Sunday, August 10, 2008

Truest statement of the week

In other words, Blacks have no special gripe, as far as Barack Obama is concerned - which is the source of his attraction to unprecedented numbers of white voters seeking, if not absolution for past crimes, at least a muting of Black complaints. That's the kind of "change" they're anticipating, race-wise.

Glen Ford, "Obama Won't Address Specific Black Concerns" (Black Agenda Report).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Sunday night and finally getting around to doing the note.

Along with Dallas who is our soundboard and link locator and much more, the following worked on this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
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,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,

We thank everyone. We also thank Isaiah for the use of his comics and we thank Betty's eldest son for his drawings.

What did we come up with?

Truest statement of the week -- Glen Ford grabbed this one easily. There really wasn't any debate which is why we offer only one "truest" this week.

Editorial: NPR aka Home of the Unqualified -- Ava and C.I. received non-stop complaints from NPR friends about this today. Apparently the editorial (which all worked on) hit a nerve. We think it's pretty sorry that NPR's allowing someone to post 'judgments' at the ombudsperson's page and to 'explain' journalism in e-mails to listener when she's never practicied journalism, never studied journalism and just 'graduated' from intern to assistant (after just graduating college with her English lit major). Tough crap, NPR, try maintaining some standards.

TV: The stench of 'public affairs' programming -- Ava and C.I.'s latest and I've got a number of things to cover here. First, a sentence in it is now deleted. They added it right before posting when I (Jim) said we'd come back and do the note tonight. Knowing how emotional Dave Zirin can be, they included a warning in the commentary since he Googles his own name constantly. Here's the warning. When Zirin went after Mike, Ava and C.I. were 'not happy' to put it mildly. They have not forgotten. They immediately began compiling their file -- 150 pages of text plus photo copies and photos -- as they worked their contacts. Get on their s**t list and they put together a file. Mike put it behind him (Wally has not, Ava notes, and will never again mention Zirin) so Ava and C.I. wait and the file goes tick-tick-tick. That warning is included in the note and has been pulled from the commentary. Second, and I meant to do this as a stand-alone, last week I linked to two or three of Ava and C.I.'s older commentaries from the earliest days and began receiving e-mails about one which noted, "It's not a soap opera and they're using 'bitch' repeatedly." It's in their commentary, they aren't using it. Ava and C.I.'s stuff was the thing everyone responded to in the first month of TV stuff here. Their observations, their one liners. I didn't get what they were doing (as I've admitted many times) back then but I did get that they were the force behind the TV articles. We turned TV over to them in Feb. 2005. We offered them a byline but this site was created for group writing and they refused. At some point, the praise was so intense that the rest of us were embarrassed to be getting credit for their writing so we began noting that they do the TV commentaries. That's all first year stuff. In a roundtable in 2005, there was a major clash when Ty brought in an e-mail about Ava and C.I.'s writing that noted a change in one of their article. Ava and C.I. denied making any such change. They didn't. That's where I 'fessed up that I'd been going in and fixing typos and (sad but true) sometimes altering a word here and there because I thought it would be even funnier. When that came out in the roundtable, Ava and C.I. made clear that (a) their typos are not always typos (sometimes they're inside jokes for friends) and (b) if they are known for writing it, no one should be editing or altering it without their permission and it being known. I put in "bitch" in the review everyone's e-mailing about. Had that come out during the roundtable, it would have been explosive. I don't remember what I was caught doing but it wasn't that. Ava and C.I.'s original review of The Simple Life used the word "brat." They didn't remember but, as e-mails poured in last week, I dug around through some boxes from our big NY move and found the original longhand version of it. "Bitch" will stand in their review because, Ava, "That things been up for years now. Readers who have been around since 2005 are familiar with the roundtable and know that story. C.I. and I found the turmoil over last week's e-mails funny because we know what we write and what we don't write. Jim took this much more seriously than we did. At the time, we made clear that it needed to stop right away and we also made clear that we weren't going to read over the commentaries to try to figure out what was changed. We don't read over stuff after it goes up. We don't go back and read it. We don't have the time and, though we're glad that some enjoy them, we're just trying to finish them and be done." C.I. points out that when the roundtable revelations took place it was noted that only Ty could go into the TV commentaries from now on. Ty does not change anything without checking to make sure a typo is a typo and he doesn't 'edit' them either. They both know (a) it's a dead issue at this point, (b) they're living in 2008 and (c) The Simple Life piece continues to result in e-mails so obviously "Jim's word substitution was not 'harmful' and people enjoyed it. We wouldn't have used the term in that review but we're focused on 2008, not 2005." What they're focused on right now is doing Eli Stone next week. Unless there's another major TV embarrassment this week, they intend to write a ("brief" says Ava) TV commentary next week. They remind Eli Stone airs currently on Saturday nights, on ABC, during the last hour of primetime.

Stop-Loss -- Dona just said, "Keep the rest short." (C.I.'s still got to post at The Common Ills.) This article is about stop-loss and reminding that Matthis Chiroux needs your support.

'Friends' and Bigots -- When Ava and C.I. went off to write their TV commentary, we still didn't know what we were doing this edition other than the editorial (and highlights). And on the editorial, Jess reminds that several paragraphs (word for word) were dictated in Friday's snapshot by C.I. The snapshot was too big and C.I. pulled that section and slid it over to us to use if we wanted. We did and turned it into an editorial. So while Ava and C.I. were working on the TV article, the rest of us were trying to figure out what to do this edition. Betty wanted race to be addressed. She made a strong case that should have been an article (and hopefully will be next week) that had us all saying, "YEAH!" Marcia, who was on board immediately, said right after, that what Betty was talking about was an article much longer than we probably had time for this week. So she, Betty, Cedric and Wally worked on coming up with two smaller units. They narrowed the focus down and we wrote this article.

You can learn a lot from a movie -- When Marcia said it needed to be in smaller units, Betty asked, "Did everyone read C.I. this morning?" (It was still Saturday when we started.) Betty brought up the lyrics quoted from Grace of My Heart. Ty and Jess zoomed in on what an ass Eric Stoltz' character was. So we had our 'unit' for this article which also addresses race. Barring any big news this week, we hope to pick up the larger scope Betty wanted. We also hope to do a piece Ava and C.I. advocated for but we didn't have time for this week.

Nader and Gonzalez speak to the people -- Here we wanted to note the Nader-Gonzalez campaign but also to be sure Bonnie Faulkner got her well deserved credit. Her program the week before was nominated by a reader for "truest." He wrote about a statement but didn't include the statement and Ty saw the e-mail Sunday. It was too late for us to listen to the program and we felt bad because she does go her own way and not try to be part of the circle-jerk so many in Panhandle Media are. So we really wanted to be sure she got her credit this week.

War resistance then -- A carry over from last week when time ran out.

The sorry John Edwards spectacle -- Ava and C.I. had a very good idea for an article and Elaine was the strongest supporter of it. But there was also this topic. At one point, there was a chance that the topic would make the TV commentary. Ava and C.I. included it on their bullet list of ten items to cover in their commentary. But it didn't fit. They could break the flow and force it in but we told them not to even try. We were glad that they were willing to consider it. To be clear, Ava and C.I. are not interested in sex scandals. They've avoided this topic and it would never be addressed at The Common Ills. When John Edwards announced he was going to be on Nightline, they were willing to set aside their own personal tastes because it did fall under their beat. They watched and made notes (some of which may have made it into this piece because we had read their notes). They were willing to cover it if they could fit in. It didn't fit. That's fine. But we wanted the topic covered. Males participating in this writing edition especially had leaned towards Edwards at various points in the primaries. By January, it was really just Wally and Mike still holding out hope that Edwards might show some strength. He never did. Ava and C.I. were told the affair was true in August which is another reason they didn't participate in this feature. Elaine is closed mouth but she learned around the same time and not from Ava or C.I. Rebecca learned from a friend that the story was being shopped to the tabloids. All four chose not to work on this and Rebecca kindly warned us that we should not make any end-of-story statements because the full story is not out there. For those of us who majored in journalism especially, it is offensive that politicians (not just Edwards) think they can give a media confession and then no one must ask any questions. Your confession (belated in this case) does not end the story. There's also the issue that Edwards was on a high-horse in his opposition to same-sex marriage and pointing to the Bible on that. We like the way this turned out. We put a byline in brackets when I decided we'd wait on the note. That was to be clear who wrote and who chose not to participate (Ava, C.I., Elaine and Rebecca). Dona says our conclusion comes from a note in Ava and C.I.'s shorthand on the Nightline interview where they wrote in big letters: "WHAT ABOUT RIELLE!!! WHAT ABOUT HER FEELINGS!!!!" and underlined that repeatedly. We took those two exclamations and turned it into our conclusion. If we had more time, we would have gone even longer on that. "Our privacy" the Edwards insist. Rielle's privacy? She hasn't spoken to the press about her relationship. She didn't go on Nightline or blog at The Daily Toilet Scrubber. And she has a child. It really is cute how the Edwards slam the door shut and glorify the newfound sanctity of their marriage when their message has the implication that it's all Rielle Hunter's fault. The 'evil temptress' who led John astray. That's bulls**t. [Dona says to add those shouting comments to include on this topic in the note did not include Ava and C.I.]

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Rebecca, Betty, Marcia, Ruth, Cedric, Kat and Wally wrote this and picked out highlights. We thank them for it.

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

Editorial: NPR aka Home of the Unqualified

Yesterday, NPR's Weekend Edition offered "Former Bush Adviser Analyzes Obama Economics."

They also offered a take on McCain by a Democrat. What they didn't offer was any takes on any presidential candidates who weren't Democrats or Republicans. Today Weekend Edition offers up "Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics" which manages to put forth the lie (via omission) that bi-racial Barack is the only candidate of color running for president. Last time we checked, an African-American woman and a Lebanese-American man were running as well. But NPR's just not interested.

When criticized about their s**t poor election coverage, NPR likes to point to a July post that really reads like an admission that the news outlet (that is how NPR defines itself) is merely a gossip network. Think of it as the audio equivalent of FaceBook or MySpace.

Holley Simmons (we'll get to "WHO?" in a moment) thinks her comical attempt at explaining the unchecked balance cuts it as reply to listeners who continue to complain that a field of six candidates is being reduced to merely two. To call her word assembly "stupid" is to let it off too easily. It is journalistic ignorance.

* Referring to a complaint from "listener Stephanie Bowman" about a "media blackout" on Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, Simmons insists that "isn't quite correct." She goes on to list three days when Bob Barr was mentioned on NPR programming (May 12,, May 26 and July 28). Three days of coverage! Why, he should be polling at 98% with that 'intense' coverage! Is Simmons really that STUPID? Yes, she is. She wants to insist that "NPR's Chicago bureau covered the weekend Green Party Convention" -- then they didn't cover it very well because that convention started on THURSDAY. Or is NPR on a different work week than the rest of the country?

* Simmons wants people to know that Ralph "Nader, and his running mate Matt Gonzalez have had 48 mentions during this political cycle, mostly after Nader declared his candidacy in February." Ron Elving embarrasses himself (NPR's senior Washington editor") arguing that "as these candidates make news or participate in debates, NPR will report it." Really? Where is NPR's coverage of the BonusGate scandal coming out of Pennsylvania? But even when a Nader, Barr or McKinney 'makes news' on the NPR scale, Ron says it's won't matter because covering them "will not amount to much more than a small fraction of the coverage devoted to the two major parties' nominees."

* Simmons notes that "the election guide on NPR's Election 2008 webpage features only presidential candidates McCain and Obama. In the interest of fairness, however, Rudin is working on getting the other candidates represented before the end of summer." Really? And who will work on Simmons IGNORANCE? The only CANDIDATES currently are Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin. Barack Obama and John McCain are NOT YET their parties' nominees. The election guide could be fixed to include everyone in about ten seconds which is about how long Ken Rudin worked putting together the "Veepstakes" crap.

Let's look at some of the 'make news' coverage of Barack. "Obama Looks To Make Fla. Inroads"? Aired Thursday on All Things Considered. And what was 'newsworthy'? Nothing. Barack went to Florida to campaign. Greg Allen reported on it. Nader will be in Canada on Monday, will NPR report on that? Paris Hilton is not running for president. But August 6th, her mock ad was 'news' to NPR's Morning Edition. It's totally arbitrary and, no, it does not meet any standards of journalism no matter how much NPR wants to kid themselves.

Holley may want to check out NPR's ethical code, it might enlighten her. "NPR is primarily a news organization. We are always testing and questioning the credibility of others. We have to stand that test ourselves." Holley might also want to familiarize herself with the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 which created NPR (and PBS) in the first place (and pay attention to the part about programming "that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences").


The most frightening thing about Holley is that she's writing for NPR's ombudsperson*. She signed her name to that July column/post. She's repeatedly suggesting -- via e-mail -- it be read by those complaining about NPR's sorry coverage.

Though not the ombudsperson, she is doing the speaking and the writing.

Who knew ombudsperson required all the 'skills' and 'education' that working the counter at Burger King would?

In other words, Holley is not a journalist.

In other words, Holley has never practiced journalism.

Holley holds a degree in English (sociology was her minor). And she only recently graduated. She's only recently been upgraded to "assistant,", she was a summer intern this time last year -- one whose resume 'boasts' that she'd like to get a degree in journalism. We'd like for her to do that as well and strongly suggest to NPR that, until she does, she stop posting at the ombudsperson website.

In Public Editor #1**, Daniel Okrent, the first ombudsperson for The New York Times, explains, "American journalism's first ombudsmen -- the most common term for reader representatives at United States newspapers -- had shown up in the 1960s, notably at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Washington Post. The Times, however, had for more than three decades steadfastly refused to hire one, citing the presumed obligation of the paper's own editors to represent the readers." Whether you agree with that refusal or not, The New York Times' excuse was that trained journalists (editors) were already overseeing the news outlet and responding. Arthur Bovino was Okrent's assistant and answered e-mails. Bovino was also a journalist (who had published in The New York Times, among other outlets). Deborah Howell, a journalist, is the current ombudsperson at The Washington Post. One of the most celebrated ombudsperson was Geneve Overhosler who held that job at The Washington Post beginning in 1995, after decades of journalism (including editorial work on journalism that went on to win a Pulitzer). (Overhosler is still alive. "Was" indicates she is no longer an ombudsperson.) Michael Getler, formerly of The Washington Post and -- at one point -- its ombudsperson, is currently the ombudsperson for PBS (and the outlet's first ombudsperson). He brings to the job decades of journalistic experience.

We're having a really hard time understanding how NPR believes non-journalist, non-journalistic degreed Holley, just out of college, is supposed to be qualified to offer 'learned' opinions on NPR's political coverage. As noted above, she doesn't even know the guidelines or the mandate under which NPR (and PBS) were created.

Listeners with serious complaints about NPR's obvious failings in covering the presidential campaign are being steered to her 'work' on the issue?

In what world is that acceptable? (Probably in the same world that NPR's political reporters think they can regularly refuse to cover all the candidates running for president.)

It is unacceptable.

And before Holley next weighs in with her 'definitive judgment' (which an ombudsperson is supposed to be able to offer) either online at the ombudsperson weblog at NPR or in e-mails, someone might want to tell her that's not really her role. Barring that, they might want to encourage her to begin all commentaries with, "I just got out of college and I didn't study journalism so this is a completely uninformed position. Heck, I barely remember the 2004 election!"

Public radio better start doing its job. That's Pacifica, that's NPR. And they better grasp that people across the country are damn sick of paying for this garbage that's no different from the easy trash offered on the cable chat & chews. People are paying attention and when the next cry of "SAVE BIG BIRD!" comes along, don't be surprised to see a LARGE number of people contact their members of Congress with one message: "Pull the plug!" That's not a joke. That's not a threat. It's an honest reflection of sentiment across the country from once devoted listeners of NPR and Pacifica. Public radio continues down this path at their own peril.



*"Ombudsperson" is used here because it is inclusive. It is also the term that The Common Ills ombudsperson Beth prefers.

** C.I. is mentioned on one page of Okrent's book. That's not why we quote it in this editorial; however, C.I. and Dona both know the e-mails will come in if that's not noted. Also, in the Okrent quote, he does not italicize titles so we haven't added that to his quote.

*** Along with Holly Simmons' byline being on that July column, we have thirty-one e-mails she's sent out since it was published. Any listener who makes a complaint about the bias in NPR's election coverage is quickly encouraged, by Holley, to read that lousy column/blog post.

TV: The stench of 'public affairs' programming

Each of the three broadcast networks debuted one series worth watching in the last 12 months. NBC, as we noted before the fall season began, had Chuck. Since they're foolishly not airing it this summer, we plan to offer our full review of Chuck either before season two starts airing or right after. CBS spent months offering garbage but began airing Flashpoint this summer. ABC? That was going to be the focus of this week's review but how can we cover greatness in entertainment when what passes for public affairs programs remains so insipid, vapid and dumbed down?

So this week, we're putting ABC's best show again on hold and instead wading back into the sewer someone's dubbed "public affairs."


You can step into the sewer without bumping into Pravda on the Hudson's Amy Goodman's so let's start with Friday's broadcast of Democracy Sometimes! which set a record for low I.Q.

Friday, Goody wanted to talk Olympics (currently airing on NBC) and it was obvious that information and facts weren't really prerequisites. Thick-necked and emotional Dave Zirin was Goody's guest, it was a wealth of stupidity.

Dave Zirin had a semi-infamous appearance with Goody long ago where he praised Barack Obama. Our own Mike noted that he disagreed with it and was disappointed by it. Which led, months later, to Dave screaming like a banshee in an e-mail to Mike. Mike was wrong! Mike didn't know what he was talking about! Dave never praised Barack! Blah, blah, blah.

Mike was, of course, right. And we should probably step back to note that Mike and Wally promoted the hell out of Zirin's book What's My Name, Fool? (This site praised the book as well.) There was never a thank-you to Mike (or Wally) for that. But when Dave was held accountable it was time for the knuckle-dragger to go ballistic on Mike. It was an embarrassing (but telling) moment for Zirin because he had in fact praised Barack. Or is a radical sports columnist comparing a political candidate to Roger Clemente supposed to be an insult?

We mention that early on because (a) we're not in the mood for any s**t from Dave and if he tries to beat his chest like Tarzan in e-mails, we'll cut him off at the knees and (b) it's increasingly obvious that Zirin has no control over what he says and even less recall.

Here's Dave, babbling on and trying to sound informed but only revealing gross ignorance on Friday:

So, it's all being done to try to sell products to consumers, who Madison Avenue, they describe them--it's a very creepy phrase, if you think about it--they describe them as "unbranded." I mean, it has almost a slavery connotation. But they’re unbranded, meaning they don't yet have the brand loyalties to say, "Well, I'm an Adidas person, not a Nike person. I'm a Coke person, not a Pepsi person." So it’s an opportunity to reach those consumers that, frankly, is unprecedented. I mean, it's like the equivalent of an oil company finding oil somewhere in the world that's yet to be tapped, and there is a passion by Western corporations to get in there and tap those markets.

It should be noted that, like the typical radical White male New Yorker on the fringes, Zirin immediately has to turn everything into race and, for that set, 'race' means what they generally call the "Negro experience" (see "You can learn a lot from a movie" this edition). It's laughable but if the fringes couldn't remain stuck in the 1950s, they wouldn't have anything to babble on about today.

That's because they're so grossly ignorant. And that's revealed in Dave's remarks above where he babbles on endlessly, attempting to get a few laughs and the only laughs coming are from the ones grasping how uninformed Dave Zirin is, how uneducated and how under-educated.

I told 'em what drove me crazy was my last creative consultant

job, with the Ritz Cracker mogul, Mr. Nabisco. It was

my job to come up with snack inspirations to increase sales.

I got this idea to give Cracker Consciousness to the entire


I said, "Mr. Nabisco, sir! You could be the first to sell the

concept of munching to the Third World. We got an untapped

market here! These countries got millions and millions of

people don't even know where their next meal is coming from.

So the idea of eatin' between meals is something' just never

occurred to 'em!"

That's the allusion Dave's weak and starving mind was attempting to make. Jane Wagner wrote the above words and Lily Tomlin brought them to life in the smash and Tony award winning The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe. (Lily won the Tony for Best Acress.)

Maybe "Intelligent" scared Zirin away from the still frequently mounted production?

Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Kouddous 'hosted' that segment and no point in waiting for one of them to add, as Dave finished babbling, "That sounds like a lot like the Lily Tomlin play!" For the New York Radical Red, "feminism" will always be a dirty word -- which goes a long way towards explaining how Goody could find herself publishing in the misogynist skin magazine H**tler this decade. By choice! She disgraced herself and other women by her own choice! How very Madonna of her.

We'll come back to the above points in a moment. But let's note the obvious, if you're talking about the advertising on the Olympics, it's pretty much incumbent upon you to talk about . . . the advertising. But somehow they managed to avoid it, over and over. Even with Dave Zirin babbling on, at the end, about "pressure that we should be bringing to bear upon NBC, because NBC is, of course, owned by General Electric. General Electric, independently of NBC, is one of the top ten sponsors of the Games in China . . ."

Blah, blah, blah about pressuring NBC. A bunch of carping is not going to hurt NBC (or General Electric -- they actually enjoyed our slam of their 'environmental' special last summer). You want to bring pressure, you hit the pocketbooks. That means going to the advertisers. Two advertisers should have been noted and you know one was the one they find so hard to criticize. Barack Obama bought $5 million in advertising spots, John McCain followed with a $6 million buy. "Public affairs" programming -- not just Pravda on the Hudson -- has no power to bring pressure on McCain because they've resorted to mindless, nonsensical attacks (see Goody earlier turning a reporter asking McCain if he thought Barack was a Socialist into "McCain's suggesting Barack's a Socialist!") but their Christ-child must never be questioned. As they delight in cooing over and stroking Barack day after day, maybe they could have taken a moment or two to insist that pressure be brought on him for advertising during the Olympics? Then again, maybe they're still reeling from how he 'responded' to pressure on him last month to keep his promise on FISA? (He blew it off.)

The reality is that, and many know this already, an ad on the Olympics is not an ad smart companies seek out. It's not the Super Bowl in that it doesn't begin and end in one evening/night. It goes on and on and on and on, for days and days, and commercial breaks, when they come, do not provide a captive audience as viewers, instead, rush off the bathroom, to the kitchen, etc. The televised Olympics is an endurance marathon and viewers tend to use commercial spots as rest breaks. (As one NBC exec pointed out, both campaigns would have been smarter advertising in the second hour of primetime on CBS Monday nights which continues to pull in a healthy and attractive demographic even in summer repeats.)

In a supposed segment on the politics of the Olympics that regularly spoke (badly) of the sponsors, somehow the two presidential candidates were never named. $11 million is apparently chump change.

As is becoming increasingly obvious, the real chumps are the consumers of this crap who think their time is well spent. Heaven forbid, on a supposedly higher level of discourse -- commercial free and non-sound byte discourse, that anyone could actually be informed.

The following segment of Friday's Pravda on the Hudson seemed to testify further to how low the 'exchange of ideas' could sink: Thomas Frank.

Friday Hillary Is 44 noted:

Donna Brazile: A new Democratic coalition is younger, it is more urban, as well as suburban, and we don't have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.

David Axelrod: The white working class has gone to the Republican nominee for many elections, going back even to the Clinton years. This is not new that Democratic candidates don't rely solely on those votes.

The rantings above by Brazile and Axelrod are inspired by theories espoused by Jude Judis and Ruy Teixeira about the emerging Democratic majority. The basic premise is that African-Americans and young voters and liberals are the new Democratic majority. The old FDR coalition is, for these strategists, too old and too out of fashion.

The Creative Class, as the nutroots flatteringly call themselves, love the snakeoil of an emerging Democratic majority that does not have to bother with the majority of the country -- white and particularly white working class voters. The dream of the nutroots, er excuse us, the Creative Class is that Democrats can't win white working class voters and other groups so just chuck them out of the way and come up with some new formula to win. In other words, stop competing and get a gimmick. Gypsy Rose Lee would be proud.

The nutroots are no different than their predecessors (immediate ones being the TV gasbags of the chat & chews) and every decade brings its hula hoops sold as the miracle cure that will deliver votes . . . by not getting out the votes. Of the current "snakeoil" artistes, few stand out as prominently as Thomas Frank who is neither a thinker nor an original.

What is he? He's a lot like David Brooks with the pseudo social science but he offers a deep helping of paranoia to the mix in his chatty, breezy 'books' that make Helen Gurley Brown look like Plato by comparison. If you're not getting how anti-thought and anti-discovery Frank is, you missed this nonsense on Friday (lucky you): "I was able to find an article published in 1928, and it was written by -- or maybe it was an interview with the president of the US Chamber of Commerce. And these guys are big players in Washington now, just as they were in 1928 in the Coolidge administration, big, you know, conservative powerhouse down there."

Frank comes onto a program to 'enlighten' and he decides to reference an article but doesn't even know whether it was "written by -- or maybe it was an interview with"? That goes to the shoddy methodology and the lack of intellectual integrity to be found in his 'work.' He brought up the article, he thinks it's very important, but he doesn't even know if it was a column or an interview?

Determining whether an article is an interview or a column doesn't require an advanced degree but it was apparently beyond the limited intellectual prowess of Frank and why are we not surprised? He would gas bag on about "public servant" and "bureaucracy" and "civil service" -- all terms are meaningless when Frank starts gas bagging because he lacks the precision to even stick to one term -- and then demonstrate his ignorance even further as, speaking about the conservative movement's long war on the civil service, he declared, "The most interesting thing, though, is what the Bush administration has done, sort of their signature initiative, what they are going to be remembered for--you know, in addition to, like, the Iraq war, you know, that sort of thing--but what they’re going to be remembered for, in terms of their, you know, innovations in governance, is turning everything over to the private sector, right? Outsource the job. Get--you know, take these jobs away from career civil servants and hand them over to the big federal contractors who have these offices around the Washington Beltway."

Yes, Frank really is that stupid.

While there's no question that Bully Boy has continued the establishment's love of outsourcing, it is also beyond question that Bully Boy increased the civil service. He didn't strengthen that segment, but his policies increased their number. That's a fact, that's reality and it escapes Frank because he lives in his own little bubble where his paranoid fantasies are encouraged and his every utterance treated as gospel. A little mingling in the real world would have brought home the reality that many conservatives see the increase in civil servants as a big betrayal of the conservative movement and rank it up there with Bully Boy's father's raising taxes after the pledge not to do so. Goody and Sharif could have raised that point but they seemed eager to wallow in stupidity.

Frank would go on to gas bag about other topics (making multiple factual mistakes) and end one long winded section declaring of the right-wing, " They would get donations from various big companies and beat up on the left on campus. Very interesting. There’s a lot of money to be made in being a conservative, as it turns out." While it's true that the public left continues to avoid calling out George Soros, or even owning up to how many of them are on the Soros Blood Money dole, that's not what we want to zoom in on. We want to zoom in on this illuminating moment that follows Frank's declaration:

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And then he went on to found the United Students of America Foundation --
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, that's--yeah.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: --that took on Nader's Public [Interest Research] Groups. Who were some of the companies funding the USA Foundation?
THOMAS FRANK: Oh, God, I don't know. I'm sorry, I don't.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, I mean, how were they taking on Nader's groups?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, it was groups--according to this report, it was people like--I mean, the reason why they would be interested in fighting, you know, getting involved in a campus battle, [. . .]

Frank is supposed to be discussing an article he wrote for Harper's magazine and Sharif is asking about research that Frank allegedly did for the article. Frank's response, "Oh, God, I don't know. I'm sorry, I don't." He's completely unprepared for any factual discussion because his work is not rooted in facts, it never has been.

What's The Matter With Kansas? was the 'book' that brought him minor fame and, if the title reminds you of something Natalie Merchant might have written for 10,000 Maniacs, don't be deceived, the 'book' is far less interesting. It's the work of someone not overly interested in facts, someone who cherry-picks facts to back up his preconceived hypothesis (no, that is not how the scientific method works but we told you already Frank is no thinker) so that he can let his paranoia run wild.

The late Ellen Willis demolished the anti-thought that was required for that opus, noting that these quick-fixes not only do not work, they conceal the real problem [PDF format warning, click here]. Frank, like his DLC predecessors, argues Dems could win if they abandoned the 'culture wars' because they just 'drag' the party down. But at the same time, Frank argues that the 'culture wars' have allowed Republicans to win repeatedly because they . . . don't abandon them. That the inconsistency in his own work, the fatal flaw, never stood out to Frank goes a long way to explaining why his work is nothing but a thought-free rant.

As Willis rightly pointed out, Reagan didn't just rail against advances won, he co-opted those advances with his rhetoric, using the desire for freedoms that drove the 'cultural wars' (also known as "progress") to market himself and his destructive plans. Reagan neither stepped away from the 'cultural wars' or disowned what drove them. But Frank argues that Democrats need to do just that. It's another hula hoop that excites the ill informed and encourages one losing campaign after another.

Non-thinker Katrina vanden Heuvel has used her nearly four years of steering The Nation magazine to drive it into a ditch. An opinion journal -- allegedly existing to argue ideas in the public square -- has become nothing but a bunch of lies and distortions that wallow in quick fixes and miracle cures which never come. Hula hoops are, by their very nature, quick fixes. They are never about building anything lasting. To build something that stands, you have to be honest. You don't fret over 'framing' (another hula hoop) that allows you to trick and deceive, you just focus on informing. The likes of vanden Heuvel have done serious damage to the left in this country by refusing to trust the power of ideas and instead attempting to ride quick fixes through one election cycle after another.

The left is in a serious crisis and no one's supposed to notice as they repeatedly hitch their wagons to this and that Democratic candidate and think they can have 'impact' after an election.

It's never worked out that way in American history and it will never will. Progress comes only when the left is willing to fight in the public sphere, to give voice to ideas and needs that a majority of people can relate to. For some, it's being introduced to something totally new; for others , it's confirming a desire they held but thought they were alone in holding; and it allows those already supporting some concept or program to band together with others. That's how a movement is built. It is not built through trickery and deceit. Nor can you 'quick-step' and 'short-cut' your way into a movement. Building, by it's very nature, construction, requires immense work.

Frank can't even discuss his own work (the Harper's article) without confessing he doesn't know what he wrote about or confessing that he doesn't know if something was a column or an interview. He will never raise the level of discourse or inform anyone. But 'books' by Frank aren't supposed to. They're supposed to sell off the shelves on the feel-good nature of "We're so much better than the right-wingers." Consider it this century's opium for the masses and just as destructive as anything Marx and Engles called out.

Which is how you get centrist Gwen Ifill on Friday's Washington Week bringing up John McCain's calling out Barack's use of the race card and Gwen insisting Barack didn't even do that. What world does Gwen live in?

First off, bi-racial Barack plays the (Black) race card all the time and, in fact, played it to great effect for the South Carolina primary. He can't stop going back to even though his campaign has known for months that it's created a huge backlash as it's always done because it can be toxic when it's played. Barack, as Glen Ford noted again last week, offers nothing to advance racial discussions in this country and certainly advocates no changes to combat racism (even when race is reduced solely to the most simplistic terms of Black and White).

What did Barack say? It's not a one-time thing. He's made remarks about McCain repeatedly and it was most noticeable from June 13th through June 20th. He tried it out, added to it, weaved in a little more each time and, finally, on June 20th, was quoted by Reuters saying this at a Florida event:

We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?

The psychic Barack? "We know"? Gwen 'knew' as well and came off sounding like one of the increasingly deranged crackpots on CounterSpin -- hilarious last Friday -- who "know" everything except the facts. Barack was again playing the race card (he just can't resist) but he's a changeling. A hypothesis we can go into in the future if needed. What's needed right now is facts.

Fact. John and Cindy McCain adopted a daughter from Bangladesh. That's a fact that was well known by Democrats and the left earlier this decade. It was discussed because the Bully Boy smeared McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary by saying the daughter was his Black child born out of wedlock from an affair he supposedly had. (The child was one of two Cindy brought back to the US for medical treatment, at the request of Mother Teresa.) South Carolina where the race card never stops being played.

Gwen (and the nut-jobs at CounterSpin) are able to peer in John McCain's soul and know he was calling out Barack for some nefarious reason. The reality is just as likely that, having had the race card played on him and his family in 2000, McCain was in no mood to put up with what everyone from Joe Biden to Hillary (and Bill) Clinton took throughout the Democratic primaries. Reality is that -- and even Arianna Huffington knows this though she'd never bother to mention it today -- McCain was grossly offended by what was done in South Carolina at the start of this decade.

But the pyschics had to whore and what better way than to sell out the truth before they sold their own asses. It's also why you get the non-stop talking point that John McCain voted against MLK day. In 1983, in the US Congress. They leave out this: "We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona." That's McCain speaking and it's also part of the public record.

"It is embarrassing to see a grown woman cheapen herself by lying to her neighbors," says Judith (Lily Tomlin) in The Incredible Shrinking Woman and it's embarrassing to see some of the left cheapen themselves by lying. But that's really all they resort to these days, isn't it? They've got a candidate to sell (Barack) and he has no record so lies remain the only tool left in the arsenal. We can imagine the rejoinder is something similar to what Woody Allen boasts of in Manhattan, "Yeah, I'm a bigot, but for the left."

Oh, lucky us!

Comedy. Last Sunday, we noted the damage 'reality' TV has caused on our culture. Last week's broadcasts telegraphed another damage -- a damage to public affairs program. We don't go ga-ga over Jon Stewart and we don't try to slam him (except when he recycles stale jokes). Stewart is a very talented stand-up comedian who proved that he was also effective in TV from his early days on MTV. But he is a comic, as he himself admits, not a journalist. His Comedy Central program, The Daily Show, is very popular and it's left an impression on our public affairs programming. ABC's This Week now features the "Sunday funnies." Which often aren't, but that's a milder form of the slow creep of influence The Daily Show has had.

Last week revealed many more damaging effects. Take Washington Week where someone we know revisited his Clinton hatred publicly. That's fine, he's a guest. What's not fine is everyone finding it amusing including Gwen. That really surprised us but Bill Moyers Journal just shocked us.

The Journal felt the need to resort to snark to such a degree that we had to ask ourselves, "Is this the same Bill Moyers who regularly offers the soft-pat treatment to Republicans who come on his show?" Newt Gingrich was treated as a punchline. Word to Moyers, attempts at catch phrases are rarely funny and any good comic knows that to get the laugh you generally have to have earned it.

But there was Moyers and his two guests yucking it up at just the mention of Newt Gingrich. This is the higher level of discourse PBS intends to bring us?

The Journal offered a strong report on predatory lending and, good thing, because without reporter Sylvia Chase and the young Latino woman featured early in the story, women wouldn't have been absent for the hour. The Journal is the program that repeatedly celebrated a "Black" man's historic campaign all year but never had a kind word (or even an acknowledgment of) the historic run by a woman. Both of those points are worth remembering as you grasp that four episodes were aired in July and two already in August. During that time, though numerous men were judged to be worthy of a 'sit down' with Bill, only one woman (Jane Mayer) has been. The 'sit down' is for experts and the message repeatedly sent by the program is that women do not qualify as 'experts.' It's worth noting what a woman has to do in order to qualify as an 'expert' in Bill's eyes. Take Jane Mayer who has owned the torture beat and whose reporting -- actual reporting on it -- has surpassed any other American reporter. Mayer truly is an expert and so she is invited on as such. But men?

For the bulk of Bill's 'experts,' the only qualification appears to be that they pee standing up. That was driven home yet again on Friday when he wanted to follow up Chase's report on predator lending by discussing "the credit crisis . . . out of control" with two men. Dean Baker's a journalist but one with an economics framework so his qualifications were not in question. Bob Herbert?

The New York Times columnist is not an expert on the economy. He is not trained in economics and his laughable columns of late do not focus on the economy. The Times' columnist who is an economist is Paul Krugman. To shore up Herbert's onion-paper-thin 'credentials,' Moyers plugged Promises Betryaed, an idiotic 'book' of musings that, like many mass-assembly 'books,' 'borrows' from the alternative media. That 'book' is not about the credit crisis nor is it 'new' (it was published in May of 2005).

If you still don't grasp Herbert's lack of bona fides, note this comment by him, "The class war is over, and we lost. There was a class war. We've been defeated." You may be nodding with that. If so, stop. Would you nod along if you knew he laughed before and while declaring it?

Only a useless gasbag could find that something to be 'amused' by. But useless gasbag is all Herbert's become. He made his name at The New York Daily News (and interested The Times) by regularly demonizing young African-American males so you can see a great deal of him in Barack. At his new job, he did some fine work early on but somewhere around the time Juan Williams decided to demonize African-American males in 'book' form and Herbert decided to endorse that, he lost his way. Or, as they put it at his paper, He's Come Undone.

That's been obvious for months; however, two weeks ago, he turned in a typed, incoherent scream as a column and it has his current position in doubt (we're told he offers some sort of excuse in his latest column but are in no mood to read it). No surprise, Bob Somerby (who worships the penis) was praising Herbie last Monday while ripping apart Gail Collins. "No surprise" because Somerby rarely calls out men and the fact of the matter is that those in power at the paper (that would be the family) are more concerned with Herbert's recent psychoctic ramblings than they are with Collins' immature scribbles.

His laughter at the lost class war did nothing to reassure the family (and our phones didn't stop ringing the moment he treated that very real loss in such a 'humorous' manner). We encouraged all offended to find laughter in the increasing bags under Herbie's eyes. The man has serious problems. But to Bill Moyers, this gasbag is an 'expert' (read "male"). It doesn't matter that the discussion is over his head (he did a very weird swipe of his face when Dean Baker was speaking near the end, indicating he can no longer even handle the heat of the lighting required for TV -- reminding us of a certain diva's embarrassing sweat-soaked, vocal cracked performance at the AMA's back when she was still insisting she didn't use drugs). It doesn't matter that he contributed nothing to the conversation (unless you count nodding to someone else's point), he got invited for the penis factor.

There is a credit crisis. (There is also a housing crisis and someone should inform Gwen in this week's online chat that she and her guests were wrong when they repeatedly stated Friday the crisis was something taking place in the last year. Not only do its roots go back much further, Gwen and the gasbags were discussing it on August 25, 2006 -- two years ago -- as we noted when we first tackled that program.) And it effects everyone. The message sent by Moyers on Friday is that women may suffer along with men but only men can discuss its underpinnings.

All of the above goes to the death of intellect in so-called public affairs programming. It's a dangerous dumbing down and all the more reason that public broadcasting better stop pointing the finger at others and start looking in the mirror.

While Bill examines his reflection, he might want to question himself as to why he and his guests could rave over Barack (the biggest joke was Bob Herbert being described as a reluctant supporter of Barack's -- read his body of work, not just one column) yet no one could bring up the fact -- while discussing a credit crisis -- that Barack sided with the banking industry and against the people in voting to strongly restrict the abilities of citizens to file for bankruptcy? That's sort of central to the story, when you think about it. Someone who is financially ruined by the credit crisis might do what? Declare bankruptcy. Thanks to Barack and Big Money, that's a step that most Americans will now find more difficult to qualify for.

November 2008, some Americans will vote. (Some won't.) Four years have been wasted in dumbing down the discussion of very real issues in order to pimp candidates. If those performing in the public square had been doing their actual job, there might not be a rush by so many to (falsely) claim that you can hold a candidate accountable -- to demands you never make -- after an election. At the end of the broadcast (right before the credits), PBS elected to air a bit of back-patting where various of the network's 'voices' spoke of how important PBS was to an informed electorate. If Ray Suarez truly believes what he said, he needs to get The NewsHour covering all the candidates and not just Barack and McCain. Moyers popped up with nonsense about this election being monumental.

Can we all drop the fear tactics? This election is no more monumental than any other. The United States will continue to muddle along regardless of the election's outcome. If a Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader becomes president, it might even do a great deal more than muddle along. (We'd hope that would be the case, but we'll leave the role of Psychic Sue to Gwen and the nut-jobs at CounterSpin.)

We rarely praise US Secretary of State Condi Rice -- for the obvious reason that she does so little that is worthy of praise. But we'll grab this opportunity to note remarks she made in an interview last week.

QUESTION: Now, Madame Secretary, a lot of people have asked you about serving on a ticket with Senator McCain. If asked, you would you serve on a ticket with Senator Obama?
SECRETARY RICE: I -- I don't need another job in government with anybody. Look, I'm a Republican, all right? Senator McCain is a fine patriot and he's really the – he would be a great president. But there's something to be said for fresh blood. And I know that there are a lot of very good people who could be his vice president.
QUESTION: Would you feel safe with a President Obama?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, the United States will be fine. I think that we are having an important debate about how we keep the country safe. I think we are having an important debate about our responsibilities, our obligations, our interests in the Middle East in the wake of the now increasing evidence of success in Iraq. Those are important judgments for the American people to make.

Leave aside Iraq (Condi will most likely go to her grave believing it was a 'success'), and you've got Condi saying that "the United States will be fine." Condi the Fear Mongerer stating the obvious. Where is that in the public affairs programming as we're repeatedly told that either McCain or Barack will be the death of the United States? They won't be. Nor would Barr, McKinney or Nader.

If you believe (as we do) that Bully Boy has ripped apart the Constitution and done serious damage to this country, you have to accept the fact that the Democrats refused to impeach him. That they continue to refuse to impeach him. As Adam Kokesh observed last month, "The Democrats have become a sorry excuse for an opposition party. I don't think any of the many potentially deserving members of the Bush Administration will ever be impeached for the same reason that we didn't have impeachment hearings today or even months ago. The Democrats are just as corrupt, and complicit. Spineless Democrats are Neocon Appeasers and the blood is on their hands too." (Adam is supporting Bob Barr and writing for himself. He is co-chair of IVAW which neither requires nor demands that its members get behind any one candidate or any candidate at all. They are an organization dedicated to ending the illegal war and not an organ for -- or arm of -- any political party.)

Impeachment should have taken place and if you want to see partisanship, and how it's destroyed our left in this country, look no further than that issue. A number of people hopped on that bandwagon. Some because they honestly believed in impeachment. Don't kid that The Nation magazine ever believed in it. While they did publish a cover story calling for impeachment at the start of 2006, you should note that as soon as Democrats were handed control of the Congress in the November 2006 elections, the same magazine was insisting that impeachment was not feasible. In 2006, one of their columnists published a book on impeachment and then . . . forgot the topic entirely. (Way to promote that book!) While some activists were truly supporting impeachment, mature adults need to grasp that a lot of 'voices' were only using that topic to try to elect Democrats.

The left has been co-opted and corrupted in this country by a lot of voices who not just define the left as "Democratic" but also define the role of the left in politics as nothing but showing up on election day to vote Democratic. That's an ugly truth that people need to stop denying.

Another one is that public affairs programming has been increasingly dumbed down. Bill Moyers is fear mongering in his PBS PSA for why PBS coverage will help the electorate. His remarks need to be pulled from that PSA because he is partisan and everyone knows who he is supporting and has since January. But his remarks should also be pulled because the country doesn't need them.

When the left resorts to fear mongering, they not only cheapen the public discourse, they also feed into fear mongering. They make it all the easier for another Bully Boy to use a very real tragedy (like 9-11) to scare the country witless and dismantle the democracy we're all supposed to take pride in having. When you traffic in fear mongering, you can't turn around and call out others for doing the same. By the same token, when you sell out your beliefs for an election, you can't turn around and pick them back up after the election. You've destroyed your own integrity. In the words of Aretha, "Look it up in your dictionary."

We had hoped to take this week to highlight Eli Stone. It's the best program ABC introduced in the last 12 months. We'll hold our comments, except to note it currently broadcast in the last hour of primetime each Saturday night on ABC, because we would like to give it the sort of review the program's earned. But it's hard to discuss or address entertainment while public affairs programming sinks further into the gutter and degrades us all.

If you're not getting that, let's return to Friday's Journal for a moment to note two things. First, Bill Moyers does not have a weekly hour on PBS because he is psychic. But, Psychic Sue that he is, he felt the need to ask about "the next administration" and what might happen "whether it's McCain or Obama"? One of those two may likely be the winner. But it is not known that they will be -- neither even officially has their party's nomination at this point. In that remark, he rendered all other running for the office invisible. That's not why PBS exists and it really shouldn't require us pointing that out. In the second thing to note, Bob Herbert laid down the line you'll be hearing a great deal of in the coming months and, should Barack be elected, in the new year: Health care isn't an issue that America can tackle. Bob doesn't think the votes are there for the issue. The votes? No, not the American people who supports single-payer coverage. Bob's looking to his 'betters,' those serving in Congress.

Health care, like impeachment, was an issue -- a very real issue and one that goes to the credit crisis and the economy -- used for partisan reasons by 'left' 'voices.' If you missed that, you only had to catch the 'coverage' which regularly distorted what Barack was actually promising (damn little) and only really came to life when Michael Moore's Sicko was released. A brief flurry of attention over that film. With no grasp of the fact that Moore had long ago lost his standing as an independent critic after his self-embarrassing antics during the 2004 primaries and election. A few years back, pay attention Joan Baez, the Moore name (or 'brand') was a license to print greenbacks. That's because he seemed an honest voice who would call out the nonsense. The backlash on the right didn't damage Moore (whose support largely came from the left -- Democrats and non-Democrats, independents/swing-voters as well as disaffected Republicans). He damaged himself when he traded in his role of critic for cheerleader.

It's why a number of 'names' who regularly popped up on The New York Times bestselling books list in 2002, 2003 and 2004 can't move books today. The American people (and this includes grassroots Democrats) are looking for information, not indoctrination. Proselytizing has always had a very short shelf life. That's something so-called public affairs programming should keep in mind.


In the current issue of Esquire (September, 2008), Colby Buzzell contributes an article entitled "My War Again" (pp. 172-179, 212) where he writes about attempting to continue his civilian life after serving in the Iraq War and separating from the US Army three years prior only to learn in April that he's been stop-lossed:

When I joined up six years ago, I was under the strong impression that I'd be able to do my time, get out, and move on. Which is what I did, or at least tried to do.
I had no idea that the Army was going to turn into this psychotic ex-girlfriend that you'd need to file a restraining order against because the crazy b**tch doesn't get the hint that there's no way we're getting back together again -- ever!
I separated from the Army three long years ago, and ever since then I've lived every single day in fear that this was going to happen. I've endured dozens and dozens of e-mails and phone calls from the Army trying to persuade me to voluntarily reenlist. Sometimes these phone calls get pretty nasty -- especially when I kindly request that my name and number be taken off their list. (There's a law that states you can do this.) This never works, but always confuses them.

Colby Buzzell has shared his story in many outlets including in an interview on Democracy Now! at the start of July and in a column for The San Francisco Chronicle back in May. But, of course, it's not just his story. It's the story of many men and women (some of whom may liken the recall to a "psychotic ex-girlfriend," some of whom may liken it to a "psychotic ex-boyfriend") during this illegal war.

It's the backdoor draft (the basis for Kimberly Peirce's amazing film Stop-Loss) that is yet another factor which allows the illegal war to continue.

It's the story of Justin Sheeter and approximately 12,000 of the approximately 170,000 US service members currently serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan according to Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer). And it's the story of the dumb like Peter Haas (Cinema Blend) who feel the need to flaunt stupidity: "Direct Action to Stop War is, as their name implies, trying to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their reasoning (I assume) is that if they stop outlets for recruitment like this game, eventually the supply of young soldiers would dry up and our government would be forced to make peace. Or they'd just invoke stop-loss policies to maintain troop levels. Or start the draft up again. " With nearly 10% of those currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan doing so under stop-loss, the military has "invoked" stop-loss, Dumb Ass.

February 26th, the US Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Pete Geren (Secretary of the Army) and Gen George W. Casey (Chief of Staff Army) and the media coverage was largely "Troops tours of duty will fall from fifteen months to twelve!" when the reality was that a great deal more was covered including stop-loss with Geren swearing to chair Carl Levin that the US army was working on getting the number stop-lossed down to "a little less than [the] 8,000 today." and that the military was moving away from stop-loss. It hasn't moved away yet. Levin tried to pin Geren down and got him to reveal that "a little less than [the] 8,000 today" was "7,000." Like the White House assigned 'benchmarks' for Iraq, the military's 'benchmarks' are are underwhelming as well.

Stop-loss is also the story of Matthis Chiroux who announced May 15th (in DC) that he would not deploy to Iraq. Chiroux had served in the army and been honorably discharged. Along comes a 'recall.' And he's informed he will be deploying to the illegal war. June 15th, the day he was due to report, he delivered a statement explaining why he would not:

Sgt. Matthis Chiroux: Good afternoon. We gather here this Father's Day on a very somber note. The American occupation of Iraq -- an illegal, immoral war which is ripping this nation apart as well causing an immeasurable harm to the Iraqi people and the people of the world alike. We gather in the remembrance of the sacrifice of many whose fathers weep on this joyous day for they know their own flesh and blood has been torn and siphoned from them for what we collectively hope will be this last blunder of American military might. We gather here and hope that our fathers will forgive us for the wrongs we have perpetrated on our bodies, hearts and minds alike in this cruel decade of disaster which stems from the very city in which we stand.
This father's day, we gather here to calm the vicious and vengeful alike. The first day I came to Washington, D.C. was less than one month before I shipped out to basic training. I was so moved by this country and its history that it reinvigorated my belief in the righteousness of what I was doing: Joining the army not only in search of personal progress but to participate in the efforts to bring justice to the individuals responsible for 9-11.
I remember standing at the base of the Washington Monument and watching the fireworks explode in the sky that Fourth of July and wondering how it was that we could have come under attack on American soil and believing firmly that I would be participating in dealing justice for September 11th.
I remember standing before the Lincoln Memorial and feeling the presence of not just the former president and emancipator but of Martin Luther King and his dream for a brighter and more united future for the children of this nation.
That young me could not have known where he'd be standing almost six years later and what he would be saying this Father's Day. I am Sgt. Matthis Chiroux and tonight at midnight I may face further action from the army for refusing to reactive to participate in the Iraq occupation.
This fact hangs heavy on my heart as I look back at my five years of service in uniform. But I understand that what I am doing is in keeping with the values I shared with my friends-in-arms while we wondered if things could really get any worse?
Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, "The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country."
I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.
I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.
I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.
I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.
We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.
We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation.
As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it.
I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike.
I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people.
On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself.
Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict.
Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell.
By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right.
But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity.
As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Chiroux and other veterans spoke to Congress about what was happening and Congress, in its usual half-assed way, decided to ignore the larger issue and, as Edward Colimore (Philadelphia Inquirer) reported in July, offer a bill that didn't address stop-loss. Instead, they offered up that those serving under stop-loss are entitled to additional dollars. Stop-loss itself was ignored. As IVAW's Steve Mortillo noted, the 'action' was "better than nothing, but it doesn't address the larger issue." And Congress wonders why its approval ratings are so damn low?

Matthis Chiroux is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and they note:.

IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith have been pounding the pavement in Washington DC, with the help of IVAW's DC chapter, to get members of Congress to support Matthis in his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Matthis was honorably discharged from the Army in 2007 after five years of service, but he received orders in February 2008 to return to active duty from the IRR for deployment to Iraq.
On Sunday, June 15th, the day he was due to report for active duty, Matthis stood with his father and supporters in DC and reaffirmed that he is refusing his orders on the grounds that the Iraq war is illegal and unconstitutional.
How you can help:
Contact your congressional representatives and ask them to publicly support Matthis.
Contribute to IVAW's legal defense fund to help Matthis and other resisters.
Send a message of support to Sgt Matthis Chiroux at
Find out more about Matthis Chiroux.

'Friends' and Bigots

Lies take hold for any number of reasons but one of the big ones is that someone's a "friend."

So, for example, when Barack Obama decided to use homophobia as a campaign strategy in the South Carolina primary and the Democratic Party (as well as the 'left') stayed silent, it was thought by some, "Oh well, the DNC supports gay rights and, besides, Howard Dean's a 'friend' to gay rights."


Howard Dean?

The blowhard took to bragging about himself in a Rolling Stone Interview (February 5, 2004, he was the cover boy, Jann's never known how to pick them) and all he'd done for gay rights and the desire "to do the right thing" which led the interviewers (Wenner and Will Dana) to point out (p. 49), "Didn't you also say at the time that the whole idea of legally sanctioned gay relationships made you feel uncomfortable?"

Reply: "Sure." So much for Gay America's good 'friend.'

And some, like Donna Brazile, have been actively undercutting and attacking gay rights for some time (yes, Brazile is self-loathing). In 2006, Ben Smith (New York Daily News) noted this correspondence from Emily Giske:

I asked Garry about the specific language he has proposed. He said that right now, we should be positioning the proposal as the same as the Affirmative Action requirement the DNC has for Blacks, Hispanics, Asian/Pacifics, and Native Americans (which requires states to have specific goals and timetables for their inclusion in the delegation).
Supposedly, this is what originally upset Donna [Brazile] -- because she doesn't think this qualifies under the legal definition of Affirmative Action.
Donna and others ... do not believe our battle for civil rights can be compared with what African Americans have faced in gaining the right to vote and participate in Party affairs. In the end though, Garry may have to settle for something that does not say "Affirmative Action" but still requires states to set specific goals.


It didn't end there, of course it wouldn't ever end for Big Momma's Mouth. She has pursued a slash-and-burn policy and it's not about equality or even historical legacy, it's about refusing inclusion because you fear it means you lose out on something.

And it is that bigoted and vindictive fearful mindset on the part of people like Brazile and Leah Daughtry that's led to the lawsuit. As Kevin Naff and Joshua Lynsen (Washington Blade) reported back in January:

Daughtry, who is black, is a longtime party operative, Dean's chief of staff and overseeing the party's upcoming national convention in Denver. She was unavailable for an interview this week, but a gay coworker defended her performance at the DNC.
"I do not consider her in any way, shape or form homophobic," said Philip McNamara, the DNC's director of party affairs. "She is a good, caring person."
Daughtry was deposed last week in a lawsuit filed by former DNC gay outreach director Donald Hitchcock, who was fired shortly after his domestic partner, Paul Yandura, criticized Dean in a 2006 letter to gay Democrats.
The lawsuit alleges Hitchcock was discriminated against and treated differently at the DNC because he is gay. It also alleges the DNC "threatened, interfered with and retaliated against" Hitchcock because he advocated for gay issues.

The issue isn't disappearing. Scott Shepard (Austin American-Statesman) reported on Howard Dean's video deposition (link has the video of it) in Hitchock's case last week:

In the video, Dean describes how he has tried to be a peacemaker between gays and lesbians and prominent African American leaders, led by onetime Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, who had objected to goals and timetables for gay and lesbian delegates to the party’s national convention.
“I wanted equal representation for gay and lesbian Americans, and I wanted to achieve it in a way that wasn’t offensive to the history of the civil rights movement,” Dean says in the deposition, which was videotaped in March but only made public a week ago.

The Civil Rights Movement? Shut the f**k up, Howard Dean. Universal rights are universal and how dare you sell the idea that inclusion means someone else gets left out. We either all share rights or it's not equality. Brazile and these other players were also the ones leading the charge against bi- and multi-racial people in the nineties. It's not about equality for them, it's never about equality. It's never about fairness. It's about Gimme-Gimmie-Gimmie MORE!

Barack Obama is bi-racial but doesn't identify as such (today) as a result of a number of things including the fact that his rock-solid support among 'opinion makers' doesn't support bi- or multi-racial people. The whole nonsense attacks on them from the self-appointed African-American leaders last decade was based on nothing but greed and hatred because if they couldn't identify everyone with a 'drop of Black blood' (how very KKK of them) as "Black" (and we all saw mental midget Melissa Harris-Lacewell don the white sheet last year during her interview with Bill Moyers), their numbers would drop in the census. It was about shutting the gates to reality (and advancement) out of concern over possibly losing some federal money that rigid, out-of-date categories would allow them to continue to claim.

It's not a story that's widely known outside of those working for the recognition of bi- and multi-racial people. But it's one that revealed greed and hatred and that underscored how bigots come in all shapes and colors.

It's behind the continued attacks on Latinos (which Brazile took part in May of this year on CNN) because they are the largest growing segment of the population and, while bigots like Brazile have been able to reduce race in America down to either Black or White, that increasing population will likely leave Brazile grabbing for scraps the same way she expects the LGBT community, the bi- and multi-racial community, and Asian-Americans to do currently -- and she expects them to be damn grateful. Poor, Fat Ass Donna Brazile, in what she's so desperately trying to set up as "MY TIME," is going to find her shoved off into some specialist nook by mere demographics.

And when she and her like-minded bigots are confronted with that reality and they then start screaming about the need for equality and the need for representation, let's hope others believe in fairness. If not Brazile & Company will find out just what it's like to be spat on by people who should be friends -- the same way Brazile's spent two decades spitting on anyone who wasn't straight and Black or White.

First illustration by Betty's oldest son, second illustration Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Message From A Heavy Weight."

You can learn a lot from a movie

The New York City radical. Often a non-practicing Jew, as Ruth notes. And how they dominate Panhandle Media. Which explains why Panhandle Media repeatedly reduces America to Black or White, stripping out any other shades of race or ethnicity.

If you consume Panhandle Media at any regular rate, you've noticed that. Noticed how, to get even a small amount of brief attention, Latinos have to take to the street in marches across the nation that number in the millions. But it's always BET week on, for example, Democracy Sometimes! where Amy Goodman can find a 'news' segment in a play closing and Spike Lee deciding to direct a film of it, for example. Latinos, Asian-Americans and other shot and killed by the police or the victims of hate crime are lucky to get a headline, but Sista Amy's always ready to, as Betty puts it, "don the 'fro day after day."

What's going on from this medium that preaches diversity but never manages to show any? What's going on when, in one of the funniest moments in recent history of the radio sitcom CounterSpin, Janine Jackson clams up as a guest mentions the sorry rate of representation for women (of all races) in the media? (Jackson's clamming up because CounterSpin rarely invites on women. Their guest ratio sometimes reaches their host ratio of two men to one woman.)

What's going on is the Closeted Communist. Still living in the fifties with their stereotyped notions of 'authenticity' that glorifies the plight of the African-American male (real and imagined) above all other things domestically.

The Closeted Communist went into serious hiding during McCarthyism (after posing as "Democrats" during FDR's years -- yes, this is the 'movement' of eggheads who supports Barack). Apparently hidden away from the sunlight, they never grew and remain trapped in those times. Which is why they're useless to any discussion on race in America today (even discussions having to do with the very real discrimination facing African-Americans). Their brains -- absent any Vitamin D -- calcified.

In one of our favorite films, Grace of My Heart, Allison Anders (screenwriter and director) captures the New York Radical rather well. Many reviews wrongly described Howard Cazsatt (Eric Stoltz) as a "beatnik." He's a Communist. And his antiquated ideas (even for the sixties) went a long way towards telegraphing why Denise Waverly (Illena Douglas) would find more love with whack-job and stereotypical California airhead/artist Jay Phillips (Matt Dillon) -- seriously disturbed but in love with her -- than she would with Cazsatt.

Cazsatt is every pain in the ass New York Radical -- a walking collection of various Democracy Sometimes! guests -- and from the beginning, audiences are cued to boo and hiss. (Something we recommend when you watch or listen to Goody.) When Cazsatt finally vanishes from the film in the mid-section (after being caught in bed with another woman), he drops right out, with no one missing his presence. When Jay kills himself, the impact is deep and propels the third act.

Grace of My Heart tells the story of (fictional) Denise Waverly -- a Protestant who comes to New York City hoping to become a recording star but instead ends up writing hit songs for others.

Cazsatt, if he has any talent of his own (he admits he's a hack after he stops trying to write songs), hasn't been able to harness it and decides to latch onto Denise's rising star after repeatedly insulting her talent.

The below exchange starts with Cazsatt reading an article praising Denise's songwriting, reading it out loud to her. She accuses him of making it up and he passes it to her for herself.

Howard: I will take a little credit though. The reviewer, John Murry, from Songwriter Magazine, he's a friend of mine. I've been telling him about you for awhile.

Denise: Oh really? What did you say? How I'm this mass-audience exploiting the pain of the working class Negro?

Howard: I told him the truth. That you're the best songwriter in this joke of business.

Denise: Well thank you, Cazsatt.

Howard: You're welcome, Miss Waverly.

Denise: What are you doing around here anyway? Spying on us evil, imperialist pop songwriters?

Howard: I have an office down the hall too.

Denise: Oh, what are you? The janitor or something?

Howard: Oh, ho-ho-ho! That's funny! Listen, I wanted to propose something.

Denise: Mmm-hmm.

Howard: Would you consider writing a song with me? Hear me out, hear me out. We, uh, we set a love song in the underclass ghetto."

Denise: (Laughing) Yes?

Howard: Two machinist fall in love on the graveyard shift at a plumbing parts factory.

Denise: Oh, boy, you are some romantic.

Howard: I think we'd make a good team.

Denise: Oh, is that so?

Howard: Yeah.

Denise: I appreciate what you're saying, I do, but I wouldn't know the first thing about how to save even myself with a song, much less the world.

They do end up collaborating (after he pretends romantic interest in her) and the film documents their differences in the one song they're shown at the piano composing, "Unwanted Number," about a teenage pregnancy.

Howard: A Negro couple under a street lamp.

Denise: Street lamp my ass. They were on a fire escape.

Howard: We're making art. A street lamp signifies the urban condition.

Denise: Were you there?

Howard: No.

Denise: Were you there?

Howard: No.

Denise: I was there and they were on the fire escape.

Howard: Can we compromise here? How about a fire escape under a street lamp? That way you can get your realism and --

Denise: And you get your urban existential.

Her 'realism,' as propagandist Cazsatt dismisses reality. As they continue working he will make remarks that sound a great deal like Amy Goodman's 'philosophy.'

Howard: So the boy in our song is depressed. Why? Because he's 16, he's a Negro, and no one's going to hire him.

Denise: No, no, no. He's depressed because he knocked up his 12-year-old girlfriend. And anyway, it's her story. It's not his story.

But Cazsatt, even though he knows the song is pegged for the girl group The Luminaries (the 12-year-old girl is one of their relatives), will continue to attempt to build up the 'plight' of the man (who Cazsatt knows -- before they start writing the song -- walked away and left the 12-year-old to raise the child by herself). It's so very typical of that mid-century attitude towards women that his kindred displayed (and that -- check out Goody any day -- they still display).

Cazsatt's need to propagandize destroys any hope of songwriting success which is why they'll soon split as a writing team. Typifying the Goody, Cazsatt will repeatedly insult Denise even going so far as to insist he thought he would "end up" with an heiress (when Denise reveals she comes from money) but he thought she'd be pretty -- like Grace Kelly. Mr. So Sensitive To The Plight Of The Black Man, will show no sympathy for any woman and fade away shortly after Denise gives birth to their child (which she raises alone) and catches him in bed with another woman.

"He gave her his love but wouldn't give her his name," is a line Denise will think up when they write "Unwarranted Number." For Denise, the inverse is true. When she gets pregnant, Cazsatt will marry her but he'll never love her.

Like a lot of the Radical New Yorker White set, he loves African-Americans only from afar. He'll watch them perform (onstage or in a recording studio) but that's as close as he'll ever get. When he performs for children, it's for White children. His friend John Murray (a "Red Diaper baby" born to two Socialist lawyers late in life) will be Denise's next NY Loser. Murray's the 'sensitive' Radical. He can't leave his poor, sick wife. He also can't tell Denise he's moving to Chicago (she learns of it from the radio) or even say good-bye to her.

Is it any wonder the woman gets the hell out of NYC? (Something we strongly recommend for all 'reporters' in Panhandle Media -- if only to discover that there's this entire world out of their inbred sub-strata of metropolis.) Is it any wonder she falls for Jay who -- though seriously damaged -- actually believes in her and believes in her future?

Grace of My Heart works on many, many levels. (And we still demand a re-release on DVD that has a bonus disc with the full soundtrack.) If you've never seen the movie, check it out. If you live in NYC and hang with a radical set, it just may save your sanity.
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