Sunday, October 08, 2006

Truest statement of the week

The war is lost. The 'plan' is a joke. Maybe after Gordo comes down from his sexual high, he'll grasp that and also grasp that Tal Afar doesn't make for a good example?

-- C.I. from Thursday's "NYT: The war is lost but Gordie's hot for 'doggie style'," responding to Michael Gordon's laughable "Military Hones A New Strategy On Insurgency" (New York Times) of the same day. Reality checked war pornographer Gordo on Saturday with "Bomber attacks 'model' Iraqi city."

A Note to Our Readers

Later, much later, today (tonight) this will be replaced with an actual note to the readers. We're tired now and going to bed. There's one more (brief) feature that will follow this if anyone's waiting to see what else will be posted.

Hey --
We're leaving the above note.

Another Sunday, another edition. What took so long? Usual problems plus problems with illustrations. Hopefully, some of what wasn't used this week we'll be able to use next week.

Highlights? We got 'em:

Ruth's Report
C.I. takes on War Pornographer Michael Gordon
Blog spotlight: Mike on who got rendered invisible
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca watches the watchdog
C.I.'s NYT critique
Humor Spotlight: Cedric & Wally on Bad Times for Bully Boy
Humor Spotlight: Betinna finds Thomas Friedman's Bad Ideas and Blurry Boundaries
Humor Spotlight: Wally & Cedric on Condi's book plans
The substitutes
Blog Spotlight: Elaine on what it takes a middle-aged man to feel like "a guy"
Cooking Spotlight: Brownies and school party tips in Trina's Kitchen

We thank everyone for their permission to repost.

New content? We got it. And the following worked on it:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, 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;
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 the above and we thank Dallas for input and links.

The new content for this week?

Truest statement of the week -- poor Gordo, praising the 'peace' of Tal Afar on Thursday. If only Saturday hadn't come along to reality check him.

Editorial: Going to where big media is and ignoring war resisters -- a lot of e-mails (and we're behind in replying -- don't expect any replies until Tuesday at the earliest, we're all exhausted) asking about a note on C.I. in it. C.I. was fine with Amy Goodman receiving her share of criticisim. Her share. When the editorial was written, we were all shouting out as Dona and Jess took turns typing. Before the note went up, about ten examples were cited on Goodman. C.I. called a halt and noted that it was one thing to hold all accountable but it appeared that we were dog piling on one. As we note, Goodman has covered more than most. That's why we were in agreement with the statement. As long time readers know, Democracy Now! only recently got criticized by name in an editorial. If you remember that editorial, you'll remember that other examples followed. And somewhere in that should be a statement about how C.I. stated that if we're naming them, we're going to criticize others. C.I. remains a listener of the show and allows that not everyone in The Common Ills community is still. But they do offer more than most. We're not trying to make friends, win links, appear in print or on air. We'll continue to call it as we see it ("we" includes C.I.) but there was a dogpiling in what was being shouted out. We're disappointed in the coverage of Iraq provided by Goodman. We can say that and critique it (via analysis, humor, mocking or whatever we want) but we don't need to dogpile when there are others who've done far less. Other than those questions, most wrote to say it needed said. (They were referring to all noted in the editorial.) We agree.

TV Review: Men in Trees, Water Cooler Critics swinging from them -- This was one of the longest periods and most fruitless we've ever spent on an edition. Fruitless because so much of what we did (illustrations) didn't dry, didn't photo shop (or worse, we'll note that as we go along) and we were all ready to pack it in. Through it all, I (Jim) said, "If nothing else we've got the review." Then, near the end, I started asking, "Who are skewering this week?" They're praising a show. And apologized for that. They didn't realize we were counting on a hard hitting review. We rushed to read it, fearing that we might need to scrap the whole edition, and were relieved to see that, although they are praising a program, it's still a hard hitting review.

Thoughts on Mark Foley -- Some people can't see all of this illustration. Go to Rebecca's site. With this and another illustration, we worked and worked forever trying to get it to show up here. (Both show up in full at Rebecca's site.) We don't know what the problem is. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the illustration and the text.

Mutha Cokie and the Blind -- The other problem illustration. Again, go to Rebecca's site. Mutha Cokie and the Blind was a fun piece to write.

Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List? -- We wrote this at the end of the session. Dona was asking what happened to planned pieces? Where were they? We looked at the list and saw this was one of them and couldn't believe we had forgotten it. This is the second most popular currently in the e-mails (TV is first as always, third is the editorial).

Entertaining what troops? -- C.I. was writing this at The Common Ills Saturday morning. Others were reading over the shoulder and adding input. In the end, C.I. pulled it from the entry and copied and pasted it so we could use it here because it had turned into a group effort. We were very grateful to have this one (which we did rework with everyone participating adding input) with all the other problems going on.

Operation Sinbad: Ongoing and then some -- Ty saw the Indpendent article and remembered C.I. had addressed the fact, in a snapshot a while back, that Operation Sinbad was first launched in 2003. Dallas did research and this was a short entry.

MyTV's Fascist House -- One of the few illustrations that didn't provide a posting problem and thank God. We're still surprised by the enjoyment level of this collage. We intend to continue it and hopefully do so every two weeks.

That's it. That's the note. If we live through the week (we're exhausted), we'll see you next week. C.I. and Dona note that we're all eating sandwiches fixed by Ty and that no one wanted to do this note. We're that tired. Ty said, "I'll cook dinner." That gave us the energy to face the computer.

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

Editorial: Going to where big media is and ignoring war resisters

Darrell Anderson is someone we've covered in the two previous editorials and,sadly, we need to cover him again. Sadly because there hasn't been a great deal of coverage. For those late to the party, come on in, there may be a few snacks left.

The illustration (to the left in some browsers) is how The New York Times elected to cover Darrell Anderson's story: a Reuters paragraph (the actual Reuters was much longer) mixed in with other "National Briefing"s on October 4th of last week. We've photo shopped it so that the item actually draws attention.

It's one of nine items. The Times never saw fit to run any report by their own staff about Anderson.

Can Darrell Anderson be summed up in a single paragraph? The New York Times certainly thought so.

If you are late to the party, two things: avoid the artichoke dip and allow us to catch you up. Darrell Anderson served in Iraq and was injured, April 2004, by a roadside bomb. He was awarded the Purple Heart. Stateside and facing a second deployment to Iraq, he elected to self-check out of the military. In January of 2005, he went to Canada.

Anderson was quite public with his feelings regarding the war: he'd witnessed abuses, he didn't want to kill any innocents, and he thought the war was illegal.

In Canada, he applied for asylum. Unlike during the Vietnam era, the Canadian government of today has refused to grant refugee status to those who chose not to serve in an illegal war. Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass and Kyle Snyder are only some of the war resisters who are attempting to get the Canadian government to recognize their plight.

In Canada, Anderson worked odd jobs, suffered from Post Traumatic Syndrome and met and fell in love with Gail Greer. The two married in February 2006.

Had Anderson wanted to stay in Canada, he could have. Greer is a Canadian citizen and he was no longer a war resister seeking asylum, he was also that plus someone married to a Canadian. The latter half of the equation should have granted work permits and other benefits.

On the issue of seeking asylum, there was a mix up and his attorney missed a deadline on appealing the denial. But, though it may have taken months, his marriage guaranteed that the Canadian government would have to recognize him.

Over the summer, Anderson began floating the idea (publicly) of returning to the United States. During this period, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq (because he saw the war as illegal and immoral). August began and ended with two war resisters who had self-checked out turning themselves in: Ricky Clousing* (who has since been charged with desertion) and Mark Wilkerson (who has heard no update as yet). Both men publicly oppose the war. On September 2nd, Agustin Aguayo, after many attempts within the military and within civilian courts to be granted conscientious objector status. At the end of September (the 26th) Aguayo turned himself in. His wife and two daughters were not allowed to visit while he was held in custody and he was quickly shipped to Germany.

This was a backdrop of war resistance within the military. In early September, Anita Anderson (Darrell Anderson's mother) announced that he was planning to return and she was attempting to talk him out of it. Later Anderson would confirm his decision to return at the end of the month. Saturday, September 30th, Darrell Anderson crossed the Peace Bridge back into the United States. Last Tuesday, he turned himself in at Fort Knox.

Those are only some of the details that don't get covered when The New York Times reduces Anderson's story to one paragraph. "Well," you say, "that's The Times."

Yes, it is. But don't kid yourself that independent media did any better. The Nation? Not one story on Darrell Anderson in the last two months, not even a "Web Only Exclusvie" at their website. The Progressive, well if Ruth Conniff couldn't weigh in that school violence was bad, who could do soccer-momma outreach now that The Rosie O'Donnell Show is no more? (We like O'Donnell. We don't hate Conniff. The point is that the topic wasn't the most pressing last week. Not when you repeatedly ignore the peace movement, war resistance, etc. to write about DC and take a break only when it's time to hop in the mini-van.)

To be really honest, the only individual that deserves any praise at all for coverage on this topic last week is Aaron Glantz. Writing for One World, Glantz discussed Anderson's story and the PST that many troops suffer from and, writing for IPS, looking at Anderson, Aguayo and the war resistance movement. Some news broadcasts covered Anderson. Otherwise, not a great deal in independent media.

Now maybe you read, listened to or watched Amy Goodman's interview with him on Tuesday's Democracy Now!? If you heard it over the broadcast airwaves, that puts you one up on listeners of KPFA, KFCF and KPFB. Those listeners didn't hear it over the airwaves. Those three stations were in fund raising mode. So the hour program was reduced to approximately forty minutes.

"Oh," you say, "it was fundraising. Something had to give."

That's a valid excuse . . . provided the three only broadcast Democracy Now! once a day. But the reality is that they broadcast it twice daily. So with two chances to provide Darrell Anderson's interview (on the morning he turned himself in) to listeners, they went another way.

Which way? Playing the interview with ABC staff about ABC's groundbreaking report on Mark Foley. They didn't even bother to credit or note the website that first broke the exchange between Foley and a former Congressional page. It was a nice bit of back patting for ABC. Sex scandal or war resister? Who lost out?

Well the listeners lost out. Now it can be (and is) said, "If you want to hear the part of the broadcast that you missed, you can visit the website at . . ." (that's a paraphrase). Yes, you can do that. Provided you have web access and KPFA, KPFB and KFCF are supposed to, unlike NPR, reach out to all listeners -- which includes those without the internet. It also presumes that you have the time. The six of us who listen to KPFA over the airwaves (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.) listened to the six a.m. broadcast and the nine a.m. broadcast. We've already given two hours to Democracy Now! that morning -- we're now expected to go online?

It's a matter of emphasis. And burying Anderson's segment at the end of the program isn't all that different from "National Briefing." We noticed that all summer long. Camp Democracy had a vet who got arrested while protesting he and another guest were supposed to address that and the Troops Home Fast in the last segment (less than ten minutes). Ehren Watada's lawyer? He also got that "choice" spot. It's a matter of emphasis.

The Foley story had been talked to death and it was extremely doubtful before the interview started that an ABC staffer was going to give up a "scoop" before ABC broadcast it. This week, we were all so glad that Amy Goodman was at least interviewing Anderson (many others didn't even bother to note him -- print and programs) and, had it aired on KPFA, we probably would have just noted it and moved on. But when it didn't get played on either broadcast, it did bring home, yet again, that it is indeed a matter of emphasis.

Which is more important? Covering what the mainstream is ignoring or providing a platform for the mainstream to come on and discuss the story they've broadcast each evening on World News Tonight? Where is the committment?

[C.I. wants it noted "right now," at risk of walking out on this editorial, that even if it's been only a little coverage, Amy Goodman has consistently made a point to interview each war resister she could and "you can't say that about many other outlets." That is true and we will note it. And the rest of us will, as kindly as possible suggest that although Goodman's led, she could lead quite a bit more.]

Where is the committment? We're obviously stepping away from Democracy Now! now. But that's fine because (a) it is true that no one's done more Goodman and (b) it's also true that no one's really tried. The Nation runs a story that quotes Carl Webb and nowhere in the story does it bother to tell you that Webb is a war resister. If you're looking for coverage of war resistance or the peace movement in The Nation, hope you catch that one or two issues a year (of the weekly magazine) that mentions it. (We're remembering one story by Christian Parenti in May and one on Ehren Watada in June -- we're not noting "web exclusives" because, again, it goes to a matter of emphasis. If you don't feel, for instance, that Tom Hayden's report on the trip of peace activists to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians is important to publish in print, you're not going to win praise for putting it online.)

The Progressive? Well The Nation can point to two pieces in print. We can say that. Neither periodical noted World Can't Wait last week. And, as Elaine pointed out in "Should The Notion be finger-pointing?" -- The Nation has found time to "critique" youth involvement in the movement. Now it hasn't covered it. But a New York Times op-ed was more than enough for a good tongue lashing because, apparently, all op-eds in that paper are always 100% factual and correct. It's already spawned a spin-off piece by another person who didn't bother to do any research before slamming youth involvement in the peace movement (we covered that last week, see "Somebody tip Gramps' rocker already"). That's going to cut it for coverage of the peace movement? Sitting at your desks (apparently in a rocker) and scolding?

Wow. But back to The Progressive, we've seen a Brit who likes to speak of the US as "we" slam Naomi Klein and Robert Fisk's postions by distorting them. That was 'fun.' Matthew Rothschild likes to point out that he's not a member of the Democratic Party. Fair enough but the criticism of Ruth Conniff's Ralph Nader coverage in 2004 is something we were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on back then. That's no longer true. In "The Regressive (Parody)" we credited a statement to her: " If there is a Green Party candidate who is running against an atrocious, conservative Democrat then by all means that's a great person to support." Two Conniff supporters felt we'd gone too far with that "creation."

"Connif may put too much weight behind DC Democrats but she'd never go that far," wrote one. The other was a bit lengthier and titled their e-mail "UNFAIR!" We hate to spoil the party but let's note something -- we didn't create that statement. Ruth Conniff made that statement on KPFA, in reply to a caller's comment (and after Kris Welch's explanation that the low regard that the caller held the Democratic Party in is not an uncommon sentiment to some listeners) on Living Room this summer. (It's the June 9th broadcast and you can go to the KPFA archives and listen for free if you need a laugh or need to fact check.)

If you've got "an atrocious, conservative Democrat then by all means" vote Green. From the woman who covers politics for The Progressive and did what many saw as a hatchet job piece on Ralph Nader in 2004. Well, we now know how she feels about third parties: When there's no other choice, vote third party! If you've got a great candidate from any third party but they're running against a so-so, middle of the road Democrat, it's apparently your duty to vote for the Democratic candidate. Thus spake the Beltway political correspondent.

We could also note that Rothschild wrote, at great length, when he wanted to "stir up a hornet's nest" about the 9-11 truth movement then he wrote about Iraq in recent times. He doesn't even believe in the 9-11 truth movement but, boy, did he have a lot to say. Again, it's a matter of emphasis. Something you think is truly unimportant and a waste of time prompts more words than anything you've written on the topic of Iraq of late. We think that says something.
And no, there was no coverage of Darrell Anderson this week. There was no coverage of Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, go down the list. Again, we think that says something.

If you think the war resistance movement is important, if you think the peace movement is important, you should cover it. If you think "youths" aren't active these days (you apparently missed the immigration rights rallies and who led on that), maybe you should speak to them or maybe you should publish them. Publishing a kiss-ass to adults about how "People my age are so apathetic" doesn't count -- even if you give it an award. Those b.s. pieces win awards every generation -- from the middle-aged judges. They weren't reflective of reality in any other time period and they aren't reflective of reality today. But it's an easy way to get honored -- you play the Queen Bee exception who really, really cares, unlike the rest of your uncouth peers who are so thoughtless and selfish and apathetic. Give the kiss-ass a gold star and send him or her on their way (presumably to a well deserved ass kicking from their peers).

We're bothered by the lack of coverage. We've noted it and we've noted it and nothing changes. We get e-mails from others who say they've attempted to register their own objections over what passes for coverage. "You are not alone" is usually the subtext of the e-mails. We know we aren't. You're looking at five who are recent transplants to California from New York, we know the activism that goes on in both places. Participating on this editorial are people from the south, the south east, the midwest, the east coast. We know what's out there. It just seems the people scolding the "youth" that are unaware.

We also know that the peace movement doesn't grow in silence. And the lack of coverage it hurting the movement. It's prolonging the war. It is past time that outlets took the war seriously. (Not treated it, as Mike so infamously and rightly put it, as "War as an after thought.") We think the e-mailers who write in saying they've registered their own objections are being greeted on the other end with, "Oh not us." We think a lot of people are fooling themselves. In this edition, we offer "Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List?" which is about FAIR's study of The NewsHour (PBS). In that study, they note (with apparently no sense of awareness or humor) that The NewsHour, from October 2005 through March 2006, presented no peace activist as a guest. We agree that's shameful. We also agree it's equally shameful that in the same time period, CounterSpin has presented no peace activist. (CounterSpin is the radio program produced by FAIR.)

The study prompted a lot of chuckles (and comments about stone throwers in glass houses) from friends in the mainstream media. Know what? We've made that point repeatedly. We've stated you can't criticize others when you're not covering it yourself. We do like FAIR but we hope the mocking and laughter that some are greeting the study with finally brings home the point that CounterSpin is not offering the sort of program FAIR recommends when they critique. (That's also true of the gender and race makeup of the guests.) Sorry if the truth hurts but it's not a new song we're singing. All summer long we noted, repeatedly, that independent media wasn't interested in Iraq. Camp Casey III got mainstream coverage (often mocking), it didn't get independent media coverage. This was the summer that independent media couldn't find Cindy Sheehan. That alone tells you how sorry summer 2006 was. Sheehan, for those who missed it, took part in the Troops Home Fast, went to Jordan as part of the peace delegation, attended the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle (where Ricky Clousing would announce he was turning himself in, where Ehren Watada would make the speech that the military would rely heavily on in bringing charges), she was there at a Karl Rove event saying he was a war criminal. The Peace Mom was standing and being counted. So were Ann Wright, Diane Wilson, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden, Jodi Evans and many more. Where was independent media?

There were exceptions who actually bothered to cover some of the stories. (Independent media news broadcasts usually did a better job than anyone else and The KPFA Evening News did the best in our opinion.) As we heard guests drop by programs and trot out Judith Miller, all this time later, and credit/blame her for a New York Times story she never wrote (Chris Hedges wrote that story), it seemed like when there was time for Iraq, it was time to bask in past glories. That wasn't cutting it. The refusal to seriously examine the propaganda of Dexter Filkins (even after The Washington Post outed him as the go-to-guy for the US military when they wanted to plant a story) wasn't cutting it either. The joke during these sessions became, "Who is Dexy screwing to get such a pass?" (The punchline was, "No one. If he makes love anything like he 'reports,' no lover would cover for him.") The pistol packing, go-go boy in the Green Zone who was in Falluja but didn't see white phosphorus used and didn't see anything but a rah-rah video game going on before his eyes got a pass. The man who wanted to whine that Paul Bremer should have spoken out before his book because then it could have presumably been reported by him (Dexy) in The Times got a pass. Judith Miller becomes the scapegoat for every word written about the Iraq war -- even the ones she didn't write -- and the go-go boys of the Green Zone who never told the truth get a pass?

Considering that one of the few stories singled out by that paper in their kinda-culpa was written by Judith Miller and War Pornographer Michael Gordon, it's a real shame that Gordo (who is still at the paper and still schilling) isn't a name that most consumers of independent media know. They should know it. Miller's been sidelined. There's no further damage she can do via The Times. Gordon remains.

Turning to the topic of music, did any of the arts coverage in independent media note "Waiting on the World to Change"? What's that? John Mayer's single. It's about the war and it's in the top twenty. Kelefa Sanneh covered if for The New York Times. Is that what we've come to? We need to expect that sort of thing to be noted by The Times and overlooked by others. (C.I. says it ran on October 5, 2006 and believes the article's entitled "Two Views Of the War, Both Short On Swagger.")

If last week were a test, independent media, as a class, failed. Darrell Anderson was not a driving topic for independent media. And there wasn't even the excuse that the Israeli government had gone more wacko again. No, the story that was the wall-to-wall, the 24-7 was Mark Foley. And as this happens week after week, month after month, it becomes very clear that, for whatever reason, given the opportunity to address Iraq or any other story (especially a 'trend' or 'hot' story), independent media is going to go after the same thing the cable networks do. If you haven't bothered to cover Darrell Anderson in the last week, we're not sure why you're publishing or broadcasting. If his story doesn't matter, if the story he is a part of doesn't matter, seems to us like you're either auditioning for big media or trying to impress them. It doesn't seem to us that you're reporting on the stories that matter, the ones you know big media will ignore.

The good news for Darrell Anderson is that some were interested in his story. Along with Aaron Glantz, Reuters, the AP and Jim Warren (Lexington Herald-Leader) seriously covered it. (The AP ascribed an indirect quote to Anderson that later got repeated as a quote. Anderson did not say "I'm asking for leniancy." Other than that, we have few objections with the AP's coverage. That may, however, be in part due to the fact that few others were willing to cover it.) Anderson had the best chance of facing the least punishment because he was wounded veteran, because he was a decorated one, because he suffers from PST and because his marriage meant that he could have chosen to stay in Canada and, at some point, the Canadian government would have had to recognize him. Others won't be so lucky and if last week was some sort of a dress rehearsal or fire drill, we're all in trouble.

[*Ricky Clousing. At one point, Ricky Clousing had a website or there was one in support of him. Dallas, whom we've overworked for this edition reports that the link currently takes you to an error page. Our not providing a link for him should not be read as a lack of support for him. If anyone knows of a web site about his case, please e-mail and we'll note it next week and in the future. Courage to Resist covers all known American war resisters. The War Resisters Support Campaign provides information regarding American war resisters in Canada.]

[On passes, C.I. notes that a friend requested a pass for their adult-child. C.I.'s known both parents for years and knows that the adult-child is causing embarrassment. The adult-child does not usually comment on Iraq so there's no need for the adult-child to be mentioned at The Common Ills. C.I.'s agreement specifically did not involve this website although C.I. did tell the parent that if the feature might cross a line, C.I. would not participate in the writing of it. Although the adult-child has been commented on here before in the one and half years this site has been up, we don't have plans to comment on the adult-child again but we do reserve the right to should a comment be required.]

TV Review: Men in Trees, Water Cooler Critics swinging from them

Men in Trees, Fridays on ABC, has a few hurdles to face. For starters, it has to fit in with the new "hard hitting" 20/20 (which just aired their look at "slacker" employees -- John Stossel's crap is no longer confined to his own reports). It also has to deal with 'feminist' critques from surprising places. One here to unknown 'feminist' critic felt the need to weigh in that the show was a 'throwback' from start to finish and that was underscored, he felt, by the fact that the lead character, Marin, was transplanted to the "wilderness." The wilderness?

The show's set in Elmo, Alaska (filmed in Canada) and they have both running water and electricity so we'll assume late-to-the-feminist-party critic also hasn't been on too many camping trips if he's seeing Elmo as a "wilderness."

There's actually a third obstacle: the public image of the actress playing Marin -- Anne Heche. Despite her book title, we'd never call her "crazy." We'd call her "troubled" and we'd call her "turbulent." We'd especially call her "immensely talented."

If you wouldn't, you might want to check out the show that ABC doesn't know what to do with. Hint, switch it to Mondays or Thursday or attempt to build a Saturday night with it. But get it away from 20/20 because geriatric corporate pigs, sure their employees are over doing it on the break times, are not the natural audience for Men in Trees.

Here's the backstory, which the show got across in one of this year's fastest moving pilots, Marin is a relationship advice-guru, on a tour when she learns her fiance is cheating on her. The town she's visiting is Elmo and she decides to stay both to nurse her wounds and to figure things out.

A guru with doubts? Don't worry, this isn't one of those special episodes of Frasier where all the women from his life (living and dead) pop back in while viewers grind their teeth as writers show off their dime store psychology. What it has been thus far is an opportunity for the water cooler set to trot out their fond memories of Northern Exposure and compare to the two shows -- which don't have much in common but the comparison does reveal that, as with Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I., most of the water cooler set learn their geography via television.

If you think about it, it's really insulting to Alaska (as it was to Hawaii before) that the setting of a show leads the water cooler set to impose their own stereotypes. If they need a template to work from, they might try The Love Letter because the characters have more in common with that film and the show has a similar feel. But, hey, when you're calling an hour long romantic drama a "sitcom," you've got more problems then we can help you with.

As regular readers know, we're not fond of the voice overs. We think they're used far too often as a device to say directly what should have been shown. Marin has inner dialogue on Men in Trees and it's the weakest point of the show. It's made passable by the fact that Heche can carry it off.

What she can't carry off is the limp, long hair in the first episode. Get it away from the face and keep it away. (They've already begun doing so.) And that's about the only negative criticism we have of Heche.

If you're new to her, you may be wondering, "What's the big deal?"

Heche was a big deal in the late 90s. That's when she paired up with Ellen DeGeneres and got boos and hisses from a great many. From some gay activists, she got booed for failing to conform to their notions of sexuality. From some closeted types, she got tsk-tsking over destroying her career. (The more in the closet the person was, the louder he or she proclaimed that Heche had destroyed her career by going public about her relationship with DeGeneres.) She also got a bad rep among the suits because Heche is a fighter while DeGeneres enjoys being liked. That translated as Heche was the usually the most vocal defender of the TV show Ellen to ABC and Disney. Heche and an over-hyped (now gone and the disappearences is not lamented -- except possibly by those whose sexuality was 'vouched' for) TV programmer went many rounds.

What's the point of covering all of that at this late date?

Some people will never be interested in Heche's work because of that period. The fact that she's now legally married (to a man) doesn't matter, they'll go to their graves hating Heche.

But that's only part of the reason to note it. Heche then was in-your-face (to use the lingo of the period). That's very much who she is onscreen, regardless of the character. She can't play dumb (see Milk Money). She can play too smart for her own good (witness her character's ending in Wag the Dog). Onscreen, she's usually running about four laps ahead of anyone else.

It's why, on the daytime drama Another World, she could play the complex twin (Vicky) but couldn't handle the sad sack (Marley). (And she won an Emmy for her portrayal.) It's why, in a nothing role in The Juror, she nearly takes over the film from stars Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin and James Gandolfini. It's why, for all the hand wringing over Six Days and Seven Nights, you bought that her character could fall in love with Harrison Ford -- she convinced you.

People wanted to ascribe motives to Heche when she was with DeGeneres and in the aftermath of the break up. At one point, the most ridiculous point, the fact that she was talking with Fox about a sitcom at the same time DeGeneres was debuting her short-lived CBS sitcom was seen as an attempt to get back at Ellen.

The woman's a lightning rod. Onscreen and off. She's also one of the most gifted actresses the entertainment world has. The lesbian angle (Heche never self-described as a lesbian) allowed
a lot of people an easy out. They 'couldn't' hire her or they were worried about the baggage or some other cop out that didn't address the fact that, while medicore woman could be cast in badly written roles, the industry was once again turning their backs on strong actresses.

The New York Times recently began fretting over the status of actresses and using women's roles in recent films as their supporting evidence. Films traditionally lag three-to-five years behind the times. The fact that the show's creator, Jenny Binks (Sex in the City), and ABC felt comfortable casting Heche is a good sign for actresses and indicates that there is a desire for something other than the skinny-wife-fat-man combo or the lone-women-among-the-men on a crime or legal show.

Men in Trees has an esemble cast but Heche is the anchor (not the tour guide). She holds the show together and makes you believe (even in a ridiculous scene where the reality called for Marin to be screaming her head off over her toe but Heche doing so would have destroyed the flavor of the scene). There are other stand outs and Cynthia Stevenson, in the reoccuring role of Celia Bachelor, is among them. Stevenson isn't playing the role with one eye to the audience. She's committed to the character and it's a complex role. All the roles are because this isn't your typical drama where you just show up and do your performance. Your performance has to fit with the flavor of the show (as Heche had to when her character was supposed to be in pain). One wrong move, one second of winking to the audience to be liked, and the whole thing will fall flat.

A John Corbett type brought on as a love interest for Marin will destroy the show (much as he weighed down Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City) because he's not able to do much more than stand around and telegraph to the audience, "Don't you like me? You should like me. I'm really likeable."

There are likeable characters, likeable because of the characters, not because the performer's attempting to stop the show and say "Dig me." For instance, Suleka Mathew plays the likeable Sara who's made the best out of her situation. The newly 'feminist' critics describe Sara as a hooker with a heart of gold and you have to wonder what show they were watching or what stereotypes they brought to the couch with them? What she does is not who she is. Jenny Binks and the actors have created characters that are much more complex than anything you'll ever see from Jerry Bruckheimer or Dick Wolf. But the same water cooler set that couldn't holler "Objection!" over those sketched out characters now want to hold their noses when actual creativity is on display.

If the show has a problem, it's frequently been too verbose in the early stages. They're attempting to deal with that now via the soundtrack. But this is actually a quality show. It's unique with its own style and pace. It draws you in with each episode and you find yourself caring, for instance, whether Annie (played by Emily Bergl) and Patrick (Derek Richardson) will be able to move their relationship further along (over the objections of Patrick's mother -- we're back to Cynthia Stevenson).

As the various plots and subplots unfold, for them to work, you have to believe in Marin and believe that she's noticing the world around her, taking it in. Anne Heche is perfect for the role and the TV season is lucky to have her. Even in the voice overs, she doesn't come off like she's doodling in the margins of a book. Marin's a strong female character who's not defining herself through others. The whole premise is about Marin discovering herself.

Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards led off a seventies phase that allowed Bonnie Franklin, Linda Lavin, Valerie Harper and other actresses to chart a character's journey. Broadcast television lost interest in that journey some time ago. When it does pop up, the women are usually surrounded with a (male) buffer zone and, for good measure, are at odds with the next highest ranking woman on the series.

If you're tired of the the simplistic crime dramas, if you're hungry for a show where a woman does more than shore up the man's likeability, if you're looking for something beyond what TV keeps programming year after year, you should check out Men in Trees. ABC needs to find it a better night and that's about all the help the show needs right now.

Thoughts on Mark Foley

Well, I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble,
Trouble always comes to pass
But all I care about now
Is that I'm seeing the real you at last.
-- Bob Dylan, "Seeing the Real You At Last," Empire Burlesque

Mark Foley. Republican. Member of the U.S. Congress until he stepped down two Fridays ago. Known to be gay for years but in the closet. Newly announced alcoholic. With a fondness for young men who haven't yet reached the legal age of consent.

It's all the press can talk about. And, judging by polling, for some voters it's had the effect of allowing them to see the real Bully Boy, the real GOP at last. So it's accomplished something.

But there's also been a hysteria (we're sure some of it is mock outrage) and we're going to focus on that with a few thoughts.


Mark Foley is called a pedophile. Considering that none of the female teachers sleeping with underage men (and often getting pregnant by them) approximately the same age as those Foley pursued were called "pedophiles," we're curious as to the usage of this term. We also raise an eyebrow because we're fully aware that, for the bulk of the priest scandal coverage, The New York Times tended to use pedophile and homosexual interchangably.

Internet Stalker

This is especially popular and those posting comments to ABC's news page seem to be demanding that a MySpace investigation be launched because, surely, if Foley contacted former Congressional pages, he's trolling for guys on MySpace as well!

He may very well have. There's nothing in the public record thus far that indicates that but possibly the use of the term "internet stalker" makes some sure that there must be more?

It's interesting because most are aware that someone apparently trolled for young, underage women and got into legal trouble over that. He's considered a respectable source now, his books promoted by various left sites. If we're really concerned with Foley's behavior, shouldn't we be concerned about ___'s behavior as well? Or, are we all supposed to take a pass, due to the fact that his court records were supposed to be sealed but became public in an effort to smear ____? ____ tours the country and doesn't get asked about it.

We'll certainly buy that the legal issue (arrest) came to light as part of a smear campaign but we're having a hard time buying that in June 2001, the government decided to silence ___ and orchestrated a sting operation as a result. ___ has stated publicly that there was nothing to it and if there really was nothing to it (which other reports contradict as do statements of the district attorney), the easiest way to end the controversy is to ask that the court records be unsealed.

The Ick Factor

We have to wonder how much of the "ick factor" is at play? Foley's probably not the dream date of many (regardless of gender or age). He's also gay and there's always a special panic when 'gay' enters the discussion. If some of the loudest critics of Foley, who use terms like pedophile and internet stalker, are truly appalled by his actions, shouldn't they have stopped providing promotional space for ____? Or, in ___'s case, is it the fact that he was a man allegedly pursuing young, underage women somehow "redeeming"? Is that the difference? No ick factor when it comes to heterosexuality even if it involves jailbait? (In 2003, on CNN, ___ complained about people digging a whole year into the past! Oh, well if it's a year -- actually a little over a year at that point -- old, let's just all forget about it! Is that the thinking?)

Breaking The Laws

Foley's probably broken seveal laws (courts will determine that) which likely include corrupting minors. His behavior, besides illegal, was also shameful. Some accounts date complaints about him to 1997. That the Republican Party didn't address that then, when they should have, does demonstrate poor leadership and lack of accountability. If it can be proven (we don't doubt it can) that they allowed this issue to go on, people need to look to Denny Hastert and his staff because there are laws about reporting incidents such as these and, since the legal authorities appear to have been out of the loop for years, those laws do not appear to have been followed.

The Victims

We're sure that there are genuine victims who were too intimidated to come forward publicly and that they go back for years. We're also sure that some "victims" weren't victims and some were "self-made."

Foley contacted guys whom he'd met. (Thus far, there's no public record that he was contacting strangers.) He contacted them after they departed from the Congressional page program. He was not their boss, they were not working for him.

If you don't enjoy the likes of Foley telling you that you look hot or requesting that you drop it down to your boxers while you i.m. or text message, you stop the conversation right there.

We're sure that some might be afraid to. We're also sure that some of the 'victims' got a kick out of it. Maybe because they thought it was funny, maybe because they thought it could be useful, maybe because they were exploring their own sexuality, or maybe all three.

With regards to i.m. (instant messaging), anyone utilizing that technique for communication should be aware of the "ignore" button. Don't want to hear from someone, click on the button and they can't contact you anymore. They're blocked. Why wouldn't you use that button?

You could be someone truly afraid of what you saw as someone very powerful, we're aware of that. But we don't buy the assumption that this is a description that describes the average sixteen-year-old, miles away from Foley, and with no need to ever see the man again.

We firmly believe it likely that some thought they could play along for their own good (possibly to get a reference), play along for kicks or play along because they were curious.

Regardless of why the communication continued, Foley broke laws and disgraced himself. But let's not kid that your average sixteen-year-old that's offended doesn't know how to break off communication. Let's also not kid that the average sixteen-year-old is unaware of sex. (Though some mainstream commentators seem to have forgotten their own teen years, the bulk of us participating in the writing of this feature didn't see the sixteen marker over twenty years ago and can easily remember those days.)

The Net Nanny Nation

That's important because of all the hand wringing and talk of "the children." Foley communicated as Foley ("Maf54"). He didn't pose as a young woman or man. What he was proposing (including, apparently, providing alcholol to minors) was illegal. But this talk of "the children" already has some politicians screaming about the need for new laws online. We're not sure what new laws they're thinking of. Nothing would have prevented Foley from contacting the former pages because he knew them already.

This wasn't a case (by public record thus far) of some adult going into chat rooms and pretending to be a teenager, setting up a meeting and then raping. The laws that are in place should be more than enough to deal with Foley.

Most of the reports deal with communication. (We've yet to read a report of penetration.) They're the equivalent of dirty phone calls with, presumably, the intent to act out the fantasies. We must have missed it because we thought we saw all the communications but the term "explicit" keeps popping up. Foley's comments that we've seen didn't pass for suggetive or explicit. They were very cut and dry (and they were sexual and inappropriate). Said by a female character, even an adult to a juvenile, every one of them could have appeared in a PG rated film. (Said by a male adult to a male juvenile, they would have gotten an R rating but we don't see anything that would get stamped X.)

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton has nothing to do with this scandal. Why some people feel the need to drag him into this is beyond us. He was never involved with a Congressional page, he was never involved with an underage female (while he was an adult, we're sure as a juvenile he had the same affairs that most of us do). He didn't text message or i.m. anyone about sex.

Bill Clinton was involved with Monica Lewinsky who, for the record, was an adult. Lewinsky never made complaints to anyone about the involvement while it was going on.

Newt Gingrich and Blaming the Democrats

As with any scandal (see "Mutha Cokie and the Blind") the GOP playbook tells you to go into attack mode and begin questioning how the news got out?

If you can make the issue about the exposure, you don't have to address the actual deed. Among those attempting to play that game currently is Newt Gingrich who stated on Saturday that he just had to know which Democrats knew what when?

Knew what when? Since some accounts emerging trace Foley's illegal actions back to 1997, it bears noting that Gingrich was Speaker of House from 1995 to 1999. The position Denny Hastert now holds. If complaints were being made in the last half of the nineties, Gingrich should have been aware of him. Before the next press outlet repeats Gingrich's attacks, they might attempt to determine exactly how far back the Republican's knowledge of Foley's actions goes?


Those are our thoughts and concerns. If all the talk about Foley has resulted in the GOP taking a hit in the polls, that's fine. But we do have serious concerns (even when a speaker offers the disclaimer, "It's not about anyone being gay") that a lot of it is, indeed, about the fact that Foley's gay. We didn't see the same revulsion over the female teachers giving birth to their underage pupils' children. We didn't hear "pedophile!" bandied about. Long after this election, gay people will still be fighting for their rights and we think that those who want to discuss this issue should keep that in mind. That requires more than a "It's not about being gay" note tacked on.

We're also aware that the "ick factor" probably includes more than his sexuality -- again, he's no dream date. The glee factor over this also goes to the fact that someone who was a Congressional foe to gay rights got taken down and was revealed to be a hypocrite.

But the "pedophile" term just rubs us the wrong way. It hasn't been hung on Elvis Presley and followed his image around. It wasn't hung on ___. Had the term "chicken hawk" been used, we wouldn't have batted an eye, let alone raised an eyebrow.

For those wondering ___ had been referred to as "___ " not to protect him. We're quite sure the average reader knows whom we're referring to. However, we've made it a policy, at all the community sites, not to mention his name again. Those who are truly outraged that Foley was sexually interested in sixteen-years-olds, should also be truly outraged by what was reported about ___. The fact that something was unearthed to smear him doesn't change the fact that ___ apparently had something worth unearthing for his opponents. Practicing denial on the topic makes one no better than Denny Hastert who appears to have inherited the problem (from Newt Gingrich) and done nothing but look the other way and cover up.

Mutha Cokie and the Blind

We dedicate this feature to Cokie Roberts, the mutha of the modern day press core and we mean "mutha."

Would you vote someone into Congress if they'd recently been arrested for driving drunk and hadn't bothered to tell voters?

We don't think most people would. We think the fact that someone lied about an arrest would be seen as a "minus." We believe that it goes to character.

It would also be interesting to see how the press might cover such a revelation or cover it up.

In the October 16, 2006 issue of The Nation, Eric Alterman reads a bad book and weighs in. He focuses on the 2000 election and reminds readers of the pass the Bully Boy got for his own AWOL from the National Guard during Vietnam, of the supposed non-ideological mainstream press booing Al Gore in New Hampshire, the way that same press distorted Al Gore's statements and, well, you know the drill. He has nothing to say on the DUI.

But no one really wanted to tackle it in real time. Cokie Roberts played the "as a mother" card (again) in an apparent attempt to scare Baby Boom voters about their own children finding out what was in their "youthful" closets. Even some of your usually bold voices (for instance, one who can't shut up about the 2000 election, seven years later) gave it a pass -- non-defining moment was the verdict.

Let's deal with the spin first. Karen Hughes was schilling like nobody (because "big man" Bully Boy always hides behind others -- he also hid behind Katherine Harris' skirt during the 2000 recount). In real time, CNN noted Hughes' spin:

1) Bully Boy was pulled over for driving slowly.

Implying that Bully Boy was 'careful' and 'responsible' while drunk.

2) Bully Boy now opposes driving while intoxicated.

Well she couldn't very well hail him as the would be Frat Boy President, could she?

3) Bully Boy had never told his daughters and they only found out the evening the story broke. He has tried so hard to set "a good example".

This was actually a key piece of spin that the Cokies would pick up and amplify.

4) The "timing."

Always a way to push the blame as anyone who caught Newt Gingrich's Saturday remarks on the Mark Folely cover up should know -- was suspicious.

In that one incident, you can see the way the Bully Boy would be covered by the press. A late breaking scoop (from a local TV station) would pop up and the mainstream press would be forced to cover it. They wouldn't be forced to answer why they themselves were not breaking the scoop or exactly what they'd been doing in the months that they covered the Bully Boy. They would, however, be first among the medicore in dumbing down and down playing the news. (Think of the way the Downing Street Memos were non-covered by the mainstream press.)

The incident wasn't examined in real time, the Cokies were on the march. Bully Boy's account was that he " told the guy I had been drinking, what do I need to do? He said, 'here's the fine.' I paid the fine."

The reality? The arresting officer, Calvin Bridges, "saw Bush's car slipping briefly onto the shoulder before getting back on the road. Bridges stopped the car and asked Bush to take a sobriety test. Bush readily admitted he had been drinking, Bridges said, and made no attempt to evade the consequences. Bridges placed him under arrest. After failing a second alcohol-level test at the police station--his alcohol level was 0.12, over Maine's 0.10 legal limit--Bush was released on $500 bail. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a $150 fine and had his driving privileges temporarily suspended in Maine" (Adam Cohen, Time magazine).

Not quite the happy little tale Bully Boy told. He wasn't pulled over for driving slowly, he was pulled over because he couldn't keep his car on the road. After he was ordered by the officer to take a sobriety test, Bully Boy did admit to drinking. He failed two tests. He was arrested. He was booked. He had to make bail. He had to pay a fine, yes, he also had to plead guilty and he lost "his driving privileges."

This was four years after a previous drunk driving offense. Bully Boy was thirty-years-old at the time, hardly a "youth."

Adam Cohen, who did one of the better pieces on the D.U.I., noted, "The reason he did not disclose the D.U.I. arrest specifically, she says, is that he did not want his behavior to set a bad example for his twin daughters, now freshmen in college--an excuse that struck some listeners as similar to one that President Clinton gave for lying about Monica Lewinsky."

In that sentence you can see so much of today's coverage. What of Bully Boy's actions? Throw Bill Clinton into the mix. What did Bill Clinton have to do with an arrest? Not a damn thing (but even the one who can never stop yapping about 2000 did the same in real time as well). Bill Clinton becomes the cover all excuse for any misdeed. (Even in the Foley coverage, they can't shut up about Bill Clinton who did not have sex with anyone underage.)

But Cohen also notes the spin line that would be repeated over and over. "Twin daughters." Twin daughters must be protected. Poor Bully Boy, he was a father and somehow that trumped being honest with voters. That was the spin they held on to, the Cokies. (Cohen's also taken in when he offers the claim -- it's false -- that Texas governors automatically requested a new driver's license number. One call to Ann Richards, who preceeded Bully Boy as Texas governor, could have straightened that lie out immediately.)

Cohen almost touched on the heart of the matter when noting a "lesson" of dumping the "bad stuff" early on in a campaign. "As a mother," Cokie Roberts screeched over and over (she had many more outlets then -- ABC's This Week, ABC's Nightline, ABC's Good Morning America, ABC's World News Tonight, her slop-eds with Stevie, and NPR). She should have clutched the pearl and stated, "As an idiot . . ." It would have been more honest.

But honesty's always been lacking in this story. That's partly to do with the fact that the big press never explored Bully Boy when he was a candidate (a trend they've continued to this day). It's why you can hear nonsense and read it at Crap-a-Pedia:

In 1977, he was introduced by friends to Laura Welch, a young schoolteacher and librarian. After three months of courting, Bush married Laura and settled in Midland, Texas. His twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were born in 1981. Bush also left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's Methodist Church. Today, their home church is Highland Park United Methodist Church, near Dallas.[12]
In 1978, Bush ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 19th Congressional District of Texas.

Remember, kids, it's not Encyclopedia, it's Crap, Crap-a-pedia. To read the above, which gets repeated by the press, is to assume that Bully Boy decided to run in 1978. This, 2006, is an election year. Most of the candidates in your area declared their intent to run not in 2006, but in 2005. Here's Bully Boy reality from MSNBC:

In 1977 Bush announced that he was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly after he declared his candidacy, he met Laura Welch, a Midland native who worked as a librarian and an elementary-school teacher. In November 1977, three months after they met, the couple wed. Bush became the Republican congressional candidate after a tough primary race, but he lost the general election in 1978.

Frontline also noted that Bully Boy began running in 1977. It was July of 1977.

Why does that matter? Go back to the original question at the top: Would you vote someone into Congress if they'd recently received been arrested for driving drunk and hadn't bothered to tell voters?

September 4, 1976, Bully Boy was (again) arrested for drunk driving. July of 1977, not even a full year later, he's running for the US Congress. He didn't tell voters. He didn't come forward with the truth. And the twin daughters?

They weren't even born. They weren't even conceived. The would be born in 1981, five years after that arrest, four years after he had declared himself in a race for the United States Congress.

The only reason to lie then (and it is a lie to campaign and not tell voters, "I was arrested for drunk driving ten months ago") was to save his own ass.

He did and the press did. They've continued to do so. Real reporting would have meant Bully Boy being put on the spot about the fact that he had run for Congress and failed to tell voters. "Youths" don't normally run for Congress. The question could have gone like this, "When you first ran for national office, you didn't tell voters about your arrest. Now, days before this election [2000], you are talking about only after it was revealed. Do voters have reason to be suspicious that there might be other incidents you are hiding?"

The one who can't stop yapping about election 2000 wasn't yapping in real time, he was handing out passes. He was saying it didn't matter. He who thinks he is on top of all the spin was buying the big media line/lie. This wasn't dabbling with drugs nor was this an event Bully Boy should have forgotten. (Even were he too blotto to remember the actual arrest, he'd certainly remember being finger printed, mug shot and bailed.) Now if he had gone on about his life and not run for public office until after "the twins" were born, he might have had some defense with the press spin of "he lied because he didn't want to set a bad example for his daughters." We wouldn't have bought it. Some might have.

But he wasn't a private citizen. He was a candidate for a national office less than a year after his arrest and he never bothered to tell voters about it. (To kind souls who offer he was "in his disease," he still is, he's a dry drunk.) He began his public life as a candidate with a lie (and possibly while his Maine drivers' lic. was still suspended). He lied to voters then and it's no surprise that he lied later.

It is a surprise that the Cokie Roberts want to provide cover for a lying politician (well maybe not) and that they'll resort to cheap theatrics such as "As a mother . . ." When the news broke immediately before the election in 2000, there were a number of ways the press could have covered it. Instead, they went with Hughes and Bully Boy's finger pointing. (The day after Hughes would make her statements, the no longer semi-contrite Bully Boy would begin making public statements about 'dirty tricks.' The biggest 'dirty trick' we're aware of is the one he played on Texans in 1977 and 1978 while running for office.) And, to take the edge off, the Cokies came forward with their testimonials intended to clamp down on a serious discussion about an arrest that should have been made public long ago.

If you're dealing with issues of voter fraud and/or voter dienfranchisement, by all means continue to discuss 2000. Pick up 2004 as well. But if, at this late date, you want everyone to gather round the campfire one more time while you regale everyone with your keen 'insight' about election 2000, either address reality or accept that you're 'war stories' have gotten old.
Our calanders show the year to be 2006. We've heard the stories and then some. We've heard much more than the modern-day gramps ever offer. At this point, we think the nostalgia goes to the fact that they'd rather live in the past than address reality. But keep singing those greatest hits on the oldies circuit, maybe it will make you a few bucks.

[In fairness, two people did appear to grasp the reality in real time, Eleanor Clift and Al Hunt. Clift, Newsweek, noted of the "for the daughters" spin: "That is a very poor excuse. I too am a parent and frankly if you want to make the case you shouldn’t drink and drive, that was a powerful bit of information that he should have divulged. Secondly, if we’re going to use that as a good excuse, I don’t think President Clinton wanted Chelsea Clinton to know what he was doing either" -- PBS' The McLaughlin Group the weekend before the election* ; connecting the dots on CNN's Capital Gang, November 4, 2000, Al Hunt, Wall St. Journal, noted: "Less than eight years after the national press lamented that Bill Clinton came to the presidency with too many unresolved questions about him and his past, it could happen all over again if George W. Bush wins next Tuesday. On stories ranging from his failure to disclose his 24 year old drunk driving record, to substantive matters like the $1 trillion gap in his Social Security plan, an acquiescent press, perhaps feeling guilty about being duped by Bill Clinton, has let Governor Bush get away with entirely too much."]

[*The McLaughlin Group airs at various times and dates dependent upon each PBS channel's choice. Some may have seen it as early as November 4th.]

Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List?

Congratulations to FAIR on their twenty years of watchdogging the media. After the celebrating is over, possibly they could watchdog their own radio program? It's called CounterSpin and a current report on the guests booked on The NewsHour (PBS) calls the radio program into question.

If you missed it, you can read it here or you can click here for the AP report on it. If you don't have that kind of time, here's Democracy Now!'s summary of the report:

Study: Guests on NewsHour Largely White, Male and Republican
A new study has criticized PBS's flagship news program, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, for having relying too much on white, male Republican sources. The study, conducted by the media watchdog group FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, found that NewsHour interviewed four times as many male sources as women. People of color made up only 15 percent of U.S. sources. Among partisan sources, Republicans outnumbered Democrats on the NewsHour by a two to one ratio. On the issue of Iraq, the show interviewed five times as many guests who advocated staying the course over withdrawing troops. According to FAIR, no peace activists were interviewed on Iraq during the study's six-month period.

CounterSpin is the half-hour weekly program put out by FAIR. FAIR criticized (rightly) The NewsHour for having four times as many male sources as women. CounterSpin books guests as well. Does FAIR know the figures for the same period on CounterSpin?

We'll help them out. Our count shows that there were 13 women interviewed. How many men? Well, if you can count struggling screenwriter and smear-job 'reporter' Gadi Dechter as human, you have to assign him the gender of male. Dechter is one of 36 males appearing from October of 2005 to March of 2006.

Feel free to check our math, we may have missed someone. But that translates, even for those with limited math skills, as CounterSpin interviewed three times as many males as females. Now, yes, that is a step up form The NewsHour's four times as many males -- but it's nothing to brag about. And nothing that FAIR can point to with pride.

Also note that one episode of CounterSpin didn't feature the usual two guest make up but instead devoted the time to one guest: Jonathan Kozol (January 6, 2006). No woman was deemed to be worthy of being the only guest for a program -- not Naomi Klein, not Phyllis Bennis, not any of the thirteen.

We knew the numbers for female guests wouldn't be good, we do listen to the show and that was obvious to us before we started looking at the guests. (For those interested in the host makeup -- there are three hosts -- one is woman, one is African-American. That is actually one host. The other two hosts are White males.) Eye balling the guest list will demonstrate that people of color didn't fare well either. (Trust us, you don't want the figure for women of color who were brought on as guests.)

But the reason we actually bothered to look into it was that FAIR was slamming The NewsHour for not having a peace activist on as a guest during the entire period they surveyed (October 2005 through March 2006, the same period we surveyed. And they did survey "through" not "to" -- through March.)

Here's the sentence, from the report, that caught our attention: "In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq."

As any reader of this site (or any of the community sites) knows, we've about had it with independent media failing to cover the peace movement. We've nudged, we've encouraged and still it can't be bothered. We're fully aware of who does and who does not make up the exception to that rule. So when we read "In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq" our first thought was: "How the hell did we miss CounterSpin's interview/s with peace activists?"

We didn't. There were none. There were people against the war -- academics, authors, critics, etc. That's not what they're talking about in the FAIR study, they're talking about "peace activists." If that's unclear to anyone, here's the paragraph in full:

At a time when a large proportion of the U.S. public already favored withdrawal from Iraq, "stay the course" sources outnumbered pro-withdrawal sources more than 5-to-1. In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq.

When they drop in that sentence about "a single peace activist," they've already dismissed the issue of those who favor withdrawal but aren't peace activists in their preceeding sentence.

So FAIR is pointing the finger at The NewsHour for failure to provide their audience with the views of even one peace activist. We applaud them for that. We agree that peace activists need to be heard.

But we're not so stupid that we'll just nod and smile. FAIR can critique outside their organization but they are responsible for who gets booked on their own program. In the same period, CounterSpin provided zero peace activists. So on the issue of the female and male guests, CounterSpin comes out only slight better (with a 1:3 ratio of female-to-male guests compared to The NewsHour's 1:4 ratio) and with regards to the statement "In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq" it can also be said: "In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on CounterSpin on the subject of Iraq."

Congratulations on the twenty years but fix the radio program. Until you do, your criticism can be applied right back at the organization. Both The NewsHour and CounterSpin need to show improvement.

Entertaining what troops?

On the front page of Saturday's New York Times, Andrea Elliott offers "For Recuriter Speaking Arabic, Saying 'Go Army' Is a Hard Job" told an interesting story of how difficult it was for Arabic-Americans serving in the military to recruit. But we found one section even more interesting.

We'll zoom in on one aspect of the article:

He [Sergeant Cameron Murad] remembers a day in 2002 when comedian Drew Carey visited a base in Saudi Arabia where he was working. During a skit, Sergeant Murad recalled, Mr. Carey dropped to the ground to mimic the Muslim prayer. As the troops roared with laughter, Sergeant Murad walked out."I thought about my mom when she prays, how humble she is," he said.

Carey's skit was offensive. So was the nonsense Al Franken paraded. It's not mentioned in the article because Franken just made 'funnies' about leering at women and using them as sex objects. (Not at all different from the T&A parade that had Gordo's war-on dripping awhile back.)

If people want to entertain 'the troops' (whether they're pro-Bush -- Carey -- or in disagreement with him -- Franken), they need to grow up and grasp that 'the troops' are not all White, Christian males.

America is a diverse country and this nonsense that you can go out and feel good about yourself ("Look how wonderful I am!") while insulting many troops needs to stop.

When Franken bumbles around and makes passes at whatever woman was idiot enough to go on tour with him, it doesn't just disgrace him and the woman, it makes the climate that a Suzanne Swift has to serve in all the rougher.

It's "funny," it's "silly," it's just "the way it is."

No, it's not.

And if 'entertainers' can't grasp that their job to 'entertain' the troops doesn't include insulting people they are supposedly entertaining, then it's past time the military and/or the USO stepped in.

This nonsense that you're there for morale (as opposed to your own ego stroking) is revealed as crap when your 'entertainment' makes it that much more difficult for those who bothered to turn out.

This isn't political speech. Franken doesn't advocate for a withdrawal on radio, let alone in front of the troops. If the military wants to bring in political performers, great. But these are cut ups, meant to amuse. Meant to distract the troops from the hardships and to help them come together over a shared laugh. Kind of hard to do that when some are left out in the cold with 'humor' that divides and sections off.

If you're there to 'cut up,' your humor should be geared to all serving.

If someone had paid to see Carey or Franken in a comedy club, they'd get what they deserved (which wouldn't mean they didn't have a right to object after). But supposedly, these are 'good will' efforts to 'entertain' the troops. When your efforts divide the troops you're supposedly trying to 'entertain,' someone needs to step in. The military, which prides team 'cohesion' and team think above all else, should have stepped in a long time ago.

It's really easy to scream "P.C.!" and ignore the issue (and many have), but this isn't an issue where someone went to a club and got insulted. This is an issue where supposedly 'good will' is the intent of the entertainers, raising morale. You don't do that by insulting Muslims who serve or by making women feel that they've just been degraded (and a number of women serving who saw Franken's lame 'entertainment' felt degraded).

We fully grasp that, in comedy, you're bound to offend someone in some manner. That's a given. And there are degrees of what is acceptable and what's not.

But entertaining the troops means making them all feel (regardless of faith, gender, what have you) that they're invited to laugh. Carey's mocking Muslim religions ins't just a bad joke, it's stupid and it's hurtful to Muslims who are serving in the United States military. Carey's remarks came in 2002 and, hopefully, he wouldn't do the same thing today.

Franken's got no excuse. The T&A parade was critiqued when he was a college student. He has no reason to be unaware of it. And he has no excuse for taking part in it. Demeaning women not only hurts the women who serve, it hurts all the women. As the case of Abeer demonstrates, not everyone serving is playing with a full deck or by what most think of as the agreed upon societal norms. What happened to Suzanne Swift demonstrates that it's not just the "other" who gets seen as a target for all your sexual hang ups, frustrations and impulses. The last thing the military needs to do is present tease shows at a time when women are being sexually harrassed and raped in Iraq. There should be zero tolerance for this.

Franken offering up that he was playing Saddam as a buffoon doesn't cut it as a valid excuse. There is no excuse. It's always interesting to see what sort of men need to use women's bodies as props to be a "hit." It's a real shame that Franken doesn't think he can get laughs without resorting to objectifying women but his personal insecurities shouldn't mean that women serving (or women in Iraq) have to suffer because his "jokes" have sent the message that women are there to excite you and well, hey, men have urges.

There's too much at stake for that nonsense. It's offensive to women serving. Franken doesn't even attempt to be an equal opportunity offender. There's no eye candy for the women. (If he thinks he's it, he has even more personal problems than one might suspect.)

Women serving in Iraq have had to put up with photos of nude women being displayed in front of them, shoved off on them and more. There's not a workplace in America that could get away with that nonsense. The T&A parade, the objectifying women, is one more layer that allows and encourages inappropriate behaviors (and crimes) to occur.

Anyone who goes to a club performance of Carey or Franklin's gets what they deserve but when they, or anyone else, signs up to spread 'goodwill' to the troops, they need to take a hard look at their act, a hard look at the makeup of today's military and figure out exactly how their jokes will spread 'good will.' If the jokes don't, even if it gets a belly laugh from a majority, it's not worth including. If you're truly there to raise morale, you don't do 'jokes' that leave those serving insulted.

Operation Sinbad: Ongoing and then some

We're not surprised when American outlets drop the ball on the British operation in Iraq that's termed "Operation Sinbad." We are surprised when journalists for British publications drop the ball. Writing in The Independent of London, Raymond Whittaker runs down the latest on Operation Sinbad, tells you that it's not gone well, tells you that started on September 27th.

September 27th?

The episodic British incursions into central Basra became more frequent and prolonged, and the troops also began to inch in from the periphery, establishing a camp just inside a key bridge over the Shatt al Basra waterway. On Sunday, April 6, U.K. forces undertook yet another of these in-and-out bursts, this one code-named Operation Sinbad (the legendary Sinbad of 1,001 Nights fame had been from Basra). On this occasion, two convoys (each comprising 28 tanks, 28 other armed vehicles, and 1,500 soldiers) followed distinct routes into the heart of the city, converging at the College of Literature. To their surprise, the U.K. forces encountered significantly less resistance than usual, and on the spur of the moment, they decided to stay, rather than to beat the customary hasty retreat to the suburbs. A substantial British force of 10,000 then quickly followed the incursion, occupying critical portions of the city.

Try April 6th. Try April 6, 2003. The above is from David A. Koplow's "Tangled up in Khaki and Blue: Lethal and Non-Lethal Weapons In Recent Confrontations" (Georgetown Journal of International Law, Spring 2005).

Same operation, same 'goal,' same name, same area. The same battles are being fought over and over. That's the reality on the ground.

MyTV's Fascist House

This week on MyTV's Fascist House, things are getting dicey for the Bully Boy. He tries a song and dance in his underwear (surrounded by tuxedo clad young men a la Judy Garland) to take the attention off the Mark Foley Congressional scandal. Musical guest star Etta James looks around and decides to sing "What's Going On?" from her latest CD All The Way. Tony Snow-Job tries to spin the press, as does Denny Hastert who seems in danger of being swallowed by the (press) shark. But never fear! Karl Rove has a plan. Leaked photos will demonstrate to the American public that Bully Boy was as much a victim as any page! My TV's Fascist House airing seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, no repeats!

Ruth's Report

Ruth's Report

Ruth: For all the anti-war talk that you hear from time to time, "time to time" being key, after awhile you grasp that it is really just talk for some. Any who doubted that saw it play out live this week as our "big" small media took a pass on covering war resister Darrell Anderson or World Can't Wait rallies. Mr. Anderson returned from Canada, turned himself at Fort Knox and has already been released by the military. He was either the subject of blink-and-you-miss-it coverage or not covered at all.

I visited the websites of various magazines at the start of the week but had to stop doing that since I had little interest in following every breaking detail of Who Dropped His Pants but I did notice that one took a moment to weigh in on the very controversial issue of school violence and decide that, yes, they were against it. Such passes for "brave" stands these days.

I also read and heard, on radio programs, a great deal about horse race handicapping this past week and, sadly, I did not once listen to or read Cokie Roberts. If two words are needed for this past week, they are "dumbed down." So mid-week, I was on the phone with my granddaughter Tracey and C.I. and we were discussing what we wished independent media would provide us with. Chief among our topics was a focus on Iraq.

I hear a lot that Afghanistan is the "forgotten war." What does that make Iraq? The "sidebar war"? Where went independent media? Did they all grow weary? Did they all grow bored? Did they think the war would end in a matter of weeks and, when that did not happen, take their marbles and go home?

Tracey mentioned arts coverage and noted that she had read no review of Sir! No Sir! in either The Nation or The Progressive nor seen an interview with the director David Zeiger. She wondered why that was? For those who have not heard of Zeiger's film, Sir! No Sir! explores war resistance in the Vientam era. An amazing film that brings to life the period and rescues forgotten history might strike you or me as something worth covering but, despite winning the Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival and at the Los Angeles Film Festival as well as being a nominee for the Independent Spirit Award, Sir! No Sir! takes a back seat to any and everything in the world of arts.

But then resistance appears to take a back seat to everything. Peace takes a back seat to everything. We can get coverage of a Congressional report or the statement of an elected official, we just cannot expect it on the peace movement. As someone who protested Vietnam, I am fully aware that Congress did not wake up one day and, out of the goodness of their hearts, decide they were opposed to the war. The fact that the war was immoral and illegal was not the driving factor. What did move them to oppose the war was the fact that people were opposed to it, that the numbers continued to grow, that, in some opinion polls, the number against the war had reached seventy-percent. When a war is opposed by over two-thirds of the people, even hesitant, timid leaders must attempt to respond in some manner.

As the three of us spoke on the phone, my own suggestion was an interview with Camilo Mejia who was among the first to resist the war, checking out of the military in October 2003 after seeing war crimes in Iraq. The interview I visualized contained questions like these:

1) When you made the decision to leave the military, did you ever imagine that so many others would do the same?

2) You were the first to make the case in a military court that the war was illegal and to participate in it would make you a party to war crimes. That argument continues to echo, in Pablo Paredes case and, most recently, in
Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing. The argument reflected your statements before your own trial but, at any point prior to your hearing, did anyone attempt to persuade you to 'soften' your argument or go for something more 'acceptable'?

3) A common narrative we hear from war resisters once they go public is how they had to educate themselves. How aware were you of G.I. resistance during Vietnam prior to going to Iraq?

4) As the public face of war resistance so early, what advice would you to give to others coming forward now?

5) With regards to ending the illegal war, what gives you hope today and what concerns you?

Those are among the questions I would enjoy seeing a magazine or radio interview ask. I would love to see or read a roundtable involving war resisters. I would enjoy a discussion of members of the peace movement. Those are only some of the ways the Iraq war could be covered but currently is not.

Though independent media may feel that they have exhausted the topic, that is not the case. This morning I found two pieces that reminded me that with or without independent coverage, the war drags on: Josh White's "Picking Up the Pieces of Slain Troops' Lives" (Washington Post) and C.I.'s "Jake Kovco" [filling in for Kat at Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)]. I would suggest that you read both and judge your own response to it. If your response is a shrug of indifference then I would assume you are pleased with what currently passes for coverage in our independent media. I am not.

[Ruth wanted it noted that Laura Flanders had a powerful opening to Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders where Flanders noted some of the dead. She toyed with rewriting her report but, to avoid the "Where is Ruth?" e-mails, asked that a note be added. If you missed Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders, the segment may be included in the one hour version of Saturday and Sunday's shows that goes up midweek here and that you can now hear Wednesdays at noon Pacific time on San Francisco's KALW. Those who have trouble listening to the feedburner one hour version can listen online Wednesdays at KALW.]

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C.I. takes on War Pornographer Michael Gordon

NYT: The war is lost but Gordie's hot for 'doggie style'

Gordo's war-on is wagging and dripping which explains "Military Hones A New Strategy On Insurgency" in this morning's New York Times. Obvious observations like "Three years after and they trot out a new strategy" go unstated because, when all the blood rushes out of the head, a War Pornographer can't think too well.

Let's note first that the role of the military is still undefined. This matters beyond Iraq. What Bully Boy's done, others who follow will do. Some within the bounds of the law and some outside. But it will happen again and the issue of the role of the military needs to be addressed at some point. One of the lengthiest critiques offered this morning of Gordo's article was made by a friend who believes you use the military to fight and only to fight. So let's note that point of view right off the bat. There are people who disagree with that. Among those disagreeing include people who point to projects in the immediate aftermath of the fighting during WWII and believe that the military also have a role in rebuilding (physical and emotional -- and note "emotional" is my term, not the term they use). This dispute has raged through most White Houses since WWII. A new "strategy" would address that but whether one ever does, at some point the people need to figure out what they feel the role of the military should be.

You can't keep changing objectives from conflict to conflict, war to war. And you certainly can't do so in the midst of fighting a war without confusing everyone serving. Which is why Iraq is lost. There is no comeback. It's over. The war has been lost and most know that already but to admit it would mean telling the American people who would then insist on a withdrawal date (as they should).

Instead of that, people like Gordo want to sit around their basements playing Combat and Risk. Running their ideal operation (via boardgames where no reality applies from one game to next).
The non-strategy is a lot like the 'peace' plan of the puppet. A number of members e-mailed to note that, yes, the press really seems to think no one can count to four as they continue to repeat "security councils" (which existed before the half-baked 'peace' plan was announced).

Amit R. Paley reports, in today's Washington Post, that Sadr City is thought to be a target for 'pacification.' Some may wonder why Sadr City and not Ramadi? (Sadr City is a section of Baghdad.) Because to play "whack-a-mole," vast number of troops were pulled from Ramadi and other areas (and stop-lossed) to flood Baghdad. Thoughts of 'pacifying' Sadr City only indicate that there is no new 'strategy' and that nothing has been learned or absorbed in the nearly four years (four years in March) that the illegal war has waged.

The NIE argued Iraq was a breeding ground for terrorism, that it became a focal point of rage and anger (what is being done there) and acted as a recruiter for terrorism from outside Iraq. Falluja acts a recruiter for opposition to the continued war and occupation. Not from outside Iraq, from within. All of the policies do, the checkpoints, the housing sweeps, the lack of electricity and potable water, etc. But an attack on Sadr City will recruit even more to the resistance than the daily tragedies and injustices because it will be seen, as was Falluja, as American forces slaughter Iraqis.

That such a plan for 'pacification' can be spoken of at the same time Gordo's stroking over a 'new' 'strategy' only underscores that the war was long ago lost.

Gordo goes misty-eyed and short of breath as he summons Lawrence of Arabia (and didn't that work out fabulously) and tells you that the answer is not to be holed up on bases but to get out in the streets. The 'strategy' is desperation measures. The holed up on bases happened for a reason. It was a response to life on the ground. The same reason that the reporters stay safely inside the Green Zone unless embedded within the military.

One of the talking points from Little Willie's Big Press Conference yesterday was that American fatalities might be on the rise because they are on the streets of Baghdad. Gordo, always one to swallow, somehow misses that point as he studies the 'strategy' and can't keep his hands out of his own pants.

The 'strategy' is "We're going to put a friendly face on occupation." Oh, that'll work. It's worked so well historically, right? It hasn't. And it's too far along in the illegal occupation for it to work now. The 'new and improved' illegal occupation can't erase the history and the thought that three years into the war you can suddenly change perceptions is so laughable that many who called this morning (those in the military) feel that the 'military' 'strategy' was outsourced to a p.r. firm and that is what Gordo's referring to when he uses the broad term "private groups" who had input on the 'plan.' (Considering this administration's history, that's probably very likely.)

The war is lost. The American people should have been told that a long time ago. Even had those words not been stated directly, had the mainstream press noted in their reports, long ago, that they were confined to the Green Zone and that they couldn't report outside of it without risking their own lives, Americans would have grasped that the war was lost.

But there will always be Gordos who get off on war porn and their active fantasy lives are fueld by 'strategies' and 'stats' and anything else they can hold with one hand while reaching in their shorts with the other. A colonel tells Gordo it's a "bottom-up change" and Gordo's off fantasizing doggie style.

The 'strategy' will be tossed ("modified") because it's not a military one and it's not going to change anything. It can't. Whether you can market an occupation or not (I don't believe you can, but that's me), you certainly can't do it after it's gone on for three years. The 'brains' behind the new 'strategy' see war as a 'product' that can be sold. Anyone who's ever had a bad experience with a product and stopped buying it knows you don't easily return to purchasing that product.

But that's the basis of this 'strategy' -- that the war can be marketed, all these years later, and that Iraqis are blank slates that can be 'filled' with the 'new message.'

The perceptions are too deep and too firm at this point. Madison Avenue whiz kids can't remarket the war to Iraqis. I was honestly surprised that Gordo, a war pornographer, would be as naive as he comes off in print. (But, as one editor put it on the phone, "He just wants his nut." Indeed.)

At the heart of the 'strategy,' and you have to read between the lines (those calling this morning from the military caught it right away) is a call for more US troops in Iraq. Possibly that's what has Gordo so excited because he favors that 'strategy' as well. At this rate, the next 'strategy' will be to settle Americans inside camps in Iraq and we all know how well that worked out for Israel. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

Or maybe Ann Coulter can be made general and the US can just, as she suggested re: Afghanistan, bomb them all?

The only 'strategy' left is withdrawal. Some incidents of US violence are known. Other incidents that people may want to dicker over can be labeled 'perceptions.' You can't change perceptions when they are that firm (and trying to three years after the fact is both ignorant and desperate).
You can take perceptions and enter them into the equation in an attempt to modify them. Whether or not that would work in Iraq (my personal opinion is it wouldn't, it's too late for that), it's not been attempted. Instead it's another case of "We will decide, we will inform, everyone will follow."

The assumed ignorant 'other,' this 'we know best' attitude, is as responsible for the perceptions held by Iraqis as the actual violence and that insult is still present in the new 'strategy.' One reporter offered that it might be based on Bully Boy's ability to fool people when running in 2000? That may be the basis. He certainly fooled a lot of people. But, if as governor of Texas, he'd carried out his Iraq war, he wouldn't have fooled many Americans when he ran for president. The American image is not a good image to Iraqis. It's not even a blank image at this point. It's firmly established and the idea that troops out among the people can change that is insane.

Best case scenario, US troops do daily walks through Basra. They wave, they smile and six days out of the week, it works very well, they interact and some Iraqis even interact back. The seventh day, when they respond to an event (real or imagined) with gunfire, any momentary 'uplift' is destroyed as the old perception resurfaces.

This reality gets alluded to in a sidebar on page A19 that had one caller from the military saying the troops were now going to be "sitting ducks." He was referring specifically to this item:

The more successful counterinsurgency is, the less force that can be used and the more risk that must be accepted.
As the level of insurgent violence drops, the military must be used less with stricter rules of engagment, and the police force used more.

[Purists take note, all is bold print because it's an excerpt. In the paper only the first sentence is in bold print.]

Read over that slowly and you'll grasp why one person believes US troops will be "sitting ducks" and you'll also grasp that this isn't a military plan. It's not any kind of a plan, it's a marketing scheme. And it's come far too late to make a difference in perceptions but it will put US troops at risk and, as every caller noted, "the police force used more" is laughable on any day but especially after a unit that was probably aiding and involved with mass kidnapping is being 'retrained.' That's only one example. You can look at the bus depot incidents over the summer when the Iraqi police just stood around and US forces did nothing because they were told to wait to be 'invited in.'

The war is lost. The 'plan' is a joke. Maybe after Gordo comes down from his sexual high, he'll grasp that and also grasp that Tal Afar doesn't make for a good example?

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