Sunday, January 01, 2006

A note to our readers

It's 2006, did you think we'd ever make it through 2005? Along the way, a few of us had our doubts.

We also had our doubts about this edition. Having worked Christmas Eve, some of us weren't sure we could get through New Year's Eve as well. We did. We've got spotlights for every site in the community. We've got Kat's latest reviews (Back to Bedlam and Motion Sickness) reposted.

What's our new content?

Ava and C.I. take a look forward at what's in store for 2006 on your TV screens. They wrote that quickly as we were about to honor New Year's Eve obligations and intended to go back and polish it. They never did. The rest of us laughed out loud repeatedly when we read it. But you know Ava and C.I. and how they trash their own writing. Since C.I. still has postings to do at The Common Ills, there's no time for a polish so it is what it is (to steal Kat's motto) and the rest of us argue that what it is is damn funny.

As always, the TV review is the sole creation of Ava and C.I.'s.

Credit for the other four pieces belongs to:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

The other four pieces? We have a feature on movies that we would have done earlier if we'd thought of to be honest. Two sick children meant Betty had to pass on her family's get together and stayed home alone (after her kids were asleep) on New Year's Eve. For anyone in a similar situation next year or just interested in some films with New Year's Eve backdrops, that feature should be enjoyable.

We do read the e-mails and not just "Jossette"'s. Our feature on what we're thankful for in 2005 and what our hopes for 2006 was suggested and requested by Kim in an e-mal. Our editorial utilizes a song [Melanie's "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)"] that Jess turned many of us onto. (Some already knew the song.) We must have listened to it repeatedly on Saturday and Sunday. It really is a song worth checking out and a hopeful one. We felt like starting the year off with some hope. Read the editorial and you'll see why.

And we have an essay that we honestly wanted to be longer but it was New Year's Eve so, looking back, we're suprised that it's as long as it is. However, given more time, there were additional topics we wanted to touch on. Maybe at a later date. But we think you'll enjoy the essay (unless you're a member of the mainstream press).

We thank all the above for their work on this addition. In addition, we thank Maria for allowing us to repost her entry, ditto Seth and Isaiah. As always we thank Dallas for his help with links and our readers.

Let's see even more truth to power in 2006. Happy New Year.

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

Editorial: Let your song become a part of the river

For sometimes when I am feeling as big as the land
With the velvet hill in the small of my back
And my hands are playing the sand
And my feet are swimming in all of the waters
All of the rivers are givers to the ocean
According to plan, according to man
Well sometimes when I am feeling so grand
And I become the world
And the world becomes a man
And my song becomes a part of the river
I cry out to keep me just the way I am
According to plan
According to man, according to plan
According to man, according to plan
Oh there's a chance peace will come
In your life, please buy one
Oh there's a chance peace will come
In your life, please buy one
-- "Peace Will Come" words and music by Melanie*

From the despair in the months following the November 2004 elections, to the glimmer of activity in March as protests against the war were held all over the United States, through the summer of protest that saw both Camp Casey (in both Crawford versions as well as throughout the United States) and the DC blowout in September, carried on to the World Can't Wait assemblies of November 2005, we saw hope, democracy and a refusal to march over the cliff in lock-step with the Bully Boy.

This energy was fueled by the nation's greatest resource, people power. Not by big name D.C. politicians. In fact, as The Nation noted in their November 8, 2004 editorial entitled "John Kerry for President," as the election entered the final stages, Kerry was still pushing the "win" in Iraq theme. Like the nation, Kerry has woken up (but still needs to splash some cold water on his face to wake up fully). A brave handful of politicians (for instance Barbara Lee and John Conyers) have spoken out against the war for some time. But they've been marginalized by the mainstream media the same way the people were.

In 2005, the numbers opposed to the war grew so large that even the mainstream media had to finally start noting the option of withdrawal (which they, generally speaking, did so by mocking).
Know what? It doesn't matter.

They didn't lead the people to this view. They didn't popularize it or even really report it. What's been accomplished has been accomplished by the people. Only after we all began calling out the Bully Boy did the mainstream press find the strength to start covering issues (some that they had sat on -- and even then, they first met with Bully Boy before "breaking" the news).

For 2006, the stakes are higher and we must continue to press the adminstration (and the Congress). If the mainstream media trails behind us (by several months) great, but 2005 proved that with or without them, the people will act.

Cindy Sheehan and the summer of protest altered the landscape. At the start of 2005, Bully Boy could falsely claim a "mandate" and the mainstream media would run with it. We doubt, we could be wrong, that even the most dedicated stenographer in the press pool would be so willing to take down that sort of dictation today.

2005 was the year Bully Boy finally exposed to many, as Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts above notes, as the liar who lied us into war.

That's a change that you took part in, one you made come about. People power did that. And it can do much more. So today, find some time to reflect on the immense changes in the way 2005 began and the way it ended. Take some pride in that and prepare for the battles of 2006 because there will be many. Take comfort in the fact that we are now a river, an ocean, and our numbers are only going to increase.

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. *AND* we recommend Beautiful People: The Greatest Hits of Melanie for those interested in hearing "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)."]

Essay: Utilize your independent media

In the first editorial we ever did at this site, we noted The Progressive's "Bring the Troops Home" (Comment for the February 2005 issue) and provided a link. Guess what? That article is no longer available at the website of The Progressive. (However C.I. did find a cache version of it.) That's not because the magazine is attempting to make the article disappear but due to the fact that they revamped their site in the spring. Hopefully, it will be up again at some point in the future. However, and here's the reason we bring it up, for this essay we could utilize numerous links. We're not going to. We're working from the print versions for this essay. Some articles are available online, some aren't (and some are available only to subscribers). We'll provide the title of the article, the author (if an author is noted), the publication and the date. If you're interested, you can search the web or you can look for the print versions.

In March of 2003, Howard Zinn noted ("A Chorus Against War, pages 19- 21, The Progessive):

AS I WRITE THIS, it looks like war. This, in spite of the obvious lack of enthusiasm in the country for the war.
[. . . ]
The Administration will not likely be stopped, though it knows its support is thin. In fact, that is undoubtedly why it is in such a hurry; it wants to go to war before the support gets any thinner.

And the administration wasn't stopped. Which is why we're now coasting into the third year of the invasion/occupation, the once hyped "cakewalk."

Following the invastion, Susan Sarandon told Ms. ("Q and A with Susan Sarandon" by Ellen Hawkes, Summer 2003):

I'm alarmed that there was so little debate in the usual forums on questions of this magnitude. By that I mean the House, the Senate and most news sources. There seemed to be more talk about Sean Penn's trip to Iraq than there was about whether we should send bombs over.

So little debate in the usual forums . . . most news sources. Say it again.

As Amy Goodman stated to Carolyn McConnell ("Going To Where The Silence Is," YES!, Spring, 2005):

The corporate media are the furtherest thing I know from objective. They beat the drums for war. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) did a study of coverage the week before and after Colin Powell gave his pitch for war at the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. Of the 393 interviews about the coming war on the four major nightly newscasts -- NBC, ABC, CBS, and the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer -- in this critical period right before invasion, only three interviews were with anti-war representatives. That is not mainstream media. That didn't represent mainstream America, when most people were in favor of pursuing diplomacy and inspections rather than going to war. That's extreme media.

While Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest's "The Lie Factory: Only weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration set up a secrect Pentagon unit to create the case for invading Iraq . . ." (Mother Jones, January/February 2004) provides important details about the lie factory (the Pentagon's Operation of Special Plans), a larger issue isn't addressed: why was the mainstream media so willing to be fed?

As Seymour Hersh told The Progressive ("The Progressive Interview" by David Barsamian, April 2005):

Similarly, the press never tested many of the assumptions about WMDs. One of the great myths about the WMD issue is that everybody believed Iraq had them. Well, that's not true. There were a number of people in the intelligence community and the State Department who were skeptical, and many analysts in the Department of Energy were dubious about Iraq's nuclear capability. There were also people like Scott Ritter who were saying quite accurately what was going on.

Yet the mainstream media persists in the lie of "we were all wrong" -- meaning "we" as a people. And the same press rushes to point to Judith Miller. Sometimes it strikes us as though her firing was nothing but using her as a sacrificial lamb to save the system -- a deeply corrupt one.

We've said it before, we'll say it again, the war was brought to you by many cheerleaders. Even if you want to designate Judy head cheerleader, she was part of a very large squad. And Miller's TV appearances were as invited guest. Just as The New York Times made a decision to front page her questionable stories (questionable even then, outright wrong now), PBS and others made the decision to bring her on as an "expert." Now why do you suppose that was?

And when Miller wasn't taking the air waves, are we supposedly to honestly believe that the cheerleading stopped? That's not how it happened. The same networks that saw Miller as a guest worth inviting are the ones that, as the FAIR study Amy Goodman cited demonstrated, elected not to give a platform to voices opposed to the war.

Are we supposed to believe Judith Miller called all those shots? If so, it's a miracle that the whole system didn't collapse while she was serving time for contempt of court charges. As Robert Jensen pointed out "The Military's Media" in the May 2003 issue of The Progressive, Wolf Blitzer's concern on Larry King Live, March 29th, over "the U.S. bombing of a Baghdad market that killed at least fifty people" was not about those killed but about "the pictures that are going to be seen on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia and all the Arab satellite channels . . . further fodder for this anti-American attitude that is clearly escalating as this war continues." Was Wolfie wearing one of Bully Boy's transmitters while Judy fed him his lines?

And when, as Jensen also pointed out, Judy Woodruff stated on CNN, "We continue to marvel at what those planes can do" was she reciting a line that Judith Miller had scripted for her?

If so, it's amazing that Miller had the time to be spoon fed by the likes of Ahmed Chalabi, Scooter Libby and others, let alone report on it. Was Miller the source behind every Operation Happy Talk of the invasion/occupation? Did she write the talking points to push following every Iraqi election (or "election")?

There's no question that the adminstration ran an effective propaganda campaign, as Danny Schechter's film WMD: Weapons Of Mass Deception illustrates. In one section of the documentary, Schechter interviews Sam Gardiner "a retired Air Force colonel."

Gardiner: Every morning at 9:30 they would have the message phone call, and it would involve the White House Office of Global Communication. The Pentagon Press Office, a media advisor, the people at Central Command, and sometimes people at the State Department. And their notion for that day was to coordinate the message, and after that they would talk to the Brits, so that the message in London matched the message in Washington.
Schechter: One message, one idea, push it out into the media.
Gardiner: Right. Dominate today's message with . . . and you can almost identify by day what the message was.

But cooridnated message by the administration doesn't mean the press has to swallow (unless we're also assuming Judith Miller force fed the mainstream press one by one). As Michael Wolfe (Vanity Fair) told Schechter, "Sometimes your jaw drops and it's hard to figure out why are American journalists so, uh, maybe not even uncritical, self satisfied, I think is the word."

(Note, we're working from the script of Schechter's WMD. We've noted WMD before and it's a film you should see. We'll provide a link to Schechter's site which has buttons and graphs you can click on for more information about the documentary WMD.)

There are serious questions to be asked about the mainstream media's role in promoting this war and the firing of Judith Miller didn't dismiss them. Nor has the problem just been with the cheerleading in the lead up to the invasion. Realities in Iraq are still hidden from the people.

For the March/April issue of Clamor, Collin Yeo conducted "An Interview With Christian Parenti." He asked The Nation's Parenti, "What is the biggest difference between the American public's perception of the situation in Iraq and that of someone who has been there?" Parenti answered:

The biggest difference is that the level of chaos in Iraq is much greater than most people here think. The situation in central Iraq is really out of control and I think it's headed towards a long-term meltdown. The war there is not going to stop for years and years, whether or not the U.S. stays or goes. I'm surprised people don't realize how out of control it is. It's gotten to the point now where journalists are, for the most part, locked down in their hotels. It's very hard to mvoe around; there are very few journalists doing anything unembedded.

And things have not improved. In September, Robert Fisk offered the following to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (note, the interview aired in October but was conducted in September):

Look, apart from the Kurdistan area, Iraq is in a state of total anarchy and chaos. No roads are safe outside Baghdad. Much of Baghdad is in insurgents hands. Only the little green zones, the armored hotel areas where the westerners live and swim, and some cases don't even leave their rooms, and that applies to many journalists, only here are people allowed to have the illusion that things are getting better, things are improving. Outside in the streets where some journalists still go, including, for example, my colleague Patrick Cockburn of the Independent and myself and the Guardian Newspaper, not most Americans though one or two.
Out in the streets where few of us go is hell on Earth. I managed to get, a couple of weeks ago, to the mortuary in the city of Baghdad. As I often go in the past, counting the bodies of midday and midsummer out in the heat. There were 26 by midday. Nine had arrived by nine in the morning. I managed to get the official figures for July for the total number of violent deaths in Baghdad alone. The figure was 1,100 violent deaths, men, women and children. Shot, butchered, knifed, executed, death squad killings. A figure which, of course is not given out by the Iraqi Health Ministry and certainly not by the occupational authorities.

Now when you read the press accounts (live from the Green Zone) are you aware of this:

Robert Fisk: The American correspondents, some of them are guarded by armed Iraqis. The New York Times has a compound with four watch towers and armed Iraqis with "NYT" New York Times on their black t-shirts. NBC lives in a hotel in the Karada District with iron grills. The A.P. lives in the Palestine Hotel with two armored walls. Very rarely do they ever venture out and never do the American staffers go in the streets. As I say, we still go out with Iraqi friends. We actually go out to lunch in restaurants in Iraq. But I think that's probably because as long as we're with Iraqis and we look at our watch and say, 20 minutes, finish the meal, half an hour, got to be out. You're ok but it's a calculated risk.

Need some more reality? As early as August 19, 2003, Riverbend was alerting readers of Baghdad Burning to the so-called "fly-paper" gambit:

I'm so angry and frustrated. Nothing is moving forward -- there is NO progress and this is just an example. The media is claiming al-Qaeda. God dman, we never HAD al-Qaeda before this occupation...fundamentalists kept their heads down. Now they are EVERYWHERE -- they "represent" the Iraqi people on Bremer's puppet council.

(Excerpted from the Spring 2005 issue of Ms., noting the publication of Riverbend's book Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq.)

It was left to Naomi Klein and Harper's Magazine to address the realities of what the US government is doing in Iraq with "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq In Pursuit Of A Neocon Utopia" (September, 2004). From the article:

The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer's reform unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded. These dangers are so great the in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now. For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.

Time and again, it's been independent media that's told the reality of Iraq. Is it any wonder that the cover of the November 28, 2005 issue of The Nation, and not the front page of The New York Times, read:

There can no longer be any doubt: The American war in Iraq -- an unprovoked, unneccsarry, unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation -- is a moral and political catastrophe. It has also become the single greatest threat to America's national security. . . . The Nation will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the American war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign.

The text was from their editorial in the same issue entitled "Democrats and the War" which led off with this statement, "Everything that needs to be known is now known: The reasons the Bush Administration gave for the American war in Iraq were all falsehoods or deceptions, and every day the US occupation continues deepens the very problems it was supposed to solve."

The independent media (such as those sources cited in this essay) have done a wonderful job addressing the realities of Iraq and they've done so on a limited (to put it mildly) budget. So why is it that with greater resources (read monies) available to them, the mainstream press still can't report the realities in Iraq?

It was The Nation, and not one of our "major" dailies, that ran Naomi Klein's "The Double Life Of James Baker: Bush's Envoy Has Private Interest In Iraqi Debt, Documents Reveal" (November 1, 2004). And it was Democracy Now! that had Klein on to discuss the article, not 20/20, not Dateline and not 60 Minutes (I or II). That is just one story that the mainstream hasn't been interested in. They haven't been interested in the air war. (Though, to its credit, The Washington Post appears to be willing to sniff around the topic lately.)

What have they been interested in? The New York Times was interested in killing the story on Bully Boy's bulge (as documented by David Lindorff at FAIR) right before the election. We've learned this month that there was another story that paper killed before the election, at the Bully Boy's request, the one on how he was allowing NSA to spy on American citizens without any warrants. Over at Time Magazine, they shouldn't feel left out. Matt Cooper was willing to sit on the fact that Karl Rove was taking part in the outing of Valerie Plame. Cooper knew that. He knew it in July of 2003. He could have testified to it before the election (as he would when confronted with jail time). He could have written about it before the election. He didn't do it. He covered for Karl while it mattered. The official story on that is that he was protecting his source. The official story is a joke and was before Viveca Novak passed on to Karl Rove's attorney that Patrick Fitzgerald would know about Rove and Cooper's Valerie Plame conversation. If Matty Coop was as tight-lipped as the official version would have us to believe, then are we also supposed to believe that V. Novak either dug around through Cooper's notes or planted her own wire tap to learn of Rove and Cooper's converstation?

Cooper's behavior is a howler worth noting (though we aren't expecting to hear about it from the media critic who told CJR that "the media did better in 2004" than they had in 2000). And how about our man in Insta-Access, Bob Woodward. Weighing in on CNN and NPR about the outing of Valerie Plame while never saying one word about the fact that he was one of the reporters that Plame was outed to?

There's something very sick about the way the mainstream press made the choice to carry the water for the administration and lead the charge to war. Easy lip service to falsehoods such as "We were all wrong" doesn't change that. It also doesn't hide reality from anyone who's gone beyond the mainstream media in the last few years.

The mainstream media pushed this war before it began and they've done their best to distort reality in Iraq ever since. Nailing Judith Miller to a cross doesn't alter the fact that she wasn't calling the shots for all mainstream media (or even for her paper). The firing of Miller, though possibly intended as a ritual slaughter, doesn't purge the mainstream media of it's complicity. Until the mainstream press is willing to take an honest look at their actions (including the white washing of the slaughters in Falluja -- April, 2004 and November, 2004), they can keep repeating the lie of "We were all wrong" and pinning it on the intel community. But they can't expect a healthy portion of the public who has grown to distrust them to suddenly embrace them. We've learned that, as Amy Goodman and David Goodman note in their book The Exceptions to the Rulers, they've traded access for informing the public.

In "The Military's Media," Robert Jensen noted the following on journalism:

First, clear criteria are needed to evaluate news media performance, based on what citizens in a democracy need from journalists: 1) an independent source of factual information; 2) the historical, political, and social context in which to make sense of those facts; and 3) exposure to the widest range of opinion available in the society.

If and when the mainstream media's willing to live up to those three functions, they might win back some of the trust they've destroyed.

TV: 2006 - A look forward

We figured we'd look forward, since we've already looked backward. But, since a reader who apparently lusts for nerds of limited talent, e-mailed to note "the awesome commentary" by Joss Whedon in a recent TV Guide (we understand it's still on the stands, in fact, no one's buying the 99 cents version so watch out when the price leaps to $1.99). Had we, wondered the reader, checked out Joss's "hilarious commentary"?

Uh, it's kind of hard to avoid. It's been a fax favorite for almost a week now. Our favorite is the annotated version which is the column you see in TV Guide plus references to the original jokes that Joss is ripping off. But the best fax of that column might have come from a friend at one of the big three who faxed it with the following message on the cover sheet:

Whedon's officially crap. Someone flush the toilet already!

Jim found the e-mail and told us "you have to read this one." Our reader, we'll call her Jossette, also felt the need to sing the praises of Kristen Bell (like Joss, Jossette appears to find herself singing, "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" played by 25 year-olds). Did we notice, Jossette wanted to know, that Bell proves she's a "serious actress" in her picks for favorite TV stars?

No, we didn't. Because, like most of America, we don't purchase TV Guide. Thankfully, Jossette includes Bell's picks for favorite TV stars: Bill Cosby and Ray Romano. We're failing to see how selecting either stand up comedian demonstrates that Bell is a "serious actress." What we're seeing is that she is woefully short on female role models or else has a strong attachment to Daddy figures. (Sh, no gossip.) The Deborah Walley of the new millenium just got even more disappointing. (That analogy works on several levels.)

But Jim asked us what we had planned for this edition and, when we said a look forward, he told us we had to read Jossette's e-mail raving about Joss, Kristen and TV Guide. Jossette, if TV Guide could clone you repeatedly, they might be able to make money (and someone might be able to turn either a revived Firefly or Moronic Mars into a bonafide hit). Josette's high on Tom Cavanagh's new show Love Monkey which will air Tuesday nights on CBS in the new year . . . for at least a few episodes. People who've seen the show tell us that Cavanagh looks ridiculous with his new haircut (and "chunky" was also tossed around), that Jason Priestly needs to get to the gym, that Larenz Tate doesn't embarrass himself and, finally, that the only reason to watch is Christopher Wiehl.

If Jossette isn't just a Cavanagh fan but actually watched Ed (yes, believe it or not, a few people actually watched that show), she might want to check out Courting Alex (CBS) which is Jenna Eflman's return to sitcom form and features both Dabney Coleman and Josh Randall (Randall was formely known as the only reason to sit through an episode of Ed).

Did TV Guide not report a cancellation (not surprising) or did Jossette miss it? Threshold was cancelled. Jossette raves that 2006 will be the year of Cavanagh, Moronic Mars and Threshold. Jossette also advises us that Will & Grace will be the leaving the air and that TV Guide has just discovered that the quality has declined a bit. Welcome to the party, Jossette & TV Guide, we made that observation last January.

We will note, however, that Debra Messing finally decided to stop dressing as a cover girl and returned to the roots of her character Grace. We wouldn't even question her winning an Emmy for this season. That wasn't the only good news. Mad TV, of all shows, actually demonstrated both common sense and a thick skin by developing a funny skit that parodies much of the show. Ike Barinholtz and Bobby Lee played characters working in a strip mall who do nothing but rip off the tag lines of famous characters. They played it beautifully (that's not a backhanded compliment) and hopefully will revisit the characters in 2006. (Reader Emma pointed that out; however, when the skit aired, Rebecca -- who suffers from a severe crush on Ike -- gave an alert when it aired a few Saturdays back and insisted we all stop working on that edition to watch the skit.) Jim reports that a number of readers have blamed us both for the cancellation of a show and the destruction of a marriage -- from one review. Hey, we're givers. We live to help.

While we're noting readers, we want to provide a head's up for Stella who once wrote of her strong desire for Rob Estes. ABC will provide Estes in full glory on The Evidence later in the new year. We hear Estes delivers his usual strong performance and Martin Landau's performances are hailed as "amazing" by one friend working on the show. That's the good news. The bad news is that they're saddled with the same plots and conventions featured on every other forensic investigation show currently airing.

Back to Jossette, who can spin the conventional wisdom as well as any half-assed TV critic, she informs us that sitcoms are "so over." The death of the sitcom was the hype of 2005 but we're wondering if Jossette's a really bad reader or TV Guide is a just a really bad resource (or a bit of both)? Whether anything will be a hit or not, sitcoms are being offered in large numbers. In addition to Jenna Elfman's return to the format that brought her fame as half of Dharma & Greg, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is back in The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), Grounded For Life's Brett Harrison returns to sitcom land via Fox's The Loop (which all the word of mouth on belongs to Mimi Rogers). "Oh, three shows," you scoff.

No, there's a great deal more than that. Bad word of mouth is dogging ABC's Sons & Daughters.
We are told, however, that the network intends to stand behind Crumbs (Jane Curtain, William DeVane and Fred Savage, among others) and Emily's Reasons Why Not (Heather Graham). (Those sort of promises always tend to be forgotten when the first overnights come in.) We're especially hopeful about Emily's Reasons Why Not having seen some footage.

Those aren't the only sitcoms that will be debuting but we'll hail NBC's decision to return to two hours of sitcoms on Thursdays this spring. We wish there were two out of the four shows that we could get excited about (feels a little more like Thursday's of The Duck Factory and Night Court years than of the Friends and Seinfeld years), but for all those who spent 2005 eulogizing the sitcom, it's a wake up call. (And the only chance NBC has to build a winning schedule on Thursdays because, as we long ago noted, an hour of chuckles, reality TV and ER do not make for a solid mix.)

Will & Grace, in its final season, is the main reason to watch. Another reason is that Joey's being put on the bench. Instead, joining W&G will be The Office, My Name is Earl and the new sitcom Four Kings. Jossette actually might be interested in that since one of the four leads is Joss Whedon refugee Seth Green. (Evacuee?) Before everyone with a brain writes off the show, he's not the only star. Also starring are Josh Cooke (don't miss his bit at the bar in the second episode), Todd Grinnell and Shane McRae. NBC thinks it has the new Friends with Four Kings. From what we've seen, it's half of the first season of Friends (Cooke's the Monica character, McRae the Pheobe and Grinnell the Chandler) with second season roommate from hell Eddie (Green) brought on early. The show has some funny moments at present and whether or not it will turn into the new Friends (or the quickly cancelled) will probably depend upon how quickly everyone grasps that Green is a seasoning to be used sparingly, not dumped on the plate.

For those interested in dramas, there's Estes, as mentioned prior, in ABC's The Evidence. CBS is nervous about The Unit which some feel is the Boomtown of 2006 (show you should watch but no one will). (That's the network's take on it. We haven't seen any footage and have heard mixed reports from people involved with the show.) What else?

There's What About Brian? which is giving some at ABC serious headaches. Barry Watson (of Seventh Heaven fame or "fame") isn't filming well and, belatedly, some are realizing that the too-sensitive-for-this-world onscreen persona of Watson's doesn't play well for the lead character of Brian. (Had they realized this fact when a few were first pointing it out, they could have flipped Watson into Matthew Davis' role and let Davis play Brian. Apparently no one saw Legally Blonde?) If Neil Patrick Harris is irritating (and unbelievable) as a ladies man on How I Met Your Mother, Watson just comes off limp. What do you do with a show that you've miscast and already have episodes ready to air? ABC's considering asking Watson to cut his hair. (Yeah, that's the problem.)

In many ways, NBC is just marking time until they air the Olympics this February. Which explains their desire to take a stab at Nothing Sacred. Remember that ABC drama that starred Kevin Anderson as Father Ray? For nineteen episodes it enraged the 'vangical voters (beginning in the fall of 1997). This time round, the religion's changed (the lead character is an Episcopalian minister), Jesus appears frequently (via visions) but the storylines continue to address the topical. Before the screams for boycotts start, The Book of Daniel's worth checking out for strong performances from Aiden Quinn, Ellen Burstyn and Christian Campbell.

What else? Dickie Wolfe squeezes out another, it's called Conviction. What? You thought he could leave the perp walk? You gotta walk it like you talk it and Dickie's being doing it for years.
Reasons to watch? None.

UPN has a new show that discovers people of color and ethnicities by allowing two white Brooklyn boys to move to Florida in South Beach. (Obviously, someone's view of New York is as encompassing as Woody Allen's.) Vanessa Willimas has a thankless role thus far (think of her as the Captain Merrill Stubing of this ship) but looks wonderful. UPN thinks they have two "hotties" in Marcus Coloma and Chris Johnson which demonstrates the half-assed thinking UPN's become famous for. (Chris Johnson appears to have understudied Jon Cryer's Two and A Half Men role.) Joining Williams in the ranks of under utilized is Giancarlo Esposito.

So what's the message for 2006? There's a little reason for hope. Not much, but a little. Vanessa Williams should be starring in her own sitcom on NBC but we'll be thankful that she's a regular on any TV show. For all it's problems (and for ever how long it lasts), Love Monkey does find a slot for a person of color (Tate) among the four leads. We're hopeful that ABC will find a slot for the American version of Betty La Fea and that Salma Hayek, in the producer role, will ensure that more diversity arrives on your TV screens. But we aren't holding our breath, not in a mid-season where a failed movie actor (and minor TV "star"as part of an ensemble airing on a net-lette) like Barry Watson can grab the lead in an ABC drama -- a part for which he's hugely miscast. The big three remains whiter and whiter and whiter. Your best chance of spotting a performer of color continue to be in the role of a "perp" on one of the many Law & Order shows.

In other TV news, the 73 million viewers without cable or satellite in this country got screwed by Dick Cheney who provided the tie-breaking vote in the Senate that marks 2009 as the deadline for broadcasters to stop using analog signals and make the transfer to digital. If that does come to pass (what The New York Times has editorialized as "The Death of Free TV"), and you're suddenly left with a large monitor good for watching DVDs and videotapes only, remember to thank Dick Cheney. But for 2006, there is still "free TV." (Note that if and when all TV requires payment, you'll still be suffering through commercials.)

Thankful in 2005 for, hopeful in 2006 for

We were asked what we were thankful for in 2005 and what our hope for 2006 was? Obviously, we all hope to see an end of the occupation of Iraq. So instead of repeating that over and over in each response, we've chosen to note another hope.

Betty: What I'm thankful most for in 2005 was being able to go to DC for the protests in September. And subheading to that, I'm very thankful to Kat for watching my kids so I could go to the party Ava's family threw. Evenings away from kids can be counted on one hand in any given year. It was a wonderful party and it was wonderful break aided by the fact that my kids loved Kat at first sight and took to her like they've never taken to anyone. So thank you to Kat.
My hope for 2006? That more people with platforms will use them to call for an end to the war.

Dona: I'm thankful for friends and family in 2005. In 2006, my hope, probably false hope, is that the mainstream media will seriously pursue and report the truth as opposed to spin.

Rebecca: I'm thankful for the very strong support group that my friends, including everyone participating in this edition, provides me with. In 2006, my hope is that we can see a real effort put forth by Democrats in Congress to question Alito as opposed to the soft joshing they gave Roberts in 2005.

Ty: Thankful that with Jim living with Dona and Ava, Jess and me have more space in the apartment and don't have to put up with Jim's smelly sneakers on the coffee table. Hope for 2006, that people take the mid-term elections seriously and use their votes wisely.

Jim: I'm thankful for my relationship with Dona as well as for my relationship with my friends, especially that they're comfortable enough to diss my sneakers in front of me. Must speak to a really strong friendship bond. In 2006, my hope is that those who are reporters in name only will be loudly called out and that those who actually work hard to try to gather and report news will be rewareded for their efforts.

Wally: First thing that comes to mind is that I'm glad my grandfather wasn't harmed in the hurricane. In 2006, I hope we to stand up and be counted.

Kat: In 2005, I was thankful for friends, family, music and other arts, and for the people willing to take a stand for what matters. My hope for 2006 is that in 2007 we'll look back and feel like we really accomplished something.

Mike: Knowing the need to butter up, I'll give my thanks to the readers of my site and to Nina, my girlfriend. My big hope for 2006 is that we'll see Congressional results that will make impeachment a likely prospect.

Elaine: I'm thankful for the energy and passion that made up 2006, especially at the tail end of the year. In 2006, I hope that peace is harder by the "jaded" to be mocked. I'm really sick of the "ironic" posers and their jabs at peace.

Jess: Behind you all the way on that, Elaine. When I read Cedric's self-inventory, I wondered how I'd measure up in my own self-inventory? I'm glad that there are some things I did and took part in during 2005 that I can be proud of. For 2006, I hope for more such things. And I hope the audience for Democracy Now! triples.

Mike: I wish I'd said that last one.

Ava: I'm thankful for a year that everyone feels I found my voice in, everyone here. I wasn't aware that I was mute before! But I do see why that points been made by a lot of people present. My hope for 2006 is that more women find their voices and that they use them to for good causes. As opposed to, fill in the blank.

Cedric: I know what the blank is but I'll high road it as you did. I'm thankful for? You know, the hardest thing for me in 2005, looking back, was Vern's death. I had only known him a short time but I'm really glad and thankful that I started visiting the nursing home and got to know him and Three Cool Old Guys. In 2006, my hope is . . . to use my time wisely because you never know how much time you have left.

C.I.: Everyone's gone right? Okay, in 2005, I'm thankful that I got through it. That's not even touching on the health scare, just getting through it. Short of impeachment, that's one down, three more to go. For 2006, my hope is that we seriously examine the agenda Bully Boy's pushing as opposed to hearing after the fact, "When we voted for ___, we didn't intend for this to happen."

Preparing you for December 31, 2006

So it is now the new year and maybe you're cursing yourself for staying home alone? Who wants to blow the year out like little Macaulay Culkin?

Well put this in your emergency kit for December 31, 2006. Bookmark it, print it or tear it out (if you have our print edition). But be ready for next year. Drop in some bags of popcorn, some canned drinks (alcoholic or non), and assorted goodies.

There is an alternative to watching the endless commercials during a New Year's Eve telecast and seeing all the "couples" smiling. Jess thinks you should pull out your favorite CDs, casette tapes or vinyl albums and mix your own party but for the couch potatoes out there, we'll offer some video choices.

The Apartment. A favorite of Elaine's. This Billy Wilder classic (with script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Both work for a large company, Lemmon's a nebbish willing to let married men use his apartment for extra-marital encounters in the hopes of getting ahead. MacLaine's an elevator operator in love with one such married man. If it seems a little dark than maybe you've been watching too many Rob Schneider films? It all ends well enough and without any sticky sweetness that causes you to gag on the ending.

Bridget Jones's Diary. Dona picked this film and here's the back story on this feature article. Betty has two sick children. She had intended to go to a big get together at her family's that will include her great-grandfather. But the kids are too sick. Jim made the comment that it was too bad there weren't any movies about New Year's Eve which led to Dona gasping and C.I. issuing a string of titles. After Dona got over her shock (largely that Jim apparently has pretended to watch Bridget Jones's Diary with her four times now!), she made the case for this romantic comedy. Sharon Maguire directs this film of Helen Fielding's popular novel. (Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis are credited for the script.) For the new year Renee Zellweger makes a resolution to take charge of her life and keep a diary in which she tells the full, complete truth -- apparently having previously confused a "diary" with a "lie-ary." Jones in sleeping with her boss (Hugh Grant) and having some heavy push-pull dynamics with a man who seemingly irritates her (Colin Firth). And if you're unhappy with the choice Bridget makes between the two, hey, rent Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason for New Year's Day.

When Harry Met Sally. . . C.I. was still ticking off films, Dona was still gasping, when Wally noted this film. The film had strong defense from Ty, Jess and Mike who shuddered when Jim tagged it "a romantic comedy." They see it as a comedy about relationships. (Which, as
Rebecca noted, is the same hair splitting that goes into the "action figure" v. "doll" debates.) This Rob Reiner directed classic sets the bar for "romantic comedies" and "comedies about relationships" with it's strong script (Nora Eprhon) and strong cast. Billy Crystal was never funnier than he is as Harry and Meg Ryan shot to film stardom as Sally. The classic scene is the infamous deli scene where Harry's convinced that he would know if a woman faked an orgasm with him and Sally proceeds to demonstrate how convincing a faked orgasm can be. But what makes the film work so well is that along with strong leads, you have strong support from the likes of Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby. In fact, one of the strongest scenes belongs to Carrie as Harry comes undone about his ex-wife (Helen) while he and Sally are supposed to be gifting Carrie and Kirby with a house warming gift. Early on Carrie gets in the best zinger while explaining to Kirby that his taste and his wagon wheel coffee table are questionable: "Everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but they couldn't possibly all." As Harry erupts explodes and informs them they should write their names in all their books, "[b]ecause someday, believe it or not, you'll go fifteen rounds over who's going to get this coffee table, this stupid wagon-wheel, Roy Rogers, garage-sale coffee table!" As Harry storms out with Sally going after, Kirby and Carrie shake their heads and she gets the last line, "I want you to know that I will never want that wagon-wheel coffee table." Moments like this keep all the characters alive. (And C.I.'s saying we can't not note when Meg, Carrie and a third friend gather for lunch and Carrie's going through her little black book on rolodex. Learning that a man has married doesn't cause Carrie to jetison the card, just to bend back the corner.) So possibly this is a "comedy about relationships" and not a "romantic comedy" if the latter term is a pejorative one for you that brings to mind too many attempts to make Geena Davis and Kate Hudson sparkle by surrounding them with the bland and the predicatable.

The Fabulous Baker Boys. This was the first film C.I. cited when ticking off films with New Year's Eve scenes. It's also a favorite of Ava and Cedric's. The Baker Boys are Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges playing brothers who have a dueling piano lounge act. Steven Kloves wrote and directed this film but Michelle Pfeiffer gave it life as Susie Diamond. The brothers' act is hitting some lean times so Frank (Beau) decides that what they need is a "girl singer." With Susie Diamond they get so much more. From her entrance ("Goddamn it! Shit.") she captures your attention as she refuses to take any of Frank's badgering ("You're an hour and a half late. Want me to say it again?") and that's before she starts singing ("More Than You Know"). With Diamond as part of the act, they develop some heat and begin getting better engagements (while brother Jack -- Jeff Bridges -- just wants to go solo as a jazz pianist). On New Year's Eve, Frank's called back home by a family emergency leaving Susie to call the shots for their New Year's Eve performance. (Which includes the famous sprawled across the piano scene as Michelle sings "Making Whoopee.") Things are never the same. Trust us.

Sleepless in Seattle. On Christmas Eve, Jonah calls a radio "doctor" about his father Sam, a recent widower. Annie hears the radio broadcast and is drawn to Sam. Did we mention that Annie and Sam are played by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? That Nora Ephron's directing from a script by David S. Ward, Jeff Arch and Ephron? Rebecca and Betty recommend this film which ends happily on New Year's Eve. Along the way, you've got strong support from Rita Wilson, Victor Garber, Rosie O'Donnell, Rob Reiner and Gaby Hoffman.

An American in Paris. Kat's favorite actor ("all time") Gene Kelly stars in this Vincent Minelli classic musical as Jerry Mulligan, the American in Paris in Alan Jay Lerner's script. Leslie Caron is the woman bound to marry for duty and not love. Nina Foch (so very good in Funny Face) is the woman Jerry is willing to settle for. In the midst of a New Year's Eve bash, everything will change. Along the way, you'll find song and dance in the musical that won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Score, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. At last a film that Jim can get excited about (he's got a huge thing for Leslie Caron) and Kat says "alone or not, get lost in Gene Kelly's art."

Six films that will get you through New Year's Eve December 31, 2006.

"Editores de Barrons sugieren que Bush cometió ofensas que justifican juicio político" (Democracy Now)

"'Editores de Barrons sugieren que Bush cometió ofensas que justifican juicio político' (Democracy Now)"

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

Editores de Barrons sugieren que Bush cometió ofensas que justifican juicio político
El último pedido de un posible juicio político al Presidente Bush proviene de una inesperada institución, la destacada empresa de publicaciones "Barrons". Los editores de "Barrons" criticaron a Bush por autorizar a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional a espiar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin ordenes judiciales. Los editores escribieron: "Poner al presidente por encima del Congreso es una invitación a la tiranía. El presidente sólo tiene los poderes que están especificados en la Constitución y los establecidos por la ley. ... Desobedecer intencionalmente la ley es potencialmente una ofensa que justifica el juicio político. Por lo menos tanto como tener una aventura sexual bajo el escritorio del Despacho Oval y luego mentir al respecto".

Compañías de telecomunicaciones presuntamente ayudaron a la NSA con vigilancia en Estados Unidos
Mientras tanto, surgen nuevas preguntas sobre el alcance del programa de vigilancia de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) dentro de Estados Unidos. El "New York Times" y el "Boston Globe" publicaron una serie de artículos que sugerían que el alcance de la vigilancia nacional sin control es mucho mayor que el que se había informado previamente. La Casa Blanca admitió que la NSA había vigilado las llamadas de individuos sospechosos de tener vínculos con Al Qaeda, pero el Globe informa que en realidad la NSA ha estado utilizando computadoras para vigilar todas las llamadas y comunicaciones por Internet internacionales de los ciudadanos estadounidenses. El "Times" también reveló que las compañías de telecomunicaciones estadounidenses acordaron proporcionar a la NSA acceso a todas sus redes por las llamadas "puertas traseras", reservadas para programadores.

Sitio web de NSA puede rastrear actividades web de usuarios
En otras noticias, "Associated Press" informa que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) ha estado utilizando archivos que pueden rastrear las actividades de navegación en Internet de las personas que visitan su sitio en la red. La NSA dice que los archivos de rastreo, conocidos como "cookies", fueron un error y que se eliminaron. Según la ley federal, las agencias del gobierno tienen prohibida la utilización de archivos "cookie", a menos que un funcionario de alto rango la autorice y su utilización sea especificada en la versión por escrito de la política de privacidad de la agencia. Esta noticia surge mientras el gobierno de Bush sigue defendiendo su autorización de un programa de la NSA para escuchar las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses y extranjeros sin órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial.

Abogados de sospechosos de terrorismo planean impugnar cargos por grabaciones telefónicas
El "New York Times" informa que los abogados defensores de varios musulmanes detenidos por presuntos vínculos con Al Qaeda, planean presentar una impugnación para determinar si la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional utilizó espionaje telefónico ilegal en su contra. Hace dos semanas, el "Times" reveló que el gobierno de Bush autorizó que se espiaran las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses dentro de Estados Unidos, sin órdenes judiciales. La impugnación afectaría a algunos de los casos más grandes de terrorismo del país. Varios abogados dijeron que pretendían presionar al gobierno para saber si los fiscales engañaron a los tribunales acerca de los orígenes de sus investigaciones y acerca de si el gobierno podría haber retenido grabaciones de conversaciones que probaran la inocencia de sus clientes. Mientras tanto, los fiscales del Departamento de Justicia dijeron al "Times" que les preocupaba que las grabaciones de conversaciones telefónicas pudiera crear problemas en los pasados y futuros casos de terrorismo. Un fiscal dijo: "Si fuera abogado defensor, lo primero que diría en la corte sería, 'esta grabación telefónica es ilegal' ".

Proyecto de ley de Cámara de Representantes prohíbe ayudar a inmigrantes indocumentados
El "New York Times" informa que varias iglesias, servicios sociales y grupos de inmigrantes se están manifestando en contra de una disposición en el proyecto de ley de seguridad fronteriza aprobado recientemente por la Cámara de Representantes, que convertiría en un crimen federal ofrecer servicios o asistencia a inmigrantes ilegales. La medida expondría a las personas que asistan o protejan a inmigrantes ilegales a ser sentenciadas a un máximo de cinco años en prisión. El Obispo Gerald R. Barnes, de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos, dijo que la medida pondría en riesgo a casi cualquier persona que asista a inmigrantes ilegales. Barnes dijo: "La legislación actual no requiere que los grupos humanitarios evalúen el estatus social de un individuo antes de brindarle asistencia. La legislación pondrá en riesgo de ser procesados legalmente a los integrantes de programas de parroquias, diocesanos y de servicio social, simplemente por hacer su trabajo".

Ex embajador británico en Uzbekistan filtra documentos sobre tortura
Esta noticia es sobre Gran Bretaña. En un gran desafío al gobierno británico, Craig Murray, ex embajador británico en Uzbekistán, publicó documentos confidenciales que indican que el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores obtuvo deliberadamente información sobre las fuerzas de seguridad uzbekas lograda mediante la aplicación de tortura. Murray trabajó como embajador en Uzbekistán de 2002 a 2004. Fue destituido luego de que criticó abiertamente al gobierno británico y al estadounidense por apoyar violaciones de los derechos humanos cometidas por el régimen uzbeko. Los documentos contienen un registro de varios telegramas que Murray envió a sus superiores en Londres durante los dos años que estuvo en Uzbekistán. En los telegramas, Murray advirtió reiteradas veces que los servicios de seguridad uzbekos estaban proporcionando información obtenida mediante la utilización de tortura.
Murray también revela una opinión legal escrita por el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, en la que se afirma que la recepción y posesión por parte del gobierno británico de información obtenida mediante tortura "no implica ningún crimen".

Informe: Prisiones secretas y traslados establecidos en amplio programa de la CIA
El "Washington Post" informa acerca de nuevos detalles de un programa secreto de la CIA implementado poco después de los atentados del 11 de septiembre por el gobierno de Bush. El "Post" dice que ese plan, conocido por las iniciales GST, es la mayor iniciativa secreta de la CIA desde la Guerra Fría. Incluye una serie de controvertidos programas que fueron recientemente descubiertos o sujetos al escrutinio público, entre los que se encuentran el secuestro en el extranjero de sospechosos de terrorismo, el manejo de prisiones secretas en por lo menos ocho países extranjeros, la utilización de técnicas de interrogatorio consideradas ilegales por las leyes internacionales, y la operación de una flota de aviones para transportar detenidos alrededor del mundo.
Los poderes autorizados por el Presidente Bush incluyen permitir a la CIA la creación de equipos paramilitares para atrapar y asesinar a determinados individuos en cualquier lugar del mundo. El "Post" informa que la CIA trabaja para establecer procedimientos que permitirían la cremación inmediata de los cadáveres de los detenidos en caso que mueran bajo su custodia.Un funcionario del gobierno que recibió información sobre el programa dijo: "Todo se hace en nombre de la autodefensa. Por lo tanto, pueden hacer cualquier cosa porque no hay nada prohibido en la ley de poderes de guerra. Es una justificación legal asombrosa que les permite hacer cualquier cosa".

Ataques aéreos estadounidenses en Irak se quintuplicaron este año
Esta noticia es sobre Irak. El "Washington Post" informa que el número de ataques aéreos que Estados Unidos lleva a cabo cada mes se multiplicó por casi cinco este año, de aproximadamente 25 en enero a 120 el mes pasado. No se conoce el número de civiles iraquíes que murieron a causa de los ataques aéreos. Trabajadores de asistencia médica informaron que 97 civiles murieron a causa de los ataques estadounidenses en la ciudad de Qaim a principios de noviembre.

Pinochet es fichado por primera vez
Y en Chile, tras años de acusaciones e investigaciones acerca de violaciones de los derechos humanos bajo su régimen, la policía tomó las huellas digitales y fotografió por primera para una ficha al ex dictador Augusto Pinochet. La policía investiga su participación en la muerte de cientos de opositores políticos en los años 70. Pinochet gobernó el país hasta 1990, luego de tomar el poder en un golpe de Estado apoyado por Estados Unidos en 1973. Más de 3.000 personas desaparecieron y 28.000 fueron torturadas bajo su régimen. Pinochet, de 90 años de edad, se encuentra actualmente bajo arresto domiciliario por distintas acusaciones de violaciones de los derechos humanos. La fotografía que le tomó la policía no fue publicada.

Analistas: Sindicato del transporte obtuvo la mayoría de sus exigencias
Esta noticia es sobre la reciente disputa laboral del transporte público de Nueva York. El "New York Times" informa que los analistas están de acuerdo en que el Sindicato de Trabajadores del Transporte (TWU, por sus siglas en inglés) alcanzó la mayoría de los objetivos que provocaron la semana pasada una huelga de tres días de duración. Según el acuerdo preliminar aprobado por los líderes sindicalistas esta semana, los trabajadores recibirán casi un 11 por ciento de aumento salarial, licencia por maternidad, mejoras en planes de salud para discapacitados y jubilados, y el establecimiento de un feriado pago en la fecha del cumpleaños de Martín Luther King. Steven Malanga, profesor principal del Instituto de Manhattan, una organización conservadora de investigaciones que ha criticado duramente al sindicato, dijo: "Es un buen contrato para el sindicato, porque mantiene, en su gran mayoría, beneficios que son extremadamente favorables para ellos. Para ellos, se puede decir que es un gran acuerdo".

Maria: Hello. Now in English, here are en headlines fom Democracy Now! Reminder, the headlines are provided daily in English and Spanish and please pass on to your friends. Peace.

Editors of Barrons Suggests Bush Committed Impeachable Offenses
The latest call for the possible impeachment of President Bush is coming from an unexpected quarter - the prominent business publication Barrons. The editors of Barrons have criticized Bush for authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without court warrants. The editors wrote "Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. ... Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later."

Telcoms Reportedly Aided NSA in Domestic Surveillance
Meanwhile new questions are being raised about the extent of the National Security Agency's surveillance program inside the United States. Both the New York Times and Boston Globe have run a series of articles suggesting the extent of unchecked domestic surveillance is far greater than previously reported. The White House has admitted the NSA has monitored the calls of individuals with suspected ties to Al Qaeda but the Globe is reporting that in fact the NSA has been using computers to monitor and datamine all international phone and Internet communications by Americans. The Times also revealed that the U.S. telecom companies agreed to give the NSA "backdoor access" to all of their networks.

NSA Website Capable of Tracking Web Activity of Visitors
In other news, the Associated Press is reporting the National Security Agency has been using files that can track the web surfing activity of visitors to its website. The NSA says the tracking files -- known as "cookies" --- were a mistake and have been removed. Under federal law, government agencies are forbidden from using "cookie" files unless a senior official authorizes them and their use is disclosed in the agency's written privacy policy. The news comes as the Bush administration continues to defend its authoritization of an NSA program to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals without court-approved warrants.

Lawyers For Terror Suspects Plan Legal Challenges Over Wiretaps
The New York Times is reporting defense lawyers for several Muslim men detained for alleged ties to Al Qaeda plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the government used illegal wiretaps against them. Two weeks ago, the Times revealed the Bush administration has authorized eavesdropping on Americans and foreign nationals within the United States without court orders.The challenges would affect some of the biggest terrorism cases in the country. Several lawyers said they intend to press the government on whether prosecutors misled the courts about the origins of their investigations and whether the government may have withheld wiretaps that could prove their clients' innocence. Meanwhile, Justice Department prosecutors told the Times they were concerned the wiretaps could create problems for past and future terrorism cases. One prosecutor said: "If I'm a defense attorney, the first thing I'm going to say in court is, 'This was an illegal wiretap.' "

House Bill Would Outlaw Aiding Undocumented Immigrants
The New York Times is reporting several church, social service and immigrant groups are rallying against a provision in the recently passed House border-security bill that would make it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants. The measure would leave people who assist or shield illegal immigrants subject to a sentence of up to five years in prison. Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of the Conference of Catholic Bishops said the measure would put almost anyone who assists illegal immigrants at risk. Barnes said: "Current legislation does not require humanitarian groups to ascertain the legal status of an individual prior to providing assistance. The legislation would place parish, diocesan and social service program staff at risk of criminal prosecution simply for performing their jobs."

Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Leaks Torture Documents
This news from Britain -- in a strong defiance of the British government, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has published confidential documents that show the Foreign Office knowingly obtained information from the Uzbek security forces that was extracted by torture. Murray served as ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He was forced out after he openly criticized the British and US governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.
The documents contain a record of several telegrams Murray sent to his superiors in London during his two years in Uzbekistan. In the telegrams, Murray repeatedly warned that the Uzbek security services were passing on information extracted by torture.Murray also reveals a legal opinion written by the Foreign Office, which said the British government's reception and possession of information brought about by torture: "does not contain any offence."

Secret Prisons, Renditions Enacted Under Broad CIA Program
The Washington Post is reporting new details of the covert CIA program enacted shortly after 9/11 by the Bush administration. The Post says the program, known by its initials GST, marks the largest CIA covert initiative since the height of the Cold War. It includes a range of controversial programs that have been recently uncovered or subjected to public scrutiny -- including the kidnapping of terror suspects abroad, the maintenance of secret prisons in at least eight foreign countries, the use of interrogation techniques considered illegal under international law, and the operation of a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe.
Powers authorized by President Bush include permitting the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world. The Post reports the CIA is working to establish procedures that would allow for the quick cremation of a detainee’s body in the event the detainee dies in custody.
A government official who has been briefed on the program said: "Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act. It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything."

U.S. Airstikes In Iraq Up Fivefold This Year
In news on Iraq -- the Washington Post is reporting the number of airstrikes carried out each month by U.S. has increased almost fivefold this year, from roughly 25 in January to 120 last month. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in the airstrikes is unknown. Medical workers recorded 97 civilians died from U.S. airstrikes around the city of Qaim in early November.

Pinochet Photographed For First Mug Shot
And in Chile, after years of charges and investigations into human rights abuses under his rule, former dictator Augusto Pinochet has been fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken for the first time. Police are investigating his involvement in the deaths of hundreds of political opponents in the 1970s. Pinochet ruled the country until 1990 after seizing power in a US-backed coup in 1973. Over 3,000 people went missing and 28,000 were tortured under his regime. Pinochet, who is 90 years old, is currently living under house arrest over separate allegations of human rights abuses. His mug shot has not been released.

Transit Union Has Won Most Demands: Analysts
This news on New York's recent public transit labor dispute -- the New York Times is reporting analysts widely agree the Transport Workers Union has won most of the goals that led to its three-day strike last week. Under the tentative deal approved by union leadership this week, workers would receive close to an 11% pay raise, maternity leave, improvements in disability and retiree health plans, and the adoption of Martin Luther King's Birthday as a paid holiday. Steven Malanga, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization that has been harshly critical of the union said: "It's a good contract for the union in that it does keep in place, for the most part, benefits that are extremely favorable to them. For them, you can say this is a great deal."

Music Spotlight: Kat on Motion Sickness (Bright Eyes)

As Mike noted: "Now Kat did three album reviews over the weekend so be sure to check out her reviews of Carly Simon's No Secrets, James Blunt's Back to Bedlam and Bright Eyes' Motion Sickness." Last Sunday, we noted the No Secrets review. In this entry, we note Kat's review of Motion Sickness.

Kat's Korner: Motion Sickness -- Tour Momento or Must Have?
[Note: This is the third of Kat's three commentaries this weekend. Friday Kat provided commentary on Carly Simon's No Secrets. Saturday, she provided commentary on James Blunt's Back to Bedlam.]

Our love is dead but without limit,
Like the surface of the moon
Or the land between here and the mountains.
It is not these hiding places
That have keep us innocent
But the way you taught me to just let it all go by.

Bright Eyes? Did you guess?

The song's "Make War" and the new album (import) is Motion Sickness: Live Recordings. It's been a busy year, maybe you missed out on Bright Eyes?

It's been a busy year for Conor Oberst. Two CDs released early in the year (Digital Ash In A Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning), touring, the Leno appearance everyone was talking about. Now comes the tour document, Motion Sickness.

Do you need the memento?

Actually, you do. I've always preferred Conor on stage to on disc.

Recorded, he's worth listening to, worth having in your collection. But, like Wilco, there's an added element in concert that doesn't always transfer to disc.

As a songwriter, Conor's strengths are rightly celebrated. But when he elecritifed so many on The Tonight Show performing "When A President Talks To God," it was that performing quality that stood out to me. Whether tweaking a moment with a bit of nervous energy or providing a stillness, there are little elements in his performances that bring so much to the songs. Motion Sickness captures that."When A President Talks To God" is on the album (with a rousing spoken introduction). But what may stand out for many is "Landlocked." The song appeared on It's Morning, I'm Wide Awake and Conor's voice teamed with Emmylou Harris was something magical. Harris doesn't provide vocals on the live track. Which may lead you to pay more attention to the lyrics:

We made love on the living room floor
With the noise in the background of the televised war
And in the deafening pleasure
I thought I heard someone say,
If we walk away they'll walk away
But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom's a joke
We're just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch
The sad comic display
If you're still free start running away

Minus Harris, with just the ugly/pretty quality that is Conor's voice, see if you're not catching the meaning of the song. Vocally, Conor Oberst is the guy you look at and think, "Not that hot." Then you check again and think, "Maybe I'm wrong." There's a push-pull quality to his voice and at some times it's almost as though one of the two warring currents is going to strangle the other. That shows up on the studio recordings but it's usually not as obvious as when you catch him live.

On fifteen tracks, Motion Sickness flaunts that quality and that's the best reason to purchase the CD. Live, the tension between the desire to communicate and the weight of what's being communicated duke it out. Who's left standing?

Damned if I know. But it's raw and it's real. It serves his songs.

Take "True Blue" which is a very pretty song on the CD single "Thank You" but quite a bit more on the live album. From the "k" at the end of "doc" to the double time rhythm during the bridge, the song is quite a bit more live. These moments add up and enhance the songs.

That's not to put down the studio albums. They're good. Susan and C.I. both repeatedly suggested I review them earlier this year. They didn't speak to me. I listened to them, I enjoyed them, I was eager to see Bright Eyes in concert, but I really had nothing to say about them.

I wasn't sure what I'd have to say about the live album. Would they clean it up the way Sarah McLachlan's Mirrorball did? Reducing the audience, rendering it invisible except for a few small moments?

I generally prefer live albums. I used to prefer them to studio albums in almost every case. But somewhere along the way, it became acceptable to "tweak" the audience response, to re-record vocals and instruments yet still call the thing a live album. That's not new and you might be surprised how many live albums are "enhanced." But these days, it's as though they're all on "enhancement" additives (maybe the Senate could look into that). The result has been a lot of dead "live" albums.

Conor's been around for years. He has a sizeable following. But the Leno moment was a new high. Would the urge to smooth things over set in? Would, as is the case with so many dead "live" albums, the product trump the performance?

So I was leery. Ty was noting this album and telling me I had to get it. He and Jess were playing it constantly.

I bought it with reservations. Hoping that something real would shine through. Like the moments on a Fleetwood Mac album when Stevie Nicks' vocals cut through the ornate production sheen.

My expectations were exceeded. For fifteen tracks, you're front and center, hearing Bright Eyes as you should. If you've caught a concert, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't but you've enjoyed the studio albums, Motion Sickness will take the journey to a whole new level. See if the lyrics don't reach you, note the new arrangements. Enjoy the sound of a band laying it down.

In a world of "beats" and silly & sickly love songs, a world where the pop scene's bad boys come off not as dangerous, but in sore need of a time out, Bright Eyes should stand out. Bright Eyes isn't afraid to comment on the world around -- not the inner world, not the outer world. This is music for adults.

Music Spotlight: Kat On Back to Bedlam (James Blunt)

As Elaine noted: "Remember that this weekend, Kat did not one, not two, but three wonderful essays on music. Her topics were Carly Simon's No Secrets, James Blunt's Back to Bedlam and Bright Eyes' Motion Sickness." Last Sunday, we noted No Secrets. In this entry we note Kat's review of Back to Bedlam.

Kat's Korner: Blunt's got the goods
[Note: This is the second of Kat's three commentaries this weekend. Yesterday Kat provided commentary on Carly Simon's No Secrets. Tomorrow she provides her third day of commentary.]

Wars don't always get theme songs written expressly for them. Ask the British. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" meant one thing to them in 1939. In the midst of WWII, it meant quite another. Something similar could happen with regards to James Blunt's "No Bravery."

There are children standing here
Arms outstretched into the sky
Tears drying on their face
He has been here
Brothers lie in shallow graves
Fathers lost without a trace
A nation blind to their disgrace.
Since he's been here.
And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

That's the tenth and final song on Blunt's Back to Bedlam. It's a bold closer as Blunt writes of his own experience in the British military during Kosovo. Linda Perry provides her usual right-on production touches and the song springs fully born from your speakers. It no longer belongs to Blunt. Whether or not it will belong to the anti-war movement is a question the future will determine.

So who is James Blunt? If you haven't heard him but you've heard of him, groupies used to do the best p.r., then you probably know that he's been tagged by some as "the new Elton John." That's not really accurate. I can hear as many similarities to Rufus Wainwright as I can too Elton John. Like John, or Wainwright, he plays piano. That's about all other than some similar enuciations. He certainly doesn't have Elton's range. In fact, vocally, he appears to owe more to Rod Stewart and the Gallagher brothers than Elton John.

But he's a singer-songwriter, he plays the piano, and he's British, so there are worse comparisons that could be made. Just don't buy the CD expecting to find ten knock offs of, say, "I'm Still Standing."

The standout track in this collection is "Goodbye My Lover" -- the one he wowed the Saturday Night Live studio audience with a few weeks back. It's a stark ballad featuring piano, organ, drums and, among other instruments, strings. The first time you hear the song, you'll probably be able to see some of the end rhymes coming and maybe you'll be able to half-sing along.

I'm not sure what to think of the lyrics, honestly. And certainly the music is your basic chords. What makes this song is the tension in Blunt's vocals. At times, he hesitates or stumbles only to quickly rush through a line. There's an energy in the performance that's unlike most of what gets played on the radio. And that we're talking about a vocal performance is, in itself, rather remarkable since most singer-songwriters aren't known for being remarkably gifted singers. Blunt may very well be one. It's harder to tell on other songs because, too often, just as he seems about to catch fire, the musical production comes marching in (loudly). On "Billy" for instance, just when Blunt's vocals are heating up, the Wurlitzer arrives.

It's at moments like that where you may find yourself wishing Linda Perry produced more than the final track. Too often Tom Rothrock, who had a hand in producing the other nine songs, seems to be going for the overblown Oasis feel.

Listening to Back to Bedlam, it's hard not to wish that there was a little more bedlam and a little less bombast. I'd even settle for some (Marc) Bolan.

It wouldn't matter so much were it not for the fact that Blunt seems to be ready for one of those moments that plucks an unknown musician and turns him (or her) into a Time cover and a multiple Grammy nominee. The kind of moment that, when it arrives, leads people like Maggie to insist, "Oh, I've been listening to him for years." No exclamation point, because that sort of remark is always tossed off in a blase manner. You want to underplay it when you're trying to claim to have gotten the bandwagon rolling as opposed to the having lept on as it careens down the hill.

There's a good chance that Blunt's due for that kind of ride. The songwriting and singing are strong enough to garner that kind of attention. If I seem to be quibbling about the production, it's because this truly should be a classic rock album. In an earlier era that would have meant only one highly polished track, which would be the designated single, and the rest of the tracks would be far less smooth. That's not the case on Back to Bedlam. But if you can get past producer Tom Rothrock's determination to pretty and tidy up, you'll find an album that's got quite a bit more on it's mind than the average Disney Kid is capable of. Maybe that has to do with the fact that Blunt has apparently lived a life far from the soundstages of the Mickey Mouse Club? Or maybe it's just the fact that he truly has talent?

Blunt's got the goods and before Clear Channel took over broadcast radio (and killed the little life that was left in it) and started pushing the Disney Kids off on us as the fad that they refuse to let fade (even though listeners for it have -- and the music industry wonders why sales are in the toilet) Blunt could have had a fair hearing.

"High" is made for heavy rotation with its catchy chorus but "You're Beautiful" is the track that goes deeper into the personal. If you're tired of the kewpie dolls (male and female) playing at naughty (a safe kind of rebellion which is why they continue to get airplay on Clear Channel stations), Back to Bedlam is an album you should check out. "No Bravery" may or may not inspire the anti-war movement but it's real and when an artist comes along who's willing to open up, that is bravery.

Blog Spotlight: Cedric's self-inventory

Cedric ran down the year 2005 at his site Cedric's Big Mix by doing a self-inventory. We found it informative and moving and hope you will as well.

So another year draws to a close. A time where some of us take personal inventory.
I'm one of those who does that and I'm not really sure what to say in "big terms" about 2005 because I think we covered it in the roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review.
So here's my own reflecting.
Three years ago, the woman I was engaged to got a job in Europe. Of course the relationship didn't last. Was she the one? Last year dating was a pain in the butt. This year, there were actually a few nice women. So in terms of relationships, where am I?
I'd say I'm finally over what couldn't be and ready to appreciate the right one if she comes along. Now the way life goes, that probably means she won't come along in 2006.
Family wise, everyone still with us is healthy so knock wood that stays the same. My youngest cousin is finally leaving his gangsta rap period and the whole family is breathing a collective sigh of relief. He went from ghetto fabulous to gansta and now he seems to be on an information kick which hopefully means he'll get back in college.
Common Ills members will know that I have huge respect for and enjoyment of rap but I don't listen to gansta rap and doubt I will. Watching my cousin try to imitate the lives of a bunch of men who should have known better, so should my cousin, was enough to turn me off of that crap. He went from being this straight arrow, overachiever to a college drop out who just wanted to grab a 40 and hang with his "posse" that went from slackers to hoods in a matter of months. That caused my grandmother tremendous pain so, whether he goes back to college or not, I hope he's serious about straightening his life out.
Work wise I like my job. I get to help people and that makes me feel good. I've got job security and I can pay my bills, do my church tithes, help out family that's not doing as well, so I have no complaints there.
Soul wise, I think I'm doing okay. Normally, I'd write more than that but, to be honest, seems like there's a lot of pandering to prove the center and the left is religious ("too!"). I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truck today. I have no idea what the statement was supposed to be but it said "I SUPPORT THE TROOPS MORE THAN YOU DO!" Religion's not a competition and I feel like in 2005 that was a trend we saw as people competed to be more religious than thou. If you are religious, whomever you worship is the one who will determine whether you are religious or not.
Church wise, since Keesha e-mailed wondering how the choir's performance went last Sunday, we did a really good job. We don't have a lot of empty seats on most Sundays to begin with, but we were packed Sunday with a lot of people sitting in folding chairs and some standing. That's because the megachurch in our area felt a day of worship is something you skip on Christmas. That still offends me.
I think my church is doing a great job reaching out to older members in the community and that's what I'm most proud of in 2005. Not just my part in that but everyone's. A place of worship, my opinion, should be a place where people come together and it should be about more than a nod on Sunday or a hello in the church parking lot. I'm really proud of my church's efforts to reach out to members, especially older members who find themselves in the area they grew up in while their children have moved on (usually due to economic reasons).
This summer, I had four really wonderful friends. Now I have three. Vern was a really great man with a lot of wisdom and I'm glad I was able to get to know him and learn from him. I'm really glad that Three Cool Old Guys are my friends.
If you're stumbling upon this entry and wondering what I'm talking about, as part of my church's outreach, I agreed to spend time with four of older members who are in a nursing home. It was the best thing I could have done. Not for them, I hope it's good for them, but for me. It was a real honor to know Vern and I'm really honored to be able to call Three Old Guys my friends. They're a trip and then some. If you know someone in a nursing home and you could be visiting but aren't because you're thinking "What will we talk about?" take a chance and visit because I bet you'll find that the problem is not having enough time to talk instead of having nothing to talk about.
I want to thank Rebecca, Kat, C.I., Elaine, Ty, Mike, Betty and Jess for helping me deal with Vern's death. And Kat and C.I. for listening, at all hours, when I called to read them what I was reading at Vern's funeral. I rewrote that thing over and over and everytime they were willing to listen. The day of the funeral, at two in the morning, I woke up C.I. with one phone call and then Kat with another asking them for one more listen. They'd told me beforehand to call when I got the final draft done and read it. That was nice of them and if I hadn't felt that I really needed to say something worthy of him, I would have just thanked them for their offer. Instead, I took them up on it.
Again, if you're stumbling in blind, Vern was pretty much alone except for his friends at the nursing home. His kids didn't come by, his grandkids didn't. (He had one granddaughter who called.) I wanted to talk about how he was still this incredible guy worth spending time with even at the end because he was. But a lot of time, people end up in a nursing home and end up being forgotten. I'll save the speech there for another time.
So what does that leave?
I guess that leaves politics. 2005? It was a big change for me. I voted in elections and sometimes I donated some money to a candidate but that was really it. In March, I went to my first protest rally. It was against the war. In September, I went to D.C. for the big anti-war protest there. I'm proud of taking part in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" which is us sharing the voice of a hundred people present. You didn't get that from the mainstream media. (You did get real coverage from Democracy Now!)
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty who was on the verge of starting Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man and C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review. This time we're joined by Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report and her granddaughter Tracey.
That's who worked on the voices feature. And if a hundred voices seems like a lot to anyone, we all interviewed a lot more. We had to narrow down our choices and then explain why we were wanting our final picks highlighted. Also there were Gina and Krista who do the gina & krista round-robin. Seth and Wally weren't blogging then. It's kind of weird to think about that now. Mike interviewed me for his site and we knew that two members were about to start their own site but we couldn't figure out who they were? That seems like a lifetime ago.
So I'm someone who never went to a protest or a march and I took part in three in 2005, in March, in September and the World Can't Wait in November. That's been a big change. I think when you come together with others to stand up and be counted, it changes you in some ways. You really get the sense that you're not alone and that just because the mainstream media wants to act like you're some minor fringe, that's not true.
In 2004, if you'd told me I'd be taking part in protests, I would've rolled my eyes.
The other thing that changes, or changed for me, is that I found when I'd be back at work, people would want to talk about it. They'd bring it up. They'd say, "I saw a few seconds on the news, what was it like?" C.I. said something, in D.C., about how this was important but what I'd see was that I'd be carrying "seeds" back with me and I really didn't get it then but I do now. The youth group at my church wanted a full report and I was happy to give that. But at work, with friends, with family, everyone wanted to know about it.
I feel like I'm more aware of the world around me. I don't feel like I'm an expert on anything but I feel like I'm tremendously more informed. I'll thank The Common Ills for that. This time last year, I was nervously writing an e-mail for the year-in-review at The Common Ills and hoping C.I. would include it but thinking it wouldn't be included. It got included. I was making a music choice and just that made me nervous. C.I. deserves a lot of credit for The Common Ills but it's also true that it's member driven. And I'm really amazed at how large the community has become. Not just in terms of everyone doing their sites and Gina and Krista doing their newsletter, but . . .
I'm really not sure what to say. It's just a really supportive community and we all get to share and learn. Democracy Now! is a must for me now. I didn't even know about it until I saw it highlighted at The Common Ills. And there are writers that I never knew of or, if I had, it was in the dismissive way that the mainstream media treats them.
I don't think I'd be where I am now if it weren't for that community. I might not have met my friends at the nursing home. My outlook used to be, just keep my head down and my nose clean. People like Cokie Roberts never said anything on TV or radio to make me feel like I had a right to say anything about this country. (Especially people like Cokie Roberts who thought the first Gulf War was a benefit for my race since she believes wars always better things for African-Americans.) People like that exist to say, as she did about members in Congress against the war, "none that matter." I knew I mattered in my family. I didn't think anyone else cared or that I could make much difference.
Now I know there are people who think we shouldn't be in Iraq or that we should have universal health care or pick any issue and there are people out there who think the same way but never get on Good Morning America or NPR. That's really powerful, to find brave voices speaking out. I think it gives us all courage.
For the country, I think 2005 was a disaster as Bully Boy got sworn in and things went even further down hill. But for me personally, 2005 was like an awakening and I bet there are other people out there who feel the same way.
About my site, how do I rate it? Well, I think it's better than the old site. This was meant to be a "big mix" and really a blog report for the community originally but that's not the case now. I'll probably pick two days a week in 2006 to blog. I can manage that. I'm pleased with a few things I've done here like this and that.
I'm pleased with a number of things I've gotten to take part in for The Third Estate Sunday Review and along with the voices feature I noted earlier, I'm probably most pleased with the editorial "War Got Your Tongue?" I'll also thank C.I. for pulling a number of us together to work on headlines twice this year.
I think I'm a better blogger than I was when I started. So that's good. And that's come from doing it and from sharing the experience with others.
My goals for 2006 include becoming more informed and becoming more active.
So that ends the self-inventory.

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