Sunday, October 03, 2010

Truest statement of the week

In fact, the American brain has been rotting away, right before our eyes. At present, "liberals" like Benen are working quite hard. To all appearances, we dream of the day when our fine tribe can be just as dumb as the other. In the process, your nation is dying. It’s dying in front of your eyes.

-- Bob Somerby, "Watching your culture die" (Daily Howler).

Truest statement of the week II

I just scanned Pravda and Izvestia, and there was literally nothing I wanted to post on. The pages were too complicated, and all the stories were obviously crap anyhow. And the editorials and Op-Eds were worse. Ditto Google news, where those whizzy new Web 2.0 filters fill up the page with useless controls, and make me conscious of what could be missing, rather than what's there. (Plus Google's page-rank algorithm for news floated the "travel advisory to Europe" mid-terms gaslighting story to the top, which means that it's been totally gamed by The Powers That Be. FAIL). Yahoo News is actually better organized than Google, but it's structured by source, not topic, making its function as a mere aggregator nakedly evident.

-- Lambert, "The link round-up as a form" (Corrente). And the community bloggers who blog nightly can really identify with that paragraph.

A note to our readers

Hey --
Early for us. Amazingly so.

Thank you to all who worked 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,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Bob Somerby.
This one won with many votes but primarily due to non-Thirders. That's not intended as an insult. But it is noting that Lambert's comments especially resonated with those who blog nightly in the community. Marcia, Mike and Stan were the ones nominating it and, after it was read, Betty and Ruth were among the most vocal in agreement with it.

Is this a good editorial? We don't know. C.I. didn't want to do it. She felt she'd already said her peace at TCI. However, that ("The Kirkuk question") resulted in an onslaught of e-mails and became the most requested highlight of readers of this site. So clearly there was an audience for it. If it's good or bad, I (Jim) really don't know at this point. Give me a few days to think on it. (C.I., Mike, Ava and Betty felt the editorial should be on Iraq. You'll note Iraq gets a mention in one sentence. That made the editorial 'liveable' for the four of them.) Oh, illustration is by Betty's kids and we thank them.

When Ava and C.I. told me they'd decided on Community to be the focus this week, I was disappointed. I couldn't think of a show less worth writing about. Then I read their piece and noticed yet again how they manage to zoom in on the problems and call out what no one else wants to. I also noticed how they have their own little Community parody going on in the article if you read closely.

This piece took forever. How long? Easily an hour and a half. Why? Looking up the dead and wounded on each day. Providing the links. Adding the dead and wounded on each day. Then adding the full total of wounded for the month. Then the full total for the dead. Then repeatedly checking those numbers. It's why we hate to do a monthly toll.

A postponed feature. But Dona uploaded the photo from Ava and C.I.'s cameras. And we figured we could do a short piece with it. (Ava and C.I. noted Seth's SNL comment.)

Barack truly is the starlet in chief.

And Nancy Pelois is a step-below as the Brain Dead.

These usually go much higher up in the mix but we weren't that jazzed on this. We think it will be remembered for two things: the section on Black Republicans and C.I.'s pick for whom to sleep with. Dona wasn't present for that and after we finished the roundtable and told her C.I.'s pick, she said, "That's what people are going to e-mail on, wait and see."

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

So that's what we managed. Our e-mail address is


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

Editorial: Faux leaders and faux activism

Yesterday on Weekend Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio), Mara Liasson reported, "And although the organizers of today's rally say they're not doing this in response to Glenn Beck, there will be the inevitable comparisons of those overhead photos of the crowd size to see who got out more people. There is a little problem. I've been getting a lot of emails in my inbox for doctors coming today who are going to march against Obama's health care plan. They want single payer. There are a lot of anti-war groups against the president's policy in Afghanistan. So they're not all singing on the same page as the Democrats, but I do think the net effect of these groups, unions, civil rights groups, et cetera, will be, if they succeed, to energize Democratic voters for November."

Another faux event from the weak, another wasted Saturday when Congress adjourned and went home Thursday. Another get-out-the-vote effort masquerading as 'activism.' Another so-called 'action' that forgets the Iraq War.

Why the hell would anyone in their sane mind gladly take part in that crap?

Answer: None would. (Many expressed no gladness or joy to reporters, only resignation.)

Margaret Talev (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
talker Ed Schultz opened the proceedings yesterday insiting that Republicans were "forces of evil." With no apparent sense of irony or awareness, Peggy Brown's quoted by the same reporter stating that the right-wing "preach and spew out hate."

It should be noted that One Nation didn't just spew out hate, it also had a lot of stupidity. For example, how very pathetic (and telling) that this get-out-the-vote for Democrats in the midterm elections had the Green Party as one of its endorsers. Message to the Green Party, you'll never be more than Jan Brady to the Democrats Marcia until you find that spine and stop cowering.

And Democrats? Those participating demonstrated that whores can't stop whoring. You had the steam roller brigade who stole the nomination and gifted it to Barack in 2008, as led by Howie Dean party gal Leah Daughtry. The middle-aged, overweight and bald Daughtry wasn't content to deny the will of the voters in Denver, she also made it clear that those who do not believe in a god aren't welcome in the Democratic Party.


Unable to do much of anything, the useless gathered yesterday to, as Marilyn Robinson told USA Today, provide "cover" for Barack Obama from people "who criticize him." And you thought blind devotion died when Bush left the White House?

AP reports that blowhard Ed Schultz (a Republican until a little before the Democratic Party dangled money and a national radio career) insisted that the GOP was the one "shipping jobs overseas and curtailing freedoms." Damn. That's one powerful party. They don't control the White House or either house in Congress, but they're controlling everything. Amazing. Barack Obama is president of the United States, he's the one claiming, for example, the right to kill people on his say so, the right to execute without even a trial.

Krissah Thompson and Spence Hsu (Washington Post)
and Brad Knickerbocker (Christian Science Monitor) report that the crowd yesterday was smaller than the turnout for the Glenn Beck rally.

Glenn Beck's rally was the obsession of Saturday's organizers. Ben Jealous (NAACP) insisted to the crowd that they were "the antidote to the Tea Party" when, in reality, they were just the other side of the same coin.

Politico's Scott Wong featured
the voices of attendees expressing dismay and it's in those comments that reality can be found. Instead of a rally for the Democratic Party, instead of providing "cover" for Barack, the left should have been making demands and threatening to sit it out or vote third party this November. Without demands, you get no concessions. Do none of our faux 'leaders' on the left grasp the principles of bargaining?

The next time the left thinks they want to get their act together. First, dump the anti-choice Ed Schultz. He's not needed, he's not wanted. His cable performance is a joke, he's not the image America wants or needs. Second, put people on stage like Libbyliberal (Corrente) who grasp issues and aren't blinded by personalities. Mainly don't spend so much time with political envy. Stop obsessing with what the other side is doing and step up to the plate ready to propose your own actions, your own programs. The political jealousy ensured that no message would get out other than the idiotic competition with Glenn Beck.

TV: We need to discuss your major

How about right now? That's our answer to Christopher Rosen's question "When Should We Start Worrying About Community's Ratings?" (Movieline).


Community is NBC's under-performing Thursday night sitcom which is set at a community college. A few years ago, that wouldn't have been a problem. Paired up with My Name Is Earl and assorted other failures, the show would have shined because it does include some actual humor and garner some laughs. But that was then. For over a decade, Jeff Zucker was allowed to destroy NBC's lineup. Back then, trashing Thursday nights was all the executive rage. However, today Zucker's finally (and thankfully) gone and, as if emerging slowly from a nasty bender, the NBC suits are wondering what happened to Thursday nights?

NBC owned primetime television on Thursdays starting in 1984 and continuing throughout the nineties. It owned Thursdays by being the home of funny. But funny wasn't good enough for Zucker. He wanted whimsy and, let's be honest, White performers, male performers. The success of Friends, the ratings domination of Friends for ten years didn't impress him because Zucker was threatened by a show where half the leads were women and where the women were actually funny.

Will & Grace was the last of funny on NBC Thursday nights for years and it's a sign of how much Zucker hated diversity (gay) and women that he refused to seal the deal for the Will & Grace spin-off. Megan Mullaly and Sean Hayes (Karen and Jack) were set to go for it. But Zucker wouldn't make the deal, couldn't close the deal. The performers wanted to be sure that the show would have a chance and Zucker refused to offer a commitment to airing even 15 episodes. Hayes and Mullaly won Emmys for their performances, won ratings and would be spinning these beloved characters off into a sitcom. It could have been NBC's new Fraiser (the Cheers' spin-off which ran for 11 seasons). Instead, NBC chose to continue the self-destruction of Thursday nights.

Community is an effort at rebuilding Thursdays and, in the 80s, it might have been a huge hit. You could, for example, easily see the show sandwiched between Cheers and Night Court. The show would, in fact, be perfect for the spring 1984 season. That's when NBC Thursdays was okay but not massive (The Cosby Show would debut in the fall of 1984 and turn Thursdays massive). That last season of struggling is when a show debuted in April of 1984 and didn't catch on for any number of reasons (static, single camera) but NBC was convinced (and some reviews in real time insisted) the show's lack of success was due to the lead being too attractive.

Did Loni Anderson get a WKRP spin-off that year? No. No, women are expected to be drop dead gorgeous on TV (and then they're attacked for that by the likes of Tom Shayles). No, the lead in question was a man, 22-year-old Jim Carey.

Community plays like a show following NBC's post-Duck Factory edicts: Slightly below average looking leading man, surrounded by at least one gorgeous woman, given the bulk of the laugh lines and, though morally ambiguous, allowed to set the standard for all the other characters.

Joel McHale is neither attractive nor funny and viewers are stuck with him as the lead character Jeff Winger. On the show, Jeff exists to be looked up to. As insulting as that would have been in the early eighties, it's all the more insulting today when there is actual diversity. Meaning, there's something rather pathetic about the charisma free performer playing an ethics free character and being looked up to by the female characters and the males of various races. Time and again, you're forced to wonder why Jeff is the leader and the only answer that comes back is: He's the White guy.

The series thinks they can mitigate the ingrained (not just built in, ingrained) racism of the show by forever making the other White male in the main cast, Chevy Chase's Pierce, the butt of the jokes. But while Pierce is prone to make sexist and racist comments, it's also true that Chevy Chase remains a charismatic performer. Your eyes naturally go to him and when he takes even a small step at awareness, you're happy for him.

Jeff just whines. And, in the seventies and eighties, this tired act might have worked. But on this show where you've got Chase and Donald Glover (Troy), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley) and Gillian Jacobs (Britta) who are all more charismatic than McHale, it's really noticeable how badly some real Affirmative Action is needed in TV comedies.

Instead of going with the four interesting actors and character, the show forever focuses on McHale. Will his Jeff choose Britta or Annie (Alison Brie)? Will he impart a semi-meaningful life lesson that Abed (Danny Pudi) will quickly turn into a pop cultural reference? Will he take anthropology so that the one-time Spanish study group can remain together?

McHale is Lyle Waggoner in that he smiles too much, is rather bland and -- judging by his many, many shirtless scenes -- some network exec finds him attractive.

The Office was NBC's struggling show. It still rarely achieves funny -- in fact, there are Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes with more laughs than the average episode of The Office; however, NBC did step in after the first season underwhelmed and 'explained' that John Krasinski's Jim was going to be the focus more. Krasinski is both very funny and hugely attractive. And everyone at NBC knows that it was the Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) angle that allowed the show to finally move up in the ratings.

America is not enamored with Joel McHale, no matter how many times he takes off his shirt or how many times he struts around in micro-boxers. Nor do they really care for Jeff Winger whose liabilities include being a one-time lawyer (now disbarred), morally ambiguous, vain and self-serving. Last year, the show was like Joel's mother working overtime to insist he was good looking and a catch. But pairing him with a college professor and Britta as well as having Annie announce on the season finale that she was in love/obsessed with him never made the viewers take the leap to: He's hot.

Because he's not.

Donald Glover is. He's hot and he's funny and he's stuck playing fawning admirer and Jeff Winger groupie. They could upgrade his role or they could add a new hot male. Otherwise, Community's going to continue to flounder.

The same way the storylines do. For example, one minute someone doesn't know who Sam & Diane were (lead couple of Cheers). But in another earlier episode, they do. One minute Annie is outing a college professor for not having a degree because that means they will all fail Spanish and have to take it over (thereby keeping the group together). In the next episode, she's planning to move off with her boyfriend. There's no continuity with any of the characters. Strong acting often helps cover that, but viewers who attempt to engage in the show will come away disappointed.

The ratings have been disappointing for Community and it's ability to generate laughs has remained doubtful due to each episode forever being tossed to McHale's Jeff. Probably an all time low was the season debut when Jeff declared, "Annie, all women deserve to be with me and vice versa." The sad thing was it appeared the writers believed that as well.

Last week saw the cancellation of Lone Star (Fox) and My Generation (ABC). The former was the best new show of the season, the latter one of the worst. And while there's plenty of more trash on TV, if we were Community, we'd be worried about, if not cancellation, at least academic suspension.

Violence didn't drop in Iraq

Oh how they do whore. September ended and it was time to spin and fluff. Reuters declared that the dead and wounded tolls for the month in Iraq were down: 273 dead and 485 wounded. They weren't the only ones to offer those Ministry of Health figures, but they were the first we saw.

Are they right?

Have they ever been?

Setting aside US service members and focusing on the day the deaths were reported, we note the following tolls. Tuesday September 2nd 17 people were reported dead and 40 injured, September 3rd 3 people were reported dead and 12 wounded, September 4th three people were reported injured, September 5th 18 people were reported dead and 56 wounded, September 6th 6 people were reported dead and 19 injured, September 7th 6 people were reported dead and 2 injured, September 8th 13 people were reported dead and 46 injured, September 9th 7 people were reported dead and 5 wounded, September 10th 1 person was reported dead and 1 wounded, September 11th 2 people were reported dead and 8 wounded. September 12th 18 people were reported dead and 25 were reported injured, September 13th 22 were reported dead and`18 injured, September 14th 12 people were reported dead and 5 wounded, September 15th 19 people were reported dead and 31 injured, September 16th 12 people were reported dead and 9 wounded, September 17th 6 people were reported dead and 11 injured, September 18th 10 people were reported dead and 28 wounded, September 19th 36 people were reported dead and 122 injured, September 20th 3 people were reported dead and 9 wounded, September 21st 5 people were reported dead and 30 injured, September 22nd 6 people were reported dead and 113 wounded, September 23rd 4 people were reported dead and 5 injured, September 24th 7 people were reported dead and 17 wounded, September 26th 9 people were reported dead and 18 injured, September 27th 7 people were reported dead and 15 wounded, September 28th 4 people were reported dead and 26 wounded, September 29th 3 people were reported dead and 20 injured, and September 30th 2 people were reported dead and 3 were reported wounded. Check our math but we get 252 dead and 697 wounded for the month of September.


Those are reported deaths and reported injuries. That's Reuters, McClatchy, Xinhua, New York Times and CNN mainly. The Ministry's figures are 21 higher on death and much, much lower on the wounded (212).

As we have asked many times before, why aren't news outlets keeping their own tallies? They report deaths and wounded, why don't they have a tally? When McClatchy Newspapers was Knight Ridder, they were required to keep a tally. No more.

Violence is not down in Iraq. It's spin and it's as fake -- yeah, we're going to go there -- as news outlets deciding to take September 1st off from violence to give Barack a golden 24 hours of 'peace' after he declared combat operations over (violence continued on September 1st, news consumers just had to wait a day or two for news outlets to report it).

And maybe it's time to talk about some realities of war. The death toll? It's the end of the story for those who die. That's awful. But the wounded? Many of them won't be able to earn their livelihoods and, if you haven't notice, Nouri's been prime minister for over four years now and the Iraqi government has demonstrated no real inclination to offer assistance to victims. In other words, the wounded toll, that's the one that's going to determine Iraq's future. (The brain drain early in the illegal war long ago decided that the death toll would be less important.)

Nearly 700 people were wounded last month in violence -- reported wounded -- there are always many more deaths and injuries that never get reported. Of those 700, a significant number will be unable to join or rejoin the Iraqi work force now or when the illegal war is finally over.

Block busted

Blockbuster Video is run by Blockbuster Inc. Some would say "ruined by." Using several different online employment classified search engines, we finally found one result for Blockbuster. lists a full time job opening at Blockbuster in Los Angeles for a "Content Operations Coordinator - Digital." And what are the duties on that one? "Manage the flow of content ingestion for the Blockbuster OnDemand catalogue. Coordinate content-related matters with vendors and the internal team."

Hey, if you need a job, it's a job. But we'd advise you against believing the hype ("We're a dynamic company where people who have a passion for movies and games really shine.") Most importantly, we'd advise you not to get too comfortable there because Blockbuster has serious issues when it comes to planning and vision.

Last month, Blockbuster went the Chapter 11 route. And there's no indication that they've learned a damn thing. Redbox and Netflix now outperform Blockbuster. And you hear that Netflix comes straight to the house which, honestly, sounds like so much whining.

Last month, Ruth hit upon the reason for Blockbuster's problems, the red tape required to get a membership. Once upon a time, when videotapes with new films on them sold for $70 and above, there might have been a need to treat a video store membership like a small loan. Those days are long gone. And too many people don't want the hassle and a lot of people can't meet all the requirements.

Or the heavy-handed Blockbuster tactics. September 25th on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, Seth Meyers waived a videocassette around and declared, "Blockbuster Video on Thursday filed for bankruptcy protection. Well, Blockbuster, seems our eight-year tug of war over Tango & Cash has reached its conclusion."


While not addressing that problem, Blockbuster continues to meander along. One thing they've apparently learned is that it's cheaper just to post signs in store windows and skip advertising clerk store positions.

Our chatty girl in the White House


Tuesday, Rolling Stone published online their interview with everyone's favorite chatty girl Barack Obama. In the long-winded spin, Barack reached and surpassed George W. Bushian levels when he declared: "When I was campaigning, I was very specific. I said, 'We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake,' and I have done that."

But you didn't end the war in Iraq, Barry. Not only did 7 US service members die in the Iraq War after, AFTER, you gave your 'combat missions' over speech August 31st, 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq and countless mercenaries.

Almost 700 people were wounded in violence in September.

The war hasn't ended.

But you know chatty girls, they love to gab. Facts? They're not so hung up on that. But did you hear what happened in study hall . . .


With or without Congress, it will happen

As Marcia pointed out Friday, having failed to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insisted it would be repealed "with or without Congress." Good to know. In other words, we didn't need them. How nice of Nancy to let us know that before the mid-terms.

And if you're looking for more evidence of a do-nothing Congress, look no further than the White House website.

Among the many things the website tracks is which pieces of legislation Barack signs into law.

The screensnap below was taken this morning. Notice the problem.


Congress just adjourned last Thursday. But apparently there weren't many accomplishments after July 22nd since there's no legislation listed as signed by Barack after that.


Jim: Roundtable time and this'll be an e-mail roundtable. Our e-mail address is We get a lot of e-mails and aren't always able to reply to all of them and some get brief replies because the plan is to note them here. But we don't always have time. We're going to try to knock out a number of them this roundtable and participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration.


Jim (Con't): First, I need to note Corrine Smith's "10 Riveting Reads About the Iraq War." I'd wanted to work that in last week and had e-mailed that I would but we didn't do a roundtable and we ran out of time for anything else. She's compiled a list of ten books on the Iraq War and you can look at her list and see if you agree or disagree or would add to it. I agree with nine of her ten picks. Ty?

Ty: Last week, Ava and C.I. wrote "TV: It Takes Two" which was popular. And I'll hear from everyone who e-mailed about loving it that they weren't quoted but I'm quoting an e-mail complaining. But, and this is to Ava because I've got an e-mail question for C.I., Suliene e-mailed complaining about the article and also suggesting that it wasn't "fair for you to write about what happened behind the scenes." She's referring to you and C.I. writing about input that you offered on the show before it came on.

Ava: First off, we get slammed all the time for writing about people we know. We get slammed for not writing about something, last week, we should have -- to hear two friends with Saturday Night Live tell it -- have written about their season debut. We've noted conversations we've had in reviews before. We noted with Fringe, that we weren't going to write about it and we'd wait until later in the first season because we had a problem with the show and we were told that problem would be addressed -- the problem was the lack of female characters. With Undercovers, the show we were writing about last week, we had stated what the problems were before the show aired. We not only were brushed off, we were mocked. Okay. But the show goes on the air and, golly, we had pinpointed the problem and they should have listened. So, yeah, we're going to include that in our review. Why wouldn't we? And wouldn't have been dishonest not to? We were upfront when we were contacted the day after the pilot aired that we would be writing about our interaction with the show.

Jim: So no regrets.

Ava: None at all. And I'll add that Undercovers got even worse ratings this week.

Dona: Eleanor e-mailed to ask if I would support flipping the template anytime soon? That's probably because I'm the one always screaming for more visuals. But longtime readers, like Eleanor, know that the current template is one Jim, Ty and I went to and destroyed the archives. It's now fixed but it was a nightmare. For that reason, I haven't even thought about flipping our template in months and months. But Eleanor, now that you've put the idea in my head, I may start checking out other templates.

Wally: C.I. flipped mine this weekend. Marcia may want to talk about that.

Marcia: C.I. asked me, "Do you ever look at your site?" I said yes. I love my new template. It's black, beautiful -- ha ha -- and I thought distinctive. I pull it up and say, "Yes, I like it." C.I. asks, "But can you read it? What did you write about Nancy Pelosi?" That was in "Pelosi's damning confession." So I go to read that outloud and I can't. It was black writing on a grey backdrop and it just wasn't showing up very well. If I'm on my PCU, no problem. If I'm on my laptop, I just can't see it. So I flipped my template. I love this template. The new one. I love it so much.

Cedric: And I saw the change and told Wally we needed to think about flipping just because we've got the same templates we started with forever ago. In fact, Wally's profile needs updating because he hasn't been a college freshman in years. But I mentioned it to Wally and I was worried because of the problems Third had and problems that others had when they flipped. Ruth didn't have problems for some reason but others who have flipped have had problems.

Wally: So I said I'd talk to C.I. about it and I did. The big problems have mainly been fixed, the stuff that screwed up Third forever ago. But there were some things we needed to know and we watched for those during our flip. I need to do some more thing and hope to but I did flip the template.

Cedric: Ditto to what Wally said.

Betty: And I jumped in on that. Since C.I. was helping Wally and Cedric, I pulled my laptop out and went over -- C.I. and Wally were here, Cedric was on the phone. And I've had the same template for five years and five months. I liked it for about a year. I've needed to change it ever since. And I especially need to change it when Blogger made us do different things in terms of log ins because that change -- internal, not obvious to readers -- destroyed my archives. You would click on the week and it would display two of the five posts and that was it. You couldn't get the rest of them. I tried switching the way it was archived, that didn't help. I apologized at my site because I didn't notice the problem, readers did. But that was my big concern, whether or not we could fix the archives. So as soon as Wally and Cedric were flipped, I jumped in and said, "My turn! Fix me!" Now when you click on a week, it displays the first two posts, like before. But. But it lists the titles -- linkable -- to all five posts and you can click on anyone to read them. So the archives are up and running. And thank you to Child Of The Sixties for linking to me. I didn't know I was linked to or followed. I've added her as a link and as a follow. That was very sweet of her and thank you to her.

Jim: Is anyone else thinking of flipping?

Kat: I'm thinking of it. Wally showed me how his flip didn't require that he redo all the links. If I can find a template like that, I'll flip. Otherwise no. I have too much to do to sit down and do all my links again. And remember that those links include a link to all of the reviews I've done at The Common Ills. Which C.I. was more than kind enough to do for me New Year's Eve 2009.

Rebecca: I want to flip because I'm sick of mine. I've had it since January 2005 and I just want to change it up.

C.I.: You want to stay with pink as a background?

Rebecca: Yeah.

C.I.: I'll flip you on break. I'll just do the basic. Make sure your e-mail address still shows on your profile, make sure your links are there. If you want to add so that the posts -- latest posts at a site -- show, you can do that yourself later. But I'll do the basics.

Jim: Okay, In addition to Rebecca and Kat, Mike and Elaine are using classic sites. Trina, I'm not sure if you are using classic or not.

Trina: Yeah, mine's the original offerings. I'll stick with it. It's not a big deal to me.

Mike: And to correct you, Jim, C.I. already flipped mine. When she was talking to Marcia, I asked her to talk me through on mine. I stuck with blue but otherwise, it's different.

Jim: Yes, you're right. I like that template, Mike. His is mountains. Elaine, that leaves you.

Elaine: Like Trina, I'm fine with the old one. I actually like mine. I'm not bored with it. If you got Kat's right now, you'll see the type of template -- and that's the basic look of the site, where the title is, the kind of font, the colors, etc -- that The Common Ills had originally, Betty had, this site had, Wally had, everyone in the early days had. Now if you go to mine, you'll see there's a little more color, not much, just a little more. So I've always loved my template. Having said that, readers will probably e-mail demanding a change. But I'm fine with it. It's got a back-to-school look to it. Which goes with my whole journal feel.

Jim: Ruth, you never had problems when you flipped the template. Any idea why that was?

Ruth: I flipped a little while after Third flipped and I was expecting problems so I did with C.I. on the phone. She talked me through and told me what to check before ending my update. I actually found the new template so much easier. I like Kat's look which is crisp but I do understand and agree that Elaine ended up with a template far different than the rest of us had back then. I also could not imagine Trina's site looking different.

Jess: And now Ruth sounds like a Common Ills community member. I'm laughing so let me explain. C.I. finally flipped the template a few months ago. And for about 11% of the community members this was a huge problem. They've very slowly gotten used to it but if you asked them they would insist that it would be better to return to the old template.

Jim: And it wouldn't?

Jess: No. A) It needed an update and b) the new template offers additional things that weren't possible with the old one. I understand Elaine's point and agree with her but a lot of the other sites -- including this one -- had way too much white on the screen. Tamara e-mailed wanting to know why we're not using more photographs these days?

Dona: Because I'm lazy. Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally are on the road every week and when they come back I should be grabbing the memory stick out of their cameras and uploading but I generally forget. But they're always taking photos. In fact, I'm grabbing Ava and C.I.'s cameras during this and pulling the photos off the memory sticks. Bruce e-mailed asking that we have more illustrations that are drawn or painted. To that I say, Betty's kids are usually our best with that. But I don't think they've done any lately. Any that we can upload. Isaiah also sometimes draws illustrations for us.

Jess: Actually, Betty's kids did do one illustration this week and I'll go scan that in now so we'll have it as well.

Jim: Isaiah, anything to add about illustrations?

Isaiah: I'll add a technical aspect. If I'm doing my blog and posting an old comic I did to it, I can get the HTML code and insert it and that can be a hassle -- especially if the comic was posted via Hello. But if I'm in Firefox or Flock, one of those two browsers, I can actually just copy and paste the comic in without getting any of the code. It's a lot easier and a lot quicker. It won't work in Internet Explorer, however.

Ty: That's good to know. We'll start doing that here. Okay. I'll use this time for a question for C.I. Merle e-mails that 30 Rock is "repeatedly knocked around by you two" -- C.I. and Ava -- and Merle thinks it is "a funny show, not as funny as it once was, but still funny. So if you had to sleep with anyone in the cast, who would it be?" C.I.?

C.I.: That was an e-mail? No transition in there, just 'It makes me laugh, who would you have sex with?' Okay. I know Alec Baldwin and I'm not going to pick him because it would be too weird but that's not an insult of him and he's an attractive man. If I was going to sleep with anyone on the show --

Ty: It can be guest stars as well.

C.I.: I don't know that they've had sexy men as guest stars. But if I had to sleep with one of them, there's only one sexy man, Grizz Chapman who plays Grizz. The show would be a lot funnier if they returned to jokes about the alleged sexual tension between Grizz and Liz.

Jim: Trina, there was an e-mail from Stephen who wanted to know if you get tired of covering the economy? He wrote that he gets very frustrated with the economy and couldn't imagine writing about it daily.

Trina: Well I agree with his point and there are nights when I have this idea of doing a long piece and then I'll go searching the economic news and not be in the mood. One thing, on the economy, that I've noted is most of the news aggregators are burying the unemployment stories. They're never on the main pages and you have to really search for them. This despite the fact that the news continues to be bad. Or maybe because the news is so poor.

Ty: Rebecca, your "lone star" resulted in an angry e-mail from Belinda who says she and her husband went on Hulu to check out the show based on your post and now they find out that the show's been cut.

Rebecca: Well I didn't cancel it. I wrote about my own surprise Friday in "look what they've done to my show." I cannot believe they canceled that show. It was a very strong show with a lot of layers. I think the lead was amazing. I think David Keith and Jon Voight were already establishing characters that would have lived forever in pop culture. I think anyone watching was anticipating the battle supreme that would take place between those two. Both women playing Bob's two wives were great actresses. It was a great show. I loved it. I am as mad as Belinda that it's been canceled. Be sure to insert the photo of the lead James Wolk so everybody knows what they'll now be missing.

James Wolk

Jim: Stan, there were five e-mails on your "Thoughts on Black Republicans." All wondered what Marcia would have written on the topic and some also wondered if there were any thoughts on the issue that could be in a roundtable?

Stan: Okay. First off, there are a record number of Black Republicans running for the House of Representatives this year. Marcia was going to write about it; however, she had another topic she had to grab and asked if I'd mind covering it. I had no problem and was thrilled to be able to cover it. Marcia?

Marcia: As I wrote the next day at my own site, I couldn't have written the post better. Stan did a great job. On the issue, I agree with what my cousin wrote. I'm not a Republican. But there are many people who are and I would like to see our community well represented in all groups.

Betty; Right. And when we say that, we're aware that there will be people like Clarence Thomas who aren't really that interested in racial issues. If, for example, Thomas was as protective of Civil Rights as he is of the rights of porn users, we'd be a lot further ahead today. But the point is that we need to be represented in all groups and, hopefully, most of us will care about issues such as equality and will advocate for it. And, by being in all groups, racism can be fought. Even by a Clarence Thomas. How so? If we're represented in all groups, it makes it that much harder for certain people to tell racist 'jokes.'

Cedric: I know two African-Americans who are Republicans. They got to my church. I don't know them on a political level but, on a church level, they are very nice people. I'm a Democrat but not every African-American needs to be one.

Ann: Well thank goodness for that, honey, because I'm a Green. I hear these conversations a lot and I always think -- or wonder -- if they perpetuate the two-party stranglehold? We're focusing on Black Republicans because they are setting a record this year in terms of campaigns and good for them, more power to them. And Stan is a Democrat and approached it from that angle. But I hear the conversation and I just think: Uh, there are other choices.

Betty: That is a good point. And, of course, the Green Party ran a Black woman for president last go round, Cynthia McKinney. I'm a big fan of Cynthia, who used to be my rep in Congress, so I should remember that she's a Green and seek to be more inclusive. I know Ann wasn't calling anyone out but I'm just taking some accountability here.

Cedric: I think she was calling one person out, but that's okay, we're married.

Ann: Yes, I would think that being your wife would require you to be a little more aware that African-Americans are Greens as well.

Cedric: Which is kind of covered in our comments on African-Americans being represented in all groups but your point is taken. Thank you.

Dona: And I'm jumping in. I've uploaded photos and we'll try to use some and Jess uploaded the drawing that Betty's kids did. We need to wrap up the roundtable.

Jim: Okay, this is a rush transcript. We'll try to cover more e-mails soon.

Stop funding Detachment 88

From ETAN:

Suspend Training and Funding of Indonesian Police Unit
Detachment 88
Contact: John M. Miller (ETAN)
Ed McWilliams (WPAT) +1-575-648-2078

September 29, 2010 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today urged that the U.S. government to suspend all funding and training of Indonesia's Detachment 88 police unit pending review of charges leveled against the unit for systemic human rights violations, including use of torture.

"U.S. funding and training should not go to a security force that has repeatedly and credibly been charged with human rights violations including torture of those engaged in peaceful dissent," said WPAT's Ed McWilliams.

"Indonesian authorities have consistently failed to prosecute Detachment 88 personnel for these widely reported abuses," he added.

"Detachment 88 has been funded and trained by the U.S. from its inception. With that history, how can anyone believe that U.S. assistance will improve the human rights behavior of other units, <>like Kopassus," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"While the reported withdrawal of Detachment 88 from the province of Maluku will end its persecution of peaceful protesters there, we are concerned that the unit will continue to operate in
West Papua," said McWilliams. "We urge the Indonesian government to stop treating pro-independence activists as terrorists and to deal with the underlying issues."

Indonesian and international non-governmental organizations and media regularly report on the counter-terrorism police unit’s brutal methods, including torture against nonviolent protesters and suspects. In addition to suspending assistance to Detachment 88, ETAN and WPAT urge: a) that the U.S. Government urge the Indonesian government to investigate credible charges of human rights violations and other illegal activity by Detachment 88 personnel and to prosecute these personnel as necessary; b) that the U.S. Government review its own procedures for providing funding to foreign security units to ensure that in the future all credible reports of human rights violations and other illegal activity by these units are promptly and thoroughly investigated by U.S. officials to ensure that U.S. funds and other forms of assistance are not used to support such activities; c) that the U.S. Government review its "vetting" procedures which is supposed to ensure that no personnel involved in human rights violations or other illegal activity are members of units receiving U.S. government assistance.

Detachment 88 (Densus 88) was created by the Indonesian government statement in 2003 with the assistance and encouragement of the U.S. Government. The U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Services used funds appropriated under the Anti-Terror Assistance Program to support the initiative, which was in response to the 2002 Bali bombings. In addition to providing funding for the unit, the U.S. government has trained its personnel, drawing on the resources of various agencies.

Though the unit has drawn praise for its successful actions against small numbers of militants, it has also gained <>a reputation for brutality in its more than 500 arrests, including allegations of torture. The unit has increasingly been used by the Indonesian government in its suppression of separatist activities around the country. In 2007, Detachment 88 members <>arrested and tortured 22 civilians after they unfurled the Maluku independence flag in front of Indonesia’s President. Yusuf Sipakoly, who in 2007 was sentenced to 12 years for possessing a "separatist flag” recently died in prison.

He had told <>the<> <>Sydney Morning Herald: "I was tied with nylon [by the Detachment 88 officers] and my head was covered with a bucket," he said.

"Then they started beating me until I urinated in my underwear…"
<>The<> Herald<> also reported that the United States had secretly banned some Detachment 88 members in Maluku from receiving assistance in May 2008 because of concerns over human rights violations. However, abuses continued.

In August 2010, <>12 activists were allegedly detained and tortured at the hands of Detachment 88 members. The activists had planned to "to float dozens of the distinctive rainbow flags attached to helium-filled balloons during Ambon's Sail Banda regatta" which Indonesia’s President planned to attend. Following an outcry, the unit was disbanded in Maluku in September, but the unit’s commander Brig. General Tito Karnavian has said that <>the unit will stay in Papua. In April 2010, members of <>
Detachment 88 detained 28 West Papuan activists for organizing a peaceful demonstration in Manokwari. Some of these detainees were sentenced to three and three and a half years in prison for talking about freedom and for holding a Morning Star Flag. In December 2009,
Detachment 88 personnel shot Papuan independence figure Kelly Kwalik, allowing him to bleed to death without medical intervention. On October 18, 2007, the prominent <>Papuan human rights lawyer Iwanggin Sabar Olif was arrested by Detachment 88 on charges of "incitement of hatred and rebellion," after forwarding a text message to colleagues criticizing the Indonesian President and military. <>

The U.S. reportedly provided Detachment 88 with the technical capacity and other support to intercept SMS and possibly other messages among civilians.
The U.S. government has paid for training costs, instructors’ salaries, weapons and wire tapping devices. For example, as of late 2005 Washington had <>
provided at least $12 million for Detachment 88 for training an initial 400 officers. Australia has also provided substantial aid to the unit. In 2004, Australia pledged US$35 million over five years for Indonesia to build a training center.

One Indonesian legislator has warned that “'We have to be really careful about [Detachment 88] because we don't want anyone to turn the clock back to the old days when <>Kopassus got training in the U.S. and tortured their own people when they're back home.'' The Indonesian government has <>recently announced the creation of an umbrella organization, the National Antiterrorism Agency (BNPT), to coordinate the actions of the National Police, especially Detachment 88, the Indonesian military, the State Intelligence Agency, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

There are concerns that this
new agency’s scope will broaden to target to not just terrorism suspects but "separatist" activists as well, as well as deepen the military’s controversial internal security role. The National Police have now put Detachment 88 under direct control of the National Police chief, General Bambang Hendarso Danuri. <>Over the weekend Danuri said “Please understand that our officers, particularly those of Densus 88, have never violated human rights in the course of their duty.”

ETAN was formed in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for occupied East Timor. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

For more information, see ETAN's web site: <>
The West Papua Advocacy Team produces the monthly <>West Papua Report.

Support ETAN make a contribution here
Thank you for your support.
John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box
Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873
Phone: +1-718-596-7668
Mobile phone:
Skype: john.m.miller
Send a blank e-mail message to to find out how to learn more about East Timor and Indonesia on the Internet


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.

"The Kirkuk question" -- most requested highlight because readers of this site e-mailed like crazy. What put it over the top? C.I.'s commentary on the DC get-out-the-vote.

"Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on two Congressional hearings.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Priorities" -- Isaiah takes on Barack and his ego and his Jesus Christ pose.

"Ruth's Report: What if it were George W. Bush saying it?" -- Ruth covers radio as does Ann:

"Go Flush Yourself" -- Isaiah dips into the archives for this one on Watada's failed court-martial.

"Noodles in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a simple recipe to dress up pasta for a tidy snack.

"Kate Clinton and other uglies" -- Betty lets Kate know that, as Kate writes, so can others.

"what's on tv?" and "lone star" and "look what they've done to my show" and "Desperate Housewives" and "Chuck" -- Rebecca, Betty and Mike cover TV. Mike will be writing about Fringe either Monday or Tuesday and forgot when he wrote early Saturday morning.

"Daytime talk shows" -- Ruth talks daytime TV.

"And Ann Powers becomes part of the problem" and "Hey, Judy Berman, why do you hate women?" -- Kat explains how some people enable the sexism of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

"Pelosi's damning confession" -- gee, Nancy, why don't you make that the re-election commercial?

"Foreign Correspondent" and "Party Girl" -- Stan and Ann go to the movies.

"Held hostage" -- Elaine on the way are choices are limited.

"Silverstein's out, Horton we're stuck with
" -- Mike laments one leaving and another one staying.

"He thought it would be more fun" & "THIS JUST IN! LONELY GIRL!" -- As Cedric and Wally document, it's getting increasingly hard to take Barry O seriously.

"journalism here and there," "The way they lie to the resisters," "Iraq: Veterans and the stalemate" and "Iraq, Ed Miliband, David Miliband and Labour" -- Rebecca, Stan, Elaine and Mike cover Iraq.

"The bill"and "THIS JUST IN! WHO PAYS?" -- Cedric and Wally on how Barry O sticks the people with the bill.

"More bad news from the Great Recession" -- Trina on the economy.

"You ain't done s**t" -- Marcia calls out the self-strokers.
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