Sunday, January 11, 2009

Truest statement of the week

As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance.
The Obama news conferences tell that story, making one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.
We reporters have earned our own membership in the Bizarro universe.

-- Carol Marin, "Obama, Blago flip sides of Bizarro plotline" (Chicago Sun-Times).

Truest statement of the week II

If you want a glimpse of the fundamental moral obscenity that underlies our bold new era of hope and change, look no further than Barack Obama's promise this week to "overhaul" Social Security and Medicare. This effort to cut back on support for the sick, the old, the weak, the unfortunate and the abandoned will be a "central part" of the new administration's economic program, a linchpin of its struggle to curb federal spending, Obama declared.

[. . .]

At the same time, he promises to expand -- to expand -- the multitrillion-dollar war machine that has literally bled the nation dry. He wants to expand a military-industrial-security complex that already devours more money and resources than every other military force on earth combined. He wants more troops, more weapons, an ever-increasing "global strike capability," an escalation of the endless, pointless "War on Terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan (for starters). He has never said a single word about "curbing government spending" on this vast conglomerate of death and destruction. He has not said a single word about rolling back even a few of American military outposts that in their several hundreds now cover the entire globe. At every point, it seems, government spending on the war machine -- including the tens of billions of dollars spent in secret each year on the various tentacles of the "national security" apparatus -- will be increased under the Obama administration.

No "cutbacks" here then. No concerns that spending in this area might "grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run." Spending on death and domination is sacrosanct, the true "third rail of American politics," and Obama is not going to touch it -- except to augment it. Instead, he will let the great budget axe fall on what he and political and media establishments are pleased to call "entitlements" -- a weasel-word that conjures up images of welfare queens and lazy bums living large and easy, in the belief that the world owes them a living. It is strange how this description of the programs has gained such universal currency. Or rather, it's not strange at all; think how differently we might perceive them -- and their recipients -- if we spoke of them more straightforwardly, as, say, "old-age pensions," "family support programs," "medical assistance programs," and so on. Instead, the use of such a bland and abstract term distances us from the intent, and the reality, of the programs. They are not helping sick people with medical bills, they aren't supporting a widow or an orphan, or helping a retired couple or an injured worker attempt to live with a modicum of dignity; no, they are just this opaque, abstract thing out there, some kind of political football up in Washington, to be "dealt with," "tackled" and "curbed" by "efficient managers." Nothing human about them at all.

-- Chris Floyd, "Enduring Priorities in an Age of Change: War and Profits Over People" (Empire Burlesque).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Sunday! And look how early we're done for us. And the biggest delay was (as always) Flickr.

We plan to use Isaiah's comic in a piece next week that we just ran out of time on.

Along with Dallas, the following helped on this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

We thank them one and all. And what do we have this week?

Truest statement of the week -- Carol Marin revealed last week that the press conferences were staged, Barack's. And that really hasn't been an issue, has it? We don't have a working press.

Truest statement of the week II -- Chris Floyd stepped up to call Barack out over efforts to destroy Social Security. (It needs no 'fixing,' it's fine.) He's one of the few who can make that claim. Lot of silence going on. Or, in the case of the idiot Matt Rothschild, a lot of widl cheering.

Editorial: Racists make Burris jump through hoops -- Exactly when is the same criteria applied to Senator Roland Burris used on the other senators? Exactly why is he repeatedly expected to jump through hoops? It's racism and you can watch Face the Nation on CBS and see if Dick Durbin can offer another reason but that's what it is.

TV: About that digital switch -- Ava and C.I. were going to do a mixture that would pull from Washington Week, one entertainment program and a news program. But then came the e-mail and they were laughing about it but thought, "We really should do another piece on it before the switch." They refer to this as the PSA (Public Service Announcement) article and that did not have me eager to read it. But, surprise, surprise, when I read it out loud to everyone, I saw they'd worked in their usual jokes. Be sure to read the note at the end. Ava says, "The other show was Saturday Night Live. Liza Minelli had a very brief cameo and she was funny and looked great. We really wanted to note that so we'll put it in Jim's note." C.I. adds, "They should have worked her into at least one more skit or given her a musical number. But even so, it was a strong show and Neil Patrick Harris made a wonderful host. The only problem was Seth. We could have written and written about that for days. So it's good that we did the PSA instead."

1 Book, 5 Minutes -- No Mailbag this edition. Can't do that and do a book discussion. Ava and C>i. wrote the TV commentary. Betty and Kat worked on every other piece this edition except for the book discussion. Trina worked only on the book discussion. We thank her. Glad to have her anytime. She doesn't even need to ask. (Though I know why she feels she needs to. We were all real asses the weekend she started. We didn't know it was her, we just knew C.I. was on the phone helping someone set up a site and we were thinking, "We don't have the time for this!" We felt like idiots when we found out it was Trina. We should have felt that way regardless of who it was.) So anytime you want, Trina, you're always welcome. Dona wants it noted that she was indicating the time to me and not C.I. during this discussion, "I was waiving to Jim who was ignoring me and my intent was to let him know not to open this up after C.I. finished. Instead, Jim ignored me and C.I. ended up rushing through."

Chummyness You Can Believe In -- Short features, cries Dona. And here's one for you.

Ms. Pathetic, fold tent please -- Where are the links? We already got a call on that from one of Dona and my classmates who meant to Ava and C.I.'s stuff. Our regular readers know what we're talking about. And they know how to find it without the links. But, in case you missed it, Ava and C.I.'s "TV: 2008, the lows and really lows" contained an acknowledgement that they've been repeatedly ripped off by one person. Ava wanted that in there or it wouldn't have gone in there. She's damn sick of it. (C.I. could care less about the rip-offs and feels they're cheap copies who just embarrass themselves.) But grasping how someone (we all know who) would love to, for example, talk about Michele Kort or about the Donna Brazile article, we decided not to make it easy for a theft to occur. And, for the record, I (Jim) agree with Ava. I'm getting damn tired of Ava and C.I. working their asses off here and Monday or Tuesday someone stealing their insights and their jokes and attempting to pass both off as original work. If this continues, we may start calling it out with the name of the person doing it.

The New Ms. magazine! (Parody) -- This is really Ava, C.I., Rebecca and Mike. After they wrote it, we smoothed it out mainly by correcting spelling. We may have added a word or two or we may not have. So we did the serious post before and that was going to be it. But Mike said, "We really need a parody." Dona said, "I don't think we have time, but if we do . . ." We didn't. We wrote the editorial and then sent everyone packing except for Third (me, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.). But Mike said, "What about that piece?" Rebecca said she'd stay up and Ava and C.I. said they'd work on with Mike and Rebecca. They worked very fast. It is funny. They would have liked to have done a lot, lot more. But this wasn't planned and, other than Mike's we-need-to-do-a-parody, nothing was done or thought of until they went to work on it. Ten minutes later, they were done. So this piece, only Ava, C.I., Rebecca and Mike really deserve credit on.

How safe is the US Embassy in Baghdad? -- Another short piece.

Barack's fan club poses as journalists -- Okay, so if Corporate journalists get to cozy to politicians, that's bad. But Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders, Katrina vanden Heuvel, et al can host an inauguration ball and that's fine and dandy? And, in Goodman's case, it's ball and a fundraiser for her show. So she's making money off of how excited people are about Barack. And she sees no conflict of interest? They are pathetic. They are beggars and they work in Panhandle Media because that's the only place that would 'employ' them.

ETAN: Blair Poor Choice for NI Director -- An important message from ETAN.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Rebecca, Betty, Kat, Ruth, Cedric, Wally, Marcia and Stan wrote this and picked out the highlights unless otherwise noted. We thank them for it.

And that's what we got. We'll see you next week.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Racists make Burris jump through hoops

Later this morning, Senator Roland Burris will speak with Bob Schieffer on CBS' Face the Nation. It should make for a very interesting conversation. Senator Burris was appointed to the US Senate by Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by the president-elect Barack Obama. It was both Blagojevich's right and duty to fill the seat. So why did the Senate refuse to welcome Senator Burris Tuesday?

It's not as if they were taken by surprise. Blagojevich appointed Burris December 30th. It did make the news and, in fact, Illinois' other US Senator, Dick Durbin, recorded a statement on the appointment that day. Since Barack Obama was elected president November 4th. As even a cursory glance at the next day's press would indicate, Barack's win wasn't exactly a secret.

With Barack being elected president, his Senate seat would have to be filled because the law guarantees each state two senators. The Constitution explains, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State . . ." So barring the passage of a Constitutional Amendment changing that, everyone knew November 4th that someone would be appointed -- by the governor -- to fill that Senate seat.

The governor was and is Rod Blagojevich. He is accused of corruption and suddenly the press is interested. During Tony Rezko's case -- Rezko has ties with both Blagojevich and Barack -- the press wasn't all that interested. But December 9th, Blagojevich was arrested by federal agents and charged with a variety of offenses that have been boiled down in the press as "pay to play." That means that Blagojevich is accused of attempting to sale Barack's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Accused. Not convicted.

That was December 9th. The arrest resulted in headlines and massive coverage. It was also not a secret. On December 15th -- six days later -- the state House finally took a vote (113 for, 0 opposed) and decided to impeach him.

B-b-but Burris was appointed December 30th -- fifteen days later!!!!

That's right. They took a vote and didn't act on it. No one opposed the vote but the House sat on their ass for the second half of December. They knew that as long as Blagojevich was governor, he could -- at any time -- appoint someone to fill the seat. They knew that the only legal way to strip Blagojevich of that power was to strip him of the office. If that's what they wanted at the time, they were deliquent in their duties.

Senator Roland Burris

Blagojevich appointed Burris on the 30th. Only then did the impeachment bandwagon sort of start rolling. Friday the state House voted to impeach Blagojevich and the state Senate has scheduled their trial to begin January 26th. No, they're not moving very fast.

And it needs to be noted again that, while accused, Blagojevich has not been convicted of any crime.

If Blagojevich is impeached, it doesn't change the Senate appointment. He was the governor and had the legal right to fill the seat. He did so. Roland Burris was his choice.

Roland Burris is a Black man. He is currently the only Black US Senator. He is Illinois' former Attorney General, has held other elected offices, is an attorney and a professor. He has experience.

So he should have glided right into the Senate after being appointed.

Meet Harry. Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader. Harry Reid publicly declared that he was peachy keen on Caroline Kennedy and wanted her to become the US Senator from New York should Senator Hillary Clinton be confirmed as US Secretary of State. Harry likes a lot of White people.

The Feds have wiretaps of Blagojevich. These wiretaps include conversations between Reid and the governor. In at least one of those calls, Reid offers up a list of candidates that have the Harry-Stamp-of-Approval. Strangely, all the candidates are White.


Now you can cluck and say, "That may not meet the standard for racism." We would reply, "Oh, there's a standard now? Amazing because there was none in 2008. In 2008, you just cried 'Racist!' and someone automatically was."

But it is racism. You need to put on your thinking cap.

Though not Black, Barack Obama is bi-racial, he is a person of color. Have you looked around the Senate often? Have you noticed how few people of color there were?

Harry Reid, in replacing a Senator of color, can only think of White people? That is racism.

And it's a pattern with Harry which cause Ruben Navarrette Jr. (San Diego Union-Tribune via San Jose Mercury News) to explore the term racism:

Maybe we should broaden the criteria a bit. Let's say that, if you scheme to put your own interests above the interests of a particular racial group relying on racist assumptions about who is electable so the end result is that you exclude members of that racial group, then some might call you a racist. With that as the standard, Reid might have a shot at the title.

As the Senate's first day of business approached, Harry Reid declared that no way, no how was Roland Burris to be seated in the Senate. Based on any legal framework?

No, just based on Harry's whims and racism.

Burris showed up Tuesday to be seated. And it was a very sad sight to see what followed as Burris maintained his dignity but had to explain that he would have to continue fighting for the appointment that was made December 30th. Though appointed, Harry Reid insisted that Burris was missing the Illinois Secretary of State's signature and that meant he couldn't be seated until Jesse White (the SoS) signed off.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was asked about it and replied, "Does the governor have the power, under law, to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. . . . . If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America. Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been controller, and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."

Yes, it really is that basic. Feinstein captured it perfectly. And did so at a time that people across the nation were horrified at the sight of Harry Reid denying a qualified Black man his Senate seat.

It was such a sorry spectacle that even Harry Reid grasped he now had a serious image problem on his hands.

A meeting was quickly set up for Durbin, Burris and Reid.

Durbin, Burris and Reid

That actually further hurt Harry Reid and put Dick Durbin on thin ice. Durbin slid out on the ice because he was now officially part of the story, he was now officially Harry Reid's sidekick. Two White men denying the qualified Black man his appointed seat. It hurt Harry because he'd already come off petulant and yet here was Roland Burris, willing to sit down with the man who refused to seat him. Willing to go face to face with him. Willing to attempt to resolve the matter.

Burris looked like an adult. And he actually garnered even more sympathy for his quiet dignity after he'd been forced -- yet again -- to jump through hoops.

Brian Montopoli (CBS News) notes some of the hoops:

If White signs the document, Reid said, the next step involves clearing up whether Burris had any improper involvement with Blagojevich, who has been charged with effectively trying to sell the seat. Hearings are soon to be held in Illinois over impeaching the governor, and Senate Democrats had previously vowed not to seat anyone appointed by him. Durbin noted that Burris "has affidavit that explains most of the circumstances" and noted that Burris will answer questions from Republicans and Democrats before the Blagojevich Impeachment Committee tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm.

"The other issue that I think is important is that Roland Burris appears to be candid and forthright," Reid said. "...he's not trying to avoid any responsibility, and trying to hide anything." Once those two steps are taken, Durbin said, the Senate Rules Committee will review the situation. That could take weeks. If the process gets that far, the full chamber would then likely debate the matter and then vote on whether Burris should take the seat.

The rules for White people appointed to Senate seats? That their governor appoints them. The rules for Black people? That you will be forced to make like Mr. Bojangles over and over.

Burris is not accused of anything illegal, he has not been charged with anything nor has he been arrested. No one denies he is qualified for the seat. But Reid was insisting that he, and not the governor of a state, had the power to determine who could and could not become a Senator. There is no state constitution that gives the power of appointment to the US Senate Majority Leader.

Jesse White's signature was always a non-issue. Burris took the matter to the state supreme court and, on Friday, it ruled in his favor. It found White's signature wasn't required. Joe Barrett (Wall St. Journal) explained:

The ruling would seem to throw the decision of whether to seat Roland Burris, a former state attorney general, back to the Senate.

Earlier this week, Senate leaders barred Mr. Burris from a swearing-in ceremony because his paperwork lacked the signature. A day later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he would seat Mr. Burris, but only after he appeared before a House panel and won over Mr. White.

Mr. Burris issued a statement Friday saying, "I am very happy that the Supreme Court ruled supporting our argument that everything surrounding this appointment was legal and complete."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also said the appointment was valid and urged the Senate to seat Mr. Burris.

Burris appeared before the state House panel Friday as well. There was no reason he should have to but he did, he jumped through yet another hoop. What was it Michelle Obama once said about how they move the bar every time a Black person gets close?


Remember Dick Durbin moving to thin ice? He decided to jump and down. Andrew Malcom (Los Angeles Times) explained Durbin's snit-fit reaction to the court decision, "In Chicago last night, Illinois' other senator, Dick Durbin, No. 2 Senate Democrat after Happy Harry Reid, said that Friday's state court refusal to order Secretary of State Jesse White to certify Burris' nomination means that the 71-year-old Burris may well be at least 72 before he's allowed to sit in the back of the Senate. If ever. Durbin now asserts that no one can fill the vacant seat until the governor of Illinois, Rod 'I did nothing wrong' Blagojevich, is removed from office and his successor (presumably fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn) names a senator."

It only looks more and more like racism when more than White person refuses to allow Burris to be seated. It should be noted that last week the US Congressional Black Caucus made their support for Burris known. So Dickie just knew the thing to do was to try to throw up another roadblock. It might be time to start placing bets on how long it will be before Harry and Dick attempt to make Roland Burris take a literacy test or pay poll tax?

The roadblocks are crumbling, in spite of Durbin and Reid. Tom McIntyre (WEEK TV) reports, "Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White Friday night signed a document certifying that Roland Burris is Governor Rod Blagojevich's choice to be Illinois' junior senator."

The entire process has been made into a mockery and, no, not by Governor Blagojevich. Certainly not by Senator Burris.

Harry Reid and now Dick Durbin have made a mockery of the process. A qualified person was appointed to the US Senate by a sitting governor. Reid and Durbin have repeatedly attempted to think up various ways to avoid seating him.

He long ago met all the qualifications. He met them before he ever went to DC. And he then went on to meet the newly created, just for the Black senator, hurdles. And still they won't seat him?

The Democrats have control of the US Senate. They do not, however, have sixty votes unless both independent Joe Lieberman and Socialist Bernie Sanders vote with all Democrats. To reach that number, they need Senator Burris.

Last week it was time for a press conference. And Senator Harry Reid declared in that conference, "This Congress, Democrats have one explicit goal: to deliver the change Americans have demanded. We are confronting some of the most severe problems we have faced in generations." Dick Dubrin's remarks included, "Our nation is facing historic challenges and the Senate is poised to quickly to renew the American dream. Senate Democrats will work to return accountability and oversight to the executive branch, strengthen our economy by securing our borders, and restore America's standing in the world." Really?

How is it going to accomplish anything when it refuses to seat a senator? And grasp that Reid and Durbin are willing to let one vote languish. They could use Burris' vote right now. But their racism apparently means more to them.

It means so much, in fact, that both men are willing to deny Illinois their right to two US senators. Durbin's threat that Senator Burris may turn 72 before he's seated in the Senate? Burris turns 72 August 3, 2009. Durbin and Reid are really planning on not only preventing Burris from being seated but also in depriving Illinois of two Senators -- and two votes in the Senate on their state's behalf -- up until August?

Roland Burris should have been seated Tuesday. It was in the Democratic Party's best interest to do just that. When people repeatedly take actions that are not in their best interests, it's left to others to determine why anyone would behave so irrationally? Fortunately, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have made it very easy to reach a conclusion: They behave as they do out of racism.

Durbin will also be appearing this morning on Face the Nation (in a separate segment). Watching him attempt to toss out justifications for his actions should be highly amusing.

TV: About that digital switch

"As two who regularly argue broadcast TV is better than cable TV, your silence on the digital switch is telling. I find it amazing that you've yet to address PBS's special with the cast of This Old House on digital TV," writes e-mailer Nikolas in something Ty slid over to us.


First, we've never argued broadcast TV was better or worse than cable. We've covered broadcast (FREE) TV due to the makeup of Third's readership. As someone who who attributes an argument to us that we've never made, we find your e-mail highly confusing, Nikolas. The digital switch has been covered here many, many times and this site first began covering it in 2005. As for the special you refer to, first off we believe, despite PBS' billing preference, that the men you refer to are "hosts" and not a cast; second, we did catch that special and we were trying to be nice.

The special's airing and has aired on various PBS stations across the country. Click here for PBS' reference page and we believe a link to that broadcast. We either caught the special last month or near the end of November. Our notes show Kevin O'Connor and Norm Abram were the ones from This Old House and we, sadly, couldn't forget Maria Hinojosa's role in the proceedings. The whole thing played out like A Mayberry Reunion and, no, that wasn't a good thing.

NOW on PBS' Hinojosa was barely on it so let's address her contribution first. The news woman (she is a journalist) apparently lost her mittens -- or at least her journalistic credentials. The digital switch -- from analog signals to digital, she told us, was because it would provide the viewers with a better picture. It was as though we'd stepped into Circuit City and Maria was attempting to hard-sell us a car stereo.

Better picture, Maria? We kind of think Consumers Union nailed the reasons for the switch with this statement, "The government auctioned off the old analog frequencies to wireless broadband companies for $19 billion." We found it appalling that public television couldn't include that tid-bit and we'd strongly suggest that no other news personality branch out into infotainment because it degrades PBS' entire news division.

Those analog frequencies? They belonged to the people of the United States. They were sold cheap and the people will see nothing off that sale. Again, Maria refused to explore that. She just wanted to look like an idiot and grin like everyone else in Mayberry and, at that, she succeeded.

Again, we were trying to be nice and just ignore the special. Another reason we wanted to ignore the special is we have no idea if the digital transfer works for all TVs that will still be receiving their signals over the airwaves.

A converter box (we'll give more details on that in a bit) is supposed to be easily hooked up to your TV and then your rabbit ear antennas are hooked up to it or you connect the cable for your roof antenna to it. It never failed to work for Kevin and Norm as they went around picturesque Mayberry where everyone knew their names and couldn't wait to open their homes up to them.

But did that mean it would work for all? Not according to what Kevin and Norm told people when they installed the converter boxes. Some people would not get a better signal, they would, in fact, get no signal. If that happened, they would have to call a specialist in. Though they never encountered anyone like that, they did share that tid-bit. Repeatedly.

They encountered people who, for example, planned to just go out and purchase a new plasma TV. Who are those people? The government studies on who is most effected by the switch, most at risk of losing TV, are predominately poor and elderly citizens. A disproportionate number of them are African-Americans and 11.5% are Latinos. So it was hilarious to watch Kevin and Norm encounter these people who could just decide they'd buy a new HD TV. It was strange to watch as one Asian-American appeared to be the only splash of color in a White-White neighborhood that made Mr. Rogers' look like Oakland.

If this special was supposed to help or inform, it would have needed to go to a poor neighborhood and, hint, those people would not have been home owners. But there was damn little reality in the special.

We noticed that especially as the boxes were hooked up and Kevin and Norm -- as well as the house residents -- avoided one issue. It's kind of an important issue that anyone using analog already knows. If you depend on an antenna, you do not hook it directly to your TV. You run it into your VCR. You will get a picture that way. The VCR, for whatever reason, will pick up the analog signal better. This is especially an important thing to know in rural areas where you're picking up the signal from a broadcaster towns and towns away.

But no one ever raised that issue. Kevin and Norm never hooked it up to a VCR or DVD player (and most DVD players will do the same thing the VCR does in terms of an analog signal). They hooked it up to the TV. And none of the residents ever said, "You know, I'm running the antenna through the VCR/DVD player because I get a stronger signal that way. Will that still happen with digital?"

Ty slid Nikolas' e-mail over to us Saturday night. We didn't have a great deal of time to make calls before the hour would be late but we did call TCI community members in rural areas of Virginia, Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma. The 13 we were able to reach had not yet made the switch to digital. (6 were waiting on coupons, 7 needed to request them -- again, we'll get to that in a bit). But when we asked if they had any basic questions, they would repeatedly raise the issue of how did they plug the converter in so that the antenna would be going into their VCR or was that no longer needed to get a strong signal?

Had Norm and Kevin left Mayberry and ventured out into the real world, we'd assume they'd have been asked that question as well.

The converter boxes are not free. Despite the fact that the public's assets were sold off cheap -- or because they were -- the public is expected to eat the costs on this, household by household.

First, if you have an HD TV, you're fine. You won't need a converter box. If you have cable or satellite -- on an HD TV or an old TV -- you're fine. The cable and satellite feed you're getting will continue. It only effects people getting the signal over the airwaves (without a satellite dish) and doing so on non-HD TVs.

For weeks now, across the country, people have been watching programs when a BOMP-BOMP-BOMP would sound and, like a weather bulletin warning, they'd be informed that if they were seeing this, they weren't ready for the digital switch and, come February 17th, they'd be receiving no signal. E-mails to this site noted that this tended to take place in the last five minutes of syndicated episodes of The Simpsons. Which did not please people. We're aware that this was usually the hour right before prime time and it happened on all stations in the viewers area. It also took place early in the morning before the network's morning shows came on. Someone appeared to think that by targeting those two time periods, they'd reach everyone. Really?

What about the person who just turns it on for the local sports games and, otherwise, doesn't even watch TV? He or she's going to attempt to catch a game after the switch and be in for a rude awakening.

So you've got an old TV and no cable or satellite. What do you do?

You need converter box or else you need to be prepared to use your TV only to watch your DVDs and videotapes on. The converter boxes can run as high as $80.00 a piece. The government has $40.00 coupons and each household can receive two of them. That may not cover all the TVs in some households.

You can find details here and you can request coupons here. (1-888-DTV-2009 is the toll free number for those who would prefer to request via phone.)

Currently, you're told there are 37 days until the death of analog TV. That may not be true. (And if it is, that's for the mainland. Hawaii does the switch over this week -- unless it's postponed.)

If you sign up for coupons today, you'll be placed on a waiting list. The program is out of money.

On Wednesday, Consumers Union issued "Consumers Union Asks Congress to Consider Delay of Digital TV Transition After Federal Coupon Program Runs Out of Money:"

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, today said Congress should consider delaying the February 17 transition from analog to digital TV broadcasts.
letters to members of Congress, President Bush, and President-elect Obama, Consumers Union pointed to the fact that the government program that subsidizes crucial TV converter boxes has run out of money, and hundreds of thousands of affected consumers are now on waiting lists for coupons.
The federal government mandated the digital TV switch to free up more room in the wireless spectrum. The government auctioned off the old analog frequencies to wireless broadband companies for $19 billion. Consumers who use "rabbit ear" aerials or rooftop antennas must upgrade their TVs for digital reception. The simplest upgrade is a converter box, which generally costs between $40 and $80. To help offset the cost, the government offered $40 coupons, but the program has run out of funds six weeks before the transition.
Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, said, "The federal government is getting $19 billion from selling the analog TV spectrum, while people with analog TVs have to go out and spend their own money for a converter box. Everyone affected by the digital switch should be able to get their $40 coupons. Congress needs to consider delaying the transition until these problems are fixed."
In addition to raising concerns about the coupon program, Consumers Union questioned the ability of the Federal Communications Commission’s national call center to handle the flood of calls expected before and after February 17, and it cited concerns about the amount of local assistance and public information available to at-risk consumers, particularly among elderly, rural, and low-income populations.
More information about the digital TV transition is available on the Consumer Reports web site at

And following that letter, W. David Gardner (Information Week) reported that Barak Obama had John Podesta convey that the switch should be put on a brief hold due to the above problems. If he does nothing else in the next four years, for one moment at least, Barack showed concern for those who were not the big moneyed fat cats.*

It's difficult to believe that the Congress would attempt to ignore Barack on this because anyone effected negatively will be one pissed off voter. The Philadelphia Inquier's Jonathan Storm and Bob Fernandez report that US House Rep Edward Markey and Senator Jay Rockefeller are already calling for a delay as well. The Fort Mill Times informs that Alaska's two US Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, have stated they support the request to delay the digital switch. And editorials are popping up, such as this one by The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which call for the switch to be delayed. One voice objecting to any delay is FCC Chair and the Sweetheart of Big Business Kevin Martin. However, two former FCC chairs have come out in support of the delay. Michael Powell and William Kennard co-authored a column in last week's New York Times arguing:

By delaying the switch to digital by just a few months, and spending more money on the program -- which the Obama transition team hinted on Thursday that it might favor -- we could provide enough coupons and establish a stronger call center. There would be time for manufacturers to put more converter boxes in the pipeline. And we'd have enough time to work with community groups to provide technical assistance and support to the people who need it.
If the transition to digital TV goes badly, it will inconvenience millions. There is no reason to rush toward a fiasco when we can just as well take the time to make sure the change happens smoothly.


*Note: There are various figures being thrown around and Nielsen for some reason got into it with their own sets of figures. We've used figures provided by friends on Barack's transition team -- one of whom said, "Well I hope you're finally going to say something nice about President Obama." So we did, the statement before the "*". In terms of who is effected, if you find different figures, please check on your own to see if those are state or national figures. We've used national figures. Nielsen is finding a large number of elderly people ready for the switch and younger people not ready. None of their figures currently make sense -- a bit like their TV ratings -- and we're sticking with the original figures for the at-risk pool. How long of delay does Barack want? At least until spring but, at present, the transition team says that the actual date would be left up to Congress to decide upon.

1 Book, 5 Minutes

Jim: We were not planning to do a book discussion for months and months from now. But there were 21 e-mails last week noting "2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and how the community had picked a book as the best of 2008. Quoting from Martha and Shirley's column, "Janis Ian's Society's Child: My Autobiography. It can be purchased at Amazon where it's currently selling for $16.98 ($26.95 list price). You can read an excerpt from the book here (HTML) or here (PDF)." The gist of the 21 e-mails was, "The community picked a book the best of the year and you're not going to do anything on it?" Okay, we'll do a variation of "Five Books in Five Minutes," one book in five. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; 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; Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. Mike, give us a break-down.

jJanis Ian's Society's Child

Mike: As Martha and Shirley pointed out, the book lists for $26.95. It's hardcover and, not counting the index, it's 348 pages. There are eight pages of black & white photos and notables pictured with Janis Ian include Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, Odetta, Mel Torme, Judy Collins, Helen Reddy and Chick Corea. As the title indicates, this is Janis Ian telling her story which begins as the child of parents spied on by the FBI and ends as a living legend comfortable in her own skin. Along the way, she shares her experiences in music, love and life. Odetta recently passed away, but she blurbed the book so I'll quote her, "Janis Ian was brilliant from the start. Through her songs and poems I have always noticed the grace in her use of language; now I can see her artistic flow in book form. Congratulations, Janis!"

Rebecca: Dona and I were talking about the book recently and she said something I'd wish she'd share here now.

Dona: Okay. I'd just started reading the book so this was probably November -- I was one of the last among us to read it -- and Rebecca asked me, "Do you know who she is?" I was confused because Kat had reviewed Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black back in 2006 and I always listen to anything she recommends. Rebecca said, "No, I don't mean that one album. I mean do you know who Janis is?" And I did. "At Seventeen" is a song I think most women and young girls know. It's the sort of thing that will always be played on radio and I can remember my first time hearing it. We were at a grocery store and I was probably 14 or 15. It was me and my father, we were doing the shopping that weekend. And I was going for bread and the song came on and I was kind of bopping along with the beat, not knowing the song and somewhere around "the Valentines I never knew, the Friday night charades of youth . . ." I was pretty much just standing there, in front of the bread displays, staring up at the middle of the ceiling where the nearest speaker was. I love the song but, from that opening beat, I really wasn't expecting anything deep or meaningful. So the song's over all too soon. I grab the bread and go in search of my dad because he's older, so he'll know the song, right? And he didn't. I was saying, "It just went off. It was the song right before!" And he had no idea. I was ticked. I spent the rest of the shopping trying to remember something from the song. As we were putting the sacks in the trunk, I said, "basketball! She doesn't get called for basketball!" Dad says, "Oh, Janis Ian. 'At Seventeen'." And he liked the song but I think it goes to a different kind of experience. He heard it in the grocery store and it was a song he enjoyed. But there I was, in the midst of my teenage years, and it just spooked the hell out of me because it had so much to say that I was going through. For him, good tune. For me, heart-rendering.

Rebecca: I really love that story and I also wanted Dona to share it because we do know Janis. We all got Folk Is The New Black and loved it. But for some people, they have no clue unless you say "At Seventeen."

Jim: Good point. Okay, that's in the seventies. She starts singing and recording in the sixties.

Cedric: Well let me start with how she starts the book because it's one of the great opening lines: "I was born into the crack that split America." She just hooks you right there.

Jess: It's a strong opening. Not just that sentence -- though Cedric's right about it being among the great opening lines to a book -- but the whole thing. She sketches out what it was like in the US at that time briefly before diving into performing her first hit song, about an interracial couple, onstage and having racists taunt her. The song was "Society's Child" and she goes from that and two lessons she learned there -- one on stage, one after the concert -- into the first song she ever wrote. That section especially is very tight and, though it doesn't feel fussed over, she either put it through several drafts or got there by instinct because the flow is there and it's very cinematic.

Trina: I was thinking that on the first chapters and on how the entire book could be turned into a film. She's had an epic life and she captures it very well.

Jim: What was your favorite section of the book?

Trina: For me, it was Tennessee. When she moves there and on through when she and Pat buy their home together. I liked the descriptions in that section, of the region and the people. I know a number of you went to Tennessee to campaign for Hillary, but I've never been there. And I found that so interesting, the descriptions and the people. I also think it's among the strongest on describing the surroundings of any section in the book.

Jim: Theory on why that is?

Trina: She's broke. She has no money. The IRS is threatening her and taking everything she's making. So her surroundings are pretty much everything. If she had money -- forget more money, if she just had money -- her surroundings would have changed more. Both in Nashville and outside of it. Instead, it's a miracle when she fly out. So the surroundings are really explored and detailed.

Rebecca: I won't name the songwriter who screws her over but I hated that woman.

Marcia: Thank you! Me too! And she's so right, Janis is so right, there's something very wrong with being a lesbian and believing you're going to rot in hell because of it. She's so right that there are a number of lesbians out there who believe that though. We're in the Tennessee section still, by the way. I could talk about this section a lot. I actually didn't think I was going to enjoy it much as I got into it because I'm not really big on country music so "Janis goes to Nashville," I wouldn't have expected that to be my favorite section but it really was.

Ava: Marcia paused so I'm jumping in. She can pick back up in a second if she wants, but I want to back it up to explain that Janis had many successes around the world, was sitting on much property, making a great deal of money and, in the 1980s, discovers her bookkeeper -- I don't believe he was even a CPA -- that she'd been with since she was 15 had not been paying the taxes, had been ignoring the IRS warnings. Janis thought they were being paid. There were two sets of books, she'll discover later. In one were the checks on things she owed. That was the dummy set. The second set would be her bookkeeper writing a check to pay for his credit cards. The same check number, the same amount. But it went elsewhere. So the IRS comes down on her and they come down hard. They've very cruel. And it's while this is going on that she's in Tennessee. Marcia, I'm tossing back to you.

Marcia: I'm glad you offered all of that because I was about to talk about the thing the songwriter did that pissed me off the most and without that background, it won't register as much. Look, we all know relationships break up. Well, maybe not Trina, she's still married to her high school boyfriend all these years later.

Trina: All these years and years later. Decades. But, yeah, I know relationships aren't necessarily forever.

Marcia: And when a relationship is ending a lot of us -- including me -- are not always the nicest people. So I can read about a breakup and I can laugh and scowl and enjoy it from a distance. I know it's not going to be, "Let's shake hands and peace." That's just not how my breakups have been anyway. Mine have been loud and noisy, usually with some thrown plates. So there are a number of things I can forgive the songwriter for and not make a big deal out of it. I can say, "Oh, you packed up Janis' stuff. 'By mistake.' Yeah. Sure." But it's no big deal. And the cheating is a bigger deal but I think that was obvious when she's off riding horses with another woman, finally gets back at least a day later and then tells Janis to go to bed if she's tired while the songwriter hops in the hot tub with the other woman. I'm not saying that's no big deal but I'm saying, "Standard fare for breakups." But Janis has no money. She's sold off some things and with some of the money she and the songwriter buy a place in Los Angeles. After the breakup, even though it was promised that the house would be there for five years, the songwriter decides to sell it -- and other homes -- and doesn't even tell Janis. When someone has nothing and is struggling just to stay afloat, I don't see how you can do that? To me that is as cruel, if not crueler, than Tino and his hitting Janis.

Stan: That's Janis' ex-husband whom she leaves after he tries to kill her. Holds a gun on her, cocks it. She has to talk to him and talk to him for hours, he's already hit her and her jaw's swollen, but she's trying to talk him into bed so he'll go to sleep. As soon as he does, she splits. And, yeah, I agree with you there. Tino was greedy and controlling. He was violent and abusive. But that songwriter was basically putting Janis out on the streets. I really didn't care for her. Now maybe the fact that Tino's dead changes it or maybe I just didn't expect much from him to begin with -- due to how they met which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't read it -- but that songwriter --

Cedric: Did you look her up? I did. It took several time on Google before I got a picture of her. And I agree with you both. Tino was sick. He was a sick man, sick in the head thinking it was okay to hit a woman. He was disgusting. And he would have leeched off of Janis Ian as long as he could. But this songwriter was supposedly a functioning adult and she did put Janis out on the streets by selling off the home they bought together. There's no excuse for that. I found a photo of her online. I looked at her eyes and thought, "Yeah, no one should ever trust you."

Mike: To be clear, no one's defending Tino, the abusive husband.

Cedric: Absolutely not. But we're saying he was sick and disgusting from his first entrance in the book. And he goes out that way too. But this songwriter is a success and supposedly -- except for her own homophobia -- adjusted. So it's really appalling what she does and I just think it's appalling that anyone could be homeless. I mean, I have thought about that a lot. I take the bus to work to do my part for the environment. At the bus stops by work, there are plenty of homeless people. And I never forget that they aren't "other" or any different than I am. Any of us, in the worst of circumstances, could end up homeless. So that the money bags songwriter -- who had several homes -- felt the need to sell of her home with Janis out from under Janis just really pissed me off. And, like Mike said, no one's defending Tino. Janis writes about her song "His Hands" and that's written about Tino's abuse. "His hands never hit me when he was sober," is one of the lines. But Tino was insane and demented. If he'd tried to date one of my cousins or friends, I would've pointed out that this is a highly over educated man who is hugely underemployed and there's a reason for that. It goes to anger issues and it goes to a chip on his shoulder. It will end violent and it will not be pretty.

Trina: But what the songwriter does . . . Like Marcia said, you expect that there will be no boy scouts or girl scouts in a break up. But you do not expect that. To me, it was beyond abusive. The songwriter bought that house with Janis. She knew Janis had nowhere to live once they broke up and that house was it. She knew that the IRS wouldn't even let her have a bank account. So for the songwriter to know all of that and then decide, "Oh, I'm selling!" -- and I'm sure that it was in the songwriter's name due to the IRS problems -- was just one of the cruelest things. I rank it higher than the two times Tino hit Janis or when "Cassie" betrays the ethical code and sleeps with her patient Janis. Those things both leave scars. But to kick someone out on the street when they have nothing and have the IRS waiting to grab anything they might be able to make? I think that woman's disgusting. Janis Ian writes that she can greet her like an old friend now. I couldn't.

Jim: I understand what everyone's saying. I honestly thought we'd be debating who was worse, Cassie or Tino? I didn't really register that moment, in the book, to the degree that everyone else did. Not disagreeing with the points made. I'm going to toss to Ruth because Dona's slipped me a note saying Ruth, Ty, Elaine and C.I. have not spoken.

Ruth: Well let's go to Elaine. Cassie was a therapist. Elaine's a psychologist. What did you think of that section?

Elaine: I thought, "I'm glad she lost her license." Not only did she betray her code, not only did she do serious damage to a patient --and of course, it wasn't just Janis, it never is just one when you find a doctor who sleeps with patients -- but years later, she gets a phone call from Janis and doesn't have the brains to immediately apologize? When a former patient calls you, as a therapist, you shouldn't be thinking, "Well, let me tell you what I've been up to." Your immediate thought should be, "Something's wrong." Maybe it will end up that the person has really incredible news they wanted to share and, if so, great. But most of the time, something really bad has happened and that's why they're calling you. They've hit a bump in the road or they need to go back into therapy. With Janis' call, she outlined to "Cassie" exactly what was going on, that she was back in therapy because of what Cassie had done. Cassie was an idiot on top of everything else she was. I can't imagine that she helped even the clients she didn't sleep with due to the fact that she was so obtuse and made everything about herself.

Ruth: But Janis did have two good therapists who helped her. Just to put that in. I guess what stood out to me -- and I'm the oldest person participating -- were the illnesses. And that was really upsetting for me to read about. Especially when she found happiness with Pat and things had picked up in the career and there was a tumor discovered. It was just too much. I almost put the book down.

Jim: Why didn't you?

Ruth: Well she writes something about just wanting to see next spring. And the way she wrote it really touched me so I kept reading. I was talking about the book with Treva, my best friend from college, and she pointed out, "Ruth, you should have known Janis was not going to die. She lived to write the book." Which is true but I got really involved in the book. I read it in two days.

Ty: So you really found the book involving?

Ruth: I really did. Was I the only one?

Ty: No. I think we all loved it. Certainly The Common Ills community did since they voted it the best book of 2008. And I think it's the cold-hearted nature of throwing someone out on the street that has so outraged. It goes beyond, "I'm through with you." It's just such a hateful thing to do. It says, "You meant nothing to me." That's just so devastating.

Stan: Especially when you consider how Janis Ian is already broke and the IRS is terrorizing her.

Ty: Right. That goes beyond kicking someone when they're down. I also think that you're seeing something there. Jim's father's a member of the Real Media and always good money, his mother frequently worked. I don't mean this in a bad way but I don't think Jim's ever wondered about being homeless. Now Marcia, Stan and myself grew up in families that struggled. And it's not just "a Black thing" because Trina grew up in similar conditions which is why she took such huge offense at it. Trina?

Trina: I think that's a good point. I know Stan and Marcia's stories because they're frequently over at the house on weekends -- like this one. And I know your history, Ty, as well. I'll share mine -- I've done so at my site many times -- my father was a Socialist and he didn't hide in any political closet. He suffered during McCarthyism and after. We didn't have a lot of necessities, forget extras. And I was one of eight kids --

Ava: And you had eight children.

Trina: And I had eight children. So I do know as an adult what it's like to be completely freaked out over the bills. I think Ty's point is a strong one. And I agree, it's not meant as an insult to Jim. My son, Mike, is participating in this and I would hope that -- like Jim -- he could emphasize with the homeless but I would hope that he wasn't immediately going to, "This could be me!" And, honestly, I do go there when I read about someone's finanical troubles.

Mike: No, I don't go there automatically but something to remember is that I'm second to the last. I'd imagine it was rougher for the oldest of my brothers and sisters, right? I mean, me and my younger sister really did have more because the others had moved out on their own, right? And also true is that these older brothers and sisters went out of their way to baby us. They may have teased me and all but they also would be dropping by and saying, "Hey, Mike, let's go get some ice cream or a burger."

Trina: That is true. And the first six really were one right after the other. There was a bit of break between the first six and the last two. My first six kids.

Mike: I remember the pot of beans when I was little and Dad was on strike. The pot of beans almost every night. But, let me brag on my parents here, they both knew how to inform us of what was going on without frightening us. They stressed it was temporary and made sure we didn't panic. And I think Ty's point is a strong one too.

Stan: It really is. Good call on that. Fortunately, I had good and caring parents and was never beaten as a child so that was never a fear, physical violence, but there were times when money was so tight. I was one of those kids on the school breakfast program and I have always appreciated Ruth's writing on that topic because she is a strong advocate for it and I am one of the people who benefitted from that. Second grade, especially, if it hadn't been for my school's breakfast program I really wouldn't have eaten my first meal until lunch. Money was just really tight and I can remember an eviction threat, my mom seeing that and trying to act calm and not saying a word until she spoke to my dad and me straining to hear every word from the next room and freaking out.

Rebecca: Well someone beats you, like her ex-husband did, and they're sick, they've got huge problems and are psycho. But someone does their part to try to make you homeless, they're flat out cruel. Tino's being drunk or drugged out both times he abuses Janis doesn't excuse his actions or make them okay. But the damage the songwriter attempts to do to Janis is done with a clear head and done with knowledge that Janis has nothing and the IRS is attacking her. And I would just like to say that I was outraged by the songwriter's actions that also included not just having an affair but lying about it because she was afraid Janis would fire the woman she was sleeping with. See, the songwriter didn't just have an affair, she did it with a woman producing Janis' album. And that had happened with another lover Janis had but with that woman I thought, "Flake." Sorry. With the songwriter, she presented as so together and grounded. And there were other things there that pissed me off as well. Janis was sick and weak and the songwriter knew that. She insisted on having her parents visit and then got upset that Janis put her hand on her shoulder as they were walking because Janis was weak. The songwriter goes into a hissing attack or fit. And that did nothing to endear her to me. Tino was a pig and a violent one. But, I'm like Cedric here, it was obvious -- from the outside, I'm not blaming Janis -- that Tino was no good. The songwriter came on as something special, something wonderful and caring. And not only did she cheat -- I believe twice -- but she also sold off the house she and Janis bought. I think she did that because Janis fired her lover. I think that's exactly why she did it. By the way, C.I. still hasn't spoken and Wally could probably up his participation.

Dona: I was just thinking that as well. I'm going to toss a question out to Wally on what was his favorite part?

Wally: I don't think I can pick just one. But the part that stood out the most to me, and probably not to anyone else since they didn't mention it, was during a doctor's visit. She finds out about her difficulties with pregnancy and carrying to term. And it's a very brief section, just a few sentences, maybe three. But I didn't get how much she really did blame herself and feel something was wrong with her because she couldn't have a child when she was married. This doctor's comment/diagnosis comes long after Tino's out of the picture.

Rebecca: That did stand out to me as well and I actually almost mentioned it. But I thought I was the only one -- and figured it was because I had miscarriage after miscarriage my entire life until my last pregnancy. Why did it stand out to you?

Wally: Probably because of the guilt factor and how much blame we all carry around for things that aren't our fault or in our control. It'd be great if we could all have a doctor come up and explain to us that whatever we were beating ourselves up for wasn't our fault and be able to back it up with a medical record/fact.

Jim: Okay, Jess, we need to get you to add something to what you've already said and -- as has been pointed out -- we need to get C.I. So Jess --

Jess: Kat wrote a review of Janis Ian's double-disc CD set. I can add that. C.I.'s got to scan the cover but it's already typed up. She finished it Saturday morning. And Kat and Betty aren't participating in this feature because we started it early and they're packing up and doing goodbye stuff for Betty's kids if I understood correctly. Betty's moving out to California for a job promotion and Kat went to Georgia to help her finish packing and fly back with her and the kids.

Jim: I knew everything but the double-disc review. Have you read it?

Jess: Yeah. I think it will surprise some because, even here, we've talked about Janis as a songwriter. And she's a great songwriter. But Kat's emphasizing the voice, the singer, in her review.

Jim: If it's up by the time we're posting --

Ava: Yeah, push one more thing off on C.I.

Jim: I was going to say we'd link to it in this and if it's not, we'd come back at some point -- no later than this Tuesday -- and provide a link to it. But it is true that we need to get a scan of Janis' book cover for this piece so it would be very easy to do a scan of the CDs then as well. But Jess, you're pick for best song on the collection?

Jess: That's Best of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection, just for the record. And that's a hard question. On disc one, I'd probably go with "Love Is Blind." Kat goes with "When Angels Cry." I know Stan loves "This Train Still Runs."

Stan: I really do. That song is just amazing.

Jim: I want Ruth, Elaine and Wally to name a favorite --

Jess: And, he said ignoring Jim's attempt to move past him, on disc two my favorite is probably "Stolen Fire."

Jim: I'm laughing. I did forget you'd said "disc one" when giving your previous answer. Okay, Ruth, Elaine and Wally.

Ruth: I will go with "Society's Child" just because it reminds me of both the best of the folk music in the sixties and the rock. It has a really fat sound to it and a melody that just buries itself in your head. Elaine?

Elaine: This is purely a personal choice, for all of us, but I think I'm going to go with "When Angels Cry." I just love Janis' voice on that and the chords are just perfect. I could listen to that song over and over. Like "All Those Promises" which I love.

Wally: I'd say "Tatto" on disc two and go with the obvious on disc one, "At Seventeen." Bomp-ba-ba-bomp . . . I love that beat.

Jim: I need to add Trina to this. Jess explained where Kat and Betty were and we're always glad to have Trina participate in anything, however, she's not their substitute. She loves books and when she heard from Mike that we were planning a book discussion, she asked him to see if it was okay if she participated. It's always okay if she participates in any feature we do here. We're always glad to have her input. But she was brought on before Kat and Betty were aware they'd be unable to participate.

Jess: Because the move -- which the kids voted for, Betty's kids -- just hit them Saturday afternoon and they came up with a list of friends they needed to say goodbye to. Even though they'd already said goodbyes on Friday.

Jim: Which I did not know. Well goodbyes are hard at any age. Okay, so Trina, your pick for favorite song on the collection?

Trina: I'll go with "Joy." I found that an amazing song on Folk Is The New Black. I still am amazed by it. My husband and I are big Janis fans so except for the previously unreleased tracks, we know all of her stuff. And I agree with Elaine that "All Those Promises" is an amazing song -- not on the Best of, but an amazing song off Folk Is The New Black.

Jim: And now we go to C.I.

C.I.: I think the book's been well covered and can't think of anything to add.

Jim: Don't worry, I have questions. Ava and C.I. both just flipped me off. Good naturedly, I'm sure. Okay, Tennessee was mentioned as a strong section. I was wondering if you agreed and I can tell by your face you don't.

C.I.: I don't disagree. I think that's one of the sections -- Jess was talking about the opening pages, beyond the introduction, and wondering how many drafts they'd gone through because they flowed so well. What I got from the Tennessee section -- which is a strong section both for what takes place and for the way it's written -- was -- I don't mean a lie on Janis' part. I just think she was a lot kinder to that songwriter than the songwriter deserved. That's the feeling I take away from that section. That she held back and that might have been out of fear of a lawsuit or just having the sense to say, "I can only beat myself up so much to write this book." Meaning, Jim's got a puzzled look, she said something like, "I'm going to tell this story and I'm going to offer the important details but I'm not going to destroy myself. I'm not going to open a vein."

Elaine: I'm not disagreeing -- please, C.I. picks up on things no one else ever notices. But I'm wondering why?

C.I.: One reason is the therapy sessions.

Elaine: I could kick myself for missing that. That's so true. She goes back into therapy and trusts no one because of the breakup with the songwriter as well as other things that happened earlier but the therapy focus, in the book, really is on what "Cassie" did to her and not the just-took-place breakup. Okay, yeah, I agree with C.I. And if we're right, I would agree it was very smart on Janis Ian's part. She's written some moving pages in that section and there's no reason for her to drag herself through hell. The way she does when she's recounting her time with Peter and her therapy in Philadelphia.

C.I.: Agreed. And I'm not dismissing that section of the book, the Tennessee section. It's wonderfully and powerfully written. But I feel she knew what her personal safety line was and walked up to it and no further. Like Elaine, I praise her for doing that, I don't fault her. And her decision to do that may have also allowed for the descriptions that Trina so enjoyed in that section. She really brings her surroundings to life in that section and that might be from maintaining a bit more distance on the breakup. Equally true, this distance -- not detachment, just a perspective -- demonstrates the growth she's gone through. And I believe Dona's pointing to her watch so I'll just say it's an amazing book, impossible to put down.

Jim: Correct. So that's a book discussion sooner than we planned but we made an exception due to the e-mails. This is a rush transcript. Pick up the book at bookstores, at your library or order it online.

Chummyness You Can Believe In

Barack gets so happy

Last week Barack lunched with Bully Boy, Poppy Bully, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Strangely, at photo time, Barack wanted to be flanked by the Bushes.

Alleged Democrat Barack felt most comfortable standing between two Republicans.

No wonder he quickly declared war on Social Security last week.

Ms. Pathetic, fold tent please

The useless and pathetic Ms. magazine decided to remind America that the Feminist Majority Foundation's take-over of Ms. ensured that Gloria's "Sex, Lies and Advertising" would be rendered useless. Why worry about what advertisers try to force magazines into doing when you become nothing but a tool for the Democratic Pary.

That's what happened.

It's a useless magazine -- one badly written, badly edited and that remains an eye sore despite the glossy pages.

Now it's pulled a stunt that's outraged a number of people (the number will grow as people hear about it -- not "see it" because NO ONE reads Ms. magazine anymore).

The stunt?

What's a whore need to do? Sell it, sweetie, sell it.

Ms. Pathetic

So they've splashed Barack on the cover and that's offensive enough and as desperate as when GQ made Julia Roberts their first cover woman. But hey, GQ's nothing but a fashion spread with a few words tossed in, Ms. was supposed to stand for something, right?

At Corrente, Shainzona shares these thoughts:

It's time for Ms. Magazine to fold its tent and slink silently into the night. If they pretend to represent women and their issues, I fear for my daughter, granddaughter and all women of the world.
Shame on them. Really. Shame on them.

It is time for them to close shop. We noted that months ago and we'd be as outraged but we were prepared for it and you should have been as well. Ava and C.I. documented it. They wrote about the inner-office e-mails Ms. magazine circulated -- during the Democratic Party primary -- calling Hillary a "bitch," a "c**t" and so much worse -- yes, Virginia, there is worse than the c-word.

Ava and C.I. told you about how Ms./Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Wire (sometimes Feminist Wire Daily) did nothing to call out the sexism during the Democratic Party primary. After little Davy Shoo-shoo got suspended by MSNBC, Feminist Wire finally had a write-up. After. (For saying Hillary was apparently pimping out Chelsea.)

Ava and C.I. told you repeatedly how Ms. refused to call out the sexism and how Ms. was staffed with liars like Michele Kort who were destroying the magazine.

Ava and C.I. told you all about how, after ignoring the sexism Hillary faced day-after-day, the magazine suddenly wanted to let someone weigh in on the Barack and Hillary campaigns. Who wrote that piece? If we said "self-loathing lesbian, fatty division," could you guess?

If you guessed Donna Brazile, you are correct. The Barack supporting Brazile -- busted on CNN by Campbell Brown and getting snipping with Campbell after. Big Momma's Mouth, Donna Brazile.

So it's no surprise now that Ms. put a man on the cover or that the man is the sexist pig Barack.

They put him in a t-shirt that reads, "This is what feminism looks like."

Well, what? You expected them to put Michelle Obama on the cover?

The same trashy Michelle who declared in November 2007, on the campaign trail in South Carolina, that if someone couldn't keep their 'home' in order, they couldn't be president. The term for what Michelle did is: bitchy.

The same Michelle who, when asked if she was a feminist, ran with these comments, "You know, I’m not that into labels. So probably, if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it. I wouldn't identify as a feminist just like I probably wouldn’t identify as a liberal or a progressive."

Don't fret it, Michelle, we'd never mistake you for a feminist.

We'd never mistake your husband for one either. And for so many reasons not limited to his repeated use of the word "sweetie" to refer to women. Let's go to the woman who emerged as one of the bravest of 2008, Marie Cocco. From her "Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group):

Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating.

During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.

Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure.

One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."

Ms. chooses to ignore the above. Ms. chooses to ignore that George W. Bush appointed more women to his cabinet than Barack Obama has currently (his cabinet is unofficial until the Senate confirms the nominees).

"That's what feminism looks like!" gushes Ms. Really? You mean like this:

Seen but not heard?

Michelle Obama joined Senator Barack Obama at a rally Sunday, but she did not speak. That was hardly unusual, particularly because Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. was on hand to intorduce the man at the top of the Democratic ticket.

But Mr. Obama went on to offer an explanation anyway.

"Michelle decided she wasn't going to speak today," Mr. Obama told a crowd in Detroit. "She just wanted to sit there and look cute. That's O.K. It's O.K. with me!"

Mrs. Obama smiled, but it was unclear if it was O.K. with her.

You go, Sister Baracka!

Barack makes the girls at Ms. feel so good about themselves, they just feel like frolicking and, let's be honest, they feel like marketing hatred.

Closet-case Donna Brazile gets a column. Where's the out-proud lesbian in the pages of Ms. writing about that? Search in vain for that woman.

Good thing because no proud lesbian could work for Ms. these days. Rick Warren, the homophobe, will be the religious authority at Barack's inauguration and Ricky hates the gays -- male and female. He hates the women period.

As Reclusive Leftist explains:

When Rick Warren was invited to preside at Obama's Inauguration, I wrote that his selection was an insult to women everywhere. Warren is an antediluvian sexist who believes that women were put on earth to obey their husbands. His Christianity is a front for male supremacy; his biblical "literalism" a patchwork of cherry-picked verses. If his noxious doctrine were merely an intellectual exercise, it would be offensive.
But it's not an intellectual exercise. There are real-world consequences.
As Nina M. points out, Warren doesn't believe battered women have the right to seek a divorce. "God hates divorce," says Warren, with the confident affability of a 250-pound man who's never cowered in fear for his life:
It's not like you can escape the pain… You don't -- you don't escape the pain. And I'd always rather choose a short term pain and find God's solution for a long term gain, than try and find a short term solution that's going to involve a long term pain in life.
Actually, you can escape the pain -- and the fists and the knives and the drunken rages and the loaded guns. But somehow I don’t think that’s what Warren is talking about. I suspect none of those things are quite real to him, just as women aren't quite real to him -- not as full human beings, that is.

That's right, Ms. magazine supports homophobia and domestic abuse now. That's what their brand of 'feminism' looks like. What a proud, proud moment for them.

[For more on this topic, see Heidi Li's "This is just incredible."]
[Ty note: Link to Heidi Li fixed 1-12-09. Thanks to Debra for e-mailing to say it wasn't working.]

The New Ms. magazine! (Parody)

Ms. Pathetic

Our hot, hot cover will have all the girls in your steno pool seeing red as you walk into the office flashing the latest issue! Hot-hot-hot Barack removing clothes! It's enough to make any and every woman think she's having a heat flash! We got very lucky with this issue because our first choice for the face of today's feminism, Frank Hart, told us he was too busy working on a new musical set to hit Broadway later this year. At which point, we thought of Barack. He called us all sweeties, pinched our fannies and suggested if it would get us home sooner so we could get busy fixing our husbands' dinner, he'd do it. What a prince!!!!!

-- Michie Kort, Head Girl in Charge . . . Until A Man Walks In The Room

Saying Yes To Get What You Want: Empowering Your Way Into A New Mink Stole

by Robin Gurley Morgan

Empowerment doesn't have to be a 100% thing. That can be taxing. It's so much easier to be empowered on your terms. And if you're really smart, like I or my friend Dorothy Shaw, you'll quickly grasp that putting out should be done on an installment plan. You give a little, he gives a little.

And if you play it just right, you end up with a lovely mink stole. No, it can't tell you "I love you." But it's dead. So it has an excuse. And it looks so lovely around your shoulders. Remember gals, Fur Is Murder . . . on the pocketbook. That's where a gentleman caller can really come in handy.

For 10 Seconds I Thought I Was A Lesbian, Then I Realilzed I Was Just Ugly

by Donna Brazile

Sometimes when I'm down on the swamp back home, I'd get to thinking, "Now Donna Brazile, I don't want to shock you,, but child, I think you one of those lesbians." And I would immediately shoot back, "No, I'm not." Then I would point out how I haven't had a date with a man in . . . well never. Then I would raise my voice and tell myself I didn't appreciate being spied upon!

Pretty soon I was yelling at myself and cursing myself and my mama was running out on the front porch hollering, "Donna, get your ass inside the house. The neighbors already think you're plumb loco and all the kids in the neighborhood run from you like you're Michael Jackson." And I'd say, "I'll come in when I've finished my discussion, Mama." And so I'd be trying to wrap up real quick and, I gotta tell you, that ain't easy because, this may surprise you, but I've learned that I fight dirty. I'd just make up any old lie and shout it at myself.

But after another hour or so, it hit me like all the ugly sticks on a tree I was shimmying up but ended up falling down: Donna Brazile, I said, you is ugly. You is the ugliest thing I ever did see. You're fat. You've got bad skin. Even Al Sharpton wouldn't want your hair.

And that's when it hit me: I'm no lesbian, I'm just ugly.

I started thanking Jesus right then and there because I know all lesbians go to hell. That's what my preacher used to say and Mama would slap me on the knee and say, "Donna, you pay attention to that. Donna, you especially pay attention to that."

So now when I get into arguments with myself and I start accusing myself of being a lesbian, I just shoot back, "Hell no, Donna Brazile's just ugly. She's just about the ugliest woman you ever did see. In fact, there are animals in the zoo that look prettier than Donna Brazile!" And that always makes me feel better. Like I did back when I was a teenager and I'd study the photos of Janet Jackson in Right On!

He Won't Sleep On The Wet Spot, What Do You Do?

by Michie Kort

It is one of the oldest dilemmas in human civilization. I bet if we were to look at those funny drawings on cave walls, we'd find that ancient cave men, after they tossed a woman over their shoulders and rode their dinosaurs home, would argue with their women about who was sleeping in the wet spot that night.

Instead of making it a big hassle, just sleep in it.

It can be a real thrill if you think about it. All night long, the small of your back will have the dampness and you can tell yourself, "There it is, the proof that he loves me. He won't say the words and I know that's because he's just scared to share his emotions. But right now, if I press my back into the mattress, I can feel his squishy and total love."

It can be such a blessing that I can get lost in it and not hear him leave at 4:30 in the morning. At other times, when I'm paying attention, I'll grab his right leg and beg him to stay long enough for me to make him breakfast and maybe iron his clothes.

The Purpose Driven Life: Making His Dreams Your Own

guest column by New Face Of Feminism runner-up Rick Warren

A strong woman is a woman who knows how to be meek, a woman who knows how to shut up and, most of all, a woman whose jaw can take a solid upper-cut.

Time and again, I hear from girls today that they just can't meet any men when, in fact, the reality is that they just couldn't keep the men they met.

Remember, ladies, divorce is the two-way street, marriage is a dead-end one.

And if you want to land a man before your chances to be fruitful and multiply dry up completely, you better learn to give a little.

Maybe that means accepting the fact that he's got a little hair on his lower back, or that he's unemployed, or that he likes to drink, or that he's got seven kids by five mothers already. But if you can learn not to try to change him and to accept him for who he is, you can find happiness or at least a husband.

Submit rhymes government. Well if you say it 'gov-ment' it does. And like government, someone needs to be a ruler and someone needs to be the ruled. Submit also rhymes with Thin Mints and those are my favorite Girl Scout Cookies. What was I saying?

Closing Thoughts From An Empty Mind . . .

by Michie Kort

Wow. Huh? Huh? Do you like our new direction? And how about that Rick Warren? Hubba-hubba, am I right? I haven't been this excited since I begged for help on my Laura Nyro book and just copied and pasted everything people gave me, word for word, into the text and called it all my writing.

I hope you enjoy our new direction as much as I do. We're already hard at work on the next issue and our cover story will probably be, "Don't Let It Make Those Brown Eyes Blue: Domestic Abuse Can Provide You With Ample Opportunities To Wear Ray-Bans Indoors!" Rick Warren really likes that idea and told me that I looked like a girl who needed a good sluggin'. He such a stud, isn't he?

Be sure to check out our new corporate sponsor: Mary Jane. Like the new Ms. magazine, its name promises so much but then just turns out to be tired candy.


How safe is the US Embassy in Baghdad?

Raising the flag

Last Monday, the US Embassy in Baghdad had its grand opening ceremony after cost-overruns and repeated building problems. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker attended the ceremonies as did the former US Ambassador to Iraq and now Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Crocker, Talabani, Negroponte

The US State Dept gave press briefings last week. Somehow, in all five, neither spokesperson Sean McCormack nor Robert Wood managed to address that. They never even gave it a single-sentence shout-out.

Maybe they were afraid of questions? While the official press release from the US Embassy insisted the cost for "the largest American Embassy structure to date" [!] was $592 million the reality was that the price was most likely close to $150 million more than that.

Though a ton of tax payer money was being spent to establish a US fortress in Iraq, there still appeared to be some security concerns. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted that those snagging invites were informed, "No firearms, cameras, cell phones or other electronics". Excepting firearms (maybe they were afraid Jalal would show up with a six-shooter and, in a festive mood, fire a few rounds skyward) what those conditionals really speak of is insecurity.

All that money spent for the embassy, located in the relative safety of the Green Zone, and still the fear. And people wonder why the US diplomatic corps avoids assignments to Iraq.
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