Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Another Sunday and it ran pretty smoothly for a change. We missed Rebecca's participation. But otherwise, it was a pretty smooth edition. We think that's in part because people had very tight schedules outside of the edition and we stayed focus.

Let's start with the obvious, Ava and C.I.'s latest TV feature, "TV Review: Crumbs or Morsels?"
Prepare to laugh. We did when we read it and didn't expect the left turn in the conclusion. It's an Ava and C.I. piece because of those left turns. By the time we were reading it, C.I. had already bailed. So we have only Ava's word on this, but this was the review that they had the least time to discuss (let alone write after discussing -- they watched the show while on the phone together but hadn't even compared notes until right before they grabbed time to write it) and it was also the easiest to write.

(If C.I. has a different opinion, we'll note it next week. We'll also note that in a piece last week when we jokingly repeated C.I.'s comment in jest about our book collections, the books that made the feature weren't being insulted. C.I. was, jokingly, making fun of how sparse our collections were, not insulting the books that we were able to include. A number of e-mails came in asking about that.)

What else you got? What else you want?

All features for this edition, with the exception of the TV review, were written by:

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

The State of the Union is TUESDAY [see note added]. That led to us noting a few states as well. "State of the Democratic Party" addresses the disappointment that the party was in 2005. "The Campus Report" provides a look at some of the political moods at colleges. "The real State of the Union Address" is what Bully Boy would say if he had any honesty. (Confession's good for the soul, Bully Boy.) We also offer up "Music soundtrack: Hair" which wasn't the Broadway musical whose soundtrack we were planning on reviewing. But readers assumed it was and were very excited by the prospect. Why musicals for our music piece (we're intending to do at least two more over the next few months)? Because Kat doesn't review them and doesn't intend to. Why try to do contemporary music when Kat does it so well? So we'll be reviewing at least two other musical soundtracks.

Leaving music, we return to a "State of the Uninformed." We want to be clear here, C.I. wasn't sure that we were in the article, we love Laura Flanders. We think she hosts a wonderful radio program and is smart, funny and insightful. We hated one guest. We hated him because he didn't seem to want to engage. He seemed to want to do his own talking points and didn't appear too interested in Flanders' questions or, even, to be listening to her at times. We also didn't like that he repeated false spin (the same nonsense Bill O'Reilly recently trotted out).
We listen to RadioNation with Laura Flanders (we'll be listening tonight when she has on Dave Zirin, among other guests), we love the show. Our criticism is directed at one guest, not at Flanders who attempted to engage the guest but he didn't seem to interested in a conversation. (He did seem really interested in pontificating on his book.) C.I.'s not participating in this note because it's back to speaking about the Alito nomination but C.I. had expressed concern about the feature and how it might be read. So let's clear that up. We love the show, we love Flanders, we listen each weekend. We didn't care for a guest who didn't seem to engage or know his facts.

What's left? "Editorial: Will the Dems Stand Up or Stab Us in the Back?" We really like this editorial. We weren't sure how it would go. C.I. had exactly thirty minutes before bail time. Ava and C.I. did the TV review and then joined us for the editorial (already in progress). Ava made some suggestions and we knew we wanted to end with NOW's action alert but we were honestly stuck. Tick-tock, tick-tock. "Oh for God's sake, this is Shampoo!" C.I. said. Huh? "It's the big scene where Jill and George officially end it." We're still going, "Huh?" while C.I. asks Ava (C.I. and Ava being the only reliable note takers) to "take this down" and then dictates a portion of the scene. "Gotta' go."

Will it work? We're skeptical (and we've all seen the film and enjoy it tremendously). Then Ava types into it into the editorial and we see it. It's like the entire piece was working up to that point. Will the Democrats be faithful to the base? They haven't been thus far, not the "leaders."
We think this is our favorite editorial of the year. Jess dubs it "organic."

Hopefully, you'll find something to enjoy, something to scream about, something that makes you think. We'll see you next weekend.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava

C.I. phoned and asked, "How tired were you?" Real tired. The State of the Union is Tuesday (not Monday as this originally stated) and there are protests. From The World Can't Wait:

In large cities and town squares across the country, we will rally one hour before Bush's address. At 9:00 PM let the world hear us as we symbolically drown out Bush's lies bring your own noise - drums, pots and pans, musical instruments - your voice. Let taxi horns blare and church bells ring, as we bring our own state of the union message: BUSH STEP DOWN!
Find a protest in your area.

Easiest way you can get active. Do it.

Editorial: Will the Dems Stand Up or Stab Us in the Back?

So we go through the e-mails this week and one stands out. Sharon, 21 years-old, lives in Nebraska. Sharon's got a job, she's got college classes, she's maid of honor at her best friend's wedding (two weeks away) and she really doesn't have "time to waste."

She wrote about how she believes in reproductive rights, supports reproductive rights and is sick of the Democratic Party backing away from the pro-choice position, she wants a filibuster, "but what's the point? They're not going to do it."

What's the point? That's actually a good question.

We don't know Sharon's exact time schedule but we do think it's worth letting as many senate offices as you can call on Monday know that you want a filibuster.

Here's why.

We believe in the filibuster as an option to be used by the opposition party (that includes when Republicans are once again in the minority). We believe in using the filibuster on the Alito nomination.

Do we believe that senators will use the filibuster for this?

Some of us are hopeful, some of us are guarded and some of us are flat out disgusted with the party's "leaders" and don't think there's a chance of a filibuster.

But we're all doing our part to insist upon a filibuster.

Is that because those disgusted are such good friends of the others that we'll freely give of our time for something we doubt will happen? No.

It's because the base is calling the leadership out. The people are saying filibuster.

What's the party going to do?

We know what they should do, fight. Listen to the base's cries of "Fight!" and fight.

We believe in fighting for what you believe in. We believe in standing up.

And we also believe in knowing who won't fight.

If the Dems don't filibuster, the spineless will be on full view.

We'll know they can't be counted on.

There's a scene in Shampoo where Goldie Hawn's Jill confronts Warren Beatty's George on his infidelity throughout their relationship.

JILL: So who else was there besides Jackie? Huh? . . . huh?
GEORGE: Baby, don't do this. I do love you.
JILL: Obviously there were others, weren't there?
GEORGE: Obviously.
JILL: How many?
GEORGE: What do you wanna know for?
JILL: I just want to know, that's all.
GEORGE: What difference does it make?
JILL: I just want to know while we were seeing each other . . . I just don't want girls looking at me and knowing and me not knowing . . .
GEORGE: Baby, please don't . . . I love you.
JILL: I don't want to be a fool! . . . I want to look them in the eye and say, I know!
GEORGE: Baby, don't do this --
JILL: -- it'll help me if you'll tell me.
GEORGE: -- please, baby --
JILL: -- no, it'll help me, really --
JILL: I'll know you've lied to me . . . all along. I'll know you're incapable of . . . love . . . that'll help me . . . not now, but eventually.

(From the script by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty)

That's really where we are right now. The loyal voters are Jill. We've been willfully blind to what's gone on (and continues to go on) behind our backs. We've believed the sweet talk. We've accepted the excuses.

Why demand Democrats filibuster? Because you believe in reproductive rights. Because you believe in standing up. And because you believe in knowing the truth. It'll help you. Not, if they take a dive, the morning after, "but eventually" (as Jill says). It will open our eyes.

Early in Shampoo, Jill has an offer for a modeling job that will take her to Egypt. She's interested in the job but putting her life on hold because she thinks George is with her, by her side. When she realizes that George is in it for George, she takes the modeling job and gets on with her life.

Knowing who will fight and who will cave will help the loyal base get on with their lives too. It will certainly make it easier to toss those mass mailings begging for donations into the trash without a second thought. It'll make us rightly skeptical of certain Dems who, when they campaign for president in 2008, speak of how they will fight for us.

What it will be is a very revealing moment.

We hope it doesn't come to that. We hope the Dems filibuster (and we hope the filibuster is successful). But it's time to call them on it one way or another. It's time to know if they're going to fight or continue to roll over.

Need help getting active? We'll note this from NOW:

Support the Filibuster - Defeat Alito
After all your calls, emails and action, two senators are taking the lead in defeating ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) are organizing the filibuster of Judge Alito and they need the support of 39 other senators in order to block a straight up or down vote.
Please make as many phone calls as you can before Monday at 4:30pm, when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will call for a vote to end debate on Alito. Of the self-proclaimed women's rights supporters in the Senate, more are announcing public support for the filibuster every hour. Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein have just signed on in support, and more of those who have offered private support need to give it publicly. Others are on the fence, and need to hear from us that their support for women's rights is hollow unless they back the filibuster and vote NO on cloture.
NOW has put together a
list of senators (self-described women's rights supporters) who need our firm encouragement to come out publicly and join the filibuster (and some, like Chafee and Snowe, haven't even said they'll vote NO on the nomination!).
Remember, without a filibuster, Judge Alito WILL be confirmed. In a straight up or down vote, we need 51 "NO" votes to defeat Alito, but in a filibuster, we need only 41 votes to block Frist's effort to end debate.
We've asked for a lot from you over the last few months, and together we've made great progress—just a week ago a filibuster seemed out of the question! Now that we've come this close, we need your help with this final push. If Judge Alito takes a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court—replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor—all of our hard-fought rights are in danger.
Please call one or more of the Senators below, especially if you live in their state (click on the Senator's name for district office numbers). Please share this alert widely and ask friends to join the fight!

Senators to call (list as of 1/27/06 4:30pm) - an updated list is available
on our website:
Mark Pryor (D- AR)
Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D- AR)
Ken Salazar (D- CO)
Joseph I. Lieberman (D- CT)
Thomas R. Carper (D- DE)
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D- DE)
Bill Nelson (D- FL)
Daniel K. Akaka (D- HI)
Daniel K. Inouye (D- HI)
Tom Harkin (D- IA)
Barack Obama (D- IL)
Evan Bayh (D- IN)
Barbara A. Mikulski (D- MD)
Carl Levin (D- MI)
Mark Dayton (D- MN)
Max Baucus (D- MT)
Byron L. Dorgan (D- ND)
Robert Menendez (D- NJ)
Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ)
Jeff Bingaman (D- NM)
Charles Schumer (D- NY)
Lincoln D. Chafee (R- RI)
Patrick J. Leahy (D- VT)
Maria Cantwell (D- WA)
Patty Murray (D- WA)
Herb Kohl (D- WI)
John D. Rockefeller, IV (D- WV)
Support NOW's Work for Equal Rights Join NOW Shop Online Member Benefits
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TAKE ACTION:Get Involved Legislative Action Center Find Your Nearest Chapter Tell a Friend

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; 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.]

TV Review: Crumbs or Morsels?

Nobody explodes like Jane Curtain. The pressure builds, she contracts bodily and, just when you don't expect it: Boom!

Though too often overlooked, she's one of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players (Saturday Night Live). Contrary to conventional wisdom, she did do characters. And that went beyond the Coneheads. She was "Mrs. Loopner" (Ined Loopner) with an accent, a humped over posture and a fully developed character. But a lot of the time, she used her own voice and no character make up, so her contributions are frequently not noted. One of her most prominent skits was as the Weekend Update anchor (she soloed as well as co-anchored). It was there that her comedic skill at explosions first drew attention. Exploding at Emily Litella or, later, Roseanne Rosannadanna, you only forced your laughter to stop in order to savor Gilda Radner's reaction to the explosion. (Radner played both Litella and Rosannadanna.)

Movie stardom's always a tricky thing. And movies haven't been interested in starring SNL women. Some would argue it's the box office returns. They'd do well to check out the returns on some of the males who starred repeatedly in films that failed to turn a profit. Curtain's shot at movie stardom came with How to Beat the High Co$t of Living. She provided laughter, alongside Susan St. James and Jessica Lange, in this caper comedy. And that's really pretty much it for movie stardom.

Fortunately, she's always had a home on TV. In the seventies, that was at Saturday Night Live for the first five years (to some, the best years). In the eighties, CBS reteamed her and Susan St. James for Kate & Allie. Though often overlooked, the sitcom was a success, lasted six seasons and helped dispell the "Death of Sitcom" talk. (Yes, kids, though your water cooler critics fail to tell you, we've been through this all before.) In the nineties, she returned to NBC -- in prime time! -- with the hit series 3rd Rock From the Sun (which also lasted six seaons). Now, in this decade, she moves over to ABC with Crumbs.

There's a tendancy on the part of the some to downgrade what Curtain does. An assumption, by some, that she just plays herself repeatedly. That assumption ignores the fact that she's known for her sense of privacy and "introvert" is the word that many feel best sums up the actress. Onscreen, Curtain usually doesn't play introverts. It also overlooks the fact that some of our finest TV comedians played more or less the same character in various sitcoms. (Lucille Ball, for starters, and, after you note Ball, you really can rest your case.)

In Crumbs, Curtain plays Suzanne. Suzanne's starting life over. Her husband left her for a younger woman -- who's pregnant, one of her children died, and Suzanne had a nervous breakdown. She's now out of the mental institution (where she had an affair with an orderly) and trying to cope. The therapy group of divorced women didn't help her too much (though it was hysterical watching her squirm as one woman shared and shared and . . .) so she ended up joining a crystal meth rehab group (they had better snacks).

If any of that strikes you as funny (and it does us), you should check out Crumbs (which currently airs Thursday nights on ABC). Crumb is the family name. William Devane plays Billy Crumb and you really, really want to hate him, but Devane manages to make you care. There two sons are Jack, played by Eddie McClintock, and Mitch, played by Fred Savage.

Savage, of course, starred in the Wonder Years and some gentle souls are shocked by the fact that Mitch is a gay character. Oh, get over your shock and ignore the obvious, the way you did all those years you enjoyed Mr. Belvedere.

Jack and Mitch are at odds. Jack runs an eatery and Mitch has returned from Hollywood where he was a screenwriter. Was. If Mitch's nature runs more the along the lines of Devane's laid back style, McClintock plays Jack in such a way that he truly seems like the son of Curtain.
Jack's rage is always on a simmer (in an amusing manner because McClintock, unlike Seth Green, can act) and ready to boil at any moment.

Mitch is your designated tour guide. But, to compare Crumbs to a similar show, unlike CBS' Out of Practice, the people behind Crumbs know what to do with their young male lead caught in the middle. Mitch isn't just observing, he's providing funny moments (moments Christopher Gorham could provide -- and Out of Practice is on hiatus while they attempt to deal with some issues, the problem's not the cast). Savage has enough weight that he doesn't come off as whiny when he plays scenes that others would turn into vintage Woody Allen. Such as when Curtain suprises him one morning by bringing the paper, and herself, into his bedroom. "Oh look, Morning Wood" says Curtain to an embarrassed Savage. (She's referring to getaway, avertised in the paper, named Morning Wood.)

The difference between Out of Practice and Crumbs is that, while both programs have strong casts, Crumbs has talented writers. When a sitcom fires on all cylinders, it's a pleasure to sit back and enjoy. Sandwiched between Dancing With Stars (or whatever the "BBC production" is called) and Prime Time Live, Crumbs lacks the reinforcement that a strong lineup could provide. Teaming it up with Life According to Jim and other sitcoms would be a smart move.

After we watched My Name Is Earl last week, we felt as if all the life had been sucked out of us. Flipping channels, we happened to catch the last ten minutes of Crumbs. It restored the laughter. Was it a fluke? Not at all. How good is the show? So good that our "research" was confined to hunting down whether or not ABC still intends to stand by it? (Some offer an optimistic "of course!" but we're more inclined to believe a friend in programming who stated, "When has ABC ever stood by anything?")

So who knows how long the show will be on? You'd be smart to catch it next week -- when Devane experiences a career change.

Currently, Devane's character is attempting to get his massage license (he's many hours short).
His career path's about to change. Will it be good for the show?

Possibly, but wanting to provide "trend stories" like all the other lucky guys and gals who went to Water Cooler U, we're a bit sad by the change because it may mean no more massages for Mitch. While watching Thursday, we realized there was a trend story emerging in this season. Fred Savage and others have been able to do what Ben Affleck couldn't, make body hair fashionable.

Call this season: the Year of the Furry Pecs. That's right, stop the waxing, chest hair is the new trend. Fred Savage is sporting it, two of the Four Kings are sprouting it (Josh Cooke and Todd Grinnell), Michael Weatherly of Navy NCIS isn't afraid to let his hair-shirt fly, it's here a sprout, there a swirl, everywhere a tuft, tuft.

How could the water cooler set fail to note this mind blowing development. An entire sub-industry of the body waxing could be about to go under! And what are the implications for the WB! Yes, it's merging with UPN but what will they have to offer without their freshly plucked boys? And what impact will it have on the body wash operettas? We'd hate to think they might wash down less easily now as a result of hair clogs.

Who will cash in on the new trend? We shudder at the thought of Burt Reynolds schilling for chest wigs just to make a few quick bucks, but it may come to that. The implications boggle the mind. If men stop waxing, might women realize that the little, Hitler-like mustache so many now sport, below the waist, is both comical and disgusting? Might Ingas and Lucindas across the nation have to find other forms of torture by which to work out their own frustrations?

We don't know. We just know it's a trend. 2006: The Year of the Furry Pecs.

State of the Democratic Party

Lethargic and lost. That characterizes the Democratic Party today. Howard Dean's passionate speeches are a thing of the not so distant past. Yes, even Dean seems like he's taking heavy doses of Lithium. Or maybe, while no one was looking, there was an Invasion of the Lieberman People?

It's as though the spirit of dissent is silenced from Bully Boy's ass to Joe Lieberman's mouth and then throughout the rest of the party.

2004 seems a lifetime ago. During the campaigning, we heard lots of big talk about fighting and standing up and then came election day. We're supposed to take comfort, to hear some spin it, in the alleged belief that John Edwards was opposed to the ticket throwing in the towel and that Edwards had serious questions about the Ohio vote. It's funny because we don't remember him standing with Barbara Boxer or Stephanie Tubbs Jones. What's the point of concerns if you don't express them publicly?

We've seen a few individuals in the party speak out such as Boxer and Tubbs Jones, Barbara Lee, John Conyers. Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters. We've also seen a lot more than we'd care to see of Ben Nelson who seems to be understudying Joe Lieberman's role in the party (useless idiot) in case Lieberman loses his Senate seat.

Hillary Clinton seems to be both inspiring & studying Geena Davis' Commander-in-Chief character to prove just how macho she is. Lately, you get the idea that if Bully Boy went wobbly, Hill would be perfectly happy to take a few Green Berets to Iran and kick some butt all by herself. We get your point, Hillary, a woman can be anything a man can be. You've demonstrated that a woman can be as vile, as craven, and as sicken with the blood & war lust as any man. You're what the industry trades used to call "a break through." Now that you've broken hopes and dreams could you quietly exit the stage?

How does a Democratic get good mainstream? Not by taking brave stands. The Gang of Fourteen (killing the filibuster in their own right) found Dems and Republicans working together praised by the mainstream press. It was almost a McCain moment for the mainstream press as they gushed over the hybrids. Dems seem to have internalized that and seem to think that the press is on their side. Like the battered spouse who tells herself things really will be different now, spineless Dems cover up their bruises and force a smile.

The truly brave get ignored publicly and, by the way, is there any reporter at Newsweek who can utter John Conyers' name without a facial grimace? Seriously, is there one reporter at the publication that can? And when did it become so fashionable for reporters (not op-ed writers or columnists) to flaunt their political bias?

Though some wanted to tell you that it wasn't happening, 2005 was the year the Democratic Party turned away from the strong support for reproductive rights. Remember the uproar over Hillary's remarks early in the year? Well, there really wasn't that much of an uproar. In fact, there was more of an uproar over people calling her out for (yet again) repositioning herself. "Hillary's always been there for reproductive rights!" was the response to those who dared point out the obvious. Still think so? As Hillary goes so goes the conventional wisdom of the party.

2005 was the year Bill Clinton made nice with Poppy Bush and denied even knowing of the Downing Street Memos on David Letterman (long after everyone was talking of them -- and Bill's always had his ear to the grapevine). Hillary's main office in New York struck a similar pose when constituents phoned in asking that she speak out on DSM. Callers were repeatedly asked what they were speaking of? Apparently not only had Hillary not heard of them, but her staff suffered from a severe short term memory loss.

Nancy Pelosi seemed shocked when protesters greeted her recently demanding that she stop voting to fund the occupation. But, she argued, if we didn't fund it, then what would happen? The troops would have to come home, Nancy. And you're smart enough to know that.

What's the biggest Democratic name providing any hope/leadership/sense of direction? Al Gore. The man the party and the press have disowned. We can't figure out if he's "the outsider as insider" or if it's the other way around. But you don't get the idea that Gore wakes up each morning wondering what pollsters are pushing as "electable" that day.

Want to know what Hillary and similar Democrats fear most? That Al Gore will run for president in 2008. They know they've burned bridges. They also know that Hillary can't really debate Al in a public forum the way she can others. What's she going to call him on? One of her husband's policies?

Al Gore, our elected but never sworn in president, isn't offering mealy mouth fine tuning. He's sounding alarms over and over. That's leadership.

We're not sure what to make of John Kerry's late call for a filibuster. Is it genuine? We don't know. We'll watch closely to see what follows. It packed more punch than any of John Edwards fuzzy talk. He still seems convinced that he can play it like he's "The Man from Hope" and that, if he could pull that off, the country's in the mood for a retread at present.

Those inside the Senate wanting to be President (including Russ Feingold and Ron Wyden) really haven't led the way. We've seen each come out strong an issue but we haven't seen leadership. We haven't seen a strong desire to break from the pack and speak truth to power. Time and again, it's been left to Al Gore to demonstrate how much America lost out on when the Supreme Court decided that they were more important than voters in an election. There really were differences in the two major parties in 2000.

If the Democrats had any guts, they'd have Al Gore deliver the rebutal to the State of the Union speech Tuesday. But instead they're still stuck in the myth that "values voters" decided the election (and loathe to address the realities of the Ohio vote). The fact of the matter is that the votes (counted) didn't provide Bully Boy with a "mandate" (unless, possibly, Bully Boy meant some evening plans he had with Jeff Gannon).

For those who've forgotten the tallies were:

Bully Boy: 62,040,610
Kerry: 59,028,111

That's not a mandate, that's not a landslide. That's a close election. The totals should have led Democrats to strengthen positions and winning platforms. Instead, they acted as though the party was in crisis. They rushed to hop on the non-existant "values voters" bandwagon.

A record turnout was ignored and those who had supported the Party were pushed aside as Dems postured and preened. Women voters , who consistently provide the Party with the largest number of votes, found themselves dismissed the same way the party dismissed union members and African-Americans before. Though the party membership is overwhelmingly pro-choice, the anti-choice Harry Reid was made Senate Minority Leader. A slap in the face to the voters and a strategic mistake since Reid has shown no desire to impose party discipline himself (as he all but bragged to Elsa Walsh of The New Yorker while also revealing that on the use of the filibuster he consulted Karl Rove).

A further slap in the face came when telecommunications lobbyist Simon Rosenberg nearly was installed as DNC chair. "Man of the people" Slimey Simon was known for making public noises about the need to address the Hugo Chavez problem (Chavez is a "problem" for non-libs), for being trained by mentors like Joe Lieberman, for his failure to address issues pertaining to African-American voters and for his sudden discovery (post-election) of Latino voters. (With which he attempted to stab John Kerry in the back -- "period." -- only to have his claims refuted when the data he based his claims on was disproven.) It's no real surprise that Simon slimed on over to the telecommunications industry after he wasn't installed as DNC chair. It is amazing that he managed to fool so many for a short time.

But the people rallied. And if there's one consistant sign of hope in the Democratic Party, it comes from the people not the media designated leaders. The people got behind Howard Dean and told the Party loudly and clearly that they weren't taking a Lieberman protegee. The people sent out the message that they wanted the troops home when pols were still talking "fine tuning." The people embraced Cindy Sheehan despite the efforts of many to water down her position (and claim that she wasn't for bringing the troops home now). The people marched and rallied throughout 2005. They included Dems, they included Greens and even some conservatives. That's an electorate that could win national elections.

But the Democratic Party wasn't interested in that potential electorate. Instead, of addressing issues like universal health care, they mistook themselves for clerry and not lawmakers. 2005 was the year of Republican-lite for the Democratic Party as the attempted to ape the Republican Party as closely as possible. They took a dive on the confirmation of John Roberts and they seemed to think they could take another dive on Samuel Alito. The people weren't having it. So the Party's staging a fight in some form. (We'll soon find out how sincere they are.)

Does the Party have any goals or objectives or just a severe case of 'vangical-voters-envy? The answer may emerge in 2006.

The Campus Report

This week, C.I. twice noted the mood on campuses. Since you've got a number of college students (Ty, Dona, Jim, Jess, Ava, Wally, and Mike) working on each edition, Kat visiting one campus to speak to students and C.I. going all over the country, we think we can offer a little more insight than gas bags from NPR or the Sunday chat & chews.

What's the mood of the country? The "mood"? Have you mistaken us for Adam Nagourney? We're a diverse nation and that's reflected on campuses.

You do have two poles, one on the right, one of the left. In the middle, you have students who don't generally participate in politics for a number of reasons including, for some, lack of time to follow the twists and turns of the nation.

From the right, those of us who are students can recall at least one "Okay I'm worried" moment this week. We've all encountered it as someone who disagrees with us in every class on every issue felt the need to approach and reveal serious concerns about the Bully Boy's warrantless spying.

The Why We Spy spin (nod to Amy Goodman for coining that phrase) must be aimed at the center of the population because it's not going over well with conservative students who've followed this developing story. Some feel that Bully Boy had the right to do what he did but cloaking it in spin weakens his case. Like Bully Boy, they favor a system with less checks and balances. Some have been truly concerned since the use of the NSA to spy on Americans was revealed and had hoped that Bully Boy, when he started talking, would provide some reasoning.

"Conservatives do not back this policy," one conservative student leader stated. "This goes against everything we stand for and is the sort of thing Slick Willie would pull."

Yes, the right still loathes Bill Clinton even though some of them were 12 and 13 when he was last in office. If you're expecting that the converse is true, that those students on the left are cheering Bill Clinton, you're mistaken. Those who even bother to mention him speak of their embarrassment that he fails to speak out against the war and on any number of topics. Is Hillary Clinton his proxy?

If so, she is spoken of. It's not good. She's seen as backing off reproductive rights, she's seen as a war supporter, she's seen as someone who will say and do anything to become president. We're speaking of the way she's viewed here and this isn't from whispered conversations as one person approaches (or, in three cases, where conservatives actually made their statements against Bully Boy's spying to an entire class, and good for them). There's no prompting needed in the New York area, she's topic number one. Around the country, she's a popular topic as well and on the verge of the kind of negatives only Joe Lieberman could possess.

Who is popular? Al Gore. Forget Bully Boy's Why We Spy campaign, the most talked of speech is Al Gore's MLK address. The facts are fuzzy for some students who aren't old enough to remember a great deal about Vice President Al Gore, but they do remember he supported Howard Dean, they do remember he spoke out against the war, there's a vague awareness of his new network, and there's the MLK address.

Will he run in 2008? If the presidential primaries were held today and decided by the students, he'd be the one to win the nomination. We're honestly surprised by the way he's been adopted by so many students. But it goes to the point that people want to see bravery and they want to see leaders who stand up. At this point in time, Al Gore's the one. For most people, he's the only one. That has a lot to do with a mainstream media that ignores the work of people like Barbara Lee and John Conyers. They ignore Gore as well, for the most part, and it's at their own peril. Ask for an example of media bias and the most cited example in recent times is the clampdown, the refusal to cover Al Gore's speech by the mainstream media.

The media? If you're not Democracy Now! the score card's not good. As a student in North Carolina stated, "The only thing I can count on the mainstream for is to make a mockery out of reporting."

Which goes beyond Al Gore. Democratic Senators should know that they are loathed on the left for not immediately advocating a filibuster of Samuel Alito. If it's any comfort, the mainstream media is loathed more.

What's happening on campuses, is that people are realizing that the media didn't do their job. Again. The media failed to explore Samuel Alito. Some can point to strong editorials after the hearings, but before the hearings they did soft coverage failing to examine the nominee's record.

As Senate Dems shrugged and said "Oh well," this became a big topic on campus and has caused the sort of enthusiasm we haven't seen on any issue other than the war. It's approaching the election fever in the lead up to the 2004 elections.

The moods? Wavering support of the Bully Boy by some conservatives due to the NSA warrantless spying. (Again, we've heard some speak against the criminal nature of the program and we've heard some complain about Bully Boy's soft sell/spin.) On the left, strong disappointment in the Democratic Party (intense anger might be more accurate). And those who are apolitical due to temperament or circumstance? That is, after all, what the press focuses on (and the bean counters in both parties), so where are they?

They're coming to the left. They're opening with, "Explain to me how that man [Alito] can be a sure thing for the Court when he's opposed to Roe v. Wade."

Students who were uncomfortable with participating in an anti-war rally months ago are now asking if there's a rally, any rally, coming up. They're wanting to know what they can do.

The mainstream media looks down on "activist journalists" but they've activated a healthy portion of the youth of this country with their superficial reporting on Alito.

The mainstream media that couldn't cover the Downing Street Memos is now all over Oprah Winfrey's book club (front paged on The New York Times Friday). And they wonder why they have less viewers, less readers, and declining faith and trust from Americans?

Democrats may be tempted to see all of this as a win. "Well, our side's rallying! This will be good in 2006!" "Our side"? Maybe if you're Al Gore. If you're one of the weak willed Democrats that can't speak against the war or utter the word "impeachment," you'd probably be better off realizing that you're seen as about as useful as a Greenpeace sticker on a S.U.V.

2006 should be the year of the Easy Win for Democrats. (Electronic voting machine issues set aside.) But 2002 should have been that as well. And it wasn't. It wasn't because Democrats failed to distinguish themselves from Republicans.

"We agree with them on all the topics but here's how we'd handle the situation" was the theme of 2002. That didn't work out too well but somehow a number of people missed that and what we're hearing thus far is a repeat of the losing slogan.

"What does it take for them to stand up?" asked one sophomore, the frustration in his voice clearly evident.

There is real disappointment and anger over the so-called opposition party's lack of opposition to one power grab after another, one lie after another on the part of the Bully Boy.

Students are tired of waiting for leadership that never comes. And they're taking ownership of their power instead of waiting for the Democrats to decide what's easiest to do.

On Tuesday, The New York Times noted this (buried in Eric Lichtblau's "Gonzales Invokes Actions of Other Presidents in Defense of U.S. Spying"):

More than two dozen students in the audience responded by turning their backs on Mr. Gonzales and standing stone-faced before live television cameras for the duration of his half-hour speech. Five protesters in the group donned black hoods and unfurled a banner, quoting Benjamin Franklin, that read, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

The same day Democracy Now! covered it with the scope fitting of news:

AG Gonzales' Defense Of U.S. Domestic Spy Program Draws Protests and Criticism from Law Professors, Students
On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared at Georgetown Law School to deliver an address defending the NSA domestic spy programs. During the course of his address, nearly 30 students stood up one-by-one and turned their back on Gonzales in protest. A panel of law professors addressed Gonzales' speech, calling it illegal. We play excerpts of Gonzales' speech and law professor David Cole responding. [includes rush transcript]

And Saturday, Laura Flanders interviewed one of the protesters, James Lyle, on RadioNation with Laura Flanders. Lyle, a second year law student, was part of the group that turned their back on Gonzlaes.

Lyle noted that the protest was put together in less than 24 hours. (Lyle himself found out around five p.m. that Gonzales would be visiting the campus the next morning.) A group of people got together to brainstorm because they realized the visit wasn't for the law school, "it was for the media," a photo-op to get the Georgetown logo behind him to make it look like the law was behind him. Lyle noted that Gonzales was flustered by the protest but continued reading from his prepared text.

Noting that "national security" is repeated over and over in the Why We Spy spin, Lyle compared it to the constant invoking of the mythical WMD in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.
On campus the reaction to the protest has been "overall" favorable and we're not surprised by that. As Lyle noted, "We're facing a Constitutional crisis . . . Unlmited war powers, unlimited war," and the nation doesn't look like the country we know.

Lyle's remarks reflect one of the moods on campus. It's a growing mood that was strong before but has only grown stronger as Bully Boy's found himself in yet another scandal and as the press has been busy spinning "Sure Thing Alito" since day one.

Lyle noted that there was support on campus for dissent "but the media really doesn't support it." (More information on Lyle's group can be found out Stand Up For The Law.)

On campus the center is pooling/flowing to the left. Though Cokie Roberts wrongly stated the youth had no impact on election 2004 (we'd call her a liar but that would imply that she'd done any research or reading before spouting off in the midst of her bad gas attack), the youth turnout in 2004 was huge. If Democrats wish to benefit from that, they're going to have to learn how to stand up.

The real State of the Union Address

Bully Boy: My fellow Americans, I got to tell you it looks great from here. In 2003, I got away with outing a CIA agent and it looks like in 2006, I'll get away with spying on innocent Americans without a warrant. National security! National security! National security!

I've placed one MAN on the Court and, fingers crossed and the good Lord Bill Frist willing, I'll have another MAN on the Court shortly.

Nothing's topped the high of lying the nation into war but I've got my eye on Iran so don't you worry.

I gotta tell you that going through life being called "Junior" and trying to live down my past as a cheerleader toughened me up to meet the challenges of today. They gave me the will and fortitude to prove my manhood.

Unlike my daddy, I took Saddam out! WOO-HOO!

Iraq is now free, a free market zone. We will STAY THE COURSE until we've done away with subsidies, privatized the oil industry and broken up the union. STAY THE COURSE.
We are dedicating to exporting democracy and other products we have no use for here so I point to my work in Afghanistan and Iraq with pride. Free elections! Bought and paid for with your tax dollars.

Goals. People talk a lot about goals. Here are some of mine.

1) 2006 will be the year that we give Hugo Chavez the Aristide treatment.

2) Having already destroyed the First, Second and Fourth Amendments, I want to expand on that. Those pesky anti-slavery amendments are next on my list and thanks to last year's bankruptcy bill and my guest workers program, endentured servitude will make a strong comeback.

3) Having done such a great job of selling off national parks and forests as well as the Arctic preserve, I could rest on my laurels. But if Hurricane Katrina taught me anything, it's that I can sell off entire urban cities. I'll do what I did with Katrina, nothing. Just sit on my butt, ignore the warnings, and wait for the aging infrastructures to fail. Don't worry, I'll ensure that all well- to- do Whites are transported out before the disaster hits.

4) The Jack Abramoff scandal has touched me. I've realized something I never knew before. Those people have a lot of money! How they'd get that money and who said they could have it? Having broken treaties like Geeneva, I want to think on a grander scale. All laws and treaties not signed by me are now null and void.

Culture of Profit is what I'm all about in 2006.

I ask you to stand with me as I tear America from its historic path and launch it on a new course. With the continued silence from the Democrats and the mainstream media, I think the goals are not only possible, they are inevitable.

Music soundtrack: Hair

When Kat noted (see "Mailbag") that we'd planned to note a Broadway soundtrack, e-mails poured in. Everyone assumed we'd be noting Hair. Actually, that wasn't the musical at all. But everyone seemed to think it was.

Sunday, Ty checked the e-mails and discovered an excitement that we might weigh in on Hair. By Monday, Hair was the most discussed topic in the e-mails after comments on Ava and C.I.'s TV review.

The initial reaction among many of us was, "What's Hair?" Others wondered, "Why Hair? Why now?" And if we were going to note it, which version? The original Broadway cast version seemed the obvious choice but on Monday Rebecca loaned a copy to Mike of The Actors' Fund of America Benefit Recording of Hair. We ended up going with that one. As noted in the notes (by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Joseph P. Benincasa):

And by purchasing this extraordinary recording, you not only have the opportunity to experience the magic of this incredible work -- interpreted by an outrageous collection of phenomenal artists -- but you have become a supporter of The Actors' Fund of America.
[. . .]
Founded in 1882, The Actors' Fund of America is the only national human service organization that provides for the welfare of entertainment professionals in every aspect of the entertainment industry. Not just performers, but also those behind the scenes, including support staff and all creative and technical professionals. The Fund takes care of the entire community.

More information can be found online by clicking here (or by calling 212-221-7300).

So what is Hair? Or what is Hair? Is?

1) March 9 through 12 and 16 through 19th, Brown University presents its production of the musical.
2) Glendale College (Glendale, CA) starts its performance on March 10th (concludes March 26th).
3) Rounding out the March performances, the Endicott Performing Arts Center in New York performs their production of Hair on March 10-12 and 17-19.

Hair (which started off Broadway, then moved to a disco and then to Broadway) is considered the first theatrical rock musical. Due to the musical scope, many of the songs translated into "hits" on the pop charts. Chances are, you've heard songs from the musical.

The title song ("Hair") was a hit for the Cowsills (don't ask, picture a real version of the Patridge Family), "Let the Sunshine In/Aquarias" was a huge hit for the Fifth Dimension (six weeks at number one), Three Dog Night had a hit with "Easy to Be Hard," and Oliver had a big hit with "Good Morning Starshine" (which other artists, including Sarah Brightman, have covered). That's four hit singles from one musical. (The only other Broadway musical to score a number one hit in the sixties was Hello Dolly with Louis Armstrong's version of the title song.) Other tracks, have also surfaced over the years. (The Lemonheads recorded "Frank Mills" on their album It's A Shame About Ray.) Chances are you know a song or two without even being aware it's from the musical. The music was written by Galt Mac Dermont and the lyrics (and book) by Gerome Ragni and James Rado.

The play takes place in the 1960s. (Though a recent London production updated it to current times.) Broadway lovers can see the play (though they don't have to) as what happens after Steven Sondheim's "Everybody Says Don't" (Anyone Can Whistle, 1964). Why? Hair is all about the conventional wisdoms that rain down from society. That's conventional wisdom on expression (Hair featured swearing and nudity -- to the shock of some theater goers), on war, on mores and norms.

LBJ took the IRT
Down to 4th street USA
When he got there, what did he see?
The youth of America on LSD
The Vietnam War waging.

That's from the song "Initials." Among others name checked throughout the musical are Stokely Carmichael, Timothy Leary, Roman Polanski, and Abraham Lincoln. What's the story? NYU student Sheila is in love with Claude and Berger. All three are members of "The Tribe" which is a group of Hippies. Claude's number comes up in the draft and . . . Wait, do you want to know how it ends?

We starve; look; at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation
Of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
[. . .]
Let the sunshine
Let the sunshine in
The sunshine in...

There we gave you the final song. That's all we're going to do. See the play, buy a soundtrack.

The soundtrack we bought (The Actors' Fund of America Benefit Recording) was recorded on October 1, 2004 following a one night only September benefit performance of the musical.
Among those participating that you may know are Lea DeLaria, Jai Rodriguez, Ana Gasteyer and Harvey Fierstein.

Broadway musical lovers may recognize the names of other participants. We're not Broadway musical lovers. We're not Broadway musical haters. We're pretty much (collectively speaking with exceptions for some participating) Broadway musically ignorant.

Which is why when we say you will probably enjoy this album, you probably will. This is an accessible soundtrack, an accessible musical. Possibly, current events have made it more so? We think it's more than that. The melodies are strong and in a genre that many will have no trouble relating to. You can hum along before you learn the words.

And, here's the other reason, besides readers' anticipation, that we skipped ahead to Hair, you can follow the story through the songs. The musical we've been listening to . . .

Some of us enjoy the songs so much we have no idea what the story is. Others of us aren't sure the story (beyond a one sentence summary) is in the songs. We've avoided renting a movie version of the play because that would defeat the purpose of reviewing the (Broadway) cast recording. Instead, we usually put it on and curse Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! for drawing it to our attention. (We don't really curse Goodman or DN! but for those wanting to guess which musical we had intended to note first, surf the DN! website and see if you can figure it out.)

There were no problems with accessibility for Hair. You can follow the plot and you can still enjoy the songs. The arrangements sound more contemporary than you might expect and those lending their voices to this recording seem to be a fine marriage of voice and song.

So you aren't Broadway musical lovers? No. You'll never catch any of us at a Disney animated film come to life on the big stage, for instance. So why cover Broadway musicals?

Readers want more musical coverage in the editions and we knew Kat had no desire to cover Broadway musicals, so it was up for grabs. Final recommendation, if you live in or near one of the three areas staging Hair in March, make a point to see the musical.

State of the Uninformed

RadioNation with Laura Flanders is a radio program, airing Saturdays and Sundays, worth listening to and we always do while we work on these editions. Laura Flanders is a strong interviewer committed to going beyond the obvious. Which is why she could make the interview with Chris Willman listenable.

But ay-yi-yi. Is there a more uninformed writer than Willman? Sure there are and many of them write beside him at Entertainment Weekly.

Willman felt the need to weigh in on the Dixie Chicks. It's a shame he didn't possess as many facts as he did words. (Has anyone ever so loved the sound of their own voice?) For instance, the CD Home didn't fall off the charts. It did drop from its number one perch. It didn't fall off the charts. It remained in the top ten even in the face of the right-wing attacks. "Travelin' Soldier" did do a nose dive. Why did the single do a nose dive while the album remained in the top ten (week after week)? Willman's not able to tell. Either he's willfully useless or he just can't help it.

The singles chart is based on both sales and airplay. The Dixie Chicks were targeted and radio boycott them. That included Clear Channel whom Willman wanted to carry water for. Suprising? No, not at all. No more surprising than an employee of the AOL Time Warner Disney CNN ABC et al corporation being unable to speak to the issue of media consolidation in any intelligent manner when Flanders asked him to do so. But to imply that sales were down based on a singles chart (which combines airplay with sales) was one of the more jaw dropping statements coming from the mouth of Little Willy.

His pass to Clear Channel was so broad that he didn't note Clear Channel's heavily promoted "talent" Glenn Beck attacked the Dixie Chicks every chance he had and that went far beyond his radio show. It included his rallies across the country and don't kid yourself that Beck paid for those.

A caller suggested that the Dixie Chicks had it coming (a male caller) and Willman was happy to explore that but not willing to explore Laura Flanders' question as to whether the Chicks being women played into the attacks.

"Some" think so, Willman offered. Do some, Little Willy, do they?

But, Willman, who was on to discuss country music, immediately offered that Jennifer Aniston trashed Bully Boy to Rolling Stone and that didn't hurt her. WTF?

Michael Moore's not been hurt either and we'd argue that comparing him to a country music star makes as much sense as comparing Aniston, an actress, to one. But Willman's talking, yet again, about something he knows very little about.

Jennifer Aniston's remarks appeared in Rolling Stone. In an issue that was rushed off display. Why? It went on sale immediately before 9/11. Rolling Stone rushed like crazy to get a new issue out quickly. (Motivated largely by their desire to weigh in on 9/11.) With the exception of the Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby (among others) cover story (that the press was onto and about to break RS's scoop that Crosby was the biological father of Etheridge and Julie Cypher's child), Rolling Stone's rarely hustled so.

Most Americans aren't aware of that issue of Rolling Stone or what Aniston said. It should also be noted that Brad Pitt makes jokes, in the same article, about one of Bully Boy's then under-drinking-age twins (who was trying -- and failing -- to get a toe hold in the industry) and beer.
(No, this isn't the Ashton Kutchner cover story that everyone knows about. Again, Rolling Stone rushed to get the Aniston issue out of the stores.)

So Dixie Chicks, a country music act, and Aniston are seen as equivalent in Little Willy's eyes?

Not surprising since he had little time for women in his discussion. He managed to weigh in and get most facts wrong on the Dixie Chicks. He also managed to trash Jewel. But his focus was males. He had kind words (many, many kind words) for Rodney Crowell (who'll be on RadioNation with Laura Flanders next weekend), Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw . . . It was a parade of his (male) heroes. Nancy Griffith got her name mentioned once. With a minute left in the show, Little Willy felt the need to say that when CNN broadcast that Faith Hill was a Republican "her people" contacted CNN to ask what gave them that idea. But then he was back to his-heroes-have-always-been-cowboys push and talking 'bout Toby Keith.

He infuriated us (and Ava and C.I. loathe him from way back -- the rest of us now understand why). While asking for a greater understanding of country music (something we wish he possessed), Little Willy sneered at "30 year-old soccer moms." (And no, Little Willy, they are not desired demographic of programmers of country music radio stations but it did allow you to get another slam in against women, didn't it? Will you and Ken Tucker head-butt on Monday?)

At one point, while name checking Steve Earl, Little Willy noted that his program aired on Air America. We'd suggest that Little Willy try listening to it. Earl offers up deeper observations on the state of music (including country music) than anything Little Willy had to offer. We'd also suggest that Little Willy listen, period. Not only might he have been able to answer Flanders' questions if he had listened, he might also have heard "We've got to go to break."

Maybe he did hear it? But prior to three different breaks, Little Willy followed that announcement by attempting to make a long winded response (that never aired fully). Maybe Little Willy had as little respect for Laura Flanders as he does for other women?

We love Flanders. We credit her broadcast talent with keeping us listening to that interview. But Little Willy is uninformed.

Need more facts? Little Willy does. From Media Matters' "Stand by your band: O'Reilly falsely claimed Dixie Chicks "have not recovered" from controversial 2003 remarks:"

During the January 9 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that country music trio the Dixie Chicks "have not recovered to this day" from a controversy surrounding remarks critical of President Bush during one of the group's concerts. In fact, in the months following the controversy, the band embarked on the top-grossing country tour of the year and has continued to enjoy strong commercial success.
In March 2003, group member Natalie Maines incited controversy after telling a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Initial anger over the statements and a limited radio boycott did reportedly have an impact on the group's album sales. However, the Dixie Chicks' 2003 North American tour proved that any backlash was short-lived. In May, a mere two months after the controversy first erupted, the tour opened in Greenville, South Carolina, to a sold-out crowd. The tour then spent the summer crisscrossing North America and grossed $61 million, making the Dixie Chicks tour the top-grossing country tour of 2003. By the end of the year, their album, Home, ranked fourth on 2003's Billboard Top 200 Album chart, with the group itself finishing the year as the top-selling country group/duo and the third-highest-selling pop group/duo.

We'll also note this from "Victims of a Republican Plot" (Rock & Rap Confidential via CounterPunch):

According to a story from sent to RRC by former Reprise president Howie Klein, "Phone calls originating from Republican Party headquarters in Washington went out to country stations, urging them to remove the Chicks from their playlists.
The 'alternative concert' [to the Dixie Chicks' tour opener] is actually the work of the South Carolina Republican Party and party officials are helping promote the concert.
We received a call from 'Gallagher's Army,' urging us to support the alternative concert. Caller ID backtraced the call to South Carolina GOP headquarters."

In all his sympathetic words for Toby Keith, by the way, Little Willy failed to note that Keith has been a very vocal enemy of the Dixie Chicks for some time. Hey, Little Willy, what instrument isn't featured on the Dixie Chicks' Home? No, we didn't think you knew. We'd suggest you take your thimble full of knowledge and collaborate with another lazy mind who feels the world is just like a soccer game.

In one of his most insulting moments, Little Willy felt the need to say that Natalie Maines wasn't very politically informed. Compared to whom, Little Willy, you? For someone supposedly wanting to broaden the public's understanding of country music, Little Willy came off like a very patronizing anthropologist.

El General Casey admite que las fuerzas estadounidenses están "extendidas"

El General Casey admite que las fuerzas estadounidenses están "extendidas"

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

El General Casey admite que las fuerzas estadounidenses están "extendidas"
Mientras tanto, el General George Casey, principal comandante en Irak y Afganistán del ejército estadounidense, admitió que las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses están excesivamente extendidas en Irak y Afganistán. El General Casey dijo: "Las fuerzas están extendidas. No creo que haya ninguna duda al respecto". La semana pasada, dos nuevos informes, uno realizado por el Pentágono y otro por ex funcionarios del gobierno de Clinton, dijeron que la presencia militar estadounidense en Irak y Afganistán se vuelva cada vez más insostenible.

Estados Unidos: Ataques insurgentes aumentaron un 30 por ciento en 2005
En Irak, Estados Unidos admitió que insurgentes llevaron a cabo más de 34.000 ataques durante 2005. Esto marca un aumento de casi el 30 por ciento durante el año pasado. A pesar de la mala noticia, los funcionarios estadounidenses intentaron verle el lado positivo. Un portavoz militar dijo que los números le "indican que la coalición (ocupante) y las fuerzas iraquíes han sido muy agresivas al luchar contra el enemigo".

Estudio: Guerras en Irak y Afganistán podrían causar "decline catastrófico" de las Fuerzas Armadas
Esta noticia es sobre Estados Unidos. Un nuevo estudio del Pentágono dice que el involucramiento de Estados Unidos en Irak y Afganistán ha exigido en forma drástica un despliegue demasiado amplio al ejército, a tal punto que la fuerza se ha vuelto una "delgada línea Verde". El informe dice que el ejército está en "una carrera contra el tiempo" para evitar "una declinación catastrófica". Andrew Krepinevich, un oficial del ejército retirado que escribió el informe, dijo a "Associated Press": "Uno realmente empieza a preguntarse cuánto estrés y presión hay sobre el ejército, por cuánto tiempo puede continuar".

Jurado militar: Interrogador que mató a prisionero iraquí no será encarcelado
En otras noticias sobre Irak, un jurado militar de Colorado decidió anoche que un interrogador del ejercito que mató a un General iraquí no sería encarcelado. El suboficial mayor Lewis Welshofer Jr. mató al general iraquí cubriéndole la cabeza con un sobre de dormir, envolviéndolo con cable de transmisión eléctrica, sentándose sobre su pecho y cubriendo su boca. Durante el fin de semana, el jurado militar declaro a Welshofer culpable de homicidio negligente, para el que la pena máxima es de tres años en prisión. Pero el jurado eligió en cambio aplicarle una multa de 6.000 dólares y le ordenó que durante los próximos 60 días limite sus movimientos a su casa, su oficina y la iglesia. El "Los Angeles Times" informa que los soldados y oficiales que estaban dentro de la sala del tribunal aplaudieron luego de que el jurado anunció que Welshofer no sería encarcelado por el asesinato.

Activista por la paz sentenciado a seis meses en prisión por protesta en estación de reclutamiento
Fuera del área metropolitana de Nueva York, un activista por la paz fue sentenciado a seis meses en prisión por derramar sangre dentro de una estación de reclutamiento militar en marzo de 2003, para protestar por la invasión a Irak. El hombre de 45 años de edad, Daniel Burns, era integrante de un grupo ahora conocido como Los Cuatro del Día de San Patricio. Los otros tres activistas enjuiciados también serán sentenciados esta semana.

Investigadores europeos dicen que Estados Unidos utiliza "métodos de tipo gángster"
El político suizo que dirige una investigación europea sobre las acusaciones de que la CIA operó prisiones secretas en Europa acusó el martes al gobierno de Bush de utilizar "métodos del estilo de los gángsters". En un informe interino, Dick Marty, Senador suizo, escribió: "Individuos han sido secuestrados, privados de su libertad y todos sus derechos, y trasladados a diferentes partes de Europa, para ser entregados a países en donde fueron tratados de forma degradante y torturados". Marty agregó que hay evidencia creíble que apunta a la operación de prisiones secretas por parte de la CIA, pero no dio ningún detalle.

Ex detenidos regresan a Estados Unidos para demandar al gobierno por su encarcelamiento
Mientras tanto, cuatro musulmanes que fueron deportados luego de estar detenidos durante meses, sin que se presentaran cargos en su contra, tras los atentados de 11 de septiembre, volvieron a Estados Unidos para presentar una demanda contra el gobierno estadounidense por su detención. Estos cuatro ex detenidos estaban entre los más de 1.200 musulmanes y personas procedentes del sur de Asia detenidos en los meses posteriores a los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Uno de los cuatro musulmanes, Yasser Ebrahim, dice que estuvo detenido durante cuatro meses, a pesar de que su vinculación con grupos terroristas fue descartada a menos de dos meses de su detención. Los hombres dicen que sufrieron varias golpizas y abusos verbales, y que estuvieron totalmente incomunicados con sus familias y sus abogados. El gobierno estadounidense les permitió regresar a Estados Unidos con las condiciones de que permanezcan en sus hoteles cuando no estén ante el tribunal, y no hablen con nadie que no esté vinculado con el caso.

Presidente republicano del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado pide liberación de Jean Juste
En otras noticias, el presidente Republicano del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado pidió la liberación del sacerdote haitiano detenido Gerard Jean Juste. En una carta al Primer Ministro interino haitiano Gerard Latortue, el Senador Republicano Richard Lugar escribió: "Me preocupa mucho que el sacerdote Católico Romano, Padre Gerard Jean-Juste, que está detenido en Haití, esté gravemente enfermo... Los expertos médicos dicen que si el Padre Jean-Juste contrae una infección, los efectos podrían ser fatales. Sin un tratamiento adecuado, que no está disponible en Haití, su vida corre peligro". Jean-Juste fue encarcelado en julio por un asesinato que ocurrió en Haití mientras él estaba fuera de ese país. Jean-Juste ha negado vehementemente los cargos. El gobierno haitiano no proporcionó ninguna evidencia. Esta semana, el gobierno haitiano anunció que ha descartado esos cargos, pero que mantendrá detenido a Jean Juste por dos cargos menores: posesión ilegal de armas y conspiración. Seguidores de Jean-Juste argumentaron que el sacerdote es un prisionero político detenido por sus estrechos vínculos con el depuesto Presidente Jean Betrand Aristide. Amnistía Internacional declaró que Jean-Juste es un prisionero de conciencia.

Senadores Kerry y Kennedy buscarán obstruir confirmación de Alito
En Capitol Hill, los Senadores Demócratas John Kerry y Edward Kennedy anunciaron que intentarán obstruir mediante recursos legales la confirmación del candidato a ocupar un cargo en la Corte Suprema Samuel Alito. En respuesta, los Republicanos dijeron que impondrán una votación a principios de la semana que viene. Kerry dijo: "Es nuestro derecho y nuestra responsabilidad oponernos vigorosamente (a Alito) y pelear en contra de este vuelco radical de la Corte Suprema".

Maria: Good morning. In English, here are ten headlines from Democracy Now! Peace.

Gen. Casey Amits US Forces "Stretched"
Meanwhile, General George Casey, the top US army commander in Iraq, has acknowledged that the US military is overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Casey said: "The forces are stretched. I don't think there is any question about that." In the past week, two new reports -- one by the Pentagon and one by former Clinton administration officials -- have said the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is growing increasingly unsustainable.

U.S.: Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Increased by 30% in 2005
In Iraq, the U.S has admitted that insurgents carried out over 34,000 attacks during 2005. This marks an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year. Despite the spike, U.S. officials have attempted to put a positive spin on the news. A military spokesperson said the numbers "tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy."

Study: Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan Risk Military’s "Catastrophic Decline"
Back in the United States, a new Pentagon study says US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has drastically overstretched the Army to the point it has become a "thin Green line." The report says the Army is "in a race against time" to avert "a catastrophic decline." Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report, told the Associated Press: "You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue."

Military Jury: No Jail Time For Interrogator Who Killed Iraqi
In other Iraq news -- a military jury in Colorado ruled last night an Army interrogator who killed an Iraqi general would not have to serve any time in jail. The interrogator -- Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. -- killed the Iraqi man after putting a sleeping bag over his head, wrapping him in electrical cord, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth. Over the weekend the military jury convicted Welshofer of negligent homicide which carries a maximum prison term of three years. But the jury chose instead to fine him $6,000 and ordered him to spend the next 60 days restricted to his home, office and church. The Los Angeles Times reports soldiers and officers inside the courtroom broke out in applause after the jury announced Welshofer would not be jailed for the killing.

Peace Activist Gets 6 Months in Jail For Recruiting Station Protest
In upstate New York, a peace activist has been sentenced to six months in jail for pouring blood inside a military recruiting station in March 2003 in order to protest the invasion of Iraq. The man, Daniel Burns, 45, was one of a group now known as the St. Patrick's Four. The other three members will also be sentenced this week.

European Investigators Says US Practices "Gangster style methods"
The Swiss politician heading a European investigation into allegations the CIA operated secret prisons in Europe accused the Bush administration Tuesday of QUOTE "gangster style methods." In an interim report, Dick Marty, a Swiss Senator, wrote QUOTE: "Individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and all rights, and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture." Marty added there is credible evidence that points to the operation of the secret CIA prisons, but did not provide any details.

Ex-Detainees Return to US To Challenge Government on Their Imprisonment
Meanwhile, four Muslims who were deported after being held for months without charge following 9/11 have returned to the US to take part in a lawsuit against the US government over their detentions. The four were among over 1200 Muslim and South Asian men rounded up in the months following 9/11. One of the four, Yasser Ebrahim, says he was held for eight months -- despite being cleared of links to terror groups less than two months into his detention. The men say they suffered severe beatings, verbal abuse and a total blackout on communications with their families and attorneys. The US government has allowed them to return to the US on the condition they remain in their hotels when not in court and refrain from speaking to anybody outside the case.

Republican Sen. Lugar Calls For Release of Jean Juste
In other news, the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has called for the release of imprisoned Haitian priest Gerard Jean Juste. In a letter to interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Republican Senator Richard Lugar: "I am very concerned that Roman Catholic priest father Gerard Jean-Juste, who is imprisoned in Haiti, is seriously ill…. Medical experts are saying that if Father Jean-Juste contracts an infection, then the effects could be fatal. Without appropriate treatment, which is unavailable locally in Haiti, his life could be in jeopardy." Jean-Juste was jailed in July for a murder that occurred while he was out of the country. He's vehemently denied the charges. The Haitian government has failed to provide any evidence. This week, the Haitian government announced it was dropping those charges but keeping Jean Juste on two new charges of illegal weapons possession and criminal conspiracy. Supporters of Jean-Juste have argued the priest is a political prisoner being detained because of his close ties to the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience.

Sens. Kerry, Kennedy To Lead Filibuster Against Alito
On Capital Hill, Democratic Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy have announced they’ll attempt a filibuster to block the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. In response, Republicans said they will force a vote early next week. Kerry said: "Its our right and our responsibility to oppose [Alito] vigorously and to fight against this radical upending of the Supreme Court."

Rep. Conyers Questions Telecoms Over Domestic Spying
The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has asked 20 telephone and Internet companies whether they have allowed the federal government to eavesdrop on their customer's communications. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan sent the letters to Microsoft, AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon, EarthLink, Google and a dozen other companies. Telecom experts say the National Security Agency may have gotten permission from phone companies to gain access to so-called switches, high-powered computers into which phone traffic flows and is redirected. Last month President Bush admitted he ordered the NSA to conduct domestic spy operations without getting legally required court warrants. Meanwhile President Bush is heading to Kansas today to launch a week-long series of speeches defending the domestic spying. He plans to visit the NSA headquarters in Maryland on Wednesday.

Blog Spotlight: Betty and Cedric do a joint entry

We love joint entries and we really loved Cedric and Betty's joint entry on the church and sexuality. You can find it at both of their sites, and we're happy to note it here, under "Alito and Inclusion" and "Found in the paper."

Noting this from the Feminist Wire

Judiciary Committee Votes Tomorrow on Alito; Filibuster Possible, Says Durbin
Tomorrow, two days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Samuel Alito, a Supreme Court nominee who in 1985 wrote that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion. Women's rights leaders and activists rallied last night at the Supreme Court in support of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
"Since we last gathered to commemorate Roe v. Wade, two seats have opened up on the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush has used both opportunities to nominate judges whose records show a disdain for privacy rights and individual liberties," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "The Senate is poised to vote on confirming Samuel Alito, who would replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a justice whose vote has upheld women's rights for nearly 25 years. How quickly the fate of women's reproductive rights could turn in this nation."
Already, at least nine Senators have come out publicly and strongly against Alito's confirmation, including four who voted in favor of confirming John Roberts as chief justice. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, said that a filibuster was possible.
"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 Senators ... are willing to stand and fight."
GET THE INSIDE SCOOP with The Smeal Report and the New Leif blogs at MsMagazine.comTAKE ACTION Call your Senators and urge them to oppose AlitoDONATE Make an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority’s Save Roe Campaign. We must be a strong voice in this crucial fight to save Roe and the Supreme Court for women’s rights.Media Resources: Feminist Majority; NOW statement 1/22/06; Chicago Sun-Times 1/20/06

It's the last lap in the home stretch. We can pull it out, we can dig deep and grab onto those last bits of energy.

Now we just got done with a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin and you can consider what follows to be the writing of Betty and Cedric. If there's something we feel differently on or want to make our own point on, we'll indicate it, but this is our joint entry.

Every Saturday when we get together to work with The Third Estate Sunday Review gang (the gang is Ava, Jess, Ty, Dona, Jim and C.I; we are Rebecca, Wally, Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty and Cedric) there are any number of items that are proposed for a feature. Some ideas are shot down because they're too big to undertake (unless they can be repitched as something easier in scope) and some are shot down because there's not enough interest in them from enough people. On something like that, if it's not just an idea you had but something that is really important to you, you can state that and everyone's willing to include it. But each edition there are ideas that we never end up having time to get to.

Everyone usually tosses out interesting ideas even if they are too large in scope. One idea that came from C.I. this weekend was about an article in the New York Times. It was on a topic that we hit on a lot in roundtables there. Ty usually has something to say on the issue as well. We made a point not to invite Ty to help on this entry because we know he would have said "yes" or felt guilty. As you'll see in the round-robin tomorrow, Ty's got a major exam first thing in the morning.

We left Ty out of this trying to make sure he was able to focus on studying. Had we not known of the exam, we would have brought him on board. We are the three Black voices of the community in terms of doing sites.

The article C.I. brought to the table was Neela Banerjee's "Black Churches' Attitudes Toward Gay Parishioners Are Discussed at Conference" and it ran in Saturday's New York Times on page A10. We'll note that Betty is from the Atlanta area and she does know of Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel of the Victory Church.

The article addresses a meeting last Friday between Black clergy and and the National Black Justice Coalition and the issue discussed was prejudice against gay men and lesbians. We have spoken repeatedly in roundtables about what has happened in our churches and how our congregations have had to face up to the fact that many of our brothers and sisters include those who are gay.

Betty: Cedric's church dealt with it way before mine did.

Cedric: The AIDS epidemic led to my church addressing it long before I was an adult.

Betty: Dr. Samuel is well thought of and respected by many in the Atlanta area for his work on this issue. Banerjee has no control over where the article appears or the length the paper decides to go with but this really should have been an article in the paper's Sunday magazine. Had there been more room, I'm guessing Banerjee would have noted that Dr. Samuel not only has critics but he has support from outside his own church. He, rightly, has made a name for himself by taking the gospels to heart.

The article details how Bully Boy and the Republicans were able to lure some Black churches into their tent by making gay marriage a wedge issue. African-Americans/Blacks should have known better than to throw in our lot with someone who stands in direct opposition to our own advancement as a people.

Whether you are an integrationist or an isolationist, the last thing we need to be doing is dividing our collective power by drawing a line between those of us who are straight and those of us who are gay. When our ancestors were working on plantations, masa' wasn't concerned about who were fantasizing about, just about squeezing every bit of life out of us he could. When the civil rights movement fought for integration, the racists standing in our way didn't care if the brother or sister sitting at the counter or going to the school dreamed about the opposite or same gender. When we were disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004, no one was concerned about what was or wasn't going on in our bedrooms. From way back to the current day, the line against us was and is drawn based upon our skin color.

Like it or not, we are in this together. And as a race, we have collective power. The Republicans attempts to divide us and turn us against one another is just another attempt to co-opt elements and dilute our power.

When we talk to brothers and sisters who are skittish (or worse) about sexuality, the first thing we usually ask is, "Who in your congregation has died of AIDS?" The awful disease has made gay men more visible (in death) but what you find is that a church that hasn't attempted to have a dialogue about this issue is a church that goes out of its way to erase the contributions of a deacon or a choir director, you name it.

Brother Ray that you were always so happy to see dies of AIDS and suddenly it's as though Brother Ray never existed. That's not right.

And the only way this changes is when we start getting honest. Gays and lesbians have always been in the Black chuches. You might not have known it at the time, but they were there. They were there on Sunday wanting so much to take part and they were there contributing to the church in spirit and with tithes. They are us and we are them.

It shocks us that our proud race which can rally when we see a brother or sister demonized, even if they may very well be guilty of a crime (including murder or child molestation), wants to turn against our own brothers and sisters.

In unity we have power and strength. In unity we are one and able to help one another. Though some churches do have sports team, it's not a requirement that you shower with your congregation so the silly notion of "What if we were in the locker room together?" is even sillier.

God made each of us. But for some reason we want to kick some of our brothers and sisters out of the boat and instead break bread with a Bully Boy who's declared an illegal war and attacked a people but expected us to fight his war in large numbers seems far from the teachings of Jesus Christ. To be there for our brothers and sisters, all of our brothers and sisters, who are attempting to struggle on their own paths to spirituality seems very much in keeping with the teachings of Christ.

At a time when so many Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomisinas are willing to turn their backs on race to enrich themselves, we don't think it makes sense to turn our backs on those who want to stand with us.

We also think that this turning is the sort of thing Jesus counseled his disciples against.

We have relatives who are gay and lesbian so we saw a long time ago that they're not the "other." They are our family members and they bring much to our families. African-Americans/Blacks who have not been uprooted repeatedly due to the economy and other factors usually not only have a strong sense of family but are also close to many of their kin.We don't think any large family gathering takes place without at least one gay or lesbian family member attending. You may not realize that or you may go out of your way to deny it. But they truly are us and we truly are them.

The article makes the point that in the 19th century scripture was used against us to justify slavery. Jesus and his teachings rejected that argument. We believe that this is true with regards to sexuality as well.

The article notes that "Blacks often bridle at comparisons made between the civil rights stuggle of African-Americans and the campaign by gay men and lesbians for equal protection under the law." We think that's a mistake and have addressed this before.
The civil rights movement is something we look to with great pride. We'd love to see it taught as something that not only brought African-Americans/Blacks closer to equality but that provided a framework and sense of justice to inspire people of all walks of life. We're quite aware that we work and work to create something (blues, soul, rap) and then a White person comes along and rides it to popularity while our own work is often ignored.

But with regards to the civil rights movement, it seems to us that nothing could be a better legacy than for people of each generation to learn of it and honor it by utilizing it to make their own strides towards equality. It's our legacy and we'd like to see it be a living legacy that continues to inspire.

That could remove it from something that's only noted one month a year (Black History Month) and instead becomes something all value. An activist, of any color, gender or orientation, a hundred years in the future turning to the civil rights movement for inspiration speaks to how important that movement was. We also believe that this attention can only provide a renewal in interest of the objectives we are still striving for.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is noted in the article and we'll note that we remember in the recent Democratic primaries, he was one of the few voices that could speak out for all. He didn't shy from the issue of gay rights and we think that's because, due to our own struggles, we are inclined to grasp anyone's struggle. We have had to overcome so much and we can identify with others who are also struggling for equality.

This is our better nature. We are more than track stars and basketball players, rap stars and comedians. We are the ones who shook off the shackles of extreme discrimination (and still live under discrimination often in less overt forms). We are leaders. Our struggles have made us that.

Our gay brothers and sisters shouldn't have to hide in closets from us or risk scorn if they come out. We shouldn't return to a past that rewarded those who could pass or gave preferential treatment to those among us who were lighter skinned. We are a race, a powerful race, and unless someone's working to hold us back, they are in our boat. We need to welcome them and we need to reach out to them.

We sincerely pray that we will have the strength as a race to welcome all who want to continue the fight for equality. As so many of us continue to live in poverty and below the poverty line, we need strength. The only line drawn should be the one that asks, "Are you for us or against us?"
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