Sunday, December 14, 2008

Truest statement of the week

What's bugging me is his intention. He isn't putting his hand on her "chest," as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand--cupped just so--is clearly intended to signal that he’s groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It’s an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.
And it disgusts me.

-- Dee Dee Myers, "Favreau's Sexist Photo Is No Laughing Matter" (Vanity Fair).

Truest statement of the week II

A U.S. senator doesn't have to get into this swamp, but it's good to know how to navigate around it. Kennedy doesn't. Not that she couldn't learn.

In fact, if she wants to be senator, there is a path to the job -- the special election necessary to fill the Clinton seat in 2010, no matter who gets the interim appointment. A campaign would allow Kennedy to prove her mettle. Voters could take the measure of her as a potential leader, not as a celebrity.

-- Marie Cocco, "Sen. Caroline Kennedy?" (Washington Post Writers Group).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Sunday, Sunday . . .

Along with Dallas, 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,
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

We thank them all. We thank Isaiah for allowing us to reprint his comic in a feature, we thank readers.

Here's what we came up with:

Truest statement of the week -- Dee Dee Myers really earned this spot. And then some

Truest statement of the week II -- Marie Cocco has now earned her fourth or fifth truest. 2008 was really a strong year for her.

Editorial: The treaty's not that confusing -- What sort of thing results in delays? 20 minutes were spent on this editorial's first sentence. And that's after it was written. C.I. does not believe in "I told you so"s. Since it's more of a "we" than an "I," C.I. relented. (And I tossed out all the links at the end under "See also:" which provided the many, many entries C.I.'s written on the treaty.) This is a strong editorial and special thanks on that go to C.I. and Mike. The edition never seemed to end and a lot people were fading. Everyone assisted on this editorial but the star players were C.I. and Mike. (And the rest of wanted to credit them here for that. So don't e-mail asking, "How is ___ supposed to feel when you write . . .")

TV: Left In The Dust -- I read Ava and C.I.'s commentary to everyone and it's probably the only thing that gave us the second wind needed for the editorial and for deciding who were the truests for the week. This is really strong and, at a time when a number of pieces were still not working, this brought about relief over the quality of this week's edition.

Best digital download buys -- We do not plan on doing a feature like this every week. It so happens that we've now done several in a row. But don't think that every week we're doing one. There's one that's in the process of being researched and will probably be covered in the Christmas edition because Betty and C.I. have pushed it. (And they'll both be working on that edition as will Ava. Who else? We're not sure yet. Dona and I are going to have to do both sets of parents so we won't be working that weekend. "I" is Jim.) This feature pulled together a number of purchases under the heading of best buys. With three different choices, we hope there's at least one that interests you. On music, NPR webcast Aimee Mann's concert live last night. We listened. We planned to cover it. But they have a note up that says the audio archive of the concert will be added shortly. For that reason, it makes more sense to note the concert next week when those that missed it can stream it.

The remake of Stranges On a Train -- This was one of the features that did not work. And since I uploaded the photo Saturday morning (uploaded to Flickr) I was bound and determined that we would use it. This wasn't working so badly that Dona asked Ava and C.I. if they would consider using the photo in their TV commentary (to shut me up, though worded more kindly)? They said sure but pointed out that the problem was we were making it a lengthy piece and it was a short piece, "Criss-Cross, like Jim wrote at Flickr." With that in mind, we stripped out all but two written lines and quickly rewrote the rest. As a short feature it works. Sadly, we went through five lengthy drafts last night and this morning before the thought of it being a short feature became a lightbulb.

A gold watch for Robert Byrd? -- We were going to do this feature many, many times this year. I didn't think John McCain would be the GOP nominee. (I thought it would be Romney until the primaries started and then I thought they'd nominate Huckabee up until his Texas loss.) I forget the original reason this got pushed back (and Dona says this was first proposed in December of 2007) but when McCain became the nominee (March 2008), we had to push it back. We were not supporting John McCain and had made that clear for some time. Doing an article that could be seen as "retire them all!" would be seen by some as playing into the "He's too old" mantra coming out of the MoveOn types. (And Barack's campaign.) As we note in the article, Robert Byrd could run for president and, if elected, that's the will of the American people. This isn't an article about presidents or presidential candidates. We were 'assisted' in the narrowing down of the focus by Byrd announcing last month that he 'decided' to step down as chair of the Appropriations Commitee (no, he was pushed out). The fact that Democratic leadership in the Senate is trashing senority allowed us to focus on them. At various times, when this article has been pitched, the focus has always been larger. For example, the oldest person in the House is Ralph Hall -- the one-time Democrat who quickly flipped Republican in part due to Bully Boy's 2002 popularity but also as a result of his hurt feelings. (We could do an entire article just on the latter.)

The Princess Brat Diaries -- Continued coverage of Caroline. And next week we may explore why she seeks appointments and not campaigns. Isaiah's comic runs in this and remember my 'we thank our readers'? Here's one example. Three of you have written in that Isaiah's comic ran in an article and was not credited in the article or the note. Please tell us which article and we'll fix that. In the meantime, my apologies to Isaiah.

Hmm . . . -- I think Kat, Dona, Jess and C.I. were laughing at this. Dallas was looking for a photo at the White House website and he does a very good vocal impersonation of the White House occupant so, to amuse, he started reading from the Radio Address yesterday. They stopped him with Dona crying out, "Short feature! Absolutely!"

Amy Poehler leaves SNL (Ava and C.I.) -- They covered this (Ava and C.I.) due to several friends' requests and also because they needed to note 30 Rock's ratings in something. We thank our readers? I said that earlier, remember? Last week, Ava and C.I. wrote two lengthy pieces. Not the TV commentary, but the other one (which is why I'm noting this here and not on the TV commentary) was a hit for most of Sunday. However, those e-mails were quickly overtaken by ones asking, "Why did you change their writing?" They didn't change anything. Nor did we. We've changed passwords again and are taking other efforts. We'll see it as a prank and not as malice. When Ty and Dona saw the e-mails, they immediately pulled it up and, yes, it was obvious that Ava and C.I. had not written that section (the end). They called them and Ava and C.I. quickly dictated an approximation of their ending from the road. Thank you to readers who caught the change (which is first noted Sunday evening by long term reader Jessica).

Corrente's Sarah Did Not Vote -- You can say, "I didn't vote for Barack." That can be true. If you say, "I didn't vote for Barack, I voted for Hillary," you better check your state's guidelines to find out whether you did or not. Those living in Texas, like Sarah, either wrote-in a candidate on the list of write-in candidates or they did not vote for president.

ETAN Says NO to Dennis Blair -- If this hadn't gone to the SPAM e-mail folder, we would have posted it last Sunday.

Highlights -- Stan, Marcia, Ruth, Wally, Cedric, Kat, Rebecca, Betty, Elaine and Mike wrote this and picked all highlights unless otherwise noted. We thank them for this.

And that's what we've got. Hopefully something to make you think, make you laugh or make you mad.

See you next week.

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

Editorial: The treaty's not that confusing

We warned you.

Both about the fact that the Cockburn family was flat-out nuts and that the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement wasn't the beauty it was being sold as.

Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn showed up last week to beat off to his own revenge fantasy he entitled "It's All Spelled Out in Unpublicized Agreement: Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq" (CounterPunch):

On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out attacks on other countries from Iraq.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional.

Categorical and unconditional? Cockburn, you studied contract law where? Poor Cockburn, he made a fool of himself Thursday. And was called out in that day's snapshot, "I Hate The War," etc. Cockburn went nutso Thursday morning and couldn't have known that by late afternoon,
David Morgan and Anthony Boadle (Reuters) would be reporting, "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments."

Slap upside Cockburn's head. After the laughter and applause dies down, grasp that the treaty has been addressed here multiple times (and even more at The Common Ills). There's really no excuse for journalists not to grasp it and Cockburn -- allegedly -- is a journalist.

Along with al-Dabbagh's statement, more bad news was in store for Crazy Ass Patrick who called the treaty "categorical and unconditional" and included in his litany the 'fact' that "150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. " We'll come back to 2011 but let's focus on that June 30, 2008 'fact' first. Saturday, Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) reported:

The top American commander in Iraq said that U.S. forces will remain in dozens of small bases inside Iraq's cities despite language in a recently-signed security pact which appears to require an American withdrawal from Iraqi urban areas by next summer.
Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters here that the U.S. troops assigned to "joint security stations" inside Iraqi cities like Baghdad would remain in the outposts indefinitely. The bases, which are a key part of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, house thousands of American personnel across the country. There are well over a dozen such outposts in Baghdad alone.Gen. Odierno, who assumed command in September, explained that the withdrawal provision in the security pact applied only to combat personnel. The U.S. forces assigned to the joint security stations mentor and fight alongside Iraqi troops, so American commanders classify them as training personnel and don't consider them to be covered by the withdrawal language, he said.

B-b-but, Crazy Ass Cockburn said it was 'facts,' he said so while the foam around his mouth was still damp!

Crazy Ass doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. The US has a long history of treaties and the history is one of other parties thinking they got a good deal, a fair deal or even a better deal. Reality is that the US always ensures no one comes out ahead of them in any treaty. Ask the Native Americans, ask the people of Panama, ask anyone who has ever signed a treaty with the US how that worked out?

Too old to bust a move but hoping he could still bust a nut, Patrick Cockburn set reality aside so that he was, as the Pointer Sisters once put it, "seeing what you wanted to see." And that, to him, was more important than history or, for that matter, what the treaty actually states.

It is a one-year agreement that can run through 2010 and 2011. Or, as worded in the contract, it can be cancelled by either party (it does not require that both agree to the cancellation) at any time -- they just have to give a year's notice. The US or Iraq could serve notice in 2009 or 2010 that they wanted to cancel the contract. In which case, the 'great departure' that is 'promised' for the end of 2011 no longer applies even as an 'aspiration.'

"Aspirational." The term Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, used to describe the alleged 'promises' in the treaty after Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet had signed off on it. Did people think Perino was confused? Did they think she didn't grasp the meaning of "aspirational"? If so, jokes on the idiots like Cockburn, not Perino. She knew what she was stating and she stated it correctly. Independent journalist Chris Floyd could hear her and grasp what she was stating. It was only the likes of Crazy Cockburns that couldn't see the obvious.

Patrick Cockburn isn't just Crazy Ass, he's Crazy Ass Insane. He writes, "On the same day that it was finally passed by the Iraqi parliament international attention was wholly focused on the murderous terrorist attack in Mumbai." In the US, that date of passage was Thanksgiving Day. A national holiday. That explains, for the US, some of the lack of clarity regarding the treaty. Equally true is that a lot of people spun reality (like Cockburn attempted to last week) and that only made it all the more confusing.

Here's Patrick jerking so furiously that we're beginning to understand where the family name comes from, "The White House was so keen to limit understanding of what it had agreed in Iraq that it did not even to publish a copy of the SOFA in English." Uh-no, that's neither correct nor truthful. The White House stated they would publish the agreement after the Iraqi Parliament voted (and it as reported this was to avoid hurting the treaty's chances to pass).

Despite that vote taking place on Thanksgiving, the treaty was posted, in English, at the White House's site. We know that. We know that because C.I. planned to take Thanksgiving off. Then got alerted the White House had just posted the treaty and, grasping how important it was, quickly pulled together an entry. From that day's snapshot:

"Iraqi lawmakers today approved a pact allowing U.S. forces to stay in the country through 2011 after winning support from skeptics by promising a public referendum on the plan," explain Raheem Salman and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) and they go on to note that "[a]ccording to the agreement" troops out in 2011! Which agreement? The Arabic one the puppet government thinks is final or the English one the White House refuses to release because, as Adam Ashton, Jonathan S. Landay and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes." This was noted last week in a Congressional hearing as well so it's really past time to stop speaking of the agreement singular. Salman and Susman do a better job explaining this:
The pact, while not explicitly stating that an extension can be sought, allows for amendments if both sides agree to them.
U.S. officials have indicated that they interpret that as permitting a possible extension, if security conditions in Iraq are deemed too shaky to leave Iraqi security forces in charge. "There is a provision for extension, by agreement of both sides," one U.S. official said in discussing the pact.
Yeah, it's a one-year agreement. Only 2009 cannot be changed or cancelled. Everything else that the White House says is set-in-stone is actually a conditional option that can be wiped away by either side. Today the White House finally released the agreement in English. We'll jump in at Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective:
1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.
Get it? Paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." Meaning only 2009 is set in stone. It is too late for either party (US or Iraq) to give one year's notice and cancel it in 2009. They can give notice to cancel in 2010 or 2011. The second clause is also worth noting because it weakens the strength of any agreement as well: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agreement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in effect in both countries." That's the aspect that allows for a change and all the 'flowery' respect for Constitutional procedures is hog wash. The Iraqi Parliament needed to have two-thirds of all members (not just members present) to pass the treaty today. They did not have that. According to their Constitution and their laws, that's what was needed. In the US, Congressional approval is needed over all treaties and we know that has not take place. We further know that Barack Obama -- alleged Constitutional scholar -- doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. He show boated and did his little pretty words number while campaigning but despite all his insisting that the treaty would have to come before the Congress -- including becoming one of thirteen co-sponsors on Hillary Clinton's Senate bill insisting upon that -- he shut his corporate mouth and put his tiny tail between his legs to slink off like the disgusting, cowering trash he is. He's not going to stand up for the Constitution 'later.' He couldn't stand up for it right now. An agreement built upon a systematic disrespect for the rule of law does not suddenly develop one. An agreement built upon lies does not suddenly embrace honesty. The treaty is built on lies and they include the lies to the American people. Why is the US pursuing this treaty? The White House keeps talking about these 'recent' gains in Iraq. Today is November 27th of 2008. Recent would, for most of us, go back no further than the end of spring. But Article 25 explains Nouri al-Maliki and Condi Rice notified the United Nations that the Security Council's mandate would be cancelled at the end of this year . . . last year. al-Maliki's letter was dated December 7th, Rice's December 10th. 'Recent' events? The agreement the White House has released may not be the official agreement or the final one. It is the one that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari signed November 17, 2008. The note above their signatures states: "Signed in duplicate in Baghdad on this 17th day of November, 2008, in the English and Arabic languages, each text being equally authentic."
That version is published online by the White House in PDF format (click here). The Bully Boy of the United States released the following statement today: "Earlier today, in another sign of progress, Iraq's Council of Representatives approved two agreements with the United States, a Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement, often called a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. The Strategic Framework Agreement sets the foundation for a long-term bilateral relationship between our two countries, and the Security Agreement addresses our presence, activities, and withdrawal from Iraq. Today's vote affirms the growth of Iraq's democracy and increasing ability to secure itself. We look forward to a swift approval by Iraq's Presidency Council. Two years ago, this day seemed unlikely -- but the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi parliament. The improved conditions on the ground and the parliamentary approval of these two agreements serve as a testament to the Iraqi, Coalition, and American men and women, both military and civilian, who paved the way for this day."

Crazy Ass Cockburn never felt he needed to check anything before submitting his 'report.' He didn't think the White House published an English version of the treaty and 'don't think so' qualified as fact checking to him. Cockburn's 'report'/column is an embarrassment on every level: (1) as a predictor, (2) as a summary and (3) as basic journalism.

Our favorite fact-free moment in Cockburn's column may be when he scribbles that "the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement." He forgets to tell you how many people voted. That's because only 149 MPs voted for the treaty. The Parliament has 275 members -- many of whom elected to skip the vote.

It's really past time that the press -- All Things Media Big and Small -- started reporting reality. It might, for instance, require abandoning the j/o fantasies or leaving them in the bed/bathroom, but reporting was never supposed to start with "Dear Penthouse Forum . . . "


American Freedom Campaign notes:

The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a
resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by
clicking on the following link
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
Steve Fox

Campaign Director
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund

TV: Left In The Dust

Any other week and Shane (Paul Blackthorne) showing off his lower back/crack hair on NBC's Lipstick Jungle in the midst of a fight with Wendy (Brooke Shields) might have been the most cringe inducing moment.

Any other week.


This week it and so much more -- including Taylor Swift on NBC's "Christmas" special Friday, creating her own little 'melody' for "Silent Night" and offering 'crackling' falsetto -- got left in the dust.

That tends to happen when you air a live broadcast of Apartment 3G. Only someone recast the roles. That's the only explanation for CNN serving up Wolf Blitzer, James Carville and non-descript (male) Republican to determine whether behavior was either insulting or sexually threatening to women. The 'gals' let the country know that, as women, they saw nothing offensive in the actions of noted party boi Jon Favreau.

Wolf, finding the whole incident so damn amusing he couldn't keep a straight face, declared, "James, it's fascinating to see how stuff like that could get blown up. It's but I guess it's a sign of the times." So very nice of CNN to allow the 'moderator' of the discussion to determine, before any discussion took place, that the incident was 'unimportant' and "blown up." It may or may not be a sign of the times but, Wolf, that's certainly not a sign of journalism.

Then it was time for James to speak and for all the gasbags driving their BMWs up and down the chat & chews over the dreaded return of the Clintons, no one's stopped to consider that the most frightening thing from the Clinton era was always James Carville's head. He's gotten thinner and it only makes him look more disturbing. While he made time to lose weight, he never made time to learn how to improve his speaking abilities, as was quickly evident.

James Carville: I don't know what it is. It's a piece of cardboard, stupid. That's all it is. And this New Agenda crowd, they need to get a new agenda. The new agenda of women that are losing their jobs, the new agenda of battered women out there, the new agenda of women that are victims of self di-- of sex discrimination, and not this kind of silliness. This guy was just having a good time. He did absolutely nothing wrong. And [unintelligible] . . . People look at this and they say is this really what we're talking about and Mr. Favreau is a very talented young man and he was doing something that 27 year-olds, heck, I hope when I'm 67, I'm doing that. He was enjoying himself, he-he was having a good time. He-he hurt no one, I don't even think he did anything inappropriate.

Somehow we don't believe the above is an example of what Tom Petty called "my own way of talking" in "Southern Accents."

The discussion lasted approximately three minutes and Jimmy Corn Carville was bound and determined to string as many words together -- whether they fit or not -- as possible.

James Carville: But-but-but-but-but-but I mean to go back to to what it is -- how how does a guy having a good time at a party does that -- that doesn't have anything to do with the president elect or Mr. Favreau's talents as a speech writer or his future and I just think that -- that, God, what all of the the people that put this up on Facebook or YouTube -- or whatever it is -- these are really sick people that go around and put this stuff up, they need to go -- they need to go check themselves into -- get themselves some psychiatric help.

Dropping back to "Southern Accents" again, Petty also sings: "The young 'uns call it country, the Yankees call it dumb." If Jimmy Crack Corn Carville is the example, we think we'll have to side with the Yankees.

We found it rather interesting that when James Carville meant to bring up sex discrimination, he started to say "self-discrimination" and caught himself off "self-di". Could Carville clear that up? How he could confuse "sex discrimination" and "self-discrimination"? We really don't think he needs to clarify that, we believe his remarks provide all the clarification needed.

The people who need help, the Flatulent Cajun argues, are the ones who post photos like the ones of Favreau to Facebook or YouTube.

Along with everything, Jimmy's age is showing. Photos are not posted to YouTube (it's a video outlet). But if Carville feels that Favreau has done nothing wrong, why should it be a problem if anyone posts photos of his actions?

This is the sort of action that Carville prays he'll be participating in when he's 67-years-old. So what's to be ashamed of? (And, for the record, 67 isn't off in the distance for Carville, he hits it in October of 2011.) If it's all so wonderful and charming, why be upset anyone posted photos of it?

Because it's not wonderful and charming and it's highly inappropriate.

jon favreau

That's the photo and, as many have already noted, photos of people 'funnin' with cardboard Baracks led to punishments. But, as we pointed out last week, ". . . women are the canary in the coalmines. Hate and prejudice aimed at all women could never be aimed at any group of straight men without being called out. It is in navigating how much abuse it can get away with towards women that society sets down its markers for others. And week after week, that remains one of the biggest lessons of 2008."

A never-ending lesson in fact.

And it's apparent in Carville's sneering discounting of what message the photo sends. It's apparent in his attack on New Agenda. In fact, it is especially apparent in his attack on New Agenda. James Carville, not a woman, thinks he has a right to determine what a woman's organization should focus on? Talk about a sense of entitlement, talk about a lack of respect. Here's the first tip for CNN, when your guests and 'moderator' think an issue is a laughing matter, maybe you've booked the wrong people? That should have been apparent from the fact that three men were discussing whether or not women had a 'right' to feel offended, appalled and/or outraged. But for future reference, when all of your guests in a discussion not only agree with one another but are all amused by an issue that is getting so much traction you have to now cover it, that's your clue that you've booked the wrong people.

They could have booked Dee Dee Myers. Myers isn't press shy. In fact, she was the first woman to ever serve as White House Press Secretary and last week, at Vanity Fair, she weighed in, "He isn't putting his hand on her 'chest,' as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand--cupped just so--is clearly intended to signal that he’s groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It’s an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration."

Here's a question for CNN: You think Dee Dee Myers might be more qualified than The Flatulent Cajun Carville to speak on issue regarding women?

To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe also didn't find the photo to be a laughing matter, writing at US News & World Reports, "According to, President-elect Obama's chief speechwriter was photographed groping, quite inappropriately I might add, a stand-up photo of secretary of state nominee Sen. Hillary Clinton [. . .] If this is what the website claims it is, a picture of incoming White House speechwriter in chief Jon Favreau, I agree with writer Amy Siskind that the guy ought to be fired."

It's worth noting that, along with New Agenda, PUMAPac and The Confluence have led the coverage and the calls to activism. Where's everyone else?

We're not referring to individual websites (which have been very good at covering the issue), we're talking about 'leadership,' feminist 'leadership.'

Women's Media Center published an essay on December 10th and the intro for it noted, "Sixty years ago on December 10, the UN adopted a promise to guarantee the dignity of each individual. Today, women are at the forefront of the continuing struggle for human rights. The author, an international leader of this campaign, encourages us to make a personal commitment to its goals." We've read over and over the essay but we cannot find any request for "a personal commitment" to be silent. Strangely, Women's Media Center acts as if they have found such a request. Robin, Gloria (and assorted other worthless WMC women -- including the two sued for paying men more than women -- two, not just one) is this how you intend to go through the next four years? Always being silent when it's time to stand up?

Gloria, remember these words: "In short, pornography is not about sex. It's about an imbalance of male-female power that allows and even requires sex to be used as a form of aggression." Gloria, you wrote those words, remember? Those words describe the photograph where we see not sexual desire, but aggression used to devalue women. And yet you['re silent. Are Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions just activities for when a Republican is in the White House?

And Robin, isn't your life's work (certainly the final years and we do mean "final") all about the violence against women? But you want to be silent now. You want to duct tape your mouth for some sort of Homeland Security: Barack Style.

It's disgusting. So are Favreau's actions and they go to what he thinks is acceptable behavior towards and among women. That's the scariest thing. And, Carville's ranting aside, it's not private behavior because he's at a party and he is posing for photos. Would he behave similarly at an office party? Would he behave similarly in the work environment. And drop his big baby feelings out of the picture long enough to grasp what Carville couldn't: Favreau is not the victim. The victims are the women who will have to work with him.

Little Kim Gandy can't say a damn word either. Strange considering that she wrote the following back in June:

Yes, Hillary Clinton persevered to win contest after contest, despite the ridicule, scorn and derision that was heaped on her by the frat-boy commentariat, and we salute her courage and determination not to allow the self-important pundit class to drum her out of the race with their endless name-calling. But will that treatment be the norm for women who run in the future? Has it become acceptable?

Frat-boy commentariat? That describes what CNN offered last week in their 'discussion' of the issue. And has it become acceptable, Kim? It certainly has and it will continue as long as women like you refuse to stand up and call it out.

Barack created this environment. His speech writer could feel safe in that appalling behavior because his boss repeatedly okayed it, never called it and, in fact, participated in it publicly. Back in June, we explained:

Seeyle and Bosman's article notes that Howard Dean now takes it seriously (that would be a change, as Mike pointed out last week) and is calling for a national dialogue. That might seem like a good thing . . . until you read on. In the fifth to last paragraph you confront a woman who, for those women who still have the scars of Miami, will seem very familiar. She has a different name and a different face but any woman at the 1972 Democratic convention will damn well remember how pathetic George McGovern stabbed women in the back and then hid behind women who had no self-respect and were more invested in McGovern's run than in the cause of equality. From the article:
In response, the Obama campaign directed a reporter to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida who supported [Ms.] Clinton but who is now speaking for the Obama campaign. She said Mr. Obama had no specific plans for a speech on sexism, partly because he already incorporated themes of discrimination as a societal problem in his speeches.
So Howard Dean says we need a national dialogue and Barack, who allegedly wants women's votes, says there's no need to speak about the topic. He's talked about "discrimination" in other forms. And he's going to get away with that?

And he got away with it. And women have to live with the results of that. And will continue to have to until 'leadership' starts standing up with the grassroots. Now there's a publication we never mention by name, we always use "*" in place of some letters of its name. Why is that? Because that trashy rag goes after women non-stop. One woman it went after was Gloria Steinem and it invited 'readers' to pin cocks on the photo of Gloria. Gloria was rightly offended by that and she expected, and received, the support of many women. Women collectively objected to that. But Gloria now wants to play silent? She thinks she doesn't owe a debt to all women? She thinks she can be silent cause it's hard for "democratic-socialists" to call out a Christ-child?

That's not cutting it. Either announce your retirement and leave the public stage or find some of that radicalism that you've spent over thirty of the last years talking about. It's all a bunch of yackin' if you don't start standing up. It's all a bunch of "Do this" orders from the woman who refuses to lead. We don't believe that's how you intended it but you better understand that is how it will be judged today. At a time when Ms. is on round three (or is it four?) of desperate mailings to those women who refused to re-subscribe and instead sent a loud F.U. to the cowardly magazine that refused to stand up in 2008, 'leaders' better start paying attention to issues like legacy.

The December 11th snapshot observed that Ms.' "Feminist Wire . . . managed to note violence against women has 'increased attention in Angola' but fails to raise objections to Favreau and his friend/male lover's attempt to prove they can get it up by (at best) disrespecting women." Why are so many subscribers fleeing and ignoring one mailing after another? If 'leadership' is truly confused, they are beyond out of touch.

Out of touch and out of time, fat baby, would be Jesse Jackson Jr. The member of the US Congress most famous this decade for spewing lies and hate at Hillary and for going under the knife because he lacked the discipline to lose fifty pounds. Poor fat baby.

Apparently bound and determined to be this century's Susan Hayward, Junior showed up on our TV screens last week (we caught it on MSNBC). Pursing his lips, Junior snapped, "Well the next time I introduce legislation, I hope all of you show up."

The news was that anyone at all would show up for a press conference held by Junior and, two weeks ago, they wouldn't have. But that was before Illinois saw their governor facing serious charges, calls to step down, and a scandal over who offered what to get their way with regards to the now empty Senate seat once held by Barack. Junior is accused of being Senate candidate number five in the federal criminal complaint against the governor. That would be the one who was willing to pay-to-play and it doesn't help that Junior's people did, in fact, get busy on the fundraiser and Junior met with the governor to discuss the seat he lusts after.

"I was shocked and saddened to learn that Illinois Rod Blagojevich was arrested yesterday by federal law enforcement officials," Junior declared at the televised press conference.

He was looking everywhere while he said it. Forget shifty-eyed, he was shifty-faced. And he wasn't speaking off the top of his head but reading from lengthy prepared remarks (the conference lasted around eight minutes). That is astounding when you consider that his denials were written ahead of time and no one thought to take out this lie by Jesse Junior, "That's what I shared with Governor Blagojevich on Monday when I had the opportunity to meet with him for the first time in four years. I want to repeat that, I met with Governor Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday."

He can repeat it as often as he likes, it won't make it true. He's actually met with Blagojevich many times in the last four years but we enjoy what Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) described as Junior's "hug fest" August 27th. The video is priceless as Junior minces around playing the hug fairy. At 2:27 into the clip, Junior and Rod come together. Amazingly in an eight minute speech on the governor, he never found time to explain how his brother was a former business partner of Blagojevich's.

But along with his nervous licking of lips, his refusal to make eye contact and his humorous historical revisions, one section really stood out: "Clearly the people of Illinois deserve better. They deserve to have their trust and their confidence in government restored. In light of yesterday's criminal indictment, I believe that the governor, in the best interests of our state, should resign . . . "

Those are the sort of words that can come back to haunt. For example, should Junior find himself charged, those are the sort of statements that tend to get tossed back in a person's face. As in: "You are now charged with attempting to bribe a public official. When it was the governor charged, you stated that 'the people of Illinois deserve better.' You declared, and we quote, 'In light of yesterday's criminal indictment, I believe that the governor, in the best interests of our state, should resign,' so, Rep Jackson, when will you be resigning?"

Again, the remarks were written ahead of time -- even if no one appeared to have used that additional time to think through the ramifications.

With drama queens like Carville and Jackson parading like peacocks across the screens, scripted TV just couldn't compete last week.

Best digital download buys

Our digital feature this week is musical downloads from and our focus is best buys. A few e-mails have asked will we be exploring iTunes? iTunes is well known as a download provider and there's also the fact that we have had complaints from those with Windows 98 or lower operating systems about how the iTunes player freezes their computer. That keeps iTunes from being our main focus but we do check it out regularly and, as best we can tell, the differences are very minor with Amazon usually offering far more choices than iTunes. (One exception, you can get Sonny & Cher's Look At Us on iTunes -- original vinyl album tracks, not bonus ones added for the CD release.)

We judged three albums to be best buys for this week's feature. One is a hits collection, another a soundtrack and the third a concept album.

"Gonna love it away, so cheer up," sing Ashford & Simpson on Street Opera's opening track. The 1982 concept album from Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson gave the duo not only their second highest charting soul song (up to that point) with "Street Corner" (number nine), it also provided them with their second highest charting album on the soul charts (number five).

Ashford & Simpson Street Opera

The album explores love in the inner city and the concept is wrongly thought by some to be confined to the first four songs. That mistaken belief fails to grasp the end of track four ("I'll take the whole world on if I have to . . . ") and the point of track five (Nick: "Woman, here I stand, want to do more but what for?" and Val: "Don't you remember there's two of us.") It also fails to grasp how the songs were long performed in concert including on the 1982 VHS concert release. Track five ("Working Man") leads into tracks six and seven. You have to wonder of those 'critics' insisting the song cycle is only the first four tracks, "Did they ever listen to the album they're pontificating about?"

"I'm just a working man," Nick sings in the closing of "Working Man" before asking, "What can I do but leave you?" The following track ("Who Will They Look To?") is a response to that as Valerie opens the number singing:

In a way, you're right, you know

In a way, you're right, you know

But think about the little babies too

They need you

Who will they look to?

The song winds down with the man insisting "You don't know how it is, You don't know how many tears, a man cries alone when he can't care for his own. You don't know what it's like, you wanna kick 'em or you want to strike, No, you don't know woman, you don't know." And the reply is, "That's nonsense, I do know, I do care. I understand what's out there." As Valerie holds "there," the next track ("Street Corner") immediately comes up with one of the most amazing piano riffs Simpson has ever composed while the chant is "Street lights! Rough necks! Bad guys!" Get it? Track six ends with Valerie's character insisting she does know what's out there and track seven provides an answer: "Street lights! Rough necks! Bad guys!"

A musical bridge links tracks six and seven with track seven truly kicking in thirty seconds in (as the male insists he's going away). "I believe times will be good again, oh, yes they will," Nick sings while Val insists, "Take good care of yourself, you, you and nobody else, hurry back to me as soon as you can." She will return to that instance at the end of the track which will lead into track nine, a reprise of "Working Man."

This is a concept album and one of the strongest of the eighties. Street Opera needs only a little book work to be staged as a musical, Ashford and Simpson have already provided the score and many, many details.

For those scared off by the thought of "concept album," let's add that there are few more thrilling moments in recording than when Nick and Val's voices come together to insist, "Times will be good again, yes, they will." Along with "Street Corner" and its amazing groove, "Make It Work Again" has a slower but just as steady groove. And both may be shown up by "Mighty Might Love" whose irresistible chorus will find you singing, "you've got to lay it brick by brick to make it stick, you've got to use all of you, cause that's the glue . . ." Those who attended or watched 1985's Live Aid may remember the song, they performed it at the global concert.

What's going to happen in the digital age? Supposedly, equality! At last!

Great . . . if it happens. If. See, a number of us have lived through other format transitions before. For example, Elaine and Rebecca strongly regret not listening to C.I. at the birth of CDs. C.I. has one of the most extensive soul collections on CD and has that as a result of realizing that artists of color and all female artists are the first dropped off the map. So when it was still 'fair' and 'equitable,' C.I. stocked up on the artists that would soon be dropped.

You may be saying, "See, digital doesn't require shelf space. It won't happen." There were hundreds of reason in each format flip-over why the discriminatory practices would 'never' have again and yet they always did. As for digital's requirement, if on your own personal computer you've ever had to add memory, you should be aware that this idea that an Amazon or an iTunes will stock everything and always do so flies in the face of what we know about memory and RAM. Translation, stock up now on the artists who are generally the first to be excluded.

Among songwriters, few can make the artistic claims Nick-O-Val Music can. From the Motown classics like "You're All I Need To Get By," "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to seventies work like "Reach Out and Touch (Someone's Hand)," "The Boss," "The Landlord," through their own recordings and much more, they are among the longest songwriting teams in music history and also among the most talented. Generally speaking, Nick writes the lyrics, Valerie the music -- and what lyrics and music!

Street Opera is the album they recorded after leaving Warner Bros and signing with Capitol. The Capitol years are where Nick comes into his own as a vocalist. Valerie appears to have been born as one of the country's most incredible singers and the Capitol years are the ones where Nick holds his own with her. Amazing music, wonderful songs and some of the most inspired singing make Street Opera not only an Ashford & Simpson classic, but an American music classic period. Amazon cost for the nine track album? $5.99.

Street Opera is an album you can not buy new in any format other than digital. That is true of the soundtrack in question as well, Sonny & Cher's Good Times. This soundtrack finally made it to CD at the end of the nineties and is already out of print in that format. For $7.92, you can get a digital download via Amazon. With only eight tracks, that's not much of a financial bargain. The reasons we pick this as a best buy include that it's not available (new) in any other formats and what's happening on the tracks.

Sonny & Cher Good Times

What's happening? Take "I Got You Babe," the song that Sonny & Cher topped the charts with in 1965. You know it, you've heard it so often you feel like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day. But it makes two appearances on this soundtrack -- as the opening and closing numbers. The opening is largely instrumental and it's a reconfiguring of the song (arrangement by Harold Battiste who also arranged the version that topped the charts) that owes a great deal to flamenco. A similar arrangement is used for the closing which finds Sonny and Cher singing the familiar lyrics in a richer manner. While that's not surprising with Cher, for Sonny it's probably his finest vocal ever recorded. In between, you have "It's The Little Things" -- a wonderful gem that regularly pops up on the duo's compilations or as a bonus track to their original albums. It's infectious as hell. "Don't Talk To Strangers" pops up as a bonus track on some repackagings of original Sonny & Cher albums. Cher never overdoes the drama of this song and walks it through perfectly. Listen to her transition as the rhythm picks up. The first section of the song requires three transitions and that she be extremely 'up' during the third. She pulls it off so well you may not notice what she's doing but all those who later marveled over her (tremendous) acting skill could have seen what was to come by listening closely to this track. And when she sings "Hey, my friend" on "Trust Me," you wonder why no one's ever attempted to sample that. Probably some of Cher's finest singing with Sonny from the sixties. And this was the soundtrack to the film Sonny wanted to make, hoped would take them from having to depend on touring and recording, so he gave it his all. No linear notes so you miss the essay by the film's director William Friedkin which concluded with this paragraph:

A word about the music . . . the first time I heard these songs after Sonny had recorded them, I remember grasping him by the shoulders and hugging him. I was stunned at their richness and variety and at the tremendous opportunities they presented for visualization. I've heard them at least a hundred times since and they still gas me. They include a jazz waltz, a bossa nova, a traditional blues, a Dixieland can-can, a Gershwinesque ballet, a ballad in 6/8 time, and finally a pair of contemporary pop songs. All by the same writer. Pop music has come a long way.

A long way is what The Definitive Rod Stewart charts and, as a best buy, it's pretty difficult to beat. 31 tracks on the collection and is charging only $13.99. And the tracks . . .

The Definitive Rod Stewart

The hits you may disdain -- such as "Da You Think I'm Sexy?" and "Passions" -- are and -- possibly due to the set running in order of release date -- you may appreciate them more within the context of his recording career. "Maggie Mae" has never stopped being appreciated and it is among Rod's many fine moments gathered on this collection. Often, compilers seem to suggest you have to choose between "You Wear It Well" and "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)" -- or maybe there's only some recently lifted law that barred the two from appearing on any collection that didn't cost forty or so dollars? (We pick "You Wear It Well" as the better of the two, Rod still has a sense of humor on the earlier song.) "Tonight's The Night" is among the classics showing up and hits such as "Tonight I'm Yours," "Some Guys Have All The Luck," "Baby Jane," "Downtown Train," "Young Turks," "My Heart Can't Tell You No," "This Old Heart Of Mine" (with Ronald Isley) are also present. The set ends with some live tracks from his acoustic set for MTV and any doubting how badly Rod had lost his way -- well before he turned to 'the Great American Songbook' this decade -- needs only listen to "A Reason To Believe." Forty-three seconds into the track, Rod begins making a strong argument for retirement as he does such damage to this folk classic you picture Tim Hardin rising from the grave and pleading with him to end the travesty. (Those unfamiliar with the songs can be schooled immediately by Elaine who cued up Cher, Wilson Phillips, Hardin and Rod's own 1971 performance of the song to demonstrate how it is supposed to be done.) Ignoring that track leaves you with a solid set at an incredibly reasonable price.

So our best buy recommendations are a concept album (Ashford & Simpson's Street Opera), a soundtrack (Sonny & Cher's Good Times) and a collection (The Definitive Rod Stewart).

The remake of Strangers On a Train

"Last night's victory was bittersweet for Illinois -- as we gain a great President, we lose a great Senator. And it goes without saying that our next Senator has big shoes to fill. Because it's important that the best person for Illinois is selected, I want to be clear that the calendar won't dictate our search. Instead, I want to ensure that Obama's successor will understand and fight for the needs of average Illinoisans," Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, declared November 5, 2008. He and his office were providing lists of how he would assist Barack Obama, "Support the President-Elect’s agenda for the people; Effectively represent the interests of the state of Illinois in the U.S. Congress; Work with my administration to achieve our shared goals of ensuring access to affordable healthcare, rebuilding Illinois’ infrastructure, improving the economic security and livelihoods of Illinois workers, and caring for our most vulnerable; and,
Prioritize the average Illinoisan who is too burdened by taxes and economic hardship."

Bittersweet memories, is that all Rod's taking with him? In better times, prior to last week, Rod and Barack were one man, one voice.


Look how close they once were in the photo above, which ran on page one of the November 12, 2008 Governor's Gazette ("A Newsletter of the State of Illinois"). Look at 'em, they're practically Strangers On A Train. You can almost hear them whisper "Crisscross! Crisscross!"

A gold watch for Robert Byrd?

US Senator Robert Byrd recently received a demotion. The Democrats in Senate leadership thought they were sending one message but were actually sending several and one that concerns us is the issue of fit to serve.

Robert Byrd

Byrd was born November 20, 1917. That makes him 91-years-old. And no one sees a problem with that?

Obviously, Democratic leadership just admitted to some sort of a problem. After starting a whisper campaign against him in the press portraying him as erratic and forcing him to 'voluntarily' resign as chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Democratic leadership has raised the issue of age and the issue of fitness. Not just for Byrd, but for many.

The whisper campaign against Byrd (carried on by Democratic leadership, please note) became so bad that, in June of 2007, he addressed the issue on the floor of the Senate. His remarks (click here for video of his speech) included, "In real life, the lucky ones among us get old. We move down the steep slope to the far right of the bell curve of age. The really lucky ones – and I almost count myself among them – get to be "aged," into their nineties or older, a distinction that I like to think is naturally paired with the wisdom borne of experience. We get white hair. We get wrinkles. We move more slowly. We worry more about falling down because we don't bounce up the way we used to. Our brains are still sharp, but our tongues are slower. We have learned, sometimes the hard way, to think before we speak. I hope, however, that what we have to say is worth the wait. "

He went on to liken himself to Grandma Moses who "did not take up painting until the age of 75. She painted some 1,600 paintings, 250 of which she painted after her 100th birthday." The painter was a private citizen, Byrd holds public office and he holds one office that Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, now needs to remove him from.

The fringe radicals (largely Libertarians posing as Democrats) of fall 2008 attempted to repeatedly make the presidential election about Sarah Palin, insisting that Palin was not qualified to be president. First, Palin wasn't running for president. She was in the v.p. slot under John McCain. Second, she was the only nominee in the race (from any party) who had executive experience since she is the sitting governor of Alaska. The fringe radical crew never made the race an issue on, "What if Biden becomes president!" That would be Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate. For those who argue "Barack is a young man," his family history is disturbing. Mother dead at 52, father dead at 46 -- both from natural causes. And Barack? He's 47-years-old currently. Due to his family history, his running mate should have been a serious concern. (By contrast the elderly McCain's mother is still alive.) Should have been.

And if Robert Byrd isn't 'sound' enough to chair the Appropriations Committee, he's really not sound enough to sit in the Senate and, most importantly, he's not entitled to be in line for presidential succession. Should anything happen to a president (removed from office, voluntarily stepping down, dying in office), the vice president is elevated. Should both positions

become vacant, the next in line is the US House Speaker (currently Nancy Pelosi). If that position and the two ahead of it are vacant, who becomes president? The President pro tempore of the Senate -- the position Byrd currently holds.

If he's not fit to chair a committee, he's not fit to be in line for the presidency especially not the Senate's first in line.

The Democratic leadership has made that necessary. We first toyed with this topic as an article early last year but a number of issues led to it being tabled including that it would be seen, especially since we were very clear that we would not vote John McCain, as some sort of an effort to harm his presidential run by raising the age issue. To be clear, Robert Byrd can run for president and if the voters elect him president, age isn't an issue.

But Byrd and his colleagues really aren't running for office these days. They are incumbents and the re-election rate for incumbents means that there's no real running for office in most cases. OpenSecrets notes, "Few things in life are more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives winning reelection. With wide name recognition, and usually an insurmountable advantage in campaign cash, House incumbents typically have little trouble holding onto their seats . . . Senate races still overwhelmingly favor the incumbent, but not by as reliable a margin as House races. Big swings in the national mood can sometimes topple long time office-holders, as happened with the Reagan revolution in 1980. Even so, years like that are an exception." This is backed up by their graphs where you will find, for example, the 2004 re-election rate for incumbents in the US Congress: House office holders were re-elected by 98% and Senate office holders by 96%.

Let's stop pretending the bulk of incumbents ever have to worry about holding onto their seats.

And let's stop pretending about the 'kid' tapped to replace Byrd as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committees. That would be Senator Daniel Inouye, a whipper snapper of 84-years. Repeating, 84-years-old.

The Daniels

Inouye is not only the incoming chair of the Senate Appropriates Committee, he's also the senior senator from Hawaii. "Junior" would be Daniel Akaka who is also 84-years-old (four days younger than Inouye, in fact). Ted Kennedy is 76-years-old and last ran for re-election in 2006. In May of this year, he informed voters he was ill, brain cancer. A few months later he had surgery, taking constituents by surprise. The surgery is thought to have extended Kennedy's life expectancy (by a few months) but he had a seizure in August that no one's said a great deal on but the 'official word' is the seizure resulted from medications. (His being diagnosed with brain cancer was preceded by at least two seizures.) Carl Levin is 74-years-old, Herbert Kohl is 73-years-old and Jay Rockefeller is 71-years-old. Tom Harkin and Harry Reid will both turn 70 in 2009.

In his June 2007 speech, Byrd declared, "I will continue to work until this old body just gives out and drops -- but don't expect that to be any time soon." Are Senate seats to be lifetime offices? The rate of re-election indicates that is possible if someone's life is so damn pathetic that all they have to live for is their job. There is something really sick about this. From time to time, for example, one of the above listed senators is "honored" for his consecutive days of service (in 2004, Daniel Akaka issued a proclamation honoring Daniel Inouye, for example) as though this was something to be proud of. You can't say, "As though Inouye was the Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken Jr." because, note, Ripken had the good sense to step down. In terms of good sense, about all you can say for the senators is, "At least they didn't use a revolving door to become lobbyists."

Some may wonder about Republicans. To the best of our knowledge, Republicans are not ousting minority chairs from Senate committees -- nor are we aware of any shenanigans in the House on either side of the aisle. But Democratic leadership in the Senate has made it an issue with their two-year whisper campaign against Byrd. Having made it an issue, it's time for Americans to move the issue beyond Byrd.

The Princess Brat Diaries

Princess Brat

Uncle Ted wants Caroline Kennedy to be a US Senator from New York and wants the state's governor to appoint her to Hillary Clinton's seat.

And why wouldn't he want that?

It would be like a trust fund for Caroline, one with annual payments. That's due to the rate of re-election for incumbents.

Some say appoint Caroline and, when the term Hillary was elected to is up, Caroline can run for it then (2012). Yes and she'd be the incumbent meaning it would be near impossible to defeat her. Ted knows that. Ted knows get her in the seat and it becomes her seat for life.

He won his Senate seat in 1962. As an incumbent, he's never had to really sweat since. (OpenSecrets addresses the re-election rate for incumbents here.)

Hillary intends to step down to become Secretary of State. When a seat becomes vacant, governors appoint the replacement. The problem in Illinois may lead some to consider altering that.

For any evaluating, we'd suggest that those who receive their party's nomination (or run as an independent) and hold office in Congress should not allow a win to confuse the situation. Stick with us here because we got this notion when we grasped that Ted saw the Senate as a beauty contest. Miss America has a runner up, why can't the Congress? Every four years, a sentator is usually on one -- if not both -- of the major parties' tickets. The excuse for allowing governors to fill vacated positions is that holding special elections would prove to costly.

Fair enough but in 2008, for example, three US Senators were running for the White House. John McCain was running as the head of the GOP ticket, Barack Obama as the head of the Democratic ticket and Joe Biden as his running mate. Arizona, Delaware and Illinois respectively didn't need to hold a special election, they could have included the issue on their ballots in November. "If ____ leaves office due to the election, pick the candidate you'd like to fill the seat."

It would save money. It would prevent the sort of scandal currently dragging down Barack and his Dream Team. And it would allow the will of the voters to be registered.

As for Caroline, she doesn't like to run for office. Appointments are so much more 'noble.' As Froma Harrop observes in "Dems should say no to Senate bid by Kennedy" (Houston Chronicle):

Lest anyone forget the point of the American Revolution, our representatives are not chosen by hereditary succession, which, to quote Thomas Paine, "is an insult and imposition on posterity."

Of course, Caroline can ask for whatever she wants. The astounding part is that the idea of such a request hasn't been laughed out of the news pages.


Illustration is Isaiah's "Princess Brat."

Hmm . . .

Saturday the Bully Boy of the United States declared, "This week, our country received good news in the fight against illegal drugs. New data show that illicit drug use amongst young people continues to decline -- and that we are making good progress in our efforts to help thousands of Americans renew their health and hope."


Hmm . . .

Or maybe it's just another sign of how badly the economy's tanking?

Amy Poehler leaves SNL (Ava and C.I.)

Amy Poehler ended her run on Saturday Night Live last night and, as Jim explained last week, it's been stated we've been less than fair to Amy. So for SNL friends, we'll note Amy made her announcement at the end of Weekend Update.

"This is my last show," she informed and added that "being able to do over 140 shows with my friends and my family has been a dream come true." Not for us, but we had to watch.

The best thing about Amy leaving is she's actually better in film than she is in live sketch comedy. She lacks the ability to portray a wide variety of characters and tended to allow the bulk of her characters to run together. In film, where she'll be expected to play only one character (presumably), she can delve into layers. That's why she walked away with Baby Mama. It's her film. Her character's scheming, lying and, honestly, trashy. But she holds your attention in every scene and you're rooting for her within the first ten minutes. She's demonstrated that in small film roles but she carried Baby Mama. Films not where she's set her sights; she's hoping for prime time TV stardom. That could take place because she is likable (Fey isn't) and that quality is not to be underestimated.

For her last show, Maya Rudolph returned to do a skit with her, Bronx Beat with Betty and Jodi. One of the few characters she's created that's truly different from her usual parade, Betty was a solid sendoff for Poehler.

She also deserves praise for her original Weekend Update work. We stand by our criticism from last season that she was popping her eyes too much and falling back on that to get a laugh when she should have been shading the line. Fortunately, she improved on that last season and managed, last night, to get off a wonderful reading on a joke about KFC employees fired for bathing in the sink where dishes and equipment are washed, "Which makes me wonder: where is this magical, mythical KFC that has dishes?" She received a loud laugh and earned it.

Amy's return to Weekend Update two Saturdays ago is said to have worried Lorne. Why? All sorts of excuses have been offered for the substandard job Seth's been doing including (we love this one), "Well they clap at jokes in LA." Uh-huh, and was SNL taping in Los Angeles? Seth's 'jokes' get applause sometimes. Even loud applause. They rarely get laughs. And were Seth not telegraphing to the audience how cute he thinks he is, would they be tossing out applause? Think about it, they can't muster a laugh but he's begging so they toss him some applause.

Amy's return proved that some Culver City Bus Company wasn't shipping in studio audiences to 30 Rock. The audience laughs when Amy tells a joke.

An SNL friend (who is male) also raised the issue with us of all that women have to put up with on that show. That's true as well. So let's turn to some of the messages that SNL sends to women.

Thus far this season, SNL has had eleven hosts. Can you name them? Can you provide their ages?

1) Micheal Phelps 23 years old

2) James Franco 30 years old

3) Anna Faris 32 years old

4) Anne Hathaway 26 years old

5) Josh Brolin 40 years old

6) Jon Hamm 37 years old

7) Ben Affleck 36 years old

8) Paul Rudd 39 years old

9) Tim McGraw 41 years old

10) John Malkovich 55 years old

11) Hugh Laurie 49 years old

The average age of female hosts was 29 years old.

The average age of male hosts is 39 years old.

That's the environment all the women have to work in and it does send a message to women. And when was the last time a woman of 55 hosted the show?

As a slew of female featured players try desperately to make their mark and move on to the regular cast (Casey's already made her mark and should be a cast member), don't think they're not watching and absorbing these 'lessons,' internalizing them. And don't think the audience isn't doing the same.

Audience? SNL alumni Tina Fey's 30 Rock is being hailed as a 'hit' because for the first time all since this season's debut, an episode didn't lose ratings. Thursday's broadcast had 7.5 million. It, as E! noted, "seemed to benefit from Grey's Anatomy's virtual night off" -- and you can add Supernatural was in repeats as well.

Consider last week the TV equivalent of Alex Rodriquez (June 10, 2001) surrendering short stop position to Cal Ripken Jr. In other words, if NBC can persuade the other networks to all air repeats, they might be able to break even with the faltering show yet.

However, for those of us who have departed Fantasy Island, the most obvious issue regarding the ratings was the surrounding programs. The Office, airing before 30 Rock, brought in 8.8 million viewers while ER, airing after 30 Rock, brought in 8.9 million viewers. Approximately 1.3 million viewers disappeared the minute Tina Fey's annoying show began airing but returned when ER began. For those paying attention, the term is: Union Square.

For years, NBC rewarded its ratings win on Thursday nights by pissing on viewers, forcing them to endure Union Square, Joey, the US version of Coupling, The Single Guy, Boston Common, Fired Up, Madman of the People, Cursed, Inside Schwartz, Leap of Faith, Stark Raving Mad, Four Kings, etc. People like to say remote controls broke up block viewing but, if you ask us, it was 'Must-See-TV'.

How does this apply to Amy? Find us a successful sitcom with a woman in the or a lead and we'll have someone with a best friend. (That Girl's the only exception we can think of.) Tina Fey, for all her yammering about adoring The Mary Tyler Moore Show, either didn't absorb the lesson or is too worried to share much camera time with another woman (which is why Liz and Jack are practically their own little sewing circle). Flounder like Tina (or Kath & Kim) by defining your character solely through male eyes.

Corrente's Sarah Did Not Vote

For some reason, Corrente allows a female governor (Sarah Palin, naturally) to be smeared with "sexpot." The smear comes from "Senior Fellow" Sarah who, when not blogging incessantly on football, likes to claim she voted Hillary Clinton for president.

She did not vote.

When she was telling that lie and encouraging others to do the same, we wondered if the idiot grasped that in some -- not all -- states, voting for Hillary (not a candidate) would mean the vote would go to Barack? Who knows with Sarah?

But last week she was attacking Sarah Palin again, spewing her hate again, and some were holding her accountable. As always, the strongest stands were taken by the ones you've learned to count on:

By gqmartinez on Thu, 12/11/2008 - 2:20pm
Palin's pick wasn't a ploy for women. She helped energize a good deal of the GOP base. Just because Democrats hate Palin doesn't meant that the GOP did, and with a GOP in tatters, McCain needed anything he could get.
You're comment comes across as more of a grope than McCain's pick of Palin. But I'm sure you can find a way to dehumanize Palin. After all there are claims that she is a pawn of the dominionist movement (no comment on Obama's prayer circle, eh?), and that she charged rape victims for rape kits. Sorry, that "experience" line won't work since she was the only one with any executive experience, and was Chief executive of a state bordering two nations in a very strategic location.
By all means, though, continue your dehumanization, demonization, devaluing of Sarah Palin. It does help the soul to treat her with contempt if you view her as nothing but a pretty face.

And called out for using "sexpot," Sarah attempted to downgrade what she did by watering down the definition, "Definition of sexpot: A woman considered to have sex appeal." In fact (Webster's) the definition is "a conspicuously sexy woman."

Some refused to put up with the nonsense:

If that is what you think a Democrat is, then
By basement angel on Thu, 12/11/2008 - 5:25pm
you certainly missed the mark by voting for Obama - because that is not who is by any stretch of the imagination.
Palin was picked because of her Christian background and her ability to unite the Christian right base around McCain - she was successful at that. McCain got a lot more support from those people than he would have otherwise.
I don't get the left's animosity towards Sarah - I really don't. And considering that we nominated Obama, who had less experience than she did, I don't see how we can carp about that either. The left's bahavior towards Palin has been so atrociously sexist that I wind up admiring someone with whom I have very little in common. I certainly respect her more than the people who voted for Obama - something I find utterly mystifying. I didn't vote in the presidential election. I couldn't cast a ballot for either of them.
But you saying that McCain's nomination of her was the equivalent of grope is just out and out bullshit. I think your real anxiety is over the fact that she stood up for herself and feminism and the left deteriorated into a misogynist clusterfuck and sounded more like Claytie Williams than any Democrat I've ever known. That "periodic" remark is one of the most disgraceful things I have ever heard any politician say - as retrograde as anything that ever came out of Jesse Helms' mouth.
I'm embarrassed by Obama and by his supporters. I'm hopeful that this scandal takes him down and allows us to proceed with something that resembles our old party.

Which led Aeryl to insist that Sarah "can defend herself [. . .] But, Sarah didn't vote for Obama." You're right, Aeryl, because Sarah didn't vote in the presidential election this year.

Texas is Sarah's state and she wants credit for voting for Hillary for president in the general election.

The Director of Communications for the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, Randall Dillard, advises us, "In Texas , a voter may choose between any candidate on the ballot, or write-in the name of a certified write-in candidate. For the Nov. 4 presidential election, the Texas ballot included candidates nominated from the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties. Voters could also choose from one of seven certified write-in candidates for president. A vote for anyone other than the names on the ballot or the certified write-in candidates was not counted."

Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader are two candidates who could have used votes. Instead, Sarah taught everyone what a 'protest' vote really was, what a wasted one really was: Going to the polls to vote and voting for someone who is not on the ballot and will not receive credit for your vote. That's why there is no "Hillary Clinton: 1 vote" on the state's official results.

Sarah did not vote for Hillary because Hillary did not and could not receive a vote.

Your vote is your vote. That's a community mantra. So is, "Use it wisely."

ETAN Says NO to Dennis Blair

If we had seen this last week (went to spam folder), we would have highlighted it. We'll do so now. From ETAN:

ETAN Urges President-elect Obama Not to Appoint Adm. Blair Director of National Intelligence

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, 917-690-4391

December 5 - "President-elect Barack Obama's rumored selection of Admiral Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence is unacceptable," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today.

"During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military’s behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit assistance.”

“It is unfathomable that Obama would consider appointing someone to such a prominent position who has shown so little concern for human rights in the past. Can we expect someone who has sought to undermine efforts to link human rights to military assistance to be a champion of reform? We don't think this is the kind of change people are expecting," said Miller.

In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militias carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' To Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit.


As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from February 1999 to May 2002 Blair was the highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during the final period of violence in East Timor, as Indonesian security forces and their militias killed, looted, and destroyed the country's infrastructure.

In April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander of Indonesian forces, just days after dozens of refugees in a Catholic church in the town of Liquica, East Timor were hacked to death by machetes by militia members backed by the military (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops.

Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which the military "took as a green light to proceed with the militia operation," according to Allan Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine at the time. []

Nairn reported that a classified cable summarizing the meeting said that Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest in conjunction with the next round of bilateral defense discussions in the July-August '99 time frame. He said Pacific command is prepared to support a subject matter expert exchange for doctrinal development. He expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to police and...selected TNI personnel on crowd control measures." Nairn writes that the last offer was "quite significant, because it would be the first new US training program for the Indonesian military since 1992."

Blair was fully aware of what was going on in East Timor at the time: "From a windowless concrete building near Blair's Pacific Command headquarters, seven intelligence analysts at the "Joint Intelligence Center," the world's largest military intelligence center, had tracked the movements of Indonesian and militia forces since May 1998," according to the Washington Post.

In the bloody aftermath of East Timor's independence vote, "Blair and other U.S. military officials took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the referendum in East Timor. Given the country's history, they argued, it could have been worse. “'What they did was absolutely remarkable,' said one top Pentagon general," reported the Washington Post’s Dana Priest.

Blair has acknowledged that U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers were among those allegedly involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor. "But at no point, Blair acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET to try to stop the brewing crisis," wrote Priest. "It is fairly rare that the personal relations made through an IMET [U.S.-funded military program] course can come into play in resolving a future crisis," he told her.

In April 2000, over the objections of U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert S. Gelbard, members of Congress and State Department officials, Blair made the first high-level visit to Indonesia since all military assistance was cut off in the aftermath of the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor.

Despite Blair's repeated overtures and forgiving attitude to Indonesia's military elite, they were of no help in his post-military role as chair of the Indonesia Commission at the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). In 2002, Blair headed a delegation of observers who intended to visit West Papua. The government refused to let them in, with the Foreign Minister declaring that "there is no need for them to come to Papua."

The reason was clear: West Papua has become the new focus of Indonesian military and militia brutality. The military's mission is to violently suppress West Papua's simmering independence movement, its sympathizers, and terrorize ordinary citizens - and outside observers are not welcome. Though Blair's dream of renewed military engagement with Indonesia has been realized under the Bush administration, the Indonesian military's human rights violations continue and as does impunity for its senior officers.

General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the 1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in elections to take place next year.

John M. Miller I
National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller Web:


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"I Hate The War" -- C.I.'s Thursday night entry and the most requested highlight by readers of this site. If revenge is best served cold, what about vindication? Wally says vindication must be a piping hot plate and certainly C.I. could have been forgiven for typing nothing in this entry other than "Told you so! Told you so! Told you so!" That didn't happen (not even one "I told you so!"). Doesn't change the fact that -- pay attention, Patty Cockburn -- as usual, one person led and others played dumb and/or silent. Same one who's been leading since 2004. Suck on it, Patrick, suck on it hard.

"Bacon & Tomato Soup in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers an easy recipe (so easy, Kat says, Jim has made it!) and she continues to address the economy.

"The entitlement kids (Barack and Caroline)" and "Princess Brat" -- Betty managed two blog posts last week. ("I wanted so much more, there's just not time," she says.) Her focus may remain the entitlement twins for awhile.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess Brat" -- Isaiah's very popular comic from last week and for backstory see Elaine's "Isaiah, Katha Pollitt, etc. "

"yeah, we saw it coming" -- Rebecca's never shy about saying "I told you so!" (She says she needs to -- "like Grace on Will & Grace" -- come up with a little dance to go with it.) And if you're on the left and feeling a little dismayed these days, golly, who's surprised? No one should be. Which is also kind of the point of . . .

"The cowboy way" & "THIS JUST IN! BARACK IS THE MIRROR IMAGE!" -- Cedric and Wally's joint-post about how similar to Bully Boy Barack is. Cedric also gives a nod to Rejina Spektor's "Time Is All Around" which is a new track he and Wally have been listening to. "We were tired and struggling. Wally said, 'Call you back in five, go blast Regina.' So we both did that and found the energy to finish." And Wally just reminded that one of C.I.'s NPR friends is in freak out mode (we'll get to it, to steal from Ava and C.I.) so let's note for those who do not know Regina Spektor's work that clicking here takes you to some NPR sessions she did in July.

"NPR cancels two shows" -- Ruth's entry on NPR's decision to cancel two shows as part of their cut back efforts. That's what has C.I.'s friend in a panic. So we'll toss out the link to Regina Spektor for that reason.

"Barbra Streisand, Margaret Kimberley" -- Marcia writing about one of her favorite Barbra Streisand songs ("And making me love that one all over again," says Rebecca on the verge of singing it) s well as highlighting Margaret Kimberley.

"Wanted, Love Guru" -- We love Stan's Friday movie posts. He doesn't believe us because he was on the planned study break of a date (they have a class together) and used his time to blog "real quickly". Well it's a great post. We love it and look forward to hearing what he thought about the two DVDs they rented. As for the title, no, Stan didn't realize it read like: "Wanted: Love Guru." :D Those were the two films he was writing about Friday.

"Aimee Mann, Alexander Cockburn" -- Jim asked that this post by Elaine be highlighted and asked that we note he agrees with her that comparing any and every woman to Lady MacBeth is not only overdone, it's the sign of a tired columnist.

"Jesse Junior bare ass nekid!" & "Barack Blagojevich" -- Mike covering Chicago politics as usual.

"Tonight's The Night" and "Back then" -- Kat's Bookends (in the Simon & Garfunkel sense of the term). Great posts.

"it's like 2002 in replay" -- Rebecca explains how the Cult Remains The Same.

"Sexist Sarah at Corrente" -- Ruth's post. She and Marcia were both ticked off by Sarah at Corrente's latest attack on Sarah Palin which includes calling the sitting governor a "sexpot." For the record, we address this nonsense in a feature article this week.

"Kenny Hearts Barack" & "THIS JUST IN! KENNY STANDS BY HIS MAN!" -- Cedric and Wally give media critique.

"Chicago trash" -- Marcia letting it rip.

"Films on sick-out day" -- Stan took part in the sick-out last week and, sidebar, like a number of us, Stan's getting damn tired of one blogger (non-community site) who continues to attack LGBT rights and activities.

"Independent media, Maureen Dowd captured" -- Elaine offers her thoughts on the broken state of 'independent' media.

"Chuck, Diane Bukowski arrested" -- To clarify, Mike's noting Diane Bukowski's being arrested and explaining last week's Chuck.
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