Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Note to Our readers

At our regular time, you had something to read. When Ty's solo entry last week (reposted this edition: Repost: Ty's Point of View ) was thought to be buried due to it being so low on the list, we wondered about the spotlights? With the new archiving (by week) and the lower number of posts per page, were most readers seeing them? So this week, we posted pretty much on the half hour. That included features that were finished last night which we forgot to change the time signature on and couldn't figure out why they weren't showing up.

So what do you have? You have Ava and C.I.'s TV Review: Four Kings? They're bluffing. They always say they hate them and that they're not funny. We think it is funny but at C.I.'s request, we will note that C.I. has a really bad case of swimmer's ear and that C.I. belives that impacted the review. We disagree, but it's been noted.

The other features were a group effort by the following:

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.

What did we pull together?

Day by Day coverage of the Alito fan club which was a selection of various points of view on each day of the hearings. You have observations from those of us who watched on TV, those of us who listened on the radio and those of us (C.I., Ava and Jess) who were in D.C. for the hearings.
Betty worked on this and kept saying she wished she had blogged on it. Betty provided us with humor at her site (Humor Spotlight: "The Tough Talking Thomas Friedman" ) this week and it was needed. In addition to that she participated in four of the roundtables Gina and Krista held for the gina & krista round-robins. (Dona says five. Betty took off Wednesday due to it being a church night, but she had participated on the previous Friday in the expectations round-table that went out in last Monday's round-robin.) C.I. feels there's too much C.I. in this feature but, to repeat a point we made repeatedly, C.I. was there. Eye witness observations are important.

Five Books, How Many Minutes? turned from a book discussion into an announcement roundtable. (Don't they all, says Dona.) But we were surprised to learn that a certain person thinks he can stalk Rebecca. Keep it up and you'll really experience the bite of The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Elaine, Mike and C.I. learned of this earlier and weren't shocked by the announcement. We thank them for caring on the book discussion when Rebecca asked that we return to it. Immediately after the announcement, as noted in the feature, there were long pauses as one of the three would make a comment and then wait for the rest of us to jump in. The book discussion did get back on track but we thank the three of them for keeping it going while we were getting over our shock. (We are not over our anger. Note to prick: We will print your e-mails to Rebecca here if you don't not stop harrassing her. With your name attached to them.)

State of the Party (in question), State of the Country (Purple, ask Laura Flanders) is our commentary feature this edition where we note the fact that Laura Flanders is taking her program, RadioNation with Laura Flanders, on a Purple Tour to demonstrate the reality of the country and not the spin. We like Flanders, we think she does a great show. But we also think this mission is one that should be applauded (and, frankly, one the Democratic Party should have undertaken itself).

Our editorial? We thought of pulling a John Lennon and the Beatles concept and having a blank space for it. We were afraid some of the Senate Dems on the Judiciary Committee (Biden for instance) might interpret that as space to be filled with notes of praise for themselves. So instead, we offer Editorial: Senate Judiciary Dems Go Stand in the Corner. We weren't impressed with the week long meeting of the Alito fan club and think the Dems need a time out to think about how they could have handled this differently.

Hopefully, something in this edition catches your attention, makes you think, makes you outraged about the state of the country, something, anything. Don't be a passive observer in your own country. Get active.

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

Editorial: Senate Judiciary Dems Go Stand in the Corner

After last week's performance, all Democrats serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee should immeditaley go stand in the corner.

Yes, Teddy, you did fine work. But maybe punishing you collectively will teach you to act like a team. Now go on. Over to the corner.

Charlie, you don't have to get snippy about it, just go stick your nose in a corner.

Don't give us that crap about you're too mature to stand in a corner, Patrick! Not after last week. Part of maturity is keeping the others in line, looking out for your younger siblings. March, Mister Man, march!

Yes, Joe, you had wonderfully prepared questions. We have no idea who wrote them, but they were well written. You were prepared. You just weren't ready to listen, were you? No. You were too busy loving the sound of your own voice, weren't you? Just a little? Okay, maybe just a little. But guess what? You can self-love yourself all you want during your corner time! Yes, you can. Yes, you can. There he goes.

Now Diane, don't pout. Would it help if we told you that you were the prettiest on the committee? Yes. And you also won Miss Congeniality. That's right. Now go stand in the corner. There you go.

Russ, you know we only told Diane that so she would go to the corner. Of course you were the prettiest. We all think so. Now you were almost as good as Teddy, so go on over to the corner and take the punishment like the rest in your group.

Dick, we don't want to hear how much you regret your statements. We heard it after the whole Koran thing and it was embarrassing then. Save the excuses and march your fanny over to the corner now.

Hey, that's only seven. There were eight. Did Herbie sneak off again?

Well the rest of you, you just stand in that corner. No talking. You just think about what you did. And Dick, no one likes a weeper. Cut it out before we give you something to cry about.
Yes, Diane, he is still crying and you, Diane, are giggling. This isn't a joke. That's part of your problem, you don't know when to be serious. So just put your nose in the corner and think about that.

State of the Party (in question), State of the Country (Purple, ask Laura Flanders)

While Democrats sat comfortable in control of the Congress, Republicans were building a "state by state process." The effects can be felt in many states and are "aided" by the immediate gratification impulse that seems to control the Democratic Party with each election cycle.

What happens to the states the Democratic Party refuses to invest in?

"If they ignore states like us they're not going to bring anyone else into the party, into the movement."

Who said that?

Lorna Vogt, speaking of her home state of Utah, from her home state of Utah, to Laura Flanders on Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders.

Vogt added, "If they pull the plug on that, they're pulling the plug on process."

At some point people are going to have to put away their stereotypes, their crayons and the simplistic maps dividing the nation into one of two colors. When that day comes and people are ready to address the basic failure in the state infrastructure that's been allowed to wither and rot in many states, we may be able to come to a place where we're not playing catch up each election cycle.

That means working on the basics at the most basic levels. It's not as "sexy" as big TV ad buys and it may not get whatever "savior" of which ever campaign into a one on one with Adam Nagourney in The New York Times, but it is work that needs to be done. When you write off whole areas of the country, you're taking yourself out of the race. We're not endorsing the likes of Martin Frost who make a point to run for office without noting their party affiliation on their campaign material (Frost is on the record as being a Democrat but some may be confused and not just by his past campaign material lacking a party i.d.) but we are saying that when you leave a state on its own (Frost hails from Texas), you encourage that behavior.

Let's talk about that for a moment because it goes on in many areas of the country. The national party's not providing the support the area needs and, as a result, centerist Dems feel that they can and should break from the party. So the problem multiplies because not only is the area underfunded but, as candidates run from the label of Democrat, the message goes out that Democrat is a dirty word.

Now you're going to hear it used as a dirty word by Fox "News" and every blowhard in the right-wing echo chamber, but we think it's even more damaging when Democrats witness people running in races who make an effort to downplay their party affiliation.

For this community, the topic is one we became familiar with in November of 2004 when members from southern states began sharing their issues at The Common Ills. This went on while "silly" people were "funning" with talk of the so-called "Blue" states breaking free from the other states. Or they circulated "F**k the South" to feel superior.

Hope the jokes were funny. Hope they made you all walk a little taller. Meanwhile, there were, and are, people as committed to breaking through the spin zone. They were trying to their best and maybe if you lived in a home state that many of us live in, New York, it was real easy for you to feel good about yourself and act as though you'd done something amazing. John Kerry carrying a state that Democrats traditionally carry is nothing to bask in. You did what was expected of you, congratulations. In other states, where a Bully Boy victory seemed obvious, people rolled up their sleeves and worked their hardest with little or no support from the national Democratic Party.

Instead of condeming them (and let's not kid, for months following the election, they were condemned and only after they complained loudly did people to start to say "not all people in the state of ___"), you could have been asking why the Democratic Party got away with running a half-assed campaign yet again? You could have asked why some areas never saw John Kerry?
A community member in Texas saw Teresa Heinz Kerry speak shortly before the election. She was a disenchanted Democrat and not sure she'd even vote. Heinz Kerry spoke passionately and got her to the polls. She's now more active than she's been in twenty years. You want to tell us that campaign events don't make a difference? Maybe that week of leisure during the GOP convention could have been used to travel the non-swing states?

Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to hold office, didn't write off geographic areas. The Clinton-Gore bus tour of 1992 reached out to people across the country (mainland). Little bean crunching, pencil pushers want to use their charts and graphs to explain how to run a campaign and how time is used more "effectively" by visiting the swing states and visiting them X number of times and . . .

And? The last time a Democrat was declared the winner of a presidential election was 1996. How's that strategy working out for you?

It's not working out in the long term. It's not building up a failing structure in states that have been left to with few resources. It's "sexier" to focus on those swing states and the press certainly loves the horse jockeying involved. But a nation elects a president (with the exception of when a Supreme Court elects it, most recently in 2000) and you're supposed to be running a national campaign.

The hatred heaped upon the so-called Red states (and some of us involved in this edition heaped on hate in the immediate weeks after the election) strikes us now as blaming the victim.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders is traveling around the country on a Purple Tour to demonstrate that America is not as simplistic as Cokie Roberts swears it is. Yesterday, today and next week they're live from Utah. Future stops include Nevada and Montanna.

Outside of Flanders, we're having a difficult time thinking of many names who've addressed this issue. Howard Dean's been addressing it since the primaries. If you don't compete in states, you don't win them. If you don't take your game there, don't be upset if some get behind a "home team" and others grow disenchanted.

What we do see is some voices attempting to explain, "Okay this looks like a Red state but it's not really and here's why . . ." They do that on a case by case basis. Possibly, they disprove that ___ state is a "red" state but, in the process, they endorse a false reality.

That's not helping the country. It's akin to blaming the victim when serious questions should be asked as to what the DNC's strategy was and what it is now?

Following the election, a number of "leaders" of the Kerry campaign (late comers) sat down for an interview with The New York Times. And when it's time for spin, it's naturally time for Adam Nagourney to pull out the tape recorder. Which he did to record and write up, unquestionally, that these men (yes, they were all men, Nagourney apparently forgot about Mary Beth Cahill) were suddenly full of wisdom. They explained "Kerry"'s mistkae of not crafting the message better. Considering that two of the men involved were hired to craft the message, not noted in the article of course, it read like point-the-finger-to-cover-your-own-ass.

And possibly that same self-preservation quality prevented the then national chair of the DNC from addressing the hate that was being targeted at entire states of people? Possibly, addressing it, defending voters who did turn out despite a lack of national efforts, might bring up the question of why the national effort was so lacking?

We've tried to avoid slamming John Kerry here. There are things we disagreed with him on at the time and, though no site existed in the community then, if you'd asked us, we would have shared our problems. We're fine with doing that today. What we try to avoid is an attempt to turn him into a villain because he lost (if you accept Ohio's "results"). When things don't go the way you wanted, there is a need for fall guys.

We hope the 2006 elections see Democrats increase their numbers in Congress. But if things should turn out differently, we hope that common sense will trump revenge fantasies and that instead of going after easy targets, we'll address the structure itself.

In real time, we argued with friends insisting that John Kerry had no excuse to take a vacation during the GOP convention (and, as some argued, that if he needed a vacation, it should have been a working one that took him to Hawaii so that the state could see a Democratic candidate for president). We faulted him for his use of the term "tea cup" and for the dimissal of concerns over the Patriot Act (concerns that have grown but even then crossed party lines). We faulted him for pulling punches. We faulted him, most of all, for taking the war with Iraq on Republican terms and trying to outflank the Republicans from the right.

We consider the DNC convention in Boston to have been a disaster. From the "protest pens" which ran contrary to everything the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for, to the war-war-war chants featured at the podium. As uncomfortable as it was to watch John Kerry reject his strong anti-war past, it was even more uncomfortable to watch Democrats who hadn't seen combat try to stand on the shoulders of the military. It was shameful to see Medea Benjamin rounded up on the floor for unfurling the same sort of banner (against the war) that we applaud her for when she and others with CODEPINK show up at Bully Boy and adminsitration events.
"Who are these people" running the show, was a question quite a few delegates on the floor were asking. They were the people toying with Howard Dean and other candidates who'd found a way to speak to people, trying to silence them. They were the late comers who glommed onto the Kerry campaign when their first choices didn't pan out. (There was no Joe-mentum, ever.)

It was a convention. It just didn't feel like a Democratic Party one. So we can and will criticize John Kerry. But we won't use him as a scapegoat to cover for the same losers who've been steering the party to one loss after another, election cycle after election cycle.

We're heading into the 2006 elections with a lot of hopes but we're noting that some elements already feel like 2002. The leadership seems to be out of touch with the public. They have ten more months to turn that around.

Part of turning it around requires recognizing that people want leaders. They don't want more of the same or "I'm just like the candidate I'm running against, except for . . ."

We think RadioNation with Laura Flanders is taking on a monumental task that only the strong would even consider. You'd do yourself a huge favor to stop listening to the mindless patter coming out of the Sunday Chat & Chews and the pundits and start listening to the country. So Saturdays and Sundays, try to make a point to join Flanders as she demonstrates genuine interest and hope that Howard Dean hasn't lost his. Otherwise the debacle that was 2002 could fade in memory as 2006 demonstrates how bad it can still get.

[RadioNation with Laura Flanders airs on Air America Radio and combines The Laura Flanders Show with The Nation magazine. If there's not an Air America Radio outlet in your area and you do not have XM satellite radio, remember that you can listen online. Also, if you worked on the 2004 campaign and would like to share your experience, good or bad, Flanders is working on a new book on that topic and would like to hear from you at either or]

TV Review: Four Kings? They're bluffing

NBC returned to a two hour line up of sitcoms on Thursday night. Based on the first week's ratings, the country did take notice. NBC, as noted by Kate Aurthur in Saturday's New York Times, found itself number one "among adults 18 to 49." The whole nation is not interested in endless questions about dead bodies with glimpses of "naughty" sex tossed in. (Is bondage the only sex Jerry Bruckheimer is familar with? Watching the original CSI viewers can be forgiven for wondering.)

Will & Grace remains on Thurday nights though now it leads (Joey's been benched). It's joined by The Office and My Name is Earl, transplanted from other nights, as well as the new show Four Kings. Four Kings?

They're bluffing. There may be three kings, time will tell on that, but there is one card that's a two. Yes, ace can be the lowest number in the deck, it can also be the highest. For that reason, we would never claim that Seth Green is the "ace." He is two with no surprises in store for anyone.

If an action can be conveyed by pointing, Green will convey it by stomping his feet, bulging his eyes, waving his arms and then pointing. His attempts at acting will exhaust you when they don't annoy you.

The new millennium has discovered it Squiggy, all hail Sonny Bono of 2006. Laverne & Shirley never resulted in a spin-off for Squiggy. A wise decision on the part of everyone involved. When Cher ended it with Sonny, ABC did attempt to provide a weekly hour of Sonny Bono. The nation has only recently begun the recovery process from that ordeal.

The show runners would be well advised to grasp that, despite all the inflated claims of Seth Green's popularity (it's non-existant at the box office), Green goes down best in small slices. The scenes of Barry (Green's character) without the other three men fell flat. Green's success, such as it is, on the big screen has revolved around playing a very minor character in the Austin Powers films. He is not a lead. Writing him as a lead is a path to failure.

Green was funny. Or rather, he was in funny scenes. Wearing heavy make up and hair clips was funny. Not because of anything Green said or did. (In fact when Barry became aware that two juvenile females had made him up in his sleep, the laughs stopped.) It was funny to watch the reactions of the other three leads.

The other three leads are Josh Cooke, Todd Grinnell and Shane McRae. Cooke plays Ben who's the tent pole for the show. All the reactions and actions revolve around Ben the way they revolved around Mary on The Mary Tyler Moore Show; however, Mary would have worn a better bathrobe than Cooke did in the most recently aired episode.

We'll also note that Cooke has an interesting hair style (we'll touch on this next week as well) that apparently is attempting a come back. Other than that, what can we say?

Cooke, Grinnel and McRae have talent and chemistry. They work very well together. Green remains the guest star. Last Thursday, he was playing Phoebe's boyfriend who didn't wear underwear. In the hands (or pants?) of any of the other three actors, it might have been funny. (Rebecca swears it would have been sexy if they'd given the bit to Cooke or Grinnell.) With Green, it was just disgusting.

That's the thing about Four Kings currently. It's a funny show. It's still finding its legs but it's funny. (Disclosure, we know people working on the show.) However, you can't share the good things about the show because you keep coming back to how awful Seth Green is. He's Jerry Van Dyke and we don't have thirty years to wait for Green to find a Coach. Does the show have many more episodes it can last with Green as a member of the cast?

Absolutely. Provided that they realize he is color to be added in a dash or a sprinkle. He is not a full meal. On Seinfeld, had he been lucky enough to have a significant role on Seinfeld, he would have played the Newman type character. Four Kings is Newman sharing an apartment with Seinfeld and it's not working.

He disrupts the natural flow everytime he opens his mouth. There are laugh getters and there are laugh stoppers.

Possibly Barry could move out and they could provide a "Fourth King" by crossover promotion with The Book of Daniel?

Something needs to be done. And it needs to be done quickly because as a "lead," he pulls the show down. Attempts to "humanize" him (via sad and touching moments) will not address the basic issue because the problem has nothing to do with the character of Barry, it has to do with that presentation of Green (we won't call it acting, it's there in every comic role and it's also his own irriating personality in real life).

Someone has convinced him that he is sexy, funny and unbeatable. Someone lied.

His fussy presentation and attempts at scene stealing mar every scene he's in. You never believe you're watching four friends interact; however, you do feel that Shecky Green's desperate to get one last round of yucks. When asked to tone it down in other roles, Green's been either unable or unwilling to do so. He honestly thinks he's the funniest thing in America.

(Again, someone must have lied to him.)

In the early days of Ellen (when it was still These Friends of Mine), Audrey was a guest. Viewers familiar with only later shows may not grasp why Ellen characterized Audrey as "the most life endangering force on the face of planet." For those who know the character only after became a regular and the character was radically altered, we'd suggest they study Green's Barry.

Barry was conceived as Ben's nemisis. (Again, the show revolves around Cooke's character.) A nemisis doesn't dominate the show. The scripts aren't written to provide Green with the opportunity to dominate this ensemble. But Green's so damn sure he's America's gift to comedy that he pulls out all stops to "enhance" the proceedings. That's going to bury the show.

We called around to friends who'd been show runners on other sitcoms (the paper of record would call that research -- no, we never tire of that joke). Five weighed in with opinions. One said recast Barry quickly. Another said write Green off the show. Three offered that there had to be a way to work with Green as part of the show since it was already airing. The one with the longest running sitcom to his credit (all five were males) said that they need to get Barry out of the shared apartment immediately. He spoke of an actor he was stuck with (due to a network insisting upon the actor) and how, in small doses, they were able to turn the actor into a semi-popular part of the show. (When the actor later attempted to play the same type of character in other shows, but as the lead, the actor quickly discovered how fleeting fame can be.)

That would require moving Barry out of the apartment, limiting him to a few scenes each episode and getting the point across that the other three, like the audience, did not care for Barry.

Unless that's done (or something similar) prepare to alternate laughter with flinching. All five spoke of "the damage" Green does to each episode. The laughs are flowing and then, if the target of the laughs isn't Green and he opens his mouth, the laughs stop. Immediately. The other three are seen as "likeable" by the five but that won't continue if a character the audience finds repulsive is seen as their equals. ("They'll be tainted by association," said one.)

Every now and then someone comes along intent upon breaking the sitcom "mold." (My Name Is Earl breaks nothing, but we're not referring to that show.) They'll try to make the lead a hated character and call that a "twist." If it is a twist, audiences have consistently demonstrated that they prefer their sitcoms served without a twist -- which is to say likeable lead characters. When you're expected to tune in each week for thirty minutes, you need to feel that you're watching people who reflect you. Archie Bunker was popular (the character) with some audience members who felt he was dead right in everything he said and did. Others could watch the show because, if Archie annoyed them, they could count on Gloria and Mike to call him on it.

Barry annoys, but he's not really called on it. (And Green's no Carol O'Connor.) Most people confronted with a Barry would either avoid him or tell him (loudly) to shut up. That the other three (Ben, Bobby and Jason) don't could turn the audience against them.

Which is too bad. The show trotted out an old, old plot for Thursday's episode. The bar scene. They called it one night stands but, in other times, it's also been the swinging singles episode (as when Penny Marshall made her first appearance on The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Ben had to "score" a one night stand. That's not really in the character's make up and what followed could have been cloying and so touching that you threw up. Cooke managed to provide enough tension to keep it funny. He's a lead. It was a smart decision to cast him as Ben. McRae is a strong physical comedian and no one seems to have noticed that yet. It's as though an anchor is weighing him down (the anchor that should be around Green's neck?) and he's being prevented from cutting loose. The only worry regarding Grinnell is that his timing has been so strong, from the start, that he may find himself with too many weak lines in each script and be told, "You can make it funny!" instead of everyone working to figure out what's wrong with the lines.

Thursday night, the three leads demonstrated at the bar why they were all alone. Bobby just knew "vibe" talk followed by silent staring was the way to interest the opposite sex. Jason felt his technique was the way to make a woman interested in him: offer a slight compliment followed by an insult. Both went home without bed mates. Ben did land one but, as is the character's nature, immediately attempted to turn the one night stand into a long term romance.

Meeting her parents, going away for the weekend and other things were immediately planned before the morning coffee. In a scene that we'd love to see a network air with women involved (but we'll settle for men since most shows tries to convince you that unmarried equals death), Jason and Bobby explained why Ben would be making a mistake to rush from one long term relationship back into another one.

If Ross was "divorce guy" on Friends, Ben is "relationship guy" on Four Kings. A few years ago, or on CBS at any given moment, the argument would have been based on women destroying fun or weighing you down or some other crap. Instead the argument was based upon taking the time to get to know yourself. (Again, we'd love to see the networks feature a scene like that among women.)

Three Kings are three guys trying to figure out where they fit in the world today. (Not only does Barry not fit, his routines are so outdated that Larry from Three's Company comes off as modern by comparison.) This is a show that men and women can enjoy. You're not going to feel like you've just been disrespected if a man's laughing at Charlie Sheen's latest assault on women, for instance.

Day by Day coverage of the Alito fan club

You may be one of the many who just wants to forget the week long meeting of the Samuel Alito Junior fan club. If so, we truly don't blame you. If you're up to reliving the nightmare, we've assmeled some of the coverage from community sties during the hearings.


Rebecca began by noting that Pacifica was covering the heraings live but NPR was not.

Rebecca: if gas air's terry 'that's gross' had been present when john cornyn was speaking, i think the senate building would have floated right off the ground.
common ills community member billie has talked a lot about cornyn, he's her senator, and his cornyisms.
i enjoy it anytime
c.i. posts any of billie's 'look, here he goes with another cornyism!' comments. but i wasn't prepared for him.
as i listened to him ramble from 1 topic to another, i would have thought the man insane if i honestly believed he meant a word he said.
at 1 point, he was speaking of school prayer and working himself into a case of the dry heaves over students wanting to pray at a school football game when all the sudden something else caught his attention and he started ranting that depictions of sex and violence are allowed but public expressions of religion are not.
okay, help me out here, but are students allowed to depict sex at a sporting event? i'm remembering get balled out by an assistant principal just for kissing in the bleachers. and violence?
is corny calling football violent? i thought he was from the state of texas?
if you're looking for easy laughs, always stand within ear range of john cornyn because his cornyisms will have you rolling on the floor.
the other thing was hearing christine todd whitman tell the senate how to vote and how to do their job. unless i'm remembering wrongly, todd whitman could have used some 1 explaining what an epa administrator does?

C.I.: With regards to Alito, let's note this from an interview Grover Norquist gave to El Mundo (September, 2004):
Question: And if Bush wins?

Norquist: The Democratic Party will be forever doomed. If we take control of the legislature and the executive branch, we will reinforce our control of the judicial branch to direct it against the Democrats. We will bring about a modest limit of the ability of the people to initiate lawsuits against corporations, which will damage the lawyers who specialize in these cases, which is one of the props of the Democratic Party. We will accelerate the decline of the unions. We will cut funding to groups of public employees, like teachers, who are one of the great sources of Democratic votes. And we will begin to move the welfare state toward a private system, in pensions and health care.

That excerpt is from Troy Duster's foreword (*p. ix*) of Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich's The Fox In The Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy. (And worth thinking about with the hearings going on.)

Ruth: Among the guests during Monday's coverage were Nan Aaron of the Alliance for Justice, Chip Pitts of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. All three provided interesting commentary but I know Mr. Pitts is only noted at this site if a member highlights him* so I made a point to take down some of his comments.
"Judge Alito is not the mainstream conservative the adminstration's trying to paint him as," Mr. Pitts stated. The administration and Senator Lindsey Graham appear to be working very hard indeed to paint Judge Alito as mainstream. One wonders when the administration last worked so hard? Probably while they were selecting Americans to spy on without court warrants is my guess. Mr. Pitts also felt that the area of executive privilege may be the most important issue facing the country today.

[Note that Ruth's commentary posted early Tuesday morning but she's referring to Monday so we put it here.]


Elaine addresses the issue of Vanguard case and Alito's broken promise from the nineties to step aside if cases to do with that company came before him.

Elaine: Listening to Russ Feingold beat through the spin and make Samuel Alito admit that there was no computer glitch that prevented his recusal from a case was powerful. When Alito finally got honest, Feingold asked "Why didn't you just do that here instead of coming up with excuses, as you've done here?" Of course the Republicans rushed in to the rescue. I belive it was Hatch. I listened to about four minutes of that and then shut it off to head home.

Mike: And Wally had a good roundup of comments on the Alito hearings. I'm listening. Hope you're listening and listening via Pacifica. I think Russ Feingold did a great job today. He seemed serious and didn't make jokes about how pretty Diane Feinstein was or other stuff that was just a waste of time. This is serious stuff and I was really surprised that a lot of them didn't seem to take it seriously. I listen and think, "Okay, I guess it's no surprise that the Republicans are sucking up hard but why are Democrats rushing in with 'you're a good man' and all that other stuff?" This isn't a comic book convention. It's supposed to be deliberating about whether or not someone is qualified for the Supreme Court. They're all, "Yes, Miss Carey" and "Sparkle was a really good movie, Miss Carey." They need to get serious and ask questions. That was what Feingold did. They're not supposed to be making nice on either side. This is a job interview and they're treating it like a Sunday brunch to meet the new neighbor. Remember to listen to the hearings on Pacifica and show your support for independent media.

C.I.: If you're following the hearings, you know that poor little Alito can't remember membership in a group he saw fit to list on his resume in the eighties.

Rebecca: but 1 point i'll make now is that monday it sure was sweet - sarcasm - to listen to white men rush to say that sandra day o'connor can be replaced by a man and that it's practically reverse discrimination to suggest otherwise.
why there's no difference that a woman could bring.which was blown out of the water this morning when some 1 made some stupid comment about diane feinstein's looks and then it was turned into a mini joke to be picked up on. if there were several women on the committee, instead of just 1, would that have happened?
i don't think so.
there were so many overtones of 'the little lady' during these 'jokes.'


Wally started off Weds. feeling down, but, like many was rallied by Ted Kennedy.

Wally: The roundtable last night was depressing. C.I. wrote about it a little so you can read about some of it here. But the press was already calling it over after yesterday because so many of the Dems were so damn spineless and kept saying things like, "You're such a good person," "I like you" blah blah blah blah.
But after a slow start, they came to life. Maybe there's still hope?
I hope so. I thought Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy and Charles Schumer did a great job. It looked like Alito was finally getting some tough questioning. I hope they keep it up.

C.I.: Dick Durbin spoke this morning and bailed. When the need to see "your heart" was stressed, I had to bail myself. At least Durbin showed strength.
"Does it really feel 'over?'" asked Cindy in an e-mail this morning (after reading this morning's gina & krista roundrobin -- my comments in the roundtable). Yes, it really does. When Durbin started bringing up Bruce Springsteen and the "crushing hand of fate," it did seem like there was cause for hope.
But, and I said this once in the roundtable, I'm not watching [onTV] or listening [on radio]. I have no idea how it plays out. What I notice is that Diane Feinstein wants to be "likeable" in the hearings, that Joe Biden needs to get a trim in back (truly, his staff has failed him by not scheduling a trip to the barber before these hearings started), that you come to count on the ones you usually count on -- Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy. I'll even say that Joe Biden showed a desire to come alive in spots.
Kyle e-mailed saying Mitch Jeserich offered in commentary (yesterday) that (I'm summarizing Kyle's summary -- twice removed) when Diane Feinstein finished her questioning, he had the sense that it was over. I'd say that was a good call not just because I personally feel that way but because that was a sentiment many were sharing. I haven't seen that in the Times but it's not surprising that
Pacifica would provide you the commentary or any other that doesn't make it into the paper of record. That's one of many reasons that Pacifica is so important to the country.
Susan wondered if, considering the way things are going, I'm not thinking "I should have stayed home." No. However this goes down, I want to witness it and say I did my best to say "NO!"
Pacifica is providing coverage. And I'm providing that link several times in this entry because a few members, reading this morning's round-robin, appear to understand my comments to be, "Good for NPR for not airing the hearings!"
That wasn't what I was attempting to say. My point was that Alito wasn't Roberts. (And Judge has made that point in his coverage for the round-robin as did ___ who came in for last night's roundtable.) Roberts rubbed elbows and more. He was one of the inner circle on the DC scene.
Roberts would have had to have been caught frenching a Grand Dragon of the KKK in Dupont Circle, in broad daylight with many witnesses, for the fawning press to have turned on him. Alito didn't have that level of insider status. Some in the mainstream press were willing to go after something if the Democrats presented their case. They really haven't. There have been exceptions. (And I'd even include some of Biden's moments on the list.)
But the press is said to be on full snow job mode now (and the Times bears that out this morning). If so, that's due to the fact that there was no blood in the water. If the Dems had gotten one good "wound," the sharks would have come swarming.
But they're not going to do a thing without the Dems. (Hold on for the second part.) And that has to do with more then the usual nonsense (which is why I brought ____ into the roundtable last night to explain that point of view). What is the point of angering a Supreme Court Judge? Especially in light of the attacks on the press already? If the Dems appear to be throwing in the towel, then why should the press stand up?
That's a point of view from the press. Now let's deal with the Dems. They're playing the Dukakis strategy all over again. "I'll make a point and then expect the press to flesh it out and run with it!" Doesn't happen that way. (We'll have at least one former Congress member in tonight's roundtable so if I'm doing the Senate's position a disservice, that can be straightened out tonight.)
But I'm not impressed by the behavior during the hearings. The Senate does have a sense of decorum to uphold. But that doesn't excuse turning a job interview into a Sunday greet the new neighbor brunch. (Which
Mike went into in the roundtable but a link will be provided to Mike's comment on that online.)
Before I walked out this morning, Alito was being asked about an issue that, as the Senator presented the question, "will come up" -- will be heard before the Court and?
Alito weighed in. No arm twisting. Why? It wasn't about abortion. It was about public displays of worship.
Why aren't the Dems pointing that out? Maybe they will. Maybe they will make a point of that. But as it stands, Alito speaks in code (and uses Plessy v. Ferguson and "equal protection to all") to signal to the base that he will vote to chip away and overturn Roe. But he gets a pass on it. Not just in terms of being confronted on that and him being allowed not to answer -- he's not even being asked about it. On public displays of worship, an issue that will come before the Court, Alito feels free to weigh in.
So his so-called "Ginsburg defense" is applied selectively. That should be an issue emphasized. But the reality is nothing is being emphasized.
Maybe the press coverage is grabbing a soundbyte? I don't know. Outside of the New York Times the only thing I've caught is
Democracy Now! on TV. DN! isn't mainstream media (it's brave independent media) so I have no idea how it's playing out in the media.
But I'm not impressed with what's gone in the hearings. Could they turn it around? Yes. But the Dems will have to do it. While Alito's present. The press (mainstream) has little interest in covering the witnesses. If there's a dynamo among the witnesses, someone needs to start leaking. As it is, when Alito's done being questioned, many of the coverage will disappear.
Can they (Dems) still turn it around? I hope so. Because, not endorsing this just noting the rumors as I said in the roundtable last night, the rumbles are that Bully Boy thinks he may get a third nomination. (Let's hope he's impeached before that can happen.) If Kennedy is the one they think he'll get to replace, as some of the rumors indicate, the Court will not be the same.
Diane Feinstein can say, "I questioned Alito! I questioned Roberts!" She did. She asked them silly questions for the most part. Then, with serious questions, she took the statements at face value. It was embarrassing in the Roberts hearings and it's embarrassing in these.
Her "I take my responsibility seriously" as the only woman on the commitee remarks may be sincere. But sincere or not, her questioning hasn't been helpful. Dick Durbin did a far better job probing the issues of Roe than did Feinstein.
Pacifica is covering the hearings. You should listen to them (unless the whole thing upsets you too much). NPR should be covering them live. My comment last night re: NPR was that possibly when the indications of no-filibuster were made, they saw no point in covering it. That wasn't a defense of them. They should be covering it. It sounds like Pacifica is doing a wonderful job (no surprise there). But this is historic and NPR should be covering it live. That's what public radio should do. You put your middle of the road, tired, gas bag based shows on ice and cover the hearings live. [**"tired, gas bag based shows, refers to NPR's lineup.] Pacifica is covering the hearings. If I were home, I'd be listening to Pacifica.
But the point I was making re: NPR is that they aren't public radio, they are the mainstream press. And the press lost a great deal of interest in covering topics the minute the noises were made (by some Dems) that a filibuster wasn't likely. The impression was, for the mainstream press, that Dems weren't going to fight this. When that impression took hold, the prospect of the press pursuing leads (and some were being pursued) got tossed aside.
I'm not saying that's right. (In fact, I said in the round-robin that I thought that was lazy and irresponsible.)
I think there's value in following the hearings. Short of the Dems getting their act together, I don't think the left will be pleased with the results of the hearings. (We're told repeatedly that things are "about" to change -- in the hearings. We keep waiting to reach that "about.") But that doesn't change that the hearings are significant.
Pacifica's broadcasting the hearings live and providing commentaries. They're taking it seriously.
We started with Carol Leif's comments and they really say it all. She had a visceral reaction. Many people did (I did) to Alito's nomination. So the lack of strong questioning has been distressing.
But we can learn from it. One thing we can do is start demanding that another woman be added to the judicial committee. All this time after Anita Hill faced an all male panel, to have but one female on the committee just isn't good enough. That should be true whether you think Diane Feinstein is doing a good job or not.
And we can see that once again Ted Kennedy is a fighter. Patrick Leahy fought, Russ Feingold fought. Dick Durbin fought. Even Joe Biden has had some moments.
Hopefully, there will be more. But you did see who would fight and you saw who would make nice.

Rebecca: let me say what i'm willing to bet everyone wants to but no one wants to be the 1st to do so: diane feinstein, are you trying to help or hurt?
over and over she plays 'miss diane' with the white gloves and 'oh my's. miss diane, it's the 21st century. you are a us senator. try acting like 1.
now maybe she's confused because she's got lindsey graham playing like the heroine to a tennessee williams play that he never had time to write: the mint julup exploded on my best dress!
'i am sorry,' blanche, er, lindsey sobbed to alito, 'that you had to go through this. i'm sorry that your family had to sit here . . .'
oh the tragedy! oh the drama!poor alito! asked questions!
i can barely hear lindsey crying due to the rustle from his crinoline petticoat.
but diane feinstein was worse than a joke, she was a distraction.yesterday it was all 'miss diane you are so pretty' nonsense. and she basked in it.
today, ted kennedy's reading an article by a cap member. [Concerned Alumni of Princeton] what's being read is pretty shocking.
he's leading to a question and the thing has soundbyte written all over it.what happens?miss diane interrupts him. 'read the last sentence.'
miss diane, in your own time, where you 'let things pass,' and you have no follow ups, you can read that last sentence. (it applied to women.)
what you shouldn't do is step on someone's powerful moment.
i was listening to the hearings on
pacifica and hope you were too.
but i wondered what ted kennedy's face looked like during that?
did he realize his soundbyte was blown?
and did everyone get that diane thought she was being silly. 'read the last sentence.'
twice she interrupts and sounds so delighted.
as though teddy were given a toast and she'd just cut him off to say, 'oh look, the grants brought baked beans! yoo hoo! over here!'
can someone have a talk with diane feinstein?
from a p.r. perspective, she needs it explained to her that she didn't just butt into ted kennedy's time, she destroyed a soundbyte that could have been on all the news networks - well, not fox 'news.'
it was a powerful moment - until she piped off. twice.
now in her own time, she wastes everyone's. she won't follow up on anything. she wastes time playing the 'girl' which is embarrassing from any senator but especially 1 of her advanced years.
so i'll ask it, is she trying to help us or trying to hurt us?
if she's trying to help us, she needs some 1 to explain to her the importance of not butting in on some 1's sound byte.
the importance of not being 'cute' in the hearings but instead doing your job.
this isn't a social, it's not a dance. conduct yourself like a senator or get off the committee.
there are many reasons to sing barbara boxer's praises. 1 of them is that she can lay it out without trying to pour on the filigree. she doesn't need to 'girl' it up. she's a strong woman, a confident 1. that's how she conducts herself and that's 1 reason so many respect her.
diane feinstein needs to be diane feinstein. but if she thinks playing it like shirley temple is appropriate, she needs to rethink being on the committee.

Mike: Now let's talk Alito. Ted Kennedy? I feel proud to have him as one of my senators.He did a great job. I groan everytime Diane Feinstein speaks. She really gets on my nerves with her fussy manners. But Ted Kennedy roared like a lion. I think he shook things up and woke things up. There was a lot more action today. Dick Durbin did pretty good in the morning. Charles Schumer did a strong job in the afternoon. Russ Feingold is second only to Ted Kennedy. I feel like even Kohl and Biden got some points in. Then Diane Feinstein has to get silly. Elaine's covering that so I'll just ask what she thinks she's doing?
She's not helping anyone. If you think I'm being rough, you should hear Nina. We cut class to listen to the hearings and I've never seen her so mad. That includes when we were hurrying down the stairs Christmas Eve to get to Mass and I accidentally stepped on her dress. She was ahead of me on the stairs and had a nice long dress on. We were both hurrying down the stairs and she was in front of me and I wasn't paying attention where my big feet were going.
Ma and Elaine got out the thread and needle and it was like the mice in Cindrella. :D I have hopes for tomorrow's hearings and I'll talk about that in the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin tonight so look for that tomorrow when Gina and Krista e-mail it out. By the way, Ma's taking part in tonight and tomorrow night's roundtables. And when you read tomorrow, expect an earful from Nina. She didn't plan to take part tonight but she's so furious with Diane Feinstein that she called Gina and Gina said "Of course." If she'd asked me, I would have told her that because Gina and Krista want as many people weighing in as possible. So look for that in the morning. C.I. wrote some about the round-robin and Leigh Ann doesn't get the round-robin. She saw C.I.'s entry and wondered about C.I. talking about? C.I. asked Gina and Krista last night. C.I. really only talked about comments made by C.I. which would have been fine without permission. But Gina and Krista gave permission (and said C.I. didn't need permission, but C.I. really thinks the round-robin should be kept private). C.I. said if they were doing nonsense, it was going up at The Common Ills because the press was bored on Tuesday. The journalist that took part in the roundtable Tuesday night kept stressing that over and over and kept saying C.I. needed to post something on that because if there weren't sparks today, it was over. In the roundtable I listened a lot and I did talk about the "manners" bit like I had blogged on last night. Leigh Ann asked why it pissed me off so much? Because I think they needed to get down business and wasn't seeing that happen. Today was better after about the second or third hour. But Diane Feinstein needs to stop playing Miss Manners.

Elaine: So Alito.
Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy did a fine job. Why is Diane Feinstein on the committee? Does she serve cookies? That's how she acts. Like some stereotype of femininity. Is she a Senator or is she Lily Tomlin's The Tasteful Lady? I do not understand why she's on the committee. As a woman, I find it offensive when she doesn't correct someone raving about her looks. It's not a beauty contest, Diane.
Your peers on the committee may think you're sweet and pretty but that's not why you should be on the committee. Anyone who says, "I'll let that pass" when they're supposed to be questioning a prospective Supreme Court Justice, needs to step down from the committee.
And with a husband profitting from the war and Diane's own history after the assassination of Harvey Milk, "Genteel Diane" is a bit hard to buy.
Feinstein is especially disappointing because in 1991, Anita Hill stood before an all White, all male judiciary committee and was dismissed and savaged. As feminists, we said never again. Fifteen years later, and
C.I. pointed this out last summer, all we have to show for it is one woman on the committee?
Diane's not up to the challenge. That's clear. I don't buy that she's a huggable, just out of the sorority and headed to the mixer, type "girl." But if that's how she wants to present herself, so be it. That behavior doesn't belong on the Judiciary Committee. She obviously enjoys providing the "boys" with entertainment and they obviously enjoy having a "girl" among them. But they need a woman on the committee. At least one. So it's time for Barbara Boxer or Maria Cantwell to be put on the committee or both.

Kat: What did I hear today?
Some life. I'd like to hear more of it. Today was almost robust. After yesterday's comatose hearings, there was suddenly some life in the hearings.
The biggest disappointment? The Republicans, of course. John Cornyn? He just loves the sound of his own voice. Can someone teach him to pronounce Holocaust? It's not "HO" (as in "Ho-Ho-HO") "LOW" "COST." This is not a new word. Nor is it a "Texan" way to pronounce it. I have two friends who grew up in Texas. They know how to say the word. I called them at three to ask is this something that everyone who grew up in Texas says but they learned after they left? I was told not "no" but "Hell no!" John Cornyn is an idiot.
This is a historical event that everyone should know about. That includes knowing how to say the word. Since he doesn't know how to say words, you'd think he'd be embarrassed to go on and on. But he's not. He just can't shut up. And he has this tendency to try to speak for the country. "I'm sure everyone . . ." Hey bud, don't speak for those of us who don't say "HO" "LOW" "COST." It's like they dropped a pallet on his head at some Super Wal-Mart.
Is Tom Coburn the one trying to sound like Cher? Everytime he speaks, if it's him, he's got that natural tear in his voice that works for Cher when she's singing the sad songs but I don't think he's strutting around in fishnet stockings and high heels. I could be wrong.
Biggest disappointment on the other side of the aisle?Diane Feinstein.
Rebecca and I were on the phone off and on all day. She has a great take on Lindsey Graham and I hope she write about it tonight. We were riffing and bouncing jokes off one another on Diane Feinstein.
The thing that made her laugh the most was when I said Feinstein seemed determine to become the "Little Lady of the Senate." It's as though she walks in, takes off her gardening gloves, pulls off her bonnet, fluffs her hair and is then ready to waste everyone's time. Rebecca had the perfect example and she better write about it. Me? I just groan everytime she speaks.
For those who wonder, that's not who we elected in 1992. We elected a feisty fighter who could stand her own ground. I have no idea what's become of that woman but in her place we get the "Little Lady of the Senate." It's probably for the best that she didn't participate in the recall race for governor. She's pissed off a lot of people in this state (California) by being pro-war. Between that and her "Little Lady of the Senate" routine, I don't think she could have been elected.
The way she acts these days, she couldn't win her seat if it weren't for the fact that she's already an incumbent. To win it as a non-incumbent, she's have to be scrappy again. But she honestly reminds me of the Faye Dunaway character from The Handmaid's Tale.


The Dems have abandoned the fight and it becomes even more obvious as the day wears on.

Wally: Another day of hearings on Alito. Worth remembering Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts from November when Alito told Bully Boy, "I'll say anything to be confirmed."Well almost anything! He won't give an honest answer on Roe v. Wade. What he has said makes it plain that he doesn't want to say Roe v. Wade is settled law.
Like C.I. pointed out yesterday, he had no problem weighing in on public displays of worship and you know that's coming before the Court.

C.I.: So what has today been like? Not as lively as yesterday. "Enough of that. Let me move on." Who said that? Which Democrat? Does it matter? Doesn't that seem like those two sentences summed up much of what's gone on so far today? (Diane Feinstein said it today to Alito, for those who missed it.)
[. . .]
The hearings? No real follow ups for Alito. He's still allowed to pick and choose what he'll respond to. "I don't think that's settled" was popular this morning. Has anyone pointed out that he tossed that rule aside when he weighed in on public displays of worship the day before?Schumer was the strongest from where I sat. Dick Durbin did well (I thought). I'm not sure on Kohl. I had trouble hearing him but I think he was laying groundwork. (Supposedly some are laying groundwork for the witnesses that will testify later. Whether that's true or not, who knows.)It's more sedate. The life seems to have gone out of the hearings. Even Jeff Sessions seemed to have trouble kissing Alito's ass today. Everyone looks tired and it seems like a sense of resignation just hangs over everything. Which may be why the fact that Alito followed the law by providing employment to men and women is somehow seen as some amazing, trailblazing thing he did. I also think Alito completely screwed up the war powers issue.
[. . .]
The hearings appear done. (Though there's supposedly some amazing witnesses coming up. I'm sure they are worth listening to, but I'm not sure any witnesses will have any impact.) But there are other issues involving the nation. Such as the issue of impeachment.

Elaine: When the "strategy" was explained to us in last night's round-robin, you read our reactions. The "big plan" is apparently to plant seeds of doubt and hope that the people will swarm Senators with phone calls, e-mails, letters, faxes and visits.
If you read the New York Times editorial, you got a sense that this is the middle of the road's press' feeling too. (The link for the editorial takes you to Common Dreams, not to the Times. There's no registration required at Common Dreams.)Thank you, by the way, to Gina and Krista as well as all participants in the roundtable for granting permission to talk about this topic. It was very nice of the two guests to sit in and explain the "strategy." But when you're "strategy" is the same as the tactic that the middle of the road newspaper takes on its own, that's no "strategy." That's not fighting. That's not providing an opposition.I think it was a gross mistake that will result in Alito being confirmed. If I'm wrong, I'll be thrilled. But before the next elected Democrat sends out a mass e-mail asking for donations to the DNC so that they can "stand up and fight," the party might want to consider demonstrating that they know how to stand up and fight.
C.I. summed up today when the hearings broke for lunch:
So what has today been like? Not as lively as yesterday. "Enough of that. Let me move on." Who said that? Which Democrat? Does it matter? Doesn't that seem like those two sentences summed up much of what's gone on so far today? (Diane Feinstein said it today to Alito, for those who missed it.)
Thank you, by the way, to those e-mailing how displeased they are with Feinstein. If anyone missed it, Rebecca explained yesterday how Feinstien's being "cute" destroyed Ted Kennedy's soundbyte and Kat explained how Feinstein seems intent on playing "The Little Lady of The Senate." Feinstein was a waste. It's not that she couldn't ask a question like an adult (although there is that), it's that she was incapable of doing a follow up and felt the need to "girl" it up. Drag queens haven't felt the need to manufacture false feminity to that degree. For an indepth rundown of each day's key moments (highs and lows) visit Eleanor Smeal's The Smeal Report.

Mike: The hearings today on Alito?
Yawn.You get all excited from one day and then it's back to butt smooching and "Thank you to you and your family for being here." Notice that Alito never mentioned thanks. Who is the one being honored? The Senate? No.The Senate's fulfilling its obligation. Any nominee has to be vetted by them. Alito's the one who should be honored. But he sat there smugly time and again basking in the butt smooches.
I'm not a Hillary fan but both my parents think Diane Feinstein needs to step down from the judiciary committee and let Hillary get on it. They don't think you need to be a lawyer to be on the committee but they think you need to be strong and they're as disgusted as everyone else with Diane Feinstein's nonsense in the last three days.
Nina said it last night in the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin, "Is she trying to play good cop? Because she just comes off like dumb cop. She like Chief Wiggins on The Simpsons."
I laughed so hard when Nina said that last night. (I had permission to quote the round-robin if anyone's wondering.)
I am proud of Ted Kennedy for being a fighter. I think some fought and some just growled. And Diane Feinstein just fanned herself acting like, as Kat's pointed out, The "Little Lady" of the Senate.

Seth: From what little I've seen so far, it seems to be going as expected. By that I mean, the Republicans are lauding him for being the second coming (or so it always sounds when they're laying on the praise) and the Democrats are trying their hardest to get some real answers from the man and not succeeding.Most chilling, I think, is the fact that Alito bragged in '85 (on a job application for the Reagan White House) about having belonged to the group Concerned Alumni of Princeton, though now he has come down with selective amnesia about the group and his membership in it. How convenient for him. Senator Kennedy had a poster made of a quote from the group's magazine, and this really says it all:
"People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns black and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children. And now... and now come women."
This is the sort of man they're trying to put on the court to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. The Democrats and any even halfway moderate Republicans should be coming together to stop this from happening. They're literally holding the future of countless Americans in their hands and if they screw this up...I don't even want to think about it. But suffice it to say, we'll all know who failed to stop this. The Democrats have been in danger of losing the left for a long time now, and if they let Alito receive confirmation without putting up a real fight, that could be the final straw for many of us.I say filibuster the nomination. If the right then takes away the right to filibuster, at least the public knows that the Democrats put up a real fight. If they let this go to a vote without a filibuster, they've caved in yet again to the right.

Rebecca: it started with a whimper, then it picked up a little, then it whimpered to an end.
no climax. if the alito hearings had been a lover, you'd have been smart to kick it out of bed.
this is the oppostion party? this is how they do the brave stands?
i'm not talking about a filbuster. 1 of the nelsons brothers (that's how i see the 2 senators named nelson, they're like the really bad pop band of the 80s) has already given indications that he's willing to vote for alito.
so i'm not talking about that. i'm talking about asking tough questions and then asking follow ups. too often i felt like i was watching toy poodles who'd been housebroken long ago.
they'd bark a little at you while you were sitting on the couch but if you stood, they'd whimper and run out of the room.
that's not an opposition party.
it's sad that the democrats think that makes 1.
when alito kept fudging and refusing to answer, they should have treated him like a hostile witness. by the last day, every 1 of them should have used their time to hit on the same issues.over and over.
diane feinstein, to name 1 of the worst offenders, could shoot scattershot (although she acted as though she were tossing out lillies throughout the hearings) in the other days but on the final day, she didn't need to be bringing up new issues. this is where you make the case to the people.
not where you suddenly introduce a new topic.and for some 1 who interrupted ted kennedy repeatedly the day prior as he asked about caps, wasn't it strange that she didn't have a question on that? when kennedy was speaking yesterday, she couldn't stop interrupting. today? she's moved on.
miss diane gets my vote for most useless and i'm not fan of kohl. but miss diane was supposed to be fighting for women and instead we got a timid school marm trying to get the rowdy class to like her.
it's not just her. that's a point c.i. made tonight in the roundtable. c.i. pointed out that arlen specter couldn't stop treating her like she was a 'special' and not a real senator. he referred to her 'dramatic entrance.' there was another specific example c.i. brought up but i'm forgetting it now. but the point is, she is treated that way by others on the committee.
as an adult, she should ask them to cut it out. instead she seems tickled by the patronizing attitude.
i'm looking for the non-action figure miss diane. she comes non-fully poseable. she's in a seated postion. you can extend her legs or bend them depending upon whether you want her to sit in a chair or to sit on the floor. she wears a lovely dress with several layers. she comes with white gloves and the cutest little purse that matches her hat, her belt and her shoes. the non-action figure has a silly grin pasted on its face and is called 'miss diane, girl senator.'
the tea set is purchased separately.

Cedric: Disappointed and disappointing are the two words for the night. Disappointed is the way I feel because disappointing was the way the Democrats handled the Alito hearings.
There's no excuse of "we're the minority party." Some of the worst moments were from Democrats. Joe Biden obviously spent a great deal of time planning his questions and he obviously enjoys the sound of his own voice. But he was incapable of listening. He had no real follow ups. Time after time when Alito would answer in a vague or troubling manner, Biden would basically rush on to his next prepared question.
Herbert Kohl? Was he even there? He'd speak and it would be, "Who's that?" On the third day, he did seem to have a point or be close to one.
Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy did the best job. But why were the other Dems unable to grab the baton on the handoff?
Diane Feinstein was just embarrassing. She never followed up on questions others had asked.It seemed like she was trying to score points with various factions in the party. "Here's my Roe questions" and "Now here's my environmental questions."
Both are huge issues but others hit hard on Roe and managed to note other things as well.
Feinstein didn't hit hard on anything. She had no follow ups. She felt the need to say, "I'm not a lawyer," as if she was the anti-Star Jones, over and over. Since Florida's the sunshine state, and not California, I have no idea why she wanted to act like a ray of sunshine.
But there she was joking and saying sweet things. Vouching for him at times.
Does she know how to handle a witness because it never seemed like it in the hearings.

Kat: ? What is there to say?
In the final day of the , she thought she was attending a church social. And lucky her, she was the only "gal" invited to the big to-do. She basked in the male gaze.
Hey, I'm sure she's had many Wendy Jo Sperber moments. Being able to have Kip and Henry's attention without a Donna Dixon about to enter the room () was probably quite enjoyable to her.
If it weren't, she would have called on his patronizing her with remarks about her "dramatic entrance." That a U.S. Senator can't call a man on that isn't encouraging to the rest of us.
But she seemed quite happy to be belle of the ball.
Too bad she didn't seem too keen on questioning Alito.


C.I.: Alito contradicted himself throughout and was all over the map. This "general approach," for instance, was directly refuted on the day (it's all a blur) when he went into internet porn. There he spoke of an interpretation larger than "originalism." A problem throughout this article is that a reporter who tries to decipher Alito is headed for trouble if they try to condense by marrying fragments of the question with his answers. Alito did not answer the questions directly. That was obvious observing the hearings all week. Alito skated over everything. He wasn't challenged with follow ups often enough and when he did get a follow up he continued his dance of disinformation. Some of the things reported as "answers" (by the Times and the AP -- the only things I've seen) are not answers. His saying Congress can do something, for instance, is merely stating that Congress has the ability to do something, it's not answering whether or not he thinks the Court could or should overrule a proposed legislation. A number of Democrats on the panel appeared to either hear what they wanted or not listen closely. (That's been true of the press as well.) "Can" is ability. (Yes, we're back to that lesson again, do you believe it?) Congress can pass anything it has the votes to pass. Whether or not it will be upheld in a legal challenge is a completely different issue. Observing the hearings, for me, was one long moot court nightmare where you kept wishing people would get what was being said but they didn't.(They being most Democrats on the committee -- though not all -- and some members of the press.)
Judith Resnik calls it best in the article: "He's fabulous at tautology." We'll address the Alito fan club that met from Monday through Thursday in highlights further down.

Wally: Mom saw this excerpt at The Common Ills and asked, "Please, put it up at your site."From the National Organization for Women's Kim Gandy's "Mostly Serious New Year's Resolutions:"
- I pledge to do my part to oppose the nomination of Samuel Alito the Supreme Court, for all the reasons given here and here. Even if I've already called my Senators, I pledge to go call 'em again now! I know this fight could decide women's reproductive rights for the next 40 years or longer, and I am committed to doing my part to stop Alito. (And in fact, if you have some time, we'd love to have you in D.C.! Find out more about joining our campaign in D.C.)
- I resolve not to be fooled by Sam Alito's evasion, obfuscation, and wiggle words (that's a legal term, for all of you non-lawyers out there ;>) and to focus on his very serious anti-woman ideology, even if it is really funny that his excuses sound a lot like "the dog ate my homework" The excuses? In today's hearing they went something like this: the computer forgot to remind me that I promised not to rule on Vanguard cases and I really don't remember being in that misogynistic club, but if I did it must have been about the ROTC and the military (sounds of patriotic music playing in the background).
- I will do everything I can to make sure Congress doesn't take women's rights lightly, and to remind our elected officials--especially the ones who claim to be "progressive"--that women's issues matter and women's votes count!
- I'll work with my local NOW chapter on whatever campaigns I can help with in my area, knowing that all across the country I will be joined by hundreds of thousands of feminists and progressive allies working to take back our country from the far Right! (Don't know your local chapter? Click here!)
It's not over yet. If everyone works together we can still defeat Alito.

C.I.: The hearings or "hearings." A number of topics were addressed (and misaddressed) today. I'm not as tickled by the term "stink bomb" as one Senator was. I will note that chortles continued once Laurence Tribe began speaking and he had to stop and wait for the chortling Senator to come to their senses. If you felt the Senator never did, chances are you know whom we're speaking of. The Senator who either felt the need to play Barbara Walters ("If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?") or to play Mystery Date (stated by a woman seated next to me) didn't go out on a high note.
[C.I.'s referring to Feinstein.]
Tribe and Kate Michelman spoke effectively. The testimonails in favor of Alito started out resembling too many late night "It changed my life!" infomercials. As the parade continued, the Cult of Alito became more mind numbing (one had to wonder if some "vouchers" had been mind numbed before they became mind numbing?)
So now the Senate committee's done all it probably plans to. Use NOW's
Take Action: Call Your Senators Today link today and remember this number 1-800-839-5276. Delilah Boyd (A Scrivener's Lament) always displays it. Why? It's the toll free number for the Capitol Hill Switchboard. Dial it, ask for the Senator you want to speak to and they'll transfer you to her or his office. You can store the number and use it to contact the offices of House members as well. Or you can just remember Delilah's got it posted at her site and visit A Scriverner's Lament not just for her humor and keen observations (noted in the year-in-review) but also for the solid information she hooks you up with.

Mike: It was depressing for me to listen to. I kept thinking how the Dems could have all fought but instead they missed their chance.

And that was the five days of the hearings. Alito finished testifying on Thursday and the Dems appeared to finish trying Wednesday. (Some might argue sooner.)

We spotlighted a great deal of C.I. and we know it. That's partly because C.I. posts more than any member of the community but also because C.I. was in D.C. and was often commenting on the mood at the hearings. Jess and Ava made it to D.C. mid-morning Thursday, at which point, "It was over."

Jess: [Thursday] It was over. You could feel it in the room. Someone would clear their throat and you could feel the optimisim rise in the non-Alito fan base. Then nothing would happen, then more nothing would not happen. People observing the hearings were angry and you'd get stopped with a lot of, "Is it just me" type questions.

Ava: Friday was worthless. Hatch made nice with abortion rights activists, Feinstein made nice with everyone. I don't think there was a sincere moment from the committee members. Specter creeped me out with the way he looked at and spoke to Michelman. I couldn't figure out if he was acting like an overly attentive father (treating a grown woman like a child) or if it seemed like he was attracted to her. It may have been a combination of the two but it was creepy. I thought Fienstein faniced herself Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz Friday and her "What can a judge would Alito make" nonsense question, that's a paraphrase by the way, came off like she had just stumbled across the Scarecrow.

Pacifica Radio programs to note

Pacifica Radio programming notes via Ruth (remember you can listen online free of charge):

Today (Sunday):

Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky airing on KPFA 9-11 am Pacific Time
In our first hour... Iraq on-the-ground... We'll be joined in-studio by independent journalist David Enders, author of the new book "Baghdad Bulletin: Dispatches from the American Occupation." Enders spent 15 months in Iraq, where he arrived weeks after the U.S. invasion. He never once lived inside the Green Zone. And, Raed Jarrar recently moved to the Bay Area from Iraq. His family recently moved to Jordan after being one of the last families in their circle to stay in Iraq. Jarrar has done much work on the ground in Iraq.
In our second hour... The first of 6 planned executions in California this year... Clarence Ray Allen will turn 76 on Monday, January 16th, just after midnight on the 17th, the State of California plans to execute him. He has advanced heart disease and diabetes, is legally blind, hearing-impaired, and uses a wheelchair. Meanwhile, the state Legislature is considering a Moratorium on the Death Penalty. Our guests: Assemblymember Sally Lieber of San Jose is a sponsor of the legislation; Dr. John Groner will talk about the state of health care in California Prisons; and others.

Tomorrow (Monday):

Monday, January 16, WBAI-Pacifica Radio, 99.5 FM, New York, will broadcast A Special Birthday Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Join us for an extraordinary 21-hour-long program starting at 3 AM. Beginning with Citizen "K" opening with the documentary "Citizen King." Stay with us through the day as we bring you rare complete speeches and sermons given by Dr. King as he moved from a relatively unknown country preacher to the world stage as one of the greatest leaders in the movement for civil and human rights. For 45 years WBAI has recorded many of the most memorable and powerful moments in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality in the US, painstakingly archiving the recordings for ongoing listener and community education and enjoyment. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches are perhaps even more relevant today than when he first gave them. The issues of social justice, racism, poverty, equality, civil liberties, human rights, globalization, war and peace are still making a powerful impact on the daily lives of humanity.

Comandante de Abu Ghraib se acoge a Quinta Enmienda en juicio militar

Comandante de Abu Ghraib se acoge a Quinta Enmienda en juicio militar

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

Comandante de Abu Ghraib se acoge a Quinta Enmienda en juicio militar
El "Washington Post" informa que un oficial de alto rango del ejército estadounidense se acogió al derecho a no autoincriminarse cuando testifique ante el tribunal militar que juzga a dos soldados acusados de utilizar perros para intimidar a detenidos en la prisión de Abu Ghraib en Irak. La decisión fue tomada por el General de División Geoffrey Miller -- que ayudó a organizar interrogatorios en Abu Ghraib -- poco después de que el Coronel Thomas Pappas, comandante en jefe de Abu Ghraib, aceptara esta semana la inmunidad judicial ofrecida y se le ordenara testificar en un juicio militar a realizarse próximamente. Según el "Post", se le podría pedir al Coronel Pappas que contara cómo surgieron las tácticas abusivas, quién ordenó que se utilizaran y qué posible conexión hay con autoridades de Washington. Michael Ratner, presidente del Centro para los Derechos Constitucionales, afirmó que: "Es un peldaño más arriba en la cadena de mando, y eso es bueno. Podría demostrar que no se trató solamente de unos pocos casos aislados de oficiales corruptos."

Tribunal público presenta acusaciones ante la Casa Blanca
Y en Washington este martes, la Comisión sobre Crímenes de Bush, un grupo de acción pública, presentó ante la Casa Blanca un conjunto de 5 acusaciones. Las acusaciones sostienen que el gobierno de Bush ha cometido crímenes de guerra y crímenes de lesa humanidad. Las acusaciones fueron elaboradas en la primera Comisión Internacional de Investigaciones sobre Crímenes de Lesa Humanidad Cometidos por el Gobierno de Bush, reunida en la Ciudad de Nueva York en octubre. La segunda comisión de investigación se reunirá en la Universidad de Columbia a partir del 20 de enero.

NSA espió intensamente a grupo pacifista de Baltimore
Esta noticia es sobre el programa de espionaje nacional del gobierno de Bush. El sitio web "" obtuvo documentos del gobierno que indican que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) espió al grupo Pledge of Resistance de Baltimore, un grupo pacifista vinculado a los cuáqueros. Los documentos indican que el grupo fue intensamente vigilado, con registros detallados de sus viajes, rutas de traslado y hasta los globos de helio que utilizaron en una manifestación. Incluso un día se registraron los movimientos del grupo cada 15 minutos. Y en una manifestación durante la "Semana a favor de Mantener el Espacio para la Paz" (Keep Space for Peace), la NSA tenía previsto realizar una vigilancia aérea y tener cerca un Equipo de Respuesta Rápida a Armas de Destrucción Masiva.

NSA niega pedido de denunciante de testificar ante el Congreso
Por otra parte, ABC News informa que la Agencia Nacional de Seguridad ha rechazado el pedido del denunciante Russell Tice de testificar ante el Congreso. A Tice, un ex agente secreto de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional y la Agencia de Inteligencia de Defensa que denunció el programa de espionaje interno, se le informó que no podrá testificar debido a que los miembros del personal de Capitol Hill no tienen suficiente autorización de seguridad para escuchar la información secreta que revelaría. Tice hizo públicas sus revelaciones por primera vez en declaraciones oficiales publicadas la semana pasada por "Democracy Now."

Padilla se declara inocente en Miami
En Estados Unidos, José Padilla se declaró inocente de los cargos de terrorismo en Miami. Un juez le negó su pedido de fianza. Padilla fue acusado recién en noviembre luego de estar detenido durante tres años en aislamiento en la sede de una brigada militar en Carolina del Sur. Al momento de su arresto, en mayo de 2002, el entonces Fiscal General John Ashcroft acusó a Padilla de estar involucrado en un "complot terrorista para atacar a Estados Unidos utilizando una 'bomba sucia' radioactiva". Los cargos actuales en su contra no incluyen estas acusaciones. El mes pasado, un tribunal federal de apelaciones insinuó que el gobierno de Bush acusó a Padilla sólo con el fin de frenar una apelación que este tenía pendiente ante la Corte Suprema. La fecha del juicio fue fijada para septiembre.

Wal-Mart considera impugnar ley sobre asistencia médica aprobada en Maryland
En Maryland, legisladores estatales aprobaron una ley el jueves que exigiría al gigante minorista Wal-Mart que aumente el gasto en cobertura médica para sus empleados. Se espera que otros estados adopten la misma medida. La ley de Maryland revirtió un veto del gobernador y culminó una intensa batalla de presión política entre Wal-Mart y grupos laboristas. En virtud de la nueva ley, empleadores con 100.000 o más trabajadores deben destinar por lo menos el ocho por ciento de su nómina salarial a la contratación de seguro médico, o pagar la diferencia al fondo estatal de Medicaid. Un portavoz de Wal-Mart dijo al "New York Times" que la empresa está considerando presentar una demanda para impugnar la ley. La Senadora estatal demócrata Gloria G. Lawlah, quien patrocinó el proyecto de ley, dijo: "Este no es un proyecto de ley de Wal-Mart, es un proyecto de ley de Medicaid". Según Lawlah, este proyecto de ley le dice a los conglomerados que "No se deshagan de los empleados a quienes le niegan el seguro en nuestros servicios de Medicaid".

Contaminantes más grandes del mundo ignoran metas de gas en reunión inaugural
Y en Australia, seis de los países más contaminantes del mundo anunciaron la creación de un fondo multimillonario para el desarrollo de energía no contaminante -- pero insistieron que seguirán utilizando principalmente combustibles fósiles contaminantes para operar sus industrias y economías. Estados Unidos, China, Japón, India, Corea del Sur y Australia -- que conjuntamente representan casi la mitad de las emisiones peligrosas de gases de efecto invernadero del mundo -- se reunieron en la sesión inaugural de la Asociación Asia-Pacífico sobre Desarrollo Limpio y Clima. Los seis países formaron este grupo como alternativa al Protocolo de Kyoto, que estableció metas firmes para las emisiones. A la reunión también asistieron representantes de las empresas mineras y energéticas más grandes del mundo. En la declaración final se afirma que se alentará, pero no se exigirá, a las compañías privadas a que reduzcan sus emisiones de gases. Se asegura también que los combustibles fósiles: "serán una realidad perdurable, que trascenderá nuestras vidas."
El Secretario de Energía de Estados Unidos, Samuel Bodman, afirmó que: "No considero que esto sea un cambio de política. Lo que es, si se quiere, es aprovechar al sector privado. Es reconocer el hecho de que es el sector privado el que toma las decisiones de inversión, en todos estos países, no sólo en Estados Unidos, y en todos estos países es el sector privado el que desarrolla la tecnología. Es el sector privado el que obtiene beneficios de esas inversiones y está en condiciones de compartirlos."
Grupos ambientalistas tildaron de farsa a la reunión. La vocera energética de Greenpeace, Catherine Fitzpatrick, dijo que: "La comunidad empresarial mundial y los gobiernos gastan actualmente entre 250 y 300 mil millones de dólares por concepto de subsidios al sector de combustibles fósiles. Si queremos atacar la problemática del cambio climático necesitamos que se deriven esos fondos a energía limpia."

Tribunal de apelaciones confirma veredicto de 54 millones de dólares contra ex generales salvadoreños
En Estados Unidos, un tribunal federal de apelaciones confirmó un veredicto de 54 millones de dólares contra dos generales salvadoreños retirados que fueron acusados de cometer torturas en su país de origen hace dos décadas. En febrero del año pasado, el Tribunal de Apelaciones del 11° Distrito de Atlanta, revirtió un fallo anterior contra los Generales Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova y José Guillermo García. En 2002, ambos militares fueron hallados culpables en virtud de la Ley de Protección a las Victimas de Tortura de 1991 en una demanda entablada por un trabajador de la iglesia, médico y profesor que debió huir a Estados Unidos tras ser torturado brutalmente por soldados salvadoreños.

Informe: 95% de las armas ilegales de México provienen de EE.UU.
Noticia de México -- el diario "Los Angeles Times" informa que aproximadamente el 95% de las armas confiscadas a sospechosos en México fueron vendidas primero en forma legal en Estados Unidos. Oficiales mexicanos entrevistados por el "Times" culparon a las leyes estadounidenses de armas de fuego, que son muy laxas y contrastan fuertemente con las de México. En México hay menos de 2,500 propietarios registrados de armas de fuego, sin embargo la policía dice que confiscan más de 250 armas por día.

Hugh Thompson, rescatista de My Lai, muere a los 62
Y Hugh Thompson, ex piloto de helicóptero del ejército que ayudó a rescatar a civiles vietnamitas de soldados estadounidenses durante la masacre de My Lai, murió de cáncer. Tenía 62 años. El 16 de marzo de 1968, Thompson y otros dos soldados aterrizaron su helicóptero frente a tropas estadounidenses que disparaban contra civiles vietnamitas en la aldea My Lai. Le apuntaron sus armas a sus compañeros estadounidenses para impedir que siguieran la matanza y luego ayudaron a evacuar a los aldeanos. Después de muchos años de ser ignorados e incluso vilipendiados, en 1998 Thompson y los miembros de su equipo recibieron la Medalla al Soldado, el más alto galardón militar otorgado al coraje por acciones que no suponen enfrentamientos con el enemigo.

Maria: From Democracy Now!, here are twelve headlines. Remember that, as Marcia says, Democracy Now! is always informing you and that it provides each day's headlines in English and in Spanish, text and audio. Peace.

Abu Ghraib Commander Takes 5th Amendment At Trial
The Washington Post is reporting a high-ranking US army official has invoked his right not to incriminate himself while testifying in the military tribunal of two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The decision by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller – who helped set up interrogations at Abu Ghraib -- comes shortly after Col. Thomas Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, accepted immunity from prosecution this week and was ordered to testify at an upcoming military trial. According to the Post, Col. Pappas, could be asked how abusive tactics emerged, who ordered their use and their possible connection to officials in Washington. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: "It's a steppingstone going up the chain of command, and that's positive. It might demonstrate that it wasn't just a few rotten apples."

Public Tribunal Delivers War Crimes Indictments to White House
And in Washington Tuesday, the public action group the Bush Crimes Commission delivered a set of 5 indictments to the White House. The indictments allege the Bush administration has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The indictments were drafted at the first International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, held in New York City in October. The second commission of inquiry will be held at Columbia University beginning on January 20th.

NSA Extensively Spied on Baltimore Peace Group
This news on the Bush administration’s domestic spy program – the website has obtained government documents showing the National Security Agency spied on the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a Quaker-linked peace group. The documents indicate the group was extensively monitored, with detailed records of their travel movements, driving routes -- and even the helium balloons they used in a protest. On one day, the group’s movements were reported every 15 minutes. And at a protest during "Keep Space for Peace Week", the NSA planned to conduct ariel surveillance and have a Weapons of Mass Destruction Rapid Response Team nearby.

NSA Denies Whistleblower's Demand To Testify Before Congress
Meanwhile, ABC News is reporting the National Security Agency has denied the request of whistleblower Russell Tice to testify before Congress. Tice, a former intelligence agent at the NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency who has spoken out against the domestic spy program, was told he is not free to testify because staff members on Capitol Hill do not have high enough security clearance to hear the secrets he has to tell. Tice first spoke out on record on Democracy Now last week.

Padilla Pleads Not Guilty in Miami
In this country, Jose Padilla has pleaded not guilty on terrorism charges in Miami. A judge denied his request for bail. Padilla was only charged in November after over three years in solitary confinement on a military brig in South Carolina. At the time of his arrest in May 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft accused Padilla of involvement in "a terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive 'dirty bomb.'" None of his current charges include these allegations. Last month, a federal appeals court suggested the Bush administration only charged Padilla to thwart his pending Supreme Court appeal. His trial has been set for September.

Wal-Mart Mulls Challenge as Maryland Passes Health Law
In Maryland, state legislators passed a law Thursday that would require retail giant Wal-Mart to increase health care spending for its employees. The measure is expected to be replicated in other states. The measure overrode a gubernatorial veto and followed an intense lobbying battle between Wal-Mart and labor groups. Under the new law, employers with 100,000 or more workers must devote at least 8 percent of their payrolls to health insurance, or pay the difference into a state Medicaid fund. A Wal-Mart spokesperson told the New York Times the company is considering bringing a lawsuit to challenge the law. Democratic State Senator Gloria Lawlah, who sponsored the bill, said: "This is not a Wal-Mart bill, it's a Medicaid bill." This bill says to the conglomerates, 'Don't dump the employees that you refuse to insure into our Medicaid systems.' "

Leading Polluters Refuse Gas Targets At Inaugural Meeting
And in Australia, six of the world's leading polluting countries announced a multi-million dollar fund to develop clean-energy -- but insisted they will continue to rely on polluting fossil-fuels to run their industries and economies. The United States, China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia -- which together account for nearly half the world's emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases -- were holding the inaugural Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.They've formed the group as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, which has set firm emissions targets. Representatives of the world's biggest mining and energy firms attended the talks. The final declaration said private corporations will be encouraged, but not required, to cut gas emissions. It also said fossil fuels QUOTE: "will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes and beyond."
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman: "I don't count this a change in policy. What this is is a, if you will, a harnessing of the private sector. It is recognizing the fact that it is the private sector that makes the investment decisions - in all of these countries - not just the U.S. and all of the countries - it is the private sector that develops the technology. It is the private sector that gains the benefits from those investments and is in a position to share."
Environmental groups slammed the talks as a sham.
Greenpeace energy spokesperson Catherine Fitzpatrick : "Currently the global business community and governments spend 250-300 billion US dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel sector. If we want to deal with climate change we need to shift that finance to clean energy."

Appeals Court Reinstates $54M Verdict Against Ex-Salvadoran Generals
In this country, a federal appeals court has reinstated a $54 million dollar verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals accused of torture in their home country two decades ago. Last February, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed an earlier decision against Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia. In 2002, the two were found liable under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act in a lawsuit brought by a church worker, doctor and professor who fled to the United States after being brutalized by Salvadoran soldiers.

Report: 95% of Illegal Weapons in Mexico Originate in US
This news from Mexico -- the Los Angles Times is reporting an estimated 95% of weapons confiscated from suspected criminals in Mexico were first sold legally in the United States. Mexican officials interviewed by the Times blamed the US' lax gun laws, which are a stark contrast to Mexico's. There are fewer than 2,500 registered gun owners in Mexico, yet police say they confiscate more than 250 weapons a day.

My Lai Rescuer Hugh Thompson Dies at 62
And Hugh Thompson, the former Army helicopter pilot who helped rescue Vietnamese civilians from fellow US troops during the My Lai massacre, has died cancer. He was 62 years old. On March 16, 1968, Thompson and two others landed their helicopter in front of US troops firing on Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai. They pointed their guns at their fellow service members to prevent more killings, and helped evacuate the villagers. After many years of being ignored and even vilified, Thompson and his crew members were honored in 1998 with the Soldier's Medal, the highest military award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy.

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