Sunday, November 11, 2007

Truest statement of the week

Well, I think that was an absolutely shocking display, and I think what's most shocking about it is this idea that this is somehow a question of good government and the torture question can be belittled. I mean, what we just saw was lawmakers knowingly voting in favor of someone who has said that one of the classic modern torture techniques -- I mean, the classic torture techniques of the French in Algeria, for instance, were simulated drowning, electroshock and rape. These are the three main tools of contemporary torture. And this is a man who has said to the world that one of those key techniques, simulated drowning, water torture, is not illegal. So, with that knowledge, he was just endorsed.
And to elevate a man who has said this to the highest legal office in the country, I think, just puts everyone of those lawmakers, but particularly the Democrats who voted for him, into bold new territory. They have just crossed a line, because they can no longer pin this on Bush. They can no longer claim ignorance. Anyone who faces these techniques in the future, they will be complicit in those war crimes, in those crimes against humanity -- everybody who voted for this man.

-- Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism, on the Wednesday, November 7, 2007 broadcast of Democracy Now!

Truest statement of the week II

The initial interview was followed by others. He would tell his story on Democracy Now!, on MTV, on CNN, at Truthout, in LeftTurn, New American Media, Nichi Bei Times, and many other outlets. His mother Carolyn Ho, his father Bob Watada, his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi would appear in multiple outlets including, again, Democracy Now!, Laura Flanders' radio program, Law and Disorder, KPFK's Sojourner Truth and Uprising, KPFA's The Morning Show and Aaron Glantz's reporting on all aspects would spread the issue over all of KPFA's programming, etc. Rolling Stone magazine would put Watada on their "Honor Roll" for the 2006 year-end issue. Watada, as the first officer to resist, would garner more attention than any other Iraq War resister thus far and, in doing so, underscore several realities. Of chief interest to war resisters and those who support war resisters, the silence from The Nation magazine. Readers of the print magazine would make it through the end of the 2006 issues of the weekly 'political' and 'left' magazine without ever seeing the words "Ehren Watada" though there was plenty of time to provide glossy fluff on bad candidates (the DLC's Harold Ford being only one example) and to do 'theme' issues (such as their food issue). There just wasn't time to cover war resisters. Watada would finally make it into print in the January 8th issue (actually a double-issue but we're not going into that nonsense) where he would be called a "coward." The magazine that sat out Watada (and Abeer) throughout 2006 finally prints his name and it's in a statement calling him a coward. (No e-mails on the 'online exclusives,' they were covered long ago.) The article's a cover story (done by The Pooper) and it also contains a tiny sidebar that kind-of, sort-of tells Watada's story . . . after The Nation has already introduced him to print readers as a "coward." It was a telling event that would finally call to everyone's attention the magazine silence on war resisters under the 'leadership' of The Peace Resister. In their laughable article over the summer of 2007, they would manage to insult everyone participating (left, center and right) but the telling moment (after the fact that they wanted praise for an article which bragged of "dozens" of photos of abuse to Iraqis but printed NONE -- the photos did and do exist) would be in the way they reduced war resisters -- Camilo Mejia was a "deserter" (that call is in question since the military legally could not extend -- as they did -- Mejia's enlistment through stop-loss since Mejia was not a US citizen) but he wasn't billed as a "war resister." The coverage and non-coverage of Watada was a water-shed moment in many ways which did include instructing news consumers on who stood with and who stood far, far away. It's also worth noting that many other resisters went public in the wake of Watada: Darrell Anderson, Agustin Augyo, Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilcox, Ricky Clousing and . . . stop there. Stop there and don't continue because that's how All Things Media Big and Small, with every few exceptions, have treated 2007's crop of war resisters. Despite the fact that 2007 is set to be a record year -- according to the military's own official numbers -- for war resistance, emerging war resisters fell off the media map. James Burmeister was the strongest example. Either you followed Canadian media or you caught NOW with David Brancaccio or you didn't have a clue. Too bad for everyone because the last week of September "kill teams" (US service members setting out equpiment as traps to shoot Iraqis) would become a huge story but Burmeister was telling the story when he went public in June of 2007. Eli Israel would remain "Eli Who?" to All Things Media Big and Small despite the fact that he became the first war resister resisting publicly while stationed in Iraq. The Kamunen brothers? In These Times could find them when no one else in independent media could or would. The mainstream media showed some interest because three brothers -- Leo, Leif and Luke -- all electing to self-checkout over the same Christmas 2006 holiday was news . . . to some.Watada is big Iraq news today and yet, at The Nation, the main page features nothing. No articles (even 'online exclusives'), nothing (except a screen cap that underscores why some people shouldn't part their hair in the middle). Forget the magazine's campaign blog, look at The Notion where conventional 'wisdoms' are dispensed in the best Kooky Cokie Roberts fashion. Today's posts? Karl Rove and a right-wing event, a week long event . . . that started October 21st. Three weeks old and served up as 'fresh' 'news' today on the rag's 'real time' blog: "Rapid reaction to breaking news and unfiltered takes on politics, ethics and culture from Nation editors and contributors." Rapid reaction to breaking news? Not a word on Watada but a three week old right wing action is worth posting on today? That Karl Rove doesn't care for left blogs is 'news,' but Watada isn't? Never forget that since assuming control, Our Lady of Peace Resistance has ensured that The Nation ignores Iraq, employs her friend and exists as a promotion tool for herself (hence all those bad e-mails sent out whenever she's booked anywhere and hence the 'notion' that a screen cap of her, with bad middle part, has more 'credibility' than one of Jeremy Scahill being interviewed by Bill Moyers for his PBS show -- give her time, she'll turn it into the 'political' equivalent of Martha Stewart's Living yet.). Why does the war drag on? Look no further than the non-leadership at The Nation.

-- C.I. from Friday's "Iraq snapshot," noted by 12 readers in their e-mails to this site and included because there are two issues in the above we'll be addressing next week (time ran out this week).

Editorial: Victories for Watada and the Constitution


Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the illegal Iraq War (June, 2006), cannot be shoved into a second court-martial. That's what Judge Benjamin Settle, US District Judge, ruled Thursday.

The military bungled their court-martial in February. They called a "mistrial" over defense objections. The thinking appears to have been, "If the prosecution screws up, we can just start over."

But there's a thing called the Fifth Amendment in a document known as the Constitution and it forbids double-jeopardy.

The US military, whose service members take an oath to uphold the Constitution, wanted to argue that double-jeopary didn't apply to them.

Apparently, the US military is supposed to be extra-Constitutional.

That and other arguments worked in military courts. But when civilian Judge Settle got the appeal, he issued two stays while he reviewed the briefs and the applicable law.

On Thursday, he informed the military that they were not above the Constitution.

"The same Fifth Amendment protections," Settle found, "are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. There is a strong public interest in maintaining these rights inviolate."

Christian Hill (The Olympian) reported:

He also found that the granting of a preliminary injunction is necessary in part because Watada will "probably prevail on the merits" of his case, his ruling said.
Settle reached that conclusion largely because of what he said was the abuse of discretion by Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge who presided in Watada's first court-martial, in rejecting a so-called stipulation of fact agreed upon by the government and defense that led to the mistrial, the ruling shows.

Though not the end of the battle, this is a huge victory for Ehren Watada and for the Constitution.

If your favored outlet didn't note the finding, you need to ask them why that is?

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --

Sunday and we've got the edition up. We don't have any illustrations. Throughout the many hours working on this edition we weren't able to log into Flickr and upload new illustrations. That's the way it goes.

Here's who helped out this week:

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

Truest statement of the week -- Naomi Klein became the obvious pick on Wednesday, as Mike noted during last week. Read it and see why.

Truest statement of the week II -- 12 readers (with no organized campaign we're aware of) wanted this. We actually intended to have two pieces up dealing with topics in this quote. We're going for next weekend.

Editorial: Victories for Watada and the Constitution -- we'll return to the topic of Watada next week. In doing so, we'll address coverage and representation. This, however, boils it down to the most notable point.

TV: The drip-drip of Carpoolers -- How the hell was this up long enough to result in 22 e-mails already? What do you readers do? Wait and wait for Ava and C.I.'s latest feature to go up? If we didn't enjoy them as much as the readers do, we'd feel ignored! Seriously, this really is wonderful. One feature we may pick up next week (we will note the e-mails) is the response from last week's comments on NBC's Chuck. A number of you seem to have found a new friend with that show. Ava and C.I. aren't surprised. But they note they are holding that interview because Chuck will still be on in the spring (barring an extended writers' strike -- and we all support the writers). They encourage you to watch Monday night and don't just e-mail this site that you like the show, tell your friends to watch.

Saint Bam-Bam -- C.I. with a migraine and dead tired is very funny. There's a line in here that just popped out and had us all laughing. See if you can figure out which one. (Any reader that guesses correctly will be noted next week. I, Jim, will call Mike and tell him not to note which line it is on Monday in his post.)

The kind-of left embarrasses with age -- As we note within the article, C.I. knows Scheer and was against "hack" being used. The only condition C.I. put on it. Hack is used twice. Why? Dona asked, "Have you read this section on news organizations?" Between the concept of a free press and the reality exists a huge gulf but C.I. was raised to appreciate the idea of the press and "hack" was the only word to identify someone who worked for years on a daily paper and wants to call an opinion journal a "news organization." (We'll be dealing with the news organization next week.) Hack. Yeah, I said it. (Stealing from KPFK's Uprising.) The second time, I think we were all tired. But we agreed with it. My own personal opinion? After 70, maybe some men don't need to have their own weekly radio program, their own weekly newspaper column and their own commercial website? Maybe at 70, you need to step out of the way and let others step up? That would certainly remove a lot of the aging men who get ever more conservative with age.

Dumb ass found online by reader Lou -- Wah! cries a Hillary hater. Reader Lou found this and we thank him for it.

Cassie's got a beef -- Cassie, can you move a little to the right? Always!

To non-members and non-regular readers -- This really did tick off Elaine, the e-mail issue. She has this guy who is convinced that Noam Chomsky is responsible for every tragedy (and that apparently includes WWII war crimes). It's gotten so bad, she and Sunny hate reading the e-mails. In addition, there was something that was noted in an e-mail that she wanted to post -- from another man -- but she thought, "If I do that on this, the other guy" Chomsky hater, "will never stop e-mailing me." (The other thing was a press release, just FYI.)

November 17th, Robert, Nat and Sam Parry in Arling... --Next Saturday, November 17th, you can hear Robert, Nat and Sam Parry discuss their new book and they will take questions. The chance to pick the brain of Robert Parry? If you're in the area (Arlington), you can't pass up the chance.

Something to Remember -- Kimberly Wilder (and we're not doing links in the note -- we may come in and do some more after we get some sleep -- Ty says he'll come in and do the link tonight) found this and forwarded it to us. It should have gone into our Scheer article; however, we wanted that done and closed. By the time we found out about this one (C.I. found the e-mail), we were against going back in out of fear C.I. would water down some of the points out of "in fairness." (I'm not picking on C.I. We all know the "in fairness" instinct that kicks in.) So we included this as a stand alone. If it was from last week or even last month, we would've made it a truest statement but it's from March of this year.

From the Illinois Green Party -- Unlike Scheer, we know third parties are out there. We don't just think they have a right to run, we think they have a right to get attention for their campaigns.

Excluding Gravel -- This is the first thing we posted today. We put it up early to be sure anyone interested in the issue had a chance to catch Flanders' show. Only after Laura Flanders' show was over did we post other things. If you're interested in the topic, you should have caught the show.

Mailer -- Mike's post. If there's not a link, as one e-mailer has stated, we'll put it in later. We're trying to get to bed. And remember, Ava and C.I. hit the road again tomorrow morning. They got back on Saturday. They're back out on the road on Monday. Everyone's tired.

Highlights -- Mike, Kat, Rebecca, Betty, Elaine, Cedric and Wally wrote this and selected the highlights, we thank them for it.

Roundtable -- Ava posted this "bonus" on Saturday morning. Ava and C.I. of this site participated in the roundtable as did Betty, Kat, Ruth, Trina and Elaine (who've all helped out here) and Rebecca (ditto) moderated. We loved reading it. Two things quickly. "Parenthesis." Ava: "That's what Rebecca said. When we were finishing the typing, we pointed out it was 'quotation marks.' Rebecca said, 'Leave what I said in otherwise someone else may want to change something. I used the wrong word. Boo-hoo. I can live with it." Also the Pollitt book is Virginity or Death.

C.I.'s not sure we thanked Dallas. I'm too tired to scroll up. Dallas helps us each week. He locates links, he acts as a sound board and he does about a dozen other things. We cannot think him enough so thank you, Dallas or thank you again -- either way, you've earned it.

Wait! screams C.I. Even if we're not sure if we thanked Dallas, C.I. points out, we should have mentioned him already. Where's that feature? Not posted. In draft. We're tired. We must have hit "Save" and thought we hit "publish."

M.E. Moses -- now up. Reader Hazel had a question and wanted something written about. The Common Ills community members Dallas, Billie and Ramona (all live in Texas) were kind enough to share their memories of a five and dime chain store. We thank Dallas, Billie and Ramona as well as members we contacted in that area who had no memories of the chain.

See you next week.

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

TV: The drip-drip of Carpoolers

On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda was in a carpool and kicked out when those in her carpool realized she didn't own a car. It was a funny bit, a throw away laugh. What were comedy scraps in the seventies becomes a "premise" thirty years later and take it as a sign of why TV sucks so bad.

Carpoolers or Carpiddles or maybe just Oil Stains, airs each Wednesday on ABC's first hour of primetime following the wretched Cavemen and deciding which one is worse is a bit like trying to pick out the pretty daughter in the White House during the Johnson Administration. If forced to choose, we'd assume George Hamilton would escort Carpoolers which would it make it the Lynda Bird Johnson and not the Luci Baines Johnson of the pair. Hamilton once famously declared he would love Lynda even if she weren't the president's daughter which only makes us wonder how embarrassing the Water Cooler Set's love affair with Carpoolers will be when ABC yanks it?

The show follows four who carpool and, wouldn't you know it, they are all men. Jerry O'Connell is only the name among the four actors and he plays Laird, Fred Goss is the only one with a handle on his character (Gracen), Tim Peper recites the lines of newlywed Dougie and Jerry Minor is the only non-White adult in the show. All four are married and apparently, in an attempt to combat the vast number of African-American women starring in so many TV shows today, the ha-ha decision was made to only show his wife's feet.

The vast number of African-American women? No, we really don't see them on our TV set either but apparently as impressionable children the men behind the show -- Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, David Miner, Marsh McCall, Jose Russo, Anthony Russo and Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch -- were all forced to watch Gimme a Break! and vowed that one day they would have their revenge. Nell Harper be damned, they'd populate a show with clones of Ralph Simpson!

From Rhoda's Carlton the Doorman on through Vera on Cheers, TV sitcoms have a long history of characters who are never fully seen but are the butt of the jokes. Apparently in 2007, 'progress' is that a basically all White show can get a ton of jokes out of an African-American woman while never putting her fully on camera. Just as, apparently, Aubrey being the driver, the driver of three White men, is never supposed to call to mind any thoughts of Driving Miss Daisy.

The White woman don't fair any better in the writing. Faith Ford steals every scene she's in because she's Faith Ford. That's not an insult to Ford. We're not suggesting she's not playing a character (Leila, married to Gracen), we're just noting she's the only one with a sitcom history, she long ago learned how to get laughs when she put her days of Another World's Julia far behind her and stole the show early on during a funeral on Murphy Brown not just with lines (such as noting Murphy would be dead long before she would) and with physical comedy. There's not a lot of "physical" about the show to begin with but Ford provides comedic tension even in a scene where Leila's just staring at a toaster. Ford reminds you repeatedly that this is supposed to be a sitcom and supposed to be funny and, she's so good, that when she's onscreen, she can almost trick you into believing it lives up to those two things.

Carpoolers is another sitcom that thinks it is edgy and daring because it eschews studio audiences. It's so revolutionary! It's a one camera show! Without an audience! Without an audience refers not just to the fact that it has no studio audience, it also refers to the fact that the show really doesn't have that many tuning in. In fact the ratings have so cratered that it reached a new low last Tuesday when it finally had something to offer. But we'll get to that.

The reality is that outside of some middle-aged pathetics playing Halo and locked into stunted lives, no one really 'loves' the non-soundstage bound sitcoms. They really didn't care for them -- no, they are not new -- back in the day. The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Julia, Gilligan's Island, hate to break it to you, were also one-camera, no-studio-audiences show. If you're wondering, for instance, why you or your friends can remember lines from Friends or Seinfeld or any number of shows but largely don't remember them from the earlier run of the non-funny sitcoms, the reason is because they weren't funny. They were sometimes whimsical. But since they didn't require making an actually present at filming audience laugh, there was no need to provide laugh getting lines. It's the difference between an I Love Lucy and a The Bill Cosby Show. You've seen it all before, folks, even if the Water Cooler Set wants to impose a cultural amnesia.

And you've seen the show before. It's nothing but backlash nonsense, from episode to episode. It's as though Gloria Steinem were still streaking her hair, Cher was still part of Sonny & Cher and the feminist movement was still being billed as a "fad." That's obvious in the first episode when Gracen's pissed, miffed and mopey because wife Leila bought a toaster without asking him. "What was wrong with the old one?" he wants to know. It's not funny, it's not 'of the moment' and it's not interesting.

If you were expecting that throughout the first episode and later ones, Leila would be off buying kitchen gadgets, you were disappointed. That might have said something about her character and would certainly be cause for concern.

Instead, the concern comes in over the money (though the household is not hurting for money). The toaster cost $200! Only in a show created by seven White men could that be a plot point for a comedy. Reality check, you're paying a minimum of fifty to sixty bucks for a toaster these days that won't either die after two years of regular use or burn your house down. Yes, you can purchase one of those drug store toasters for ten or so dollars and you can repurchase it and repurchase it over and over if you are a heavy toaster user. One hundred dollars is not uncommon for toasters on a registry list (four slice). Is two hundred dollars a lot of money for a toaster?

If you're struggling to make ends meet, it is. The family is not struggling and, as the plot point leads to the main point of episode, Leila's not just earning a sizeable income, she's earning a great deal more than her husband. How much is she earning?

That's what Gracen wants to know! And Laird will find out for him! Gracen fears she makes more than him and also complains that the money set-up in the household is what he earns is their money but what she earns is her money and it's not fair, it's not fair, it's just not fair!

You're getting a nasty little peak at the insides of the men behind the camera and how much they fear women and how much they hate themselves. They don't intend to provide that but, as Freud so famously noted, the criminal has a compulsion to confess.

Were any women involved behind the camera (or any men whose soft knuckles didn't drag against the plush-carpeted floors), it's doubtful any of this nonsense would have aired (including the 'happy ending' where Leila restores Gracen's potency -- not his maturity which does not exist -- by insisting he does make more than she does -- a clear lie).

Gracen can't ask his wife how much she makes because he is obviously uncomfortable. The "their" and "her" money stems from the same thing. Leila, the same Leila who has to lie at the end just so her husband can get it up, is fully aware of that. It's obvious that "her" money was something imposed by Gracen, not insisted upon by Leila. He may not have said it in so many words but to soothe his ego the whole real esate profession was billed as a way to get some "mad money," some money to blow. Nothing that would provide -- "Infringement! Will Robinson, Infringement!" -- just something to get the hair and nail done and maybe pick up a spiffy new outfit.

Leila's talented at what she does and it pays. So she has to hide that from the already fragile ego of her husband. Of course she's buying a two hundred dollar toaster. Of course she's spending big on little items (for the house). If she did anything else, if she allowed her success to be visible in any other manner, he'd have a nervous breakdown.

A woman or a man not just emerging from the 'sixties' would have grasped that. And the show could have had a funny first episode. But no one did and the debut was lousy. The males behind the show are too busy summing up their arguments ("Men under attack!") to deal with reality and when a sitcom's not commenting on reality it's not grabbing viewers.

Had a thinking person (of either gender) been involved, the 'happy' ending could have led to some real laugh-fests in later episodes regarding Leila's attempts to continue to soothe and feed Gracen's ego or, novel concept, both characters could have been a little more honest with one another. But the men don't grasp that, they don't grasp anything, they don't grasp the times they live in.

Here's how it works. Men go off to war, and women shop.

So pompously declares Laird in the first episode which aired October 2nd. It wasn't true. It wasn't even funny. And comedy is timing. To provide the perspective the men behind the show never could, "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Seaman Apprentice Shayna Ann Schnell, 19, of Tell City, Ind., died as a result of injuries suffered from a vehicle accident. Schnell was serving as a master-at-arms assigned to Naval Security Force Bahrain, Jebel Ali Detachment, United Arab Emirates." Shanyna Ann Schnell died the day before that dopey and insulting line was broadcast on network TV. Had the US military been doing their job (their job is not to hide the deaths of US service members), that would have been news. But it was the start of the month and MNF was trying to sell the 'good' news of "lowered deaths" which is why DoD made the announcement instead (MNF is supposed to announce the deaths, DoD is only supposed to provide the names after the families have been informed of the deaths). Currently 99 women in the military have died in the illegal war. Not only is the line not funny, it's not true.

Which is the problem with the bulk of the show. It's a problem with the character of Laird as well. O'Connell had a weight problem, he famously had a weight problem, as a child. The result is a picky eater (we're being kind) who frets over his weight constantly. Well, no big deal in and of itself. But the male created, male dominated show, is convinced Laird's God, or at least TV's, physical gift to women. O'Connell's got nice hair and a nice face. But only straight and out of it men could have thought they could provide a lengthy shirtless scene of Laird (with all women going into convulsions) and have built up a joke about how he was left with only the "absercisor" (and the home) in his divorce settlement with that body. O'Connell is thin which is what he wants to be. That's not a problem. But a thin body is not in and of itself a sexy body.

Jerry O'Connell can be funny and recently was on the shpw. Sadly, the highest rated show of the series was the debut -- which wasn't that highly rated to begin with but a sure sign of a series with a problem is week after week of declining ratings. It hit an all time low last Tuesday getting the kind of ratings that even a low rated daytime drama look at in derision. That's really a shame because it was the best episode of the series and it was really the direction the series needed to go if it was ever going to be worth watching.

Joannifer appeared for one episode. That would be Laird's ex-wife and she was played by Rebecca Romijn whose work on Just Shoot Me necessitated that she be billed as "supermodel Rebecca Romijin." That was some time ago. By the time she starred in her own short-lived Fox show (Pepper Dennis, which we reviewed in the print edition and also ran the review in the gina & krista round-robin), Romijin was an actress, a very talented one as viewers of Ugly Betty can see each week.

Just having someone talented and gifted at comedy on the show was an improvement, no question. But Romijin already has regular employment. A guest spot is not the answer to how to fix Carpoolers. The answer was provided in what the show did with the guest spot. Dishrag Cindy (Dougie's wife played by Allison Munn) finally had a purpose on the show. All the characters had a purpose. And it underscored that the show could exist not as a workplace comedy (it's not one) but as a comic take on a neighborhood (think of it as Knots Landing with the giggles). The show moved along at a fast pace, all the characters were involved and there were actual laughs. Laird came off far less glossy more flawed and more human.

That wasn't from Joannifer stomping on his dignity (which took place repeatedly) but from, in front of everyone, repeating a tidbit of advice that Gracen gave him, a tidbit that angered Leila and served to knock the shine off both Laird and Gracen in front of others.

Others? A concept that the creators never seem to have considered. Characters need to exist within a recognizable space. They need to interact. Comedy is conflict so their interacting (as Carpooler does too often with the four male leads) only with similar characters is neither funny nor interesting. Nor are stand up routines sitcoms. We're not suggesting that any of the lines the four male leads swap is up to the level of good standup (it's not even up to the level of bad standup) but we are saying viewers expect to be shown not told. That hasn't happened on the show very often until last week's episode.

Instead, audiences hear about funny things (told in non-humorous lines) while the four men ride to work. It plays out like a class reunion you've tagged along to. Sure others may be laughing and enjoying themselves, but you didn't see it, you didn't live through it and it's just empty chatter to you. That's not how a sitcom should play out.

But no sitcom should be confined to a car. That a single camera sitcom offers so little visual proves just how hollow all the gas bagging over the "miracle" and "reinvention" of sitcoms via a tired device from an earlier age really is. No one wants to watch four people (regardless of gender) sitting in a car. In an earlier time, a better time for sitcoms, creative geniuses (real ones, not press created ones) grasped that. A sure sign of the sad state of sitcoms is that something that rated as nothing but a throw-away one liner for Valerie Harper's Rhoda is now the premise for a TV sitcom.

Saint Bam-Bam

Senator Bam-Bam is so sainted. That's what The Nation tells you as they publish non-stop smears on Hillary Clinton.

If Hillary Clinton had a friend under indictment for attempting to buy favors for his business, we're sure The Nation would make a cover story. Possibly a multi-part cover story.

Somehow, despite their non-stop dribbles on Barack Obama, the name Antoin Rezko has never been mentioned.

Repeating, not one word. Who is "Tony" Rezko?

He's someone currently facing money laundering, fraud and extortion charges from the federal government. He donated to many of Barack Obama's campaigns.

That's really all. Or that's what Bam-Bam wanted to present. The public lie Bambi told was "$50,000 and $60,000" was the range of contributions Rezko had donated to his campaigns over the years. The reality was over three times Bam-Bam's low ball, $163, 308.

Reality, the land Obama's home sits on includes a portion that he couldn't afford but, fortunately for him, Rezo bought and then later sold it to Obama when Obama could afford it. He bought the land -- which Obama couldn't afford -- at the same time Obama bought his original parcel. No deal was ever made, we are told. Of course not. We often buy up small lots next to ones our friends buying without even knowing. Don't you? And don't you also spend a thousand dollars (Obama's high ball) to have your neighbor's lot repeatedly mowed even after the indictment is made public?

He was just someone who donated to Baby Bam-Bam, no one Bam-Bam knew very well. Of course there's also the fact (emerging months after the real estate purchase was addressed by the press) that Obama, in a law firm, helped the man now charged with embezzlment win forty-three million dollars in government funds.

We've noted the above in passing as different revelations came out. (Click here for The Chicago Tribune's reporting on the relationship, here for the Chicago Sun-Times reporting -- note those links provide you with mulitple reports). It's worth really pointing out now. And noting that Frank Main (Chicago Sun-Times) reported in December of last year:

In addition to a land deal, Sen. Barack Obama's ties to indicted dealmaker Antoin "Tony" Rezko include an internship the senator provided the son of a contributor at the request of Rezko, an Obama spokesman confirmed today.
John Aramanda served as an intern for Obama for about a month in 2005, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. His father is Joseph Aramanda, a Rezko business associate who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption case against Rezko. Aramanda has contributed $11,500 to Obama since 2000, Gibbs said.

"Mr. Rezko did provide a recommendation for John Aramanda," Gibbs said. "I think that it's fairly obvious that a few-week internship is not of anything of benefit to Mr. Rezko or any of his businesses."
The revelation of the internship comes after Obama acknowledged a mistake in buying property from Rezko in January 2006 -- a deal that enlarged the senator's yard in the Kenwood neighborhood on the South Side. The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Rezko was under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office.

So what changed? Why are we noting it now? Bam-Bam himself. Just as he slams Hillary Clinton for voting for a resolution he couldn't bother to show up and vote on (though he swears he would've voted against it), he's also slamming her about releasing her papers.

We should add, about releasing her papers as First Lady. She's really not required to do that. She can if she wants. But Hillary, a first in many ways, is the first former First Lady to ever run for president. But Bam-Bam wanted to scream and shout about that because he has nothing else.


The Chicken Sop for the Soul curdeled and went bad causing him to abandon the alleged 'politis of hope.' He trails so poorly in the campaign that someone just looking at the numbers and nothing else would have no idea of how propped up and spit polished his campaign and tiny record has been by the press -- especially our loveliest of the lovelies at The Nation.

But Bam-Bam wanted to make a big-big deal out of Hillary's records on Friday. Turns out that he hasn't released his own records from when he was in the Illinois state legistlature (1997-2004). The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times have both requested them and Bam-Bam's offered that he only had one staffer at the time and besides some of them may have been tossed out!

Bam-Bam. As C.I. and Ava noted, we'd hate to see him drop out because then who would we laugh at? But Bam-Bam won't release the records, is now indicating they may be lost, and they cover the period of his close relationship with the indicted Rezko (whom he wrote letters of character for, it should be noted).

As Debra Winger says to Diane Ladd in Black Widow, "I find that odd."

We find much of the coverage odd about Barack Obama. One of the constitent outlets has been Black Agenda Report and, as Glen Ford has again noted, two of the front-runners are exactly alike (see Ford's "Obama and Clinton: The Siamese Twins"). But that is one and only one outlet.

We're having a difficult time thinking of a Republican candidate who could put a homophobe on stage and let the homophobe rant and rave without The Nation calling it out. But they didn't call out Barack Obama for doing that in South Carolina. They don't call out anything he does.

There is very little that Hillary Clinton does that Barack Obama doesn't also do. They are Simese Twins. They are two of a kind. (On Iraq, we see no difference between them or John Edwards.) But The Nation's offered non-stop slams on Hillary. That in and of itself would be fine. They are not a cheerleader -- or they're not supposed to be. They should be lobbying tough shots at everyone. They should be informing their readers of the weaknesses in all the candidates and the strengths so that their readers are the most informed voters out there.

But that's not how it plays out. Instead what happens is Hillary is taken to task and they avoid calling out Obama. They offer excuses for Obama. Katrina vanden Heuvel picks a public fight with David Corn when he dares to doubt that Saint Obama pees holy water. (Which only led to vanden Heuvel becoming a bigger joke in the mainstream press. Corn, of course, has moved onto Mother Jones. Before he did, the MSM made clear whom was the reporter and whom was the joke by whose opinion they cited. They cited Corn.) Laura Flanders (whom we all like) elects to use the time after the homophobic singer was allowed to speak against gays at the Obama rally to pen an open letter pleading to him.

About allowing a homophobe to appear at one of his events? Oh, please, cookie, she's distracting by pleading with him to breack with a Chicago political machine over the issue of torture.

There are serious criticisms to be lobbed at Hillary Clinton. We've done so here many times. That's not the issue. The issue is that the left and 'left' journals refuse to call out Obama. Time and again, he gets a pass.

He charges people to attend his public events. No doubt they then get listed as "small donors," the same way those who buy t-shirts and key chains are listed as small donors.

We sure hope no t-shirt buyer already maxed out on their actual donations to his campaign because if they did, they are now violation of federal law with the campaign listing t-shirt sales, key chain sales and bumper sticker sales as "donations."

(If The Nation weren't so known for being so damn cheap, we'd entertain ourselves with images of Patricia J. Williams being hauled off to the pokey for buying a ticket, a t-shirt and a key chain.)

The FEC is going to have a field day pouring over his records (after the election) trying to determine if everyone purchasing a ticket, key chain, and other Obama "swag" ended up having their purchase listed as a "donation" and, if so, what contributors maxed out with their actual donations and were now over the spending limit?

But to return to the aspect of appearing in public and charging citizens (whom you want to vote for you) to attend, it's appalling that the same crap media on the left that wants to whine the Big Business has to much say in the elections (it does), can't take a moment to call out Bam-Bam for turning what should be free events, open to all, open to only those who can afford to pay. He started out charging less than twenty bucks. He's now up to over thirty. Possibly when it hits a thousand, some may finally register an objection.

Let's be clear that this isn't face time (which has always been sold). This is to attend a political rally. So the next time you hear any of them -- John Nichols, Peter Hart, Katrina vanden Heuvel, go down the list -- hop on the high horse and talk (rightly) about the fact that the working poor and the poor are being cut out of the political process, if they haven't called out Obama's ticket-scheme, they are full of sh*t. By not calling it out on Obama, they are allowing it to become accepted and we will see it more and more in future campaigns. And yet he gets a pass.

Barack Obama has offered no plan for anything that is progressive. He has offered platitudes. He has served up Chicken Sop for the Soul. He's a triangulator just like Hillary but he gets a pass. The polls don't indicate he's got a shot at the White House, but the scary thing is wondering, if he did get in would the same outlets continue to give him a pass?

The only thing that might be more frightening is grasping what the mainstream media (and the right wing) will do with his connections to Rezko if he gets the nomination. Bet on it, they want play silent the way our 'left' 'leaders' have.

The kind-of left embarrasses with age

Last week Robert Scheer created a stir. Sadly, that wasn't a good thing.

Scheer took part in a public debate that could have come and went with a few groans; however, he elected to post the debate (video and transcript) at his website Truthdig. You have to wonder why? Why?

At an event sponsored by The Nation (naturally), Scheer attempted to tear into Ralph Nader. Maybe he was hoping Katrina vanden Heuvel would dole out some funds?

Maybe he thought it would make for a lively evening?

Maybe he's grown more conservative than many suspected?

Maybe he was just having a bad night?

Let's all hope it was the latter.

Truthdig is a website that Scheer started up, after The Los Angeles Times decided they no longer needed to print a column by a retired member of their staff -- Scheer retired from the paper in 1993, he was fired in 2005 -- with Zuade Kaufman who likes to talk about the need for "alternative models."

Judging by the debate, "alternative models" does not include political ones.

"Robert Scheer Debates Ralph Nader" is the title, Google it or go to Truthdig and look it up (November 5, 2007), we're not linking to it.

Scheer opens with a phoney comparison -- possible foreshadowing? -- where he notes that as a Democrat running for the US House he once got approximately 43% of the vote but he didn't do as well as a third party candidate (Peace and Freedom Party) when running for the California Senate. Somehow that's supposed to be illuminating.

What it's supposed to tell is anyone's guess? Ballot access and money matter. So, for the record, do the way districts are drawn and the district he got 43% of the vote in has always been solidly Democratic. In fact, 43% of the vote may strike some as embarrassing. In fact, since it's the solidly Democratic district that Barbara Lee now represents, it may cause a historical panic for some as they try to figure out how a Republican managed to carry it?

No Republican carried it.

It's oranges and apples. While the third party candidate was a general election, the 43% turnout was a primary -- a Democratic primary. He doesn't explain that in the debate but to do so would undercut his points. Here's the reality, as a Democrat against that generation's illegal war, he ran in a Democratic primary and only got 43% of the vote. As a candidate in a general election, a third party candidate in 1970, he got less than 2% of the vote.

No surprise. Ballot access and money matter.

Scheer seems to be arguing that he put himself on the outs when he ran as a third-party candidate? The same could be said when he ran as a losing candidate on the Democratic ticket in a primary.

He then feels the need to apparently demonstrate he's not just a Democratic Party Machine, he likes others. Why, he argues, he likes Ike. In fact, he wore "I Like Ike" as a button, as a child, and ranks it as among "the bravest things I ever did". Were that true, Scheer would have had a very sad life. Like Hillary Clinton's young Barry Goldwater phase, Scheer's young Eisenhower phase is something to turn into a joke, not to brag about.

He goes on to inform that there are no longer Republican moderates -- a shock to many Republican moderates who no doubt feel they are under siege enough as it is without Scheer announcing their extinction -- and that he doesn't think the country's "likely to get a third party" which is a prediction no one can really make. It's also a prediction that Whigs and their supporters once made as well. And when's the last time anyone voted for that party? (It no longer exists.) That prediction, he assures the audience, is his "only reference to Ralph's campaign," a self-imposed rule he quickly breaks. The Democratic Party is the only agent for change, he insists.

He will attack third parties throughout and he will break his self-imposed rule throughout. He will do so to such an extent that the biggest complaints on this from members of The Common Ills community came not from Greens, independents or third party members, but from Democrats. Self-identified lifelong Democrat Lynda summed it up best in the roundtable that ran in Friday's gina & krista round-robin, by explaining, "I wouldn't tolerate that kind of discrimination launched at anyone and I was insulted, as a Democrat, that Scheer's foaming at the mouth embarrassment didn't lead to his being pulled off the stage. I kept thinking, 'Oh God, someone's going to have to take Old Yeller out back and shoot him.'" Scheer, in Lynda's analogy, is Old Yeller.

Dementia apparently set in when he felt the need to declare the following:

And I think of The Nation and I say, let's take the Weekly Standard. The Weekly Standard did not marginalize itself. When Bush came in, The Weekly Standard said, "OK, we're now going to be the conscience of this administration. We're going to help guide this administration. We're going to work within; we’re going to rally our forces." And they've been enormously effective, as have the New York conservatives. The Nation is right now the leading progressive organization in this country. Not just a news organization; it’s the leading institution in the United States on the left. No question. And it seems to me that moving into this next period, particularly, I would like to see the Democrats win, and I would like to see The Nation, and people in this room, take a responsible attitude towards that shift in power. And not marginalize themselves.

If those are Scheer's honest opinions, he is a hack. We're not even talking a partisan hack, we mean a journalistic hack. The Los Angeles Times should have canned his ass decades prior if that is Scheer's honest opinion of journalism. (A) The Nation is not "just a news organization" -- it's not a news organization at all. It's an opinion journal. That's what it was created as and that is what it remains. Yes, there are the occasional news stories each year, a small number of them, but it has never presented itself as a news organization (Victor Navasky's recent book on his life in journalism made it clear that he saw it as an opinion-journal). That someone who worked for a daily paper could be so uninformed as to what a news organization is goes to a very serious problem with Scheer's grasp of reality. (B) It's not the leading institution of the left. Leaving aside that it's not all that left and never has been (look at it's history which includes racism being endorsed -- despite the fact that it started as an abolition outlet), it's circulation is dropping, though no one's supposed to notice. (C) Though its independence is worthy of questioningwq ` today, it is still not The Weekly Standard nor should it ever be. Leaving aside right/left issues, The Nation has not attempted (in the past) to set itself up as the friendly-advisor to the White House. To do so would be death for the publication, see The New Republic(an).

Scheer sounded like a raving loony as he went on and on about "news organization" and other nonsense. Anyone with any respect for the concept (if not the practice) of journalism should have been embarrassed that Scheer wasn't escorted from the stage as he made a perfect fool of himself.

We should also note that when you pass 70-years-of-age, your usage of "bro" should cease under court-order. In fact, we'd rule that after 32, you should be court-ordered to step away from the lingo unless using it for humor. One community member on the disaster cruise said she feared, after he tossed out "bro," that he was about to start rapping. She also asked that this statement by Scheer be noted:

By the way, I consider it shameful that The Nation would have this cruise and not have one panel on the Iraq war. We are at war. You know. We are in a war that is sapping the treasury, will prevent us from pursuing a progressive agenda in the future, every time we try to get money for anything, we’ll hear about the trillion that had already been wasted.

"At last," she says, "I thought the magazine was going to be called out. But, like [Katrina] vanden Heuvel, he made it all about pushing his economic programs. There was no concern over the dying and I'm talking about Iraqis who are being slaughtered. We were all talking about that at my table after and how this was just sad."

Yes, Robert Scheer, the greatest tragedy of the illegal war is the economics. Screw the people (of all nations), it's the economics. It also bears noting that, in the US, administrations always are willing to go into debt over wars. The war debt doesn't prevent progressive spending. In war or out, the US government always finds a way to avoid spending on progressive programs. Let's not lie and say that if the illegal war wasn't going on and sucking up so much money, this money would be going to help the people because that's honestly not the way it's gone in decades with administration after administration -- from both the two main parties -- attempting to eliminate the New Deal safety nets.

Scheer can't stop reliving the 2000 election (in a paranoid fantasy type of way) or the 2004 election long enough to face reality. The Supreme Court justices! Guantanamo! He insists both were pushed through by a Republican administration as a result of the 2000 and 2004 election. The fact that Congress had a hand in that and much more is overstepped and ignored. Get real.

When Ralph Nader points out basic realities, Scheer who insists he doesn't want to name call, labels Nader a "a demagogue." Since this is not "ancient times," the Webster's definition which applies is, "a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power." Oh, Bobby.

After lobbying that charge at Nader, Scheer then wants to insist that "we can all be civil." We? Nader was civil. Scheer's the one got us wondering how Old Yeller ended up with rabies.

The spittle just seems to leak from Scheer's mouth with one embarrassment after another cascading out with it. Having presented himself as a progressive, having claimed that Democrats (well, that Nation cruise travelers and possibly all Americans) need to support progressive candidates, he then offers up this bit of 'wisdom': "If we find some moderates we should back them." Wow. Hold those feet to the fire, Bobby, or at least hold 'em near the Duraflame to get 'em nice and cozy.

Scheer, in perhaps a typo or a Freudian slip, asks Nader if he thinks Al Gore would have invaded ("evaded" shows the transcript) Iraq had he been president? It's a nice little myth (based on Gore's last minute actions as the war drums pounded) that Gore wouldn't have gone to war with Iraq had he been declared president by the Supreme Court (the people had declared him president) but in February 2002, Gore declared:

Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq.
As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms. But finishing it on our terms means more than a change of regime in Iraq. It means thinking through the consequences of action there on our other vital interests, including the survival in office of Pakistan's leader; avoiding a huge escalation of violence in the Middle East; provision for the security and interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States; having a workable plan for preventing the disintegration of Iraq into chaos; and sustaining critically important support within the present coalition.

That really doesn't make a strong case for Gore as an opponent of going to war with Iraq. He later (before the illegal war broke out) made different statements. That doesn't change what he said in 2002. No one knows what Gore would have done. But the world of hypotheticals is all you can inhabit when you've broken free from the gravitational pull of reality.

Which is why he makes an issue out of the Supreme Court while ignoring Congress' own role in the process. Even worse, at one point he declares, "We have a Supreme Court now thanks to these Republican appointees that has absolutely no concern of civil liberties, separation of powers, any kind of accountability." Uh, exactly how many nominees (which Congress approved, but forget that for a minute) does Scheer think Bush had?

The reality answer is two. They replaced a 'moderate' (right-wing, but less so on some issues) and an ultra-conservative. We're really just talking about one less extreme right-winger that has become a Justice under the Bully Boy (with Congressional approval). If the makeup of the Court is a concern (and we think it is), that goes far beyond Bully Boy and goes to, as Nader points out, a Democratically controlled Senate that confirmed Clarence Thomas among others. In fact, the Senate has been Democratically controlled for the bulk of the current Court.

Repeatedly Scheer forgets his self-imposed rules of civility and not bringing up Nader's run for the presidency in 2000 and 2004 (is Scheer no longer aware that those were not Nader's only runs?). The most extreme example may be found in this 'charming' moment by Scheer:

If there was a serious alternative that was emerging, that had come out of your campaign, that we could rally around, then one could say, "OK, that's a way to go." But it doesn't exist. All that we have left after your two campaigns is Ralph Nader.

Having already called Nader a demagogue one might have thought that Scheer couldn't go any lower. One would have been wrong.

Of those participating in the writing edition of this piece only one (Jess, who is a Green) voted for Nader; however, it is very clear to all of us that Nader's campaigns had accomplishments and since Scheer's leaving the area of "Who won the title!" to speak of impact, someone needs to tell him he's no longer insulting, he's flat-out wrong. And sounding like a dottering fool.

Such as his long-winded ramble (which appears to include an endorsement of Republicans he previously claimed didn't exist and may or may not include a slam at Rocky Anderson but does include his gratitude for being able to vote, by God!) -- a long winded ramble which includes this, "The fact is we have a process underway, and I don't want this to be yet another Nation discussion that marginalizes us and puts us outside what is really happening out there." Victor Navasky and others understood (though Katrina vanden Heuvel -- who loves the camera in what is, sadly, a one-sided love affair -- doesn't appear to grasp it) that The Nation doesn't exist to offer conventional wisdom or be a cheerleader, it exists to put ideas out there, to plant seeds that will grow. Being "outside" is a given for an opinion-journal trying to plant seeds.

The seed Scheer apparently wanted to plant was that he was one of Bill Clinton's biggest critics. A statement he repeats over and over throughout the debate.

Scheer has no logic to display. He repeatedly doubles back and undercuts his own point, he offers flawed examples and he really destroys his own image.

He also endorses Ralph Nader's run for president in 2008.

After all that nonsense, he does just that in this passage:

For example the deal breaker, I think people in this room should make it very clear that they would not accept Hillary Clinton as a candidate if she continues to her current position supporting the war. I have written columns saying that. I have said, I’m on the record as saying, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton if she has the position that she has now. I have said it. I’ll even vote for Ralph Nader, I'll even write in Ralph Nader, if Hillary Clinton is the candidate and she still takes the current position on the war. But that's difference from saying there isn’t room to organize, to operate, that there are not good candidates out there are.

So Nader should run, in 2008, if Hillary is the Democratic nominee?

That's what Robert Scheer ends up saying. The Republicans are so bad, he tells us earlier, that he's "frightened to death" by their "unholy alliance" (he references that twice), that he sees it as "the enemy camp" and he thinks what they have "done is truly frightening." If Hillary is so frightening to Scheer that he's willing to write-in a candidate he wouldn't otherwise support on the ballot, that logic (or 'logic') dictates that Nader declare and start running immediately.

We're not offended that he's endorsing Nader for president. We just see this as a bit laughable considering his comments about Nader and third parties, his comments about Republicans and his non-stop talk about all rallying behind the Democrats.

Hillary's the breaking point?

For Scheer, that's the breaking point?

Why is that?

Most to the left of the center who don't care for Hillary pin it off on their dislike for the triangulation of her husband's presidency. But that's apparently not a problem to Scheer who insists, "to me [Bill] Clinton looks pretty damn good. I would sleep a lot better if Clinton were president, I'm sorry. I'm not going to lie about it. The man had some sense of proportion--some sense of accountability." If Bill Clinton were president, you'd sleep better? You'd feel "pretty damn good." Exactly what is about Hillary that frightens you because all we're really left with is gender.

Don't bring up the Iran resolution. If you're comfortable cheerleading Barack Obama ("I thought Obama opened up some important distance between himself and Hillary when he said that he would negotiate within the whole list of people." -- being only one of Scheer's more embarrassing drippings) who didn't care enough about the legislation to show up to vote (he's claimed that he didn't get enough notice, Senate staffers have made it clear publicly that this is not true), you really are nothing but a hack.

We didn't think we were going to write that. We wanted to. But C.I. knows Scheer and offered to skip out on this feature. We wanted a group effort or nothing. C.I. asked, "Can we use a word other than 'hack'? I'm not comfortable calling him a 'hack.'" If you'll notice the term "journalistic hack" was already used. C.I.'s suggestion. C.I. had missed that passage ("news outlet") in the debate transcript until Dona pointed it out and it's hackery, pure hackery, and C.I. had no problem proposing that term when it came to journalism. As we go over and over the transcript, there's really no denying, by anyone, what a hack Robert Scheer is in the debate.

Betty Wood, friend of Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side), offered us this take on the debate:

Ralph Nader is one of the most influential people of the century for a reason. He has a long history of seeing problems well before others see them. He analyzes the systemic source of the problem, finds a solution for it, and does the follow through to see a solution in place. He is frequently decades ahead of the main stream. Nader sees the larger systemic problem of the military/industrial/Congressional complex that Eisenhour warned us of and is trying to get the rest of us to see the need for the solution of this larger problem. Just playing musical chairs in the White House or Congress with the same party-with-two-names players isn't the solution. More fundamental changes are needed. One start would be for more political parties that aren't beholden to the corporations. Most of us recognise this but the Democrat apologists have a hard time breaking the cord. I hope that Mr. Scheer starts to listen and really hear what Mr. Nader is saying.

She's far kinder than we are. That's something we saw reflected in The Common Ills community, Greens were less shocked, less surprised and less angry about Scheer. Not because they care less but because they put up with this crap all the time. For Betty Wood or community members belonging to a third party, this isn't uncommon. Jess notes that, as a Green, he's grown to expect it. We appreciate the fact that they endure this nonsense repeatedly and go on. We applaud that.

But we're grossly offended. The community was polled as to whether or not to pull Truthdig from the links at The Common Ills and they voted ("Yes," "No," "No opinion," "Leave it up to C.I.") by 53% to leave it up to C.I. (37% voted for it to be pulled, 10% voted no opinion, no one argued for it to remain). There was no decision made. C.I. brought it up throughout the writing of this edition. We can announce it is being pulled. (A) Because the "news organization" comments are insulting. (B) Because of the remarks.

On the latter, Truthdig promotes itself as a left outlet, not at a Democratic one. That's false advertising. Scheer, editor of the site, makes it clear that it's just another Democratic cheerleading site. Nothing more. Nothing less. Sheer's logic may twist and turn, but he gets his agenda across very clearly. When we heard about the debate (the community member who took part in the cruise wrote about the debate at length -- including comments regarding vanden Heuvel's public and private reactions -- in the round-robin), we were embarrassed but assumed that it was something put on for entertainment purposes. After all, what does the bulk of the magazine offer these days except entertainment? But when Scheer elected to post the debate at Truthdig he sent a message, intended or not.

*It's really sad. One of his old friends went extreme right, Scheer appears to have opted for the less extreme age-makeover and headed for the center. For those needing to hear arguments of why you need to vote for any Democratic in the world (except Hillary Clinton) and needing to read the writings of the pedophile (Scheer posts Pig's writings at Truthdig regularly -- maybe in homage to those 'extinct' 'moderate' Republicans?), Truthdig is the site for you. If you're interested in reality, happy hunting elsewhere.*


*Note: We are finishing up this edition. C.I. had no participation in the last paragraph -- C.I. was busy on the phone to a member of The Los Angeles Times' editorial board apologizing for ripping into him about Scheer's firing all those years ago -- and we don't have time to run this by.

Dumb ass found online by reader Lou

We're being kind and avoiding the entire thread reader Lou plucked a comment from. Why? They think Bill Clinton "saved" Social Security. Social Security wasn't in danger.

Though many on the thread mouth the words "lock box," none seem to understand that the federal goverment has to go under before Social Security does. The federal government has repeatedly borrowed from it (hence Al Gore's proposing a "lock box"). It's not going belly up. It's not in danger. They get that (or most of them do). But they buy into the lie that Bill Clinton "saved" it. On the right, they buy into the lie that Ronald Reagan "saved" it. It was never in any danger and when they can wake up to the reality, they might be worth highlighting.

When we e-mailed Lou, he wrote back he was fine with just "the big dumb ass" being highlighted.

Read all the way through and you'll understand why Lou calls the poster a "dumb ass."

This post is so full of blind Obama hate that it's hard to even start. "Embracing homophobia"? "pandering to the religious"? "further to the right than Clinton?"
And which votes is Obama trying to "draw" away from Edwards? Last time I checked, Edwards doesn't have too many votes. Obama is mostly ignoring him, much like the media, and the voters (I actually like Edwards, don't take this as a cricism against him - it's just reality).
Please, calm down. We have 2 candidates (Edwards and Obama) who are incredibly liberal. Probably the two most liberal major candidates to run in our generation. Then we have Hillary, who has a mixed record...
Democrats Against Hillary
by wahoopaul on Fri Nov 09, 2007 at

"wahoopaul" runs a site entitled Democrats Against Hillary. He's all over ("paul" is a male name) trashing Hillary throughout the thread. Above his signature he always includes a link to his site (we've disabled the link) "Democrats Against Hillary." And he has the never to whine that a thread (at a Dem site) is full of "blind Obama hate"?

Obama's "embracing homophobia" is noted because he invited one on stage in South Carolina. "Pandering to the religous" for a number of reasons including staging a "gospel festival." Way to draw the line between Church and State, Bambi. Last week, he began adding "I'm a Christian" to his campaign slogans. By the current polls, John Edwards has only a little less votes than Obama. Obama would need those voters to pull ahead of Hillary. (In most polls, he would need the votes of all other Dem candidates to pull ahead of Hillary.)

Obama's a joke. The only thing funnier than a poster with "Democrats Against Hillary" whining that any candidates getting bashed.

Cassie's got a beef

The New Republican's Cass Sunstein got a tattoo on his ass proclaiming "I am a dumb ass" and has spent the better part of this decade dropping his pants to show the world.

If you thought he couldn't embarrass himself further after his public support for John Roberts as a Supreme Court chieftain, you were wrong. And, to clarify, though he is billed as a "liberal," he's not. His judicial philosophy is not liberal. It is restrictive and the sort of thing that would -- carried out in full -- not only reject Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education, but many other historic decisions that improved the nation.

Via Make Them Accountable, we stumbled upon Cass yet again dropping trou for an article by Ben Van Heuvelen (Salon):

Freedom of choice is not always good for democracy. This observation is at the heart of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein's book " 2.0" (an update of "" in 2001), which argues that our country's political discourse is fracturing in the information age. Sure, the Internet has been a boon to democracy in all sorts of ways, Sunstein acknowledges -- but if new technology gives us unprecedented access to information, it also gives us more ways to avoid information we don't like. Conservatives are increasingly seeking only conservative views, liberals are seeking only liberal views, and never the twain shall meet.

What an idiot. What a fool. No wonder he advises the Barack Obama campaign.

Far too old to play like he a tweener, Cass-Ass should know damn well that the 'alarming' situation he is 'observing' is neither alarming nor new. Prior to big media consolidation, cities had multiple papers. If one was too right-wing for you, no prob, you picked up another. But Cass-Ass self-presents as someone so foolish he never knew The New York Post existed before Rupert Murdoch or that it was seen by some as one lefter alternative to The New York Times.

Cass-Ass whines that the left doesn't link to the right. Links do matter. When you link, you're saying something is worth reading. Here we don't link to trash. Cass-Ass is trash but we think the Salon article is worth linking to so you can see what trash he is.

Cass-Ass tells you that people only going to certain outlets is a new thing. He traces it to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the Gore v. Bush Supreme Court decision. If you feel slimed by those choices offered up, you should. Cass-Ass always slimes anything to the left of center. Which is how he can compare, in his book, NPR -- the most centrist of all outlets and only non-right leaning when you compare it to PBS -- as the equivalent of Fox "News" with right wingers flocking to Fox and left wingers flocking to NPR.

Proof's never an issue with Cass-Ass (which is how he ends up backing his little buddy Bam-Bam Obama) and that's how he can weigh in with this, "And yet a lot of people, at least publicly, seemed to agree with it, such that President Clinton was actually impeached." "A lot of people"? What poll is Cass-Ass referring to? None, because none exists. Impeachment of Clinton was never popular with the people. But it's that sort of fact-free assertion that allows him to draw moral equivalencies where there are none.

It's probably why Salon's article, which should be subtitled The Confessions of St. Cass-Ass, also has the weak-sister Cass-Ass explaining how many hopes he had for Bully Boy when the Supreme Court handed Bully Boy the Oval Office. Or maybe Cass-Ass flaunts ignorance the most with his statements in opposition of the Kyoto Treaty?

Who knows?

It's been a bad decade for the once high-flying-adore Cass-Ass. Once upon a time, he squeezed out a bad opinion on paper, wrapped it up and sent it off to The New Republican where it was promptly printed and he was quickly invited on the intellectual-lite chat & chew circuit. These days, like the magazine he is so identified with, he's finding out it's not that easy.

Neither will life in the United States be under John Roberts as Chief Justice. But Cass-Ass gave us that and used up the last of his allegedly 'left' credentials to assure Americans that Roberts was a really good thing, the Grandma Cookies of the courtroom.

Throughout his sad life, Cass-Ass has always gone for the center. That requires shifting because the right wing has certainly shifted the country to the right. So getting "all sides" is really important to Cass-Ass. Without "all sides," he wouldn't be sure he was standing in the center of the freeway.

We're a left site and before Cass-Ass pens another ill-thought out 'opinion,' he might try grasping the dynamics the country still lives under. Media consolidation means many good things for big business, many bad things for the people. (Cass-Ass is choking but he's also under the impression that the libertarian daily bible, The Chicago Tribune, plays it down the middle.) Along with a right wing echo chamber, you have a mainstream echo chamber which tilts right and regularly silences stories of importance.

This site neither started nor exists to be part of an echo chamber and we doubt we're unique in that approach on the left. At this site, we have regularly called out left organizations and left publications. We've also regularly highlighted the same. We've not played the partisan that Cass-Ass just knows exists out there. He knows it exists the same way he knows "lots of people" must have wanted Bill Clinton impeached. "Lots of people" would describe the majority which did not favor impeaching Clinton over a sexual affair. But to Cass-Ass, it's all equal.

Cass-Ass' ilk is the reason that sites like this exist. He's a namby-pamby currying favor with right wingers (Bill O'Reilly will probably have to blot his crotch with a napink after he reads Cass-Ass' shout-outs in the Salon article). In a mainstream media landscape that offered true diversity, Cass-Ass would speak for the centrists and then the media would find a left voice. Instead, we're offered Cass-Ass as a voice of the left when he is anything but the left.

Whether it's Roberts or any other issue, Cass-Ass is served up to the public, by the media, as "even the left's Cass-Ass thinks . . ." That's why left sites need to note the left. All that do are doing their part to expose an entire world that exists outside the mainstream media -- a world where, yes, leftists know that Roberts will be a bad appointment to the Court, a world where, yes, leftists know that Bully Boy will not be good for the United States.

If Cass-Ass presented himself as a centrist, he really wouldn't be an issue to us. But instead, he presents as a leftist and occupies the space that should actually go to a left and that is our biggest problem with Cass-Ass.

It really hurts the left to have a centrist presented as a lefty and it really insults the left to have such a Dumb Ass centrist 'speaking for' them.

Cass-Ass is alarmed by the polarization. Well he should be and so would you if you're whole bag was about being the center and playing the left. If this polarization continues, why, Cass-Ass might not be the first flipped to card on the Rolodex when it's time to call around for the quote 'from the left.'

Cass-Ass isn't concerned with the country. He's concerned about selling another bad book and about making sure the tiny quota the media creates for the non-right is occupied by him.

To non-members and non-regular readers

Elaine's not interested in your rants on Noam Chomsky.

None of us are. But while working on this edition, we were discussing various e-mails that come in. Some kook e-mails Elaine repeatedly on the "truth" about Noam Chomsky. For the record, Elaine reads Chomsky (we all do) but he's not one of her heroes (that would be Howard Zinn). But this one man repeatedly e-mails Elaine wanting her to post all of his thoughts on Chomsky's betrayals or "betrayals."

Short history, Chomsky's an academic. He does a balancing act highlighting what he thinks is the most important. Over the years he has missed things. He will do so again. We don't think he's "in the bag."

If you do, there's a thing called Blogger/Blogspot. You can go there and start your own site at no cost and share your own thoughts. You may be right. But we're not interested in running your "tips" at any site. We don't know you. We don't agree with your whispers.

Elaine was explaining how those repeated e-mails make her leery of noting anything that comes in on an event she doesn't know about or from a person she doesn't know.

Which got us all discussing e-mails.

At this site, "Unity" can stop e-mailing. We're never going to reply and they've been wanting us to provide them a link for almost a year now. We're never going to do it. We're not interested in the right of center.

Voice of America wants desperately to get some attention from Rebecca. Apparently the "sex" in her blog's title captured their attention. She doesn't link to known government propaganda, none of us do, but they persist in attempting to get the propaganda out.

Mike's noted that he's sick of the pack hounds that circle around their own candidates. When he blogs about a politician that they don't like, they descend with their 'helpful' e-mails containing the 'real' truth about Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards. The real truth is that people with crushes on candidates should probably be sending their resumes to The Nation magazine and stop boring people who haven't endorsed any presidential candidate.

Cedric notes that even with the comment option, the racists still prefer to e-mail "proving what chickens they are and that even they know they couldn't state publicly what they state in e-mails."

Betty only checks her public e-mail once a month (the racist threats bothered her, she announced over a year ago that she would only check once a month). Like Kat, she has a private e-mail available to community members. Kat just notes that Reba McEntire's small number of fans are "as vocal as they are uninformed. And apparently they are very, very slow readers since they all wrote in last week about a 2006 CD review."

Wally checks more often than that ("daily") but only has the time to read "three or so e-mails" a day. If you're sending something to him that was on something that happened a day or two prior, it's probably not getting mentioned in that day's jot (done with Cedric) because they're dealing with breaking news (in a humorous way). If your an organization he likes (there's one in particular), keep sending, it reminds him to check the site for stuff to include in the snapshot. But if you've found a story three weeks old that angers you, "Why are you bothering a site called 'The Daily Jot' to begin with? Four e-mails this week were on Afghanistan. Have Cedric and I ever written of Afghanistan? No. We're covering Democrats and Republicans in public office and running for public office primarily. And we're covering that day, so don't bore me with something that's three weeks old or not in the area we cover."

That really is a common complaint. Rebecca has the loosest format and can and does cover a number of topics. The Common Ills covers Iraq.

The public account for The Common Ills is worked by C.I., Ava, Jess, Dona, Shirley, Martha and Eli. And it is just amazing the things that come in there -- by the thousands -- each day. Can you shout out to this, can you shout to that? "I'm writing about the humpback whale and would really appreciate a link." Are there humpback whales in Iraq? Then why are you e-mailing?

For all sites, if you are wanting something noted, you need to be clear in your heading. "With all due respect" usually offers none and gets deleted at all sites because it is a popular title of spam mail. If you have an event you want promoted this won't guarantee that it will be but noting in the headline when it is may get the e-mail read.

At The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review an automated reply goes back to every e-mail we receive. That's because C.I. won't be part of anything where someone who writes doesn't at least get an automated reply knowing their mail was received. The auto reply here often leads to snit-fits from university professors who reply to the auto reply along the lines of, "You think you're too good to write me back! I'll have you know . . ." We'll have you know that your e-mail to an auto e-mail saved us reading your original e-mail.

In your world, every e-mail you write may be otherwise immediately answered. In our world, we're busy. The account for this site -- unless Ty is taking a break -- is only worked by Jim, Dona and Ty. Ty works full time, Jim and Dona are in grad school. All are busy and have other things to do besides respond to every loon that writes. We don't respond to everything period. (That's true when Ava, Jess and C.I. are helping out as well when Ty is on a break.) We do have a feature entitled "Mailbag" where we try to respond to our regular readers as well as a few of the funnier crazies.

The reply time at The Common Ills is even slower. First of all, due to forwarding of e-mails (both Jess and Rebecca's e-mails were forwarded for laughs), we don't feel the need to reply to most in e-mail form as a community. But if something needs to be read by C.I. (forget replied, just read), it goes into a folder. C.I.'s reading those as quickly as possible. When an issue flares up in the community, that puts the reading of the public account on the backburner. As a result, Ruth will reply for C.I., Kat will, Jess will, etc. The e-mails at the public account not read by C.I. are part of a summary. Martha and Shirley do a report where they tabulate the number of e-mails, the topics, the complaints or suggestions. Jess tends to just pass on a brief summary verbally and Ava says the bulk of what she reads at the public account isn't worth writing let alone passing on.

Every week Ava and C.I. are on the road speaking at campuses. Most weeks, one of us tags along with. They don't have time to be reading all the e-mails let alone replying. Currently, they get back home Saturday afternoon and turn around and hit the road on Monday. C.I. and Ava weren't in the mood for the public account yesterday and didn't bother to check it until about three this morning. At which point they found a reply to an auto reply where an e-mailer had a snit fit about "you think you are too good to reply to me" causing us to point out all the professors (true, some of them are our former professors and know that they are) who respond that way. To save yourself some embarrassment -- an auto reply is "automatic." It goes out "automatically" to all. It goes out instantly when your e-mail hits an inbox.

The e-mailer had e-mailed asking for a link. To what? Who knows because no one's going to bother to read an e-mail from someone who wrote on Saturday and then wrote back on Saturday because he got an auto-reply. If you visit The Common Ills even semi-regularly, it's no surprise that C.I.'s on the road or that Saturday is the trip back home.

You should know something about the site you're e-mailing.

Which is why sites do not e-mail back saying, "I just linked to the article" or anything else. It's assumed that if you're e-mailing, you're checking the site. That's often not the case, as with Mike's whiners about politicians, but that's really not our problem.

Regular readers of any site (anyone using the public site at The Common Ills is a reader and not a member) are read. Many drive-by e-mails are interesting and, here, we try to note them when we can. But Jim's stance has always been, "We're posting, not running a pen-pal club." Which is why replying to the e-mails was a distant second even before e-mails started getting forwarded around.

If you see an article you like or an event you want to attend (or wrote an article or are organizing an event), you can e-mail. But if you're not specific in your title, you're not helping yourself get read.

Specific includes stating what you are writing about. A New York Times reporter once had a hissy fit in an e-mail to the public account of The Common Ills that C.I. mispelled his name (yes, it was a male). A typo may or may not be a typo and most will never be corrected. In this instance, it wasn't a writer who covers Iraq and C.I. hadn't created a name for him (a la Gordo, Dexy, et al). The man was having a fit. So we stopped everything (this was the summer of 2005) and all searched to find where the man was mentioned at The Common Ills. We were honestly surprised C.I. didn't know. C.I. can generally pinpoint something down to a week if not an exact day. The reason C.I. couldn't, it turned out, was C.I. didn't write about the man. A long excerpt, from another site, mentioned the man in one sentence. That was a copy and paste from that site. It was credited in a "___ at ____ notes . . ." After it was located, Jim e-mailed that site to ask, "Did you know you misspelled ____'s name and has anyone pointed out it out to you?" The reply back was, "One letter? It's a typo. That was over a year ago" (it was over six months after C.I. had quoted it that The New York Times reporter showed up to whine) "I'm not worried about it but no one's complained."

Several hours were spent locating the thing the reporter was having a hissy fit about (apparently the letter "t" is highly important). And in the end, C.I. hadn't spelled the name, C.I. hadn't even mentioned the man. But still he showed up, in a screaming e-mail, about his missing letter. But he never wrote the site that C.I. was quoting. Get a grip.

It's also true that some paper's bylines sometimes include middle names or initials of reporters and sometimes don't. If your paper didn't include it, take it up with the paper, not with The Common Ills, another frequent whine from reporters to the public account of that site.

The biggest advice is that you take the position Dennis Hopper's character advises in Black Widow, pretend you're talking to a child. By that we mean, explain what you're writing about. If there's something that comes in to this site which puzzles us enough to note it in coversations, C.I. can usually narrow it down and say, "Oh, they mean ____ that went up ____." That's done as we're working on the edition Saturday night and Sunday morning. You may have e-mailed Monday. No one knew what you were talking about.

Be specific in your title, be specific in your e-mail. (We're not asking anyone to be brief. We realize that passions are involved in many issues. We would never say that in writing to any of us you need to limit yourself to a certain word count.) A drive-by last month came in on an event and the person copied and pasted the details and then wrote themselves, "This is interesting." Ty read that e-mail, agreed to himself that it was interesting and went on about his life. The drive-by wrote this week whining that it didn't get mentioned. Why should it? You wrote, "This is interesting." That's all you wrote. Yeah, it was interesting. It had nothing to do with anything we'd written about before or wrote last month. You didn't ask for it to be included (if you had it would have been included in a "Mailbag" feature) and you only wrote "This is interesting." The equivalent of all those people forwarding around cat photos and Biblical scriptures.

The more specific you are, the better the chance that you'll be noted. That's in terms of your e-mail heading, your message and whom you decide to send it to. That's so basic we shouldn't have to explain it but apparently we do. Something you may think is very basic may need explaining as well. Remember that when you e-mail.

M.E. Moses

Hazel e-mailed saying she'd found something at Crapapedia on retail stores that had closed in the United States. She went down the list and saw one "you probably never heard of but it was my Toys-R-Us as a kid, M.E. Moses." She clicked on the link and got nothing. She wondered if we knew anything about the chain of stores and had anything to share?

After identifying the region, we contacted various Texas TCI community members. Dallas, Billie and Ramona were able to help out. Others weren't sure if they were remembering M.E. Moses or Mott's (another chain in the area) or Woolworth's (a national chain).

"I got my Charlie's Angels dolls there in 1978 or 1979," Ramona remembers. "Cheryl Ladd was already playing Kris and they only had Sabrina, Kelly and Kris. These were little dolls, like eight inches. I'd been waiting and waiting forever. I'd wanted Jill, Kelly and Sabrina for Christmas the year before but there was some issue about whether the show was too 'mature' for me. I got a Charlie's Angeles lunch box at the start of the year so it was decided it wasn't too 'mature' now. But Cheryl Ladd was already playing Kris and most of the stores, the bigger stores, weren't carrying Jill anymore. So I was begging and pleading. I finally got my parents to agree to all three if I got straight A's for the six week report card. That was hard but I did it. We go to the store and they don't have Jill. I was so upset. There was Kris in her green jumpsuit and I really didn't like Kris. I didn't say, 'I told you Jill would be gone!' Probably because I didn't, my father felt bad and told me I could get the Farrah Fawcett doll. It was 12 inches so she towered over the rest of them. I remember the Charlie's Angels dolls came in these sealed plastic containers, not boxes, like Barbies. And I think they cost $8.99 a piece. I have kids now and we've got Toys-R-Us and toy stores in the mall. I don't remember anything like that when I was growing up. When I was a kid, you went to M.E. Moses and your mom looked at the fabric while you ran to toy aisle. If it was a really big M.E. Moses, there might be two aisles. We weren't poor, we were just above poor. My father was a truck driver and my mother worked at my school as a teacher's aid. There were at least two times when the trukers went on strike. They may be the only ones who could still strike successfully in the state. But when they went on strike, it was pots of beans. We'd have a pot of lima beans with a bit of ham in it and that would be dinner and the next night we'd have the rest of it. Then it would be pinto beans. Then it would be black eyes peas. I never thought much about money until then and that's when I learned that everyone wasn't in the same situation, some were better off, some were worse off. My brother could usually get some little item when we went to M.E. Moses and I could too. It would be something like a new dress for Barbie. If I saw candy that I wanted and a dress, I'd take the box with the dress over to my mom in the fabric section and ask her, 'Can you make something like this?' She always had left overs on fabric when she finished whatever she was sewing so, unless it was something with spangles on it, I usually went with the candy and just got her to make a dress for my dolls. But what I'm going through all of that for is how the world has changed. I know people struggling more than my parents and they're buying their kids toys that cost over a hundred bucks, even adjusted for inflation. M.E. Moses was a big deal to me because it had toys. Sears had toys but if we got toys at Sears we usually went to what I think was a Sears outlet store. Most of the time, it was M.E. Moses for toys. And I knew that the really big things, usually on the top shelf out of the reach of kids, was out of my parent's reach financially and not to even ask. My mom would be going through patterns and fabrics for probably two hours and my brother and I would stay on the toy aisle and not even notice each other. We'd be staring at the toys and, with the ones we knew we weren't getting, just dreaming about them, fantasizing how we'd play with them. I have a younger sister who I love but I was in high school when my parents had her and already everything had changed. There were toy stores, stores of just toys, and all this other stuff. The first time we went to Toys-R-Us with her, I was just shocked. Not envious, just overwhelmed. There was so much and, for me, I don't think I would've appreciated as much. For her and other kids that grew up with it, they probably do because that's really what they know but for me there was just something magical about that aisle in M.E. Moses and thinking I'd have all the dolls on it one day."

Dallas remembers a M.E. Moses on Bruton Blvd. in Dallas and what stood out the most was the fact that it was on a strip mall and that side had the best slope for skateboarding ("though you'd get yelled at"), a movie theater, a Gibson's, a big grocery store ("I think Kroger's") and a lot more. His cousins would go there with his teenage uncle on the weekends when his uncle "got stuck with us." The cousins would run up and down the mall "saying we'd buy this or that but, in the end, not buying anything except some candy -- and M.E. Moses had the best display of candy, like the candy stores in the mall today -- because there was a Dairy Queen across the street and we'd save up our money to go eat there. We'd get to there about noon, maybe a little before, my uncle would wait with us until his friends pulled up, then they'd tell us to get lost and he'd go off with his friends while we did what we wanted until a little after five. He'd usually come out of the movies and if he was just with his friends, that meant we had some time to kill still but if he was talking to a female that meant he thought he had a date and we better be headed for the car because he had to go home and get ready which was really just change his shirt and splash on some cologne that I think was called Nuts & Bolts."

At M.E. Moses, "we'd really just look at the candy or maybe some of the models you put together -- airplanes, cars -- we were already too old for the toys although sometimes we'd buy one of those airplanes with a propeller and fly those or, if we wanted to walk a bit to the high school, we'd pool our money for a kite. We'd talk about seeing a movie but never had the money for that and several hours walking around. The one time we did go see a movie, it was at night, Superman II, and the electricity went out. It was late and one of the guys was whining that he was going to hear about it so we finally left and didn't even see the end of the movie."

Billie remembers the layout of the store she went to. "I don't remember the street but my grandmother's beautician was two stores down. So she'd send us into M.E. Moses and go get her hair done. I remember you walked in and the front center was the registers. The left side you were facing was where you'd spend all your time if you were a kid. The right side had fake flowers, household stuff, fabric, towels, etc. The left hand side might have some toys right when you walked in that were the 'hot' toys of the day. They'd have their specials, on everything, there. Then, as you walked past the registers, you came to the candy which was set up in a square and they had counter and you could get stuff to eat. I don't know what because I never ate there. I think ice cream, probably a burger. After you passed that, you were in the land of the toys. When it got closer to Christmas, the aisle next to the toy aisle would also become a toy aisle so you'd have two aisles of toys. The left side of the one aisle was where they had the 'boys' toys which was action figures and anything non-gender specific. The right-side was a wall of pink. Dolls in pink, pink everything. They had Barbies, and they had baby dolls. They had this one doll my sister begged for that was five feet tall. It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen in my life with thin hair that barely covered the head. But she thought it would be so great to have a doll taller than her. The selling point was supposed to be that it walked. Anyway, she could always twist my grandmother around her finger and, after a few weeks, she got it. It was the worst doll in the world. You were supposed to stand next to it, hold it's hand and as you walked it would take a step if you had put the legs just right. That was the walking doll -- one step if you set up the legs right. It was this cheap, thin, hollow plastic and the hair started falling off almost immediately. The store next to it had costumes at Halloween and, around this time, they had a Batgirl costume in the window. It was for adults but the cape was like on TV. These were adult costumes and not the shoddy things we had as kids. The cape and the wig alone I would have worn forever. It was the same price as the doll and when the doll ended up behind the house in a garbage can a few weeks later, I couldn't help thinking, 'If we had gotten that Batgirl costume . . .' But that was the thing that stood out. You had some cheap toys like that, inexpensive and cheaply made, and you also had some name brand stuff. If you were lucky, you could always get my grandmother to at least get you a knock off after she'd finished getting her hair done. The other thing that stands out is that it was always cooler on the right side of the store. We didn't go over there very often but one time my sister and I were looking at something like door handles for cabinets. They were in these black, wire baskets and we had to get really close because it seemed like that side of the store was less well lit and also cooler -- a.c. wise cooler. Another reason we didn't go over to that side very often was adults would glare at you. If you were on the left side of the store, no one bothered you. But leave the side with the toys and adults seemed upset you were on their side and the employees seemed convinced you were going to shoplift. Which, it turned out, they were right to worry about. My sister shop lifted all the time. I never found until we were in junior high. Some of that stuff I thought she'd talked my grandmother into buying, she'd hadn't. She'd just tell me and our parents that after we got back to explain how she had whatever new toy it was. That really ticked me off because she was pocketing left and right and never even bothered to pocket anything for me. I remember when mood rings were a big deal and they had them up front, in M.E. Moses, on a register. It was a display. My sister had three mood rings and I didn't have one. She wouldn't even let me wear one of her's. She'd say, 'If you put it on, it won't tell my mood.' So when she finally told me the truth about all the goodies she'd picked up over the years, my first question was, 'Did you steal a mood ring?' She stole all three."

Ramona and Billie both say they never expected the stores to close but Dallas maintains he was prepared for it, "Gibson's carried vinyl albums and 45 singles. M.E. Moses carried vinyl albums and so did the grocery store. My uncle bought an All in the Family album there one time just for the cover because he had the hots for Sally Struthers. Then one day, the grocery store stopped carrying vinyl. Then M.E. Moses stopped carrying it. We used to flip through the vinyl at all three so when it dropped down to two and then one, it became obvious things were changing. I actually think a friend pointed that out. But we were all in agreement. There had also been a place next to the Dairy Queen that was a drive-in. You couldn't eat inside because inside was just the kitchen. But people would go there and hang out in the lot, even if you were a kid and didn't have a car. It closed down and then it was just the Dairy Queen. So there signs like that if you noticed. Or the grocery store. I think it was a Kroger's and I say that because it flipped about five times during my childhood. It was a Skagg's, it was an Alpha Beta. It was always changing."

"Today you have the dollar stores," Ramona said referring to three different chains with "dollar" in the title. "They really aren't the same thing. With the candy and the toys, M.E. Moses seemed geared towards children. Or we thought so. You walk into a dollar store and it's like the ideal customer is someone on their lunch hour rushing in to buy detergent."

Billie agreed with that noting that they toys at M.E. Moses included "the cheapest, mid-range and expensive for those times. At Dollar General, you just have these cheap knock offs. If you're a kid buying a toy there, you're pretty much getting what you want right away. There's no bargaining of 'I really want this but could I have this?' We used to do that with my grandmother all the time. And, after our first several trips, we got smart enough to always ask about the most expensive one right away to let her get her 'no' out of the way."
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