Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Another Sunday. We're actually doing pretty good since we're all on the West coast (again). So it's not very long after seven a.m. right now. (We're posting with our regular EST times.) This despite the fact that, by EST time, we started the highlights late, we paused to jot as quick of an e-mail as possible to someone who wrote about our commentary on their writing that appeared here awhile back, and despite the fact that Blogger/Blogspot has gone in and out for the last two hours.

We need to note that part of that was due to the fact that we've had no breaks in the last five hours. (So those waiting for the morning post at The Common Ills, blame us. C.I.'s stayed with us working on editorial that took two hours to complete.)


Humor Spotlight: Wally & Cedric on Gangsta Dick Cheney
Ruth's Report
Blog Spotlight: Mike on the issues that really matter
Humor Spotlight: Betinna's latest reflections on her husband Thomas Friedman
Humor Spotlight: Wally on Bully Boy's visit to the NAACP
Blog Spotlight: Elaine addressing "a bit of everything"
Humor Spotlight: Wally on Evan Blah
Blog Spotlight: Cedric, filling in for Kat, on losing it
Blog Spotlight: Reality calls Betty in the middle of a post

We thank everyone for their permission to repost and would have loved to have reposted more than that but some said "One and only one."

New content? We got it and the following worked on it:

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

Flanders was in the house at the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Chicago -- a rare look at activism from the non-White, non-fifty-plus group. Flanders provided a forum for a lot of voices to be heard.

Protest in Mexico over the election! Over the 2004 election. -- read it, it says it all. We discover that sometimes a link promises more than it delivers.

NYT triest to catch up with Third Estate Sunday Review? -- tip for the paper of record -- when reporting, try to remember the human interest angle. Especially when reporting on voting. Their headline writer seems more aware of that than their reporter.

Insanity: How Little Centrists Get Ahead and Destroy America -- if we were living a film directed by Roger Vadim, it would be called And Centrists Created Bully Boy . . .

What's being read? -- thanks to Trina and her husband for participating in this feature and thanks to Trina for suggesting the feature.

What's on Your Mind? Do the Pollsters really want to know? -- we do something very similar to this in the print edition and we usually go through a mountain of direct mail as well as Zogby. Due to a reader and community member writing about the print feature in the gina & krista round-robin, we got a load of e-mails asking why we never put it online? It's us at our most wicked, at our most smart ass. We did this feature two weeks ago in print and hadn't been saving anything yet because we had two more weeks to go (also, five of us are staying with C.I. so we're away from our own mailboxes) which reduced our usual selection. But this is basically how the print feature goes each month.

TV: 24 -- like 60 Minutes with less action -- Ava and C.I. wrote this. They do the TV commentary themselves. We loved it. We think it captures the padded out show (with repeated time slugs -- verbal and on screen) and also addresses the issues of why the show is so bad (slow, boring and a desire to trash the legal system).

Editorial: Bully Boy's Wars -- the idea was for a feature and an editorial then a friend of C.I.'s called and asked, "Did you see the paper?" (The New York Times.) Not yet. But C.I. was advised to write (one more time) about Ehren Watada at The Common Ills yesterday, about the paper's ignoring of Watada, by a friend at the paper. Looking at this morning's paper, we see why. There was no time to discuss that and no time for two separate features, so we took the larger ideas and put them into one editorial.

Hopefully, you've found something that made you laugh, something that made you angry. Something that made you think. We'll see you next week.

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

Editorial: Bully Boy's Wars

The AP reports that "bombs" in Baghdad and Kirkuk today have already claimed the lives of "more than 60 people." On the Kirkuk bombing, BBC adds this: "In addition to the 20 who died, at least 92 people were wounded in the blast."

Or how about this bit of news from Friday:

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a top government official told Reuters -- anonymously because the coalition of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to a U.S.-sponsored constitution preserving Iraq's unity.

"But the Iraqis want us there!" whine the uninformed. Iraqis have wanted us out for some time -- not surprising in an occupation, illegal or otherwise -- and anyone who's bothered to follow the polling or the events would have grasped that some time ago. But could it get any more clearer than Al Jazeera's Saturday report:

US forces have committed butchery in Iraq and should leave, the speaker of the country's parliament has said.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was speaking on Saturday at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad.
"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right," he said in a speech as the conference opened.

Still supporting the tragedy of the illegal war? Check out Australia's ABC:

A new report by US pressure group Human Rights Watch says American forces in Iraq continued to torture and abuse detainees after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004.
The report flies in the face of claims by the US Defence Department that abuse of detainees was the work of a few bad apples acting on their own initiative.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher John Sifton says the the findings are the result of direct testimony from three former US soldiers about prisoners in American custody in Iraq between 2003 and 2005.

Feeling good? Thinking about the second bowl of Total? Us neither.

Iraq is the Bully Boy's illegal war. People die every day. Nearly 6,000 Iraqis in May and June according to the UN. Even the US military states that attacks in Baghdad are up 40% this month -- that's while the 'security' 'crackdown' is ongoing. Hasn't done much to promote safety.
But then the illegal war hasn't done much for the average Iraqi or the average America.

Still we're there. Still Congress makes excuses. Still corporate media carries the water for the adminstration.

Yet that is only one war of the Bully Boy's.

Want to talk domestic?

Well there's Christine Nelson and Alice McCabe who, the AP reports, were arrested for the 'crimes' of wearing a Kerry-Edwards button and holding a "No More War" sign -- two teachers who thought they had a right to use the promised freedom of speech only to be handcuffed, arrested and strip searched.

Isolated incident? From the AP:

In the months before the 2004 election, dozens of people across the nation were banished from or arrested at Bush political rallies, some for heckling the president, others simply for holding signs or wearing clothing that expressed opposition to the war and administration policies.
Similar things have happened at official, taxpayer-funded, presidential visits, before and after the election. Some targeted by security have been escorted from events, while others have been arrested and charged with misdemeanors that were later dropped by local prosecutors.

It's a war on freedom of speech, a war on the rights to dissent. And it didn't pop up this year, last year or in 2004. It's something the administration has practiced and encouraged. Whether it's the Denver Three being kicked out of a public event for having a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker on their car, or Cindy Sheehan being pulled out of a Bully Boy address despite being invited by a member of Congress, the tone was set from above.

Want to go international again? How about the Bully Boy's war on the rule of the law (and war on the American judiciary system) which allowed the disgrace that is Guantamo Bay (he wants to close it, he assures us, all those years later if he only could . . .) to continue (while Congress looked the other way and seems determined to once again sell out the law and our system of justice just to prove how 'tough' they are)?

We let Cheney and Bully Boy and Ashcroft and Gonzales say they were 'dangerous men' held there (even when they were minors) and let them get away with it. Dangerous? In the fearful, perverted eyes of the administration possibly, but to the rest of the world?

Take this from AP:

A Kuwaiti court Saturday upheld the acquittal of five returnees from Guantanomo on terror-related charges.
In May, a criminal court had cleared the men of belonging to and collecting money for the al-Qaida terror network, but the prosecution appealed the ruling.
U.S. officials freed the five men from the prison in Cuba in November. On their return to Kuwait, they were arrested and put on trial.

"Well that's one instance! And we acted with the best intentions and honorably!" The willingness to trust is misplaced. From the Center for Constitutional Rights:

NEW YORK, July 10, 2006 -- Today the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published the first report citing declassified primary accounts from current detainees and their American attorneys to detail torture and inhumane treatment by U.S. officials at Guantánamo Bay prison.
The "Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba" is the most comprehensive primary source account ever published of ongoing abuse at the prison, detailing systematic physical, psychological, sexual, medical and religious abuse of detainees, filling 51 pages and 279 footnotes. The report is particularly significant in light of the Supreme Court's recent Hamdan decision because it catalogues conduct by U.S. officials in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which the court applied to detainees, and analyzes the administration's attempt to create a "legal black hole" for enemy combatants in sections discussing the administration’s liability concerns regarding conduct at the base Geneva, war crimes, and the forthcoming revisions to the Army Field Manual.
"This report authoritatively documents the Bush Administration's systematic human rights abuses at Guantánamo. I think the torture and abuse detailed here will shock Congress and the American public because it reveals a lawless, immoral and ineffective detention facility and undermines the administration's increasingly desperate attempts to lie about what is happening down there," said CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman. "This report tells a story of abuse and the betrayal of our laws at the highest levels of government, which is why the Supreme Court just had to step in and order the President to treat detainees humanely and provide due process. Before Congress rushes to give the President cover with unnecessary new legislation, I hope it will review the record and provide real oversight, starting with an independent investigation of the base," he added.
The report is available at, printed copies are available upon request, and selected excerpts are below. CCR represents over 200 detainees at Guantánamo and it won the 2004 Supreme Court decision establishing the detainees rights to challenge their detention.

Legal black hole. Held for how long and never charged?

"We have got to wake up in America," Dalia Hashad of Amnesty International (expressing her own opinion and not necessarily those of the organization) said on WBAI's Law and Disorder last month (Hashad is a co-host of the Monday program) and that remains one of the most truthful critiques we've heard.

What does it take for America to wake up?

The Insanity crowd dogs on Maureen Dowd for a column about a friend who thinks we're in danger of losing liberties under the Bully Boy -- a 2002 column that makes Dowd's friend appear a Cassandra of modern times.

Oh well, at least, scared chickens that we've become, we're safe right? Right? Andrew Miga reported last week:

Undercover government investigators purchased sensitive surplus military equipment such as launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles and guided missile radar test sets from a Defense Department contractor.

Let's repeat "from a Defense Department contractor." Safer?

We've watched as a lot of liberties have been trampled on. We don't have much to show for it and, honestly, we shouldn't. If we're so stupid as to give up our rights for some illusionary promise of 'safety' maybe we're not mature enough to have them?

Warrantless, illegal spying, circumventing the rubber stamp court that is FISA? We're okay with it if it's for 'terror' prevention say many Americans. Cowering in fear, giving up everything that was fought for this in the country. Fought not just on a military battlefield -- the way those who glorify the military today -- but in the courts, in the Congress, on the streets. After the abuses of the Watergate era, we were supposed to be smarter and wiser (like we were supposed to be smarter after the interment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII) but we aren't. Bully Boy smirks 'terror' and we go giddy with fear (in a very masochistic manner), whimpering, "Save us, Big Daddy, save us!"

From the AP via Truth Out:

A federal judge Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's domestic spying program, rejecting government claims that allowing the case to go forward could expose state secrets and jeopardize the war on terror.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the warrantless eavesdropping has been so widely reported that there appears to be no danger of spilling secrets.
Dozens of lawsuits alleging that telecommunications companies and the government are illegally intercepting Americans' communications without warrants have been filed. This is the first time a judge has ruled on the government's claim of a "state secrets privilege."
"It might appear that none of the subject matter in this litigation could be considered a secret given that the alleged surveillance programs have been so widely reported in the media," Walker said.

The courts stand up and say the issue deserves public scrutiny and our 'brave' Congress? From the National Lawyers Guild's "THE NLG STRONGLY OPPOSES THE SPECTER-CHENEY NSA BILL" (in full, it's that important and we'll assume that's okay since it's a press release):

The National Lawyers Guild strongly opposes the new legislation offered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, a result of negotiation by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and the White House.
The proposed bill would allow the President to unilaterally compel transfer of all pending lawsuits challenging the legality of the NSA's warrant-less surveillance program to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Challenges to the NSA Program have been filed by NLG lawyers, one in New York in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the other in Portland, Oregon on behalf of an Islamic charity and its attorneys. Similar challenges have been brought in Detroit by the ACLU in Detroit and in San Francisco by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"The Specter-Cheney Bill is not a compromise- the administration is not obliged to give up anything while the American people sacrifice meaningful judicial review of an illegal program" said NLG attorney Ashlee Albies.
The bill would transfer all pending challenges to the program to a secret court that only hears argument from one side--the government. It would also drastically reduce judicial and Congressional oversight of the NSA's warrant-less domestic spying, allowing the Executive Branch to eavesdrop on Americans without restraint. This program is illegal under existing laws and violates the 4th Amendment warrant and probable cause requirements.
"Congress should not reward this Administration’s violations of existing law by condoning this program and allowing it to continue" said Steven Goldberg, an NLG attorney working on the Portland case. "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently acknowledged the President blocked an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation of the program, and now this administration is trying to block any meaningful judicial review of the program."
The NLG urges people to take action. Please contact your senators and let them know you do not support this bill. Contact your local newspapers and express your opposition to the gutting of the 4th Amendment.

Think they'd learn, Congress, after the Supreme Court ruled against the administration (and the Graham-Levin amendment)? You'd be wrong.

And we haven't even touched on Afghanistan, on the rumblings about Iran, on the free hand Bully Boy's apparently given Israel in their armed aggression targeting civilians, the Pentagon's spying on spying on peace activists, the roundups of Arabs and Arab-Americans after 9-11, the attacks on science, on health, go down the list.

But don't forget the signing statements. From Michael Ratner's speech at the March 2006 Left Forum conference:

December 30th of last year, the president signed the McCain Amendment. I consider that the other bookend to tyranny. The McCain Amendment, as you may recall, is the one that bans cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -- a form of torture. It's passed because Congress said finally, "We're going to pass this." It's always been prohibited under US law but Congress said "We're going to do it again." They didn't do it in a great way, which I'll talk about, but they at least, did it.
It comes up to the president and the president says, "Well I never really liked this law, I didn't want Congress to pass this law, and I'm going to, in what's called a signing statement, I'm going to say what I think about this law."
I'm just going to paraphrase it, one paragraph, but if any of you have any questions about whether or not there's been a Coup d'eta in America, read that paragraph. You can't say you didn't know.
What it says, it says first: "That as the president, I can do what I think is necessary to protect national security" paraphrasing, "even if it means torturing people." I call that the Pinochet defense. So that signing order took place, it says first that: "I can do whatever I want in the name of national security, even torture people." Secondly, it says: "I can ignore congress completely, I don't care what they do, and, third, it says: "I can ignore the courts." So that's what I consider the other bookend and, in addition, of course, we have the bookend that took place at the end of, right now, it's continuing, the national security wiretapping, and that of course is where the president belives that he has the inherent authority to electronically surveil any of us.

(Ratner is the president of Center for Constitutional Rights and co-host of WBAI's Law and Disorder.)

Dalia Hashad is correct, America needs to wake up. Today, nearly every American can truthfully sing the opening line to Jefferson Airplane's "We Can Be Together:" "We are the outlaws in the eyes of America." Or at least the in the eyes of the administration. It's past time that the Bully Boy was held accountable by Congress, that they dispensed with the scraping and worshipping and started defending the Constitution. And it's past time that we started demanding that our representatives (regardless of party) stood up to these repeated attacks on the America system of democracy. Support the troops? How about the supporting the damn Constitution?

How about putting a bumper sticker on your car for that?

TV: 24 -- like 60 Minutes with less action

Let me try a theory at this with them, Cheryl. We're watching the show on Wednesday afternoon and here we are in the middle... "The Centox is about to be released through the natural gas pipeline, all hell is about to break loose," and Jack pauses to give a nice, big wet kiss to Audrey, and Joel looks at me and says, "We've got to keep the women."
[. . .]
And I said, "I know. You cover all the demographics in this show. You've got romance in the middle of terrorism," but it's a business. You're trying to get all demographics. You want young people so you've got Kim in there acting like she does. That's what so amazing about this. You have to factor all these things in. It's a business. It's your creative life; you're having fun doing it, but there are business requirements that you have to meet if you want to continue to grow the audience which you have. Is that not brilliant or what, for me to understand that?
-- 24 fan and rotund, authoritarian cheerleader Rush Limbaugh

Out of respect for Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland, we've avoided reviewing the Fox garbage starring Kiefer Sutherland. Then, last week, a Common Ills community member (West) mentioned that Matthew Rothschild recently noted how hideous the show was. Would we (Ava and C.I.) tackle it now, West wondered?

Far be it from us to leave Rothschild hanging. Could we do a review about 24 without delving into the reality of the Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland break up? Or without cracking at least a few jokes?

We pictured the show zipping along full speed and spending our time during the commercial breaks talking about the things that didn't quite make it into the press. (Okay, we can't resist. Celeste? Really now. That's all we'll say other than, eczema! We're done. We're minding our Ps&Qs now.) But we never had time to relive reality versus what passed for coverage 'back in the day.' Not even a chance to talk about how lucky Julia Roberts was to end that when she did. Why? We didn't relax during the commercials -- we were too busy trying to stay awake.

24 -- it's like 60 Minutes with less action. If you know of the show, you know it's "trick" and you may be fully aware that Falcon Crest hack Joel Surnow really didn't "create" anything original with 24 because many others such as Patrick Sheane Duncan (with the 1995 film Nick of Time) have tried the same thing before.

But traffic in Arab stereotypes and fear -- BAM! you've got a show Rupert Murdoch can get behind even though, like most of the Fox lineup that doesn't revolve around singing, it really can't be called a "hit." It can't be called art or acting either though lingering close ups are supposed to convince you that it is.

The biggest surprise for us was the boredom factor (we were expecting to be outraged and weren't -- has Jerry Bruckheimer left us that jaded -- it was all so flacid and predictable) and how nothing happened . . . slowly.


A submarine's been invaded. At 0:36 we're told "It's safe to breathe" and Julian Sands begins speaking for no other reason than to demonstrate that Jeromy Irons, in Die Hard III (With a Vengeance), didn't give the hammiest performance as an Aryan villan. Back in the old days, when Kelly McGillis had a career, Julian Sands was hailed as the next big thing (even getting some nice notices for Vibes, if you can believe it). No one's said the words "Julian Sands" and "promising" in the same sentence in decades so it makes perfect sense that he'd show up on crap TV to give one of the worst performances of his career (which, by contrast, actually makes the praise for Vibes seem justified). We tried to stay awake by wondering if he still wears bicycle shorts despite the gut?

1:26 We are staring at a computer screen and visiting the Land of Recap -- which we'll sight see in until 2:46, at which point, it's explained that if fighter jets are scrambled to take out the submarine, now occupied by terrorists (last episode) who have control of the missiles, it will take more than twenty minutes for the planes to reach the sub and they only have twenty minutes before the missiles are launched! Twenty minutes, we'll see later, figures in the episode more than once.

2:50 first shot of Kiefer.

2:55 first close up of Kiefer's sweaty face.

Nothing much happens still -- just a lot of talk about how will they get onto the sub and whether or not RoboCop's Peter Weller is going to get a gun. Through yawns, we note that Weiller has a strong attraction to these authoritarian screeds and wonder when he'll start appearing in filmed religous tracts?

6:27 the only survivor of the submarine's crew balks at Kiefer's suggestion that he kill someone: "I'm an engineer. I'm not trained for that."

7:01 debate over who gets to hold a penis, er, gun, ends as Kiefer hands over a piece to Weller.

Lot of nonsense follows. "Don't have time to evacuate." Charlene from Designing Women shows up in a scene set elsewhere -- but without her accent or common sense. We note that she still looks and acts like the poor man's Judith Light.

8:23 it's announced that there are "less than ten minutes" until the missiles are launched. We got to wait ten more minutes for something to happen?

We check our notes and see that less than twenty minutes at 2:46 is now less than ten at 8:23. We do the math repeatedly. We keep coming back to ten minutes passed in less than six minutes. We wonder where the time went? We wonder when the show ends?

8:54 to 9:32 is Kiefer explaining to all the kids out there how you slit a throat as he lectures the engineer on the sub (hint, you have to go deep). He says: "You can't afford to think about this, son" and we're left wondering why it sounds like a pickup line?

11:27 it's announced: "You have less than 7 minutes until they [the missiles] launch."

We figure the "less than" is used so much because a) it's imprecise and b) the show's never going be mentioned in a sentence that begins: "24 is greater than . . ."

We get our first "kill" as the engineer kills one of the terrorists. It doesn't go as easy as Kiefer promised. What does? Kiefer, Robocop and a third man (yes, they're all men) move towards the submarine, a terrorist get shot (by Kiefer, he's the star, remember), they board the sub.

14:36 announcement: "Jack the missiles are armed. Three minutes to launch."

At 11: 27, there was less than 7 minutes until the missiles launch. At 14:36, we're down to three minutes. The clock on the show moves much faster than the characters.

16:20 it's announced: "60 seconds until they launch." Robocop is attempting to stop the launch by 'manually overriding' the system -- yeah, we've seen that a million times in films and TV shows that actually had suspense. Right now, it's making the scene on Charlie's Angels where Farrah had to choose between the green wire and the red wire look like Speed.

17:21 it's announced "10 seconds to launch" causing us to groan because the missiles should have launched one second prior. They've reset the clock. Did the refs make a call we missed?

For what passes for suspense, during the last few minutes, having gotten into the control room after the engineer drew all but one of the terrorists out (don't ask how, Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys was more riveting -- even after they got the shampoo commercial blond to replace Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy) Kiefer and the other guy leave Robocop alone in the room. Instead of doing the smart thing and staying in the control room, 'securing it' - to put it in the show's parlance, Kiefer and the other guy left. The other's guy's now dead. Kiefer's fighting in badly staged action scenes. Possibly a Falcon's Crest creative 'genius' isn't the best go-to for action?

The missiles have been stopped. Kiefer notices that Robocop, like our patience, has vanished. He goes looking for Robocop and, apparently having never watched an action or horror film, doesn't think to look behind him. Robocop confronts Kiefer with gun aimed: "You were never really going to let me go, were you?"

"No," Kiefer responds in a quieter moment.

This is supposed to be Weller's big moment, Emmy nom written all over it. His failure to deliver goes a long way to explaining why the film career never took off. Like the gun Kiefer passed him at 7:01, Weller's shooting blanks.

19:24 Weller's dead. Killed by Kiefer. Because Weller killed "friends of mine." Robocop cut down by a vigilante. That may be symmetry. It's also true that judge & jury plays big these days. Gone are the times when issues related to Dirty Harry's actions could be seriously questioned. Probably helps when you sell non-stop fear and have an administration that does as well. We hold a moment of silence to honor Henry Fonda who didn't put easy, big money ahead of strong principles and take the part of Dirty Harry.

19:58-23:58 is a commercial break. We feel like we should head for our corners and rest before the bell rings.

We ponder why Rush Limbaugh needed to take (smuggle?) viagra on a trip to the Dominican Republic with 24's Joel Surnow ('creator' -- more like foster parent -- and exec producer) and Howard Gordon (exec producer and headwriter and who, despite a name that calls to mind "Howard Borden" actually looks a lot like William Devane if Devane's face got stuck in a vice for . . . 24 hours)? We wonder who the effects of the viagra were intended for? And whether Daryn Kagan is fine with selling her soul and self-respect to be with a grotesque loud mouth even after it's obvious to the world that he's getting some action on the side? (We also wonder if Kagan is unaware of how many careers have been destroyed by 'dating' Rush? We could provide her with names but we have no sympathy for her and she's sealed her own fate.)

24:40-24:50 Kiefer lies that Robocop is dead because "He fired on me. I didn't have a chance." (Robocop's gun had no bullets. Kiefer gave him the gun knowing that.)

We're stuck with soap opera and bad melodrama until 31:57 -- well this is a from a Falcon Crester. And just like that show, it's long and talky. Charlene says goodbye to a guy she really cares about.

"Will you let me know that you're alright?"

"It's probably safer if we don't have any contact."

Safer for his career. Like all bad scenes, this one ends oh-so-slowy.

36:12 to 36:13 the writers please Rush by dumping a dead body -- of someone ordered killed by the President of the United States -- in the woods. Not a lot of talky (for this show) since we're all supposed to be thinking "Vince Foster!"

Kiefer's in the scene via a phone call. He's put on speaker phone, cell speaker phone. They're all like children in separate sandboxes. Kiefer's going to force the president to confess his evil deeds. He's going to confront him and record the confession. With, you know this, whatever it takes. He obviously trained at Guantanamo.

37:39 how long will it take for him to get to the president?

37:40 Kiefer replies, "20 minutes." The show is obsessed with 20 minutes.

37:42 Kiefer is told, "That's too long."

Kiefer insists that they delay the president's departure so that he can make it to the president.

Kiefer: "I don't need to remind you that he was responsible for David Palmer's assassination and a terrorist attack on this country's soil."

You don't? Then why did you?

The third commercial break at 42:18. At least the third. One of us says, "Remember how much was spent on that wedding that never took place?" The other laughs about how much was spent the night before. Gallows laughter.

45:18 we groan thinking the torture, er, show is back on. It's not. It's just a heavily made up Kiefer, with back lighting, schilling for a 'cause' and reinforcing the message of the show (and the administration) that danger is everywhere and parents should take steps "to protect them" -- kids -- from the trouble on the internet. But who will protect them from the boredom of 24?

46:19 show's on. When will it end? We keep thinking, when will it end? And yes, we get that we're paraphrasing Stephen Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along.

Together we sing:

But I go on thinking and sweating
And cursing and crying
And turning and reaching
And waking and dying
And no, not a day goes by
Not a blessed day
But you're still somehow part of my life
And you won't go away
So there's hell to pay
And until I die . . .

Which pretty much sums up our attitude about this lethargic show.

We stare at the screen in horror realizing Charlene's about to put out for God and country. That's how she's going to delay the president from catching his helicopter long enough for Kiefer to arrive on the scene, sleep with the president. They only needed a few minutes. Since Charlene hates the man, considers him a killer, you might think the writers could be inventive. But as Rush pointed out, creative 'genius' Joel thought a kiss was a way to interest female viewers. Therefore, it stands to reason, that the same 'genius' couldn't think of any way for a woman to irritate the president and prevent him from leaving except to put out. Apparently Joel's never heard of Martha Mitchell.

Kiefer's arrived safely. Charlene's bought time.

53:01 Kiefer is asked, "How far are you willing to go?"

53:08 Kiefer responds, "As far as I have to."

Thereby summing up the desperation factor of his career that led him to 24. As the show's clock tells us it is now 6:00 a.m, the episode ends.

So what did you get? Bad acting galore. Very little action (in fact what Charlene did to the president may have been the most action of the entire show -- thankfully, that took place, for the most part, offscreen).

How's it pull in veiwers? (The ones it does pull in.) Not with fast pacing. Not with twists and turns. With a lot of soap opera. Throw some guns in, let 'em go off every now and then, and some guys who scoff at soap operas get all caught up. "Did Charlene really put out?" "Yeah, man! It was awesome! I wonder what happens next?" "Hey, how 'bout that Chloe, bringing in her ex-husband for that one scene? Man, the tension between that divorced couple."

It's the same sort of logic that helped the same studio (no, not Fox -- the boutique run by the 'geniuses' who whined that the Weinsteins played dirty while insisting that A Beautiful Mind was "truth, man") sell a Felicity clone to ABC -- Jennifer Garner had fun scenes hanging out with her friends, talking relationships with Francie, getting close to Will, getting close to Vaughn. Toss her a gun, let some explosives go off and it's a "manly" show. That's one of the common threads between the crap that was Alias and the crap that is 24. Another is that you limit the number of women onscreen because the American population has more adult males than women. Oh, it doesn't? Well on TV it does. Especially on bad TV. The final thread the two shows share is that they get you to root for vigilante 'justice' and for the law being shredded.

In Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seaons, when pressured by Henry VIII to grant him a divorce, Lord Chancellor Thomas Moore refuses and explains his decision with: "The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal." Possibly the biggest differences between art and bad TV.

What's on Your Mind? Do the Pollsters really want to know?

In the print edition for the last few months, we've been doing a quick feature where we note the issues and developments that polls seem to think are the most pressing to Americans. A reader and a community member noted it in last Friday's the gina & krista round-robin which led to e-mail requests that we show online only readers what they're missing?

Generally, we collect a month's worth of polling and note the 'big questions' in print. Since we just did that a few weeks back, we're only covering two weeks worth here.

What's on your mind? The DNC wants to know! They care about what you care about!

Which is why the first question in their latest survey/send money request is:

Which of the following issues is the most important to you? Please rank from 1-10 with "1" being the most important to you.
___ Improving public education
___ Protecting the environment
___ National security/foreign policy
___ Economic/tax policy
___ Reproductive freedom
___ Social Security reform
___ Civil rights and liberties
___ Health care affordability
___ National energy policy
___ Other _______________

Now with two-thirds of the public favoring withdrawal of troops from Iraq, you might think Iraq would pop into the DNC's brain but, you'll note, it didn't. They note: "Response Requested within 72 hours." But it took longer than that for it to arrive from DC!

People For The American Way wants to know what you think too, in nine questions or less to which you can answer "Yes," "No" or "Not sure." Ten! If you count the most pressing question:
will you send money? (They helpfully suggest these progressively larger amounts: $25, $35, $50, $100, $1000 or "Other." Since "Other" comes at the increasing end of the scale, don't you dare fill in $10!) In their nine questions, the issue of an illegal war (or even impeachment for it or any other action by the Bully Boy) is raised zero times.

This is People For The American Way's survey which they are asking that you "Please Return By: August 11, 2006." If you think it looks a little like their last survey ("Please Return by July 28, 2006), you are wrong -- it is the exact same survey. Question five still starts with Sandra Day O'Connor. Word for word, every question is the same. The only differences are your "Survey Registration Number" and the "Please Return By" date. A lot of orgs waste money creating new polls, you don't have to worry about that with People For The American Way.
They'll keep asking the same questions, over and over. Maybe next year they'll ask of your feelings on illegal war?

In the latest survey, they include a free bumper sticker, at least. (The one before had a book marker.) Which is more than you can say about the DNC.

The Sierra Club doesn't play. It doesn't pretend to want your opinion. You better be sitting when you open their envelope, however, because they've packed more in there than the ads in a Sunday newspaper. They give you not one but two calender "strips" you can "affix" to "your PC keyboard, your desk or anywhere else you need a calendar." You could probably even affix them to your wall calendar! Which might make more sense since, when the calendar runs out, you can just toss it as opposed to scraping it off.

Not content to want you to turn over your personal interior space to ad for them ("Founded 1892" the calender proclaims), they also provide you with a "decal" they think will look lovely on a car window. It features a man hiking -- apparently there are no women in the Sierra Club? -- and, of course, their "brand." Think of all the fun you'll have in a year or two scraping that off the window!

They offer you what we're guessing is a very wide and very long bookmark (forget about using it with paperbacks) that features two women hiking (because women read and men drive? -- is that the thinking?) in front of Sequoias. On the back they encourage you to: "please join the fight and the Sierra Club today." First rule about Sierra Fight Club? No one is allowed to read paperbacks or soft cover books!

Having stroked your ego with freebies, they think it's now time you pay for the meal. They have a special $15 dollar membership rate ("limited time only") and you'll get the "official Sierra Club Expedition Pack" ("FREE"). Like the inverse of a car commerical, they explain:

This lightweight sturdy backpack is not just for trailblazing!
Its rugged good looks are at home on the city streets or trekking up a mountain path.

Is it a backpack or a Ford Explorer? We're so confused.

And, most important, they need you to sign their petition cards to Bully Boy (oh, those poor sad fools thinking he gives a damn about petitions) and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

LIVESTRONG doesn't want your opinion either. It just wants your money. Let's hope the generic "Dear Friend" plea doesn't arrive at the wrong homes, after all this is professional French hater Lance Armstrong's group. Lance's crowd knows how to open on a happy note:

This year, more than one million Americans will hear their doctors say those life-changing words -- "You have cancer."

What? You thought it was going to be, "You're pregnant"? After depressing the hell out of you, Mitch Stoller wants you to "dig down deep and give a generous gift." And to show you generousity is a two-way street, they include 24 address labels.

A hilariously stern "send money!" letter came in from an NPR affiliate reminding one of us that 2006 was almost over and if we didn't send in our money soon ("this is the last reminder" appears first in the second sentence) we wouldn't be 2006 members! The fact that the person this was sent to cut off NPR in 2004 makes the sentence: "We simply can't afford to lose you" all the more laughable. See if you don't roar when, for the fourth time, the letter states: "P.S. Again, this is your last renewal notice." To stress that point, they underline "your last renewal notice."

The New Yorker sends one of us a renewal notice even though there are 18 months to go before it's time to renew again. Rolling Stone, by contrast, only sent out their renewal notice (and their issue with the cardstock cover warning that your subscription was running out (or, as they delightfully put it: "is beginning to gather some moss") six months early.

Though we're not crazy about the name, Progressive Patriots Fund (what's next, Good Progressive Patriots Who Love Mom and Apple Pie Fund?) they at least have their eye on the ball, something we can't say about the DNC, raising the issue of the illegal spying on American citizens immediately. We also agree with their "Statement of Principle to the Democratic Party:"

I am disappointed that the Democratic Party is not taking a strong enough stand agains the outrages of the Bush Administration. It is my belief that the only way to win this November and take back the White House in 2008 is to confront President Bush's dishonesty and illegal conduct. I believe the President has broken the law, has not been truthful, and must be held accountable to the same laws as the rest of us. I call upon the Democratic Party to stand up against the abuse of George W. Bush.
Respectfully signed: ________

Did someone say "2008"? Wait, wait. The primary runners are known and Zogy's got them!

If the Democratic primary for President were held today and the candidates were Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Russ Feingold, Al Gore, Mike Gravel, John Kerry, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, and Mark Warner, for whom would you vote?
Who is your second choice?
If the Republican Primary for President were held today and the candidates were George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Chuck Hagel, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and Tom Tancredo, for whom would you vote?

Who is your second choice?

Condi's not in the running! Say it ain't so, Zogby, say it ain't so! On the Republican side, does Hagel still own an interest in the voting machines? If so, isn't it likely that he might be (intentionally or not) Republicans first and second choice in the GOP primary? On the Dem side, of that list, we'd say right now Russ Feingold's the only fighter among them. But we'll give a nod to John Edwards (mainly because Evan Blah trashed Edwards' main issue -- one more issue than Blah's come up with) last week. Some of our wacky fellow lefties linked to that without grasping that Blah's whole "Dems have done too much for poor people, let's get back to the middle class" wasn't only poverty-phobic, it was a slap at Edwards.

It's interesting that Zogby wants your opinion on 2008 now, in 2006, but doesn't provide you with an "Other." (In fairness, the DNC probably wouldn't either were it not for the fact that they want you to send money.) It's not as though "Other" isn't an option they've offered in previous polls -- such as the, we're sure, life shattering question of which death of a sixties rock god (or goddess, they listed Janis if not Cass), do you regret the most?

Zogby came via the phone, the others came via snail mail. Prompting us to once again quote Cedric's response to these repeated, eternal requests for money: "Get your hands out of my pocket!"

In Hannah & Her Sisters, Barbara Hershey's live-in lover Fredrick says, after a night of watching TV:

But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third grade con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.

Fredrick might want to find a place on his list for the direct mailers.

What's being read?

Trina suggested that we do an easy feature, "What Are You Reading?" To make sure it's easy, no links to the books. Big boys and girls know how to search the web.

Trina: We're staying with C.I. for the week and there were two books left in our room. My husband grabbed one and I'm reading Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and The Press which I'm trying to portion off and resist the strong urge to read straight though. It's a very involving book.

Trina's husband & Mike's father: Robert Scheer's Playing President. I saw that and just grabbed it. I remember the Jimmy Carter interview, I figure everyone my age does, but I wasn't familiar with the other interviews, Nixon, Clinton, Reagan, Bush I. So this is an interesting book.

Ty: I went to C.I.'s fiction shelves and pulled down Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse which is very different from anything I've read before. I've enjoyed it. "He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha. Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces -- hundreds, thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha." Page 121 and it probably helps to know what came before.

Betty: I was looking for something on trade after Greg Palast's wonderful Armed Madhouse and C.I. sent me John R. MacArthur's The Selling of "Free Trade" which I am loving. I've just gotten to the point where the triangulators selling NAFTA, Clinton White House, want to ridicule the opposition to the treaty so they set out to make Ross Perot the fact of the opposition and have him debate Al Gore even though some are worried about Gore's "stiffness." By the way, these are Gore people talking and when someone, you know who I mean, wants to write his 365th blog on Al Gore for his seventh or eighth year in a row, he might stop saying, "Where did the press get these looney ideas?" and note that the Gore people were planting the notion of Gore being stiff and other things with the press. There's also the fact that Al Gore could come off stiff. Still can. I know we're not supposed to mention that truth. Anyway, great book.

Mike: Che Guevara and the FBI which is edited by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith. Ruth and C.I. both recommended it to me for the subject and because they know I like the Michaels, who host Law and Disorder on WBAI each Monday with Dalia Hashad and Heidi Boghosian. This is a collection of some of the US government documents produced while spying on Che Guervara. That's the CIA and the State Department and more. I just started the book and am up to a memo from the State Department in 1962 where they just obsess over an interview Guervara gave with London's Daily Woker. You start to wonder, "Don't these people have real jobs?" Pretty cool book.

Jess: From the amazing and endless bookcases of C.I., soon to be a children's novel, I'm joking, I pulled down Robert Meeropol's An Execution In The Family: One Son's Journey. I made the mistake of telling my dad I was reading it mid-week last week and, ever since, it's been a phone call or an e-mail or both, asking, "Did you finish it yet?" He's read the book, which isn't surprising to me now that I think about it, and he's dying to discuss it with me. I'm taking some classes out here, doing some activism and trying to have some fun so I'm averaging about two chapters a day. After we finish this week's edition, I'm heading out to the pool and I'll finish up the book.

Ty: Yeah, you need to point out that you're joking. Last week, before all the edition was up, we had e-mails asking, "When will the episode of 7th Heaven with Ava and C.I. in it air?" People took that seriously.

Elaine: I just finished reading, for the first time, William Golding's Lord of the Flies due to a patient using it as a reference point. I don't know if it's returning from vacation, or what, but the news is really depressing of late. So I packed, I'm staying at Mike's this weekend, by the way, not as a babysitter while Trina and his father are out of town, but, honestly, because I was feeling depressed. So, I packed Alice Walker's Sent By Earth which is more of a pamphlet than a book, it's a prose poem that's fifty-something pages and I've already finished rereading it. But I wanted something familiar that I knew would raise my spirits and that did the trick.

Jim: Edward W. Said's Humanism and Democratic Critisicm.

Dona: I enjoyed Katha Pollitt's Virginity or Death so when I was going through the essay sections of C.I.'s book collection and found Subject to Debate, I grabbed that. It's an earlier collection. I liked her humor in that collection. I know Jim's playing Mr. Tight Lipped --

Jim: I said what I was reading. I just started it.

Dona: Thanks. So I want to go into this and do so carefully. There is tremendous humor in Pollitt's Virginity or Death, along with the insights and the wisdoms and so much more. However, the humor in Subject to Debate, reflecting the time period it covers, 1994-2000, is a bit more relaxed. The threat to . . . everything. Choice, freedom -- real freedom, not the Bully Boy's faux freedoms, everything is under attack today. The humor in the new collection is edgier, as it should be, to reflect edgier times. Pollitt made us laugh with Virginity or Death and the last thing I want to do is to suggest it's not funny or not as funny. It's very funny. But the period that book covers and the period of Subject to Debate are completely different. "Of Toes and Men," for instance, is hilarious but in the raised stakes environment we live in, it's doubtful it could be written the same way today. Not due to any censorship, self or on the part of The Nation -- where Pollitt's columns appear, but because we are in some very sad times. So I'm enjoying this book both for the writing style and for the memories it pulls out of me of a calmer time. If you only read one, read the new book. You really do need to arm yourself with knowledge. If you have time for more than one, check out Subject to Debate.

Wally: A book I saw mentioned at The Common Ills awhile back, Phil Strongman and Alan Parker's John Lennon & The FBI Files. Last week, we did that thing on how The Independent of London was writing about the new documentary on Lennon and the FBI spying and I think I was the only one who didn't know that M15 spied on him as well. And that is M15, not M16, which may have as well. It's a very interesting book.

Ava: Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, which is set in the sixties, this is a novel, by the way, and a look at some interesting times . . . from inside. The characters have a wonderful fullness to them and, while I was reading it, I kept thinking, Elaine would love this book.

Elaine: Sounds intriguing. I'll put it down on my list. I only know her nonfiction.

Dona: Cedric and C.I. are left.

Cedric: Like Jim, I just started my book so I can't say much other than I'm enjoying it so far. It's Michael Parenti's Super Patriotism. I'll add that I didn't know anything about him until KPFA was playing a lecture he gave during their fundraising in May -- the lecture interested me and Rebecca had recommended this book when we'd talked about his lecture. I've been pretty busy and Friday night, like Mike does, we had a discussion group about Iraq. I woke up, looked at my apartment in shambles and just wanted to get out. So I went to the bookstore and when I saw this, I remembered I was planning on reading it. Earlier last week, I was re-reading Norman Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death which we already discussed here awhile back but it's a great book so I'll give it a shout out as well.

C.I.: I'm reading three papers that friends are about to present shortly -- one on Iraq, one on water rights and one on feminism and pop culture -- and a friend gave me William M. Kunstler's My Life As A Radical Lawyer Thursday -- so I haven't had time to finish it yet. But, if I can, I'd like to note one paragraph that's especially stood out so far, from page 339:

Throughout our history, we have had government-manufactured villians, such as Communists, terrorists, labor-union leaders, mobsters, black militants, Islamic fundamentalists, or whatever group was out of favor at the time. In order to support official terrorism, like the shooting down of union members and Black Panthers or the beating of antiwar or civil rights demonstrators, the government makes its enemies into monsters so that it can get away with murder and the public says no more than "What does it matter? They were only criminal syndicalists or union people or organized-crime figures or terrorists?"

Jim: What page?

C.I.: 339.

Jim: I'm just teasing. Let me add, in case we forget it as we hurry through the edition, we thank Dallas for hunting down links and that the core six -- me, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. are all in California again this week -- and that we're joined by Mike's parents who were kind enough to participate in this feature, we thank them and thank Trina for thinking up this feature. Rebecca and Kat are on vacation. Betty's filling in for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and Mike, Cedric and C.I. are filling in for Kat at Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills).

Dona: And, as noted, Trina's out here. She's on vacation. No post at her site this weekend.

Flanders was in the house at the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Chicago

RadioNation with Laura Flanders and Flanders went on location Saturday to Chicago where the National Hip-Hop Political Convention was taking place. Along with Biko Baker, listeners were treated to the voices of young activists explaining their concerns and their ways of mobilizing.

One man explained that he thought it was a mistake to register voters and attempt to steer them into a party. His work consisted of, he explained, registering them and talking to them, finding out their issues and then devising strategies that spoke to them by, and this will shock the Beltway crowd, incorporating issues that matter to actual voters into the strategies.

A woman spoke of her own efforts at outreach and why she felt they were important. She wondered, noting the progressives in D.C., "How progressive is it to be surrounded by white men? If everyone in the room is a White man over fifty, that's not very progressive to me."
[Second sentence may be a paraphrase.]

We agree with her, how progressive is that? And her comments about the reality of racism and sexism and the needs to expand the involvement of a multitude of people from different backgrounds into the discussion was a home run for us.

It was three hours (with commercials) of hearing passionate voices speaking about their efforts and their hopes. Voices often shut out from other media (and the Beltway) stating their truths.
If you missed it, a best of Saturday and Sunday's programs goes online this week (usually on Tuesday or Wednesday). It's a one hour condensed version (commerical free). This version also plays on non-commerical radio so you can check stations for that as well.

Today, from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST, Flanders guests will include, stealing from C.I.:

Stephen F. Cohen -- contributing editor to The Nation, NYU professor and like a walking Wikipedia on the subject of Russia but with the facts right! (cheap Wikipedia joke, true, but it illustrates the point) -- and Jamal Dajani (no my dyslexia did not cause me to get Dahr Jamail's name wrong, the guest is Jamal Dajani) the director of LinkTV's Middle Eastern programming. Plus Claude Anshin Thomas on the journey from Vietnam veteran to Buddhist monk and "an upcoming Los Angeles retreat to help heal post-war trauma."

You can hear the broadcast on XM satellite radio, on stations carrying Air America Radio programming and online at RadioNation with Laura Flanders.

Protest in Mexico over the election! Over the 2004 election.

Oaxaca, Mexico - Protesters have taken over the center of folkloric Oaxaca, making tourists show identification at makeshift checkpoints, smashing the windows of quaint hotels and spray-painting revolutionary slogans. Police are nowhere in sight.
It's not the tranquil cultural gem beloved by tourists from the United States and Europe. A month of protests to try to oust the governor have forced authorities to cancel many events, including the Guelaguetza dance festival.
Most tourists are staying away, costing the city millions of dollars.
The protests follow other eruptions of civil unrest and class conflict that have plagued President Vicente Fox as his term winds to a close.

The above is from Ioan Grillo 's "Protesters Take Over Oaxaca, Mexico" (Associated Press via Truth Out) on a left website (not Truth Out) with a link stating "Protesters have taken over Oaxaca in the latest move to speak out against the Mexican election results" and we thought, "Okay, now it's becoming a story of people." (Greg Palast, as always, has been doing strong investigative reporting on the issue.) Then we read a little further:

The protest leaders, a mix of trade unionists and leftists, say their fight is not with the tourists but with Gov. Ulises Ruiz, whom they accuse of rigging the state election in 2004 and using force to repress dissent. Ruiz belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has governed the state since 1929.

The protestors are protesting Governor Ruiz over the 2004 election? That's not really about the election they just had, now is it? If the Associated Press is correct (always a big if), then this protest really has nothing to do with the current disputed election.

On the disputed election, we think Elizabeth DiNovella captured the current situation best in "A Lot of Smoke--But Where's La Pistola?" (The Progressive):

The leftwing party wants a complete recount of all 130,488 polling stations. Party leaders say they refuse to accept the final results if a total recount isn’t done.
Calderon's supporters say the election was clean and fair, though Calderon just told The Washington Post he would accept a partial recount. A complete recount would be "absurd and illegal," he said.
Earlier this week the PAN submitted a formal complaint asking for a recount, but only in 200 voting booths.
So, was there fraud? At the very least there have been irregularities. Ballots were found in the garbage in several states. In many districts where Lopez Obrador had the majority of votes, there was odd "drop off" voting (more votes for congressional representatives than for the presidency).
Two PRD poll watchers were killed in Guerrero the morning of the election. Some analysts speculate this was a thinly veiled attempt at voter intimidation, as Guerrero had one of the lowest voting rates, 42%. (Overall, 59% of the eligible voters participated in the election.)
On Monday and Tuesday, the PRD released videos alleging misconduct and ballot stuffing at the polls. More videos may be released in the coming weeks.
Most importantly, 904,604 votes were ruled invalid. That's more than three times the margin of Calderon’s apparent victory. "The null votes are our votes," Lopez Obrador told the press on July 11. If a recount happens, some of these could swing the vote toward him.
But as one PRD party member involved in the electoral process told me last night, there's smoke, but Lopez Obrador hasn't found la pistola.

The pistola, apparently, is not to be found in Oaxaca -- despite the link that led us to Truth Out's story. Unless, of course, they meant the protest was to SPEAK OUT against the 2004 state election?

NYT triest to catch up with Third Estate Sunday Review?

So, more than a dozen groups offered maps last week to redraw the district and those around it, including some that would distinctly hamper the re-election prospects of some Democratic and Republican congressmen. A three-judge panel in Austin will now have to decide what to do in time for the midterm elections in November.
[. . .]
Then there is the question of timing. The three-judge panel has set oral arguments for Aug. 3. The Texas secretary of state said a map was needed by Aug. 8 for ballots and precinct maps to be ready for the November voting.
Will there be time for a primary before the general election, or will there be an "open primary" in November, a kind of free-for-all of candidates followed by special general election in the affected districts soon after? Is there even time for a Supreme Court appeal before November, or will the voting take place under whatever map emerges from the three-judge panel?

"What? What!" you cry as you read Rick Lyman's "Ruling Has Texans Puzzling Over Districts" in this morning's New York Times.

Well not if you read "Redistricting right up to the election?" here last week. In that feature, we took a look at what Lyman's report ("Texas Rivals Offer Competing Redistricting Plan") on the officials back-and-forth might actually mean for the people, you know the ones who will be voting? This time, Lyman's headline writer gets the issue, even if Lyman's not as concerned with the actual voters. Well, there's always next week for Lyman. Or maybe they can let the headline writer write the article next week since there seems to be a grasp of what's at stake beyond two political parties and the courts -- you know, the people. The ones who need to be making an informed decision on how to vote and, to do that, they kind of need to know what district their in so they'll know who their candidates actually are.

Insanity: How Little Centrists Get Ahead and Destroy America

Once upon a time there were three losers. They formed the Purr Posse and they did a lot of damage. The general consensus for some is that the country is in the state it is because of attacks from the right and a right wing echo chamber. It's not that easy, it's not that simple. For this feature, we look to the recent past.

Our focus? A little wanna be who has risen about as high as he ever will (sob for him -- he's not aware enough to cry for himself) named Ben Fritz teamed up with two fellow losers -- Brendan Nye and Bryan Keefer -- and, wanting to be 'somebodies,' they appeared to catch on to the game quick -- the easiest way to be fawned over by the mainstream media is to present yourself as 'left' and then attack the left. The one trick tricks mastered that play perfectly.

Here's Fritzie, on October 11th, 2001, laying down the party line that no one must ask questions:

Another favored tactic of Scheer's, and one that can be seen in his false tropes as well, is to bash President Bush and other Republicans whenever possible. There is nothing wrong, of course, with criticizing political opponents. What is troublesome, however, is that Scheer often does so not with reasoned criticism, but irrational broadsides and unsupported allegations.

Scheer's crime? Noting that $43 million in aid, whatever channel it goes through and whatever is it's supposedly doing, to Afghanistan was supporting the Taliban. Probing his inner asshole, Fritzie played dumb. Fritzie played cop of the discourse. Most of all Fritzie played taste patrol. Maybe Fritzie gets how low is he is on the totem pole (breaking three week old party gossip doesn't make you Liz Smith) which is why he recently wrote:

Incompetence aside, this President has indeed been misleading, deceiving, and dissembling to (or, to put it more bluntly, "lying to") America on most major issues since he took office. Most egregiously, of course, in the case of the Iraq War. That was the argument of [plug for his really bad book] and I think the evidence has only continued to pile up since publication. [And, we'd add, weak sales.]

Broadside much? Maybe like fellow poser Joe Klein, Fritzie just learned that the discourse goes on without him, with no use for him and decided that he had to hop on board? We have nothing against broadsides. Our favorite may be his title to a post where he poses the question of how immature Republican leaders in Congress can be -- a post he entitles "DumbAssRepublicansSayWhat"? Well isn't Miss Manners the queen of tasteful discourse?

The reality is that the Bully Boy administration was establishing links with the Afghanistan government (Taliban) and it takes a special kind of hit man/lackey to defend it immediately after 9-11. (It took a special kind of useful fool to defend the action in June of 2001.) But what was more important to 'success' in those now hazy days for many was propping up the Bully Boy and deciding which questions and issues could be raised and which couldn't.

Don't just blame the right wing echo chamber, a lot of voices from outside the right shut down dissent, shouted down questions and ensured that some issues would be judged 'unacceptable.' Bully Boy's march to power was aided by useful idots and fools. Spinsanity presented three.

Brendan Nyhan specialized in attacks on Michael Moore. But of all Ny-Ny's work, what may cause the largest howls today is his coming to the aid and defense of rightwingers while refuting the US Commision on Civil Rights findings (re: Florida 2000 election) in June of 2002:

Braceras [Weekly Standard column] and Leo [Townhall column] are essentially correct. The Commission's report points out a number of serious problems that had the effect of preventing eligible voters from not voting successfully, particularly African Americans, but it actually found no evidence of intent to disenfranchise voters. Yet the report's rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise.

Critical thought wasn't key to their "analysis" (and no the nonsense doesn't hold up today). Ny-Ny wanted to attack Robert Scheer as well. So he basically 'borrowed' observations from a right wing website (LeftWatch) and added his own commentary including this statement on how Scheer 'distorted' reality re: the aid to Afghanistan:

Remember, Afghanistan is under UN sanctions imposed at the request of the US under President Clinton that are supported by Bush. Sheer is just being blatantly deceptive.

Ny-Ny might try read-reading because even his shouted out to LeftWatch managed to quote Scheer's column (the one Ny-Ny found so offensive and called Scheer 'blatantly deciptive' for) including this statement:

Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

Readers of Scheer's column didn't need Ny-Ny to tell them to "Remember, Afghanistan is under UN sanctions imposed at the request of the US . . ." because, despite Ny-Ny's 'blatantly deceptive' efforts, Scheer stated flat out that Afghanistan was under UN sacntions. "Remember"? Try read-reading, Ny-Ny.

(We're reminded of Suzie at the then CJR Daily who trashed the then Jodi Wilgoren and a Washington Post reporter for not including a detail in their reports on John Kerry and then later did a 'correction' to note that reading further she saw that Post writer did include the detail. Suzie never got around to finishing the Wilgoren article apparently because Wilgoren included the detail in her article as well. Did someone say CJR? Oh, we get ahead of ourselves!)

The Purr Posse had a third member and we can't fail to mention him. Repeatedly attacking Michael Moore was so much fun for Ny-Ny, that Bryan Keefer had to break himself off a piece and get a few things off his sunken chest. Keefer Madness, in one instance, trashed Moore, Maureen Dowd and Paul Kurgman in one smelly, sticky wad. Keefer Madness was shocked (or maybe posing) and offended (ditto) that Dowd would write a column where an unnamed friend would declare that "our worst paranoid nightmares are coming true" and "our enemies from the 60's have crept back into power." Ny-Ny rushes in, this is June 26, 2002 to dub this "cutting-edge anti-Bush jargon, tying together liberal attacks on Bully Boy's domestic anti-terrorism policies and allegedly corrupt ties to oil companies with the suggestion that Bully Boy may have 'a secret government plan to suspend the Constitution'".

Here's what Dowd wrote:

She recalled all the old leftist tracts in the Nixon years about a secret government plan to suspend the Constitution and declare a national security emergency and round up people without charges, and that the oil companies and banks would plunge us into nuclear war.

Dowd actually didn't say that Bully Boy had a secret plan, Keefer Madness needs to read more carefully. But did Bully Boy have a plan? Poor Keefer Madness, within a year, Bill Moyers would report on Patriot Act II (July 2003):

There's an important story developing tonight at the Justice Department. The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity obtained a closely-guarded document that shows plans for a sweeping expansion of the government's police powers.
Until now, few people outside of the department, not even members of key congressional committees have seen this draft legislation. It could lead to increased surveillance and greater secrecy - all in the name of the war on terror. It raises questions about how we balance liberty and security - the rights of individuals versus the rule of law.
Bill Moyers talks to Chuck Lewis about the significance of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 and how it would affect civil liberties.

From a discussion on the written Patriot Act II that had been leaked to the press:

MOYERS: Chuck Lewis, whom you just saw in that piece is with me now. He is the Executive Director of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the organization responsible for obtaining that document. Chuck Lewis, thank you for joining us.
LEWIS: Thank you.
MOYERS: The Patriot Act was passed six weeks after 9/11. We know now that it greatly changed the balance between liberty and security in this nation's framework. What do you think -- what's the significance of this new document, called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003?
LEWIS: I think the significance is it just deepens and broadens, further extends the first Patriot Act. That act in 2001, they had six weeks, which was not a lot of time to throw something together. Now there's been 18 months of all kinds of things that have happened and court decisions that have tried to roll back some of the Patriot Act.
And other concerns, law enforcement, people have, and so they've had time to sift and sort what they want. And it's arguably might be a more thorough rendering of all the things law enforcement and intelligence agencies would like to have in a perfect world. It's sort of how I look at it, and I think it's a very tough document when it comes to secrecy and surveillance.
I understand the concerns about fear of terrorism. And it certainly…
MOYERS: We all have those…
LEWIS: We all have those and there are things in the legislation that make sense, and that are reasonable, I think for any American. But there are other things that really take some of the Patriot Act civil liberties issues that folks were concerned about and go even further. And I think it's gonna be very controversial. Some of these sections are gonna be debated for weeks and months.
MOYERS: So many of these powers latent in this draft legislation were powers that were taken away from the intelligence community some years ago because they were abused.
LEWIS: That's right.
MOYERS: Do you see any protection in here against potential abuse?
LEWIS: I don't think there's very much -- there's a lot more authority and power for government. There's less oversight and information about what government is doing. That's the headline and that's the theme. And the safeguards seem to be pretty minimal to me.
MOYERS: I just go through here, you know? "Will give the Attorney General the unchecked power to deport any foreigner?"
LEWIS: Right.
MOYERS: Including lawful permanent resident aliens. It would give the government the power to keep certain arrests secret until an indictment is found never in our history have we permitted secret arrests. It would give the government power to bypass courts and grand juries in order to conduct surveillance without a judge's permission. I mean these do really further upend the balance between liberty on the one hand and security on the other.
LEWIS: Well, they do. They reduce judicial oversight with the secret intelligence courts instead of saying the court may do this now it's the court will do this. They can have ex parte conversations where they go into the judge without anyone else around. In terms of information about detainees, not only can they detain anyone they'd like to detain, there is no public information about it.
Journalists cannot find out the names of -- we detained over a thousand people after September 11th because we thought they might all be terrorists. Not one of them was really found with any criminal charges to be a terrorist. And we don't know the names of almost all those people, still. And so it does appear that everything that folks might be concerned about
with the Patriot Act, this is times five or times ten is what I look at it. I see it very serious.

Read that transcript, read Dowd, read what Keefer Madness accuses Dowd of and realize who's right and who's wrong. In his triple-trash, Keefer Madness saves a scoop for Paul Krugman whom he trashes for daring to write that White House flacks inflated Bully Boy's knowledge. The later iPod story alone would demonstrate how accurate Krugman was.

See this is how Insanity worked, how all the centrists lined their nests and achieved what passes for fame. So-called worked the same way. Whether it's splitting hairs on aid to the Taliban or refusing to read the writing on the wall, the Insanity crowd made themselves useless to the nation but aided the Bully Boy in his actions. A fresh apple is on the ground next to a tree. A left voice writes that, in their opinion, the apple probably fell from the tree. The Insanity crowd goes into attack mode: "You can't prove that! You can't prove that!" Logic and reason, critical analysis, all fly out the window as the Purr Posse demonstrates how "reasoned" and "fair" they are by trashing the left and purring for the Bully Boy.

It passes for debate. The right stakes out a position (such as LeftWatch's claim that Scheer is a liar) and the Purr Posse saddles up their ponies to ride in so they can back the right up. Strangely, while pouring on the vitriol for the style in which Dowd, Krugman, Scheer and others choose to write, they don't have a word to say about LeftWatch but, if they did, they wouldn't being playing the game.

That's the 'game' that nearly destroyed the country. We have a real problem with the squishy center that wants to come along and tell the left how to talk -- after letting the right pass for decades. Insanity would note that they went after Ann Coulter. Yes, those brave little boys did do that. They did that while linking to the likes of Town Hall, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, LeftWatch and assorted others making statements that, if they came from the left, would have had the Purr Posse bearing their claws. So LeftWatch can build on and cite (with approval) the work of David Horowitz, and the Purr Posse gives shout outs and links but otherwise goes silent (maybe they were coughing up a fur ball?) in their rush to rip apart Scheer. The name's to be made in attacking the left, whether your right or center.

Like Joe Klein, they now want to play it different. They want act like they weren't part of the problem. They were. They ridiculed people who raised issues, they trashed those who drew fair conclusions and they did all from the 'left.' It wasn't just the right.

Their work doesn't hold up (neither does Klein's) and the country has awakened to some realities that they pooh-pahhed and dismissed. They were wrong then, they're wrong now. Giving their shout outs to the National Review, the Weekly Standard and assorted others, they demonstrated to the mainstream media that they understood the carefully drawn lines that allows the extreme right to chat with Larry King and the center to be given the "from the left" spot.

Call them the Scat Patrol, with all that implies, because their work stinks and they swallowed a lot. Is it a crime to be, at best, stupid? No. But it is shameful to scream for tone arguments, to trash people for their own opinions (factually based) and then want to smear your own feces around while claiming you are "countering rhetoric with reason." They never did any such thing. They provided cover for an administration that, our opinion, will be one of the most reviled in history text books. They provided cover and they did hit jobs on those who wouldn't pledge their love to the Bully Boy or, at least, speak in the tones and manner they approve of.

So one loser ended up Variety (office joke), one loser ended up at CJR (website) and one, who looks like he's destined to play the part of Jack in a film version of Dawson's Creek, ended up . . . floating in the toilet (and issuing ridiculous statements about what "political scientists" do and don't do, graduate student doesn't make him an expert anymore than his previous 'knowledge' made him right on other issues).

They feathered their nests and built mini-names for themselves while, thanks to the likes of them, America ended up uninformed and thinking shout outs to the right and attacking the left for opinions was 'balance.' It's an old con job. It started long before Fox 'News' ever began broadcasting and it's taken a large cottage industry to prop up the scam for this long.

Humor Spotlight: Wally & Cedric on Gangsta Dick Cheney

Cedric and Wally's joint post. Appearing at their sites as "A Bully Boy Press and Cedric's Big Mix Exclusive! (Humor) " and "THIS JUST IN! VOTE G.O.P. OR THE TERRORIST . . . MIGHT DO . . . SOMETHING!"



















Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"
"And the war drags on"
"Other Items"
"NYT: 'Sects' Strife Takes a Toll on Baghdad's Daily Bread' (Sabrina Tavernise)"
"All over the place "
"Tired (and tired of the not-so-brave) "
"Summer's here and the time is right for . . . sweating in the heat "

Ruth's Report

Ruth's back.  She's narrowed the focus and says she's either Cher at this point or Roseanne.  We think she's wonderful.

Ruth's Report

Ruth: As Joni Mitchell might sing today, "By the time we got to quagmire, there were half a million dead . . ." Iraqis and 2560 American troops dead.

What will end the war? Resistance and awareness so, with that mind, I was happy to grab Mike's idea of a weekly meeting to discuss the war the press still wants to portray as 'winnable.'
Originally, my group was meeting on Saturday but, due to the report going up on Saturday mornings and our own schedules, we are now meeting Fridays.

It's an interesting group of fourteen. (We are already starting to grow.) We are all grandparents (ten women, four men) but our families differ. (Religion wise, we are predominately Jewish.) Some, like mine, were universally opposed to the illegal war when it began. Others contain a mixture of sentiment and support then and now.

So you can see it as an attempt by some to get their own houses in order and by all as an attempt to provide support and ideas. Mainly, though, we are attempting to treat the war like a war and not, as Mike so wonderfully put it when critiquing so much of the press coverage, as an after thought. Like Mike and Cedric, I print up the Iraq snapshots to reference during the Friday meetings. I grab my yellow highlighter and color in various details I want to bring up.

In addition to those, this Friday I printed up copies of Andrea Lewis' "Pentagon cultivating culture of violence against women" (Salt Lake Tribune) and my notes from the discussion Ms. Lewis and Ruth Rosen had on Tuesday's KPFA's The Morning Show about Ms. Rosen's recent article, "The Hidden War on Women in Iraq." (We discussed Ms. Rosen's article in the previous week's meeting.)

Other topics brought up included CODEPINK's TROOPS HOME FAST! and there was some hesitation as to whether or not people our age should or could participate? I took part on the Fourth of this month as did my grandchildren Tracey and Jayson, plus two of my sons and three of my daughter-in-laws. I was able to address the questions of can you get through 24 hours? That was an issue, believe it or not. I think that is because some of the group is old enough to have lived through the tail end of the Great Depression and we were certainly all encouraged by our parents to "clean our plates" growing up with warnings of that and "children starving in China." Two group members are on medical diets and they will be consulting with their doctors to make sure they are medically able to participate in the one day fast we are planning to take part in August 3rd.

That is a Thursday and, as one woman explained, "If I do it, I'm going to be talking about the next day and will be phoning all of you" so that by the time the next Friday meeting rolled around, she was afraid she would have "talked it to death."

In the "Iraq snapshot" Friday, C.I. noted Hannah Charry's report (Hartford Advocate) on sixty-year-old John Woods taking part in a once a week fast every Friday. That went up after the morning meeting so I was not able to bring it into the discussion but I will next week. The group members have, largely, taken part in some form of activism in the past but none had ever fasted and, for my group, I really do believe it has to do with both concerns over our age and the lingering impressions from the Great Depression.

The idea of fasting excites them and there is support for it. Most wondered what their children would think of their one day fasts and what effect it would have on them?

March 1, 2006, on KPFA's Against the Grain, C.S. Soong interviewed conscientious objector Aidan Delgado who felt one area that the peace movement needed to move towards was more settings in smaller groups where people could communicate their ideas. In my group, I am finding that a lot of participants make statements to the effect of, "Saying I was against the war was all I was comfortable with offering." They are now going beyond that. It is offering a forum to test the waters and to explore.

People are strengthening their knowledge and I think we will all take that from the group and into other areas of our lives. I spoke to Mike about this last night before his own group started and he asked me if I remembered that he had mentioned community members Goldie and Marlene in his column for Polly's Brew? I had remembered that but Mike feels that their house parties on the war, which Rebecca has written about, have not received enough attention or credit so he asked that I note Goldie and her mother's work on bringing the issue into their lives and into their friends lives.

Whether you do it in a festive setting like Goldie and Marlene are doing or in a more cut and dry fashion, I hope you will consider starting a discussion group. The public opinion tide has turned with regards to the war. The bravery so many showed in opposing the war earlier no longer results in a lonely stance but to get the troops home will require more than just saying, "I am opposed to the illegal war." It will require that we bring it into our daily lives.

Lorraine talked about how she now reads the scant coverage not only to be informed but also looking for something she can bring into our weekly meetings. Along with information, Lorraine is looking at bringing in other people as well such as a young homemaker two blocks from me who has a two-year-old child. My grandson Elijah is, of course, at the meetings so young children are certainly welcome. Lorraine says that two years ago the woman and her husband were the only ones on that block opposed to the war. The opposition is no longer an isolated viewpoint, it probably was never as isolated as the media portrayed it to be, and now is the time for us to come together and address the issue that the media continues to show reluctance towards.

That will be the real change and, I would argue, the time is now. As C.I. noted, I have again changed the name of my report. It is now "Ruth's Report." I joke that it will soon be just "Ruth" and I will be like Cher after the divorces from Sonny Bono and Gregg Allman. The resons for the change, as the community is fully aware, has to do with leaving the stance of cheerleader. I will happily note people addressing the war but I am not interested in, as C.I. has put it, handing out gold stars each week. Besides the fact that there would be many weeks where no gold stars were handed out, there is the more important fact that everyone should be addressing the war. That is where my focus is.

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