Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bonus: Headlines

In the United Kingdom today, over 200 people gathered at St Nicholas and Writhington Church, in Radstock, Somerset for the funeral of Corporal Gordon Pritchard who died in Basra on January 31, 2005 becoming the 100th British soldier to die in Iraq. 101 British troops have died in Iraq, official count. Gordon Pritchard, who was 31 years-old, is survived by his wife Julie-Ann and his children Stacey, Harrison and Summer.

Alexander Panetta, of the Associated Press, is reporting that Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay maintains that "latest intelligence" indicates that the four memebers of Christian Peacemaker Teams are still alive. The four members, kidnapped in November, were last seen in a January 29th videotape. The four members are:

James Loney,
41, of Toronto;
Harmeet Singh Sooden,
32, a former Montreal resident;
Tom Fox,
54, of Clear Brook, Va.,
and Norman Kember,
74, of London [. . .]

Sunday's upsurge in violence continued on Monday. Reuters is reporting that bombings in Mosul and Baghdad today killed "at least 19 people." The Associated Press reports that in Karbala one American soldier was killed in a bombing and that in Mosul, a bomber killed himself in a "restaurant packed with policemen eating breakfast, killing at least five people and wounding 21, including 10 policemen". The Department of Defense has identified Capt. Anthony R. Garcia of Fort Worth, Texas as one of the 34 US military fatalities this month. Garcia died of from gunshot wounds after a February 17th shooting that took place on a military base in Tikrit. Garcia is survived by his wife Doris and his children Kelly and Garrick.

Brian Zimmerman, of Gannet News, is reporting that questions still surround the shooting death of Army Reservist David Douglas who died two weeks after returning to the United States from a one-year stint in Iraq. Commenting on the violent deaths of many returning veterans, National Guardsman Alfonso Williams told Zimmerman:

You have a whole lot of built-up anger from being over there. . . . You can't explain (what it's like) to anybody. And to them, what they may think is screaming and hollering to you is a normal tone.

In 2005, the military reports that 136 active duty personnel committed suicide. No figures are kept for those who are inactive. The current number for US military fatalities in Iraq stands at 2276.

As Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker, early warnings were ignored by the administration about the environment created for abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo. Noting that "Human rights are under threat," Amnesty International is calling for the closing of Guantanamo. Tuesday, Amnesty International will host a live online discussion:

Live chat with Moazzam Begg, ex Guantánamo detainee, on 21 February, 6-7pm GMT

Moazzam Begg, British citizen, was held for "nearly three years," as noted on Democracy Now!. Amnesty International's call echoes the call of the UN investigation team as well as the prime ministers of Germany, France, England and Malaysia. U.S. Charm Minister Karen Hughes, speaking to Al Jazeera, rejected calls to close Gitmo and reportedly maintained that not only are the people imprisoned in Guantanamo wanting to kill Americans but that some released "have gone back to fighting and killing Americans." If the report is accurate, it is surprising that such an assertion would be made by the Minister of Charm and not Bully Boy himself.

In this country, the Associated Press is reporting that Republican governors George Pataki (New York) and Robert Ehrlich (Maryland) have joined the chorus of voices objecting by administration plans to turn over control of "six major U.S. ports" to Dubai Ports World. Senators Robert Menendez (New Jersey) and Hillary Clinton (New York) are also objecting to the proposed plan. Speaking out against the plan involving the Arab company, Mendendez stated today, "We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government. We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."

Feminist Wire Daily is reporting that CWIG (Center for Women in Government and Civil Society) has conducted a study on "the percentage of women in policy-making positions - such as state legislators, elected officials, high court judges, department heads, and top governor's advisors" for the years 1998 to 2005 and found that the rate of growth for women in those positions increased by only 1.6% -- "from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent." FWD notes:

Slow progress for women in state government has national implications, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. State and local office serve as a "pipeline" to draw women into national politics. Not to mention, adds Walsh, state legislatures themselves are "making a tremendous amount of policy" –- in 2005, 48 state legislatures considered over 500 anti-choice bills.

On the national level, NOW notes, that although "almost nine million more women voted than men" only fourteen women serve in the United States Senate and only sixty-seven in the House, while of the fifty governors in the United States, only eight are women.

As noted on Sunday's KPFA Evening News, Saturday Feb. 25th, a Counter-Recruiting workshop will be held, open to the public, from 2 to 5pm at the Veterans' Memorial Building, Room 219, 401 Van Ness Ave. March 1st is the National Law Student Day Against the Death Penalty (SDADP).

In other news, Philadelphia Indymedia is reporting that Governor Ed Rendell vetoed the Pennsylvania's Voter ID bill. Rendell, who spanked Casey Junior in the 2002 election race, stated, "I see no reason to enact laws that will result in voter confusion and disenfranchise legitimately registered voters." Member of Protect the Vote had successfully fought against the proposed legislation and were on hand for the veto ceremony.

In other civil liberties news, following what BuzzFlash has called "Just Your Average Week of the Bush Administration Betraying America," the ACLU features a snapshot of governmental spying/snooping in the form of Betty Ball who states:

It is true that I have become more motivated to work for justice and social change knowing that the government is abusing its powers like this. But I am worried about how far the government will go to squelch First Amendment rights and silence dissent. Will we all be rounded up and incarcerated? Already so many people have been frightened away from participating in our events, and have asked to have their names removed from our mailing lists, for fear of the consequences of associating with us. I hesitate to call people to discuss plans for rallies or protests because I don’t want them ending up in an FBI file labeled as a "domestic terrorist."

Meanwhile, author and activist Diane Wilson remains in a Victoria County jail in Texas. Wilson was arrested for unfurling a banner that read "Corporate Greed Kills--From Bhopal to Baghdad" at a Dick Cheney attended fundraiser in Houston on December 5, 2005. Wilson's banners are apparently too much for the delicate sensibilities of the foes of democracy. She is currently serving a 150 day sentence for a 2002 action where she climbed a Dow Jones tower and unfurled a banner which read "Justice For Bhopal." CODEPINK is calling for Wilson's release.

In other take action news, MediaChannel.org is asking you to Take Action: Demand Coverage of Able Danger (more info on the Able Danger program can be found at Able Danger Media Monitoring).

Finally, Monday's Democracy Now! featured:

"Readings From Howard Zinn's 'Voices of a People's History of the UnitedStates:'"
Today we spend the hour with readings from a Voices of a People's History of the United States edited by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. It is the companion volume to Zinn's legendary People's History of the United States ­ which has sold over a million copies.We will hear dramatic readings of speeches, letters, poems, songs, petitions, and manifestos. These are the voices of people throughout U.S.history who struggled against slavery, racism, and war, against oppression and exploitation, and who articulated a vision for a better world. Performances include Danny Glover as Frederick Douglass, Marisa Tomei as Cindy Sheehan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Tecumseh and Chief Joseph, Sandra Oh as Emma Goldman and Yuri Kochiyama, and Viggo Mortensen as Bartolomeo de Las Casas and Mark Twain.

This entry was compiled by:

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Another Sunday. Another edition.

We almost called it quits and decided to postpone the note like last time; however, C.I.'s schedule is tight today and Jess said he wanted to get bed before noon. So we're doing this note while C.I.'s covering The New York Times over at The Common Ills.

Bo wrote that he hoped we didn't wimp out after last week's F.U. edition and start "coming off all lollypops and rainbows and huggies." Huggies? Bo, we were toilet trained years ago!

But no, we don't think we did. We didn't wake up this week feeling, "Whew! Got it out of my system. Now I can be sunshine." We're still ticked off.

Possibly less so than last weekend because this edition went much more smoothly. (We even got more than highlights up before seven a.m.)

"Editorial: No spine on no spying" fits with the we're tired of the nonsense 'tude of last week.

Ava and C.I. do the TV review, "TV Review: Close To Home (and floating in the toilet)." You may think, "Geez, everyone knows that Ava and C.I. do the TV review!" Not true. I, Jim, answered an e-mail this morning (no, hell didn't freeze over, it just felt like it) from a reporter wanting to talk to us about a TV review. I explained that "us" was Ava and C.I. They write the TV reviews. I think we've now hit the year mark where they took over those things completely. (Check with them? They don't read their reviews. When they're done, they're done. We can quote lines from them, as Elaine's pointed out, and, if they don't realize its their writing, they'll laugh at how funny it is. Tell them it's from something they wrote and they either dimiss it or they rush to give credit to the other.) We think this one will be a crowd pleaser for our longtime readers. Close To Home is a Bruckheimer show. Need we say more?

You asked for it, you demanded it, and there was a book we didn't want to keep holding as we tried to figure out how to fix (lessen the time involved) the book discussion: "1 Book, 10 Minutes (Danny Schechter, The Death of Media)" -- an important book, check it out.

"Psst, here come the gatekeepers" deals with a number of issues. (All gatekeeping.) "Musings on the service economy" is part of our continued effort to help steer you towards listening to Laura Flanders. We almost called it "Thoughts" but Ty said, "Come on guys, these aren't thoughts, they're musings."

And we've got spotlights:

Senadores republicanos bloquean investigacion sobre espionaje de la NSA
Humor Spotlight: Wally's "This Just In! Things Go Wack When Cheney Plays Jacks!"
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca on music and prisoners
"And the war drags on . . ." (The Common Ills)
Ruth's Public Radio Report
Blog Spotlight: Mike bringing you up to speed
American Brushetta in Trina's Kitchen
Blog Spotlight: Cedric telling the simple truth
Blog Spotlight: Kat on where she stands (with us, eat your heart out war lovers)
Blog Spotlight: Elaine on Kevin and Monica Benderman

We thank everyone for allowing us to repost. By the way, there are problems with the sidebar links that we're trying to fix on our end. If we can't or until we can, consider this your table of contents and use the links above for that purpose.

All new content except the TV review were done 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.

We'll see you next week. Today? Check out Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts. It's not up yet but C.I. showed it to us and we suggest you prepare to laugh.

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

Editorial: No spine on no spying

Senate Votes 96-3 to Reject Sen. Feingold's Effort to Stall Patriot Act Renewal
In other news from Capitol Hill, the Senate is moving closer to renewing the Patriot Act. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is leading the effort to block renewal but he is receiving little support even from fellow Democrats. Feingold wants to set a four-year expiration date on provisions within the Act that allows government agents to force banks, libraries, Internet providers and others to hand over private records without a warrant. On Thursday, the Senate voted 96 to 3 to reject Feingold's efforts to stall the legislation. Only independent Senator Jim Jeffords and Democrat Robert Byrd backed Feingold.

The above is from Democracy Now! Remember on and around December 16, 2005? It wasn't that long ago. The Senate was actually standing firm. That pased. Faded. They can't stand, they can't even hold their heads up high. A lack of spine will do that to you. It'll reduce opposition to the Patriot Act down to three members.

Once again, it's an election year and Dems mustn't look "weak."

It's a funny thing how "weak" isn't defined by whether or not they cave on promises to their constituents, but instead on whether or not they support the Bully Boy.

When you let him set the terms, he gets to decide what's "strong" (invading a country illegally) and what's weak (attempting to have checks & balances).

After the shameful performance in the NSA hearing where they pandered and kept pushing the Bully Boy's terms ('I support spying on terrorists' and other such nonsense) it's been all downhill. Before signing on/off what they support, next time, how about waiting to see what's happening as opposed to what Bully Boy or his mouthpiece Gonzales says? And when Bully Boy is falsely justifying on it the grounds of need the protect the nation, don't call Gonzales "General." He's not a general, he's not in the military. Our society's been militarized enough, we don't need to start saluting the general.

But there it was, "General Gonzales" as though Tommy Franks himself had plopped his fat ass down before the committee. Is there any hope at this point?

Well we thought maybe there was when Nancy Pelosi sent out an e-mail entitled "Got Constitution?" . . . and then we read it.

What's got Nancy Pelosi's dander up? Not warrantless spying on American citizens. Not the threat of extending the Patriot Act. Let's let Nancy tell it:

Once again, Republican leaders have burned the book on how our laws are made. Every elementary student knows that the exact same bill must pass the House and the Senate first before it can be signed into law by the President. But on February 8th, the President signed a bill that did not pass the House.
On February 1st, the House of Representatives passed the Budget Reconciliation Spending Cuts Conference Report by a two-vote margin, with every Democrat voting against it. Yet, when the President signed the bill into law, he signed a different version of the bill than the one passed by the House. This bill has been voted on five times, passing by very narrow margins each time, with the Republican leadership twisting arms to ensure passage. The bill signed by the President had been altered in a way that cost the Medicare program $2 billion dollars. The Republican leadership knew about the error two weeks in advance, but deliberately chose to withhold that information, instead allowing the House to vote on an incorrect version of this legislation. Because Republican leaders chose to ignore House rules, precedents, and even the Constitution itself, Leader Pelosi introduced a privileged resolution demanding an immediate investigation into the abuse of power surrounding the inaccuracies in the process and enrollment of the Budget Reconciliation legislation. The motion failed along party lines.

Nancy's shocked. We're bemused by her shock. She still thinks the Bully Boy feels he's governed by laws and rules as he enters year five of his war on America?

When are they going to stop making nice? When do the gloves come off because we're not seeing it. Russ Feingold comes out swinging and instead of cheering him on, they're rooting for his opponent. Last time, when the Patriot first passed the Senate, Feingold stood alone. Now he's got two with him -- a Democrat and an Indpedent. At this rate, in 125 years, we just might be able to do away with the Patriot Act. Until then, anyone's shock, at this late date, that the Republicans aren't playing by the rules, is a bit misplaced.

This crap has been going on for five years and for five years Democrats have backed down. One or a few will step up and the Democratic Party plays, "Don't call on me! I don't know the answer! Dear Lord, please don't let the teacher call on me! I'll just sit here quietly until the bell rings!" Each time they've refused to stand up, Bully Boy's come on stronger.

So this shock, at this late date, that he and his Party won't play by the rules seems a bit of a put-on. Unless we're to believe that you were in a coma during the 2000 recounts.

The Democrats are letting him get away with spying on Americans without a warrant. What's his next move? To do the Full Padilia? Will he start designating enemy combatant to various Americans the way he's already done to Jose Padilla? When that happens, will Nancy Pelosi still be shocked?

No Spine on No Spying makes this and much more possible. Bully Boy, he brings bad things to life.

TV Review: Close To Home (and floating in the toilet)

CBS Friday nights, Close To Home is more of the same crap from the ass of Jerry Bruckheimer. What some have the common sense to flush, Bruckheimer tosses on the (small) screen. It's another of his, "The big, bad world is out to get you!"

The "modern" angle here isn't sex and violence with the sinners being "punished." That he breaks from his standard "concept" may be seen as "original." If so it's the only thing about this show that will be.

Let's do set up.

Jennifer Finnigan plays Annabeth. Annabeth is alien from another plant who lands on earth and finds her only marketable skill is to present judgemental looks. Not being able to land a job right away on the bench and being unsuited for the tele-evanglist profession, she does the next best thing and becomes a lawyer.

No, Annabeth's not from outerspace, Finnigan's acting just makes it seem that way. Finnigan's either a nervous kind of actress (we'd be nervous too after the flop that was Cursed) or she's just really eager. She's the Girl Scout screaming, "Give me more! I can sell them! Give me more!" at the den mother. She is not, however, convincing as a prosecutor.

Neither is Kimberly Elise as Annabeth's boss Maureen. Elise and Bruckheimer obviously see Maureen as the descendent to Nicole Kidman's career gal role in Days of Thunder. That certainly explains the ringlet hair. It also explains why Maureen wears not a lipstick but apparently some sort of cake frosting on her lips. Heavy on the makeup and light on the talent, Elise poses for the camera. It's like watching a video . . . of a photo shoot. She has a jerky kind of movement and can't sit still even when, in fact, sitting. She's always pushing her head around at odd angles until finding the rest spot. Mad TV should take a pass on the parody, there's no way they could send the show up better than it sends itself up.

But two women and leads! Surely that must have something to offer. In case you're not familiar with Elise's work, she's also African-American. With so little for women to do onscreen (check out The Unit when it debuts -- on second thought, don't) and so few people of color, we were hoping against hope that this show wouldn't bear all the hallmarks of a Bruckhiemer series but we hoped in vain.

Elise shimmies her hair wonderfully . . . in the court room, while seated at the prosecution's table. In her worst moment (a crowded field, granted) Elise's Maureen says of a dead child, "Oh, he must have been horrorified, locked in the dark. Do you think they'll ever pass mandatory release levers for the back of the trunk?"

Believe it or not there is a connection between the two sentences. You can't tell it by Elise's delivery which comes off as though she's playing a random association game. We also questioned whether Elise got the line correctly? "Do you think they'll ever pass mandatory release levers . . .?"

Ah yes, Mandatory Release Levers. We used to tell Mandatory, "Man, you got to study or they are going to keep your ass in the sixth grade for-ev-er." But did Mandatory listen? No.

We believe she means to say "Do you think they'll ever pass manadtory release lever laws . . ." or something similar. But why put the time into memorizing lousy dialogue. For example, this passes for banter:

Man: I'll hunt down a realtor.
Annabeth: See if you can hunt me down a motive while you're at it.

Are your sides aching yet? (Our's weren't either.) Finnigan's really awful in this part. Everyone seems to grasp that. She can't act at regular speed and she can't act in slow-mo. That's probably why, when the body of a dead child is found, Finnigan's grasping her mouth, jerking her head back and when it's time to deliver her line ("Oh . . . he's dead."), the camera's focused on her shoulder.

Acting's not a requirement on Bruckheimer shows. The "feel good" about yourself and sneer at everyone else attitude is. Finnigan has that down with her pursed lips and her fondness for staring down her nose at characters on the show.

But what's the message Bruckheimer's sending us? A child is murdered. Kidnapped and then murdered. By who? Oh please, this is about as suspenseful as an episode of Hart to Hart.
It's the only other guest actor, of course. She plays the neighbor who is divorced so, of course, she's bonkers. Being childless, of course she looks around and decides what she wants most is her neighbor's child. (Empty womb syndrome?) She's a mess. She's popping every pill you can imagine, she tries to seduce her best friend's husband . . . She's so obessed with the lives her friends have, she starts pretending that Bailey is her son. She takes around his photo and writes a letter about her "son."

The crazed divorcee. Does it all seem so very 50s? (To us, too.) She's friends with the couple for years, the couple she snatches the baby from. We're not remembering that as the profile of a kidnapper but this is Bruckheimer land where the single women get slammed or neutered. Which means her friend, the married mother, has lighter hair and gets to be so "kind" that in the midst of the search for her missing son, she can stop and check in with Annabeth about whether she has children, and how old is her child and, do you know, that you never tell your child what you really mean to? Her missing child is five-years-old so we'll assume that she's referring to "I love you" and not regretting failing to explain to him the new tax code or something really helpful like: "Your daddy's a stoner!" Which, by the way, he is.

Recovering alcoholic who "slips" with pot. Since this isn't a cop show, they can't use the "Book 'em, Dano" phrase. Apparently "Nail 'em, Annabeth" was their second choice?

By the way, the crimes she prosecutes? All in her own suburban neighborhood. We sort of picture Sally down the street crying out, "Oh crap, it's Annabeth! Hide everything! You know how she's always going after the neighbors!"

Sometimes she goes home. Where bed talk includes the heart warming term of "selfish." That's spoken by her husband, modeled by Christian Kane. Because she wants the baby to sleep in their bed that night. (They have a six month old.) See Annabeth's one of those women torn by . . . having it all. She's got her glamor job (though she leaves the high glamor to Elise) that allows her to overdress for the office. (Seriously is Nolan Miller doing the women's work attire on this show?) She also has her 'understanding' husband. Kane has one scene this episode, in bed, but he's not shirtless. Give it time. We're willing to bet he'll start doffing the shirts and showing off his pecs the way Mary Tyler Moore showed off her legs as Sam on Richard Diamond.

We'll give the show credit for casting a good looking male as the husband. Kane's no standard issue TV dad in the looks department. He's not really an actor either unless someone mistakes making cute with David Boreanaz in front of the camera on Angel as acting. Kane's from Texas, by the way. Water cooler critics, there is a trend story here on all the Texans in prime time, seriously. Call it "The W Factor" and we're sure it will write itself (or read that way).

The show's perfect for dusting to. You don't have to watch the screen. Anything that happens is narrated. No, they don't have a narrator per se, but nothing happens without the characters noting it in a "Can you believe I just walked across the room? I did, you know. I walked across the room" kind of way. Besides verbalizing the details of everything that happens in every scene, the dialogue's not just bad but flat. It has a ripped from something look. We're not sure it's the paper, but it's ripped from something.

Bruckheimer's hit rock botton. Having exhausted every possibility in crime scene investigations, he obviously woke up one day deciding to be the next David E. Kelley. An ambitious goal and the lack of talent doesn't stop Bruckheimer from dreaming. Years ago, Mrs. Bruckheimer may have had to fuss and squeal with delight, "Did little Jerry make pooh-pooh? What a big boy! What a big boy!"; however, you don't have to. Flush his latest "creation" down, flush it down.

1 Book, 10 Minutes (Danny Schechter, The Death of Media)

"Where are the book discussions!" screamed the e-mails. "It's been too long!"

We agree. We also know that the easiest one we had recently was when a number of people took Christmas off. We were lucky to have Ruth participating that edition (thank you, Ruth). Why was it the easiest? It was a smaller number of people.

One week, Dona closed the book discussion without realizing Elaine hadn't spoken and the e-mails poured in. Dona hadn't intended to stop the discussion before Elaine spoke, hadn't even realized it. But since then, Dona's usually half-listening and trying to keep a tally of who's spoken and who hasn't. And has someone not spoken enough? If so, were they given a chance to speak or not? So that's a difficulty.

Here's another one, fourteen people discussing five books does not make for "5 books, 5 Minutes." When the feature was started it was supposed to be a way for this site to weigh in on books. Folding Star then did the website A Winding Road and you could go there for indepth reviews. We were trying to give you a sense of the book and demonstrate how it wasn't: open the book, read it, put it away.

We think we managed that most of the time but there have been times when the book discussion has taken an hour or more. As the best and fastest note takers, it's one more feature we do where Ava and C.I. end up doing the bulk of the work while the rest of us shoot off our mouths and have fun. Dona's attempts to keep it limited to a reasonable time only result in everyone talking faster when she calls five minutes.

She was very curious about how the book discussion would go without her watching the clock and without her keeping track of who has spoken and who needs another shot of time. It went easy. But that's because it was a reduced number of participants. This week, we're focusing on one book. That's not what we want to do. We'd like to provide a mix of books. In one of our favorite book discussions, five books chosen for different reasons ended up being a launching pad due to similar subthemes. Even when that doesn't happen, we think the variety covers a number of interests.

There's a book that we intended to include in a book discussion but while we try to figure out how to make "5 Books, 5 Minutes" manageable, we keep postponing this discussion. We think the book's too important to continue postponing so we'll do "1 Book, 10 Minutes" which we've done before and know never lasts only ten minutes.

Participating in this discussion are:

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.

Jim: Our book for this discussion is Danny Schechter's The Death of Media. Subtitled And The Fight To Save Democracy. Danny Schechter is the News Dissector at MediaChannel.org and has a long history in journalism both in the mainstream and in the alternative. He's been dissecting the news for decades so if his name is new to you, you really are missing out if you're not visiting his News Dissector site. Set us up, Mike.

Mike: Okay, but first, Danny Schechter was in Rebecca and my neck of the woods this weekend. But there were no details at his site. If the event was open to the public, we would have gone. So that's my beef. This book is paperback and 167 pages. You can obtain it at BuzzFlash or via MediaChannel.

Dona: Or check your local library as well as independent bookstores.

Mike: Right. So it's the 21st Century and what does that mean for communication, what does it mean for media? What does it mean for citizens? Those are some of the issues Schechter's raising in his book.

Betty: I'll jump in here because this is one of three books C.I. gave me for Christmas, we pulled each other's name here so no one had to feel like they had to go broke buying for everyone.

Dona: We also had a price limit but C.I. didn't stick to it.

Betty: True. But with good books, I won't complain. Size wise, this is a small book. My kids kept asking me to read this one to them because they thought it was a children's book. Is it a paperback? I don't know. It's almost a square. But it's a small size book and, don't let the size fool you, there are big ideas in it. I read Ruth's Public Radio Report and it reminded me of the discussion on PBS in the book. What Ruth's advocated isn't what he advocates but I wondered if she'd read the book?

C.I.: She has.

Betty: Well Schechter is noting the problems with PBS, the original mandate under which it was created which stated the intent for it to provide a "forum for debate and controversy." That was how it was to serve the public. In the end, while noting the difficulties documentary filmmakers have in getting anything remotely like that on PBS, the impression that I took away is that we have to focus on supporting the public media, which isn't just PBS, and on creating more of it.

Ty: Which is in complete contrast to what Ruth argues in her most recent report.

Jim: C.I.?

C.I.: Oh, I'm speaking for Ruth now? We've all read it, but I speak for Ruth? Okay. Well, I've not taken a position and will not unless the community gets behind one position, which I think they're about to. But Ruth's argument is that the left expands so much time fighting to "save" PBS and NPR and for what? As she sees it, we're the foot soldiers defending it and after the battle, PBS gives money to one more right winger to create another right wing program or a children's one on "virtures" and what's the point? That becomes the political point of view because there's no left wing programming. You get the same never-offend-anyone generic programs with public affairs programming that tilts right.

Betty: If I can jump in again, I want to say I'm with Ruth. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of calling my reps and writing them to save PBS. I'll focus on PBS because NPR is useless to me and never spoke to me. Why should I save PBS? I'm a working mother, a single mother. What is PBS going to do for me? Forget programming, public TV is about to stop being public. You'll need cable or satellite as the digital transfer occurs. I don't watch TV. My kids do. They watch Sesame Street and other PBS children's show. Is that worth paying for? I've got educational DVDs and children's films and they're happy to watch those over and over. As a parent, when the switch comes, our TV sets will become monitors for DVDs. My kids already have a time limit on how long they can watch TV. When the digital change comes, bye-bye TV channels. They can use their set time limit to watch their DVDs. Their grandparents buy them more than they can ever watch. I'm sorry but the idea that "public television" will be available only if you pay for it . . . I've got important bills to pay, paying for something useless isn't important to me. And other than children's programming, not all of it worth watching and a lot of it badly animated, what's there to watch? Informericals? What's her name always hawking her books, tapes and everything but her skin care line.

Ava: Suze Ormis.

Betty: Yeah, how many times do they rerun that informercial a year? Roadside Antiques or whatever it's called --

Rebecca: Antique Roadshow.

Betty: Right. That's serving the public how? There's no debate and controversy in the bulk of its programming. Investment tips on how many shows a week? I've got my own investment tip: invest in paying my bills and not wasting money pledging to a network not interested in serving the public. And, let me add, that Sesame Street doesn't cut it. That's one show. When I grew up, we had shows, not one, with a variety of races. PBS seems so scared these days that if the characters aren't White, they're animals. The issue of representation was one of the reasons PBS excited me as a child. There was no Black person in the Scooby gang, no Black Superfriend, go down the list. But on PBS, I could see all races. Not these days. PBS: making the world safe for animated bears and bunnies.

Jim: So you disagree with Schechter?

Betty: Only on PBS. I agree completely that we need to build new public spaces. And I'm all for supporting Pacifica, for instance. But I'm not giving anything to National Corporate Radio or it's television sister.

Ava: Just to touch on portrayals, I watched Maya & Miguel and honestly found it insulting with regards to the character of the grandmother and her "old ways." I have no idea who created the show or writes it but I found it insensitive in its portrayals. It's got the same sort of cheap ethnic jokes Freddie does.

Ty: Freddie, ABC sitcom starring Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Cedric: Betty's not slamming the book. She enjoyed it. But this is an issue, the lack of people of color on children's shows. Giving us a family of bears and bunnies isn't breakthrough television. And outside of Sesame Street . . . I wonder who PBS thinks watches their children's programming? PBS, and this is what Betty was getting at, I think, is, if nothing else, the place where children without cable can find programming after school, in the mornings. You can tick off the names to a dozen popular cartoons but most of the kids I went to school with wouldn't know them. You say Reading Rainbow and they did know it. Because their parents couldn't afford cable. So to go from a time when you or your kid could see people like themselves on PBS to one animal cartoon after another is the same kind of setback African-Americans notice at the big networks that continue to find a way to create yet another show revolving around a White lead. My parents were like Betty is now. If money was spent, it was spent on us kids. They'd do without something they wanted to make sure we had shoes on our feet and could have fun in an affordable way. But there wasn't money for cable so they, and lots of parents, were glad to have PBS to fall back on. The digital switch isn't something that parents struggling to make it are going to see as a Brave New World.

Betty: And I did love the book. Not just saying that because it's a gift. In the notes I made, I've got page 86 down because Schechter raises the issues of the two societies that may develop, the information-rich society and the information-poor society.

Kat: Which is scary and another scary thing was on page sixty where he writes about how CNN started a show called World Report which was supposed to provide a window into foreign countries and cultures but instead led to foreign broadcasters attempting to ape the American big media. That was scary to me in and of itself; however, I thought about how we've now got the "free Iraq" media project going on.

Elaine: Right because Iraqis know nothing about a printed press or broadcast media, apparently. That's what our attitude says, "Here we come to save you and bring you the new world." Excuse me, but they have a press. And maybe the best thing to do isn't for us to attempt to "educate" a culture we know so damn little about as to how they should go about reporting.

Kat: Exactly! And look what Paul Bremer did over there and now we're going to 'liberate' their press.

C.I.: Back up on that. Big media in this country hasn't been interested in that story. Unless you read someone like Dahr Jamail or Naomi Klein or Robert Fisk, you wouldn't know about it. So to go back and explain it, or unless you utilize Democracy Now! and that will probably be the best place for Dallas to find a link, Moqtada al-Sadr's newspaper was shut down for mocking Paul Bremer. Now, we're going to teach press freedom? Now?

Jess: The thing that stood out to me, and I know he's been doing this for years, Danny Schechter, not Paul Bremer, was how succinctly he was able to explain things. Such as the problems with the current big media model which, he notes, "is a sales platform." Like Betty said, this is a small size book but it has a powerful punch.

Wally: That was going to be my point. C.I. wrote about Danny Schechter pulled you into the Abramoff story this week and how that's not really happening in the big media, I guess that's the word we're using this morning. And it's true because most of the time, my grandfather and I are trying to make out what the Abramoff reporting is about. I walked away from Schechter's story with a clear understanding of what I had just read. And after that, I picked the book back up because he'd made a point about telling stories and how people enjoy their entertainment programs and how it's because it has a "well crafted narrative" which can result "in a better job of treating social issues." The other thing I thought of while I was reading it was how WMD --

Mike: His documentary?

Wally: Yeah, WMD, his movie, how that was something you could follow as well. He really knows how to tell a story. It's like a conversation he's having with you and you can follow along.

Jim: Talk about Abramoff because I agree he wrote a great piece on Abramoff.

Wally: Well, is it a story? When big media covers it, it's this dull thing. C.I. said something about zeroes.

C.I.: The more zeroes you add to the figure, the more the money amount increases, the less close you are to readers' reality.

Wally: Right. It just starts seeming too huge to grasp and then they start putting all these people into the coverage and you're going, or I'm going, "Wait, you didn't tell me who that person was." If it's a Congress person, they have that in front of their name but a lot of time, I'm reading a couple of paragraphs down before I'm finding out who the person is that we're talking about. It's just scattered. The basic story, as I get it and I think most people do, is that Abramoff, a Republican lobbyists, gave vast amounts of money or had it channeled to Republicans in office. But sometimes it seems like the reporters are more covering the dollar amount than what went on. I'm glad you noted Media Matters, this is to C.I., in that thing because they have done a good job of keeping it basic. But there was a long article I came across recently and I thought, "Okay, this is going to be the article that puts it all in perspective" and it didn't. The first paragraph was unreadable. I read it twice and then said, "Screw it, jump into the article." But the whole article was that way. The reporter knows how to coin a fancy phrase, but he didn't know how to explain the basics to me.

Mike: I'm going to back Wally up on that. My coverage is mainly coming from, we're talking about writing here because I think we all could follow Amy Goodman's coverage and C.I. made the point that when things get too complicated, Amy always says, "Okay, explain that" or something similar becuase she seems to get where the audience will get lost, but my main print coverage is coming from the Boston Globe. And this isn't an issue that's as pressing to me as the war. But people on campus who know my site always think I can boil something down in two minutes for them. And they're following the Boston Globe and our other local media too. They're lost on this story. They get that Native Americans had money to give, that Abramoff directed it to Republicans in Congress and that a kind of pay-for-play-let's-all-scratch-each-other's-back thing was going on. But I mean they're sick of, or "frustrated," that's probably a better word. They're frustrated with it. They feel the reporters are acting like insiders talking to other insiders and that the story's getting lost. I did print up Danny Schechter's article and pass it around to a few people on campus. And they could follow that. He knows how to tell a story.

Jess: I know the article Wally's talking about because he called me and asked if I'd read it. I hadn't but told him to let me read it and I would explain it. I called him back and asked, "You really got past that first paragraph?" That was the worst first paragrph. It was flashy and showy and I'm sure people covering it were high fiving and shouting, "You rock, dude!" but in terms of reaching the reader, it didn't. Mike's comment about the how it's insiders talking to insiders really does sum up the bulk of the print coverage.

Ty: And when Schechter's covering it, in the article, he's going back to early Abramoff and his involvement in supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa, I think he can pull you in because he's done print, radio, TV. He knows, like Goodman, when you're going to lose someone if you speed through a section or if you start acting like a policy wank. We've got a professor who is always telling the class, "You aren't the story, the story is the story. No one cares how famous the people you quote are or how close you got to someone powerful. Save that for your diary and tell the story."

Jim: I love that guy. He's my favorite prof.

Ty: But when I got back to the apartment that night, Ava was over and she goes to Jess, "Show it to Ty" and it's that article. I don't know its unreadable and I'm sitting down, starting to read it and thinking, "This must be some article if they want me to read it right away" and I'm sitting there reading and thinking, "Someone needs to tell this guy he is not the story." I felt like it wasted space and that an editor should have pulled the guy into the office and said, "What are you trying to say here? You're not Hunter S. Thompson and if you're trying to be him, bad news, because you're coming off like Thomas Friedman."

Dona: Everyone's spoken. I believe Elaine and Ava have spoken the least. Jim acts as moderator so he doesn't count. If anyone wants to speak, they need to do it now because, otherwise, I'm about to do the wrap up.

C.I.: I know Danny Schechter, as everyone here knows and the community does as well, but in case anyone visits and says, "That should have been disclosed," it has been. It's a great book, in my opinion.

Dona: Okay, here's the takeaway for The Death of Media. As consolidation has grown stronger and stronger, viewpoints that can be heard have grown narrower and narrower. The internet is not the "Good Times Are Coming" -- stealing from a point C.I. made last year -- because there are foes . . . to freedom, people who want to control where you can go and add fees for any number of things. That's what we're facing. Old media is dying and new media could be worthless as well unless you get off your butts and start participating. Be the town crier among your group of friends pushing this issue and making sure the people you know are aware of it. To get a grasp on what needs to be done, and Danny Schechter doesn't just tell you what's wrong, he tells you how a more diverse media is available, read The Death of Media. We all strongly recommend it. And last word to Rebecca because I've got you down as having said just one sentence.

Rebecca: I was enjoying the discussion. I think your takeaway covered it. But it's an important point so let me repeat it. Get off your butts and fight for the media you want or accept that the net will be just like what you avoid on TV. What gets covered and how it gets covered, Ruth quoted Janine Jackson on this last week, impacts our lives. This isn't just something on your TV screen that you can tune out. As bad as things are today, and they're pretty bad, think of how awful it would be if we were in all these wars without the internet? The internet's worthless if it apes big media -- like, in the example from the book Kat cited, where foreign correspondents attempted to play like the big dogs/gas bags. It's also worthless if you can't get the content you need. If you're feeling "The Good Times Are Coming" and thinking we're on the verge of a media revolution, you better grasp that on the corporate side, they're figuring out how to steer what's coming. This is a fight and read the book to arm yourself.

Psst, here come the gatekeepers

A Farewell to Justice. Know the book? It's by Joan Mellen. It's not named but noted, in the negative, by Max Blumenthal's "The JFK Lawyer's Conspiracy." The Nation has never been eager to veer from the official line on the assassination of JFK. C.I. rightly compared this to your friend with a food allergy. You accept that they're allergic to it and move on.

That's the magazine. Blumenthal's made his calling to go around screaming "conspiracy theorist" whenever questions are asked. We won't say he's debunked, because he can't debunk and doesn't really try to. What he does is toss out his own witnesses and say, "Those other people can't be trusted!"

If there's nothing new to see, if that's the thrust of the article, we'd kindly suggest that the magazine find something else to write about. The position of The Nation is and has always been one of supporting the Warren Commission. As readers of The Nation (eight of us are subscribers, some, like Elaine purchase each issue at the bookstore), we don't think we're paying for repeats. We also don't think that if the magazine's position is "Nothing to see here" they should waste pages on the subject. There are too many things going on today that need coverage.

A Farewell to Justice, by Joan Mellen, is a book that we've now all read. Ruth noted Mellen's appearence on Law and Disorder back in November:

There were many topics discussed but I will note the one that holds everyone's interest when I mention it, author Joan Mellen about her forthcoming book A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History. [C.I. note: This book will be released Tuesday, November the 15th.] Utilizing documents from the National Archives, Mellen explores new data on the JFK assassination. The discussion included noting that the late Hale Boggs, House Majority Leader and father of Cokie Roberts, was the one who first steered Jim Garrison to questions regarding the Warren Report. Ms. Mellen draws strong conclusions and if you are interested in them, you should listen to the broadcast. [Dallas note: Again, click here and scroll down to November 7th.]

Mellen's making an argument and she's doing it the way you should, she's utilizing witnesses and documents. If you don't buy her argument, you don't buy it.

But you don't get a sense of argument in Blumenthal's article. He's not interested in her book, just in discouraging any questions of the official narrative.

This week, C.I. wrote about the article and the result was a lost link. Jess and Ava wanted an "on the record statement" regarding that.

C.I.: Someone was bothered by Mellen's book and my recommending it. I'm not surprised. The easiest thing in the world to write about is what everyone else is going to write about. If you're going to take the easy road, why even write anything? That might be an argument Mellen would make for the book, for writing the book. When the e-mails started coming in that day complaining about Blumenthal's article, Jess and Ava had advised me of it over the phone before I started dictating that entry to a friend. There was a way to address visiters complaints that I hadn't addressed an advertisement The Nation had run with that article and to get it across to the community that The Nation will never question the official narrative. I don't think it crossed my mind at that point that Mellen's book itself would make some uncomfortable. I think I was too busy trying to dictate the entry so it could go up on the site. When the link to The Common Ills was pulled, that's probably the first time I thought about it and my attitude then was, "No loss." I'd rather talk about something that some people are too uncomfortable to touch. There is a group think that goes on and I think it's important to buck that.

Ava: What did you think of the book?

C.I.: I couldn't put it down. I was very worried, I read it straight through, as the end approached because I'd read Joan Mellen's Hammett & Hellman and the last chapter of that had disappointed me. I felt like there was a bit more to tell about [Lillian] Hellman. I didn't think it was a bad book, but I felt like it ended too quickly. A "problem," possibly, more books should suffer from. But Ruth had recommended the book strongly and when you read it, if you read it, we've all read it here, you see why that is. And the ending worked perfectly in this book. I thought Mellen wrote a fascinating book from start to finish.

We agree that it's important to avoid group think. (As our roundtables and book discussions attest, we do not practice group think and aren't afraid to disagree with one another.) We've all read the book and can't imagine why it would frighten Max Blumenthal so. But it did. When a book frightens, we think you should consider reading it.

When people start screaming "conspiracy nut!" we feel the response is to step back. The mainstream press tarred and feathered Cynthia McKinney falsely (see Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) as a "conspiracy nut!" They had to invent a quote for her to do that, but it didn't stop them from doing it.

We're aware of the way Gary Webb was savaged, including by some on the left or "left," as a "conspiracy nut" and aware that his argument was backed up later by a CIA report. When the attacks come from the left or "left" you can look at them and think CIA loyalist or worse. Or you can just see it, as we do, as the result of group think.

We're sure your familiar with group think. Maybe you see it in the classroom, where someone's afraid to offer an alternate opinion and everyone nods along in agreement instead. Or maybe you see it at your job where no one dares question the boss? Group think is all around us.

Step out of line and you might be slapped with a ruler. If you're a reporter, step out of line and you might lose access. Maybe NPR won't put you on the air? Maybe Cokie Roberts will say something bad about you? Maybe Newsweek reporters will openly mock you?

It takes bravery to take a stand that's outside of the norm. We think Mellen wrote a brave book. We think it's one worth reading. We feel that needs to be stated because if anyone linking to us has a problem with that, they should know it upfront. That's this site and all the community sites. We're not all in the position C.I. is where links don't matter. Some of the rest of us would love to increase our readers. (The Common Ills has members and visiters, no readers, and Jim is typing this before C.I. can state that.)

But we're not going to go along to get along. We're not going to play "the game" so that we can get back pats and shout outs. At this site, our readers know that about us. They know we'll speak our mind. That's true of the entire community and, true, we're lucky because we've never had to suck up to "players" because we've ridden the community coat tails. A lot of sites don't have that option. They've got to do shout outs constantly and prostrate themselves before their designated blog gods for a morsel of attention that might steer a little traffic there way. We consider those embarrassing sites. They tend to write things like, "We don't need to make fun of James Dobson, we need to try to find a way to get along with him." (Yes, someone really wrote that nonsense and considers himself to be a left blogger.)

We're not sure where the web is headed but we're troubled by a lot of signals that seem to be flashing these days. You'll hear the need for a code of ethics. Excuse us? We'd assume you'd follow your own ethical guidelines not require that a set of guidelines you never wrote be imposed upon you. That's how newspapers function. Each has their own guidelines. But there's a need to turn blogging into some sort of a "profession."

C.I., due to family history, knows quite well how "professionalism" was used to water down reporting. We've noted it here before but we try to be professional without being a professional (phrase stolen from Michelle Phillips). We're also bothered by the emegence of gatekeepers, the net's own Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldsons, Gwen Ifells . . . A lot of net space has been wasted with talk of "tone." People rushed to give props to a New Republican who felt the "tone" was shocking. That would be The New Republican that cheerleaded the war. (Which one? As Marty points out, every one.) It was sites like BuzzFlash and Bartcop, with their attitude (which we don't consider a bad word) that led the online challenges to this administration. They didn't do it by fretting about "tone."

And as C.I. can tell you from family history, those letters to the editors composed with careful thought out "tone" don't do a bit of good. We honestly wonder if the writers of them send them in thinking, "Bill Keller's going to be so impressed with my good manners I'm going to change his mind!" or "Bill Keller's going to be so impressed with my good manners, he's going to offer me a job!" Maybe it's something else entirely. But C.I. can tell you that the letters that bother a publisher or an editor aren't the ones minding their "tone." The letters that state their opinion in a to the point manner do linger. A publisher can spend the whole weekend fuming about an angry letter. You're carefully worded, on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other letter is forgotten as soon as the assistant reads it.

When that was explained to us, the weekend we started this site, we thought, "Interesting." If someone else needs proof, all you have to do is look at Bill Keller's public statements. When he whines to the press, it's about the angry letters. Keller's never given out a quote about the "reasoned arm chair critics." But he's publicly blasted the arm chair critics who've taken him to task. He had a meltdown with FAIR readers not all that long ago.

What's happened with the web is that a multitude of voices have come along to critique. Now a New Republican, who frequently contributes to the paper of record, wants to whine about "tone."

Of course he does. He writes for The Times. He writes for The New Republican. Those aren't brave voices of the left. The New Republican produced a lot of gasbags for the right. It also produced a lot of weak "left" types who go on the chat and chews and conceed this point and conceed that point. (The good writers, Murray Waas for example, left the rag and can and have spoken of how un-left it is.)

"Where's the spine in the party?" is a question you hear about the Democratic Party quite often. It's in the grass roots. The leaders are too busy worrying about "tone" and how to make nice that they can't focus on spine. There are many ways the Republicans set the terms of any debate. One way is not worrying about "tone" or what The New York Times might write about them. The press loves it and follows along meekly.

"Tone" is not an "issue" we worry about. We worry about the war. We worry about the Patriot Act. We worry about our democracy and the state of the union. About the poor. Go down the list. "Tone" it's somewhere down below the humidity on our lists. There are too many battles to be fought for us to play Miss Manners.

Some of us are apt to word more kindly than others, but none of us have a problem calling a liar a "liar" or calling a fool a "fool." Those are our judgements and our opinions. We'll assume anyone reading anything we write will grasp that and that those who can't have problems that go far beyond our "tone."

When Rebecca took on a foolish group that wants to privatize Social Security and prides itself on how bipartisan it is (Dem-lites square dance with Republicans), one of the fools took issue with the fact that his hair had been made fun of. He told her that if she wanted to discuss him, she should stick to his policies. (As Rebecca noted, that wasn't even possible because the organization does not allow you to quote from their policy papers -- quote from, quote -- without permission.) He had a dorky haircut. (He may still have.) He wanted to whine to Rebecca about all the things that were going on in his life the day his professional photo was taken. Well, here's an answer for the fool, take another picture. Don't post the picture online.
(As Rebecca noted, he wasn't at all worried about what she had said about the haircuts and clothes of his presumed friends in the organization.) Rebecca can and will criticize whatever she wants. That's her right. (Need we add "as an American"?)

You don't impose a "tone" on others. You don't set the terms for debate. If you are an adult male professional with a chili bowl haircut, we all think that's worth commenting on. On Roseanne, even DJ dropped that dorky haircut as he entered his teen years. That a middle-aged man still wants to sport it . . . We say, "Go for it, Rebecca." And go for anything you want.

You saw a meltdown online this week (or maybe you saw it, no one really visits that site) where a scold felt the need to scream at the left that they were awful for their Cheney jokes. Awful?
Cheney shot a man. That's news. The jokes? They've lowered Cheney's image. He's not the tough spoken v.p. He's the man who shot a hunting buddy. That's his freeze frame now. Short of embarrassing himself more, that's how he is now remembered.

C.I. spoke at The Common Ills recently of Hillary Clinton and how the Republicans and press attempts to paint her as "too angry" would never go over. Her freeze frame comes from the Monica months where America saw her as a woman who held her head high in a very difficult time. Angry? It's not going to play to anyone but the extreme right that's been rabid on her for years.

If you think Bob Dylan, you think of him in the sixties. There's a moment in time that every public figure is frozen in. Some get more than one, so you end up with dueling postage stamps of Thin Elvis and Fat Elvis. Or you get Tina Turner with the long, straight wig and Tina Turner of the comeback eighties. But most people have one freeze frame, one image that will follow them throughout their lives. For Cheney, it's now the hunting accident.

Anytime he wants to try to strike fear in the public again, a sizeable portion of the audience will be listening with one ear as they crack jokes about his hunting trip. Don't knock the mock, C.I. has often pointed out. Never rule out the power of humor. Political humor (printed, spoken or drawn) has a long history in this country. That's why the Republicans use terms like "Ozone Man." They know it's effective.

None of us last week heard the man shot made fun of. We heard Cheney made fun of. A scold wanted to scream, "It's shameful!" It wasn't at all. It was funny. We're sorry you didn't think so but we thought it was funny (especially Wally's posts at The Daily Jot) and we laughed. The nation laughed.

The Republican talking points right now are that he's recovered from it. He hasn't. He will never recover from that moment. That moment is his freeze frame, his defining moment (unless he embarrasses himself further) and we say "Good for you" to everyone who took part in the jokes. He's gone from Darth Cheney to the laughingstock of a nation. We think that's a good thing. He can mutter "mushroom cloud" in that sinister, soft spoken tone all he wants but he's about as threatening now as Dr. Evil. He's not taken seriously. Talking points aside, he's not taken seriously.

If the scold was in charge of the net, a number of voices would be banished and banned right now. Fortunately the scold's not in charge. But no one should be. Ideas and expressions should be able to get a fair hearing. Gatekeepers don't like that. They want to say, "Don't talk about that! Don't talk about it and don't talk it about that way!" Or, "You can talk about this subject but you have to do it in this manner." We must be missing that subsection of the First Amendment because we can't find it.

Here's the way we read it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free excercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assmelbe, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We don't see a damn thing in there about "tone" or a list of subjects which can and cannot be discussed. Free speech is free speech. Sometimes it's beautiful, sometimes it's ugly, most of the time it's messy. That's the beauty of a democracy.

Joan Mellen's written a book we recommend strongly. We think it has far more value than anything Blumenthal's written (either a single article or the entire body of his work). A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History is worth reading. If you've already got a list of books to read or you need more convincing, we'll steer you to two online items. First, Rebecca had an amazing dream when she read the book, who knows what influence it will have on you. Second, especially if you're thinking "That was so long ago," you can check out the text to the speech Joan Mellen gave entitled "HOW THE FAILURE TO IDENTIFY, PROSECUTE AND CONVICT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINS HAS LED TO TODAY'S CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY." We think most of our readers will be interested in A Farewell to Justice.

Musings on the service economy

Saturday on RadioNation with Laura Flanders found Flanders in Nevada. (She's there for today's show as well.) With a variety of guests, she covered a variety of issues. (And people who blog at her site got a special treat when blogger Cujo turned out to be in the audience.) The issues that stood out to us the most were discussions of the economy.

"Laura Flanders" and "living wage" go together like "Laura Flanders" and "Stop the war" because it's a topic that she's long spoken of (including as the host of Your Call). So we weren't expecting to be shocked but we were. A male guest stated that manufacturing jobs were gone and not coming back.

We don't dispute that. And we've heard it for many years. Bruce Springsteen sang of it in "My Hometown" ("Foreman says these jobs are going, boys/ And they ain't coming back . . ."). But it was a shock none the less. We all fell silent. (We're usually listening and discussing the edition at the same time. If we're really lucky and on schedule, we're working on our first piece and listening at the same time.)

Again, we don't dispute it. We've heard it before. We've heard it sung, we've heard it loudly, but there was something so plain spoken and calm in the voice of the man who said. On national radio, no less. Spoke the truth simply and plainly and maybe that what was so shocking?

Can a nation succeed on a service economy? The destruction of the manufacturing base happened first in the inner cities. Now it's across the nation. We no longer build things. (The entertainment industry being one of the few exceptions.)

As a service economy, Flanders and her guests pointed out, the unioniziation of the industry is very important if workers are going to earn a living wage. But what does it mean for the nation?

We started brainstorming on how a nation could make money when they have no goods to sell?
One way is tourism. But we're a nation whose actions have hardly said, "Welcome" to visiters.
Not in the last few years. Certainly any Muslims who worried about the way they'd be treated at airports and elsewhere would have a valid reason to be concerned. As our ambassador to the world, Bully Boy's made it clear that his administration is keen on exporting oppression (disgusied as "fair trade") and war. Are those calling cards?

We can think of Paris, we can think of London . . . a host of cities throughout the world that have images that play in your mind. We're just not seeing D.C. on par with Rome. There is the entertainment industry in California and the amusement parks in California and Florida. Those might be travel destinations to the rest of the world. There's NYC. Possibly Las Vegas. But of the forty-eight mainland states, we're not getting the feeling that there are a lot of hot spots, must sees, for the rest of the world. Maybe we're too used to our surroundings? Or maybe Witness had a massive impact in other countries and people are dying to come to America and visit Amish country?

Maybe Roswell could be opened up and we could dub it our Stonehenge?

Us, we could vacation in any state and have a great time. But we're not hopping an international flight. And we're not seeing a lot of drawing cards. Probably Nahsville would popular with foreign tourists. Nashville's unique to America. Dallas for those interested in the JFK assassination. But otherwise . . .

(If Detroit would truly honor Motown, it could probably pull in a large number of the English.)

But Bully Boy's sullied our world image. And we're not seeing mythic places that could pull in people from all over the world. Yes, we get immigrants all the time who come here to make a home in the land of the free. As a travel destination, with or without the Bully Boy, land of the free strikes us as about as marketable as Switzerland: Land of the Neutral!

"Mommy, this summer, can we go to the land of the free?"

We're not hearing it. We have some nice slopes in Utah and Colorado but Europes ski destinations are better known. Does that mean we'll be everyone's fall back destination? If they can't book in the Swiss Alps, they'll end up in Aspen?

We're being a bit flippant. (A bit? Hey, we've got a smart ass attitude at this site. Didn't you ever notice?) But we are serious about this. How does money come into a country that exports no manufacturing?

Which raised our second issue: revenues. How does the government pay the bills? Corporations already pay token fees at best. The burden is pushed onto the individual citizen. A trend that's been going on for sometime. If Bully Boy gets his wish and destroy's the estate tax while providing additional tax breaks to the rich, exactly how much of every working American's check will be needed for the government to run in some form? (Bare minimum, we're assuming.)

The service economy is here. Congress could step in and stop rewarding those who manufacture overseas but we don't see that happening. So the service economy is here and the manufacturing is gone. What will that mean for America and Americans?

Here's what we do know:

SUNDAY, Feb 19, 2006
RadioNation with Laura Flanders will broadcast live from:
the offices of PLAN
(the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada)
821 Riverside Drive
Reno, Nevada 89503

Senadores republicanos bloquean investigacion sobre espionaje de la NSA

Senadores republicanos bloquean investigacion sobre espionaje de la NSA

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

Senadores republicanos bloquean investigación sobre espionaje de la NSA
Actualizamos información de la controversia sobre el programa de espionaje interno, del presidente Bush. En Capitol Hill, los senadores republicanos obstruyeron una propuesta de investigar la operación.
El republicano Pat Roberts, presidente del Comité de Inteligencia, dijo el jueves que su panel había decidido no llevar a cabo la investigación. Roberts manifestó que había llegado a un acuerdo con la Casa Blanca para que considerara la legislación y proporcionara más información al Congreso sobre el programa de espionaje de conversaciones privadas.
El senador demócrata de más alto rango del comité, John Rockefeller, dijo: "Hoy, el Comité de Inteligencia del Senado una vez más renunció a su responsabilidad de supervisar las actividades de inteligencia de Estados Unidos".

Juez ordena a Departamento de Justicia que publique documentos de la NSA
Mientras tanto, un juez federal ordenó al Departamento de Justicia que publique los documentos sobre el programa de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) en un plazo de 20 días. Esta orden surgió como respuesta a un pedido de libertad de información realizado por el Centro de Privacidad de la Información Electrónica (EPIC, por sus siglas en inglés).

Investigadores de la ONU dijeron a Estados Unidos: Clausuren Guantánamo
En otras noticias, investigadores de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas exhortaron al gobierno de Bush a que cierre inmediatamente la prisión de la Bahía de Guantánamo, en Cuba. El informe de la ONU insta al gobierno estadounidense a "abstenerse de cualquier práctica equivalente a la tortura o al trato o castigo cruel, inhumano o degradante".
El informe también dice: "En el caso de los detenidos de la Bahía de Guantánamo, el presidente de Estados Unidos opera como juez, fiscal, y abogado defensor: esto constituye serias violaciones de diversas garantías del derecho a un juicio justo ante un tribunal independiente". Hay aproximadamente 500 hombres detenidos en ese lugar. No se presentaron cargos en contra de la mayoría de ellos. El portavoz del Departamento de Estado Sean McCormack, desestimó el informe. McCormack dijo que la información de la ONU estaba basada en "rumores".

Iraquíes indignados por nuevas fotos de Abu Ghraib
En Irak, la publicación de nuevas fotografías que muestran a detenidos iraquíes siendo torturados en la prisión de Abu Ghraib, dirigida por Estados Unidos, provocó indignación. La cadena televisiva australiana SBS mostró estas fotos por primera vez el miércoles y varias de las imágenes fueron reproducidas en periódicos iraquíes y en medios televisivos. Un ciudadano iraquí, Abd Al-Awadh, dice que las fotos demostraron que Estados Unidos estaba violando el derecho internacional.
Abd Al-Awadh dijo: "Estamos muy apenados por las fotos que vimos ayer. Vimos como humillaban a los iraquíes y que en este país no hay respeto por la dignidad del pueblo iraquí, en el país donde éramos amos ahora somos esclavos y los amos son extranjeros. Además de las fotos de abusos en Abu Ghraib, vimos a iraquíes siendo golpeados en Basora por las fuerzas británicas. Esto es una violación de las leyes internacionales, las que ellos usaron como pretexto para invadir Irak". Y agregó: "Sentimos mucho que estos actos se repitan diariamente en las calles iraquíes. Las fuerzas estadounidenses matan injustificadamente. La opinión de la población es tergiversada y lamentablemente el prisionero iraquí fue tratado de forma bárbara y salvaje por las fuerzas estadounidenses".

Fotografías muestran cadáveres, tortura y hombres desnudos
Una de las fotografías mostraba a un hombre muerto, tirado desnudo sobre el polvo con sangre saliéndole de la cabeza. Otra foto mostraba a un hombre desnudo colgado de una cama, sujetado de las rodillas. Otro prisionero estaba cubierto de heces. Las fotografías también muestran a hombres desnudos en posiciones sexuales humillantes. Los prisioneros fueron fotografiados usando capuchas. También fotografiaron a hombres que mostraban lo que parecen ser marcas de quemaduras y torturas.
Y la protesta suscitada por las fotos podría intesificarse. Hoy temprano, "Salon.com" publicó mas fotos de Abu Ghraib. La publicación en Internet obtuvo archivos y otros documentos electrónicos de una investigación interna del ejército. El material incluye más de 1.000 fotografías, videos y documentos probatorios. Según "Salon.com", algunos de los documentos se refieren a los funcionarios de la CIA como interrogadores de los prisioneros en Abu Ghraib. Hasta la fecha, ningún oficial de la CIA ha sido procesado por ningún crimen ocurrido dentro de la prisión, a pesar de que al menos un iraquí murió allí durante un interrogatorio de la CIA.
El miércoles, la Unión Estadounidense por las Libertades Civiles (ACLU, por sus siglas en inglés), Amnistía Internacional y otros grupos pidieron una investigación realmente independiente que indague en todos los niveles de la cadena de mando militar, así como también la vinculación de otros organismos del gobierno como la CIA y los contratistas militares privados que estuvieron implicados en abusos.
Cinco mujeres arrestadas en protesta contra la guerra cerca de Washington DC
Y en las afueras de Washington DC, cinco mujeres del grupo contra la guerra Raging Grannies (Abuelas Furiosas) fueron arrestadas el martes en una protesta frente a una oficina de reclutamiento militar. Las mujeres fueron arrestadas luego de anunciar que pretendían enlistarse. Coreaban: "si alguien debe morir en Irak, que sean los viejos". Más tarde fueron liberadas sin cargos en su contra. El martes se realizaron protestas similares en todo el país, incluyendo los estados de Florida, California y Nueva York.
Más de mil personas protestan por video que muestra a soldados británicos golpeando a jóvenes iraquíes
En Irak, más de mil personas protestaron el martes en Basora por un video dado a conocer recientemente que muestra a soldados británicos golpeando a jóvenes iraquíes. Se cree que el video fue grabado luego de una protesta en la ciudad de Amarah, a principios de 2004. Cientos de personas asistieron a la protesta para exigir empleo. En el video, cuatro manifestantes jóvenes son arrastrados desde una calle a un recinto del ejército británico donde recibieron puñetazos, puntapiés y porrazos. También se escucha la voz de una persona, que no aparece en la grabación, que elogia los ataques. El martes, el jefe de la fuerza policial de Basora dijo que las fuerzas de seguridad iraquíes suspenderán los patrullajes conjuntos con las Fuerzas Armadas británicas en la provincia, como medida de protesta. Mientras tanto, el gobierno británico dice que hasta el momento arrestó a tres personas vinculadas con el incidente.
Senado rechaza por 93 votos contra 3 el intento del senador Feingold de detener la renovación de la Ley Patriota
En otras noticias de Capitol Hill, el Senado va en camino a renovar la Ley Patriota. El senador demócrata Russ Feingold, de Wisconsin, lidera el esfuerzo para bloquear la renovación, pero está recibiendo poco apoyo, incluso de sus compañeros demócratas. Feingold quiere establecer una fecha de caducidad de cuatro años para las disposiciones de la Ley que permiten a los agentes del gobierno obligar a bancos, bibliotecas, compañías proveedoras de servicios de Internet y otras instituciones a entregar registros privados sin una orden judicial. El jueves, el senado aprobó con 93 votos a favor y 3 en contra rechazar el intento de Feingold de detener la legislación. Sólo el senador independiente Jim Jeffords y el demócrata Robert Byrd apoyaron a Feingold.
FBI realiza redadas en casas de activistas independentistas en Puerto Rico
En Washington, varios miembros del Congreso están pidiendo una investigación sobre recientes redadas llevadas a cabo por el FBI contra activistas independentistas en Puerto Rico.
La semana pasada, cientos de miembros de la unidad antiterrorista del FBI llevaron a cabo seis redadas simultáneas en las casas a integrantes del grupo independentista conocido como Macheteros.
El FBI dijo que estaba intentando impedir un posible ataque terrorista a nivel nacional.
En una de las redadas, agentes del FBI golpearon y lanzaron gas de pimienta a los periodistas que intentaban realizar entrevistas.
Las redadas ocurrieron menos de seis meses después de que el FBI mató a balazos al líder independentista puertorriqueño Filiberto Ojeda Rios.
En Irán, el gobierno afirma que reanudó el enriquecimiento de uranio a pequeña escala, desafiando el esfuerzo internacional para limitar su actividad nuclear. La noticia surge en medio de recientes especulaciones sobre un posible ataque de Estados Unidos a Irán. Durante el fin de semana, el "Sunday Telegraph" informó que el Pentágono trazó un plan de ataque como último recurso para impedir que Irán desarrolle armas nucleares. Un funcionario de alto rango del Pentágono, que no reveló su identidad, dijo: "Esto es más que un plan estándar de contingencia militar...El problema adquirió mayor urgencia en los últimos meses".
Maria: Now in English, here are ten headlines from Democracy Now! Peace.
Senate Republicans Block Investigation Into NSA Spying
This update on the controversy over President Bush's warrant-less domestic spying program - on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans have blocked a proposed investigation into the operation. On Thursday, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, chair of the Intelligence Committee said, his panel decided not to conduct an investigation. Roberts said he reached an agreement with the White House to consider legislation and provide more information to Congress on the eavesdropping program. The ranking Democrat on the committee -- Sen. John Rockefeller -- said "Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee once again abdicated its responsibility to oversee the intelligence activities of the United States."
Judge Orders Justice Dept To Release NSA Documents
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to release documents about the NSA program within 20 days. The order comes in response to a Freedom Of Information request filed by EPIC - the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
UN Investigators Call on U.S. to Close Guantanamo
In other news, United Nations investigators have called on the Bush administration to immediately close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The UN report urges the US government to "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The report goes on to state "In the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the U.S. executive operates as judge, as prosecutor, and as defense council: this constitutes serious violations of various guarantees of the right to a fair trial before an independent tribunal." About 500 men are being held at the site. Charges have never been filed against most of them. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed the report. He said the U.N. information was based on "hearsay."
UN Investigators Call on U.S. to Close Guantanamo
In other news, United Nations investigators have called on the Bush administration to immediately close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The UN report urges the US government to "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The report goes on to state "In the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the U.S. executive operates as judge, as prosecutor, and as defense council: this constitutes serious violations of various guarantees of the right to a fair trial before an independent tribunal." About 500 men are being held at the site. Charges have never been filed against most of them. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed the report. He said the U.N. information was based on "hearsay."
Iraqis Outraged Over New Abu Ghraib Photos
In Iraq, the publication of new photographs showing Iraqi detainees being tortured inside the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison is being met by outrage. The Australian broadcaster SBS first aired the photographs on Wednesday and many of the images have been reprinted in Iraqi newspapers and aired on television. One Iraqi citizen, Abd Al-Awadh, says the photos proved the United States was acting in violation of international law. "We feel sorry about the photos we saw yesterday. We saw humiliation to the Iraqis and we saw that there is no respect to the dignity of the Iraqi people in this country, the country where we were masters we are now slaves and the masters come from abroad. In addition to Abu Ghraib abuse photos, we saw Iraqis being beaten in Basra by the British forces. This is a violation of international laws, which they used as a pretext to invade Iraq," said Abd Al-Awadh. "We feel sorry that such acts are being repeated on a daily basis at the Iraqi streets. There is unjustified killings by the U.S. force. The public opinion is misled and regrettably enough the Iraqi prisoner was treated in a barbaric and savage way at the hands of the American forces."
Photographs Depict Corpses, Torture, Naked Men
One photograph showed a man lying dead in the dirt with blood coming out of his head. Another showed a naked man hanging from a bed by his knees. Another prisoner is shown covered in feces. Naked men are also shown in sexually humiliating positions. Prisoners were photographed wearing hoods. Men were also photographed showing what appears to be burn and torture marks. And the outcry over the photos may only intensify. Earlier today Salon.com published even more photographs from Abu Ghraib. The online publication obtained files and other electronic documents from an internal Army investigation. The material includes more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents. According to Salon.com some of the documents refer to CIA personnel as interrogators of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. To date, no CIA officers have been prosecuted for any crimes that occurred within the prison, despite the death of at least one Iraqi during a CIA interrogation there. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and other groups called for a truly independent investigation to look at all levels of the military chain of command, as well as involvement from other government agencies like the CIA and private military contractors who have been implicated in abuses.
5 "Raging Grannies" Arrested at Anti-War Protest Near DC
And just outside of Washington, DC, five women with the anti-war group the Raging Grannies were arrested Tuesday at a protest outside a military recruitment office. The women were arrested after announcing they intended to enlist. They chanted: "if someone must die in Iraq, let it be the old." They were later released without charge. The protest was one of several held across the country Tuesday, including in Florida, California, and New York.
Over 1,000 Protest Video Showing British Troops Beating Iraqi Youths
In Iraq, more than 1,000 people rallied in Basra Tuesday over a recent video showing British soldiers beating Iraqi youths. The video is believed be from the aftermath of a protest in the city of Amarah in early 2004. Hundreds of people attended the rally to demand employment. On the video, four young protesters are pulled off of a street and into a British army compound where they are punched, kicked and hit with batons. An off-camera voice can also be heard praising the attacks. On Tuesday, the chief of the Basra police force said Iraqi security forces would cease joint patrols with the British military in the province in protest. Meanwhile, the British government says it has arrested three people so far in connection to the beatings.
Senate Votes 96-3 to Reject Sen. Feingold's Effort to Stall Patriot Act Renewal
In other news from Capitol Hill, the Senate is moving closer to renewing the Patriot Act. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is leading the effort to block renewal but he is receiving little support even from fellow Democrats. Feingold wants to set a four-year expiration date on provisions within the Act that allows government agents to force banks, libraries, Internet providers and others to hand over private records without a warrant. On Thursday, the Senate voted 96 to 3 to reject Feingold's efforts to stall the legislation. Only independent Senator Jim Jeffords and Democrat Robert Byrd backed Feingold.
FBI Raids Homes of Pro-Independence Activists in Puerto Rico
In Washington, several members of Congress are calling for an investigation into recent raids conducted by the FBI targeting pro-independence activists in Puerto Rico. Last week hundreds of members of the FBI's counterterrorism unit conducted six simultaneous raids targeting members of the pro-independence group known as the Macheteros. The FBI claimed it was attempting to thwart a possible domestic terrorism attack. At one of the raids, FBI agents beat and pepper sprayed journalists who attempted to conduct interviews. The raids come less than six months after the FBI shot dead Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios.
Report: US Drawing Up Plans For Iran Attack
In Iran, the government says it has resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium, defying an international effort to limit its nuclear activity. The news comes amid fresh speculation over a possible US attack on Iran. Over the weekend, the Sunday Telegraph reported the Pentagon has drawn up an attack plan as a last resort to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. An anonymous senior Pentagon official said: "This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment. This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."

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