Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Happy Mother's Day.

We're off to . . . sleep? We wish.

We're beginning to feel like Meg Tilly in The Two Jakes, asking Jack Nicholson if it ever gets better? How about just done sooner?

This edition, we offer the following reposts (and thank everyone for permission):

Music Spotlight: Kat's Korner on Pink's I'm Not Dead
NYT Criticque via C.I.
Blog Spotlight: Kat on Rolling Stone, Guns & Butter and more
Humor Spotlight: Wally on Hillary's faves
Humor Spotlight: Betty on Thomas Friedman's visit to the Russian Embassy
Empresas de telecomunicaciones ayudaron a la NSA a espiar a millones de ciudadanos estadounidenses
Music Spotlight: Kat's Korner on Josh Ritter's The Animal Years
Blog Spotlight: Mike discusses tax breaks and Barry Bonds
Music Spotlight: Kat on Pearl Jam
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca on Alphonso Jackson of HUD
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca on the head liar at HUD
Blog Spotlight: Cedric wonders if we close Guantanamo, where will we put Bully Boy?
Music Spotlight: Kat on The Millennium Collection of Richie Havens
Mother's Day Spotlight: Trina's Kitchen

We also offer new content:

"Editorial: Could it be true? Rove indicted?" -- really, can it be true?

"TV Review: When it's time to go -- That 70s Show" Ava and C.I.'s latest. They say right now that they have no idea what they wrote. But they say fans of the show should watch the finale this week, the series ender. You've been given your heads up.

"Who exactly are the outlaws?" is an essay pulling together a number of threads to ask those calm, self-satisified, Sunny Side of the Street types, exactly why aren't you frightened to death?

"2 Books, many minutes " -- write enough e-mails demanding that it return and you get your wish. We've limited the amount to two books in an attempt to make it more manageble.

"About that 'fan mail'" -- what got noticed by most non-regular readers? You can probably guess. Ty wants it noted that he's African-American. That's a point he meant to bring up in this, that e-mailers complaining that issues of race are noted assume that everyone involved in this edition is White. C.I. and Ava want it noted that people can have whatever opinion they wish and express themselves however they want. "Just don't expect us to read any of it," Ava adds.

"Professional Slime Mike McCurry stabs Milano in the back" -- Dems like McCurry think play it forward, like life, is not a beach. In their efforts to get their way through distortion, they aren't above sliming someone who did her part for the Party. Note, they'll court the anti-choice crazies, but they'll happily smear someone whose given of her time.

"Laura Flanders spoke with Cindy Sheehan on Saturday's Radio Nation With Laura Flanders" -- you shouldn't have missed Laura and, hopefully, you didn't. This is us focusing on our favorite segment from last night and, remember, it airs again tonight. (C.I. adds, "Tonight in the Eastern time zone. Adjust time for your own areas.")

"Mark Danner discusses impeachment with Larry Bensky today on KPFA's Sunday Salon" is a quick note noting Pacifica and Sunday Salon.

We had plans for other features, when time ran out, so did the plans.

The following worked on the features in this edition (except TV commentary which was done solely by Ava and C.I.):

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 thank everyone for their help and that includes Dallas for hunting down links.

We checked the spam folder in our e-mail account in the midst of writing this edition. ____ had written and as a result, we killed a piece that we had completed (our first completed for this edition in fact). We noted that today was a day of peace and while we disagree with the person's take, we'd kill the piece we'd planned in honor of that day.

We're a bunch of smart asses so when we pull a sincere move it may be confusing, but if ___ is reading this (no reason ___ should be), that was a sincere e-mail (look at the contents and you'll see the feature isn't up).

On this day, if there's something you can pull (not your beliefs, just possibly a criticism, perhaps, that you'd already made so on this day of peace, you can avoid not to air it again), pull it. If you're lucky enough to have a mother who is alive, take a moment to appreciate that and, most of all, appreciate her while you figure out what a day of peace means to you and for you.

Peace will come, according to plan (as Melanie sang and wrote). "With a velvet hill in the small of my back . . ."

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

Editorial: Could it be true? Rove indicted?

Saturday night on RadioNation with Laura Flanders Cindy Sheehan stated, of the administration, "I've been saying for a long time that I think they'll be hung by the end of this year." Could Sheehan and the rest of us be getting our wish before the November elections?

Jason Leopold, who's followed the Plamegate case closely and has a strong record of accuracy, reported on Friday:

Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.
Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on "wildly speculative rumors."

And on Saturday, Jason Leopold wrote on the topic again:

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.
During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.
Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.
It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

Could it really be true? Could one aspect of The Long Nightmare (a term we find more appropriate than Rumsfeld's The Long War) really be ending? No disrespect intended to Leopold, we're just a little guarded because, if it happened, this is really big.

Bully Boy's Brain, that's what Karl Rove was supposed to be. He wasn't. He was good at manipulating messages for campaigns (somewhat) but he was mainly good at going on attack. (Karen Hughes was far more involved in the message to the public. As one person wrote to the White House in a still mentioned letter from 2003, "She's us [the people] only smarter." Well, definitely smarter than the person who wrote the letter. But even the clueless didn't rush to pen lauditory notes about how Rove represented the best in all of us.)

He's a smear merchant, that's all he's ever really excelled at. Smear Max Clealand, smear John Kerry, smear anyone who speaks out. His feces is smeared all over the walls of America which is why it's difficult to believe there are none of his finger prints in the attacks and smears of Joseph Wilson that included, but were not limited to, outing his wife, Valerie Plame (who was a CIA agent).

Rove knows how to do the set up and how to do the sucker punch. Whether he was the one who put out the rumors of Bully Boy's cocaine use, as James Hatfield (the late author of Fortunate Son) asserted, it always played like Rove. Whether it was a plan that was set up ahead of time or one he stumbled upon when he'd fallen out of the Bully Boy's good graces during the first campaign for the presidency, it read like a Rove trademark.

Set up an author, whose background can be used to smear him, with the story of Bully Boy's cocaine use and then, when it gets attention from the press, bring up the author's background and ask how can someone like that be trusted?

It's not a denial of cocaine use. But it strikes some as a denial. The same way when Mary Mapes 60 Minutes II story aired asserting that Bully Boy didn't fulfill his obligations in the National Guard, the defense of Bully Boy was left to his demented fans because Bully Boy wasn't about to go on record with specifics.

Operating under the belief of "Why take the high road or the low road when the gutter's right there?" the whole thing smells of Rove.

And if Rove goes down, a lot of others should follow. As we noted last July in "Editorial: What did Hadley know and what did he do?"

Karl Rove's latest defense (as pointed out by The Common Ills) is that after speaking with Matt Cooper when Valerie Plame's name came up he immediately e-mailed then deputy national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley. And then what?
And then what?Did the e-mail confuse Hadley? Was their a follow up conversation of "Karl, what's this e-mail about?" Did Hadley immediately notify his boss (Condi Rice) what was going on? Did she follow up by notifying the Bully Boy?
[. . .]
We're not foolish enough to think the White House wasn't orchestrating the outing of Plame. But if that's going to be the spin point ("I prove I'm not guilty with my e-mail to Hadley!") then let's examine that spin point.
The spin argues Rove passed the news on up. Did it stop there? If so Hadley didn't do his job.Did it go higher? How much higher? A CIA agent was a national security issue. The outing of an agent was a national security issue.
No one's attempting to say Rove's absolved and innocent. We think he's neither. But if he's going to push this latest point, then we say let's explore it.

Now we're in the hallway and can't even see the tree, let alone the gifts beneath it, so we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves. If it's only Rove that gets indicted, we'll say, "Thank you! It's just what I wanted!" with real meaning.

We don't think Leopold's made anything up. We just know that until we shake the box and we tear back a little piece of the wrapping paper, Santa might have brought us a dopey sweater and forgotten to deliver one of the really important things at the top of our Christmas lists.

In comic books, movies and TV shows, we're told time and again that good triumphs over evil. We haven't seen much to indicate that this assertion is much more than a plot device. But, as Mama Cass/Cass Elliot once sang, "I can dream, can't I?"

We'll keep Grand Jury Dreamin' on this Mother's Day.

But we won't let the dream distract us from what's needed right now at this moment. As Cindy Sheehan writes in "The One Message That Politicians Fear" (BuzzFlash):

Now we are faced with the modern carnage of the occupation of Iraq, and still there are threats of another war of aggression in Iran. The Iraq policy is fatally flawed, especially for the nearly 2500 US deaths and for every one of these there has been 100 dead Iraqi civilians. We have to do something to build a peace movement that can stop blood-bathed foreign policy. We've demonstrated, written letters, sung songs, engaged in civil disobedience and traveled far and wide engaging our fellow Americans to demand that the troops come home.
[. . .]
The November elections are rapidly approaching, and the primary races come even sooner. Many are close elections where every vote is important. Candidates are jockeying for your support. We must tell them -- 'you don't get my vote unless you oppose the occupation of Iraq and will work to prevent future wars of aggression.'

We can dream (and we can dream big, a world beyond Bully Boy, Rove, et al) but we can also make sure not to take things for granted. (That is, after all, the role the Democratic Party has assigned itself in the last four elections. We'd hate to rob them of their chosen role.) Make demands, make your voice heard. Let every politician know that that votes are not automatic and that the people will be listened to, must be listened to.

TV Review: When it's time to go -- That 70s Show

The tail end of spring . . . when many a creative mind turns to thoughts of . . . "I kill those bastards for not renewing us!"

But it's all smiles in front of the cameras. A number of shows are winding down. On Fox tonight, Malcolm in the Middle takes its final bow. Thursday sees the final episodes of That 70s Show (one hour) and Will & Grace (two hours). Not today, but next Sunday, sees the final episode of Charmed. All but Malcolm started in 1998 (Malcolm debuted in 2000). We've seen a number of episodes of all four and we quizzed friends this week on which they'd miss?

We were surprised by the hostility towards That 70s Show . . . and then we watched. We stopped after viewing six of this year's episodes in one day.

Malcolm had to deal with the fact that child actors age (and some are no longer children) which had at least the same impact on the show as Dewey beginning to speak. Will & Grace? It rebounded, thankfully. If it had continued down the road of Grace as fashion plate . . . We'll save our thoughts because we may review it next Sunday. But it rebounded. Of the four, Charmed is the one that's remained truest to its original premise. (Yes, some would say "most true" but "truest" is a false rhyme with "premise.") Shannen Doherty left and that could have been the end of the show. Rose McGowan came in and had to deal with an audience used to Pru, suddenly learning of Paige and not sure if they were going to care.

McGowan made the role her own and fit in onscreen. There's a reason for that. How much of it was Aaron Spelling's doing and how much of it was McGowan's is open to debate. But McGowan came on as the kid sister, a little unsure, a little nervous. It's the same technique that allowed Cheryl Ladd to replace Farrah Fawcett (then Farrah Fawcett-Majors and the most popular TV actress of that season). Those were big shoes to fill. You don't do it by clomping around.

That 70s Show didn't grasp that. Josh Meyers came on at the very end of last season playing Randy Pearson, a character you never heard of before and one you weren't going to grow very fond of no matter how much the show tried to push him off on you. Meyers came in calling attention to himself, strutting around. (In fairness, that was partly the writing.)

Topher Grace had left the show and they felt the need for a new character. They seemed to feel the need for a new "Eric" and the audience never accepts that. Cheryl Ladd didn't play a character like Fawcett's Jill. Kris was Jill's younger sister. You didn't catch her on skateboard. Kris lacked Jill's atheleticism and other qualities. Cheryl Ladd introduced you to Kris' qualities.

That 70s Show elected to go another way. They brought on Meyers and had him playing pranks with Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), kidding Red (Kurtwood Smith) and generally drawing attention to himself, too much attention, at a time when Topher Grace's character is being eased out of the show. No wonder the audience hated Randy and lost interest in the show.

If you give hours to a favorite show, give years, the characters can become like family. If you feel like you're saying goodbye to your brother you really don't need some clown butting in on the big scenes. You also recoil if your "brother"'s girlfriend is immediately paired with him and, yes, the writers paired up Randy and Donna (Laura Prepon).

Creative geniuses seemed to think they could grow an insta-Eric overnight and they didn't get how opposed the audience was to that notion. Though Charlie's Angels successfully replaced Farrah Fawcett, they had a nightmare replacing Kate Jackson with Shelly Hack (and then a bigger nightmare when Tanya Roberts, who had a regular role on That 70s Show until 2001, replaced Hack). Hack didn't come on like the kid sister who was nervous and hoping you would like her. Hack came on like a functioning adult and the character was written distant and detached (someone thought that equaled "class"). The audience, that never bonded with Hack, was left to wonder "Who is this person thinking she knows everything and can just walk in here like she owns the place?"

Similar questions resulted from attempting to make Randy insta-Eric. Whether he's a lousy actor or not isn't known. (Hack was actually a good actress.) The writing has been so bad on this character that it doesn't really matter. Audiences were destined to hate Randy from the start due to the way he was shoved off on them while a popular character left.

It was a mistake to attempt to replace Grace. His character was the focal point of the show. This wasn't, as with Charmed or Charlie's Angels, a case where one important person of a trio left the show. This was the lead character. Episode after episode, Eric was the point of reference. Is Eric in trouble? Did he kill Grandma? Did he end up in jail due to a prank? Did he and Donna make out? Did he lose Donna to Casey?

All of the characters were important to the show and some could argue (convincingly) that other characters were more popular, but Eric was the point of reference similar to the way Richie was the point of reference for many episodes of Happy Days. But Ron Howard didn't leave that show overnight. He scaled back his appearances and the writers had time to shift the focus to characters already on the show. (Fonzie? Henry Winkler's character was probably more popular than Ron Howard's just as Ashton Kutcher's Kelso was probably more popular than Eric.)

No matter what else it did or didn't do, the show always had a light touch. There wasn't a lot of moralizing or life lessons showing up in the final scene. Even Grandma's death resulted in laughs. (Grandma was played by Marion Ross who, of course, played Richie's mother on Happy Days.) Supposedly, there was a panic because Grace's departure at the end of last season was to be followed by Kutcher's which left everyone worried that, as one person with the show said to us, "We'd be left with After M*A*S*H."

That shouldn't have been a concern. All the characters were likeable (the same can't be said for After M*A*S*H) and the setting wasn't changing. They could have made Stephen (Danny Masterson) the focal point or Fez or, if they truly wanted to reflect the time period the show is set in, Donna. (We think Mila Kunis' Jackie could have been the focal point as well but it would have required great skill on the part of the writers due to the character's history.) Instead, as Eric is leaving, the audience gets Randy shoved off on them and, when the final season starts up, they're still getting Randy shoved off on them as Kelso's leaving.

It never would have worked, even if Meyers had been incredibly attractive and the role written very funny. But the show went with it and that, combined with the ever changing time slot and air date, helped kill enthusiasm for a show that brought a lot of joy and laughs to the screen at a time when it seemed like every other show was either solving a murder or trying the suspect.

The show still has it moments but they're killed when Meyers is onscreen. In the most recent episode that aired (second to last episode of the series), he talked Donna into moving in with him (something the audience was never going to "aaaaawwwwwe" over) and then had a line where he held a dog and told the dog to meet its new Mommy. It fell flat. Grace could have made it funny. He'd make the line funny and he'd make Eric's realization that he'd just freaked out Donna funny as well. Meyers just stood there looking confused. In his next scene, he had a line about how, if it was the dog calling her "Mommy" that freaked her out, she should know that it wasn't actually the dog speaking, it was him. Eric's nervousness could have made that moment funny. Even if it hadn't been that funny, people might have laughed because they know Eric. This stranger who looked like he was so amused himself at that moment didn't win over anyone.

When a character's not working with the audience, you don't have to fire them. You can just make the character creepy and let the audience laugh at what they're already thinking. Once they were stuck with the character of Randy and he wasn't working, the writers should have made him the butt of every joke. Fez sighing "Oh here comes Randy who thinks everyone just loves him and wants to be his friend" in a bitter voice would have gotten laughs because it's what many people watching were thinking.

Instead, a badly written character who never fit in is seen "Hanging out . . . down the street" (as the theme song would tell it) and the whole illusion that the cast has created over the years is blown to hell. You're no longer thinking, "Oh look, it's Kitty and Eric and Donna and . . ." Instead, you're thinking, "I hate that actor." When the audience's (natural) reaction is ignored, you can't count on them to play make believe for a half hour each week.

For future reference, when you add a new character to a long running show and the audience doesn't embrace him or her, don't think that's going to change. Don't think, "I'll give the character a tender moment and everything will change." It won't, not on a comdey. The only thing that will save the character is to give it a laugh. You have to build on the audience's expectations and, if they have low expectations of the character, funny lines won't cut it, you have to make him or her the butt of jokes. That's how you can turn a despised dreamboat into a character the audience will enjoy -- the way they enjoyed Louie on Taxi or Mimi on The Drew Carey Show. If you start trying to prove to the audience that their gut was wrong and this character is noble and loveable, it won't work.

The Foreman's house could have caught fire and Kitty and Red could both be passed out in it. We could have seen Randy, and only Randy, have the bravery to rush into the house and save them. The audience's reaction would have been "eh" because they don't care about Randy. They don't like him.

With Jackie going from bitch to a little more complex and Fez going from stupid to soulful, the audience could have enjoyed a character who got on all the other characters nerves. Instead a season was wasted with writers lecturing and hectoring an audience, saying basically, "Yes, you will eat your spinach! And you'll like it!"

This Thursday, if you were a fan of the show, you will laugh at the last episode, you'll probably get a little misty-eyed as well. They could have gone into that on their "behind the scenes" tribute but they didn't. It's too bad because some word of mouth might have helped build an audience for the final episode. Instead, unless audiences decides that two hours is too much of Will & Grace & Karen & Jack, the show's going to go out with a ratings whimper.

That 70s Show didn't always have the funniest joke or the most original (the Annie Hall rip-off a few years back was neither fresh nor that funny) but what put it over was the cast. They were all convincing in their roles and you really believed these characters would interact with one another. Because the writers and producers didn't believe in the cast as much as the audience did you've now got seven strong seasons for syndication and one season that will find audiences grabbing the remote and hollering, "Honey, it's a Randy episode! Want to watch . . . Empty Nest is on! How about we watch that instead?"

That's really a shame because the characters remained strong (in writing and in performance) and this last season could have been about exploring them. That Donna's only just now grasping that she's put her life on hold may be the most shocking thing about the character after the change in hair color. For two years now, she's had her life on hold. (Two years of episodes. The time span that's covered within the show we have no idea. When the show premiered the year was supposed to be 1976. They've all graduated high school, two seasons ago, and it's eight seasons since the show debuted so who knows how they track time?)

Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) has been entertaining throughout. But it was a mistake in one episode (we have no idea when it aired, but it aired this season, it was one of the six we watched in one day last week) to have Kitty rip into Donna ("slut") because Randy and Donna were an item. The audience wasn't thinking "Donna, you slut." They were thinking, "Who is this creep hanging around Donna?" Had the writers given Kitty a "Now you just back off, buster . . ." type line the audience would have laughed, hooted and applauded. Kitty, who always became the voice of truth on the show when she was ticked off, would have been the perfect character to say what was already on the minds of everyone watching. And because it was Eric's mother, it would have really resonated with the audience.

But no one grasped that. The point here is that, as the seasons mulitply, audiences often know better what makes a show work and what doesn't. What happened in season eight indicates that the show needs to shut down, that it should have ended in season seven (but again, long time fans of the show, even if you've tuned out this year, you'll want to see the final episode, that's all we're saying). With a long running show, many times the characters wear out their welcome. You're bored with them, you're tired of them. This is especially true when a performer begins to think they're cute. (Yes, we're thinking of Scrubs but many shows fit in here.)

That didn't happen with That 70s Show. If you ask people who stopped watching, you didn't hear, "Oh, Kitty just got on my nerves this last season!" Or, "Stephen's doing the same thing he always does!" (We did hear from one person, a large person size wise, that everyone had gotten "fat." We're not really sure what show the person thinks they were watching but we did make a point to check out weight since that was the only person who now "hated" the characters. ) People still liked the characters. We had questions of, "What's going on with Jackie and Fez?" and "What funny thing did Red say lately?" (We weren't able to answer in the middle of the week -- we hadn't sat down to watch the show -- but we did call everyone this weekend and tell them they really needed to watch the final episode.)

One person put it best, in our opinion, when she said that she didn't "stop" watching, she was "driven away." (By the introduction of Randy.) So the point here is that everything has an ending, a time to go. It's time for That 70s Show to go before writing does more damage to your memories of it as a funny, fast paced show populated with characters you liked and wanted to spend time with. If you were a fan, watch the last episode to get the real goodbye the show owes you. (They pay up.)

Who exactly are the outlaws?

We are all the outlaws in the eyes of America
-- "We Can Be Together" (written by Paul Katner, recorded by Jefferson Airplane, on the CD Volunteers)

Could we be together? Who is we? More important who are "they" -- the ones seeing outlaws?

An exchange took place on Democracy Now! Thursday that made us ponder this topic. From
"Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism:"

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Greg Grandin, what is the "El Salvador Option"?
GREG GRANDIN: Well, the El Salvador Option famously became talked about in the press when things started to go wrong in Iraq, and people like Robert Kaplan -- well, Sy Hersh wrote an article in the New Yorker talking about the U.S.'s support of paramilitaries in order to maintain order in Iraq. And then people, journalists, kind of hawkish journalists such as Robert Kaplan actually advocated that the Pentagon embrace what he called the "Salvadoran Option," the use of paramilitaries, otherwise known as death squads.
But there’s another aspect to the Salvador Option, and if you remember in the Vice Presidential debate in 2004, where Dick Cheney evoked not the U.S. rebuilding of Japan and Germany as the model for what we hope to do in Iraq, but El Salvador as what we hope to do, which was this other aspect, this other dimension of the Salvador Option, the use of this incredibly violent and brutal explicit use of it, unapologetic use of violence and allying with the paramilitaries and death squads, but then justifying it in idealistic terms. And this is the particular contribution, I think, from people like Douglas Feith, who you focused on, reported on earlier. This kind of blending of a real politique militarism with this notion that we're doing it in order to advance democracy, and that's what I think is unique in the new imperialism.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Because even, I would guess, the term "Salvador Option" is a misnomer to some extent, because the same policy was pursued with the militias in Guatemala in the genocide in Guatemala and with the right wing death squads in Colombia up until this day. >> Colombia and Argentina. You could call it the "Argentine Option." You could call it the "Chilean Option."
AMY GOODMAN: And, in fact, some of the very same people who were involved, say in Salvador, actually the mercenaries or the U.S. soldiers or trainers are in Iraq.
GREG GRANDIN: Yes. People like James Steele, who was a colonel, was involved in the U.S. military mission in El Salvador, came out of retirement to work with paramilitaries in El Salvador and "professionalize" them, in quotes.
AMY GOODMAN: Especially for young people, and you're a professor of students at New York University, if you would describe what happened in El Salvador for people to understand what's happening in Iraq today? What would you say was the picture in the 1980s? What did happen?
GREG GRANDIN: What happened is that the United States, in -- well, and not just in El Salvador, in Guatemala and Nicaragua, turned Central America into one of the last killing fields of the Cold War. And this is why Central America has such a pull on the imagination of the neo-cons, is that it occurred simultaneously with the end of the Cold War. Now, Reagan for the most part acted in moderation everywhere else in the world, in other hotspots of the world. In El Salvador and Guatemala and Nicaragua, he gave that policy, U.S. policy to movement conservatives for them to act -- it's kind of wish fulfillment -- to act the way they wished the U.S. would act towards the Soviet Union and the Middle East and in South Asia.
In El Salvador, the U.S. supported an anti-communist regime in order to contain an insurgency that resulted in the deaths of something between 60,000 and 70,000 civilians. In Nicaragua, we supported an anti-communist insurgency, which resulted in the murder of 30,000 to 40,000 civilians. And in Guatemala, we provided moral justification for a regime that was committing genocide, murdering somewhat around 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan Indians. And that was throughout the 1980s. So when somebody like Margaret Thatcher says that Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot, there’s a certain kind of historical amnesia with those kind of pronouncements which get circulated in the mainstream press.

Maybe it was knowing that The Common Ills community had voted "We Can Be Together" as the song to be highlighted Thursday, but whether we watched or listened to Democracy Now! on Thursday, we all ended up thinking of that song.

What are we getting at here? The physical attacks on those who differ politically. In Iraq or Afghanistan, we see the US administration making over the areas, doing things that they couldn't do here. And what was done in Guatemala or El Salvador or Nicaragua or any of Latin America were acts that couldn't be committed here.

But they were acts that many in the current administration approve of now and did then. (And some like John Negorponte can also be tracked back to Vietnam.) It honestly made us of think of the Tone Talkers and wonder if, in any region in Latin America, as the killings were going on, some New Republican-types were screaming about something as useless as tone?

See, what the history reveals is that you are an outlaw in the eyes of many in the administration just for what you believe in -- it doesn't have to be a violent belief. It can be a belief in socialism or communism or a belief that a country with natural resources should profit from them and not foreign corporations. It can even be something as simple as the concept of self-rule that sets their teeth on edge.

Now in the United States, they can't outright kill a person openly (Fred Hampton being one of the many exceptions). But just as Iraq reveals the devastation the comes from capitalism run amuck, you can look at Latin America and realize what they'd really like to do to Americans who disagree with them. Or you can look at Guantamo Bay and see the same thing.

It's not an "exception." For all the pretzel twists the likes of Alan Dershowitz put themselves through, the people involved in the decision making aren't making "exceptions" -- they're operating under the beliefs. That includes the right for Bully Boy to designate anyone an enemy combantant which is why J-Ass' Dept. of Justice was so interested in arguing the Jose Padilla case. Habeas corpus, the cornerstone of the American legal system, was tossed aside.

As Mike Whitney wrote in "The Padilla Case" (CounterPunch):

The presumption of innocence is foundational to any democratic form of government. Without that presumption, the state is free to exert whatever control it arbitrarily chooses in the incarceration or punishment of its citizens. This effectively destroys the firewall that safeguards the individual from the vagaries of government power and intrusiveness. It is absurd to talk about democracy if the most fundamental of protections for its citizens are not provided. When the presumption of innocence is denied, justice is denied, and democracy withers.
For the first time in American history this principle is being challenged outright in the government's case against Jose Padilla. The Bush Administration is claiming that the president has the authority to strip a citizen of his constitutional rights in the name of national security. If they are successful in their efforts, the "inalienable" rights of man will cease to be. Citizens will no longer be protected by clearly articulated due process rights interpreted by an independent judiciary, but quickly dispatched by executive fiat. Justice will be dispensed at the discretion of the president.

Writing on the issue a year later (2005), Mike Whitney again noted what was at stake ("Jose Padilla and the 10 Commandments"):

The case of Jose Padilla appeared in the media again this week, when a lower court ruled (as it has twice before) that the administration must either charge Padilla or release him from prison. The Bush team has no intention of doing either. Padilla is the "test case" to establish that the President can jail a US citizen indefinitely without charging him with a crime. This "precedent" is central to the administration's plans for unlimited power. Tyranny is built on the foundation of arbitrary imprisonment; a principle that Bush and his colleagues fully understand.

What you see, repeatedly and regularly, from the Bully Boy is "test cases." The warrantless, illegal spying on American citizens by Bully Boy was another test case. He tests the will of Americans to see how much they'll tolerate. How far can he abuse the search and seizure provision in the Constitution? How much will Americans be willing to go along with and stomach? More importantly, how much will Congress?

Thus far, Congress has been more than happy to look the other way. When it was revealed that Bully Boy had broken the law by spying on American citizens without court warrants, we heard proposals of how the law could be changed (and even some comments of how the new law could be retroactive so that the Bully Boy would be protected). That's really disgusting. Someone breaks the law and instead of enforcing the law, Congress tries to rush in to change it.

In case they're forgetting the Supreme Court found (in Jones v. Clinton) that no one was above the law. Then there was talk of actions having consequences. That was a case where two people had two different versions of testimony (and, in Jones' case, had varied her testimony over the years). But when even people who helped craft the 1978 FISA system (court and law) stated Bully Boy had broken the law, there was no talk of actions having consequences. As Amy Goodman noted Friday, "But the NSA spy program is even being criticized by former top NSA officials. On Monday, the agency's former Director Bobby Ray Inman said, "This activity is not authorized." Still the Joe Kleins of the world want to act as though nothing's going on. (Nothing in his head, at any rate.)

The statement by Inman on Monday came before Leslie Cauley broke the latest news in USA Today this week: Bully Boy has authorized a program whereby the phone calls of American citizens, purely domestic calls, are now kept track of. We're supposed to take comfort, Bully Boy supporters tell us, that it's just a record of calls placed and received, not a record of what was said. As if that makes a difference. As if the government has a right to find out who you are calling or who is calling you without probable cause. Probable cause being an element of the Fourth Amendment that current CIA director nominee and former NSA national director Michael Hayden doesn't grasp.

From Democracy Now!'s "Former NSA Head Gen. Hayden Grilled by Journalists on NSA Eavesdropping on U.S. Citizens:"

JONATHAN LANDAY: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue. And that has to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.
JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say probable --
JONATHAN LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard --
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: The Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former head of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, being questioned yesterday at the National Press Club. That last reporter, after Jim Bamford asked his question, was Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder, editor and publisher pointing out, well, this is the Fourth Amendment: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Are you surprised that someone with the power to spy on Americans doesn't know the Constitution? You shouldn't be. People taking an oath to serve the people and uphold the Constitution seem to lose sight of that oath when it comes to the Bully Boy. Colin Powell and others talk of the need to 'serve my president.' On your knees and on the backs of the American people? You're not there to serve your president and one of the differences between Nixon's administration and the current one is that some people in Nixon's administration grasped what their oaths meant and who they were supposed to serve. Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus were but two who grasped that they were servants of the American people and sworn to uphold the Constitution. Richard Nixon insisted that they fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson was the Attorney General and he quit. Ruckelshaus was the deputy Attorney General and he quit. This is what's known as the "Saturday Night Massacre" -- when the United States lost both it's Attorney General and it's Deputy Attorney General on the same day.

Cox was fired and guess what lackey in line did it? Robert Bork. There will always be lap dogs eager to have their bellies scratched.

As Robert Parry writes in "This Time, It Really Is Orwellian" (Consortium News):

Even before the USA Today disclosure on May 11, 2006, it was clear that Bush’s spying program was much larger than he had let on. Indeed, the operation was reportedly big enough to generate thousands of tips each month, which were passed on to the FBI.
"But virtually all of [the tips], current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans," the New York Times reported. "FBI officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. ... Some FBI officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy." [NYT, Jan. 17, 2006]
Also, undermining Bush's claims about the limited nature of the NSA's activities is why the administration would need to possess the complete phone records of the 200 million customers of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth -- if the government were only conducting what Bush and his aides have called a "targeted terrorist surveillance program."
(Qwest, a Colorado-based company with about 14 million customers, refused to turn over its records to the government because there was no court order, USA Today reported.)
The stated goal of tracking phone numbers that had been called by al-Qaeda operatives could be easily done with warrants from the FISA court. There would be no need to compile every personal and business call made by 200 million Americans.
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," one person told USA Today. The program's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, the person said. [
USA Today, May 11, 2006]

(As with all links in this article, there's much more to them than what is excerpted but we'll note on Parry's article that he's also detailing the ways this database could be worked to the Bully Boy's benefit -- such as tracking the calls to reporters, finding out whom political 'enemies' call, etc.)

What we have is a Bully Boy who, oath be damned, doesn't believe in the Constitution of the United States and is willing to actively work to subvert it. The highest law of the land means nothing to him. Now is that because he doesn't believe in it or is it because he thinks his ends justify the means? Or is a combination of the two?

Those are questions worth exploring because that oath isn't to be taken lightly. What has gone is high crimes and misdemeanors. This isn't about sex, so it might not be easily followed (by some people or reporters) but it's alarming. And when you see the Iran-contra felons (pardoned by Poppy Bush) slinking back towards 'respectabilty' via appointments of the Bully Boy, when you see people like Negroponte who either looked the other way with regards to death squads or actively assisted them (we would vote for the latter), you really should be alarmed. The actions they will take outside the United States are actions they justify on the grounds of a 'grave threat.' It's a grave threat that the person they back can't be in charge. That should frighten the hell out of you because what they'll do covertly in other nations isn't some exception, it goes to their character.

And the character they've demonstrated is one where they are bound by no laws, the Bully Boy's word is law. All hail the Bully Boy. As they lop off rights and existing laws, you should be concerned and you should be wondering why Congress is still reluctant to hold them accountable? It's past time that Congress, Republicans and Democrats, stood up to the trampling of the rights of the people and the continual overriding of their own powers. (Best exemplified by Bully Boy's 750 signing statements where he signs legislation they passed into laws but maintains that he's not bound by it -- a curious interpretation of the Constitution and of Congressional powers.) As Cindy Sheehan states, " God protect us from the fools that we elected to protect us!" ( "Mission Accomplished," BuzzFlash).

2 Books, many minutes

Jim: As requested, a return of the book discussions. We have two books this week and participating 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. We'll start with Craig Crawford's Attack The Messengers: How Politicians Turn You Against The Media. I'll toss this out to start things off, Crawford writes on page 118: "It is time for journalists to get better at explaining their work to the public."

Dona: Oh, I would agree and suggest that Crawford start with himself. This is a purile book, a miniscule mind railing against the world whose only 'insight' appears to derive from knowing where to place a period. For the record, Crawford is a gas bag, prefers the term "commentator" though he has much to slam about other commentators, and he has a number of outlets, all of which he plugs in the course of his PowerPoint presentation masquerading as a book.

Jess: I'm going to try to watch the language and that's not usually a problem for me but I've rarely been so enraged by an idiot proving how stupid he is page after page. I'll grab "Public Broadcasting" from pages 126 to 126. Nonsense and stealing criticism from others. This is an issue since he's just written of attribution for Associated Press stories. There's not an original thought in his two pages nor is there even an understanding of public broadcasting. Pacifica, the nation's oldest public broadcaster, is something he's apparently never heard of. Libertarian that the schmuck is, he tries to navigate the charge of PBS being "liberal" but only comes off confused. On page 125 it's a "reputation." Then on 126 it's "an image." In the next sentence it becomes a reality: "But decades of catering to liberal viewers and listeners have made it difficult to find conservative personalities who can attract the public broadcasting audiences."

Jim: C.I. and Rebecca both noted this on the cards they filled out.

C.I.: Give it to Rebecca because I've got several things to note.

Rebecca: I'll take it. William Buckley, has asshole Crawford ever heard of him? Apparently not. But Buckley was a PBS institution with Firing Line. From 1971 to 1999, Firing Line aired on PBS. Twenty-eight years. Can Crawford give us an example of any liberal who hosted an opinion program on PBS for even five years? No. And he can't even comprehend what a liberal is. He may have run for Congress, and failed at it, no surprise, but he has no clue about politics.
And I think liberal programming would be interested in human rights but PBS has no interest in that, they refused to carry a weekly program on that topic.

C.I.: That Danny Schechter was producing.

Elaine: Can I jump in?

Rebecca: Sure.

Elaine: I know we're all trying to be sure to hit on this point out of respect for Ruth, so let me just correct him on something Washington Week does not offer "in depth reporting." It has never offered it, it will never offer it. Washington Week is nothing but a chat show with a bunch of gasbags. It is not reporting. It is The Mike Douglas Show with F-List guests. Know what you're writing about if you sit down to write a book. Apparently facts, like research, weren't important to Crawford. He can argue that it offers "discussion," he cannot maintain that it offers investigative reporting or "finely balanced news." And Washington Week is one of the worst at spinning conventional wisdom. It's also got uninformed guests and a host who once got edgy when one of the guests referred to the First Amendment and Gwen Ifell felt the need to say something to the effect of "Well, whatever it says." If you don't know the First Amendment, you don't need to pass yourself off as having anything to do with journalism.

Ty: His "evaluations" are laughable throughout. In his "How to Get the Real Story" (chapter ten), he starts reviewing various "news" outlets. Don Imus gets eight paragraphs. The New York Times gets one sentence, The Washington Post gets one sentence. He's a frequent guest on Imus which must be why, in eight paragraphs, he can't ever mention the charges of racism against Imus' broadcasts. Imus has no "rough level of objectivity" unless you're a White person who doesn't give a crap about people of color. And staying silent about documented racisim isn't going to help Crawford "gain credibility."

Jess: I found it laughable that he tosses out independent journalism in his second paragraph and quotes Bill Moyers in the third paragraph but fails to provide an example of independent journalism in the whole chapter.

Betty: If we're going to Imus, let me add that Rush Limbaugh did not "lead" the way for opinion news on the radio. Possibly Crawford never heard Paul Harvey intone "And that's the rest of the story" but Harvey was doing his opinion for years. Possibly Crawford's made of "sugar candy" and not just uninformed. And can we talk about race because Crawford can't. Anyone who sees Fox "News" as a "reliable alternative to mainstream coverage" can kiss my Black ass.
He truly thinks people can get 'all sides' from cable news by skipping from CNN to MSNBC to Fox 'News.' While Cracker's a-skipping, he might want to ask himself where are the people of color. Or maybe dark skin makes Casper go "Boo!"?

Jim: (Laughing) We truly hated this book.

Mike: Because who likes an ass kisser? Really, he should have called the book One Long Pucker Up. When not sucking up to the people who pay him to appear on his shows, he's sucking up to anyone he thinks might give him a shout out. Which is why he spends so much time on Matt Drudge. A "highly skilled news editor"? How many sentences did he give to The New York Times in this chapter, chapter ten?

Ty: One.

Mike: Right, so he gives seven paragraphs to 'covering' Matt Drudge. Covering him in wet, sloppy, open mouthed kisses. Hope Drudge wiped before Crawford attached his lips. And he praises Google News as the best online news search engine? Let me echo Elaine and C.I. here: why the hell are they listing Voice of America as a news source?

Jim: Wally?

Wally: Let me do a Daily Jot take on this book. This just in! In Attack The Messenger, Craig Crawford writes: "Professional journalism is not dead." No word yet on whether it's merely brain dead. Wags are wondering not how an ass managed to grip a pen but how it managed to write with one.

Elaine: He opens himself up to the criticism. He slaughters Finley Peter Dunne's meaning when he basically quotes Claire Booth Luce and attempts to pass it off as Dunne. Dunne's point was not merely about the powerful and the afflicted, it was about the inflated sense of self and also included marriage and burial among other things. It was a character in a novel that I don't think Crawford even read it. If he read it, there's no indication that he understood it. Considering Crawford's book, the fact that he fails to grasp Dunne's meaning may support the conclusion that he did actually read Dunne.

Dona: The people, "the public," he's so Joan Crawford, doesn't need to give media "the space" to do their job. What a pompous statement. And I didn't read Dunne, but from that comment alone, his opinion of himself and his profession is as inflated as the supposed arrogance Crawford sees in adopting Dunne's statement. Or Luce's as Elaine pointed out. No one needs to get out of your way for you to do your job. I don't care if it's flipping burgers or reporting from DC. You do your job. What a big cry baby.

Rebecca: And let's note his comments about JFK and Bill Clinton's sexual adventures. He feels that the press was silenced by charm. What world did he live in? LBJ had a member of his cabinet, this was obviously after JFK was assasinated since it was LBJ's cabinet, forced out when news of his same-sex adventures got out. Not out in print, just out and talked about. I believe the press ran with the arrest record. But affairs, same-sex or otherwise, weren't made into big news where people talked openly about them. You had a predominately male press corps and you had a different attitude about extramarital affairs. That changed and it changed on the local and state scenes. Then it flowed up on to the Gary Hart campaign. But the coverage of Clinton's adventures wasn't just a case of the press wallowing in the mud and we're talking before Lewinsky even dreamed of blow jobs. You also had members of Congress airing the charges and playing the moral police. You had a right-wing funded effort to smear Clinton in every way, which is true as well. But the Henry Hydes played into this effort and when the press has a politician willing to go on the record, it does tend to have impact. But the press refused to seriously explore the many rumors of Poppy Bush's affairs. A few questions here and there and it was shoved aside. And I think anyone who visits my site knows that I deplore Hillary Clinton, don't intend to vote for her if she runs for president and have no use for her. However, she was quite correct that it was a vast right-wing conspiracy and only someone with his head up his ass like Crawford can pretend otherwise.

Jim: Okay, ass kisser or head up his ass? You've confused the argument, Rebecca.

Rebecca: In this case, he kissed his own ass. Generously.

Ava: Well how about Crawford's 'history' anywhere in the book. He traces the attacks on the press from the right to Poppy Bush's presidency.

C.I.: Try Spiro Agnew.

Ava: Exactly. What a stupid, stupid man. He should be ashamed to flaunt his ignorance on page after page of a badly written book. Not just badly 'researched,' but this is tortured writing. It's a torture to read. It's awkward. His idea of a transition is to put a headline up in the midst of a discussion to indicate to the reader that he's dropping everything he was just writing of. It's really bad. I can't get over how poorly written this book is. How this series of luncheon musings, which is how it reads, found a publisher is as big a mystery as what really forced Porter Goss out of the CIA. And, last point, as usual it's all about men. The refusal to note racism has been noted already by Ty and Betty but let's also note that women are largely invisible on the pages of this book. This includes Mary Mapes who is reduced to one sentence though he spends, though he basically bases an entire chapter [chapter seven] on CBS airing the 60 Minutes II story on Bully Boy and his lack of National Guard service.

C.I.: Stop.

Jim: Ava and C.I. are the note takers and when one speaks, the other is the sole note taker. So I'm guessing C.I. needs to catch up and then make a point.

C.I.: Correct. Here's the point. Ava just noted that the story aired on 60 Minutes II. Ava's correct. But readers of the book won't know that and when I mentioned this to a friend at CBS, that we were reviewing this piece of crap, he asked that we note that Crawford confuses a September 15th broadcast on 60 Minutes II with a 60 Minutes broadcast. 60 Minutes airs on Sundays. September 15, 2004 was a Wednesday. Crawford needs to get his facts straight. 60 Minutes was never crazy about having a "spin-off" to begin with and, in true form, it wasn't a spin-off. It was an attempt to make a franchise. The two shows had little in common. Crawford needs to get his facts straight. Prior to that mention, page 95, I believe, readers unfamiliar with the story may well think Rather did the report on the CBS Evening News because, until Crawford gets it wrong, he never mentions any news program but the Evening News. It's not nit picking, it matters. Where the show aired matters. If there are two shows with similar names, it matters that you get it right. Earlier in the book, page 16, I think, he writes that "60 Minutes producers" admitted something, referring to the Bully Boy story, and that is incorrect. 60 Minutes never aired the story. 60 Minutes II did. The two shows have as much in common as CSI and CSI Miami. You wouldn't review or critique something on CSI Miami while referring to it as CSI. It's bad writing from a really bad columnist who, despite the blurbs on the back of his book, isn't thought highly of by anyone in the press I spoke to this week. That doesn't count as my issue with the book, by the way.

Jim: Fine. You're really the only one who feels you offer too much in discussions. I should add that Cedric and Kat hated the book and want to emphasize the second book so they told Dona they'd sit this one out. So if you're scanning down the page for their names, they haven't fallen asleep. They just saw no point in even discussing the book.

Jess: I just want to add that on taxes, he can do what most bad reporters can do, read a study he doesn't understand, grab a pull quote and confuse the issue because he doesn't truly grasp it.

Jim: A point made repeatedly this semester by two professors.

Jess: Correct. If you don't know what you're talking about, you can't fact check. He can't fact check Kerry's claims on Bully Boy's taxes during the 2004 campaign. Or, if he can, he plays fast and loose because he wants to appear "fair." Kerry was correct. And going to studies by any group isn't going to help you when you don't know what you're talking about. As Jim noted, this was a point stressed in two of our journalism courses this semester and, in one, the tax claim was actually addressed for two class periods. Crawford needs to sit in on those classes before he starts confusing what a "share" is and what a percent is and what percent matters and what percent doesn't. If the press wants to improve their image, first step, stop passing yourself off as a know-it-all when you are far from an expert on all matters. You aren't trained to be an expert so quit pretending you were.

Cedric: Can I go ahead and jump in?

Jim: Sure, what you got?

Cedric: Well, Rebecca picked up on some of this but I want to add to it, talking about Clinton's adventures with Lewinsky. He writes, Crawford:

Could there be a lower moment in presidential history? It was a pitiful story handled with utter disregard for a president's obligation to tell the truth to the American people.

Cedric (Con't): That's page 37, by the way. But the thing is, yes, there is a more pitiful story: Lying a nation into war. For Crawford to claim that reporters had to pursue the sex story on Clinton because 'It was a lie!' and, page 41, "the media cannot back off when the president of the United States stands up in the West Wing and lies to the American people -- even if he is 'just lying about sex,' an excuse often cited to dismiss the story." If Crawford really believes that, he might want to spend the amount of pages he wastes on Clinton's sex life in exploring how Bully Boy lied a nation into a war, a war which is ongoing, unlike the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton which is just a bone that Crawford can't let go of.

Rebecca: He is obsessed with Clinton's sex life. His tight lipped photo may indicate a degree of sexual repression which may explain the obsession with the sex lives of some others. Though he's not really going down that road with Poppy Bush. He leaves out . . .

C.I.: Vanity Fair.

Rebecca: Right! The story that infurated Poppy. It wasn't being asked by Stone Phillips where he had a national audience to try to shame Phillips with. He's quite good at attacking those who question. But the Vanity Fair article, which he couldn't give one of his non-answers to, did bother him. I don't think he's a reader, Crawford. He's a gas bag. That's why he can't speak much to the subject of newspapers. It's only news if he hears it on the radio or sees it on TV.

Betty: I'd like to note Howard Dean. Crawford "covers" the scream and I found that another example of how ill informed Crawford is. Here's Crawford's version in a nutshell. Dean attacks the media, according to Crawford after he loses his bid for the Democratic nomination, because of the "Dean scream" -- as labeled by Crawford. Crawford tut-tuts that Dean should be aware that the press was "largely" the reason Dean "rose to the top of the heap in the year before the 2004 Democratic primaries." Now let's do a reality check. The mainstream press was largely mocking of Dean. He rose to the top due to his ability to raise money online. His campaign got out it's word online and in meet ups. It had success not because of the press, but in spite of the press. Most importantly, Dean is right to criticze the press for the airing of that clip and Crawford can't be bothered with noting that. The clip aired stripped out the audience's reactions. You had Dean screaming and saying "Woo-hoo!" to a silent crowd. The reason his voice was so loud was because they were cheering loudly. The press clearly deserves blame for their coverage of the so-called "Dean scream." Crawford's not interested in that.

Kat: And let's note that the "Dean scream" coverage came not long after Dean started making noises about reigning in the news corporations. Sorry to butt in.

Jim: No, glad to have it. We'll wrap up by going to C.I.

C.I.: Well I had two things and I was hoping at least one would be grabbed by someone else. Briefly, on page 177, he announces that he doesn't vote. That's his right. Many people don't vote for many reasons including feeling that their vote doesn't matter and/or that the system is rigged. If someone chooses not to vote, as a form of protest, that's their business. But it's nonsense for him to praise Imus for announcing whom he intended to vote for in the 2004 election and then to say that he, Crawford, can't vote because he has to be "neutral."

Ava: Can I grab that?

C.I.: Please do.

Ava: He thinks because he doesn't step into the voting box, he's somehow neutral. Not appearing neutral, but actually neutral. As though if some politician makes a statement he agrees with, and he's closest to libertarian he writes, that's not impacting his coverage? What a fool. And how do you 'not vote' to be neutral? His section on Kerry's statements re: Bully Boy's tax cuts don't indicate that he's neutral. He's obviously pro-tax cuts, fitting with his libertarian views. It does impact the way your respond. And apparently, we're supposed to believe that Crawford's the biggest idiot in the world -- a point his book may persuade many on. He claims that because he doesn't go into the voting booth, he never has to make a decision about which candidate to vote for. Are we really to believe that a presumably educated person doesn't give a thought to a candidate until he steps into a voting booth?

C.I.: I need to add, before I hear about it, that if he wanted to argue that it would give the impression/appearance of neutrality, that would be one thing. There are some in the press who avoid voting for that reason. That's not what's arguing. He's not concerned about an appearance of conflict, he's convinced that he might make a decision.

Ava: Right. And when you think about the very real issues involved in, for instance a presidential race, don't tell me that by just not voting, you're 'neutral.' He's not neutral. I know at least two people that C.I.'s speaking of and I can understand their concern about the appearance, even if I disagree with it, which I do, but he's not worried about appearance. If you asked the two people I'm thinking of if by not voting it avoided them knowing whom they would support, they'd both laugh in your face. It's nonsense.

C.I.: And he's a columnist, not a reporter. Hes already writing his opinion into a column. It makes no sense. The only neutrality is in his fantasies. So that was that. The second point, I know we're trying to wrap this up. I'm pulling from chapters nine and ten for this. Crawford doesn't know what news is. He thinks it's an announcement. He states that September 11th was a shining moment, "bright moment" is the term, I believe, for the news media. He praises their peformance. There's nothing to praise on that day other than the early hours. But this is a man who is in love with C-Span so official statements pass as "news" to him, obviously. News is not an announcement of, "Today in the Gaza Strip ___ happened. Now, we turn to India where . . ." And he can wax fondly for all hours of the Septemeber 11th coverage and the days immediately after, and claim that "ideology and partisanship disappeared'; that "There was no need for pundits"; and that opinons didn't matter because the people "just wanted to know what happened." What happened isn't just that two large buildings fell and the Pentagon took a hit. That's not where the story began and that's not where it ended. And the attacks on Susan Sontag for rightly noting the scare tactics of the media in this period or -- as Ani DiFranco termed it, the "Oh My God!s" -- didn't inform an audience. Like C-Span, it gave you what happened right at that minute. It had no context. It had no perspective. It ran the same video over and over and over, numbing and scaring a nation. And it put on pundits, despite Crawford's claims, who also played the scare game. This golden period that Crawford sees is the same period that had Susan Sontag crucified and a columnist fired for daring to point out that Bully Boy Bunny-hopped across the country instead of returning to DC as a real leader should have. And last point, a real day of news would have featured that clip, on Sept. 11th, of Bully Boy being told the second tower was hit and just sitting in the classroom doing nothing. So let's drop the idea that the media did a wonderful job on that day. They didn't. A few people did, but overall it was useless. It was useless to understanding what happened, the causes for it and how we arrived at this point. Those are topics news should cover. Not just repeat, "The Twin Towers have gone down, let's look at the footage for the 77th time today." Nor does everyone share his belief that elected Democrats and Republicans gathering to sing "God Bless America" was a wonderful thing -- some might say it was pandering at its worst, not to mention really bad air pollution. If he thinks the only time he forms opinions is when he's in the voting booth, he needs to do a self-check.

Jim: So that's Craig Crawford's Attack The Messenger or, in this case, the Dull Witted Water Boy. Thanks to Kat for grabbing some note taking duties at the end when Ava and C.I. were talking. Next up, Lost in the Grooves edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay. Wally, summarize the book.

Wally: This is review of various recordings that the editors and writers feel have been overlooked and hope to rescue. It follows an alphabetical format with each entry under the name of a group. You'll find some names you probably know and hopefully a few you don't.

Cedric: I think some people will like this book and some people will hate it. There are statements in it that could probably set many people's teeth on edge. Music's a really personal thing and when its one of your favorites being dissed while someone you've never heard of is being praised, it's easy to get upset. The key is to realize these are the opinions of many.

Kat: Right. Don't look for seemless, don't expect a thread here other than individuals trying to steer you to their favorites. And don't look for your opinions to be echoed. The whole point of this book is to note work that the various contributors feel has been overlooked. When they have strong feelings about a recording artist, they may slam one of your favorites. Which reminds me, I need to post my review of Pearl Jam at The Common Ills.

Jim: Talk about that a second because I think it goes to the book.

Kat: I was a Nirvana fan. You really didn't attend both "churches." I enjoy the music on the album but the lyrics are . . . lackluster. And it's an ongoing problem with that band. I'm sure some will read the review and say I've slammed the album. I haven't. I've slammed the continued weak spot, the lyrics. I've also noted that they weren't an alternative band. Which, until both Sumner and C.I. pointed it out, I was unaware was still open for debate. Sumner and C.I. weren't calling it alternative, they don't think the band is, but they did note that there are still people who insist upon claiming it is. I don't think most alternative bands fly someone in from San Diego into Seattle to audition for the group, as they did with Eddie Vedder. They're a rock band and they can jam and make wonderful music. I note that but I won't buy into what I see as the myth that they're alternative. I also never saw Metallica as alternative. So the point is, people are expressing their opinions. Some you'll agree with, some you won't. When it's something that the writer has a history with, as I do with Nirvana, there are very strong feelings involved. And now, I'm dropping out of the discussion to go post the review. My apologies to anyone who was waiting for it. I finished around noon but asked C.I. to read over it. After I got feedback on it, I intended to post it but time ran away on me and I forgot.

Cedric: I'll follow up on what Kat's talking about by noting Prince's symbol album. I'm a huge fan of Prince and I don't think I agreed with one opinion expressed. But I enjoyed reading it. The writer, Brian Doherty, was very passionate about Prince and I enjoyed reading his thoughts which went beyond just the album with the symbol for the title.

Betty: I was glad for the inclusion of Prince but I kept looking for others, and especially Black artists, and really didn't see many of them. With Prince, we're talking about an artist who, like Paul McCartney to name another one who gets an album highlighted, we're talking about household names. When they veered off that path, which was frequently, I just felt as though it was all turn right at White City.

Ty: Curtis Mayfield did get two albums mentioned. But I see your point.

Betty: But isn't Curtis Mayfield a household name? In some households he is. And the key may often be the sort of music that house listens to. I mean, take Old 97s. It's a generic White group, in my opinion. But I knew of them before the book. I didn't see a lot of names from outside the White music scene. I mean, I don't think it's fair to cite Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield when you've got people like Robin Gibb. Where are The Isley Brothers? I mean Terence Trent D'Arby is the equivalent to Robin Gibb he does get a shout out. But in commenting on Terence Trent D'Arby, David Smay notes that by 1993, there was no media interest in him and that it had focused on Lenny Kravitz and Me'Shell NdegeOcello -- two people who aren't noted for albums in this book. In fact, of the choices that involve an album by a Black artist, I would rank David Smay as the most brave contributor and the only one really attempting to get people to re-evaluate an album he loved. Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear, for example, is a Marvin Gaye album. It's a bad one, my opinion, but it's Marvin Gaye and I'm not really sure that it needs rescuing for attention. I'm not talking about deserves. Obviously, I don't think it deserves attention. But, point of fact, by being an album by Marvin Gaye, it already has a huge amount of attention.

Cedric: I'd agree with that. Marvin already gets a huge amount of attention. If you were talking about an album from the sixties, that would be one thing. But Trouble Man and Here, My Dear aren't obscure to African-American audiences.

Betty: Just one more point, time and again when I would read a rave of an album and think, "That's some strong writing," I'd check out the byline and more often than not, it would be David Smay. I wanted to make that point both because I enjoyed his writing and because with all the writers in this collection, I think it's all the harder to stand out. Smay stood out to me.

Jim: Anything else?

Mike: Did anybody have copies that people had written in? On Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue, someone had crossed through "(Columbia, 1977)," written "not!" and printed "Blue Sky/CBS."

Jim: I think you got the fact check edition. Were there any other things written in?

Mike: No, just that. I enjoyed the book and thought it was, to steal from Jim's "note" each edition, full of things that will make you think, make you laugh or make you angry.

Cedric: A point Kat and I both wondered about was whether it made anyone want to buy something? Did any of the raves make you think, "Okay, I've got to get that CD?"

Dona: Everyone's silent so I'll speak. Judee Sill, the thing on her self-titled album and Heart Food did make me think, "This might be something you need to check out." That was written by Kim Cooper, by the way.

Cedric: But otherwise, no? That was our point. We felt it worked as writing and conversation starters but when you read so many times "not available on CD," we just wondered how many people were rushing out to purchase. Kat has a turntable but I don't know how many of the rest of us do and, in terms of your average stereo system, I don't know how many people would have one.

Jim: Okay then, that's it --

Wally: Wait. Scram magazine, which put out the guide has a website, and they also adivse you to visit "for info and downloads from the artists featured in this book."

Ty: Where did you find that?

Wally: Page 259, in the "About" section.

Betty: Do you have your copy right now?

Wally: Yeah.

Betty: I returned mine when I took the kids to the library. Does it have any information on David Smay's writing?

Wally: "David Smay was the co-editor of Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth and has contributed to Scram, among many other zines and magazines. He lives in San Francisco with his son and wife, where he is a fan of Los Bros Hernandez, Joss Whedon, Barry Zito, Nathanael West and the New York Dolls. You may not borrow his Film Noir Encyclopedia."

Jess: We should probably note that Craig Crawford has a website as well, it's called Big Loser Wallows In His Own Ignorance.

Jim: (Laughing) For the record that was a joke. To recap, we strongly recommend you check out Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed, edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay --

Wally: With illustrations by Tom Neely.

Jim: Thank you. And we strongly recommend that you skip Craig Crawford's Attack The Messenger. The book discussion returned because readers wanted it. But it's doubtful we'll go back to doing four or more a week. There are just too many participants and too many points. We're not sure when we'll do our next book discussion, maybe next week, but Betty saw Attack The Messenger at her library and thought it might be interesting.

Betty: My apologies to everyone.

Jim: No harm. Hopefully, we've provided a public service as a result.

About that 'fan mail'

Last week, we got a record number of e-mails from regular readers (many of whom are community members) and from visitors.

While our regulars had many points and suggestions to make (and demands -- the book discussion is back for this edition, many of you will be happy to note), visitors focused on only one thing.

"Darfur"? "Head on Home (a musical in four scenes)"?

No. Except for three e-mails (two devoted David Mamet fans and one pro-torture visitor who wrote, in jest -- we hope, "If you don't torture them, they don't learn."), they all focused on:

"TV commentary takes a back seat this week to Colbert"

Ava and C.I. didn't want to write that. They note in the piece that someone died on stage and the best thing to do is to avert the eyes. They noted to us when the topic was suggested/demanded (and we noted it in our note last edition) that due to the very nature of the piece, if it was written and included it would overshadow "Darfur" -- a piece we were excited all week leading up to writing it. They were right. Among visitors it was overshadowed. Jim sent out a plea, after we checked the mail last Sunday night, for everyone to highlight "Darfur" at their own sites. Betty wasn't able to work it in and no one was surprised by that. She's doing a ficitional, online, comic novel. She can't just toss out a link even when she wants to (and she's working from an outline). C.I. flat out refused. C.I. stated that it was noted on Sunday morning and that was it. There was no need to write, as Jim suggested, "Ava and I were right, it did overshadow everything."

Ava and C.I.'s attitude was, "We warned you, you didn't listen."

No, we didn't. (We is everyone since anyone could have picked up their point in the discussion and said, "You know what, I agree it will overshadow everything else.")

Ava and C.I. don't read the e-mails in response to anything they write. They also aren't interested in a back and forth with readers who disagree. (Or in reading threatening e-mails and something about the piece brought out the old sniper in the clocktower types that had largely been silent and AWOL for over two months.)

They did have a few questions. Did those screaming mad focus on both the issue of the portrayal of women and the issue of the portrayal of Asians and Asians-Americans? Or, they wondered, did the vocal ones just dismiss the sexism and fail to note the racism?

They failed to note the racism. One e-mail, from a he-thinks-he's-worldly type offered that he was "strident" too, back in the day, and then went on to offer the history of P.C. (as he dreamt it up, it helps to know a timeline when attempting to share your "knowledge"). What was strident? Standing up for women. Not standing up for Asian-Americans? We couldn't know, he failed to address that issue.

Probably because he knows you can get away with being a sexist but it's a little harder to live with yourself if you cop to racist.

Same person and 27 others argued that Colbert was doing "a character" so it wasn't offensive.
Oh, that's how it works. You do a character and you can make sexist remarks and racist ones and you're not accountable? Maybe Rush Limbaugh should start saying what he does on air is "a character."

Rush could argue it's a character. Rush is consistent. If the line is that Colbert was playing a right-winger, Fox type, then he needed to stay with that character. When Lily Tomlin does a character, she stays with it. If she's doing Edith Ann, she's talking about childhood experiences, she doesn't attempt to toss in a joke about OBGYNs because Edith Ann would have no reason to make such a joke. It's beyond her point of reference.

If that was a "character," Colbert needs to work on it. Needs to explore it and get to know it. The only woman who wrote to complain signed her e-mail "Little Miss." We like to think of her as "Huffy Little Miss." HLM feels that "even if" it was offensive, it doesn't "help anyone" to point it out. "We should all just ignore it." But most of all, "There are important things to write about and for six college students to waste everyone's time writing something like this is really sad."

Know what's sad? People who can't comprehend. Every note to the reader notes that Ava and C.I. write the reviews. More importantly, because Ava and C.I. assumed that it would result in e-mails, they made a point to identify themselves as the sole authors of the piece within the piece. HLM apparently couldn't comprehend this sentence: "'We' is Ava and C.I. for those who don't read carefully before penning their hate mail." It's in the piece HLM claims to have read "three times in increasing fits of disgust!"

But HLM, if you really think there are important things to focus on, why are you focusing on the piece to begin with? Why did you feel the need to e-mail on that as opposed to the pieces on Darfur? As Ava and C.I. point out, this is important. This is important because we don't need to worship blindly and we don't need to close our eyes, mouths and minds (we think HLM's mind was closed long ago) when we see racism and/or sexism. We need to call it out, call it for what it is. This go-along-to-get-along is killing the Democratic Party. And HLM, ignoring it won't make it go away. P.S. HLM, C.I.'s not a college student.

"Big Boy" gave a graphic account of how he intended to dismember Ava and C.I. and there reply when we summarized it for them was, "Does he work for Donald Rumsfeld or is he Donald Rumsfeld?"

TI877 wanted us to know that feminism was dead and never achieved anything. In explicit terms he raged against a movement he claimed changed nothing. That's a lot of rage for something that supposedly "didn't do a damn thing."

A lot of people (taking their cues from cowardly leadership in the DNC) used the piece as a way to attempt to work through their own issues with women. "I'm sick of bitches who don't know to shut the f**k up," B-Blow explained adding, "Women and kids should be seen and not heard." With that charming attitude, we kind of doubt B-Blow hears or sees very many women outside of 1-900 numbers and glossy centerfolds. (Watch out for the paper cuts, B-Blow!)

BrighterDayz wanted us to warm our hearts by spreading this message of sunshine, "I hope you all die!! I dream of choking you to death with my big ___ and giving you something to really complain about!" From the afterlife, Brighter Dayz, complain from the afterlife? Maybe that was the intended ray of sunshine in the message? Ava and C.I. suggest you keep dreaming of having a big ___ because in dreams, we can have anything and don't have to live with the shortcomings we were given.

KevIN opened with a lengthy assault on Gloria Steinem and then, seven paragraphs later, offered that "No one listens to feminists anyhow." Really, KevIN, because, though you disagree with Steinem, you seem to quite familiar with what she's written?

We could continue with the e-mails but we think you've gotten a pretty good sample of them.
Ava and C.I.'s "beat" is always covered from a feminist perspective. We agree with their commentary. We're glad they wrote it. And e-mails like the ones noted above only demonstrate how much that perspective is needed.

Professional Slime Mike McCurry stabs Milano in the back

That's it. Burn DC to the ground. I got to my inbox yesterday and found yet another example of dishonest hackery from Mike McCurry's group on net neutrality and internet freedom. This time it's a negative hit piece, backed by a massive blogad campaign. The telcos, so you know, are spending millions of dollars a week on this fight. This ad is an example of it, repeating the lie that the government had no role in the internet's success and that bloggers are a bunch of irresponsible rabble.
First, the childish and nasty tone of the McCurry ad (located at is ridiculous. The snapshot to left is from their flash ad and is supposed to represent the Save the Internet Coalition. Look at it closely. You see the sign 'I love Alyssa'? That's meant to showcase the group as immature college hippies who don't know what we're talking about. Members of the coalition like Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Lessig, Vint Cerf, and the American Library Association are experts in how knowledge flows and how the internet works. They know this issue cold. Tim is actually an architect of a key piece of the internet, that whole 'www' thing. But I'm sure he's in this fight because he loves Alyssa and protesting, right?

The above is from Matt Stoller's "Mike McCurry: More on Us Being Internet Rabble" (MyDD). For The Common Ills community, Carl's done a great job providing the facts and steering you on where to go to prevent the corporate takeover of the internet (and the demise of it as a public common) in the gina & krista round-robin. He may grab this as well and, if so, great.

Dallas found it as Dona sent out the call for short pieces. We think Stoller gets across (in the excerpt above) that the ad is misleading and vile. He makes other points as well if you use the link. We're going to focus on something else for this short entry.

Mark McCurry is a professional mouthpiece and nothing more. A gas bag who doesn't have the goods to cut it on the televised chat & chews. (And when you consider how low the likes of Robert Novak have set that bar, that's really saying something.)

We agree with Stoller that the "I love Alyssa" sign is meant to ridicule. We agree that it's ridiculing the people carrying the sign. We also argue it's ridiculing Alyssa and since two know Alyssa (guess who) we're going to focus on that for this quick entry.

Who the hell does Mark McCurry think he is making fun of Alyssa Milano? Suggesting that her base would carry "I LOVE ALYSSA!" signs to a rally to save the internet?

(McCurry, did you get your jollies looking at nude photos of her online? Did it do it for you? Did it provide a little excitement in your otherwise dull and non-productive life? Aren't you the good Methodist?)

Now she's an actress and most people know that. But do most people realize how much time she spent campaigning for John Kerry? Are they aware of her trips, for instance, to speak to college students? Does Mark McCurry think she had nothing better to do then, for instance, go to Corvallis, Oregon and speak to a college student body (not an insult to colleges, student bodies or Corvallis) when she could have been doing something else?

Is this how Mark McCurry and his co-horts think you repay people who do their part and then some? We'd love to see McCurry have the guts to ever be the one calling Milano and asking her to do a favor for the Democratic Party.

And we think it's pretty disgusting that the Democratic Party isn't conveying to him how rude his sign was. They can take the attitude (wrong) that it's a fringe group opposed to a corporate takeover of the net and that the fringe doesn't really include any of their base. But leadership damn well knows Alyssa Milano stood up. They're not showing any appreciation for that by allowing the piece of pond scum to mock her in ad.

Let's be really clear: that shit won't play.

This isn't just the Party officially standing down on an issue (somethng we've all grown to expect from the Democratic Party of today), this is them sliming someone they needed and it's not cute. and it's not funny. And it won't go unnoticed.
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