Sunday, May 27, 2007

Truest statement of the week

People don't have the sense in this country really where we're heading. What this means is that the administration is really trying to reign in the ability to pick up anybody off the street, detain them, never let them see a court, disappear forever from your family, your friends, I mean this particularly targets people who are non-citizens but they've really tried to extend this power to citizens, to all people -- they want the power to put everyone in jail without ever letting them have a day in court just based on the president's say so which is an extremely frightening thing.

-- Dalia Hashad to Michael Ratner on last week's Law and Disorder (a weekly, hour long radio show that is hosted by Hashad, Ratner, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian). Hashad and Ratner were discussing the need for a week long action next month. From the ACLU's "Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice - June 26, 2007:"

This summer, the ACLU is calling on all its members and concerned citizens from across the country, to storm Washington, D.C. in a Day of Action, to tell Congress to restore habeas corpus and all our constitutional rights.
The Bush administration has trampled the Constitution and abandoned American values and the rule of law -- and so far Congress has failed to act. We're at a turning point, and Americans must take action to restore habeas, end government-sponsored torture, and uphold the fairness and freedom that define us.
On June 26, 2007 you can join thousands of activists for a rally, a public demonstration and an opportunity to meet face-to-face with lawmakers. With your help, we will send our message directly to Congress: We demand that they restore all the rights and freedoms lost over the last six years, particularly the due process rights stripped by the Military Commissions Act 2006.
In the words of ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, "We have always been proud that America stands for the values of due process and fairness, but those values were severely damaged when President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act. Habeas must be restored and the ACLU will keep the pressure on Congress to remedy this injustice. Our nation's reputation and principles are on the line."
The ACLU is joining with Amnesty International, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and other groups in this historic Day of Action. Please add your presence and your voice to the effort, and urge friends, family and colleagues to do the same.
Find out how to get involved at

See you in D.C. this summer!

JOIN US IN D.C. Sign up to be part of the event in D.C. >>

ADD YOUR VOICE Sign the petition to Restore Our Constitutional Rights >>

TELL FRIENDS Ask friends to join us on June 26th and sign the petition >>

LEARN MORE The Military Commissions Act and the Threat to Habeas Corpus >>

Hashad and Ratner stressed this is a week of action. One day will take place in DC. Local actions will take place around the country. For more information you can check future postings on the websites for the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights (we think -- and if not, oh well, we love CCR and they got a link for no reason other than that) and Amnesty International.

Truest statement of the week II


Whew: at The New York Times, our idea of living on the edge is a second trip to the afternoon coffee cart.

-- David Carr speaking for the Docker Boys

Ava and C.I.: The above quote is from Carr's "Page Six Covers Itself, A Bit Painfully" which ran Monday, May 21, 2007 on C1. In an article explaining alleged scandals at The New York Post, Docker heavyweight steps it up to speak for his subset of species which can be found in the offices of The New York Times in their Dockers as well as in the 'wild' traveling in packs of mini-vans from outlet mall to outlet mall. We watch this subset with wide eyed wonder as they speak of exotic things such as "indoor electric grills," "recliners," and teenage babysitters named "Mindy." True Confessions of the Docker Boys is as exotic as a trip on the Trans-Hudson. Sadly, sometimes (possibly to reproduce?) they leave their natural habitat and can be found attempting to blend in with the Water Cool Set providing guffaws and hilarity to all.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday and we're moving quick. We stopped because . . . we'll get into that in a moment.

Here's who deserves credit for the writing this edition:

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

Also thanks to Dallas for all of his help. Thanks to Rebecca, Elaine and Mike who came up with one illustration. Thanks to Rebecca who photoshopped all.

Here's what we've got:

Truest statement of the week -- Dalia Hashad spoke the truest again. We don't usually note much in these but the statement and provide a link. In this instance, an event is planned and we threw that in there as well.

Truest statement of the week II -- This section added since earlier today. This evening, a friend asked Ava, "I thought you and C.I. were going to do something about the Docker Boys? I didn't see anything in the TV commentary." Ava explained that she and C.I. couldn't fit that in, that Dona was asking for a "short piece" so it ended up being worked in that way. I (Jim) came in on the end of that and said, "I don't think we posted it." Read below where I'm talking about the TV commentary and explaining various distractions when we were posting. This was written, the illustration is by Rebecca, Mike and Elaine (Ava and C.I. wrote the text -- other than Carr's quote). We completely forgot about it with the rush and the phone calls. So it is up now. I told Ty I was coming back in to post Ava and C.I.'s thing and that I was adding a quick note. He suggested I answer the question about the long piece? It's not here. It's scheduled for the Sunday before July 4th.

Editorial: The Party of Stella Toddler -- Who knew we had so many Carol Burnett fans among our readers? Ty was checking the e-mails while C.I. was working on the morning entry for The Common Ills and early reaction can be summed up as, "I loved Stella! But Eunice/Miss Wiggins was my favorite!" Of the ones writing this note, only C.I. knew it from it's original airing. Most of us saw the cable reruns around 1997. We'll guess that's true for many of our readers or else they have very strong memories because Ty was reading three e-mails that included not only their favorite Burnett character, but also their summary (with lines quoted) of their favorite skits. (Favorite Eunice skits were: Eunice plays Sorry and Eunice and the gang visit Mickey at his apartment, favorite Miss Wiggins skit was when her boss gets the intercom.) We're glad that Burnett has provided so many of us with so much strong work that has lasted and stayed with us. We think it's too bad we can't say the same about the current Democratic leadership. Ty and my (Jim) favorite Eunice skit is when she performs "Feelings" on national television and we wish we could "gong" the Dems the way Eunice got "gonged."

TV: Friendly faces aren't who we meet -- We're still not as late with the note as we have been. However, we should have been a lot earlier. What happened? Ava and C.I. did a lengthy review of PBS. They did that on their own time and it didn't delay anyone (other than us re-reading it several times to laugh when we should have been writing). They re-reviewed PBS because friends of theirs who are professional whiners and with PBS have kvetched for the last few weeks. (A note on "kvetched" in a moment.) So they took another look at it. The commentary's excellent. It's funny, it's on the money. And it was posted while we were attempting to get the illustration for the editorial to work (it never did) when the phone rings. It's one of their friends. C.I. said, "You're going on speaker." Oh, Ava and C.I. were so unfair. Oh, that wasn't a nice thing to say about David. Oh, how could anyone watch two episodes of NOW (they've watched more than two; however, they have only reviewed two) and not like the show. Oh, the program wasn't insensitive to a poverty stricken women. On and on, it went. A non-stop monologue. When the friend finally came up for air, Ava and C.I. began to demolish every point. (With language they wouldn't use here even if we begged.) The friend disagreed up until they got to the point about the woman's medical condition being disclosed on air. They've added a note to the commentary since it went up. C.I. wrote about this (briefly) in the morning entry at The Common Ills. The phone rings as we're deciding do we want to do the note or go right to bed. No, it's not yet another PBS friend. It's a friend referred to in C.I.'s entry: "And Ava and I thought our friend at Mad TV was a whiner." He wants it known that you should never expect PBS to "appreciate good humor. They think Mark Russell is Lenny Bruce!" Maybe it was his delivery, maybe it was all of us being tired, but that still makes us laugh. So does the commentary. "Be sure to read it"? Like I have to urge anyone coming to this site to do that! (Personal note to Mike: You'll beat me this week again. ":D".)

Chrissy Explains It All (finally) -- When you attack the SDS and specifically Bernardine Dohrn as a supposedly objective writer, it's probably not a good idea to reveal your personal malice mere issues later. This contains the illustration that Elaine, Rebecca and Mike came up with. Full credit to the three of them.

Still sad after all these months -- S-s-s-ad Sirota. And that says it all.

Mailbag -- Kylie e-mailed, "You and Dona really talked for a change." Yes, we did. We intend to stop that immediately! Actually, it had to do with an old feature and we were giving our viewpoint. As Ty rightly noted after, it was a good idea to give it from the other end as well (in terms of what it was like for individuals trying to piece together a report) and Cedric did a great job with that.

And from the world of music . . . -- Bono. You know we have an illustration that Kat did that is dead on perfect. We always say we should use it. (Kat calls it a "squiggle." It's really good.) She did it in like 10 minutes one edition when we were doing something on Bono and said it shouldn't be an illustration. But she's since agreed. Thing is, we only come across it when we're not working on the edition. (It's in a file folder somewhere.) Next time we're going to use it. (Or have a really good excuse for not doing so!)

Dennis Kucinich addresses Iraq's oil -- Kucinich took to the House floor to cover the realities of Iraq and oil. A lot of people missed it because so few covered it. Trina's for Kucinich. She asked for that and we were happy to offer it.

Highlights -- Mike, Betty, Wally, Cedric, Rebecca and Elaine wrote this. We thank them for it.

Until next weekend . . .

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

Editorial: The Party of Stella Toddler

Ever strike you that when it comes to the Democratic Party, there are a whole lot of people playing Stella Toddler?

Toddler was one Carol Burnett's many characters and the skit that stands out the most for us is when Stella Toddler visits the police station. She explains that rather than report one crime, she likes to store up a whole list so she's not wasting anyone's time.

Sound familiar?

The Democratic Party gets so many passes most critics on the left either have to be Stella Toddlers or assuming that the party is sleep walking and must not be called out for fear that they might wake up suddenly and give themselves a heart attack.

Here's reality. First 100 Days? Try 100 Days of Nothing.

That $7.25 an hour minimum wage proposal they're so proud of? Long overdue and won't kick in this year or the next.

The Iraq war.

It's not an issue of "what to say," it's an issue of "where to start?"

Let's start with the obvious. The ballyhooed First 100 Days didn't include the word "Iraq." Only when this was repeatedly pointed out (loudly) and Dems were under pressure did Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) suddenly remember the issue that swept the Democrats back into power.

Should have been a lesson there.

Instead, in March, when the Dems offered up their Do-Nothing-Dems' plan for Iraq (toothless, non-binding and, frankly, meaningless) they didn't get called out by many.

Party Hacks rushed out to try to silence the few who did. But it was a small group. Even Pacifica Radio appeared to live in fear of Dems (and of MoveOn). KPFA was the worst offender and check out Ruth's Report (Monday) for how well that worked out for KPFA. (Short answer, not very well at all.) The Nation, as always, took the centrist road, hand in hand with the Council of Foreign Relations, skipping down the path to eternal war.

The Dems thought they were cagey. They thought they were smarter than the public and that their attack dogs would frighten off a few (Chiuaua's rarely frighten -- not even when they speak in Taco Bell commercials). The original measure that Bully Boy vetoed wasn't going to do a damn thing to end the illegal war. But it might, and here's what they were hoping for, give the impression that the Democrats were trying to end the war. Oh what a boon that would be in the 2008 elections!

Now Russ Feingold, early on, held a hearing into Congress' power of the purse. It's a real shame that he had to but with cowards and chickens occupying the Senate, it was required. What did we all learn? What we already knew which is that Congress has the power to stop funding the illegal war. But that was off the table!

And some Dems now point to last week's CBS and New York Times' poll to say, "See! We were right! Look how few people support that!"

It's difficult to build support in the public for a policy that both major parties disown. Not impossible, but difficult. Instead of using their air time to push a meaningless measure (in March or now), they could have used that time to review the basics with the public. They didn't do that. Not only did they not do that, they made a point to sell the distorted view that defunding the illegal war would leave the troops in harms way! (The craven Barack Obama was but one of many peddling that lie.)

Back in March, everyone was supposed to put the brains on ice (some already had and some had no brains to ice or thaw) and pretend that the Pelosi measure or the Reid measure would end the illegal war or, in fact, do anything. That wasn't reality. The most generous thing that can be said about the plan Bully Boy eventually vetoed was that it was "symbolic."

Hate to break it to the Dems, but they weren't put in power to symbolic. Just as no one pays money for a live concert out of a desire to witness lip synching, no one votes a party into power to watch them mime out policies.

When they were out of power, the party argument was, "We don't have a majority. There's nothing we can do!" When the reality is there was plenty they could do. Now that they control both houses of Congress, the excuse is, "We don't have enough votes to override a veto!" And the pitch is, "Vote for us in 2008! Give us even more control! You'll see some action then!"

The belly crawlers want to pretend as if minority parties are powerless and control of both houses really doesn't mean "control of both houses." They're helped by an education system (and gas bags) that don't bother to note history. The belly crawlers want you to believe that when real Congressional leaders accomplished anything in the past, their party must have had 89 seats in the Senate and 400 in the House.

Harry Reid we expect nothing from. (Except possibly another lobbyist scandal.) Nancy Pelosi was the embarrassment of last week. When the Democrats caved, she sent out point man Steny Hoyer to explain to the press how it was. (Or rather, how they thought it was.) Pelosi, so important, so powerful, such a first!, wanted all the glory and perks of being Speaker of House but when it came time to deliver bad news, she hid behind Hoyer.

Don't feel sorry for Hoyer. The War Hawk was quite happy to announce that the Dems were doing nothing. (Only he announced it with sprinkles and candy coating.) Pelosi got called out on that and her 'answer' was to make noises about how she might not even vote for the measure. That would be the measure that she had the power to prevent coming to a vote. That's the measure she had the power to bury.

Her vote was meaningless. She's no rank-and-file Congress member, she leads the House, she determines the agenda, she controls everything. So her deciding to play the junior version of Miss Dianne Girl Senator was even more embarrassing.

Here's reality: the Dems aren't going to do anything they aren't forced to do.

They think Iraq is a "winner." They think it is just the thing to give them the White House in 2008. They think Iraq will put them in charge of Congress and the White House after the next election cycle. So they believe they shouldn't do anything to upset the momentum.

Momentum? Try Joe-mentum. And it's really funny how Democrats repeatedly think, "This is our time!" They thought that in 2002, they thought it in 2004. The only thing that swept them into power in 2006 was the public's disgust with the illegal war.

Now some of our lovely left (who dabble and pose) love to hop in right about now and say it was about economics! Or that it was about scandals!

It was about Iraq. The polling demonstrated that. There were other issues but the chief issue was the illegal war. Without it, Dems would still be playing the role they so deserve: Loser.

So now might be a good time for Dems to put away their Washington Monthlys (which was all hot for Lieberman as the 2004 presidential candidate) and their echo-pollsters (who determine what gets asked and how) and get their asses out and about in their home districts. There they might find out what will or will not get them elected come November 2008.

They'll find their districts are far removed from the illusion Yawn Emmanuel repeatedly paints for them.

They'll also find very quickly that when a GOP candidate for president makes the break from Bully Boy, rightly notes the war is lost and has been for some time, begs the public for forgiveness for not seeing it sooner, he (we don't know of any woman who's thinking of throwing her hat into the ring) will be embraced. He will be hailed as someone who has seen the light. The same mainstream press that has failed to editorialize that US troops should come home will rush to tongue bathe him.

And when that happens the Democrats will once again find themselves scrambling to catch up. The headlines will be about how "bold" and "innovative" the GOP candidate is. And some in his party, noting the headlines and the public's disapproval of the war, will follow suit.

When that happens, the public's going to see two things: a group now loudly denouncing the illegal war (that the press hails for "waking up" -- no "finally" in the narrative) and a group that was supposedly against the war but spent two years doing nothing to end it. That's when the Dems lose their edge.

Right now, Mitt Romney and John McCain are focused on taking each other out of the primary. By the time the primary's over, you better expect the candidate to publicly turn on the illegal war because there's little change of his winning the general election unless he does. Supporting an illegal war that has approximately 30% of the public's support doesn't win a national election.

Dems so often lose because they make up their battle plans ahead of time. They then stick to them. They're losing plans, to be sure. But they stick to them and along comes a Swift Boating and they run off to hide and ponder whether they should respond or alter course? Instead they do nothing. They have the edge, right? Why risk it? Why do anything? Just sit it out.

And that (and manipulation of the ballot count) is how the Republicans outflank them. They don't worry about charges of "flip-flop." They say and do anything to get elected and do so in a swirling, changing landscape. Dems, possibly still so scared after the Goring of Gore, think they're going to get bonus points in the end because their campaign is the same as it was six months prior. It doesn't work that way.

Nor should it. And instead of embracing Yawn Emmanuel, a real Democratic Party would run from him and anyone else who counts on the increasing number of dead Americans in Iraq to win them an election. (Listen to KPFA's Living Room Thursday for David Swanson's remarks on Yawn.)

TV: Friendly faces aren't who we meet

Can PBS sink any lower? That was our question long before Paul Farhi (Washington Post) reported Friday that neocon hate masking as a documentary was being distributed by CPB after PBS (in a rare show of defiance) refused to distribute it to public television stations across the country. As Jeff Chester observed to Farhi, "It appears that CPB's leaders -- prominent Republicans -- are engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to secure an air date for a program appealing to their own conservative constituencies. Congress needs to investigate the corporation's own problems with fairness and balance." Or maybe it's time Congress just cut off funding all together?

We (Ava and C.I.) were lobbied by friends with PBS the last few weeks (as well as by strangers -- and one minor acquaintance -- in e-mails) as a result of "TV: The 'boys' are back in town" and "TV: Pigs and Prigs on PBS' NOW." Which led us to ask PBS friends, "Did you miss ' TV: Washington Weak'?" No, they hadn't. They happened to strongly agree with that.

But they were convinced we were missing "the value" of PBS. "The immense value," said one, all the rest stuck to the "the value" which suggests they worked really hard on their talking points. Time that, judging by what we sampled, would have been better spent working on things that make it to air.

They were particularly proud of a documentary and suggested we sample that. It's called The Blair Decade and as one of Christopher Guest's parody documentaries it's quite entertaining; however, the problem is that it wasn't meant to be played for laughs. Sadly, they are quite serious in this mockumentary.

If it's remembered historically for anything it will be for US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice's onscreen claim that, right before the illegal war started, Bully Boy phoned Tony Blair and told him if launching an illegal war looked as if it might be too much of a political liability for Prime Minister Blair, Bully Boy could handle the war without him. Condi pants, "I remember a phone conversation that they had. And Prime Minister Blair saying, ‘No, I told you that I'm with you, and I'm going to be with you'." Note that Condi heard both parts of the conversation. We're finding it hard to believe Bully Boy said, "Let me put you on speaker, Poodle," so we'll assume she was listening with Alberto Gonzales via a wiretap.

That's a rather astounding claim she's making and the fact that it has gotten so little attention may have something to do with it being delivered by No-One-Could-Have-Guessed Condi. Or it might have something to do with the way she delivered that and most of her bits. We honestly would have handed her a vibrator, asked her to excuse herself for a few minutes and then, after she reached the climax she seemed so on the verge of, rejoin us. Watching Rice babble at break-neck speed, in a high, keening voice, we felt we were seeing outtakes from a horror film entitled The Bride of Bully Boy. If you ever doubted Maureen Dowd (New York Times) reporting that Condi once caught herself as she was referring to Bully Boy as "my husband," watch that footage.

The only time she appeared cross was when noting that she didn't think it was such a good idea that Bully Boy noted his affinity to Blair by stating they used the same toothpaste (Colgate). Cut to clip of Tony Blair acknowledging Bully Boy's claims might lead to questions and rumors (as to how Bully Boy knew what toothpaste Blair used). Condi certainly seemed bitter as she recounted that incident.

Otherwise, she was humming and buzzing, perched on the edge of her seat, a Chatty Cathy chatting so fast you had to wonder (a) when she became so loquacious and (b) why she has to be repeatedly compelled to testify to Congress? Perhaps the next committee head should tell her that they need her in Congress for a tribute to the Bully Boy? We're sure she'd come flying down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Condi wasn't the only one sitting in front of the camera making baseless claims. Stanley Greenberg was on and presented as an expert on something other than losing electoral campaigns. He was billed as "Stan Greenberg" and we felt the more colloquial handle fit with the whole "Intimate Portrait: Elizabeth Taylor" approach of The Blair Decade. One minute Stan was dishing about how Blair told him Stan made his job harder (the 2000 presidential election -- which Stan raised no questions about), the next, hand on heart, Stan was telling the world that Tony Blair firmly believed their were WMDs in Iraq. It was like hearing tales from the dog walker about how "Liz" handled her marriage to John Warner. (And not even half as believable.)

Our biggest surprise with the on air personalities was Clare Short. Clare Short, who called Blair "reckless" as the illegal war was about to begin (March 8, 2003), offering 'misty, water-colored memories'? We were completely thrown by that until we made calls and found out Short had given the filmmakers considerable time, had spoken at length about the problems with Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, and was herself surprised to find her remarks edited down to simple soundbytes which all seemed to offer unconditional praise for Blair.

This two hour special was heavy on the gauze but short on the specifics. Blair, to listen to the narration, cured education, health care, democracy and, presumably, teenage acne. Now there was no way for the viewer new to the subject to evaluate any of that. For instance, away from the soft lights and treacly background music, many argue that Tony Blair's seriously damaged the British education system. So when making the claims about education (and they made assertions on that topic repeatedly), possibly a graph or interview subjects who didn't serve under Blair would be helpful? A graph could show the alleged progress Blair was responsible for and, indeed, define how progress was being measured because the special never noted if they were talking in terms of higher education, of graduation figures, of literacy, science or math programs, of . . .

But the narrator seemed to think just intoning repeatedly that Blair 'fixed' the education system was more than enough proof for anyone. Of course, the reality is that teachers are underpaid and overworked and considering striking. The UK Socialist Teachers Alliance issued the following statement this month:

The election of the Labour Government headed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, on the 1st May 1997 presaged changes to the world of Education in England and Wales which few working inside education had anticipated. Blair, describing himself and the politics he represented as "New Labour", declared that the priority for the incoming government would be "Education, Education, Education." However his policies represented a radical departure from the traditional notions of Education as a public service, publicly funded and locally administered which had dominated Labour Party thinking since its foundation at the beginning of the twentieth century and more especially since the 1940s.
The changes to Education, and to other areas of public services such as the Health Service, embraced and built on policies introduced during the previous Conservative (Tory) administrations of Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher (1979-90) and John Major (1990-97). Central to the strategy of Thatcher's government had been the policy of "Privatisation" -- the wholesale selling off to private companies of nationalized or publicly-owned industries and utilities, coupled with the dismemberment of sections of the public services. Private companies invited to run these newly acquired services would shift the emphasis from concerns for public welfare to the imperatives of finance, management and profitability. Whilst this was driven largely by the ideologically motivated neo-liberal monetarist policies of economists like Milton Friedman, their successful introduction into Britain required the political defeat of the longstanding adherence to "welfarism" and the "Welfare State" -- a concept that certain fields of economic and social activity should be informed by a desire to address people’s needs rather than notions of profitability and efficiency defined in narrow capitalist economic terms. This was especially true in the arena of Education.
To download the full article which is contained in Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies Volume 5, Number 1 (May 2007) ISSN 1740-2743 and will be a chapter within a forthcoming book Click Here

Now using the word "socialism," even in relation to England, is enough to give PBS staffers the jitters. So let's note a conservative news source because, on PBS, conservative translates as "center," Toby Helm and George Jones (Telegraph of London) reported this month on Gordon Brown's assertion that Blair did not provide "a 'world class' education system," characterizing "numeracy rates among young children as 'unacceptable' and declaring "It is unacceptable that we still have 150,000 children leaving primary school who aren't numerate." Rather a strong charge from Blair's heir-to-be. But hey, a pompous asshole intoned (in repeated narration) that Blair was an education success, so who should question off camera voices?

The special also offered a rather feel good and hazy look at Blair and his wife Cherie Booth's religion. We've never addressed their religion here nor has any community site because we haven't wanted to engage in the cheap shots that some feel their religion calls for. But if PBS thinks their religion is a topic, shouldn't viewers be informed of what those beliefs are because it wouldn't strike all American Christians as any strand of Christianity they're familiar with?

For instance, we don't think all American Christians would see "baptism" in what's described by Nick Cohen (Guardian of London):

During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.

Instead of exploring this or many other public examples, viewers are offered a flunky Pip exclaiming that Mr. Blair reads the Bible!

That tax payer money went to this crap may be the most offensive thing about the 'documentary.' In 120 minutes, The Blair Decade offered nothing of value other than announcing there's a new Leni Riefenstahl in the global village and their names are Anne Lapping, Rob Coldstream, Sally Brindle, Stephen Segaller and Paul Mitchell. They avoided interviewing anyone who didn't work for or with Blair, they avoided interviewing anyone who could provide context. They weren't interested in context and if any viewer questions that point, listen to the narrator declare at the end that Blair made England better in one of the most laughable uses of word choice you should ever hear in an alleged independent documentary.

We were assured that there were other offerings worth viewing. "Charlie Rose really isn't that bad," we were told. So we waded in.

First, community newsletter Hilda's Mix is for all members but exists to serve the disabled members. As Hilda asked two weeks ago, where does PBS get off taking government funds and not providing transcripts of the programs online?

Some do. But Charlie Rose doesn't. PBS is supposed to be public television. Presumably it's now public website. Transcripts need to be made available. Americans who are deaf or have hearing disabilities see their taxes go towards the vast crapland that is PBS the same as anyone else. So PBS needs to get off it's lazy ass and start offering transcripts online. Hilda discovered that not all programs do when she caught the tail end of Charlie Rose three weeks ago. She questioned a point a guest was in the middle of making when she flipped on her television. Curious to see what the point actually was, she visited the Charlie Rose website. There was no transcript option. (There is none, we've checked.) Video was offered. Fine, Hilda thought, she'll read the closed captioning as she does when she watches over the TV. There was no closed captioning offered in the video.

Let's be clear, PBS serves the center-right. It's supposed to serve all Americans, but it only serves the center-right. We'll back that up shortly but for now let's note that our critique (and the millions of others -- see Robert Parry for one strong example) will be dismissed as a 'judgement call' (and PBS apparently lacks the critical ability to evaluate). That's fine, we really don't give a damn. We think PBS reveals itself to larger and larger numbers of viewers (and former viewers) each year. What's not fine, what makes our blood boil, is that created under a mandate for diversity PBS thinks they can get away without serving Americans who are hard of hearing, deaf or hearing disabled. That doesn't fly with us. And it shouldn't take us noting the fact that Charlie Rose (and every other public affairs program) should be required to post transcripts to serve all communities.

So we caught Charlie Rose and he wasn't as remembered at all. No, he was much worse. If you're a 'name,' the way to speak on Charlie Rose is to continue talking. He will eventually shut up and let you make your point. If you're not a name, as a set designer found out, he'll keep talking over you the entire time. He's fond of beginning his attempts to interrupt a guest by looking down at the table between him and the guest. When the guest is Lee Iacocca, the guest can continue talking, ignoring Rose's attempt to interrupt, and eventually Rose will shut his yap. It won't happen immediately, but silence will come.

Now if you're thinking Charlie Rose's interruptions are ever intended as an attempt to clarify a point or delve into an uncomfortable question, think again. Charlie Rose just loves to hear the sound of his own voice. We had no idea the show had gotten this bad but to those talking it up, we'd suggest you try to watching it and ask yourself why an interviewer feels his own personal recollections are so important that he needs to cut off a guest in the middle of answering the previous question? Or, more importantly, why anyone should give a damn what Charlie Rose experienced to begin with?

Iacocca was on to sell one thing and Charlie was buying because PBS always buys it: big business. You saw it in The Blair Decade as they applauded the privatization of England's schools and you saw it all last week. On Charlie Rose, you saw Charlie not even try to interrupt as Lee Iacocca revealed that the next president should be a manager. "He" should, Iacocca informed, know how to handle a payroll.

Watching, we wondered if 'he' should also know how to leverage a government bailout?

"The Pride Is Back" Iacocca is against the illegal war (along with roughly 70% of America which, to Iacocca's credit, he did note). Some of the left have taken that to mean that his every thought should be recorded, puff pieces linked to. We question their long term memories (or maybe just their knowledge base) but before the next lefty rushes forward to gush over Lee, we'd suggest they sample that interview.

First off, presidents don't do payrolls. Second of all, government isn't a for-profit business (though give the right a little more elbow room and it soon will be). Clinton didn't balance the budget (he did cut down on the deficit but Social Security is not part of the national budget, it's a trust, and shouldn't be counted as a budget asset). Nor should he necessarily have. Reagan didn't. Poppy Bush didn't and Bully Boy certainly hasn't. But the business types come along to scold government over deficits and any finer points are lost as Democrats adapt the attitude of "We will balance the budget!"

What do we have to show for that over the last three decades? Clinton did cut down on the deficit. Where were the people's programs? Balancing the budget saw the safety net get chewed through. And the 'accomplishment' didn't mean Bully Boy felt the need to avoid (or justify) spending much more than the government was taking in or creating record deficits.

The reality is that government isn't a for-profit business and shouldn't conduct itself as if it was. Drop back to when Hurricane Katrina hit. If the US budget had been balanced down to the penny (it wasn't) and the federal government had no spare funds, it should have gone into debt to assist those in need because that's why government exists. There was Iacooca offering a little praise for Clinton (Bill) and the reality is the praise was worthless. Last week, in the war supplemental (SUPPLEMENTAL!), Democrats caved and gave over a $100 billion dollars for the illegal war and pork. Approximately $93 billion is to fund the illegal war. The United States, under Clinton, wasn't about to invest $93 billion more into our school systems. But Bully Boy can grab that and more for an illegal war. The point is the 'balanced budget' talk is crap and it's
past time Democrats stopped falling for it and thinking it made them appear 'responsible' or 'adult.' Government exists to meet the needs of a civil society and the only thing jumping on the 'balanced budget' bandwagon has ever done is lead to various (needed) assistance programs being cut.

Iacocca revealed that Tim Russert had just asked him if he's going to endorse Bill Richardson for president? That gossip tidbit passes for an informed discussion on Charlie Rose. He also revealed that Mitt Romney grew up in hollering distance of the Iacoccas. Listening to this and other tidbits we flashed back to earlier in the interview when Iacocca was saying that the media failed to address the real issues when discussing candidates. Iacocca should add his own name to the list of failures.

Iacocca, you hear from some lefties, is for health care! He was fuzzy on the show when it came to this issue and he appears to be for it largely because he wants to farm off Big Business' obligations. (Chrysler has a lot of retirees.) We're for health care. That doesn't mean we're for the same thing as Iacocca. We think every American should have their health care needs met by the government. Like Elaine, we believe instead of some new system (that would no doubt benefit insurance companies) being shoved through, Medicare should just be expanded to cover all Americans. Rose allowed Iacocca to drone on about Starbucks and to slam Hillary Clinton without ever asking any questions about how Iacocca would solve the healthcare crisis. (Iacocca didn't offer on his own possibly because he hadn't yet figured out how to offer a faux-folksy talking point on the subject.)

Slam Hillary? He offered that she screwed up health care. We feel that her proposal (though better than what America currently has) was a sell out but we doubt that's what Iacocca meant. But he offered that he could state clearly he wouldn't vote for Hillary. For such a supposed voice against the war, we found it strange that one failed policy attempt on healthcare over a decade prior (she could have learned from it -- we're not arguing she has, just tossing that out there) was his basis and not her public record on Iraq.

Iacocca droned on forever and that's because he's a 'name' and because he's Big Business. So Charlie Rose shut his yap in the midst of intended interruptions -- something we'd strongly suggest Rose do with all guests.

Big business is God.

That's the PBS point and it doesn't take the on air commercials to drive that home. Just watch the 'documentary' or Charlie Rose or NOW.

Would we, could we, give NOW another look? Friends begged with everying but "pretty please." So we did. We recently noted that we took a pass on re-reviewing The War At Home when a friend with the show asked, so mulitply that by 12 and you'll understand why we agreed to waste time on NOW with David Brancaccio. They get a link solely because they provide text, audio and video online which is welcoming to all online users (regardless of political persuasion). If they want kind words, they might try offering transcripts (not "Interview Excerpts") online as opposed to getting friends to call us and argue the case for them. (We are quite serious that transcripts need to be made available at all PBS public affairs shows.)

What did we get this week? As was noted at The Common Ills last week when an acquaintence of one of us (C.I.'s) e-mailed (the man doesn't know he knows C.I. from the man's Time Warner days):

NOW travels to Kenya to investigate an enterprising idea: franchising not burger and donut shops, but health services and drugs in rural Africa. American businessmen are teaming with African entrepreneurs to spread for-profit clinics around the country in the hopes of providing quality, affordable medical care to even Kenya's poorest people. But can they overcome obstacles like extreme poverty, corruption, cheaper fraudulent services, and long distances to establish a sustained solution to a chronic problem?

(For the record, NOW will not be noted at The Common Ills again unless it's broadcasting a feature on Iraq or providing must see programming -- on the latter, we'll get to that in a bit.)

Save us, Big Business, save us!

It was more worshipping of Big Business and at some point maybe one of these shows can address not only corporate welfare but the ever declining share of taxes corporations pay (while the taxes on individuals continues to climb)?

What stood out the most to us wasn't the Big Business glorification. (We'd already warned you where Brancaccio hailed from and what he's interested in.) What stood out, what alarmed us in fact, was that the rush to praise Big Business was so great that PBS was willing to humiliate a woman.

That's what appeared to happen. A woman visiting a clinic was put on air. She didn't speak to the camera, she didn't appear to want to be on camera. She was discussed -- by Branciccio and her doctor -- and we thought it was rather disgusting that, so eager to sell Big Business is PBS, they would humiliate a poverty stricken woman. But that appears to be exactly what they did.

[Added: This went up an hour ago and we've already received one phone call from a friend at PBS disputing this point. We asked ___ what we'll point out now: Is PBS authorized to reveal medical conditions? The poverty stricken women has malaria. We know that not because she shared it -- she avoided speaking and she obviously didn't even want to be on camera. We know that because the doctor and Brancaccio discussed it. If Big Business thinks 'medical ethics' means "We pay for it so we can disclose whatever the hell we want," we'd suggest someone call the AMA immediately. We'd also suggest that dishing on whether or not the woman will pay her bill crossed a serious line. ___ agreed that maybe we had a point. We'd say the "maybe" in that sentence was unnecessary.]

Washington Week? One friend working the phones (repeatedly) in the last weeks offered, "You can get in another Gwen Ifell zinger! You know you want to." Well far be it from us to pass up an easy punchline. Click here for video archives and click here for transcripts (the show that began airing Friday in some markets will post its transcript on Monday). Now maybe it's the fact that Washington Week, online, serves the fully physical capable community, the hearing disabled community and the sight disabled community (video also offers audio -- something many couples in this community with a blind partner appreciate), but we didn't feel the need for a Gwen Ifell joke.

What stood out the most from the half-hour chat and chew was Linda Robinson who writes for US News & World Reports. She'd just returned from Baghdad again (the Green Zone) and she wanted viewers to know she'd spoken to many average Iraqis. The fact that this took place (she's been to Baghdad at least five times prior) was apparently so momumental that she had to stress it repeatedly. She then went on to quote . . . Iraqis? David Petraeus tells us that US troops can't leave Iraq. We were confused. Not that he'd be on board with the Bully Boy but we weren't aware he was Iraqi. Imagaine that, Bully Boy's turned over the US military to Iraqi leadership. Who knew?

The reality is that Petraeus is an American. The reality is that for all of Robinson's useless chatter that she'd spoken to average Iraqis, and knew what they wanted, when it was time to actually quote, she turned the US military. Well, that no doubt makes those heavily guarded visits a little more comfortable for Robinson . . . even if it fails to informs Americans.

We finished our PBS journey with Bill Moyers Journal which featured the amazing Maxine Hong-Kingston for the hour. (Moyers provides transcripts, audio and video. Whatever else, right or wrong, his site fulfills the mandate for diversity.) In February (see "TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste") we noted, "Ourselves, we'd love to see a guest spot by Gloria Steinem, Maxine Hong-Kingston or Robin Morgan where the women are gathered and questions about identity and wants and needs are explored." That came closest to being explored on Moyers' program. (And note to NOW, that sort of thing, Iraq related or not, would get attention from this community.) Hong-Kingston was on to discuss issues of war and peace and the workshops that produced Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, published by Koa Books (noted many times at this site but for an excerpt see " Editorial: The importance of supporting the war resistance" from last October). As Laura Flanders (whose program RadioNation with Laura Flanders begins broadcasting Sundays at one pm EST starting today) has rightly noted, the media leaves women out of the discussions of the Iraq war so we will give Moyers credit for having on Hong-Kingston when there were many other ways to go. The way he went produced what should be an Emmy nominated program. If it's already aired in your market visit Bill Moyers Journal and you can read, watch or listen to what was an amazing hour of broadcast televsion.

So that's one out of five programs and for those "The glass is one-fifth full!" types, we'd suggest you watch the 'special' on Memorial Day if you still can't absorb what a crapland PBS has become. You'll get hacktor Gary Sinise (whose water Bob Herbert was carrying not all that long ago), you'll get Natalie Cole (because Lake Tahoe was booked?) and you'll get Diane Wiest (because when Dick Wolf fires you, what else is left but public television?). You'll get a lot of pomp and crap-umstance meant to make your skin glow over the death toll in Iraq. Ourselves, we prefer Carly Simon's take on Memorial Day:

And how the valley smoked
As he crossed Route 25
With his cymbals and his shattered crown
Leaving all alone
His eyes fixed on the ground
And he didn't even turn around
So strong was the message
And he fell into the shallow sky
And was swallowed
Well they bellowed
And they hollered
And they threw each other down
Down in this valley
This cruel and lovely valley
Well it should have been an alley
In some low down part of town
-- "Memorial Day," words & music by Carly Simon, off 1979's Spy


Note: Wally and Cedric coined the phrase "Secretary of State and Anger" as applied to Condi Rice.

Chrissy Explains It All (finally)


"Daddy Wasn't There" Mike Myers (as Austin Powers) sang to comic effect in Goldmember. Christoper Phelps offers his own pathetic version on page 28 of The Nation's June 4, 2007 issue (no link, we don't link to trash). Phelps is responding to comments on his April 16th article "The New SDS" (ibid). In what was no doubt intended to be an 'end of story' moment, that would shut down his many critics, Phelps declares:

I am, at 41, much younger than those SDS veterans who still chafe at Weather's arrogance and adventurism, but they have my empathy. The implosion of the 1960s left, its failure to build durable institutions, was a tragedy felt acutely by those of who came of age on the left during the barren Reagan years. Perhaps a new generation's choice of the name SDS, for all its many upsides, inevitably invited Weather questions, given the way the first SDS was wrecked.

Oh the drama! Oh the melodrama!

Bernardine Dohrn done wrecked the family Dodge and spoiled the outings for all the young 'uns to come! Who knew?

Phelps is the misogynist of melodrama and demonstrates this with his need to blame Dohrn (see his original article as well as his reply to critiques of it) and his use of such terms as "barren."

Let's walk through slowly because the likes of Toad have allowed a lot of lies to enter the left's dialogue. SDS as a starting point is historically blind but let's grab it because 41-year-old Phelps is so confused about the "60s" that we fear going back further would cause his half-baked mind to burn out completely. (Penelope Rosemont wrote in to The Nation to note the roots in SLID though no one, including Phelps, explored SNCC.)

SDS did end. It's a nice little excuse to pin that on Dohrn (as Phelps does), it's just not reality. Toad needs to step up to the plate (along with a lot of others) and take responsibility for the destruction as well. Three participating in the writing of this feature know (and despise) Toad. They remember those days, those days when SDS was fighting that struggle for 'equality' and truth and justice. They remember Toad and his many brethren expecting the women in SDS to fetch the coffee, type the memos and, let's be honest, put out because what could be as impressive as the likes of Toad nude?

SDS (which we support in its original form and in today's version) was not the utopia that males like Toad like to remember. In fact, women in SDS were generally at the forefront of the feminist movement that followed and one reason for that was the rampant sexism on the part of many (though not all) men in SDS. Not knowing that reality (or ignoring it) doesn't make it go away.

SDS, as its enshrined in nostalgia, is a curious yellowed photograph which, on a good day, might include a Sandra (Casey) Cason or an Andrea Cousins among the men but, on most days, was all male.

Toad likes to lie that Weather Underground destroyed SDS and, like Phelps, he loves to pin the blame on a woman -- Bernardine Dohrn. Now let's not take anything away from Dohrn who is, and was, a powerful thinker and a strong speaker.

But at some point, as all this Blame Bernardine nonsense continues to perculate, might some hearing it (who didn't live through it) start to marvel over the all powerful Dohrn?

That's what the lie really calls for. You have to believe that SDS was utopia (however you define it) and all was well and good until, like Athena, springing to life fully formed, Bernardine showed up and tempted someone (Bill Ayers?) with an apple leading to SDS being forced out of the garden.

Now let's note, The Nation wasn't overly interested in the student left in the '60s' -- more interested than they are today, but not overly. Among political weeklies, The New Republic did a much better job charting and covering the student left back then. So it's not surprising that the lies would spring up in The Nation today when it's run by someone who really doesn't know 'the 60s' and, due to her tendency to print one woman for approximately every four males, probably is not overly bothered by the sexism involved in Blame Bernardine.

Whatever the reason, this nonsense is what would have been called a "cop out" in 'the 60s.' It's not reality. And in all of Toad's nonsense letters to young activists, he never cops to his own sexism or that of SDS. How nice for him (and his stated beliefs opposed to 'special interests' -- translates as any issue that goes beyond White male) that Bernadine exists to push his own blame off on.

But women of a certain age can tell you all about it and so can some men.

The lie? It tells you that SDS was chug-chugging along, making radical strides, and then along came Bernardine.

Now just think about that for a moment. One woman did all of that? Even Eve required the serpent! So maybe we should see this immense fear of the female as some sort of progress?

But here's reality, SDS was in shambles for a number of reasons. When Dohrn and others formed Weather (we always refer to it as Weather Underground and think the earlier name was as sexist as anything coming out of SDS -- and a tip off that a woman was not, from the start, steering every turn), they were in Weather.

At that moment, there was nothing to prevent the supposedly strong and solid SDS from picking up the pieces and carrying on. It's as though Disney Land shut down tomorrow and was then blamed for Magic Mountain also shutting down a week later. SDS had too many internal problems including the refusal of some 'leaders' to address the very real issue of sexism which they bristled at even more than when racism was brought up. The refusal killed SDS.

Dohrn was, and is, an exciting figure, a powerful thinker and speaker, but one person (or, and this does matter, one woman) can't destroy an entire organization. Only an organization can destroy itself (the destruction was aided by the government, a factor Phelps either ignores or is ignorant of). SDS was historical but it allowed its history to tie it to the past and that's what destroyed it in 'the 60s.'

Toad can rewrite it anyway he wants and, not surprisingly, many provide him an outlet to do so.

Bash the Bitch is a national past time so it's no surprise that late to the party Chris Phelps wants to partake as well.

For Phelps, the biggest crime Dohrn and others committed in 'the 60s' was the "the barren Reagan years" he had to live through. Damn you, Bernardine, for all those installments of "America held hostage Day" whatever that you hosted on Nightline! Damn you, Bernardine, for seizing control of all those daily newspapers and penning those endorsements of Ronnie Ray-gun! Damn you, Bernardine, for the death of investigative reporting and the enshrinement of stenography! But most of all, damn you, Bernadine, for the fact that Young Phelps couldn't get off his lazy ass and do anything but instead had to live through a "barren" time!

We have no idea where Phelps went to college (we do wonder if he wore a rubber red nose on his campus), but we do know, in the 80s, one of the biggest issues was South Africa and we do know many student activists actively fought college administrations and the White House over their backing of a racist regime. There were other movements as well but that's the one that stands out most and we don't find it "barren" but possibly Phelps is White?

That would, after all, explain a great deal.

We also know that as tough as it may be in any era to get active and out in the streets, each generation ultimately bears the responsibility for its own actions or inactions. So if Phelps feels he spent the 80s missing his period, we'd suggest he examine what he was or wasn't doing during his monthly cycles as opposed to fretting over what happened in 'the 60s.'

We'd further suggest that his ignorance is aided by a magazine that refused to offer historical examples of wire tapping and spying on American citizens when The New York Times revealed that the Bully Boy was doing just that. Alone among big indy media was Democracy Now! which probed, and gave context to, an earlier time when that was the norm. A lot is expected of Amy Goodman and that may be because of the fact that, time and again, she has delivered.

The Nation not only elected to sit it out they elected to praise Mark Felt when Bob Woodward identified him as the sole source known as Deep Throat (remember that when Woody needs to sell more books and suddenly 'remembers' other sources). William Greider's "Lies, Guts & Deep Throat" was such a valentine ("heroic") to the man that Greider couldn't even note that the abuses Felt allegedly informed Woodward of were the sort of abuses Felt regularly oversaw (when not attempting to swipe the panties of Jennifer Dohrn). Only after the love-in for Felt had been repeatedly staged could Dan Berger be allowed to tell the truth about Felt (and, strangely, only online -- no one at The Nation thought it was worth sharing with print subscribers or purchasers of the magazine). Though Juan Gonzalez lived through that time period (and had no desire to 'celebrate' Mark Felt), Amy Goodman is too young to make the same claim and, like many who know the realities of that time period, she didn't learn of it from the pages of The Nation.

That may be the most amazing thing about Phelps nonsense. The same magazine that elected to toss roses in Felt's path, elects to demonize Dohrn and can't even stop for one moment to speak of the many laws the government broke in their efforts to break up SDS (and other movements) and to persecute Dorhn. If Dorhn were the criminal the government tarred her as, don't you think she'd be behind bars right now?

The reality is Dohrn was a movement leader and that's her real 'crime.' It was her crime in the eyes of an out of control US government (which included Felt) and it's her 'crime' in the eyes of Little Phelps who just knows he would have had his menses if only Dohrn hadn't screwed the entire movement up. (When Dohrn and others broke off in 1969, nothing prevented SDS from reforming but SDS' own internal problems.)

Joni Mitchell rightly noted (in "Dog Eat Dog") that "you get witch hunts and wars when church and state hold hands." What do you get when a supposed independent magazine holds hands with the Council of Foreign Relations? You get Christopher Phelps. You get valentines for Felt and raspberries for Dohrn. What you should be getting are some serious questions about the directions of The Nation because that magazine is a mess and an embarrassment. From the failure to feature female writers in an equal ratio to male writers, to the idea that they've worked so hard that they can 'take it easy' and forget about Iraq, through their nonstop promotion of the publisher's friends and organizations, it's not being run like a political weekly for the left. It is being run like The Palm Beach Social Pictorial and, for any unfamiliar with the publication, that is not a compliment.

[Those needing some reality in their print periodical diet would be urged to read Doug Viehmeyer's "Steppin’ It Up: The New SDS" which LeftTurn published before The Nation -- some see Phelps' lousy article as a response to Viehmeyer's piece which wouldn't be surprising since The Nation can give shout outs to 'sister publications' but not only avoids doing so to LeftTurn, also avoided doing so to Clamor. The Nation really feels the need to play big bully on the block.]

Still sad after all these months


Back on March 25th, we asked the non-musical question: Is anyone sadder than David Sirota?

Last week provided a definite answer: Yes. And his name is David Sirota.

Oh, it's not the David Sirota who saw conspiracies afoot, the David Sirota who (unintentionally) slimed US Rep Lynn Woolsey by suggesting anyone who said that amendments would not be allowed to the Pelosi measure was nuts. (In fairness, nuts or people who just need something to complain about.) It's a new kind of Sirota. And it's actually sadder than Sirota 1.o.

For the record, we never got so many e-mails from independent media 'names' as we did when we called out Sirota. We think that's partly due to his faux populism and also because who else was calling him out? Howard Zinn wrote a powerful, amazing piece and it laid it all out precisely. So imagine our shock and sadness when one writer (for a publication we like so we'll not name it this time) attempted to offer the kind of 'balance' The New York Times traffics in and offered that both Sirota and Zinn were right and wrong. No, dear, they weren't both wrong and they weren't both right. Zinn was right, Sirota was wrong. Quit trying to have it both ways (and do it again and we'll call you and the magazine on its shit loudly and clearly).

That's the way it worked. Zinn, one of the most respected voices of our times, one of the most passionate, powerful and thoughtful poured his heart into an essay that cut straight to the heart of the matter and publicly independent media either ignored it or tried to play "Well, they're both right!" (Publicly. In e-mails to this site, there was no such waffling.) Who the hell is David Sirota that so many appear to live in fear of him?

We don't run scared. We had no problem that the campaign he praised for tricking voters into thinking a progressive candidate wasn't that progressive was a campaign that he failed to note he worked on. We had no problem calling out that shit for what it was, an effort to put one over on the voters and then to brag about it.

The Pelosi measure (in March) was laughable but everyone and their dog (and its fleas) were telling you it meant troops home! It didn't. It was nonbinding and toothless. (One of the many points Zinn had no trouble powerfully calling attention to.) But while Sirota was screaming "conspiracy!" and distorting reality, he rushed to caution:

Say the binding anti-war language gets eliminated or weakened to allow the President to get out of it. That is a possibility. But it does not negate my position that progressives should vote "yes" because remember - if that happens, then we have a chance to stop it by voting down the conference report because the conference report (aka. the final bill) comes back for a final vote before being sent to the President's desk.

As we asked then, "We"? Sirota's not serving in Congress and has never been elected to it. (He's a toilet scrubber. If he learns to be a good house pet, he can do task for years, otherwise he'll be out within six.)

As he realized too late, his faux populism was hanging out, he quickly pulled up his pants and spent the next several weeks attempting to shore up those faux roots in column after column. Last week came the Democratic Cave. (Actually Cave II: The Sequel.)

And where was Sad Sirota? Was he arguing that the Democrats should have been forced to come out (in March) with a bill much stronger than was provided so something would be left after the expected compromise? No, he wasn't. The Common Ills argued that and curiously so did The Notion shortly afterwards. "Curiously" not due to the similar strand of thought (which no one owns a patent on) but "curiously" because The Nation actually elected to sit it out when the Dems caved in March (John Nichols was an exception). But all the sudden, The Notion had an opinion! Even more "curious" when you consider the weak ass editorial The Nation ran on Cave I: We Sell Out The People. (In the May 21st issue, in an unsigned editorial entitled "Showdown on the War" -- they love their manly titles -- the magazine was firmly behind the weak ass Pelosi and Reid measures and declaring, "In the face of crude and dishonest Administration-driven attacks, Pelosi and Reid must not back down. To blink now would put Democratic leaders on a road to future admissions of a mistake as serious as Gephardt's -- ane every" blah blah blah. It was too much then for them to call it out. So glad they showed up after the fact with the courage momentarily intact.)

We really don't demand a hair shirt, honest. But as Carly Simon once sang, "What about some good old dishonest modesty?" (Another Passenger.) Sirota seemed to have learned a lesson even as everyone attempted to look the other way while his faux populism stuck out of his fly. Maybe his attempts at remarketing weren't false? Maybe he realized how far from populism he was?

We'd give the benefit of the doubt were it not for last week's nonsense. While we didn't expect to see Sirota give himself a public flogging, we also didn't expect to see him jerking off in the public square while he talked dirty to himself: "Now, though, it seems at least some major news organizations have caught on that I was exactly right." Oh please.

"Shower the people you love with love" translates to Sirota as some form of "I Sing the Body Electric." And it's sure not pretty. In that column posted May 25th, he concludes:

This is what we're dealing with folks. A party that runs to the press to brag about the brilliance of using their majority not to end the war, but to create a situation that makes it seem as if they oppose the war, while actually helping Republicans continue it.

Well lots of "folks" knew that back in March back when Sirota was the first to run and brag over the Democrats not using their majority to end the war. That's all the Pelsoi and Reid measures did -- not end the war. To cite only one example, by declaring every US service member in Iraq "military police," Bully Boy didn't have to bring even one service member back to the United States. There was nothing in those measures that enforced troop withdrawal. What was in the measures, what, in fact, was still in what passed last week and was signed by the Bully Boy was a call for the privatization of Iraq's oil. If you're wondering why Sirota didn't brag about being "exactly right" about that, it's because he's never addressed it. He knows damn well what was in last week's bill and what was in the Pelosi and Reid measures. He was just too busy in March essaying the role of Party Hack to tell anyone about that.

In fairness, he may also have failed to note it because he appears to have as big an oil lust as the administration as evidenced by his personal war on Hugo Chavez. Or maybe just too busy attempting to pass himself off as Lloyd in Say Anything? He strikes us more as Joe but let him self-cast as he may. We do feel Say Anything would be a great title for a documentary on Sirota.

He was "exactly right"? Well Judith Miller has argued she was "proved f*cking right" and the world does need more laughs.

It also needs reality. All the posers pretending last March, slice yourselves off a piece of the Blame Pie, you've earned it. And be sure to leave a slice for Sirota.

I don't want to bum it all

But this axe, she's got to fall

Even it, come on, even it, even it up.

-- Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Sue Ennis (then going by "Susan"), "Even It Up," first appears on Heart's Bebe le Strange.



As usual, Ty has selected several questions and comments that have popped up in e-mails. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Wally of The Daily Jot

Brody e-mails that he's really unhappy with C.I.'s "lack of response" to BlueDogYouDog last mailbag.

Ty: I'm grabbing this because I really don't want to waste the one e-mail C.I. may respond to on this. C.I.'s attitude was "I've had my say, have your say." When the questions were being discussed, because they were supposed to go into a roundtable but had been scrapped due to time limits, Dona said we should make time for it, Jess, who was looking over the questions with Dona, said he was going to respond one. At that point, the question was which one? It was obvious that the question would be responded to here by several and C.I.'s contribution was to ask, "Did that come in from somebody named BlueDogYouDog?" Yes. And he e-mails the public account for The Common Ills all the time on everything under the sun. C.I., Jess and Ava have all responded to him at one time or another and it makes no difference. He will, as Jess remembers, argue something as ridiculous as what countries border Iraq and when, as Jess did, he's sent a link to a map of the region, he will still insist that the map is wrong.

Jess: He believes Israel and Iraq share a border in southern Iraq.

Ty: So C.I. wasn't going to comment to begin with to BlueDogYouDog. If others hadn't announced ahead of time that they would be commenting, and Ava planned to but she just got mad that we were even addressing a "drip," C.I. may or may not have commented. A number did e-mail about that, Brody was the only one offended.

Margaret wrote to say she was completely unaware that someone named Greg Behrendt had a talk show until she read "TV: The 'boys' are back in town." She writes: "Having suffered, BIG, to find out what you two were talking about, I had to suffer some annoying woman who wouldn't shut up and stop distorting guests' words. Who was that loon? Loved the review, hated, hated, hated that talk show."

Ava: The loon is Stacy Kaiser and she also dispenses garbage on Tyra Banks' talk show. We almost worked in her into this TV week commentary because, like Charlie Rose, she really doesn't want to listen. She's always rushing in before a guest can finish a statement to tell them what they think or what they would have said or whatever else her non-psychiatric and non-psychologist mind thinks. She has a BA and an MA. She has no doctorate. She's licensed and, watching her theatrics, you have to wonder if it's LCDC?

Betty, not our own Betty, e-mailed that she's a Green like Jess and wondered if there were any problems discussing politics with the others since Jess is the only Green?

Jess: No. Betty might have some, might not, because people get worked up, wrongly, over a Ralph Nader vote in 2000. Nader didn't cost Gore the election and fortunately, no one involved in these editions would ever be stupid enough to make that suggestion. This site has a lot of help, for which we are grateful, but the core is Jim, Dona, Ty, Ava, C.I. and myself. When this site started, Jim, Ty and me were already roommates, they already knew I was a Green. It didn't even have a novelty effect at that point. Ava and I are a couple and it's honestly never come up as any sort of disagreement. It usually only comes up, since we all moved out west, in terms of, "Isn't their some Green activity you should be working on?" That's not sarcasm, by the way. Just her worrying that I'm not down at a party headquarters due to her or something. Dona and C.I. didn't know I was a Green until we started this site and it's never been a problem. In terms of everyone helping, I'm not trying to make any converts but I do think Elaine will end up a Green by 2008. When Rebecca was voting in 2006, she did come to me asking about Green candidates and I hooked her up with my mother who knows that area better than I do. Wally and Cedric are die hard Democrats but we've never had a problem. Betty has noted, our Betty that she's got a soft spot for Bill Clinton and if I ever temper my statements for anyone, it's her, not that she's ever asked me to. Kat says she's a Democrat but I bet if we had a camera in the voting booth, we'd find out otherwise, at least on local races. And that just leaves Mike who I've never had a problem with but who does want to speak.

Mike: Yeah, I just wanted to add that I actually was stupid enough at one point to blame Ralph Nader's campaign and the people who voted for him for the 2000 election. That was before I started helping out here. When I said I'd be willing and happy to do so, C.I. started talking to me about Nader and sending me various things. I could be wrong, but I think that was to help me avoid embarrassing myself and also to make sure I wasn't getting into it with Jess. As someone who did believe that nonsense, I want to pass on to the Betty that e-mailed that if her friends do, she needs to realize that it's something that's repeated on a lot of left and supposed left talk shows and at a lot of left and supposed left websites. A few years back, I believed it completely. So, if she's willing to try, she might be able to educate her friends if any of them believe the nonsense.

Larry wrote in to note that "once upon a time" we did "The Third Estate Sunday Review News Review" where we would cover various topics and we would include sports in that. Now, there's never any sports talk at all except for Wally, Jim and Mike riffing on it recently. He wants the news review brought back.

Jim: You know, Larry, I would agree with you but Dona would make me sleep on the floor. Seriously, those were a lot of fun but they just took way too much time. The whole point of it, and it may have been Dona's idea, I don't remember now, was to do a 'transcript' piece. We'd do our news review in one hour and whatever made it made it and what didn't, didn't. It was a way to have a piece that we could complete in basically one hour. We'd start basically 15 minutes before we ticked off the hour. Everyone would have a topic --

Dona: Except C.I.

Jim: Right. Everyone else would have a topic. The first one done before the ticking off of the hour would be the one speaking with C.I. While that was going on, Dona and I would be helping the others. We'd be figuring out who was ready to go next and it was fun and a way for journalism majors to play out the realities of a live broadcast. But what happened was that we weren't getting done in an hour or, if we were, a lot of people who worked really hard would find out that their part got cut down or they were cut completely. What I liked best, along with us being able to cover sports, was the interplay between Cedric and C.I. The first time Cedric elected to do that, we were all thinking, "What? He sounds like a conservative? What's going on?" C.I. got, right away, that Cedric was using humor to make a point and I always enjoyed the way those bits unfolded.

Dona: I'll just add that along with being time consuming it wasn't fair. Ava and C.I. are the ones who get stuck note taking. Ava was having to prepare for her 'segment' and take notes during the process, C.I. was having to 'anchor' and take notes in the process. It was too much work right there. I also enjoyed Cedric and C.I.'s interplay and thought it was a great way to show off Betty's talents. I think Betty, the way we know and love her, really came through in the news review. Time and again, when the next person wasn't ready, we could ask C.I. to stretch and C.I. and Betty could, and did, stretch. Reading over those things, and I have, it flows naturally and you have no idea that either Jim or I was screaming in C.I.'s ear, "Stretch, we're not ready! Stretch!" I should also note that C.I. hated being 'anchor,' didn't want to be 'anchor' and begged for each and everyone else to be it. No one wanted to. The 'anchor' never knew anything ahead of time but a single sentence such as "Jess is going to talk about a peace march in DC." We need someone informed with a broad base of knowledge and the best choice for that was C.I. If Larry or anyone reads over those at any point, please register that C.I.'s questions, introductions, etc. are all coming from C.I. off the top of the head. There was no prep work for 'the anchor' and C.I. was usually in the dark completely about what might be coming up other than something as broad as "Ava's going to talk about Puerto Rico."

Betty: I'll jump in quickly to note a thank you to Dona for her kind words. I'll also add that during those stretch periods, C.I. would always think of a comment or question about something I'd almost included in my report but had decided to leave out. It would have been very easy to toss out something I knew nothing about so I was always grateful the questions would follow up on what I'd been talking about.

Ty: I think Cedric should talk about it like Betty's doing. We heard Jim and Dona's opinion but they were acting as 'producers.'

Cedric: Sure. Betty usually came in closer to the end. And that was because they knew Betty and C.I. could stretch so well. At the end, if you were one of the last ones going at the end, you weren't just figuring out your report and preparing it, you had Dona and/or Jim telling you exactly how much time you had, it might just be two minutes, and timing you to make sure you could do it in that time. Most of the time, Jess opened because he was usually talking about something he already knew about -- a protest or a rally. So he didn't need to do a great deal of research and was ready quickly. Betty, Ty and I also did humor reenactments and play-lettes in those. After we'd done that a few times, I decided to go for a more comic thing. At that point, I was going right after Jess. That was because while Jess was talking to C.I., Dona and Jim would be asking, "Who's ready? Who's ready?" And everyone was still researching. I remember one time they were wanting to toss Mike upfront and he was covering sports and kept explaining that one of the games he was covering wasn't over yet so he couldn't go. Because it would be over when the thing posted. But if you were ready right after Jess, Dona and Jim really didn't want to hear your piece. They just wanted to know how many minutes you thought you needed and then they'd tell you that you could have that or you couldn't. I think one time I wanted seven minutes and Jim said, "No way. There are too many topics." This was one week when Kat had to go on because she and Ava had been skipped the week before because time ran out. Ava didn't care and since she's one of the people doing the site, it wasn't really an issue. But Kat, like the rest of us, is considered a guest and there was a lot of concern about the fact that Kat had done her work and time had run out.

Ava: And the week prior to that, Kat had done her work and gotten three lines. So it was three lines one week. Nothing the next.

Cedric: Right. So I just focused on what I wanted to say and would time it myself, in my head, leaving 30 seconds or so after for C.I. to make a comment. Everyone seemed to think we'd worked it out. But we didn't. C.I. just knows how to go with the flow. At the start of that, I was preparing lines. Then I took a page from C.I.'s book and just decided to go with the flow. So I'd just study my topic in the 15 minutes before we started and tell Jim or Dona, while Jess was speaking, I need four minutes or five minutes or whatever it was. After, and I've been talking too long.

Ty: No. The after's important and it's you or Jess who can talk about the after.

Cedric: Okay, after. Jess and I would usually be done at the start. That meant we were then helping others with their research. If you'd thought of the topic yourself, that was great because you knew something about it. But sometimes people wouldn't have an idea so they'd grab a suggestion and that could be rough to track down in the limited time. So even if you were 'finished,' you really weren't because you were helping look up stuff.

Kat: As someone who usually went last, I'll add that Betty was always helping me. My beat was "music." And I'd usually be attempting to pull together various things and, more often than not, it would be severely cut because time would run out. C.I. would go over for me and that was from knowing how long I'd worked, and Betty had worked, pulling the thing together. Dona would be yelling "30 seconds!" and C.I. would keep talking and asking me questions. It was a lot of rushing and, although I enjoyed it at the time, I honestly do not miss it.

Dona: I sound like such a bitch.

Kat: No. Please, most weekends the only thing that would be up at this site would be Ava and C.I.'s commentaries if you weren't there to call time. You'll play the bad guy or the grown up but no one blames you for that.

Jess: Agreed.

Mooki e-mails that Rebecca usually so front up about everything and in roundtables is usually the one to "name the elephant in the room whatever it may be." Mooki wonders if there's anything other than her baby that Rebecca's not willing to address?

Elaine: I'll grab that and let Rebecca add to it in any way she wants. Rebecca, C.I. and I all went to college together. Rebecca's not allowed to post her age. That's imposed on her by the two of us but C.I. and I have been surprised not only that she's been able to do that but also that she's managed to avoid announcing that she started college when she was 16. For the record, and this is something in real life that Rebecca has to bring up at least four times a year -- on each of our birthdays and at the end of the year -- Rebecca is two years younger than C.I. and me.

Rebecca: It's true and who knew me for a Doogie Howser! For whatever reason, I was an expert speller in elementary. So much so that they sent me from third to fifth grade. I skipped fourth grade completely. In eighth grade, I was taking freshman algebra and other courses at the high school and had to go back and forth each school day. It would have made more sense to have me in eighth grade or to have me in ninth. Instead, when I officially was in high school, they started me out at tenth grade. I developed early and . . . rather well, if I do say so. It was no problem keeping quiet about that online because when Elaine and C.I. found out in college, I begged them not to tell anyone. I was already considered an airhead and didn't need to add "child" to the list. In terms of other things, I don't know. Nothing comes to mind that I would censor myself for. Earlier, there would have been a long list, I'm sure. These days, who cares? Other than my child, who cares?

Satchel e-mailed about how so many help out each edition and wondered "why they bother and what's in it for them?"

Dona: That should probably go the ones who help out only and Wally's not spoken yet so he should start.

Wally: A big weekly check! I'm joking. It's fun. I like everyone working on these editions. At one point early on, Jess and Jim were both telling me, "You don't have to help out each weekend." And to be honest, I had lost my cell phone and was stuck with that bill and a new bill for a brief time so I was pretty cash strapped. This was a way to have fun on the weekend, when minutes are free, and not worry about spending any money. That's not an issue now so it's just for the fun and just for being able to look at something we all worked on and know I had a hand in it. Or at least a finger or thumb! But, everybody likes each other. We're all looking forward to getting together this summer. The conversation between working on pieces are a lot of fun and so is arguing for your point of view or your points when we're working on them. When there's a piece that someone really responds to, Ty will forward the e-mail to everyone who worked on it and there have been a lot of really great e-mails that have really made me proud to have worked on something. Even if I just contributed a thumb.

Mike: Yeah, what Wally said. I get great e-mails but nothing like what my mother who does Trina's Kitchen, link please so I don't hear about it from my brothers, or what comes in for stuff we all work on here. I love my e-mails so don't get me wrong. And I'm not doing at my site what we do here. So I'm not complaining and couldn't if I wanted to but when Ty sends something that gets a response, this really deep thing, it does mean a lot.

Betty: Absolutely. Like Mike, I don't do, at my site, what we do here and it is really is something to read those forwards and know something had an impact. Especially if the person's writing went through or is going through the topic we wrote about, either themselves or due to a family member.

Jim: Good point. And Betty, you were done right?

Betty: Yes.

Jim: Okay, Dona's saying we need to wrap up and just to drop back quickly to statements about those who are a part of the site and those who help. First, Dallas always helps but never wants to jump in. The only time we've gotten Dallas on record for anything was when C.I. surprised him during a "Third Estate Sunday Review News Review" to get a rundown of the area that some Hurricane Katrina evacuees were being house in because Dallas knew the layout of the town. But Dallas helps on everything. Also, we need to note that only two people have worked on every edition since the start of the site, Ava and C.I. Last Christmas, the rest of us who do this site took off. Ava and C.I. were the only ones from the core six participating. The Christmas before, Ava's contribution were limited to the TV commentary she and C.I. do but she did participate. They are the only the two who have participated every week -- of helpers or of the core six. And Dona just realized C.I. didn't speak so Ty's grabbed an e-mail.

Raylene writes, "I happen to like who you call the Bubble Headed Pundit and wonder if it would kill you to say something nice about her? Or can you even say anything nice about the mainstream media?"

C.I.: Ava and I came up with "The Bobble Headed Pundit" for Helene Cooper of The New York Times. We didn't call her "The Bubble Headed Pundit." Bobble head because of the way she can't stay still when on TV. As for something nice about Helene Cooper, she films lovely. Every gas bag in the world should have skin that looks so good onscreen. The only equivalent that comes to mind is Marilyn Monroe and that's not sarcasm or a hidden joke. Whatever faults she may have in my opinion, the way she films is not one of them. As for anything nice about mainstream media? How about it's provided a vocation for many who would otherwise be street criminals? Seriously, the latest issue of Business Week has an article beginning on page 57 by Brian Grow and Keith Epstein entitled "The Poverty Business" and it should be a must read for everyone but especially members of Congress. They are detailing the various schemes, lending schemes, that attack the poor and working poor. It's the May 21, 2007 issue and they are addressing everything from car loans, students loans, Blue Hippo, you name it. In print, it's eleven pages counting photos and sidebars. Again, I'd argue it's a must read.

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