Sunday, November 15, 2009

Truest statement of the week

In fact, Obama actually by coming out and saying that Afghanistan is not a war of choice, implying that Iraq is, you know what does that say to the over 100,000 troops that we had in Iraq at that time? 'Hey, you guys don't really have to be there but you're going to keep going out and being shot at and getting killed anyways'? And then to the contractors? I mean the same factor goes with them but at least they're doing it as private citizens with a little more free will -- the impact is not as much. For a soldier who's being told "You're going to go back to this war zone that doesn't have to exist." You can imagine the effect on that. Especially for thefifth, sixth seventh deployment.

-- Adam Kokesh, speaking with Cindy Sheehan last week on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.

Truest statement of the week II

Roy Gutman: But you know when you enter the American Embassy in Baghdad, you get first questioned by Peruvians who are contractors. I-I think the traditional role of the marines as being the guard for embassies is actually a good one. And I think the idea of contracting that out, however necessary it was during the war because there simply weren't enough troops of any force to do it -- is a real question. I don't see -- and the State Department didn't master having these private contractors. They-they lost control of them again and again and again. There not able to manage them, frankly. And, uh, the whole embassy. You go to this embassy, it's an immense thing really. It was built kind of for a pro-counsel's role. And you have to ask: 'Why did we do this in the middle of the war?'

Susan Page: Roy, Roy, I don't understand. So this security at the US Embassy in Baghdad is Peruvian?

Roy Gutman: The first line.

Karen DeYoung: The outer parameter.

Roy Gutman: The outer parameter.

Susan Page: And who's employing the Peruvians to provide the security?

Roy Gutman: Uh, I don't know. Maybe it's Triple Canopy. I forget the name of the contractor.

Susan Page: But it's a contractor working for the US government?

Roy Gutman: Oh yeah.

Susan Page: Huh. Alright. That surprises me.

-- NPR's The Diane Rehm Show Friday, second hour. Susan Page (USA Today) filled in for Diane Rehm and also in the exchange above are McClatchy Newspapers' Roy Gutman and The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung.

A note to our readers

Hey --

As usual the delay was . . . Flickr. We thank everyone who participated in the writing of this edition which is Dallas and the following:

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),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

What did we come up with?

Truest statement of the week -- Adam Kokesh was a natural.

Truest statement of the week II -- We'd wanted to address this in a feature article. Time ran out so we went with it as a truest.

Editorial: The silence said a great deal -- Did you catch Amy Goodman's hour on the assault on the press in Iraq last week? No? Maybe because it never aired, maybe because like so many others in the press, she ignored the story.

TV: The nightly talk shows -- Ava and C.I. tackle NBC's talk shows.

Comics and the wars -- We have other illustrations for this but we're tried of waiting on Flickr to finally upload. So we're using an older illustration and calling it a 'night'. This is the piece Isaiah worked on and we thank him for that.

The Nation endorses and amplifies sexism -- Ava and C.I. brought this one over and we liked it because it was a visual feature and because it bothered us that we hadn't learned about it already online.

Mailbag (Dona) -- For weeks, Dona has been planning to write an update on smoking (on quitting smoking) because so many readers e-mail with questions and comments. We needed another piece and there were some bits and pieces she could add at the end so she contributed this.

Bitches for Barack (Ava and C.I.) -- Ava and C.I. wrote this and we thank them for it.

The Bronze Boob goes to . . . -- We all agreed John Nichols had yet again earned big fool bragging rights.

Iraq -- Our Iraq feature.

ETAN calls for dialogue -- ETAN alert.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Wally, Marcia, Betty, Cedric, Ann, Kat, Ruth and Rebecca wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's it. Sorry this is such a lame note but I (Jim) am tired. We've been working on this edition forever.

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

Editorial: The silence said a great deal

The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

-- Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Co. v. United States

Last week, the 'democracy' in Iraq took another body blow when an Iraqi court or 'court' decided toeing the line for thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki was more important than a free press.

It starts with The Guardian publishing Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq" (April 30, 2009). The article detailed the opinions of some that Nouri was attempting to become the new 'strong man' of Iraq. It was an important article and a brave one.

But Nouri doesn't like being called out. He does like attacking the press and has been doing that since shortly after the US-installed him as Prime Minister.

Tuesday, Martin Chulov and Julian Borger (The Guardian) reported the latest assault: "An Iraqi court has ordered the Guardian to pay Nouri al-Maliki damages of 100m dinar (£52,000) after supporting a complaint by the Iraqi prime minister's intelligence service that he had been defamed by a Guardian story in April describing him as increasingly autocratic. The ruling ignored testimony by three expert witnesses from the Iraqi journalists' union summoned by the court, who all said that the article was neither defamatory nor insulting and argued that no damages were warranted."

Outside of The Guardian, few were raising the issue. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement which included the following:

"We are very disappointed to see the politicization of the Iraqi judiciary in this way," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "That the courts would devote their time to this type of irresponsible suit is outrageous considering that scores of journalist murders remain unpunished. It is vital that this decision be reversed in the appeals process."
Of the
140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, CPJ research shows. Iraqi authorities have not brought a single perpetrator to justice in any of those killings.
"This heavy-handed decision sends a chilling message to all journalists who have risked their lives to report from Iraq , and it resonates particularly now in the run-up to the general election scheduled for January," said Abdel Dayem. "The article accused the prime minister's government of being increasingly autocratic. This court case proved the point."
As the security situation has improved, many journalists have told CPJ that government harassment, physical assaults, and frivolous legal proceedings have replaced insurgent attacks as the greatest professional risk they face. Al-Maliki has appeared to lead the legal assault against Iraqi journalists: At least two other defamation complaints have been filed by his representatives in connection with articles critical of the prime minister, CPJ research shows. Those complaints were dropped after they came under heavy criticism.
In June, CPJ and the Iraq-based press freedom group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory
sent a letter to al-Maliki expressing concerns about increasing official harassment. In the first six months of the year, the two organizations documented more than 70 cases of harassment and assault against journalists in Iraq .


Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) observed, "What exactly did the Guardian do to merit this judgment -- which, perhaps not incidentally, directs them to put more than $100,000 in Nouri al-Maliki's pocket? Something which, admittedly, is quite shocking in our day: reporting."


That was pretty much it during the week. Late Friday afternoon, Jenan Hussein and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "The chilling atmosphere for the news media was underscored this week when an Iraqi court fined the London-based Guardian newspaper nearly $87,000, finding that it had defamed Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. An article in the paper in April quoted unnamed Iraqi intelligence officials describing what they said was Maliki's increasingly authoritarian rule. [. . .] Free expression is one of the few benefits that Iraqi count from the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Basic services such as electricity and sewage are still in disrepair, and sectarian violence, while much reduced, is still a daily occurrence. The backlash against journalists and curbs on book, cartoons and plays, often for religious reasons, raise questions about what kind of society the United States will leave behind when American troops withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011."

And, outside the pages of The Guardian, that's it.

Where was the press corps?

Where were the strong arguments in defense of a free press?

Would a loud, global objection cause Nouri to stop attacking the press?

It might. It might not.

But saying nothing, lodging no objections? That'll ensure that Nouri deploys this strategy again. Nouri's gotten to attack the press and get away with it.

Around the world, there was silence. Throughout the web there was silence.

And, in the process, a message was sent.

Those who refused to stand with the press, who refused to defend The Guardian better not be surprised when they're the next ones targeted.

As Charles Tripp (Guardian) observed, "There is a pattern here, in which the wires of the 'shadow state' are again being assembled, leading to the hands of one man: intelligence services run from the prime minister's office, staffed mainly by 'awlad al-Hindiyya' ['the lads from Hindiyya', Maliki's home region]; dismissals, promotions and transfers in the ministries of interior and defence that insert his loyalists at the expense of others; the introduction of censorship of imported books and control of the internet; the recent closure of Mustansiriya University and its reopening under the watchful eye of the Baghdad operations command, controlled by his office." But be like the bulk of the press . . . and . . . just pretend . . . not to notice.

TV: The nightly talk shows

Between the never ending voice overs on 'entertainment' shows and so many 'news' programs doing 'sit downs' (as opposed to actual reporting), it can seem like the blather never ends on TV. And no where is that more true than on the most yada-yada format of all: Talk shows.

The talk show. Wrongly credited as beginning with Joe Franken in 1951, the talk show was around long before TV began broadcasting. For example, The Hedda Hopper Show began broadcasting on radio in 1939. Talk shows were always popular on radio (and sometimes they were dressed up as "variety shows" when they were just talk shows with a music interlude or two). When TV emerged, talk shows came along for the ride.

For the audience, talk shows are supposed to provide them a chance to get to know someone. For the networks, talk shows provide them cheap programming. And no network is more dependant upon talk shows this year than NBC -- or in a greater state of flux.

This time last year, Conan O'Brien was hosting Late Night With Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno was hosting The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Today, Jimmy Fallon hosts Late Night, Conan grabs The Tonight Show and Jay's been kicked into prime time with The Jay Leno Show.

By moving Jay to prime time, NBC was making a 'brave' move, some wags insisted. NBC was doing something 'new' that had never been done before. It was 'innovative'! First, there's nothing innovative about any talk show. Second, as is usually the case for late night TV hosts, Jay isn't doing anything that Jack Paar didn't do first years ago.

Jack Paar left as host of The Tonight Show and began hosting (also on NBC) a prime time program entitled The Jack Paar Show once a week. The Jack Paar Show? The Jay Leno Show? Again, nothing new is happening here. (Steve Allen fans and freaks, he did not leave The Tonight Show and go to prime time. He was already doing his prime time show on Sundays long before he left The Tonight Show.)

Well something new is happening for NBC's last hour of prime time and their late night line up: serious trouble.

Jay is tanking in the ratings, Monday through Friday. The hope was that he would at least come in third. It appears they should have hoped "at least fourth" because FX is hauling in significant numbers. Jay Leno's show is a bomb. Not 'the bomb,' a bomb.

And NBC thought they could screw people over. We're not speaking of the audience, we're speaking of station owners -- station owners, not NBC owned stations. We spoke to three owners who carry NBC programming and they're wondering how much longer they can afford to keep Leno on? They reminded us that it was ten years ago that NBC had to face the fact that they could keep producing Another World but the stations wouldn't just keep putting on a lemon that drove audiences away. They're toying with expanding local news or offering syndicated re-runs in place of Leno.

And the damage Jay does to the ratings goes far beyond that last hour of prime time. Local stations are seriously hurting with their nightly newscasts because Jay is their lead in.

NBC seems to think that as long as they make a profit, the ratings don't matter. Too bad for NBC, they only own 10 US stations. Almost 200 of the stations carrying NBC programming are affiliates and they're seeing declining ratings in the last hour of prime time and declining ratings for their nightly news.

What are audiences seeing?

We caught the show (all three shows, in fact) on Wednesday and the first thing we noticed was how cheap the show's opening was. It looks like photo shop done by a computer amateur as we go from one photo of Jay to another. As one of us observed, "It's only missing the refrigerator magnets." And then Jay walks out onto a set which made it look like he was trapped in a mall food court -- somewhere between the Chinese counter and the hot wings. He did a monologue that was notable only for including Jennifer Lopez -- which was only notable because it was a common thread over that night's NBC line up. Then Sandra Bullock joined the show. The intro to that was a series of clips from her various films starting with Two Weeks Notice.

Sandra was greeted warmly (we know and like Sandra) and she promoted her new film and then talked a bit about travel (which Jay tried to find jokes in but couldn't) and then about cookies. The interview never really got started and, quickly, it was over.

It was time for Jay to do "Craig's List Confidential" which resembles his headlines bit from Tonight only this allows him to really roll around in the gutter on his back as he goes for as many sexual references as he can. "10 Before 10" featured a 'celebrity.' No one we knew and the segment was pointless. In that way, it fit with the show.

We woke up for "JMZ" mainly due to the fact that Mikey Day was in a tight t-shirt, his pointy nipples practically daring us not to nod off. Mikey Day was in a bad skit (Florence Henderson runs a fight club) but made it work the same way he was in a bad sitcom (Kath & Kim) this time last year but made it work when he was onscreen.

Mikey had us fully awake and then the show was over. How much more awake might the audience have been if Mikey Day's bit had been earlier in the show?

Like the number of licks necessary to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, apparently the world may never know.

Conan. Jay's tanking in the ratings and Conan's not doing any better.

Why is that?

It probably doesn't help that he's wearing so much obvious make up. And all those male viewers he was supposed to attract? With that hair?

Hate to break it to everyone, but stick straight hair like Conan's doesn't 'curl' on the bangs on its own. Between the make up and the curled bangs, we wondered if we were watching a male comic or Hayley Mills getting ready to do a Disney feature in the sixties?

Conan oozes and drips drag queen. It's there in his mannerisms, it's there in his poses. In fact, he actually resembles Roger the alien on American Dad. Which would explain his need to be bitchy.

Jennifer Lopez? Oh, you know Conan couldn't pass up a joke about a woman.

Did we say woman?

Pluralize that.

Several times over.

A former beauty queen? You know she got dragged through the coals over a sex tape. And what was really appalling was that it was considered normal for sidekick Andy Richter to watch the tape (and apparently get off to it) but it was considered 'immoral' for Carrie Prejean to have made it.

Conan managed to insult many women in his 'comedy' routine. Sarah Palin? Jokes that she fears pictures being taken of her will "steal her crazy." He opened by noting it was Veterans Day . . . which somehow turned into a joke about Kirstie Alley's weight. If that seemed 'fresh,' you haven't watched TV in ten years.

Ten years?

We'd guess that was the expiration date on his 'joke' about Bill Clinton wanting a divorce. As is always the case with Conan, the man came off better in the 'joke' than did the woman. Or as he put it at another point in the show, "You fellas know what I'm talking about."

Yes, all the 'fellas' live to scream support to a heavily made up 46-year-old man who appears to have just left rehearsals for Kiss Of The Spiderwoman.

He should have left rehearsals for his spoof of a Spanish telenova which, frankly, was stereotypical and offensive.

It was time finally for the first guest. Heather Locklear. We know Heather and we like her. And this week the CW airs her first episode on the new Melrose Place. But watching that segment, though we cheered Heather slapping Conan, we saw all that was wrong with the show.

A two-shot.

For the entire damn interview?

Where was the director?

You could have fallen asleep during that lengthy static shot.

Heather was in profile the entire time.

They couldn't give her some close ups? They had to keep Conan in the shot?

The slap?

Conan wanted to know how they did those Melrose slaps in the 90s. (He seemed to be confusing Melrose with the 80s Dynasty -- which Heather was also on.) So Heather talked him through it and then they attempted to do it but Conan forgot to turn his head and actually got slapped. Many a talk show host could have turned that into a funny bit. Conan didn't. And moved on. And then, a few minutes later, realized there might be a bit in it and attempted to revisit it. However, it was too late.

And that says a great deal about Conan's comedic timing.

The show never seemed to end and we grasped why viewers avoided it.

The show wound down with stand up comic Rodman and we think he's funny and assumed Conan would do a set up that would prepare the audience for that. See, Rodman sneaks up on you. He's not splashy, flashy the way Conan is. You're listening to the first joke, if you don't know his style, and thinking, "Hmm. That's interesti -- Oh, that's funny!" He sneaks up on you.

Instead of preparing the audience, Conan gave the verbal equivalent of a hard shove.

Next up was Latenight with Jimmy Fallon, NBC's only success in the ratings.

We watched with trepidation. We know Jimmy and like him and didn't see him doing a monologue well.

We were not mistaken.

Jimmy really can't do a monologue.

We'd recommend he do a comedic duet at the start of each show. Jimmy's humor comes from the start and stop. He can't just tick off and get laughs. He needs a rhythm and that works best with more than one person.

But before we got to the monologue, we had to see the walk on and we were cursing throughout that. Who put Jimmy in that outfit? They should be fired and he never again should walk onto a set with a jacket buttoned closed. This jacket had three buttons, appeared to have been borrowed from Richard Dawson's Botany 500 collection and made Jimmy look like a barrel.

We'd lose the suit period. No more suits. Among the things Jimmy has going for him -- when compared to all the other late night hosts -- is youth. So don't hide that.

After the monologue, the show improved measurably and, as Jimmy spoke with Jason Schwartzman and Joan Cusak, it became obvious why people were watching this show and not NBC's two other nightly talk shows: Jimmy's listening.

With Jay and Conan, their (scripted) remarks during interviews have nothing to do with what's just been said. It's why their interviews feel so canned. Like the young David Letterman who once occupied the slot, Jimmy can't resist the opportunity to jump in with a joke. That really requires listening.


It's something Amy Goodman always hopes her Democracy Now! audience doesn't do.

Last week, we were noting how little Amy Goodman cares about the Iraq War and Ty passed on the contents of one emotional defense of Goody that was sent in. To the Goody freak, we ask: Did you catch this week's shows?

In the Iraq snapshot on Monday, the following appeared:

Today the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq – Two U.S. Army pilots were killed when a helicopter experienced a hard landing in Salah ad Din Province, Nov.8. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .]The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – A Marine attached to Multi National Force – West died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Nov. 8. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4362.

3 deaths announced on one day and 2 of them from a helicopter crash. We couldn't wait for Goody's segment! But we knew she wouldn't do one so the only question was whether or not she'd even include it as a headline. Check Monday and check Tuesday. Find where Goody informed her audience that a helicopter crashed in Iraq killing two service members and that a third was announced dead.

You won't find it. She had other things to do. She who used to lecture The New York Times about 'sins of omission.'

Oh, how the fickle finger of fate has flipped her the bird.

She's as tired as the talk show format. Which is where Fallon could really benefit. His energy shouldn't be bound by 'the rules.' Jimmy's at his best when he's doing it different. And when Carly Simon (whom we know and love) finished the one song she was brought on to perform ("You Belong To Me," from her just released Never Been Gone album), Jimmy was all over her but the audience couldn't hear it. It was a real shame.

Jimmy doesn't need to do his show the way Conan did it or the way Jay would do it, he needs to do his "Jimi Thing" (nod to Dave Matthews). NBC would do well to stop trying to plug him into a formula and grasp that he's the solution, not a variable. That's what the ratings are saying as well -- not that NBC appears able to listen these days. Like Jay, Conan and Amy, NBC just knows how to blather on endlessly.

Comics and the wars

Life During Wartime

The United States is engaged in three wars: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and how do comic books reflect that or not?

With that question in mind, we hit the racks at two Borders (Boston and San Francisco) and, yes, judged by the cover for our random sample.

We ended up with ten titles which, based on the cover art, might have something to do with any or all three wars in even the most tangential way.

DC's Superman #683 features an elderly looking Superman flying through space with debris around him and a claim of "New Krypton" -- not exactly the New Jerusalem but we'll give it a try. On the first page, Superman (in costume and in the air) declares, "Listen to me! You can't be here! You have to leave --"

Well thank goodness. Good to know Supes is part of the Out Of Iraq Now contingent. But just when we’re getting ready to call him up and invite him over for a strategizing session, we turn the page and he's declaring "ALL OF YOU!" to Green Lantern, Green Lantern (there are two), Power Girl, Green Lantern (there are now three), Wonder Woman, Black Lightning, Hawk Girl, Hawk Man and three costumed people we don’t recognize.

He wants them off Krypton -- er, New Krypton. But he's quickly informed that actions taken by the residents on New Krypton are seen of "as an open act of aggression -- -- as in war." "War?" asks Superman before self-answering, "No, all of this is just cultural confusion."

Who knew the Bush family tree could be traced back to Krypton?

Staying with the Supe thread, we move over to issue #62 of Superman/Batman which opens page one with three panels of Supergirl declaring: "I'm late I'm late I'm late. Gotham's always father away than I think. Not that I'm usually in any rush to get here. This city's so . . . So (is that a dead guy?) So not Metropolis. Still, I promised Tim we'd meet for lunch on his turf, so Gotham City say hello to Linda Lang!"

At which point, she joins a snoozing Tim Drake (Robin) in a booth and the compare notes on their mentors (Superman and Batman) Tim declares, "Well, you've come a long way since we first worked together. You remember?"

"Remember?" replies back Supergirl munching on her burger and cue a lengthy flashback of when they were left at the Bat Cave by their mentors and Commissioner Gordon sounded the Bat Alarm leading them on a lengthy night where they'd battle Joker, Scarecrow and, ultimately, Supergirl would rescue Robin from rape at the hands of Poison Ivy who approached the bound Robin declaring, "Just lie back and relax, Robin. Save your strength. We have the whole night ahead of --"

No, it doesn't have a lot to do with war and really can't be stretched to reflect any kind of commentary on the state of the world today. Which is why it's very similar to issue#36 of The Annual of The Amazing Spiderman. This waste of time indicates it's such by the first page which is a panel meant to be a wedding invitation:

Dear Guests,
Mayor J. Jonah Jameson begrudgingly invites you to an engagement party celebrating the impending wedding of his father,

J. Jonah Jameson Sr.


May Reilly Parker

Yes, folks, Aunt May’s engaged. Who knew? Who cared? What follows is a bunch of nonsense including a clone Ben Reilly. In the end, Peter Parker (far weaker than we've ever seen him) learns to call his apparently future step-father "Dad" and that's supposed to make up for all those mind numbing pages.

That was a Marvel comic -- long gone are the days when you count on Marvel for social commentary. But still hopeful, we checked out issue five of Anita Blake The Laughing Corpse. No, not Anita Baker. Anita Blake. Who?

Anita Blake, vampire hunter and animator, was called in by the St. Louis police to investigate the murder of a family by what appeared to be an inhumanly strong monster. The victims' three-year-old son was abducted by the killer, and finding him became Anita's number one priority.
Her search led Anita to Dominga Salvador, a voodoo priestess. But when Anita refused to play Dominga's mind games, the priestess cast a curse on the animator, swearing something will come in the night to hurt her when she least expects it. Between Dominga and the threats of mob-connected millionaire Harold Gaynor, who Anita similarly dismissed, the vampire hunter has gained some dangerous enemies.
The boy's corpse was found mutilated in a field, and Anita realized her window to stop the killer before he could strike again was shrinking. That's when Anita got a lead on the killer, bringing her and Detective Dolph Storr to Burrell Cemetery in the middle of the night, where something from beyond the grave grabs Anita's attention . . . Literally.

And, kids, that's just the first page.

Pretty soon, Anita’s shooting off arms and other body parts of a green monster only to be grabbed from behind by another while sharing 'wisdoms' such as, "This punk didn't give a damn how many bullets I had left. The dead don't scare easy." Complete escapism but well done escapism at least.

We slid over to Marvel Comics Presents #4 whose cover exclaims, "WEAPON OMEGA EXPLODES!" Weapon? Might be something to do with a war, right? Wrong. It's a comic which features four stories.

Police Detective Stacy Dolan's investigation into the murder of a John Doe has hit a dead end, when the victim turns out to be unidentifiable by any Earthly means. But her luck takes a tun for the better when a witness places Jaafar Yousuf at the scene of the crimes -- a man Dolan put behind bars six months ago.

Patsy Walker, the heroine known as Hellcat, is in the catfight of her life when she's confronted by a gaggle of lookalikes! A strange bolt of energy has somehow taken the different parts of Patsy's personality and made them flesh. With the help of the former hero Gargoyle, the Patsies come to a truce . . . But all bets are off when Hellcat crashes the party!

In the rugged and deadly days of the Old West, the name Outlaw Kid was spoken in hushed tones; his trademark red bandanna striking fear into those that glimpsed it. But who was this mystery man -- and would he ever find the justice he so desperately sought? Step back in time, and ride . . . With the Outlaw Kid.

Michael Pointer, once possessed by the powerful force called the Collective, is now known as Guardian of the Canadian super-team, Omega Flight. With his powers unexplainably diminishing, Pointer is sidelined -- but Flight member USAgent suspects there's more here than meets the eye . . . Pointer's power begin spiking erratically -- but where's the energy coming from?

And? Vanguard gets shot and tossed out a window . . . Only to be rescued by Ms. Marvel before she hit's the ground. No, we didn't see that coming either but we don't hail it as a 'surprise' -- we see it as bad writing.

Hellcat's story was the sort of thing you almost expect a super dog or talking squirrel to pop up in. Incredibly cheesy and rather sad when you grasp that, in one form of another, Hellcat's pretty much participated in all the wars starting with WWII.

The Outlaw Kid? While he sends out f**k-me signals to every male around, a man obsessed with him shoots dead five Native Americans. And that Canadian super hero squad? About as unbelievable and kid friendly as you’d expect. Yawn.

No social commentary at all. Still with Marvel, we pick up issue #8 of Secret Warriors which is subtitled "GOD OF FEAR, GOF OF WAR." It opens with a fire fight in which Nick Fury is shot dead.

Sort of.

His body opens up and a fey young boy steps out. As your mind swirls, you're suddenly in flashback for the entire issue and, no, you never learn how a boy got into Nick Fury. You do wonder if someone was tripping out while writing the issue?

Taking a break from DC and from Marvel, we hit the gaming world's attempt to make it in print with issue #6 of Resistance ("THE BEST SELLING PLAYSTATION 3 FRANCHISE COMES TO COMICS!"). Page one finds us in an interrogation room with a man delivering a monologue:

Tell me a story Sergeant. Tell me a story, and for God's sake it better be a barn-burner. It better be the greatest g**damn story ever told. Because Sergeant, you are so f**ked now only Jesus Chris himself could unf**k you. So, please, Sergeant. Tell me what happened up there.

And with that we're into a flashback -- and wondering why so man comics use flashbacks these days? They do grasp that Pulp Fiction was over fifteen years ago, right?

It’s time for the US military to battle the Chimera. But wait, we're back in the interrogation room. Okay, it's not a steal of Pulp Fiction. It's a steal of the Demi Moore starrer Mortal Thoughts.

The second story in the issue opens with, "Of course, Johnny got shot down again. Stupid bastard. The entire squad was wiped out. No one came home from that." We're in another flashback and what's standing out the most is how little action this title offers while each page is saturated with dialogue and voice over.

But, yes, in some way, it was aware wars were going on. Next up, we were back to DC with Wonder Woman issue number 28 "Rise of the Olympian" whose cover features Cheetah. The first page features multiple panels and non-stop narration by Princess Diana as though Wonder Woman was gearing up to take the lead in Grey's Anatomy:

I confess, I haven't really given it much though. What a day like this must be like for him. Seeing me wounded. Seeing me go to war. Is it fair of me, to ask him, to ask any man, to go through this moment? I'm not certain anymore. He doesn't even know my true feelings. We haven't had time for me to tell him. Or perhaps I'm being selfish. Perhaps, if this is the day I die -- -- I want to spend part of it with someone who loves me.

Which leads to some shared conversation between Wonder Woman and Tom "but," as she notes, "ultimately, it changes nothing and I remain who I am." After a kiss, it's time for Diana and her Gorilla Knights to set off for battle with Genocide.

Ten titles? Nine actually. The Boston contingent grabbed a Captain America and so did the San Francisco group. The Captain America comics are subtitled "THEATER OF WAR." The October 2009 issue finds Steve Rogers in, we're not kidding, Kuwait.

It was 5 am when we crossed over the border from Kuwait. There weren't many of us: Me, Kenny, Mikey Wait, our Humvee, and a few thousand of our closest friends. We were expecting one hell of a party. But all we found was just a sea of grateful faces. Women and children only -- not a single man in sight. None of us had known what to expect, but I don't think any of us expected this. The gateway to Iraq. Nice tough for the enemy to leave it unlocked.

It's easy going as they enter the country until, suddenly, fire is exchanged and an explosion but, look, it's Captain America! Who saves the day and departs with, "Tell Colonel Martinez when he gets here that I've moved over into Sadr City to support the 45th, and my regards to his wife."

But things quickly go bad and the group's Humvee hit's an IED wounding all but Bryan Anderson most severely. He's Medivaced home and has lost both legs. At least nine pages are devoted to him stateside, struggling in rehab,

The December issue started off in colonial America and progressed through American wars. Near the end of the book, a title reads: "La Drang Valley, Vietnam: November 16, 1965" and features US GI Johnny saying, "I see a ghost of my country, . . . I see a ghost of my country, . . . I see a ghost of my country" as he repeatedly fires his rifle.

And that's what you've got. Now if we'd gone to a comic book store, we would have had the freshest of titles. And a bigger option. But Marvel and DC are responsible for what they stock at big stores like Borders which get more foot traffic than most comic book stores. So what did we find?

Very few comics even bother to try to comment on the world today. Gone are the days of Marvel leading the way for the left and DC being ultra conservative while commenting on the same trends. Six titles offered pure escapism and only one of the six was truly riveting: Anita Blake The Laughing Corpse. War? Resistance and Wonder Woman provided some form of social commentary while one issue of Captain America can be seen as a Veteran's Day survey of the past wars (the December issue) and the other found Captain America serving in Iraq.

The Nation endorses and amplifies sexism

A funny thing happened as we read Katha Pollitt's latest nonsense . . .

We happened to glance at an ad on the page.

Katha and butt


And would alleged feminist Katha care to explain why women's bodies are being used to sell products and The Nation's not only running those advertisements but doing so on alongside allegedly feminist articles?

What does a woman's ass sticking out have to do with water?

We wandered over to USCanteen where we found that Peter Bobley and Victoria Meakin are back to their usual nonsense. Vicky's a 'progressive.' You should have heard Vicky in 1999 and 2000 trashing Al Gore like there was no tomorrow (Vicky was a Bradley supporter and she never supported Gore, even when he got the Democratic Party's presidential nomination). Petey remembered a military canteen he had as a child.

Great, so The Nation is glorifying military play and sexism by running these ads?


As we watched the various models (two children, two adults) parade by on the web page, we kept waiting for the man in the half-shirt, for him to stick out his ass, but that never happened. He was presented in non-sexual poses (as were the two children) but the headless female had to 'work it.'

When Big Auto uses women to sell their (bad) cars, most on the left know to be offended or at least pretend to be.


Now USCanteen could have used men and women, they could have displayed both's bodies, had both stick their asses out for the camera (we believe that's called "presenting" in the animal kingdom -- which isn't just a Philip Barry play). But that's not what happened.


And we find it very curious that Katha and the other 'girls of The Nation' haven't called out the company. In fact, we find it offensive that The Nation has accepted this ad. In their ad, they don't even offer men. In the ad The Nation's running, it's just a woman's ass being presented. We think the real asses are the people at The Nation and we think it's rather telling that, as per usual, everyone else looks the other way when sexism comes from the left.

Mailbag (Dona)


Over a year ago, I quit smoking and, each month, a number of e-mails come in asking (a) if I've started back up, (b) how did I quit and (c) is it possible for them to quit?

If you want to quit, you can probably quit. If you're quitting for someone else, you probably will have a much more difficult journey and chances are it will be unsuccessful.

I didn't do the patch or hypnosis or aversion therapy or any of the methods suggested in e-mails.

I was smoking my last pack when I decided to quit. I had three or four more cigarettes in the pack as I was deciding. It was early Saturday morning, probably one in the morning or two. I just realized I didn't want to smoke anymore. I told myself I'd smoke the last cigarettes and be done with it.

And so I finished the last three or four, threw away the empty pack and went to sleep.


No, I haven't started smoking again.

I'm still smoke free.

If I hadn't finished the pack, I would've started smoking again.


I would have woken up with three or four cigarettes. I would have told myself, "I shouldn't waste those."

I would have smoked them and, since I'd already smoked, told myself it was okay to go buy another pack and that I could quit tomorrow.

By having none when I woke up, I could get dressed, go out and buy a pack or . . . I could go back to sleep and I love sleeping in on Saturdays.

I smoked it gone and I didn't buy anymore after.

That's how I quit.

It might work for you, it might not.

I smoked about two and a half packs a day. More during these writing sessions.

So it was a major change for me when I stopped smoking. Writing was the worst after. I could get through almost anything but these writing editions.

I would always feel that if I had a lit cigarette in hand, I would be contributing so much more and have so many more wonderful ideas.

That feeling finally passed after about six months.

Now days?

The only time I have an urge is when I watch a movie I used to smoke along with. For example, we were watching The Talented Mr. Ripley a few weeks ago and Gwenyth Paltrow was smoking a Marlboro Red which only reminded me of how I used to smoke my way through this film.

If you're wanting to quit, I encourage you to try the method you think will work and that may involve inventing your own method. If you're not wanting to quit, I really don't think you'll be successful.

A number of you e-mail about being pressured by others to quit and how hard that is. I was lucky there in that no one told me I needed to quit, no one tried to guilt me. If they had? I'd probably still be smoking because I am one of those people who does not like to be told what to do. I do not feel like I'm 'better' than anyone, despite some e-mails from readers who have taken my quitting very personally and see it as a rejection of them.

After Rebecca found out she was pregnant, she immediately quit which left me the token smoker for people with sites in the community and I know how it felt when I was smoking so I don't take it personally when someone expresses anger or confusion over my quitting.

I'm not attempting to preach to anyone or tell them what they 'need' to do or don't 'need' to do.

In the end, the reason I quit was because it was time for me too. If it hadn't been time, I'd still be smoking.

In other news, NOW on PBS has an online poll as to "Should a government-run health care plan, if implemented, exclude coverage of abortion services?" And US Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Democratic Policy Committee which last week released "Our Best Chance for Success in Afghanistan: Getting the Strategy Right First." And a number of you e-mailed to note that Ava and C.I.'s "How ABC pissed off everyone (Ava and C.I.)" really pinpointed your feelings of estrangement from the TV show V.

Bitches for Barack (Ava and C.I.)

Oh those whiny ass Bitches for Barack. They're back. They're as laughable as always.

Barack's BigBusinessGiveAway to the insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates masquerading as "health care reform" is what woke the sleeping beasts.

The biggest greased pig to run through the county fair was, no surprise, Katha Pollitt.

jon favreau
Katha, for those who don't know, endorsed Barack Obama in the Democratic Party primary. To do so, non-Democrat Katha joined with such other feminist luminaries as Minnie Mouse and, no doubt, Barack's chief speech writer pictured above groping a cardboard Hillary. Let's drop back to March 2nd:

In other news can we all get the word out that Katha Pollitt (distorting, in the Los Angeles Times what Gloria Steinem said) is not a feminist? Can we all point that Gloria Steinem didn't say anything racist but that, in 2002, Katha Pollitt stuck her big, broken nose -- on that chunky, chicken fat face, into the NAACP's campaign against the lack of positive African-American portrayals on TV and said it didn't matter? Katha Pollitt's a racist more infamous today for being so damn pathetic that when her lover left her for another women, she started stalking them. She's pathetic, she's not a feminist and she's no friend to women. She couldn't write one word in 2006 about the gang-rape and murder of Abeer by US soldiers. When the criticism became too intense by the middle of 2007, she acknowledged Abeer in a half-of-a-sentence. That's not a feminist. That's a woman writer who plays at being the in-house feminist at a magazine that published 491 men to 149 women in 2007. The mainstream media should especially take note of that because Katha never called it out -- the same Katha who recycles the "___ paper has only __ female columnist and ___ men!" She can point that corpulent finger at others but she can't do a damn thing to help women at her own magazine or even publicly call it out. Dumpy got dumped for a reason. And the Los Angeles Times shouldn't pimp a list of 'feminists' without noting that it's men and women, it reads like "Reds for Bambi" (nothing wrong with that but don't hide it behind "feminists") and has included such notable (and genuine, we're sure) authentic signers as "Minnie Mouse."

We need to remember that moment because Silly Katha always wants to present as a feminist but she's not one.

You need to grasp that.

You need to grasp that she's full of s**t and deployed herself on behalf of Barack Obama and that included repeating the false charges of "racism!" at anyone who wouldn't kiss the pinkie ring of St. Barack.

We need to remember what was done to Gloria Steinem.

Not because Gloria's infallible or perfect. She's neither, she's a human being as flawed as any of the rest of us.

But she wrote a column embracing sisterhood and she did it when Hillary Clinton was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. So it was important for her to be destroyed. She had to be ripped apart, she had to be taken out. Otherwise, Hillary's New Hampshire victory might be repeated elsewhere.

Now you had Bill Moyers and all the other whores yammering away repeatedly about the 'historic' nature of Barack Obama's run (no bi-racial male had run for president before, as far as anyone knows) while ignoring Hillary's historic run. Someone like Gloria could do real damage to the efforts to portray Hillary as the status quo and Barry O as fresh and lovely as a bottle of Summer's Eve. So Gloria had to be taken out and a lot of non-feminist stepped forward to do the hit job because too much was at stake to leave it to the boys and risk the sort of backlash that followed the dog pile on Anita Hill which drove American women to the polling booths in huge numbers.

No, to really work, the hit had to be done by women. Which is how Lie Face Melissa Harris Lacewell emerged from the gutter and how Katha Pollitt showed up to begin with.

This is something that should never be forgotten. There was so much that went down in 2008 that it's very easy for things to fall through the cracks of our collective memories, but we must not forget this aspect.

If we'll remember, we'll know to develop thicker skins so that false charges of racism won't fret us in the least. There was never a reason for anyone to get bogged down in that charge other than the need -- a stereotypically feminine need -- to be liked. Who the hell cares if fat ass Katha falsely calls you a racist?

At the end of the day, you still haven't embarrassed yourself by stalking your old boyfriend and his much younger and more attractive partner the way Katha did. You haven't proven yourself to be a personal and professional joke. So who the hell cares what some grossly obese nut case who 'writes' the sort of bad 'poetry' most girls outgrow by the age of thirteen? Most of all, you'll grasp that you have to fight because, when it comes to the 'opinionators,' you really are all alone.

So why does it come as such a shock

To know you really have no one

Only a river of changing faces

Looking for an ocean

Gloria did what Gloria always does and what no feminist should ever do again: She fell back into explaining why she wasn't what she was falsely charged.

Here's reality for most aggressive men, if 'George' slugs 'Andy,' Andy doesn't stop a moment and try to explain why he shouldn't have been slugged, he hits back.

It's past time that women started doing the same.

What Gloria should have done was not refute the charge, she should have made the people charging her falsely with racism explain themselves.

"You're accusing me of racism based on what?"

That's what should have been tossed as Katha, Lie Face Melissa and all the other Bitches for Barack.

The other way to go was simply to ignore it. It's a false charge and anyone remotely in the feminist movement at any point in the last forty years would not for a moment buy that Gloria was a racist. Her life's record speaks for itself.

By refusing to ignore the charge and by refusing to demand that someone making such an accusation support their accusation in some form, Gloria was stuck saying, "I'm not, I'm really, really not." It was a trap she fell into. It immediately took one of the strongest voices for Hillary and wrapped her up in something else completely.

The response, if we could go back in time, for Gloria to make was, "F**k you and your false charges! F**k you and your race baiting!" And then Gloria should have returned to advocating on behalf of Hillary.

Instead, Barack campaign staff would go on to brag that they 'cowed' Gloria.

Robin Morgan did a brave thing early in 2008. Robin saw what was done to Gloria and decided that, in spite of, she'd stand up and speak out. And the response was to also tar and feather her as a racist. Laura Flanders, always the second string because she is so very pathetic (but fate has finally handed her the face she deserves -- a face made for radio), showed up to inform the world that Robin was a feminist . . . yes . . . but an American one.

Laura Flanders, the self-loathing lesbian who floated across the Atlantic like some sort of trash heap barge from England, wanted you to know that Robin Morgan just wasn't 'global' enough and was so very, very provincial.

Robin, like Gloria, couldn't take the false charges.

Their actions after May 2008 were really sad and that's another story (for example "Sour Grape Girls"). But it needs to be remembered what happened. It needs to be remembered because it will happen again.

In fact, it already did.

That actually was what the Stupak amendment to the bill the House passed two Saturdays ago was.

And goodness if this effort to do away with reproductive rights and Barack's snippy remarks ("I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a healthcare bill, not an abortion bill") didn't really underscore that all over again.

They trickle through your leaky plans

Another dream over the dam

And you're lying in some room

Feeling like your right to be human

Is going over too

But, as the joke about NBC Must See Thursday repeats went in the nineties, "It's new if it's new to you." And it was all so new to Professional Cry Baby Katie Michelman who showed up expressing shock on the pages of The New York Times in a co-written column, "The Democratic majority has abandoned its platform and subordinated women’s health to short-term political success. In doing so, these so-called friends of women’s rights have arguably done more to undermine reproductive rights than some of abortion’s staunchest foes. "

Poor, stupid Katie. We'll never forget the sight of her crying in the halls of Congress as a Bushy got confirmed to the Supreme Court. It was typical Katie Michelman -- a grossly ineffective spectacle. That moment seemed to sum up her entire activist career. Katie was shocked last week.

Of course feminist who care about abortion were shocked in 2007 and 2008. That's when Katie endorsed John I-cheated-on-my-terminally-ill-wife-and-made-plans-for-Dave-Matthews-to-perform-at-my-upcoming-wedding Edwards. There was a woman in the race, Hillary, but Katie just knew John was the man for her.

Silly, Kate, always looking for some man to rescue her.

Then John Edwards was nudged out of the campaign via some prods from Barack's campaign and 'feminist' Kate was declaring she'd endorse Barack I-call-female-reporters-sweetie-and-belittle-them-in-so-many-other-ways.

Bitches for Barack like Katie wanted you to know that Barack could understand all about abortion because he was a father to two girls. And Hillary, having both a daughter and her own uterus, apparently suffered from 'hysterical womb' or some other male invented 'malady' that prevented her from grasping the importance of reproductive rights?

See what we did? We took a swipe at Katie. She was one of the Bitches for Barack and, goodness knows, we never tire of telling the story of her crying in the halls of Congress. This despite claiming that we all need to focus and remember to prevent repeats in the future.

But see, we take a moment to think about it and we remember how we also love to share the story of how she got muscled out of her planned Congressional run. And, boom, it is the same point. Women either learn to fight or they don't. They either learn that some people (men and women) are going to say bad things about them or they don't. They either learn to cope with that and accept that or they end up paralyzed and weak.

Well some are going to knock you

And some'll try to clock you

It could be you next time and do you really want to just cry in public or do you want to learn to fight back?

You want to wait for some man to rescue you or do you want to rescue yourself?

After you answer that question, ask whether you want to stand up for yourself?

You can't do that from time to time. You either stand up for women's rights every day or not.

Katha Pollitt's not a feminist. As was noted here in September 2008:

Now maybe everyone's decided to take Katha Pollitt's stated oath which she revealed when she felt 'forced' to call out Tom Hayden's latest sexism last April: "I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign." Guess what, Katha, we don't do our "bit for" feminism by staying silent. That was in April that she broke (and announced) her vow -- one she's gone back to. So, basically, at the start of the year, Pollitt's admitting, she decided to let sexist attacks from Barack's campaign and his supporters slide until after the election. Wow. Note that she wasn't planning to bite her tongue for just one week or even one month, she was planning to bite her tongue for nearly a year to do her "bit for Obama." Maybe Katha needs to redefine herself? She's no longer a feminist, she's an Obamist.

And the Obamist has continued to conduct herself that way. It's why she who seems to forever be writing about Title IX never found time to call out Barack for his all male basketball games and his all male golf games (this month, after over thirty golf matches since becoming president, Barack finally allowed one token woman to participate -- we're sure they sprayed down the equipment with Old Spice as soon as she departed). That never bothered Katha.

But the House Amendment (or maybe being stumped in the midst of composing more free-range verse) finally led Katha to weigh in. It's a hilarious column. "Many of us," Katha pants, "didn't vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary because the goal of electing a woman seemed less important than the goal of electing the best possible president. Only a self-hater or a featherhead didn't feel some pain about that." Excuse us?

See, that's where we show you how to respond to lies.

You don't start defending Hillary. We could do that. But what's the point? We're dealing with a liar named Katha and the point is to confront the liar.

Make the liar prove their point.

In this case, Katha, you declared of Hillary "that she and Barack had few relevant policy differences." Did you forget writing that? Now you want to claim "best possible president"? WTF, lard ass?

And do you think we've forgotten "Why I'm Supporting Barack?"

No f**king way, you lying sack of s**t.

You said then that they had very small differences on domestic policies but felt Barry would be "less bellicose" on foreign policy.

You felt, on foreign policy, that she'd be pressured to 'out macho a man'.

So in other words, you projected on her what you think a woman would have to do. In other words, you used her gender against her?

Doubt us?

Hillary Clinton is her own person. That's always been clear.

But in that column, Katha, you spent more time on Bill Clinton than you did on policy. You decided that Hillary would be the same as Bill and do what Bill does just because she was married to him.

Now, Katha, we fully grasp that a pathetic stalker like you easily gives away her identity to any man (we understand you still do that and also to your teenage daughter in your desperate attempts to remain the Charlotte Rae of a generation). But blaming a woman for what her husband did or does or assuming that a woman would 'toe the line' of her husband? That's blatant sexism.

Maybe if you'd put down the powdered doughnuts for a second, you'd grasp that.

And while you whine in your most recent column about how the Democratic Party has paid too much attention to these people who don't support abortion, you tend to omit the part about how Barack big-tented those people into the 2008 election, now don't you? Don't you?

That is how you handle it. You don't go into, "Hillary would have been better --" You don't go into anything except what the liar is saying and how it contradicts with reality and even with the statements the liar made earlier.

You call them out on their s**t and you don't play nice. And you don't fret that when you walk away they'll call out "bitch."

They open and close you

Then they talk like they know you

They don't know you

They're friends and they're foes too

-- "Trouble Child," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark album.

The Bronze Boob goes to . . .

Bronze Booby Prize

If you told us there was a bigger boob than John Nichols, we'd have to guess someone's been cloning.

Pound for pound, inch for inch, there is no bigger boob. And John Nichols never tires of demonstrating that. He did so last week via "Obama Gets It: : Tackling Unemployment is Job 1." Outside the padded halls of The Nation magazine, would anyone else feel the same way?

It is very, very doubtful.

Barack is in the midst of yet another Rainbow Tour. (See Wally's "THIS JUST IN! GROVEL IN CHIEF!" and Cedric's "So eager to please".)

Face the facts, the rainbow's starting to fade

I don't think she'll make it to England now

It wasn't on the schedule anyhow

("Rainbow Tour," written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Evita)

He's yet again out of the country.

But Johnny 5 Cents is excited because unemployment's officially at 10.2%? No. He's excited because . . . Well, let's let him tell it: "On Thursday, Obama made his move, announcing that a White House on jobs and economic growth will be held in December."

A what?

He means a summit.


The last summit we're remembering Barack doing was Ye Old Barley Brew Summit. That generated a lot of headlines but not much else.

It doesn't take much to delight Johnny Nichols. Just announce a summit and suddenly you "get it." The economy drove the 2008 election and Barack's ignored the issue repeatedly.

His polling numbers have dropped and dropped to the point that we think his new name should be Mr. Droopy. Pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas E. Schoen (at The Wall St. Journal) broke down the news yesterday: "A CNN poll released Nov. 6 found that 47% of Americans believe the top issue facing the country is the economy, while only 17% say its health care. However, the bulk of the president's efforts over the past six months have been not on the economy but on health care, an issue in which he continues to draw negative ratings."

And that's why he's called a summit. It finally hurt his polling. The fan letters to the White House asking for autographed 8 x 10 glossies of Barack shirtless had started to taper off and Barry O was worried.

But to John Nichols, it's time to cheer. Proving yet again that there is no bigger boob than John Nichols.


Last Monday, the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq – Two U.S. Army pilots were killed when a helicopter experienced a hard landing in Salah ad Din Province, Nov.8. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – A Marine attached to Multi National Force – West died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Nov. 8. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcement brought the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4362.

Sunday were reported 8 dead and 6 were reported wounded, Monday it was 2 dead and 15 wounded, Tuesday it was 4 dead and 2 wounded, Wednesday found 3 dead and 5 wounded, Thursday it was 6 dead and 10 wounded, Friday there were reported 3 dead and on Saturday the number killed was 3 and the number injured was 6. [Saturday's number may be 4 -- we are going with 3, use links and you'll see why.] For a total of 29 reported dead and 44 reported injured.

Other news?

The Parliament finally managed to pass an election law. And yet . . . the date of the elections is still squabbled over.

Veterans and contractors who served in Iraq (and those who served in Afghanistan) brought lawsuits against KBR for exposing them to environmental hazards which harmed them.

Saturday Rebecca S. Green (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette) reported that there were now 39 lawsuits against KBR in US federal courts. Burke O'Neil LLC is representing the veterans and contractors and they issued a press release last week which included:

KBR is accused of allowing thick, noxious smoke, coming off of flames sometimes colored blue or green by burning chemicals, to hang over U.S. bases and camps across Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004.
According to the complaints, the burn pits are so large that tractors are used to push waste onto them and the flames shoot hundreds of feet into the sky. KBR allegedly burned waste such as biohazard materials including human corpses, medical supplies, paints, solvents, asbestos, items containing pesticides, animal carcasses, tires, lithium batteries, Styrofoam, wood, rubber, medical waste, large amounts of plastics, and even entire trucks.
Susan L. Burke, Elizabeth M. Burke, and Susan M. Sajadi, of Burke O'Neil LLC, in Washington, D.C., and co-counsel represent the more than 200 veterans, KBR employee-contractors and families in the cases which are pending in 37 states.
Elizabeth M. Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, stated, "KBR utterly disregarded the safety of the troops when they chose to use open air burn pits and failed to use incinerators and other safer methods of waste disposal. The hazards of operating large open-air burn pits were well known, and KBR promised to minimize the environmental effects of the burn sites they operated in Iraq and Afghanistan. KBR willfully endangered these men and women who honorably served their country in military service or in support of the military."

In other contractor news, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen (New York Times) interviewed four former Blackwater execs who stated that, in December 2007, approximately one-million dollars was set aside to bribe officials in Iraq in order to get them to look the other way in the face of Blackwater's continued assaults. Whether or not the bribes were made remained unknown. Iraq's Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani spoke to CNN (link has video as well as text) and stated that his ministry had launched an investigation into the assertion that Iraqi officials took bribes.

Jawad al-Bolani (via translator): Blackwater has no new positions to operate in Iraq. Blackwater has a problem and a lawsuit. Some of its employees committed a crime against innocent Iraqi civilians in Nussor Square and this case is an ongoing trial in American courts. Blackwater is a company that caused a major national tragedy. The Nussor incidient was a very difficult one and no Iraqi can ever forget it. But the Iraqi government was committed and acted responsibly for the sake of the Iraqi people and the reputation of Iraq.

Human Rights Watch released a report entitled [PDF format warning] "On Vulnerable Ground: Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories." The report wasted way too much time on what ifs and maybes but, in the last pages, finally got around to reporting the abuse claims of 2 activists while they were in Kurdish custody.

ETAN calls for dialogue

From ETAN:

Eni F. H. Faleomavaega
The Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment

Chairmen Faleomavaega and Payne Call on Indonesian President to Establish Dialogue with West Papua Leaders

Contact: Dr. Lisa Williams (202) 225-8577

Washington, D.C.

The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, along with the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, Rep. Donald Payne sent a joint letter [] to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today calling on him to create an internationally-mediated commission to establish a dialogue between the national government of Indonesia and the leaders of West Papua.

In the letter, the Congressmen noted that dozens of prominent leaders and organizations in West Papua, as well as key Indonesian leaders and intellectuals support such a dialogue, which would be analogous to one successfully held in Aceh province. The letter urges the Indonesian President "to seize the opportunity provided by these developments to establish a similar process for West Papua."

"We believe that such a process would build on important steps Indonesia has taken in recent years, such as [Indonesia's] accession to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In becoming a signatory to that agreement, Indonesia clearly expressed its commitment to establishing legal protections for indigenous citizens, including Papuans." the letter states.

"A national dialogue initiated by an internationally-mediated commission could work to improve enforcement of that law and better the daily lives of average Papuans by, for example, increasing the availability of electricity and fresh water, enhancing public health programs to prevent malaria and other treatable diseases, and upgrading the public education system to levels found in most of the rest of Indonesia," the letter continues.

"A national dialogue would also present an opportunity to resolve other important issues in West Papua long viewed with concern by Members of Congress and the international community. These include human rights abuses, demographic shifts leaving many Papuans as minorities in their own land, limits on freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, restrictions on the free movement of Papuans within Indonesia, and constraints on international journalists, researchers, and those in nongovernmental organizations seeking to visit or work in West Papua."

"It is our sincere hope that you will establish an internationally-mediated commission to initiate a dialogue bringing together nationally-respected leaders of your government and of West Papua. We believe this is the moment to begin such a process. A serious national dialogue will enhance the welfare of the people of West Papua, demonstrate Indonesia's commitment to democracy and justice for all its citizens, and enhance your country's growing stature on the global stage," the letter concludes.

-- End --
ETAN looks forward to your support.
Go to to donate. Thank you.
John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller
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This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"I Hate The War" -- Most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

"Iraq snapshot" and "Senate Banking Committee" -- C.I. and Kat cover last week's Senate Banking Committee subcommittee hearing.

"THIS JUST IN! GROVEL IN CHIEF!" and "So eager to please" -- Wally and Cedric on the scraping and bowing Barry O.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "That Barack" -- Isaiah's latest.

"Did you read The Tipping Point?" and "Serious and fun" -- Betty and Mike talk American Dad.

"Got War?" -- Isaiah reaches into the archives for this.

"Deviled Eggs in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a seasonal recipe and economic news.

"The Crook vs. the Fighter" -- The Nancy Pelosi approved House member heads off to jail while the Nancy Pelosi scorned former House member remains a hero.

"Carly's performance" -- Ann reviews Carly Simon's performance on Latenight with Jimmy Fallon.

"new action from now" -- Rebecca highlights NOW's struggle to fight back.

"some stand strong, some don't" -- and notes which losers aren't worth standing with.

"Do headline writers read?" -- Ruth asks a question we should all be asking.

"The ones holding us back" -- Marcia notes how some of the worst when it comes to silencing LGBT issues are . . . gay male bloggers.

"Love Finds Andy Hardy" -- Stan offers up this film review. (And plans to continue film Fridays.) (Continue reinstating them.)

"The one functioning member of the administration" -- As Trina points out, there's only one. Read it to find out who.

"they finally cancelled it" -- Celebrate!

"How weak are we?" -- Boycotts are bad . . . except when we do them. That's the 'logic' Ruth tackles here.

"The 'B' stands for 'bitchy'" -- Let's see if we get the 'logic': It isn't nice to criticize or slam religion . . . unless it's Christianity. Good for Marcia for taking on this b.s.

"When I was one of the sheeple" -- Stan points out that anyone can get fooled.

"The attack on the freedom of the press" -- Elaine on the efforts to attack the press.

"THIS JUST IN! HE THINKS WE'RE STUPID!" & "Not so Frank Barney" -- Barney Frank thinks he can just lie and get away with it.
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