Sunday, July 24, 2005

A note to our readers

Another edition. We're actually running ahead of time in some ways. We had to all take a break on the orders of the UK Computer Gurus to install some new privacy software. We were in the middle of posting when that happened. But we were all but done with the editorial.

There's no "Five Books, Five Minutes" this edition. There wasn't time. Dona was a task master on everyone and e-mailed Monday and Tuesday that if it hadn't been started, it wasn't happening. When the idea was brought up tonight, she reminded everyone of the e-mail. She said we had plenty of original content and she wasn't participating in a last minute thing that should have already been started.

But due to Mike's persistance (and because we all love Mike) we did end up doing "One Book, Ten Minutes" so thank Mike for that. And we forgot to mention it in the book discussion but Ava just remembered that we need to say thanks to Sue in Fresno who suggested that we review the book. Sue, thank you.

What do we have?

We have our editiorial. Check it out.

We have an interview with Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix. We have a musical discussion with Kat, C.I. and Jess about Carole King's latest CD. We have "Dear Third Estate Sunday Review."


Oh shut up and stop your fretting, we got Ava and C.I. with their TV review!

Rebecca's on vacation so we put this together without her and we miss you Rebecca. Get some rest and have a great vacation.

We thank Dallas, always, for hunting down links. We thank Maria for allowing us to repost her Democracy Now! break down of the news in the past week -- in English and in Spanish so get the word out on that.

We thank Cedric for the interview. We thank Cedric, Kat, Mike and Betty for help with all pieces (except the TV review). We thank Cedric, Elaine and Kat for allowing us to reprint their work.

(C.I.'s a member in our minds, the thanks goes without saying.)

Hopefully there's something here to make you mad or make you laugh.

Till next week.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava

Editorial: The Gang That Couldn't Talk Straight

Jimmy Breslin wrote about The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Plauging our nation today is The Gang That Couldn't Talk Straight. Whether it's "privatization" or "tort reform" or "Clean Skies" or "No Child Left Behind" everything's hidden behind a phrase that implies something directly opposite from the actual meaning. (And no, we don't find that "ironic.")

We've seen it play out since before the Bully Boy started occuyping the White House. "The votes have been counted and recounted!" (When in fact the majority had never been counted.) So maybe it shouldn't be shocking, for instance, that Bully Boy now says he'll fire whomever outed Plame in his administration only if they're found to have committed a crime.

Unless Bully Boy was seeking to establish a precedent, wasn't that always a given? Is he trying to tell us that's what he meant all along? "You go to prison, I'll fire you." That is where he draws the line?

His concept of integrity baffles the mind. But we're seeing that and a lot worse play out. Over and over, they try to divert and obscure. The gang that couldn't talk straight fails to grasp that conviction or not, Rove and Libby have already done enough that demonstrates they need to go. Enough has also come out that a Congressional investigation is needed to find out who else helped and (just as important) who failed to do anything when news of the impending outing reached the administration (as early as July 7th, 2003, Valerie Plame was outed on January 14th, 2003).

From Watching the Watchers' "Child Abuse at Abu Ghraib" by A! of Watching the Watchers. , we learn that:

Data is emerging, no matter how the administration attempts to hide it, that the new photos and video of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison include the torture of children.
Norway's Prime Minister's office says it plans to address the situation with the U.S. "in a very severe and direct way."Could this mean losing yet another ally in the Iraq occupation? Amnesty International in Norway has said that Norway can no longer continue their occupation of Iraq, or their support of US policy in this matter.
And some countries, as
Tom Tomorrow notes, actually listen to their activists.While there isn't even an inkling of this in the US Mainstream media, all over the world people are beginning to read about the US abusing children at Abu Ghraib.

We weren't supposed to worry about that either, remember? Remember Operation Happy Talk of "a few bad apples" and that the photos just showed more of the same as the already released photos? Remember the GOP senators rushing to tell the public that releasing the photos could hurt us as a nation?

So they sat on them, after apparently lying about them, and a surprise only to the administration (which never seems to grasp that eventually the truth will come out), the photos haven't gone away.

Karl Rove and Karen Hughes may have instructed, "Clap your hands if you believe in Bully Boys." If so, not enough people clapped because not enough people believe. Operation Happy Talk goes into motion and at best disguises reality for a few weeks. Truth does come out.

And what's coming out is that this administration with all their talk of "integrity" and "honor" has been the least accountable administration in recent history. They've fixed reports. They've lied about PDBs. They've outed a CIA agent. They've tried to cover up abuse that we should have dealt with a long time ago.

If America is hurt by the release of the photos, the Happy Talkers have themselves to blame.
They should have owned up to what was happening when they saw the photos. Instead, they tried to obscure the issue. As if it weren't bad enough that the torture occurred, our administration is now seen as trying to cover it up.

That's not the way the United States is supposed to behave.

Make no mistake, Bully Boy and his Bullies Without Borders have had a lot of enablers. Including wishy-washy Democrats who didn't want to speak up or, when they did speak up, wanted to immediately cave, buckle, wimp out in the face of criticism.

The only apologies in the last five years have been coming from Democrats and, frequently, they're apologizing for things that don't require an apology. While the Dems bend over backwards to apologize for words, the administration demonstrates no accountability for its actions.

That needs to stop. The unwarrented apologies from Dems who try to speak the truth and the lack of accountability for the most mismanged administration that any of us can recall.

Congress better start excersizing their oversight because if they don't, accountability may come in the form of votes on election day in 2006. We need a truth movement in this country. Actually, we have it. You saw it on Saturday with people meeting to discuss and raise attention on the Downing Street Memo. As with Valerie Plame, the public's the one pushing for the truth.

Hopefully, the mainstream press will also take part. But they haven't driven this. One person who is asking questions that need to be asked is Robert Parry. From his "Rove-Bush Conspiracy Noose Tightens:"

The second new fact is what Rove did after his conversation with Cooper.
Although supposedly in a rush to leave on vacation, Rove e-mailed Stephen J. Hadley, then Bush's deputy national security adviser (and now national security adviser). According to the Associated Press, Rove's e-mail said he "didn’t take the bait" when Cooper suggested that Wilson’s criticisms had hurt the administration.
While it’s not entirely clear what Rove meant in the e-mail, the significance is that Rove immediately reported to Hadley, an official who was in a position to know classified details about Plame’s job. In other words, the e-mail is evidence that the assault on Wilson was being coordinated at senior White House levels.
Cooper also told the grand jury that his second source on the allegations about the Niger trip and Wilson’s wife was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a leading neoconservative advocate for invading Iraq. According to Cooper, Libby said on a not-for-attribution basis about Plame, "Yeah, I’ve heard that, too."

See last week's editorial and you'll know why we're glad he's raising it and surprised that everyone else (including Richard W. Stevenson in today's New York Times) isn't also on it.

As the public begins asking what Parry's asking, The Gang That Couldn't Talk Straight is going to find itself in even hotter water. What we've constantly seen is avoidance in the place of accountability. With consistently bad polling results, we like to hope the sheen is finally off the Bully Boy.

Speeches and phrases based upon coded antonyms and the refusal of others in place to hold the administration accountable (the press, the Congress) have resulted in our current state. But at a time when things could seem hopeless, what we're seeing is a public getting active and asking the questions and raising the issues that others won't. That's healthy for democracy. And having grown weary waiting for leadership, the public's now ready to set the agenda and lead on their own.

[This editorial was written by the following: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner and Mike of Mikey Likes It!]

1 Book, 10 Minutes Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers

We thought we were done. We had a paragraph to go on the editorial and then it was off to bed for all of us. (We hoped.) (C.I. posted an item on our last break at The Common Ills and we were hoping that would mean even C.I. could hit the sack.) But as we finished the editorial and got focused on posting the things already written, Mike asked if we were really not going to do the "Five Books, Five Minutes." Yes, we really weren't going to do that.

We'd slacked off on that during the week.

Mike was disappointed because for two weeks he'd wanted to discuss Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to The Rulers. "Great, write a review and we'll post it!" we cried (lazy, smart asses that we are.) But what Mike wanted was the give and take of a discussion. We all love Mike and he helps out here so the least we can do is help him out. With a ten minute discussion limit, we all agreed to discuss The Exception to the Rulers.

Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner and Mike of Mikey Likes It!

Here's an excerpt from the book, pages 254 - 255:

The Bush administration recruited some time-tested help for this effort. It retained John Rendon, head of the PR firm The Rendon Group. Rendon is a self-described "information warrior," who has worked on Iraq-related issues for clients including the Pentagon and CIA. Rendon was instrumental in setting up the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, securing the channeling of $12 million from the CIA to the group between 1992 and 1996. The Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence retained Rendon for the invasion of Iraq.
Rendon spoke at a July 2003 conference in London about the propaganda effort around the invasion. Colonel [Sam] Gardiner attended the talk and recounts that Rendon "said the embedded idea was great. It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part, they did not lose control of the story."
Rendon did note one problem: "He said one of the mistakes they made was that they lost control of the context. The retired people in the networks had too much control of the context. That has to be fixed for the next war."
The themes of the invasion propaganda effort were twofold. The war on terror is a fight between good and evil (and it didn't hurt to invoke images of a Christian crusade against Islam). And Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks -- "what propaganda theorists would call the 'big lie,'" said Gardiner.
With these two concepts underlying all messages, Gardiner states that the strategic influence campaign around Iraq "distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict; caused misdirection of portions of the military operation; was irresponsible in parts; might have been illegal in some ways; cost big bucks; will be even more serious in the future."
The media had a starring role in this effort. Propaganda requires a gullible and complacent media in order to thrive. The U.S. corporate media played its part to the hilt."

Jim: Okay, Mike, get us started.

Mike: Well the book's written by two journalists, Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman. I don't know much about David Goodman but Amy Goodman's the host of Democracy Now! which airs on TV, radio and the internet. It's a one hour news show that airs Monday through Fridays. It's something that we all count on, all of us here, to provide us with real news as opposed to stories about the latest missing blonde or the latest celebrity scandal.

Kat: News you can use. News that informs.

Mike: Exactly.

Dona: What stands out to me, and this is something C.I. and I have spoken about a lot probably starting in January or February, is the critique of The New York Times.

Jess: Which is really strong in terms of what the mea culpa covered and what it didn't and what stories still require corrections but have never gotten them. And we've addressed that at length in roundtables.

Dona: And just as important as that critique is to the present day, to citizens, I'd argue that the critique of the reporting on the atomic bom is just as important. The New York Times likes to cloak themselves in the "We are The New York Times." Yes, they are. And Jayson Blair didn't spring out of thin air. The paper has a history of pushing stories that the parties involved, reporters and editors, should have known better than to push. I'd argue it was a decision that they made to push them. It wasn't ignorance, it wasn't a mistake, it was a deliberate decision.

Betty: Which goes to the points that I felt they were raising in the book, Amy and her brother, about access and how you can trade independence for access and so many do.

Ty: It's not really important to any of us to know what joke some blowhard told at a dinner party in D.C. but to make sure they're at those dinner parties, they cozy up and do the fluff treatment and all the while act like they're in the business of reporting when in fact they are more often than not concealing. That's their business.

Betty: I'm so glad you said that! I was reading the stuff on "It's Only a Summer Scandal" at The Common Ills this past week and I love the song but what stood out to me was I don't believe that Gwen Ifill ever told viewers, before her "Condi gets accountable" NewsHour interview with Rice, that she and Rice often dine together and that Condi's bragged publicly about what a great cook Rice is. I'm not a huge fan of Diane Sawyer and haven't watched her in years but when she was co-hosting Prime Time Live, if someone came on from ABC or any of it's divisions, she'd note that. If she was interviewing Carly Simon or someone else that she knew outside of work, she'd note that. Public television needs accountability and at the very least, viewers of the NewsHour, and I'm remembering this as Condi's damage control for the news of the PDB finally coming out, should have been told at the start of the interview that Condi and Ifill were close friends. The public was owed that.

Ty: And if it had been disclosed, as it should have been, the question on most people's minds would have been why is Gwen Ifill doing this interview? This wasn't "Getting to Know Condi!"
This was about the public needing serious answers about a PDB prior to 9/11 that warned of coming attacks. There is no reason in the world that she should have been interviewed by a friend when the public needed and deserved answers. It's shameful that anyone would be allowed to do what she and Condi Rice did.

Kat: Agreed.

Mike: I was also amazed by the pack mentality and, for instance, Charlie Rose having his hissy fit because Amy Goodman quotes Dan Rather and Charlie's sweating about "I can't imagine Dan saying that, I'm not doubting you that he said it . . ." And then minutes later he is doing just that and Amy has to remind him, "I was just quoting Dan Rather." Or Lesley Stahl rescuing the guy --

C.I.: Richard Holbrooke.

Mike: Right so he doesn't have to answer questions from the press. Or Tom Brokaw omitting part of the title of the documentary film because it might offend the corporate sponsors.

C.I.: In fairness, it might have been a flub. He's made his share of his flubs such as his infamous comment when filling in on The Today Show about how coming to work so early that morning he was envisious or jealous, this is a paraphrase -- look it up if you care about it, of the homeless asleep on the street. Far more damning to me was his refusal to allow questions to be asked or to be concerned that a journalist was being roughed up at an awards banquet for journalists. At an awards banquet for journalists where the one being roughed up is winning an award! Or his pandering remarks to flatter Holbrooke during the ceremonies. He comes off like a first class kiss ass. And this is when Brokaw had some actual power so to see him kissing ass like that is embarrassing. And don't forget Holbrooke's own jokes.

Ava: Laughing, with the journalists in the room laughing along, that a Serb TV station had been bombed. I want to quote the Goodmans on that:

Laughter broke out in the room.
"It is an enormously important and I think positive development," Holbrooke added.
Here were hundreds of reporters supposedly upholding the highest principles of journalism, and they chuckled on cue -- at a war crime committed against journalists.
Now, what would have been different if Milosevic had stood up to announce, "We just bombed CBS!" and a bunch of Serb journalists had laughed? Radio Television Serbia, whatever its faluts as a mouthpiece for Milosevic, is not a military target. We went back to our office later that night to see the pictures of body parts being pulled out of the wrecked TV studios in Belgrade. It wasn't soldiers blown to pieces in the rubble. It was the people who apply makeup, the cameramen, and the journalists who were inside. People like 27-year-old technician Ksenija Bankovic, whose mother Borka we interviewed on Democracy Now! Borka asked how journalists could laugh at the killing of her daughter, whose only crime was going to work that night. In all, sixteen media workers were killed in the bombing.

Can we get a link for that Democracy Now! report?

C.I.: Dallas is already searching. You hear those stories and it's hard to say, "Well it's the jaded press corp." It's quite frankly disgusting. The pages are 286-287 that's Ava's referring to.

Jess: Which brings up the section I was wanting to quote and I'm not sure if we have enough time but it's page 152:

The media has the responsiblity to show the true face of war. It is bloody. It is brutal. Real people die. Women and children are killed. Families are wiped out; villages are razed.

Jim: Which is Falluja, let's be honest. Dexter Filkins turned it into a rah-rah video game. You never got the sense of the fact that a city was being destroyed, that people, males, were prevented from leaving the city. It was a turkey shoot and it was disgusting. But Filkins comes in with his rah-rah reporting and it's put it in the X-box and let's all play! Is it gallows humor? I don't know but it's not reporting.

C.I.: And Dona's indicating time's up but before that happens, let's let Mike talk about what stood out to him the most since he's the one who wanted this feature. Mike?

Mike: Well the parts everyone named are great and they're informative and anyone wanting to read a book that's going to tell it like it is needs to grab this book. I'm sure East Timor stood out for everybody. And that section was probably the one that spoke to me. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn stayed on that story even when the media didn't care and didn't want to know and they pushed that story into the news, into the mainstream news, with their actions. It's the kind of thing that causes my mother to say Amy Goodman's a candle in darkness. And to me, that's what's so great about the book and so great about Democracy Now! because it's not "here's what everyone is talking about so we better get on message." It's about telling the story that might not get told. Or showing you the part of the story that you might not see. That's what this whole books about --

Dona: I'll play Amy Goodman, ten seconds.

Mike: and that's why people should be reading it. Make sure you look this book up. Look it up at a bookstore or a library --

Jim: Or the link which takes you to a Democracy Now! web page where you can order it directly, it's now out in paperback.

Mike: But like if you can physically hold it in your hands and just read two pages, I think you'll realize how important this story is.

C.I.: And the link Jim's talking about does provide an excerpt to the book. So you can follow Mike's advice and read a bit of it even if you're ordering it online.

Dona: (laughing) And that was not one book in ten minutes, more like twenty. Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Exception to The Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicans, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them.

TV Review: Mad TV, maddeningly annoying

"You are watching Mad TV" a chipper little voice sings time to time throughout Fox's Mad TV. We think the voice should be encouraged to continue with, "Why?"

Know the annoying guy who thinks he's entertaining when he recites an entire routine (from Monty Python, Living Color or whatever)? How like the character in Barry Levinson's Diner (acting out The Sweet Smell of Success), he never gets that he's not amusing, just annoying? That's Mad TV.

We're fans of sketch comedy. We just don't see a lot of comedy in the sketches. Or a great deal of thought. When they succeed these days, it's usually the result of a clever parody like The Big Store (we didn't realize it was a spoof of The O.C. until we watched The O.C.). But that's what they rely on too often.

They're not alone on that. Saturday Night Live was once the home of characters by Gilda Radner, John Belushi and others -- characters you could enjoy who were based on something funny that they had observed in life, not from their TV screens. These days they rely far too much on spoofs of the famous.

More and more, when Mad TV actually prompts a laugh, it's as a result of such a spoof. But more often than not (the Oprah spoof) the jokes aren't really funny. The impressions aren't really dead on either. Chevy Chase could never do Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. He did Chevy Chase in every skit. For those who've forgotten, Saturday Night Live got by just fine when he was gone. When alumni are remembered, it's not for their impressions. Mike Myers is remembered for Wayne of Wayne's World. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd (as a team) are remembered for the Blues Brothers. Gilda Radner is remembered for Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella and Judy Miller (not that Judy Miller) and Lisa Loopner of Lisa and Todd. We laughed at her parody of Patti Smith (Candy Slice) but that's not what she's remembered for.

We're having a hard time seeing much that the cast of Mad TV will be remembered for. Stephanie Weir does create characters but they all seem to resemble one another. Ike Barenhotz, whom Rebecca thinks is a hottie and would be willing to watch week after week if he just strutted around in a pair of BVDs, is a good sport. All the people onscreen seem to be. They're just not that funny.

Sometimes that results from the fact that they have bad material (hire better writers!) but a lot of the cast writes for themselves. And please, no more Charlotte Rae parodies. When the only "joke" from including "Rae" in a skit is her thong riding up on her, there's a problem. If you bring on "Rae," you're bringing her on for a reason. The thong joke didn't require "Rae."

There's also a fondness for "Connie Chung." (And a fondness for men who dress up as women.)
There are many jokes that could be done using "Connie Chung," jokes that would go to the state of the news today. That's not happening. Instead, the "joke" is that Connie's a bitch and she's been pregnant.

We realize that Mad TV tries to be in the spirit of Mad Magazine. Mad Magazine is far funnier than anything from this show.

On tonight's episode, there was one funny skit, one that actually appeared like someone worked on it as opposed to saying, "Hey I do a good Anna Nicole! You do a great Bill Cosby! Let's mix them together!" It was a couple, speaking to the camera, about their wedding. Which took place on 9-11. It was funny.

But that's too often the exception. There's a skit called "Asian Man" that might be funny if Bobby Lee was ever playing anything (in any other skit) other than an Asian stereotype. Skits like "Asian Man" seem to get tossed in to suggest that "See, we're not using racial stereotypes." Oh, but you are. Oh, but you are.

Like Saturday Night Live, Mad TV's more interested in a celebrity embarrassing himself or herself (Bill Cosby, Whitney Houston, go down the list) than in commenting on anything that's actually going on in life. And there's something troubling that their "hard hitting" skits revolve around celebrities as opposed to politicians.

Politicians embarrass themselves weekly (check the papers -- but we don't get the feeling that anyone writing material for Mad TV actually reads a paper -- or much else). Even the Bully Boy gets air kisses as opposed to hard hitting caricatures.

Throughout the show, you've got the feeling you're watching a really bad high school revue where people grab catch phrases made famous by others to get a laugh that they haven't earned themselves.

Tonight's "key skit" appeared to be about Celine Dion. The joke? She must go on singing and will toss her baby to the audience in order to. It wasn't funny. It wasn't a skit. It was a "sk" -- a lame idea that never got fully executed. We're not fans of the Dion and can rip her apart in a matter of minutes. We could do it funny or we could just do it factually. Mad TV doesn't want to do the work. They want to indicate and count on you filling in the blanks.

But a better question is why, since Dion's been performing exclusively in Vegas for some time and since she's not doing anything thus far this decade that she hadn't already done in the nineties, Dion's even being spoofed?

How did that pitch session go?

And who hailed the skit as funny?

There was an intervention skit a few weeks back (we usually have it on during our writing of the reviews -- we'd planned to review it awhile back for Rebecca who's in love with Ike but we kept waiting for something positive to say along with our negative criticism). It used a healthy portion of the cast and was actually funny for most of the skit. There's a retirement home reoccruring skit that's occassionally funny. (The stroke bit is overplayed.) (Repeatedly within each skit.) The Abercrombie & Fitch skits are usually funny and it's a credit to Mad TV that they stumbled upon that first.

If you're not able to do impressions, you aren't able to. That's not a gray area. You can or you can't.

And we'd suggest that the women doing Ellen and Meg Ryan, et al. should have long ago been told that they neither look nor sound like the women. They also have nothing to offer, the "characters," to the skits that they're included in. It's an easy laugh (something we were talking about with Cedric earlier tonight) that's not worthy of a laugh. Cedric calls it a "name check" that gets a giggle not because of anything that's done but because of, "Is that supposed to be Meg Ryan!"

Is that how low sketch comedy has fallen?

Look, we don't expect Nichols & May from a sketch comedy show entitled Mad TV. We do expect to laugh.

Paul Vogt, an overweight man, seems to think he's funny repeatedly playing overweight women -- where the joke is that they're fat. He's Stephanie Weir's teenage cousin in some skits, he's Charlotte Rae in some skits, he's Camryn Manheim in some skits. And the joke is always "What a fat woman!" Is Vogt bothered by that? He should be. All those jokes apply to himself if you leave out the gender. (Or maybe, like many male performers, he thinks only women can be criticized for their looks?)

Daniele Gaither is actually funny when she's allowed to put her stamp on a character. A character, not an impersonation. She's probably the most talented member of the cast and if they weren't resorting to "name checks," she'd probably be utilized more.

Stephnie Weir is over utilized but since her characters are usually actual characters, we feel bad for saying that. Dot is funny, for instance. (The annoying child that needs constant attention.) But the constant reliance on her makes us fear that she'll soon be running on fumes the way Michael McDonald has as he desperately attempts to create another Stuart.

Which brings us to the man that causes what Rebecca's delicately termed her "moist days," Ike Barinholtz. A big, beefy guy (not fat, but surely the kid who had to wear Tough Skins pants growing up), we honestly didn't register the attraction until he started losing weight (and resembling Ben Affleck). We prefer him big and beefy. (Like a tostada or buritto.) He's a good sport. And when he's playing one of the studs of the skits (in the retirement home sketches, in the Abercrombie skits, in The Big Store, etc.) he's funny. We're not sure whether that's because as a stocky guy (formerly stocky), he's able to spoof the dream date caricature or if he's just more comfortable in those roles. But he was the weakest point of the intervention skit and of any skit where's he's supposed to be a regular guy being funny. By contrast, playing an overly groomed, new news anchor, he saved a really lame skit. (A sketch on local news has a lot to parody. The "happy talk" and "flirting" they got. That's all they got.) Let him play pretty boys because that's the only time he's knocking them out of the park. (He's also amusing in the interviews at openings and awards shows.)

When Mad TV started, there was the hope that it would either knock Saturday Night Live off the air (Fox especially was hoping for that) or it would prompt Saturday Night Live to get better. (SNL always gets better because it so frequently destroys itself every other season.)
After all this time, you'd think that people behind Mad TV would look at what works and what doesn't.

Since they won't, we will.

Musical guests provide nothing. It's not a regular segment and when it happens now, audiences are more likely to feel, "Hey, I tuned in for a comedy show!" At an hour (minus incessant commercial breaks) the show really doesn't have the time to waste on music. (Nor on the "let's talk the audience!" Unless it's an actual skit.)

Half the cast should have been fired a long time ago. (And maybe they have been? The official site doesn't show a large majority of performers we saw on the show tonight.) But so should the writers. Comedy is in a rut over all the place. For a sketch comedy show; however, that doesn't cut it. Sketch comedy doesn't depend (or shouldn't) on what a sitcom did.

Instead of hauling Charlotte Rae (for instance) out of mothballs or thinking that at this late date "Bruce Lee's cousin" is funny, they need writers that can create actual characters, not lame parodies. They should also stop speaking down to the audience.

Now maybe they're core following is, in fact, made up of seventh graders (or seventh grade drop outs) who are obsessed with celebrities and will chuckle as they point and say, "Look, it's supposed to be Dr. Phil!" Continuing to go after that "demographic" may explain why the show still struggles for viewers. If the Law & Order franchises depend upon "ripped from the headlines" plots, Mad TV is "ripped from the tabloids" (frequently really old ones we keep waiting for a joke about Cher's breast lift in the seventies to turn up). Whether it's the Kino Lady or the Nice and Pretty Nails woman, the characters (the few) that have gotten positive word of mouth for the show have not been celeb parodies.

If the performers are capable of creating real characters, someone's stopping them. Which goes to the issue of writing. Having sat through at least six episodes as we've done our reviews, we think every writer should be fired. (Performers who write or help write their own bits can be retained but they need strong assistance.) Mad TV plays like it's written by guys who went to school each Monday and ripped off Belushi or Radner, "dazzled" their peers with their "impressions." (Think Marshall on Square Pegs.) They've learned to copy what other people do to be funny, they just haven't ever grasped what actually made it funny. Which is why Mad TV falls flat repeatedly.

After all these years (ten, in fact), that the show still can't pull it together screams of the need for new writers. When Tina Fey was promoted to head writer as Saturday Night Live, the show actually became funny again. (Helped out back the fact that a lot of performers attempting to steal from Belushi, Myers, et al left around the same time.) When hiring writers, here's a tip: anyone who pitches, "I've got this great idea about ____ and how ___ they are" doesn't get a callback if the skit's "humor" dervies from the fact that we're seeing a parody of some famous or semi-famous celebrity. Can the writers create funny, original characters? If they can, they can also do any celeb parody that might be needed. But if all they can do are these celeb parodies, they're not able to find any humor in their own world.

The sitcom isn't dying. It's fallen on hard times, true. It's been through them before. But one of the things hurting comedy the most these days is the fact that people aren't relating to it. There's no, "Something like that happened to me once!" Instead, the "recognition" derives from the fact that you saw it somewhere else before, on another show. As audiences are forced to sit through yet another carbon copy of a joke that got a laugh somewhere else, they're less and less amused. Humor is by its nature observational. Eddie Murphy, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin and other comic greats get that. The people who grew up stealing catch phrases and amusing other kids but never added anything original don't rate the term "class clown." They're class copycats. And they're copycat humor is like a photo copy of a photo copy of a . . . With each copy, it gets less and less sharp and less and less focused.

Mad TV needs to stop trying to build it's laughs on others and start creating a few of their own. (And Rebecca would never forgive us if we didn't add her plea that Ike Barinholtz perfom every skit in a pair of BVDs. We believe white BVDs are Rebecca's preference, but we could be wrong.)

Sitting down with Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix

We're almost scared to type the following: another community member has started a blog. The last time we typed that, the same evening a community member stopped blogging. Is it a jinx?
We hope not.

Members of The Common Ills are familiar with the name Cedric. He's been an active member in the community weighing in with his thoughts and providing input on things that matter to him. Now Cedric's started his own site: Cedric's Big Mix.

Let's start with the title, how did you come up with that?

I planned to call it Cedric's Master Mix. I even typed that but then started thinking, "I'm African-African and I don't want 'master' in my name title." It may seem like a small thing but I probably spent twenty minutes debating it. A master mix is a good thing. But when I saw my name in front of the two words, I thought, nah, I'm not going like that.

A mix, in music terms, refers to a remix or a mix tape usually. Is that what you were going for?

Yeah because the hope is that I'll be able to pull some samples from all the community blogs and highlight them. So Cedric's Big Mix.

We're adding you to our link list. How's the word going on your site?

Well C.I., Mike and Elaine have all steered traffic my way and of course I've told all my friends about it so I'm getting a nice number of e-mails. I'm not sitting pretty yet, but I'm sitting!

You're using the same program that C.I. uses for the mirror site for The Common Ills and that Folding Star used for the mirror site for A Winding Road.

I'd written C.I. about it and got some feedback on it. I also wrote the UK Computer Gurus about it. They said they set C.I. up there because it's a mirror site and you can copy and paste something and it will go up exactly as it appeared. Let's say I want to put up your editorial, I'm going to have to copy and paste and then go through and space the whole thing, right?

Right. We do that with our blog spotlights and it can be a pain.

Well this lets you just copy and paste. When you paste it, it's up there. That's why the UK Computer Gurus set it up as a back up site for The Common Ills. They figured it was the easiest thing. And that's why I picked it because it is easy. I'm doing links when I can remember at the bottom of the posts, like a blog roll. That's the thing I don't like about it, that I can't have a blog roll. But I'd probably only do links to community member's sites so that's cool.

What made you start?

I felt like there was stuff I wanted to say and that I needed to do my part to make sure that everyone was getting noted for the work they're doing. That kid West got slammed by the site we're not supposed to give name to but when that happened it was obvious that gatekeepers were going to come after The Common Ills and Rebecca and I'm thinking, "I'm so sick of that shit." So my way to counter it was to not just be a member but to do my own site.

How often do you plan to blog?

I don't have a schedule. I work nine to five. I'm not blogging in the morning, no way on that. I usually roll out of bed, into the shower, rush to get dressed and then rush to work cursing the whole way. Nobody wants to read anything I could write in the morning. I'm not cancelling a date to blog. And while I appreciate what C.I. does, I'm not doing multiple entries. I've got work, dating, friends, family, church and I try to be active in my area and go to town hall meetings and help out where I can so I'm not laying it down like I'm going to be blogging seven days a week.

What are your hopes with Cedric's Big Mix?

To be one more voice, to be a spark like Eminem rapped, to say, "Look it up, I'm doing my part, what are you doing?"

You'll be writing about music and movies, you have written about them, and about politics?

Right. I e-mailed Kat before anyone else after I did my first thing and was all, "Is this cool?" Because Kat is the musical voice in the community. She said it was more than cool and that I should think about doing Cedric's Big Mix CD reviews for The Common Ills. I don't have that kind of time but I appreciate the confidence and props. I'm going to try to tell my truth and keep it real. It's about giving props and paying it back because I get a lot from The Common Ills community and I want to be giving something back. And let me give a shout out to Mike who's helped me and offered solid advice. (Laughing) I think he's just glad to not be the newbie on the block.

You haven't mentioned television yet and we were wondering if you had any thoughts on TV portrayals since you've weighed in on movies?

Not really. I'm not into TV that much. I mean, I grew up on Happy Days and Gunsmoke, my grandfather's favorite show, and A-Team and 21 Jump Street and all that stuff. But there's not a lot I want to check out anymore. I loved Martin and that was probably the last show that made me laugh. Jamie Fox's show was okay. I feel bad for cutting on him like that but it wanted to be funnier than it ever was. UPN has a few sitcoms that are probably okay but there's this whole now we'll name check some obvious thing like do another Stevie Wonder is blind joke that's just old and tired. And you'll hear the audience go wild like someone just said something new and funny. But it's not funny. It's just stuff like "You ain't no Halle Berry!" And people are howling like it's funny. It's like name checking and it's not like life. I think it's insulting really. I got an uncle and an aunt who are like stand up and competing for laughs. They're telling funny stories and jokes and they don't need to name check because they're talking about real life and stuff that actually went down. I was talking with Ava and C.I. about that because they do TV reviews. Tonight they're doing one that they don't think is funny and it's for the same reason. I was like, "It's tired. It's insulting."
But that's not just with black sitcoms. I mean, none of the sitcoms on any network are funny to me. And TV really sucks. I wish it weren't that way but I really don't have time for it so . . .
There's a world outside the front door, you know? I'm not going to zone out to avoid it.

Closing words?

I'd say get out there if you want to put it out because if we all put it out, we get it out there. When I read the thing on save the community, I was glad I had already started up because I mean there is this whole attitude of "C.I. will say it." Or someone else will. And we need as many voices as we can get out there. We're up against a corporate media that thinks a crumb tossed here or there cuts it. They'll lie to you to push tort reform or war or any other crap. They're not interested in you, they're not out to protect you or help you. Realize that and take action. It's like the whole nation's spent too many years sleeping or zonked out in front of the TV and we need to get back to the idea that this is about our lives. We got so screwed up because we counted on others to speak for us. So it's time to get out voices out and lay our truths down. And right now we can do that on the internet. We need to be doing that while we can. It might not be that way forever. So take action now. I mean like, The Common Ills did Black History Month, okay? But like who else was laying it down? Not a lot. So you either take a part in the dialogue or you'll be left out in most avenues, you know? As an African-American male, I can go to sites and somebody's piping off and in the comments someone will point out, "Hey, that's kind of overlooking black people" and they blogger will rush in with, "Oh, I support black people!" And maybe that cuts it with white people, but if you're African-American, you're sort of like 'Uh-huh." Or they're obsessing over something in another country and holding that up as "See, we talk about black issues." There are black issues in this country. The prison issue is something that I don't see a lot of places. You know what I'm saying? Or maybe a site has a link to The Black Commentator and they think somehow that covers it. "Oh, I've got a link." They publish once a week but cause there's a link there no one needs to note them? They come out on Thursdays and they got this great mix of stuff and I wait and wait to see who's going to give them a shout out and there aren't a lot of sites that do that. I can count on The Common Ills and sometimes it seems like that's it. So it's really important if you're a minority that you put out your own voice because you're not going to be heard otherwise. You can sit on your ass and point your finger but you aren't doing nothing to change anything. And you can scream "racist!" but it might just be people not knowing. If you're not putting it out there, how's anybody going to know?
It's like the Democratic Party and I hear this from a lot people I hang with. They want our votes but they really don't know our issues, you know? Or they don't care about them. I voted for John Kerry but I really don't think he spoke to us and using a surrogate to speak to us at this late date is kind of insulting to me. I've got nothing against Jesse [Jackson] but if you can't relate yourself to people, to all people, why do you want to be leader of the United States, you know? Maybe Kerry can relate. He ran a bad campaign. I felt like his wife knew how to relate to people. I felt like Kerry or people controlling the campaign wanted to play it safe. Want to know how to override the southern strategy of appealing to racists? Come out strongly against racism. Come out strongly in favor of inclusion. What happens is someone plays the race card and the other candidate moderates. They need to stop doing that. If some candidate's using the southern strategy, make it an issue. Get on TV and say, "My opponent can't appeal to racism but I'm for everyone and I think it's disgusting." Instead, they get scared and worried. And it looks like they're afraid to be associated with blacks, or women, or gays or Latinos, or Muslims or whatever. Jesse's Rainbow Coalition had power but he blew it. Maybe he'll get back on track. But it seems like you got Republicans playing the southern strategy to appeal to white racists and you got Democrats too often afraid to call them on it because the right wing press will rip them apart and because they might look too close to blacks. If you don't want to look close to a community, don't expect them to turn out in large numbers to support you, you know? Little gestures are insulting. We should have moved past that a long time ago.

Music: The Living Room Tour discussion

Two Tuesdays ago, Carole King released a double disc, live CD entitled The Living Room Tour. The New York Times reported Thursday, July 21st, "Farther down the chart, Carole King scored her highest position in 28 years with The Living Room Tour. . . It opened at no. 17 with sales of 44,000; the last time she reached that high on the Billboard Chart was in 1977, with her album Simple Things." The Tuesday prior, Kat's "Kat's Korner: Good God Carole! What crawled into the living room!" went up at The Common Ills (and is blog spotlighted this edition).

We decided to interview Kat, C.I. and Third Estate Sunday Reviewer Jess about the review and their feelings of it and the album. All three are fans of Carole King.

Let's start with the album. It's a double disc and Carole King's first album in many years.

Kat: Right. It's a live album. She's doing old material plus two new songs. It's supposed to be a more intimate setting.

You hated the album.

Kat: No, I hate it. I still hate it. It's the worst album of the year. A Disney Kid might make something that irritates the ear more later this year but a Disney Kid doesn't have Carole's talent. It is beyond disappointing.

How soon did you feel that way?

Kat: I wasn't crazy about most of it. It's pedistrian and unengaging in many ways. But it wasn't until the second disc that I just hated it.

Where the words to "Sweet Seasons" are changed?

Kat: Yes, because you don't win or win. You win or lose. That's life, that's reality and Carole wants to turn the song into a joke, and gets laughs, because politicians don't like to hear the word "lose." "Win" doesn't even sing so she also fucks up the melody.

But you didn't say that when the album came out. You pretty much ignored the album after it came out.

Kat: And felt guilty because I'd talked it up. But I love Carole's music so I was just going to keep my mouth shut. People were e-mailing asking my opinion and then e-mails started coming saying they didn't like the album and couldn't figure out why. One person was able to identify "Sweet Seasons" as the problem but others were writing that they couldn't figure out why the album angered them. I also wanted to get something up at The Common Ills becuase I didn't want C.I. to be stuck with all the entries this week.

Members enjoyed the review. Did they agree with it?

Kat: What was the split?

C.I.: I'd say 7 out of 10 agreed with it.

Kat: But I haven't posted my address at my site and it's not been given out at The Common Ills in some time. Still I ended up with all these e-mails saying "How dare you!"

How dare you?

Kat: Trash the album because "Carole King's a good Democrat." They'd write, "This is the first Carole King album I've bought since Tapestry!" A point I'd make now that I didn't then is that you've got eight songs from Tapesty on the album. That's another problem. If we love Tapestry, we already own it. There were songs before and after Tapestry. Plenty of them, not just hits.

Jess: And her previous live album, In Concert in 1994, was probably a little too electric for them. Slash playing guitar delighted me but if this is their first album since Tapestry, they probably saw the PBS special and thought, "Why is Carole playing with that guy from Guns n Roses!"

Were you concerned about how the review would be received?

Kat: I gave a heads up at my site warning people I was working on the review and that it wouldn't be positive. And I worked all night to get that review together. I finished what I finished at about three in the morning and e-mailed it to C.I.

You didn't post it yourself?

Kat: No, because I wasn't sure C.I. would want it posted. It was known that I hated the album.
But, and this isn't to share the blame, it's also because there were sentences that I didn't finish.
I would put in ". . ." and ["Can you figure out the word I'm searching for?"] and I also couldn't remember where "One Fine Day" landed, highest position, on the singles chart so I put two choices.

C.I., you posted it. Was there any question about posting it?

C.I.: No. It was strong writing. I think there were five sentences that had a space in them that Kat requested a word or phrase and there was the "One Fine Day" part, how high it made it up on the charts. If you read the review, you'll see that's probably not even 1/90 of the review. My point is, Kat wrote the review. And I don't see that as pushing the blame off on her but as giving her the credit she deserves. I think it's a great review.

Did you agree with it?

C.I.: Yeah, I did. It wasn't "I hate Carole King!" though a small percent saw it as that. Only someone who was a big fan of Carole King's work could have written that review. Only someone who loved the work would be so passionate about it or so knowledge about it. I agreed with the majority of the review. The points I differed on were minor.

Such as?

C.I.: Time Gone By has some strong songs on it but I'm not the fan of that album that Kat is. I would say One to One and Speeding Time had strong songs on them.

Kat: I agreed with you on Speeding Time but not on One to One. I'm actually surprised I didn't mention Speeding Time because that is a strong album.

C.I.: And the melody point that Kat raises is a good one, a very good one. "Win" doesn't sing. By changing "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and most times you choose between the two . . ." into "Sometimes you win, sometimes you win, and most times you choose betwen the two . . ." the melody was altered. There's no reason for that. As Kat pointed out, a better word could have been chosen. But the song wasn't altered to make a point, the song was altered for comfort -- the comfort of politicians, and I find that disgusting. But I know the point was to first stick to the review itself and it being posted so I'm off topic. Sorry.

Kat, you've praised albums in the past. We tried to think of a negative review of an album that you've done and couldn't think of one.

Kat: My approach is if the album doesn't speak to me, I'm not writing about it.

C.I.: Which is another thing I liked about the review. Interview and Cosmo tend to love everything. They lavish everything with praise. Or did. So I really liked that Kat wrote what she wrote.

Right, because if you're always writing reviews that sing praises, people don't put weight in your praise since you praise everything. Okay, we've noted the reaction and how it came to be, so let's open it up to the album itself. Jess, you're noted in the review:

Sure, the TV commerical got me excited. Jess and I learned of this album from C.I. and we both love Carole King's work so were were both thrilled at the thought of her doing a live album, double disc, revisiting some of her finest songs. I asked Jess what he thought and he said, "I'm still waiting for that album."

Jess: Which summed up my feelings. I love Carole King. I've quoted her songs here and sung her praises. When C.I. mentioned the new album, if you'll remember, it ended up turning into at least 20 minutes of Kat and I talking about Carole King. This is probalby an album that someone can play in their SUV but it's not anything that a real fan's going to enjoy. I know there's no more Tapestry. I know it was lightening in a bottle. So with each album, I know I'll have to find the bits of gold and embrace them. But this album is hugless. Kat praised Carole's piano playing and I'll go along with that but that's really all that's worth noting. "Where You Lead" is in too high of a key. Gilmore Girls has recast the song but it's not "Hold my hand, Mommy!" but that's how it comes off. And that guy she's singing with on two songs --

Kat: Gary Burr.

Jess: Lee Greenwood soundalike is right. He has no business on the album. What did you say, Kat? Their voices don't mix, they don't even mingle?

Kat: Yeah.

Jess: Carole's tonal qualities are that her voice is warm and she cuts through whatever else is in the song because it's not a traditionally sounding voice. So there she is with this traditional, booming, imposing voice. It doesn't just overwhelm "You've Got A Friend," it destroys the song. You need a reedy voice like King's or James Taylor's to make it mean something. Instead it's turned into this bombastic thing. It's no longer, "I'll get you through." Now it's, "I'll pull you through! Whether you want it or not!"

Kat: Great point.

Jess: Thanks. And I also agreed with the points on "Chains," I agree with the review pretty much 100%, because that song is such a trifle. And she does it too often. There's no reason for it to be sung when songs like "Don't Bring Me Down" are overlooked. "Chains" wasn't a huge hit. It was covered by the Beatles. That seems to be the only reason it's always included. The medley is a ripoff. Not just because in the TV ads they don't tell you those songs are in a medley but also because there's nothing connecting the songs together.

C.I.: I'm a Laura Nyro fan as well and when Nyro does a medley, there's a connection. She's going from one song to another and either there's a lyrical connection or a musical one. This was just goulash. If there was a pattern or theme behind the choices, they, like the nonexistant transitions, weren't discernable to the ear.

Jess: And to go from the pumping nature of "One Fine Day" to the slower tempo "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" just made no sense. The medley either opens with "One Fine Day" or closes with it due to the nature of the tempo and the traditional arrangement of the song. Instead she's getting everyone excited and then pulling back into a slower song. If it's not the first snippet or the last, "One Fine Day" doesn't belong in the medley. And where was "Up On The Roof?"

Kat: Exactly. You hear that pip-squeak medley and are left to wonder where are the songs that have stood the test of time? "Go Away Little Girl" may have hit number one twice, but it's not a song that screams to be included in a medley. In concert, I've seen her do the medley where it's "this was a hit and then we wrote this" and it comes off more like a workshop and less like a medley but okay, I can follow that. This time she doesn't place the songs into context with a running commentary and they don't work as a medley.

Jess: I was ready to take a nap after the first four songs on the album: "Welcome To My Living Room," "Peace in the Valley," "Love Makes The World" and "Now and Forever." And I felt Kat was being very generous to suggest that "Welcome To My Living Room" indicated Carole still had the writing chops. C.I. mentioned Laura Nyro, okay, Live at the Bottom Line, she does "Japanese Restaurant" and it's this amazing song that nearly drawfs everything else on the album. It's a new song and you're not left wondering why she's pushing that song because she makes that song so exciting. "Welcome To My Living Room" sounds like it's almost midnight, she's tired and she's just grabbed an afghan, propped up her feet and is waiting for you to go home.

C.I.: The difference, I think, is that Nyro's "Japanese Restaurant" is an actual song. She's trying to convey that. "WelcomeTo My Living Room" isn't a song. It's a concept, theme, something that would get a "special music written by" in a show. I agree with Jess that it droops along. It's like "Fantasy" on the album of the same name. It's not really a song proper and isn't meant to be, it's meant to introduce the concept.

Kat: And to go from that yawner into "Peace In The Valley" is really trying the patience of the listener. Most listeners aren't going to give a damn about a song until "Where You Lead." I'm not saying they'll like it, Jess doesn't, but I'm saying most listeners will grab the album and won't know anything on it until "Where You Lead" which is track number five on the first disc. You don't make people sit through four songs they don't give a damn about when you're doing a repackaged greatest hits as a live album.

Jess: I've never like "Now And Forever" as a song. The lyrics are fine but the music has always been too fussy and she's never found the right key for it. Even in the stripped down line up of this album, the song's too fussy and overly precious.

Kat: Too slick.

Jess: And "Loving You Forever," one of her new songs, starts out okay and then gets handed over to the Lee Greenwood wanna be and it never recovers. My parents asked if Carole was trying to branch out into country and they love the songs she did for the Byrds but can't stand "Loving You Forever."

What did your parents think? Obviously that's where you got your love of Carole King's music from?

Jess: They think it's the worst thing she ever recorded. They passed their copy on to a friend who was thinking about getting it. Then he listened and called them up to say he was taking back his "thank you" to them for giving him the album.

C.I.: As Kat and Jess have pointed out, if you're just a fan of Tapestry, you'll probably be fine with the album. It has eight of the songs from Tapestry on it. But the mood, honestly, reminds me of Music and Rhymes & Reason which didn't set the world on fire. Elton John had a famous put down of those two albums, of how they sounded like they were recorded with the same crew from Tapestry, at the same time as Tapestry, only everyone was tired and wanted to go home.
I always felt they sounded like the band was on heroin. "Wrap Around Joy," which isn't on the album, was one of the songs that restored faith in King. People were tired of the pointless musing to chord changes. So for her to try to bring back "Peace In The Valley" just made me shudder. It's a lousy song. It's always been a lousy song. There was never any concern with an arrangement or a hook. It was self indulgent when it was first recorded and it's self indulgent today. King, at her best, provides riffs and hooks when she composes music. There's no hook or riff to "Peace In The Valley," just a writer wanting us to grasp that they care, they really care.

Kat: And if someone had said that before The Living Room Tour, I would've ripped them a new one. But she's exposed all her weaknesses on this two disc set, she's practically daring you not to find them. It's a horrible album.

C.I.: And it's the type of crap that she had to dig herself out of. This sort of crap goes on and on until Fantasy, which I like, when she steps outside her own world and tries to compose songs for different characters. It freed her up to focus on the music. Take "Corazon." The lyrics, such as they are, are insipid but the song restored a lot of faith in her because musically she was doing more than chord changes.

Kat: And it and "Wrap Around Joy" and "Only Love Is Real" and other songs that are really songs aren't anywhere to be found. After her destruction of "Sweet Seasons," maybe that's a good thing.

Jess: We saw her, my sister and my parents, a few years back and she did "People Have The Power."

C.I.: The Patti Smith song.

Jess: Right. And she did a great job of it. She seemed to believe in it. Then you hear "Sweet Seasons" on this album and you think, "Well who is it, Carole? Who has the power?" Because if people have the power, you don't destroy one of your hit songs by alterning the lyrics to please politicians.

Kat: And that's so against rock anyway. I remember Paul McCartney would introduce a song bragging before the band played the first note, Wings not the Beatles, that it was banned from radio. The same thing with the Who. Then along comes Carole in 2005 playing to please the politicians.

Jess: It's disgusting. It's like she's spitting in the face of her audience. Saying, "I know you guys loved the song the way it was, but I do it for the politicians these days." And she is babbling. I'm sorry she waited so long to put out an album after 9-11 but, Carole, time does move on.

Kat: Oh my God! You heard her say that onstage?

Jess: No.

Kat: Oh. Well she's made that point onstage in the past, back in the eighties. "Time does move on."

Jess: It's a good point. One she should have thought of when figuring out what to put on this album.

Kat offered that if one of the discs had focused on gems from the sixties and one from the seventies, it would have probably been a great album or if she'd done two discs of the sixties gems.

Jess: I'd agree with that. And that's not trashing her later work. I don't think Kat was trying to do that?

Kat: No. But the majority of the songs come from that period. The majority on the album.

Jess: "Only Love Is Real" is a song. It's a real song. Where a composer has taken to the time to figure out something more than chord changes. Carole's weakest work is nothing but chord changes. If you listen to her albums in order, you can tell when she loses the audience because she's not interested in the music. And if she wanted to include songs that she felt were commenting on the day, "Brother, Brother" and "Been to Canaan" do that and were hit songs in the seventies. They're actual songs.

"The Locomotion?"

Jess: I'm with Kat. Unless she was doing two discs of songs she co-wrote in the sixties, there was no reason for that to be on it. I don't even care for the arrangement on The Living Tour.

C.I.: I'm going to harp on Laura Nyro again because we're talking about arrangements and, with "Sweet Seasons," changes made to known and loved songs. Nyro would double time a bridge, she'd change a verse. It worked because she was communicating with her audience. When King babbles on about politicians, she's not communicating with her audience. She's going for easy laughs and she's acting like "I play for the high rollers and I'm just singing in the lobby for you guys to work off some debts." I'm also a stickler on melody. You can change whatever you want if you keep the melody. Sting pissed me off by inserting "famous" in the "Don't Stand So Close To Me" remake. It screwed up the melody. King's done that here. And for no reason other than it might offend politicians and "let me tell you about how life is when I'm running with the big dogs." Thanks for coming down to earth for a moment to give us that breaking news. But next time, could you give us a song instead?

Jess: Songs, not even hits. She's got a body of work that she could have redone. Instead we get her slogans and not her songs. It doesn't work. I'm honestly disgusted by this album. I'm not surprised it sold. After C.I. mentioned it, I couldn't turn on TV late night without seeing an ad for the album. It was marketed like nothing she's done before. And people whose knowledge begins and ends with Tapestry will probably be thrilled. But knowing what she's done after and what she's capable of, this is really disappointing.

Kat: Agreed.

In your review, you mentioned that it had scared you off Carly Simon's latest album, an album of standards, is that still true?

Kat: Pretty much. I've heard good things on it, so I bought it. C.I., you have it?

C.I.: I really enjoy it.

Kat: Have you watched the DVD?

C.I.: I haven't watched a DVD with a CD since Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk. Who has the time?

Kat: I'm told that while Carole's acting like it's two or three years ago and playing to the pols, Carly's aware of the world today on the DVD.

Jess: I know what you're talking about, my parents were saying the same thing. And how strange it is that Carole's babbling on but Carly's the one making a statement.

C.I.: I don't want to slag on Carole but realistically speaking, it's not surprising. Carole's not a lyricist, primarily, as Kat pointed out. Carly, in her lyrics, is confessional. Although she also writes music, she comes of a time when a writer had to have something to say. Carole already had a decade behind her of "Let's Do The Turkey Trot" and similar songs. And Carole's more apt to cite Paul Anka while Carly's more apt to cite Rogers & Hart or Odetta, someone communicating something to a larger audience. Which is why Carly can write a "Let The River Run" and get it across but Carole ends up with what some dub Hallmark Cards.

Kat: I'm feeling defensive about Carole.

C.I.: I'm sure. I should point out that Carly's always been one of my main favorites. I enjoy Carole King. I have many of her albums. I think I have something like sixteen CDs, most of which I never listen to. But if Carly's name is on an album, I purchase it. Carly's always a first day purchase. I make a point to get it the day it comes out.

If it had been Carly's album and Kat had written a similar review, would it have gone up?

C.I.: Yes, because that's her space, Kat's space. I wouldn't have been thrilled probably, but it would have gone up.

Any regrets, Kat?

Kat: No. It's what I felt then and what I feel now. I think people with no knowledge of what Carole King can do and other lowered expectations will be fine with The Living Room Tour. But anyone who's a fan will feel they've been ripped off.

Jess, final thoughts?

Jess: Kat wrote a strong review and one I agree with. People should avoid The Living Room Tour. If they want a solid CD from an artist associated with the same period, they should check out Moonlight Serenade by Carly Simon. You've got some amazing music, well played, on that album. And Carly's singing, not babbling.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
Do you really think you can parlay smart ass into a career?
Dustin, Nevada

Dear Dustin,
We gave serious consideration to your question. Dumb ass? What does that get anyone? Not much. Cute ass? Well, hate to break it to you, Dustin, but looks fade over time. Smart ass? Yeah, we'll go with that one. Thanks for your concern. We're touched that you worried about us and our smart asses.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I'm really interested in the whole net thing. And I think I'm left. Or leftish. Or maybe just want people to think I'm leftish. I am prone to snit fits and love to tear into anyone I see as a little nobody. Which is basically anyone that isn't me. I fantasize of having a snit fit and bullying some kid. Any advice?
A Nobody

Dear A Nobody,
We think there's already a site that espouses your belief. If we're wrong, considering your core beliefs, we can't help you. No luck to you.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I've recently discovered that when all of you get together, some of you smoke. I think that's a disgusting and vile habit and that you should be ashamed of yourselves for promoting smoking.
You are killing America's youth!
Pat in Dayton

Dear Pat,
We're rushing because we got to hit up the elementary playground and pass out smokes. But we appreciate your input and would remind you that if smoking offends you, you should find a nonsmoking section. Hold on, we'll check for you. What's that? Oh, Pat, sorry, non-smoking's filled. Guess you'll need to go somewhere else.
[For the record, those of us who smoke have not felt the need to point that out here. We haven't condemned it but we haven't advocated it. Considering that it's still legal, that will remain our position.]

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I don't get the big deal about Valerie Plame being outed. Can you sum it up in one sentence?
Gene in Yonkers

Dear Gene,
Valerie Plame was an undercover agent who was betrayed by her own government when she was outed for political reasons having to do with her husband. Does that nutshell it?

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I don't know if you've seen it or not, but Kat has trashed Carole King. I can't believe she'd do something like that! I really hope you'll have a word with her about this.
Kate, Boston

Dear Kate,
We actually have many words with her. (See our musical discussion with her, Jess and C.I. this edition.) Including, "Can we run the review here?" As for "trashing Carole King," we don't see it that way. It's written by a fan, by someone who knows and loves Carole King's work. The fact that she hates the album speaks to the passion and admiration she has for King's work. It's too bad that King doesn't have the same passion and admiration for the work or she might not have fucked up "Sweet Seasons."

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
Your writing is so full of life and so sexy. I'm wondering which of you is the sexiest in person?
Iwana, Oklahoma

Dear Iwana,
While Jim thinks he's too sexy for his briefs, too sexy for his briefs, thinks he's got too much . . .
The rest of us would have to say that sexy is in the beholder. Though we have candle holders and pan holders, none of us has a beholder that we're aware of; therefore, we're unfortunately unable to answer your question at this time.

¿Rove y Libby engañaron a investigadores en filtración de la CIA?

¿Rove y Libby engañaron a investigadores en filtración de la CIA?

Maria: Hola. De parte de "Democracy Now!" doce cosas que vale hacer notar este fin de semana.

¿Rove y Libby engañaron a investigadores en filtración de la CIA?
La agencia de noticias Bloomberg informa que las dos figuras centrales en la filtración de la identidad de la agente encubierta de la CIA Valerie Plame, podrían haber engañado a los investigadores intencionalmente. La agencia sostiene que el principal asesor del presidente Bush, Karl Rove y el jefe de personal de Dick Cheney Scooter Libby dieron explicaciones a un fiscal especial acerca de cómo los periodistas les informaron la identidad de la agente de la CIA, lo cual contradice lo dicho por los periodistas. Libby le dijo al fiscal especial Patrick Fitzgerald que se enteró por primera vez de la identidad de Plame a través del periodista de NBC Tim Russert. Bloomberg sostiene que Russert declaró ante el gran jurado federal que el no fue quien informó a Libby la identidad de Plame. Mientras que Rove le dijo a Fitzgerald que se enteró por primera vez de la identidad de la agente de la CIA a través del columnista Robert Novak. Sin embargo Bloomberg cita una fuente que dice que Novak le dio una versión diferente al fiscal especial.

Documento identificó a Plame como agente encubierta
Pasamos al escándalo de Karl Rove y la CIA. El Washington Post informa que un documento confidencial del Departamento de Estado fundamental para la investigación federal acerca de quién filtró el nombre de Valerie Plame como agente encubierta de la CIA, contenía información acerca de la agente en el párrafo marcado "(S)", que significa secreto. El Post lo denominó como una clara señal de que cualquier funcionario de gobierno que haya leído el documento debía saber que se trataba de información confidencial. El documento menciona a Plame por su nombre de casada, Valerie Wilson, y se dedica, casi en su totalidad, a explicar por qué los especialistas de inteligencia del Departamento de Estado no creían las afirmaciones de que Saddam Hussein había intentado recientemente comprar uranio a Níger, como había sostenido el esposo de Plame, el embajador Joe Wilson, luego de su misión de investigación al país africano. El documento fue entregado al entonces Secretario de Estado, Colin Powell, el 7 de julio de 2003, mientras se dirigía a África en un viaje con el Presidente Bush en un avión de Air Force One. La identidad de Plame fue revelada siete días después en una columna escrita por Robert Novak. Los fiscales están investigando el registro de llamadas realizadas en el viaje y han interrogado a varios funcionarios de Bush que viajaron con él.

Bush se retracta de despedir a involucrados por caso filtración de CIA
Volvemos a Estados Unidos, donde el presidente Bush parece haber retirado su promesa de despedir a cualquier funcionario involucrado en la revelación de identidad de la agente encubierta de la CIA, Valerie Plame. Existen pruebas claras de que los funcionarios de gobierno Karl Rove, principal asesor del presidente, y Scooter Libby, asesor personal de Dick Cheney, estaban implicados en el caso. Bush señala ahora que despedirá a cualquiera que haya “cometido un delito”, a pesar de que en declaraciones anteriores, tanto el presidente como el vocero de la Casa Blanca, Scott McClellan, habían prometido despedir a cualquier funcionario que estuviera “implicado” en la revelación de identidad de la agente de la CIA. Se trata de una diferencia importante, ya que ahora no se cuestiona el involucramiento de Rove, sino la existencia de un delito en virtud de la Ley de Protección de Identidad de Inteligencia, que por otra parte presenta importantes vacíos legales. En este caso, los fiscales deberán probar que Rove tenía conocimiento que Plame trabajaba como agente encubierta

Ex funcionarios de Inteligencia protestan por filtración de Plame
Mientras tanto, once ex funcionarios de inteligencia redactaron una carta abierta a los líderes del Congreso diciendo que la filtración de la identidad de Plame como funcionaria de la CIA pudo haber perjudicado la seguridad nacional y la capacidad del gobierno para recopilar información. Criticaron al Comité Nacional Republicano por hacer circular puntos de discusión acerca del escándalo, donde sostienen que Plame no trabajaba realmente como agente encubierta porque trabajaba en una oficina en Langley y no ameritaba protección desde el punto de vista jurídico. Los once funcionarios señalan que miles de funcionarios de inteligencia de Estados Unidos que trabajan diariamente en oficinas en la zona de Washington ocultan su identidad al igual que Plame cuando su identidad fue revelada.

Caso Rove: Cooper de la revista Time habla sobre declaración ante el Gran Jurado
Los programas de debate del domingo estuvieron dominados este fin de semana por la investigación de la revelación de la identidad de la agente encubierta de la CIA Valerie Plame. Uno de los protagonistas de la historia, el periodista de la revista Time Matt Cooper, estuvo en el programa de NBC "Meet the press" donde habló acerca de su declaración ante el Gran Jurado. Cooper también escribió un artículo publicado anoche por la revista Time, donde señala que el principal asesor del presidente Bush, Karl Rove, fue la primera persona en decirle a Cooper que Valerie Plame era funcionaria de la CIA. Cooper dijo que declaró esto ante el gran jurado la semana pasada y que Rove finalizó la conversación diciendo que, "ya he dicho demasiado". Cooper escribió que Rove no reveló el nombre de Valerie Plame pero le dijo en julio de 2003 que saldría a la luz pública información que cuestionaría la credibilidad de su esposo, el ex diplomático Joseph Wilson. Cooper escribió, "¿Rove me reveló el nombre de Plame, o me dijo que era una agente encubierta? No. ¿Fue a través de mi conversación con Rove que supe por primera vez que la esposa de Wilson trabajaba para la CIA y podría haber sido responsable de enviarlo a él (a Nigeria)? Sí.. ¿Dijo Rove que ella trabajaba en la 'agencia' en armas de destrucción masiva? Sí". Cooper continuó diciendo "cuando dijo que la información sería pronto revelada ¿estaba eso prohibido? No lo sé. ¿Es algo de esto un delito? Supera mi entendimiento". Cooper escribió que le había dicho antes al gran jurado que ya había hablado de Wilson y de su esposa con Lewis "Scooter" Libby, el jefe de asesores del vicepresidente Dick Cheney. Dijo que le preguntó a Libby acerca de la participación de la esposa de Wilson en el viaje a Nigeria y Libby respondió "Sí, yo escuché lo mismo". Todo esto planteó serios cuestionamientos acerca de si varios funcionarios del gobierno engañaron a la gente y a los investigadores en forma intencional sobre la vinculación de Libby y Rove. El portavoz de la Casa Blanca Scott McClellan dijo en octubre de 2003 que Rove, Libby y otro funcionario habían afirmado no estar involucrados en la revelación de la identidad de Plame.

Nuevos estudios demuestran que política de Estados Unidos radicalizó resistencia iraquí
Dos nuevos estudios cuestionan seriamente las afirmaciones del presidente Bush de que la resistencia en Irak está conformada por yihadistas con experiencia que aprovecharon la oportunidad para hacer de Irak su principal frente. Las dos investigaciones, una realizada por el gobierno saudita y la otra por un investigador israelí, dieron como resultado que la amplia mayoría de los combatientes extranjeros en Irak no son ex terroristas y que la propia guerra los radicalizó. Ambos estudios analizan los antecedentes y motivaciones de cientos de extranjeros que ingresan a Irak a pelear contra Estados Unidos

Ataques de Londres estarían vinculados a la Política de Irak, según principal grupo británico
Mientras el gobierno británico continúa la investigación masiva de los ataques de bomba coordinados en Londres este mes, uno de los más respetados académicos en política exterior, cuestiona las afirmaciones del primer ministro Tony Blair de que los ataques no fueron provocados por la participación de Gran Bretaña en las ocupaciones de Irak y Afganistán. Un nuevo informe de la organización Chatham House dijo que el principal problema para evitar el terrorismo en el Reino Unido es que el país "ocupa el asiento del pasajero en la guerra contra el terrorismo de Estados Unidos". El grupo está formado por prestigiosos intelectuales y ex funcionarios del gobierno. Tony Blair dijo el sábado que los coches bomba fueron motivados por lo que denominó una "ideología malvada" más que por la oposición a cualquier política. Blair denominó las sugerencias en contrario como un "malentendido de orden catastrófico". Sin embargo, Chatham House concluye en el informe que "sin duda" la invasión a Irak impulsó la "propaganda, el reclutamiento y la búsqueda de financiamiento" de la red Al-Qaeda, mientras que le proporcionó una zona ideal para el entrenamiento de terroristas. Continúa diciendo que "estar en el asiento del pasajero con un aliado poderoso demostró ser riesgoso en términos de la pérdida de vidas británicas, estadounidenses e iraquíes; de gasto militar y daño causado a la campaña antiterrorista."

Disparan a miembros sunitas del comité constitucional
Mientras tanto, tres miembros sunitas del comité para redactar la nueva constitución iraquí, murieron en una balacera mientras salían de un restaurante en Bagdad. Los sunitas del comité eran considerados figuras claves en el proceso constitucional organizado por Estados Unidos. Quince miembros sunitas se incorporaron al comité el mes pasado, siendo el primer órgano político en el país con importante representación sunita desde que el nuevo gobierno asumió en abril. Los grupos de la resistencia juraron matar a cualquier sunita que integrara el comité. Se informó que los miembros sunitas abandonaron el comité.

Mujeres perderán derechos en el "nuevo" Irak
Mientras tanto, el New York Times informa que el borrador de la nueva constitución iraquí restringe considerablemente los derechos de las mujeres, imponiendo la ley Sharia o coránica en temas como matrimonio, divorcio y herencia. Limita además su representación en el parlamento. El borrador garantiza derechos legales para las mujeres, en la medida en que no "violen la Sharia", es decir que las mujeres chiítas no podrán casarse sin el permiso de su familia, mientras que sus esposos se podrán divorciar simplemente manifestando su voluntad de hacerlo tres veces y en voz alta. El borrador también elimina una medida incluida en la constitución provisional que exige que las mujeres tengan al menos 25 % de representación parlamentaria. Está programado que el texto constitucional quede terminado para mediados de agosto.

Nuevo estudio indica que murieron 24.000 civiles iraquíes
Un nuevo informe independiente publicado el pasado martes indica que 24.000 civiles iraquíes han muerto violentamente desde que comenzó la invasión de Estados Unidos hace dos años. El estudio concluye que Estados Unidos y su coalición de fuerzas militares son responsables del 37% de las muertes, mientras que las fuerzas contra la ocupación y de resistencia son responsables de un 9%. Otro 36% de las muertes fueron resultado de la violencia criminal. Las cifras divulgadas la semana pasada por el Ministerio del Interior de Irak indican que entre agosto de 2004 y marzo de 2005 un promedio mensual de 800 civiles y policías murieron en ataques de la insurgencia. El informe fue elaborado por Iraq Body Count y Oxford Research Group.

Abogado de Padilla: acúsenlo o libérenlo
El abogado de José Padilla, un ciudadano estadounidense acusado de haber conspirado para detonar una 'bomba sucia' radiactiva, se presentó ante un tribunal federal de apelaciones el martes y exigió al gobierno de Estados Unidos que acusara a su cliente de algún delito o que lo liberara. Pero un abogado del gobierno de Bush le dijo al tribunal que el presidente debe tener autoridad para arrestar a terroristas sospechosos por tiempo indeterminado. El presidente Bush declaró a Padilla "combatiente enemigo", una designación que permite que las fuerzas militares tengan a alguien detenido sin presentar acusaciones, por tiempo indeterminado. Padilla está en la brigada de la Marina en Charleston, Carolina del Sur, y ha pasado los últimos tres años bajo arresto. El tribunal de apelaciones recibió el caso luego de que un juez de Carolina del Sur dictaminara que el gobierno debía acusar a Padilla de algún delito o liberarlo.

Caravana cubana Pastores por la Paz detenida en la frontera
La noticia viene de Texas, donde cientos de voluntarios de Pastores por la Paz, que se preparaban para realizar un envío masivo de ayuda humanitaria a Cuba, fueron detenidos en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México y podrían permanecer allí varios días.Funcionarios del Departamento de Comercio dicen que registrarán a todos los vehículos de la caravana y cada artículo de ayuda humanitaria, algo que no se hacía desde hace años, y solamente se permitirá pasar a través de la frontera de México aquellos bienes que Washington considere que son "licenciables". Los agentes de la frontera amenazan con remolcar los vehículos de la caravana y ya confiscaron algunas donaciones de ayuda, incluyendo computadoras. Algunos voluntarios atraviesan la frontera de México y Estados Unidos cargando sillas de ruedas, muletas y otros implementos médicos, mientras que otros realizan una protesta en la frontera. Hay 130 ciudadanos estadounidenses que viajan con la delegación, al igual que un camión y dos pequeños autos. Pretenden entregar 140 toneladas en ayuda. El gobierno de Bush extremó las restricciones contra Cuba en 2004, y utiliza fondos de Seguridad Nacional para investigar sospechosos de viajar a la isla.

Maria: Hello again. Francisco is planning on picking this up next week. When C.I. e-mails, I'm happy to this but in case anyone's getting tired of my picks, Francisco is planning to do this next weekend. In English, here are twelve headlines from Democracy Now! Let me say it again: "Read the headlines in English below and ask yourself 'Is there anyone I can pass this on to?'" A lot of you e-mailed to say you alerted at least one person that Democracy Now! is providing their headlines each day in Spanish and English for reading and listening to. Let's try again to get the word out.

Did Rove and Libby Mislead Investigators in CIA Leak?
The Bloomberg News Agency is reporting that the two figures at the center of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame may have intentionally misled investigators. The agency says that President Bush's senior advisor Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby both gave accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said. Libby told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned Plame's identity from NBC News reporter Tim Russert. Bloomberg says Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity. Rove, meanwhile, told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak. But Bloomberg cites a source saying that Novak has given a different version to the special prosecutor. Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove, or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation.

Memo Identified Plame as Undercover
Now to the Karl Rove/CIA scandal. The Washington Post is reporting that a classified State Department memo central to the federal investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's name as an undercover CIA operative contained information about her in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret. The Post calls it a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified. In the memo, Plame is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson. Almost the entire memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger, as Plame's husband Ambassador Joe Wilson asserted after his fact-finding mission to the African nation. The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert Novak seven days later. Prosecutors are reviewing the phone records from that trip and have questioned several of Bush's staffers who were on that trip.

Bush Backs Off Pledge to Fire Anyone 'Involved' in CIA Leak
Back in this country, President Bush on Monday appeared to backtrack on his pledge to fire anyone involved in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Amid clear evidence that two senior administration officials were involved--namely his senior advisor Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby--Bush now says he will fire anyone who "committed a crime." Earlier statements by the president and the White House spokesperson, Scott McClellan, had promised that anyone "involved" in the leak would be fired. The distinction is an important one given there is little debate that Rove is involved. But there is debate over whether he committed a crime under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which has significant loopholes. For example, prosecutors would have to prove that Rove knew Plame was operating undercover.

Former Intel Officers Protest Plame Leak
Meanwhile, eleven former intelligence officers have written an open letter to Congressional leaders saying the outing of Plame as a CIA operative may have damaged national security and the government's ability to gather intelligence. They blasted the Republican National Committee for circulating talking points about the scandal that allege that Plame was not really working undercover because she worked at a desk in Langley and legally merited no protection. The eleven point out that thousands of U.S. intelligence officers work at desks in the Washington area every day whose identities are shielded, as Plame's was when her identity was leaked.

Rove Watch: Time’s Cooper Speaks About Grand Jury Testimony
The Sunday talk shows this weekend were dominated by the ongoing investigation into the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. One of those at the center of the story, Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" where he discussed his testimony in front of the Grand Jury. Cooper also has an article piublished last night by Time in which he says that President Bush's senior advisor, Karl Rove, was the first person to tell Cooper that Valerie Plame was a CIA officer. Cooper said he told that to a grand jury last week and that Rove ended the call by saying "I've already said too much." Cooper wrote that Rove did not disclose Valerie Plame's name, but told him in July 2003 that information would be declassified that would cast doubt on the credibility of her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson. Cooper wrote, "So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the 'agency' on 'WMD'? Yes," Cooper continues, "When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me." Cooper wrote he had previously told the grand jury he had also discussed Wilson and his wife with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. He said he asked Libby about Wilson's wife playing a role in the Niger trip, and Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too." This all raises serious questions about whether several administration officials intentionally misled the public and investigators about the involvement of Libby and Rove. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said in October 2003 that Rove, Libby and another official had assured him they were uninvolved in the leak.

New Studies Show Fighters in Iraq Radicalized by US Policy
This comes as 2 new studies are casting serious doubt on President Bush's claims that the resistance in Iraq is made up of career jihadists who have seized on the opportunity to make Iraq their central front. The two investigations--one by the Saudi Arabian government and the other by an Israeli think tank--have found that the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself. Both studies analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States.

London Bombings Linked to Iraq Policy, Says Leading UK Group
As the British government continues its massive investigation into this month's coordinated London bomb attacks, one of Britain's most respected foreign policy thinktanks is challenging Prime Minister Tony Blair's claim that the bombings were not a result of British involvement in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. A new report by the Chatham House organization said the key problem in the UK for preventing terrorism is that the country is "riding as a pillion passenger with the United States in the war against terror". The group is made up of leading academics and former government officials. On Saturday, Tony Blair said the bombers were driven by what he called an "evil ideology" rather than opposition to any policy. Blair called suggestions to the contrary a "misunderstanding of a catastrophic order." But in its report, Chatham House concludes there is "no doubt" the invasion of Iraq has "given a boost to the al-Qaida network" in "propaganda, recruitment and fundraising", while providing an ideal targeting and training area for terrorists. It goes on "Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign."

Sunni Members of Iraq Constitutional Committee Gunned Down
Meanwhile, three Sunni Arab members of the committee drafting the country's new constitution were gunned down as they left a Baghdad restaurant on Tuesday. The Sunnis on the committee were seen as central figures in the U.S.-organized constitutional process. Fifteen Sunni members joined it last month, making it the first nationwide political body to include significant Sunni representation since the new government took power in April. Resistance groups have sworn to kill any Sunnis that took part. As we went to air, there were reports that the Sunni members were pulling out of the committee.

Women to Lose Rights in 'New' Iraq
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that a draft of Iraq's new constitution would greatly curtail women's rights, imposing the Sharia or Koranic law in personal matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance. It also would limit their representation in parliament. The draft would guarantee legal rights for women, as long as they do not "violate Sharia," meaning that Shiite women could not marry without their family's permission and that husbands could divorce them simply by saying so out loud three times. The draft would also drop or phase out a measure included in the interim constitution requiring that women make up at least 25 percent of the parliament. The constitution is set to be finalized by mid-August.

New Study Says 24,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed
A new independent report released Tuesday puts the number of Iraqi civilians who died violent deaths in the two years since the US-led invasion began at more than 24,000. The study found that US and coalition military forces were responsible for 37% of the deaths, with anti-occupation forces and the resistance responsible for 9%. A further 36% were blamed on criminal violence. Figures obtained last week from the Iraqi interior ministry put the average civilian and police officer death toll in insurgent attacks from August 2004 to March 2005 at 800 a month. The report was done by Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group.

Padilla Lawyer: Charge Him or Free Him
A lawyer for Jose Padilla, a US citizen accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb,'' went before a federal appeals court Tuesday and demanded the U.S. government either charge his client with a crime or set him free. But a Bush administration lawyer told the court that the president must have authority to indefinitely detain terror suspects. President Bush declared Padilla an "enemy combatant,'' a designation that allows the military to hold someone indefinitely without charges. Padilla is in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., and has been held for the past three years. The appeals court received the case after a South Carolina judge ruled that the government must charge Padilla with a crime or release him.

Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan Stopped at Border
This news from Texas. Hundreds of Pastors for Peace volunteers preparing to deliver a massive shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba have been barred at the U.S.-Mexico border and could be held there for days. Commerce Department officials are saying they will search every vehicle in the caravan and every item of humanitarian aid, which hasn't been done for years, and they will only allow what Washington deems "licensable" goods to be allowed to cross into Mexico. Border agents are threatening to tow the caravan's vehicles and have already seized some aid donations, including computers. Some volunteers are walking across the U.S.-Mexico border carrying wheelchairs, crutches and other medical supplies. Others are holding a protest at the border. There are 130 U.S. citizens traveling with the delegation, as well as a truck and 2 small cars. They are attempting to deliver 140 tons of aid. The Bush Administration tightened restrictions against Cuba in 2004, and is using Homeland Security funds to investigate those suspected of travel to the island.

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