peace movement" is Mike discussing the peace movement and activism with C.I.

"Dave Matthews, Mark Wilkerson" is Elaine explaining why she hated the Dave Matthews Band video collection and addressing the issue of how, even after you are dead, you can impact a life.

"Ruth's Report" is Ruth's latest no-nonsense report.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Bully Parkerr'" is Isaiah's comic on the stood up Bully Boy.

"cindy sheehan on trial means we're all on trial" is Rebecca weighing in on the case for peaceful assembly that may land Cindy Sheehan, Patti Ackerman, Missy Comley Beattie and Medea Benjaimin behind bars.

"Iraq Snapshot" -- C.I., Wally and Ty were in DC for the Robert Gates hearing. The snapshot notes moments from the first half.

"robert gates & dennis prager, both disgusting" -- is Rebecca's thoughts on the full hearing.

"Iraq Snapshot" -- you've heard of Pig Latin, C.I. breaks down Beltway Latin.

"Hype express hits a pothole" -- Kat explains where the Hype Express led to.

"Zohra Yusuf Daoud, Sunita Mehta, Women For Afghan Women" -- Elaine revisits the topic of Aghanistan.

"A rare solo entry" -- is a talking entry from Cedric covering The Nation and many other topics as well.

"The People's Iraq Study Group" -- so wonderful, so important, that it inspired a copycat. This is now two weeks old but it was fresh enough to borrow so it must still be fresh.

[Highlights picked by Mike, Kat, Rebecca, Ty and Jess.]
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