Sunday, February 22, 2009

Truest statement of the week

With honourable exceptions, film critics rarely question this and identify the true power behind the screen. Obsessed with celebrity actors and vacuous narratives, they are the cinema's lobby correspondents, its dutiful press corps. Emitting safe snipes and sneers, they promote a deeply political system that dominates most of what we pay to see, knowing not what we are denied. Brian de Palma's 2007 film Redacted shows an Iraq the media does not report. He depicts the homicides and gang-rapes that are never prosecuted and are the essence of any colonial conquest. In the New York Village Voice, the critic Anthony Kaufman, in abusing the "divisive" De Palma for his "perverse tales of voyeurism and violence", did his best to taint the film as a kind of heresy and to bury it.In this way, the "war on terror" -- the conquest and subversion of resource rich regions of the world, whose ramifications and oppressions touch all our lives – is almost excluded from the popular cinema. Michael Moore's outstanding Fahrenheit 911 was a freak; the notoriety of its distribution ban by the Walt Disney Company helped to force its way into cinemas. My own 2007 film The War on Democracy, which inverted the "war on terror" in Latin America, was distributed in Britain, Australia and other countries but not in the United States. "You will need to make structural and political changes," said a major New York distributor. "Maybe get a star like Sean Penn to host it -- he likes liberal causes -- and tame those anti-Bush sequences."

During the cold war, Hollywood's state propaganda was unabashed. The classic 1957 dance movie, Silk Stockings, was an anti-Soviet diatribe interrupted by the fabulous footwork of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. These days, there are two types of censorship. The first is censorship by introspective dross. Betraying its long tradition of producing gems, escapist Hollywood is consumed by the corporate formula: just make 'em long and asinine and hope the hype will pay off. Ricky Gervais is his clever comic self in Ghost Town, while around him stale, formulaic characters sentimentalise the humour to death.

These are extraordinary times. Vicious colonial wars and political, economic and environmental corruption cry out for a place on the big screen. Yet, try to name one recent film that has dealt with these, honestly and powerfully, let alone satirically.. Censorship by omission is virulent. We need another Wall Street, another Last Hurrah, another Dr. Strangelove. The partisans who tunnel out of their prison in Gaza, bringing in food, clothes, medicines and weapons with which to defend themselves, are no less heroic than the celluloid-honoured POWs and partisans of the 1940s. They and the rest of us deserve the respect of the greatest popular medium.

-- John Pilger, "Hollywood's New Censors" (Information Clearing House).

Truest statement of the week II

The criticism that's coming on the housing plan is similar to the criticism that came on the bank bailout vote before you came into office and in Phase II, which is there are people who were irresponsible who will be helped -- period. It's going -- that is a fact, that is going to be -- that is going to be -- people are going to use that to say this is not fair.

-- Chuck Todd, MSNBC, White House press briefing, Feb. 20, 2009.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. Fairly quick for us. Longest delay was an hour and half. We'll get to it.

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 everyone. Dona and I (Jim) will be filling in for C.I. tonight at The Common Ills. (C.I.'s already posted an entry this morning and Kat's CD review is also up.)

Let's turn to what we have for this edition:

Truest statement of the week -- John Pilger and it wasn't just the truest, it was the truest to start with considering today.

Truest statement of the week II -- We had six other truest nominees and we kept coming back to Chuck Todd. Possibly because his statements mesh with last week's "Editorial: The simulated 'stimulus'." Regardless, we're happy to give a truest to Todd.

Editorial: It's the people's movement -- This was a fun editorial. As Mike's noted, in recent weeks there haven't been a lot of editorial's that we've had fun writing. We had fun writing this one. That doesn't mean it's 'fun' to read and it's certainly not a 'light' subject.

TV: Dollhouse is baroque, somebody better fix it -- Ava and C.I.'s latest TV commentary. They wanted more time to work on this but they didn't have it because they had to be done by X to get sleep befor going to Y. Where they'll see Z. :D This is really a great commentary and it's pulling several strands together that you might not think connect but that actually do. I knew they were doing Dollhouse so when I read this outloud to everyone and came across their first sentence with Barack, I though, "Oh, that's funny." (And it was.) But I didn't think they were going to be coming back to that topic. I thought they were just going to stick with Dollhouse. Which would have been fine. But, again, there are many strands woven together for this commentary and it may be my favorite so far this year.

Giggles at the smack-down hide the real issue -- Time constraints today meant Ava and C.I. were promised we'd be done by X. We didn't make that. But to speed things along, we posted with less discussion about order. I personally think the roundtable should be here and it's not. It's the sort of thing we would have debated and debated with more time. (Jess argued for this to be up high because it's a topic that will be in the news Thursday when a report is released.)

The sexism at Harper's -- Why don't you do more on books! That is the non-stop cry. And with this feature, we found a way to do more on books. We hope you enjoy it. This was the final article we wrote for this edition. (It's the one the gang mentions in "Highlights.")

I'm ready for my mani-pedi, Mr. DeMille -- We are woefully low on short features! So yelled Dona early in the edition. She was right. We have two short features. We should have had more to ensure that we were done earlier.

Animation roundtable -- Ava and C.I. did not work on this -- kind of. What illustrations were we using? That was the first question they had when they rejoined us (we'd finished this roundtable by then). We said the latest (which is used) comic Isaiah drew and the three he has up at his new site. No, no, no -- we were informed -- if the scope increased and became a discussion on animation period we needed a wide range of illustrations and we certainly didn't need to repost the three he had up at his site because why do people need to go there if we've got them right here? So Ava and C.I. quickly came up with a list of 12 illustrations that we narrowed down to what's in here. And then? Isaiah's written about the older illustrations (posted via Hello! and not Flickr) and how Blogger/Blogspot makes them large no matter if you check "small," "medium" or "large." How to get around it? C.I. spent forever finding the manual code and putting it in (in HTML) and that was the longest delay we had this edition. We thank Isaiah for the use of his illustrations, we thank him for agreeing to talk to us and we hope it's okay that it ended up an animation roundtable. That wasn't planned. We were planning a straight interview with him.

The continued witch hunt of Senator Roland Burris -- We all knew this was coming Thursday night when doing the roundtable for Gina and Krista's newsletter. C.I, Betty and Stan were very vocal about this nonsense that every day Roland Burris has to jump through a new hoop, that he is charged with no crime and yet, once again, actions that would get no senator impeached are being said to be reason enough for him to step down. If he's got reason to step down, Senator Burris, please step down. If he doesn't, if what we're seeing lately is all there is, Senator Burris, continue with your work. We had planned to sit this out while it played out. But it never plays out. The press never has enough of this. They have never have any real facts, they never have any crime they can say he's guilty of, but every damn week there's some 'scandal' they've just found out about. We have to wonder how many reporters they have covering other senators because it seems to us there's a whole squad covering Burris.

Small change turns to no change -- You know you're tired when you can't recognize a headline. I write the headlines for almost every article we post and I wrote this one but I had to ask, "What is this?" Okay, the White House press conference Friday.

Our celebrity hero -- This is our another short feature. And this is true. For some reason, the White House labels photos of Barack, in the jpeg code, "hero" over and over.

FTA Tuesday -- FTA out on DVD Tuesday and airs on Sundance Monday night.

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

And that's it. We'll see you next weekend.

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

Editorial: It's the people's movement

In December, Eric Ruder and Ashley Smith (Socialist Worker) reported on the sell out from United for Peace & Justice (aka United for Death & Destruction and United for Pathetic & Juvenile). One of the most appalling (and offensive) moments at the UPFJ convention the two reported on was this:

"We have elected the most progressive mainstream politician imaginable," declared William McNary, president of USAction/TrueMajority, at the opening plenary. McNary went on to describe Obama as our "quarterback"--and say that the movement's task is to "block" for him.

UPFJ is a bunch of closet cases. They are not anti-war. And they are not open. Nor are they above board. William McNary's bulls**t opinion doesn't matter to us and it shouldn't matter to you. Not just because McNary's a little punk who wishes he had football talent in his long ago youth, but because McNary isn't impartial and shouldn't be allowed to get up and play like he is. Little Willie McNary has long been in the tank for Barack who's helped him many times (including securing a job with the Illinois state legislature). Or, as Little Willie declared at Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box last year ("Women's Voices, Women Vote," May 1, 2008):

And in this election, I am supporting Barack Obama, whom I've known and worked with for years. I am also an elected delegate to the Democratic Convention for Barack Obama.

In other words, Little Willie's commitment is to Barack, not to peace. Tell Them Barack's Punk Ass Boy Is Here. And Little Willie is far from alone.

At the convention, Antonia Juhasz disgraced herself -- it would not be the last time -- grabbing onto Little Willie's football metaphor (did she go long?) and declaring it was the peace movement's job to "block" for Barack. No, Congressional flunky, that is not our job. But you have demonstrated that any independence you briefly achieved in recent years is gone and you've returned to your lowly world of Democratic suck-up. Come Back To The Real World, Antonia, Antonia.

The peace movement is not a sport. It is not a game. It probably is easier to sell out the peace movement if you see it as such. If it's just a national pastime -- well, at some point, it's "passed" "time" and we can all move on because we were nothing but spectators, silly little fans, distracting ourselves from the realities of our own lives, escaping into bulls**t to pretend our lives had meaning, right?

Sitting on our asses in front of the tube and screaming for I-Need-Attention Benjamin and the beastly, pock-marked Tom Hayden? Hey, remember when that stripper accused Leslie Cagan of raping her in Denver? Or when Carl Davidson got pinched for dog fighting? How about when Stephen Zunes got all nasty and beat up the ref and threw crap at the stands? And weren't we all styling in our Nike Air Feffers?

Is that what the peace movement was?

No. And it's past time that those committed to the Democratic Party (or just Barack) over the peace movement were shouted down and told to sit their asses down. It's past time that those who think they can misdirect the peace movement were revealed as the frauds and fakes they are and encouraged to find other avenues to pursue.

Mainly it's past time the people's movement was put in the people's hands.


First step, showing up. The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War are showing up next month. IVAW explains:

As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.

For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or


Also see Ron Jacobs' "It Ain't Over 'Til It’s Over: Protest the Occupations and Wars of Washington" (Dissident Voice).

TV: Dollhouse is baroque, somebody better fix it

We see Fox' Dollhouse as the first TV show to really take to heart the spirit of the new White House. For the show to succeed, like Barack's presidency, it's going to require a lot of people willing to lie to themselves.

Take for example Eliza Dushku -- a name that doesn't scream "STAR!" Nor do her looks. But for the show to succeed, you have to pretend that she really doesn't resemble an actress who would have been cast on Soap back in the seventies as Jody's lesbian friend. You have to pretend, as the camera operators do, that Eliza has cleavage. Shot after shot, you have to pretend because she's always wearing something low cut and the camera's always dwelling on where a line of cleavage would be if Eliza had average or large breasts. She has neither but noting that is like pointing out Barack's a War Hawk.

Some will argue, "It's not very feminist for you to bring up Eliza's looks." We respond (a) TV is a visual medium and Eliza's very unattractive and (b) an actress who goes on TV and calls herself a "sex object" really is begging critics -- feminist and non-feminist -- to rate her looks.

Eliza did that , called herself a "sex object"(her words), throughout the commercials during Terminator two Fridays ago. Terminator airs ahead of Dollhouse on Friday nights and someone thought the way to sell Dollhouse was to have Eliza team up with the beautiful Summer Glau and have the equivalent of those "Pick up the phone!" sex chat line commercials. So every commercial break found Eliza trying to act sexy. It was never believable.

Nor is her acting. Eliza's part of the Joss Whedon universe. Joss created Buffy. He went on to trash Buffy (the UPN years) and he did further damage by elevating Faith on the show Angel. Faith wasn't Buffy, she wasn't Willow, she wasn't Xander, she wasn't Cordelia, she wasn't even Anya. She was Nancy McKeon, brought on to 'butch things up' and she may have done that very well but she never demonstrated she could act. You'd think that wouldn't be a problem with Dollhouse because she's playing someone with no memory who never has to act the same or even consistently. But even that conception is beyond Eliza's limited abilities.

Dollhouse is a blend of about sixty different ideas. We say "blend." Other less generous say "rip off." We will agree that the "dolls" bed brings to mind the bed in Modesty Blaise. And if you look for those details, you may be able to stay awake for most of a broadcast.

The Dolls are people who have done something wrong and are basically 'sentenced' to working for an agency. Part of their work requires having their brains wiped clean. They then walk around the agency like Stepford Children -- not like Stepford Wives, they lack the maturity for even that -- and you can almost hear them repeating, "I'm a very lucky girl." They have no personalities and supposedly no memories. They can be insulted to their faces (and are) by others working at the agency so they apparently also lack the ability to process basic information when in their 'natural' states. When it's time for a mission, they're 'implanted' with memories -- from someone else -- whomever they're supposed to be for the mission. Then they come back to the agency and the memories implanted are wiped away.

They have no real talents, they have no interesting personalities so we can understand how someone could wrongly think this was the perfect premise for a show starring Eliza.

In those little promos before the show aired and in interviews, Eliza wants a lot of credit for playing what she sees as a strong character. That might be the funniest moment she's ever filmed were it not for the fact that she also produces this show with Whedon.

If you're not grasping how appalling that is, she co-produces a show she insists offers young girls a chance to see a strong woman and she's playing a whore.

A whore.

Who hires the Dolls? A man whose daughter was kidnapped hired them one week. Eliza was hired Friday by a man who wanted to have a 'fun' weekend. Long before his idea of 'fun' turned out to include his attempting to kill her, she'd been implanted with a personality that knew how to please him -- including with her tongue sexually as would be revealed after their post sex scene. Yes, he paid a pretty penny to have a whore for the weekend.

Whore may not be a pretty word but it's the only word for it.

Please note, if Eliza's character was interested in a man and sleeping with him, we'd applaud it. That's not what happened. Her character didn't sleep with him, the fantasy woman he described to her manager/pimp -- the woman who liked rock climbing and fishing and using her tongue in his ass -- was created and then implanted. He paid money and he got to pick the program for the whore he picked out because, well before he got around to what he wanted in the woman, he'd already chosen Echo (Eliza's character).

We're failing to see how Eliza can claim -- as she has -- that this is a wonderful show for teenage girls. "Mommy, I hope someday I'm made a toy for a man, brainwashed to do as he wants and I bring in some big bucks for whoring too!"

We think most women will grasp that the idea that most men wanting to sleep with Eliza is laughable but young girls tend to think "pretty" is whatever the camera seizes upon.

Sometimes it travels across the faces of Tahmoh Penikett as an FBI agent or Harry J. Lennix as Echo's handler. Both men try to act and one manages to overcome the bad scripts: Lennix. So much so that you wish he were acting in a better series or, if that's impossible, that Whedon would develop Lennix's character (Boyd) so that we could see his non-working life. He's the only face parading through the show that you give a damn about.

Penikett you only give a damn about wondering if he'll take the shirt off or not. He's not that much eye candy but stripping down might allow him to stop with the puppy dog eyes and the hand dog mooning that seem to be his two emotions.

In fairness to Penikett, that's two more emotions than Eliza's ever shown in all her years of 'acting.' She was a terror on the Buffy set as friends who acted on that show have long shared. With that sort of diva like behavior, you'd think she could at least muster an emotion when before the camera, but it's all too much for Eliza.

A perfect example of how difficult acting is for the lead actress took place in the debut episode. On the trail of the kidnappers to find a child, Eliza's Echo's implanted character (are you following that) encountered her own kidnapper from when she was a child. She was supposed to be nervous, alarmed and repulsed. In a mind numbing, slow-card manner, Eliza managed to contort her face into a variety of misshapen poses that might have passed for emotion. None of the poses were connected to the others. None of them were believable or recognizable human emotions. Nor was it pleasant to watch.

Language warning, Bob Somerby caught another typical moment of unpleasantness on TV this week. Self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders stopped by to chat with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and the fur flew and the facts withered. A sample dialogue included:

Little Keithie: With Bristol Palin using the one word "choice," such -- in that word such a profound repudiation of the social engineers on the right. Do we think her mother gets the dichotomy between her public positions on all these issues and the people she is pandering to and the real life that she is experiencing with her own daughter and her grandchild?

Self-loathing Lesbian Laura Flanders: Well, again, you have got that "getting it" question.

As Somerby points out, the record does not show that Sarah Palin supports abstinence only 'education'. So the person who has trouble "getting it" would appear to be Laura Flanders.

As Somerby portrayed it, the moment was one of those so-bad-you-have-to-watch ones -- so we did. He was not mistaken. We want to zoom in on what Laura hoped was one of her zingers. She gets this prissy little set to her face when she thinks she's been especially witty (which brings to mind Lily Tomlin's character Ernestine) and it was there when she declared, "I think there is a name for people who only teach their kids about abstinence and that's 'grandparents'." What?

Grandparents is the name? And for those who teach their children about sex, what's the name? We realize Laura is childless but that really doesn't excuse the fact that she doesn't grasp that "grandparents" exist because children are born. It really isn't about abstinence teaching or not. In Laura's demented world, every stroller you see pushed is being pushed by a couple or individual who was taught abstinence only.

What an unmitigated freak show that woman has become.

Bob Somerby used a term when calling out Keith and Laura that required we note "language warning" before linking. He explained his use of the term on Friday during which he noted:

That said: We went "out of our way," and off normal paths, for an actual reason. The language to which the reader objects shows you where Flanders and Olbermann take you. On Tuesday night, Flanders couldn't open her mouth without directing an instant, gender-based insult at Palin. We've criticized this sort of thing politely for years. (In the case of Matthews, this goes back to early 1999.) But polite criticism just doesn't work. People like Flanders and Olbermann don't give a fig. Neither do high-minded liberals.

We weren't offended by his term but we think he let Laura slide a bit. He's correct that she "couldn't open her mouth without directing an instant, gender-based insult at [Sarah] Palin." But that's long been Laura's pattern. In 2008, for example, she was referring to Hillary's so-called "cackle" long after even TV personalities grasped that it was sexist. In 2008, she repeatedly distorted Hillary's feminist credentials by refusing to recognize them. She allowed that one speech -- in Hillary's entire life -- qualified as a feminist action and she then went on to cut that speech apart in her repeated efforts to destroy Hillary (self-loathing lesbian Laura endorsed Barack). These are gender-based insults and so was what she churned out in Bush Women. But the point we want to make is this is the woman who was the 'chair' of FAIR's women's department back in the 90s. When they pretended to care about sexism. (If they really cared about it, they wouldn't have put a sexist pig like Laura Flanders in charge of the department.)

We bring that up because FAIR begs for money. And, at some point, maybe not in the Barack-era, it will again be time for them to pretend to give a damn about sexism. Should that day come, we ask that you remember the Democratic Party primaries which began in January and lasted until the start of June. In all that time, FAIR's weekly radio show CounterSpin tracked racism and what they labeled as racism week after week. Despite all the sexism, they only found sexism worthy of noting once. That was the last Friday in May. They waited that long. And what did they say?

Peter Hart: One of the most disturbing features of the media coverage of the Democratic presidential race is the way racism and sexism have been expressed. CNN viewers were treated to one pundit explanation that people might call Hillary Clinton a bitch because well isn't that just what some women are. Not everyone's so out in the open. MSNBC host Chris Matthews opened his May 18th show wondering how Barack Obama would connect with regular Democrats? Obviously code for working class Whites. This would seem to make the millions of Obama voters so far irregular. But then consider the May 14th op-ed by Washington Post Writers Group Kathleen Parker. She wrote about 'full bloodness' and the patriot divide between Obama and John McCain offering that there is "different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines through generations of sacrifice." This makes Obama less American than his likely Republican rival and his success part of a larger threat "There is a very real sense that once upon a time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity." Well thanks to The Washington Post, Parker's rant appeared in newspapers around the country including the Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. We're not sure what those papers used for a headline but one blogger suggest [nonsense] would do. Parker's attack wasn't even new. Before in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wondered if Obama had ever gotten misty thinking about his country's rich heritage. John McCain by contrast "carries it in his bones." There's an appetite in corporate media for such repellent ideas as Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell recalled, Noonan's column was praised by NBC's Brian Williams anchor Brian Williams as Pulitzer worthy.

Hillary's called a bitch. There's no need to interpret that to figure out what it meant. There's no need to try to determine what was meant. She was insulted and insulted in a sexist manner. And yet CounterSpin -- in the only time they noted sexism -- registered their official 'complaint' in one sentence before moving on to Barack. There was Peter Hart telling you that sexism and racism had been "disturbing" in the campaign season and yet CounterSpin had never mentioned sexism before that week. When they finally got around to mentioning it, it was for one sentence. Every week, they had documented real racism and what they assumed was racism.

It's important to remember that because they need money and they will pretend at some point that they really care about sexism, that it really disturbs them. Not enough to do as Bob Somerby has done and call out Keith Olbermann. They have never called him out. After the primaries, when their shame forced them to run a brief story on the sexism, they called out Chris Matthews and avoided Keith Olbermann. Olbermann's a FAIR pet (specifically Jeffy Cohen's), the same way David Shuster is (which is why his accusing Hillary of "pimping" her daughter raised no objection from FAIR).

We have our problems with Somerby (and he has his with us) but FAIR's supposed to be offering the same type of media criticism he does. They have an organization, they have a pamphlet (they call it a magazine, but the last 'issue' looked to be eight pages), they have a radio program and they have action alerts. With all of that, during the primaries they made time to offer one sentence and only one sentence objecting to sexism. (Somerby addressed it regularly.) With all they have, they've never once found the need to call out Keith Olbermann.

For all his faults and positives, Bob Somerby does The Daily Howler free of charge, has never begged for money, has no budget for The Daily Howler. But somehow he can do what media watchdog FAIR refuses to and that's hold the media accountable. We think that's worth noting. We also think it's worth noting that he's called out what he's dubbed the "Dear Leader" Soviet-style propaganda nature of Bob Herbert's columns while FAIR has remained silent.

FAIR's remained silent because the "Dear Leader" is Barack Obama and not George W. Bush.

And here's how it all ties together. The style for Dollhouse is baroque. You note the imposing staircase immediately. You notice the high ceilings. When you try to reason with the people behind Dollhouse (we have, we were asked to review this show and we hated the first episode, we were begged to watch the second episode and assured we'd love the show, we obviously did not) about the show's limitations and failures, you are told ___ is a "metaphor" or "that was an allegory" or some such nonsense. That's baroque literature for you. And these days, FAIR stands in for the Catholic Church. The original baroque period was encouraged by the Church which saw it as a way to advance the church, the same way that FAIR wants MSNBC, Bob Herbert and others to deify Barack (with the hope that it will enrich FAIR).

The baroque period preceded the Age of Reason and how apt that a man named Barack would show up in the second coming of baroque. (How apt that the DNC acceptance speech had a baroque setting though most critics focused on the Greek nature of it.) When the period ends, as all periods do, maybe we'll return to reason? If so, reason will include accepting that many so-called "media watchdogs" were nothing but propaganda outlets. In neither period would Eliza qualify for an actress nor Dollhouse for TV worth watching.

Giggles at the smack-down hide the real issue

Maybe he should have stuck with his plan to become the president of Bradley University? Last week Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood? Wouldn't have gotten the slap down from the White House Friday if he had. But if a 'Democratic' President was really that, he wouldn't be appointing Republicans to his cabinet to begin with, especially unqualified ones. In other words, US News & World Reports' recent "10 Things You Didn't Know About Ray LaHood" could have easily been eleven by adding: "Absolutely no experience or expertise in transportation."

Ray LaHood

LaHood was confirmed by the US Senate January 21st. Prior to that, January 12th, Alex Steffen (Worldchanging) explained the problems with LaHood's nomination:

In case you haven't been following the news, LaHood is a conservative Illinois Republican with little transportation expertise and almost no administrative experience, who has earned a LCV lifetime voting score on critical environmental issues of 27 percent, and who maintains deep financial connections to the very industries he's now supposed to regulate. He may be no worse than most of those who've lead the Department of Transportation, but his appointment is a profoundly uninspiring vote for business as usual at a time when we need change, and an strong indication that the administration doesn't get that energy policy, technological innovation, urban planning, environmental sustainability and transportation are all bound up together, and no solution to our problems can be had without tackling them all together.
LaHood's appointment is so disappointing to transportation advocates who've been waiting eight years for change, that they're boiling with indignant disbelief, branding him "an unbelievably disastrous pick," "Status quo we can believe in" and "" (a dig at the Obama transition site, As one insider summed it up: "It's a real read-it-and-weep moment."

In a sure sign of what a mistake the nomination was, Michael Tomasky (Labour Party print organ) compared the nomination of LaHood favorably to that of Tom Daschle's for HHS (Daschle had to withdraw his name when tax, lobbying and greed issues torpedoed his nomination).

Garance Franke-Ruta (Washington Post) reported LaHood delivered a "comprehensive memo" to the White House Wednesday "on how to jump-start high-speed rail service nationally". He bragged about that while speaking to reporters Thursday. He also admitted that he attempted to get House Republicans to vote for Barack's tiny package but they refused to reach out leading LaHood to declare, "I think I fell down on my responsibilities. I think they were looking for me to find a few in the House."

Possibly that was the reason for the Friday smack down? Or maybe they just didn't like his "comprehensive memo"?

At the White House, spokesmodel Robert Gibbs was asked about a tax change LaHood was proposing and whether this was going to be implemented by the president? Gibbs responded, "I can weigh in on it and say that it is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration."

It was a smack down and a number of reports are focusing rightly on that (such as Eric M. Weiss' Washington Post report). But there's another issue as well: What LaHood was proposing.

Currently, in the US, there is a tax on gas per gallon. LaHood was proposing switching to a tax per mile (as explained in the press conference, "Secretary LaHood told AP in an interview that he thinks we should look at this, going to miles driven taxes."). From Joan Lowy's "AP Interview: Transportation secretary says taxing how much we drive may replace gasoline tax" (AP):

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn--an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.
Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.
Most transportation experts see a vehicle miles traveled tax as a long-term solution, but Congress is being urged to move in that direction now by funding pilot projects.

Why can't gasoline taxes be counted on to continue to raise money for needed repairs and construction? Larry Copeland (USA Today) explained in September 2007:

Americans are driving cars that get better mileage, and more are driving vehicles that use fuels taxed at lower rates than gasoline, such as ethanol, or making their own fuel and not being taxed. That means gas tax revenue isn't growing nearly as fast as the number of miles driven.

The Senate was tax per mile in 2005. Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) reported in April of 2005:

The idea is simple but technologically daunting -- base gas taxes on miles driven instead of on gallons of fuel bought. And advocates say the reason for such a change is also simple -- although such fuel-efficient vehicles as hot-selling hybrids pay less in gas taxes, they're still out on the nation's roads contributing to congestion and wear and tear on an aging infrastructure.
A switch in the way the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax is levied could be in the offing, making it more of a user fee than a tax. By unanimous voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to establish a 15-member commission to report back within two years on ways to ensure enough tax revenue to pay for the nation's highway, bridge and public transit programs.

The 15-member National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission is set to release their final report this week. Though why bother if the White House is saying they do not support a switch in the taxation system? Regardless, Thursday, the Commission releases the report which "will offer a roadmap for sweeping reform of the nation's transportation infrastructure funding and finance framework. The Commission will offer specific recommendations for increasing investment in transportation infrastructure while at the same time moving the Federal Government away from reliance on motor fuel taxes towards more direct fees charged to transportation infrastructure users."

Was LaHood off on his own tangent or reflecting the Commission's soon-to-be-released recommendations? Since LaHood's been seen publicly with two of the commissioners in the last two weeks, our guess would be he was reflecting the upcoming recommendations. We'll be following the release of Thursday's report.

In the meantime, LaHood's been turned into a joke by the White House. Kind of like the US Dept of Transportation's website which repeatedly gives the same message on nearly all click options currently:

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The sexism at Harper's

We don't go out of our way to attack Harper's magazine here. When the monthly has an article worth noting, we address it but otherwise keep our comments mainly to ourselves.

At the start of the month, Harper's was receiving praise from supposed feminists and C.I. had to offer the 4-11:

No, it is never acceptable for a PIG to call a woman a "witch" and it's a damn shame that Riverdaughter -- and the woman who wrote the post Riverdaughter's commenting on -- are so damn ignorant of Scott Horton's work or Harper's magazine. Find the female blogger at Harper's? She does not exist. Find the women regularly published by the magazine? She does not exist. Count the number of women listed on the masthead. By any measure -- topics, writers, etc. -- Harper's is one of the most sexist left magazines today. Long after the election, the magazine's publisher was STILL attacking Hillary in his Providence Journal columns. Considering the magazine's opinion of her, a blog post comparing Hillary to a witch -- good witch or bad witch -- is not ever going to be a good thing.

And we thought about it and wondered if we'd done enough regarding Harper's? Since September, we've called it out twice. "Arthur Krystal delivers a lesson in exclusion" documented

Krystal's lengthy article that allegedly examined the sixties . . . as if women didn't exist. In addition to that number crunching piece, when reader Marcy objected to Harper's Scott Horton's infamously bad blog post calling Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice witches, we awarded Scott "This week's Bronze Boobs." But maybe we haven't done enough? As C.I. pointed out, an examination of the magazine's masthead will convey how hostile Harper's is to women.


But you really don't need to count all those names and add up the figures. To grasp just how hostile Harper's is to women all you need to do is pick up Submersion Journalism: Reporting in The Radical First Person From Harper's Magazine, a 'book' published by The New Press last September which purports to show off the finest cross section of writing ("reporting") that Harper's has exhibited this decade.

For those not in the know, twelve issues of the magazine are published each year. Out of all those issues beginning with the year 2000, the magazine's senior editor Bill Wasik comes up with fifteen articles.

Now, knowing there are 15 articles in the book, take a moment to guess how many are by women?


That appalling figure would seem a good guess if we were discussing The Nation magazine. Harper's fares even worse: one.

14 articles by men, one by women.

Three articles are filed under "THE ARTS" and you might think a gal could catch a break there, but no. It's three men. Women do appear in the "VICE' section -- as whores. Kristoffer A. Garin writes of the search for the perfect mail-order bride, Jay Kirk visits a brothel and while allegedly looking for tunnels, William T. Vollman finds time to note "the girls" who work outside Hotel Nuevo Pacifico.

Stab Barbara Ehrenreich apparently 'thinks like a man' which allows her to be the Queen Bee, the exception, included in the anthology with an article she wrote in 2001.

Roger D. Hodge is the magazine's actual editor ("editor of the magazine") and he doesn't contribute an article but he does pen an introduction in which he manages to compare The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric to . . . Fox "News." If you're thinking he's called a pox on all network evening news casts, you are mistaken. In this intro to a book published at the end of September, Hodge saw fit only to call out Katie Couric's newscast. It's that sort of never-pass-a-chance-to-attack-a-woman that really shows off the flair for misogyny Harper's can't help sporting.

And they can't help attracting it which is how Adam Davidson brought his "Out of Iraq: The Rise and Fall of One Man's Occupation." This story, it should be noted, about Baghdad in 2003, refutes Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn's "Baghdad is having a real estate bonanza!" claims (Davidson is being asked to pay $100,000 to rent a home in September of 2003, finally one is found that can be had for $14,000 for three month periods). Davidson is covering Iraq for NPR. He tells you, "We were living in the Flowers Land Hotel when I decided I wanted a house." He decided. And who is "we." Some 'chick' named Jen. Or, as he puts it, "Jen, my girlfriend." His entourage also includes "my translator, Muhamed, and my driver, Ahmed." You might be wondering what fool took a romantic partner into a war zone but hang on for that. Jen, working with his translator and his driver, finds a home. And Davidson tells us that they'll share the house with "one other couple, Jack Fairweather, the Baghdad correspondent for Britain's Daily Telegraph, and Christina Asquith, a freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor, among other newspapers." It is only after that, on page five of his story, that he feels the need to add: "Jen, whose last name is Banbury, was covering the war for" Yes, that is how it works at Harper's -- a woman has no last name, a woman makes no decision on moving from a hotel to a home, a professional reporter (in a war zone, mind you) is simply "my girlfriend" and the translator and driver working for both of them are just his. And he, and he alone -- to hear him tell it, picked all future "tenant-guests" but, don't worry, "I tried to be selective . . . I didn't want . . . I might pick . . ." He did picking but the housekeeper (yes, they required a housekeeper) or "Jen" would cook dinner for the nightly "dinner party."

As he repeatedly goes on and on about "my house" (and "Mr. Adam's house" as some Iraqis call it), it's cute to notice that when it appears the house will be targeted for violence, it suddenly becomes "our house." It's not at all cute, it's downright offensive, that he feels the need to write about female correspondents sex lives. The women weren't having sex on their own and he demonstrates no prurient interest in the men's sex lives.

But that's never noticed by "the editors" of Harper's because it's just par for the course.

It's long past time that the magazine took a good hard look at the way it operates and whom they choose to highlight. If you doubt us, pick up the very bad Submersion Journalism and grasp that the editors feel this is the best work the magazines done this decade.

I'm ready for my mani-pedi, Mr. DeMille

Barack casual

Celebrity Barack shows how the non-average guy sits. Next week, Barack demonstrates tea sipping with an emphasis on the need to lift the pinky.

Animation roundtable

The Rose Ceremony

Isaiah is the community cartoonist. He does comics for all the newsletters and is the cartoonist for The Common Ills. We've spoken with him many times but Thursday he started his own site, The World Today Just Nuts (named after his comic strip), and we thought we'd catch up with him. Illustrations used in this are Isaiah's and credits are at the end.

Jim: First question, what's the deal with the "Iraq snapshots"?

Isaiah: Every site that posts must post the "Iraq snapshot," so sayeth community member Keesha. My problem with that was two-fold. First, I'm doing an archive and the point is to make it easy for everyone in the community with sites to find the comics if they're wanting to use one as an illustration. Stan, for example, has e-mailed me twice and I've missed the e-mails until after he posted. If I'd seen them, I might or might not have been able to help him -- I would've gotten back to him regardless -- with locating the comic he was wanting to use as an illustration. So the less included in any individual post, the easier it is to search my site for the illustration you want. I'm tagging them with names of those featured in the comics so that should make searches easier. Second issue is I wanted people to be able to page through quickly. Often, if Ruth's asking me about a comic, I can figure out the date it probably went up and I'll go into the archives of The Common Ills. I'll page down as quickly as possible for that week's archives and the less that's up, the quicker I can page through. So including the snapshot is including more that will take up space.

Jim: And yet you are posting the snapshot now?

Isaiah: I am. And I will with each post I do, the most recent snapshot will be included. Keesha and I spoke and the first thing she said was, "I didn't ask anyone to e-mail you." Because I'd e-mailed her asking, "Did you put out an alert on me?" She hadn't. But she's usually a few steps ahead of the rest of us in the community. And she was on the snapshots. She saw that Iraq was really falling off the radar and she knew that we could amplify the work C.I.'s doing to keep Iraq on the radar by reposting it. That's why she raised that issue all that time ago in a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin. And she's right. And members were e-mailing me asking me why I wasn't posting the snapshot and sharing that they thought, by not doing so, I was making it easier for other people to ignore Iraq.

Dona: Let me point out that you had C.I.'s permission. You didn't need it, but you did talk to C.I. and were told, "Don't worry about posting the snapshot."

Isaiah: Right. C.I. talked me through the set up over the phone on Thursday. And while I'm setting up the blog, we've got spaces where I'm waiting and I was asking a variety of questions. C.I. said, "It's a visual website, you don't have to post the snapshot." But C.I.'s just one member of the community.

Dona: The member that does the snapshot but, yes, just one member. There was an outcry and I'm not trying to minimize that.

Isaiah: There really was. It was so great that I posted on Friday and hadn't intended to. I posted Friday morning to include Thursday's snapshot. If you look at the text of the snapshot, you'll notice it's a weird font. That came from my attempting to make it an expandable post. C.I. saw it Friday night and figured that was what I had tried to do. She said, "I can't think right now, let me call you Saturday night and I'll talk you through expanded posts."

Jim: Which we used to do here all the time. Our first year, we did that all the time. It was a huge pain in the ass. I don't know that we can do it now without changing the template, since we flipped templates, but it was always a hassle. Does anyone even know the code anymore? Dona's shaking her head? Jess, Ty?

Jess: I don't know it. But I'm looking at the site and I see Isaiah and C.I. figured it out.

Isaiah: Yes, and C.I. had to talk me through changes in the template, in HTML, in the settings and a code. I'm nervous about when I do it solo but how it will work -- when it works -- is you will see the comic, you will see my one or two paragraphs about it and then have the option to click "Read on" which will expand the entry and show you the snapshot.

Betty: Betty here, and I love it. It looks really great and it does allow for quick page downs. What about, though, what about in the archive itself. Will it be expandable? Or will it already be expandable?

Isaiah: I do not know. Hold still and let me try it. Okay, it's showing it with the expand option. That's what I'm getting.

Dallas: That's what I'm getting as well.

Jim: That was Dallas who rarely talks for publication. Isaiah, you should be flattered.

Isaiah: I should be, I am. So good question, Betty, and it appears that even when it's archived, you will have the expand post option.

Marcia: Allowing for paging down quickly. Isaiah, I don't think it's chance that you started this week. Am I correct?

Isaiah: You are. I'm getting really tired of attacks on cartoonists.

Marcia: I figured that. What's your take on The New York Post comic?

Isaiah: A lot of idiots. Take the fools at Corrente who want to insist that the bullet holes in the chest of the chimp are nipples to 'feminize' the chimp that they insist is Barack. Uh, did you look at the illustration? The nipples would go up much higher. And you can see where the breasts are. The bullet holes are below them. Beyond that, I think Cedric and Wally hit it right on the head with their joint-post "Forty belly aches from the fool " and "THIS JUST IN! SPIKE'S PRIORITIES!" Last week, a police photo of Rhiana, obviously beaten -- and beaten by Chris Brown -- is published. Spike Lee wants to scream and yell over a comic strip about a monkey being shot -- a chimp he insists is Barack. But Spike Lee doesn't have a damn ting to say about an actual woman being abused. I think that about says it all. One image leads to faux outrage and the other, of actual violence, gets a pass because it's domestic violence? Because women don't matter? Because it's okay for men to beat women? I don't know why but it's a damn hypocrisy and I've just about had it with all the lunatics.

Ty: Talk about examples of lunatics because I can think of a few.

Isaiah: I'm sure you can because we talked about this when a comic created another controversy. Here's the deal, stupid Al Shaprton, you'll scream your damn head off over this comic you insist is harmful because you insist a chimp is actually Barack Obama. But every Sunday, Fox will air two hours of cartoons and we'll see African-Americans either reduced to walk ons or outright ignored. And, excuse me, Al Sharpton, but last Sunday, on American Dad, they actually put the brain of an African-American man -- a homeless man, not a regular charter -- into a bear for some very racists jokes. You didn't have to strain and ponder whether anyone was a stand-in. Real racism was on full display. And where were you Al Sharpton? And as kids and adults watch cartoons on Fox every Sunday night, where are you to point out that American Dad can feature a talking goldfish and an alien but no person of color?

Ty: Okay, apologies Isaiah, but what we had planned to be an interview with you is about to turn into a roundtable on humor and animation. Ava and C.I. are doing their TV commentary so Wally, Kat and I are the note takers and I ask that everyone speak slowly and if someone gets excited, just pause before the next speaker for a bit so that we can be sure to include everything. I'm tossing to Cedric because I leaped in over two or three people, one of which I know was Cedric.

Cedric: Right. Well Al Sharpton's not defeding Blacks, he's defending Barack. First off, if the message of The New York Post was that Barack was a chimp and this was racist, I guess he'd have to be half-chimp and half-human in the illustration because Barack is not Black, he's bi-racial. He has a Black father and a White mother. This isn't about Black people, it's about Barack and the Barack cheerleaders -- the professional ones and the uneducated masses -- all showed up with their viligante mob attitude yet again. As an African-American, I was embarrassed by last week's overblown reaction to a comic that could only be considered racist if you were willing to play a game of 'linkage.' A chimp was shot, once upon a time, chimps were associated with Black people, therefore, I mean, give me a break, as Nell Carter would say.

Wally: Right, it reminds me of Woody Allen in Love & Death where he's doing that bit about all men are Socrates, Socrates was gay, therefore all men are gay. Only Woody Allen meant for that to be funny.

Bully is . . .

Jess: And there's the other linkage reqired, the monkey won't be able to write the next stimlus! Meaning the monkey wrote the last one! Meaning he's Barack! But Barack didn't write the stimulus. Only idiots who failed at their own education don't know that. A point Marcia made in "United Progressives and other thoughts" last week.

Betty: Well it's the ignornorance of the process, legislation is written by Congress, and it's the ignorance of a number of religious freaks -- include Sharpton -- in the Black community who run around screaming about Darwin and evolution and how "I didn't come from no monkey!" A lot of the screaming over this cartoon is nothing but the mood of many in our community -- in the Black community -- on evolution. They reject it, they fear it and you're saw real hysteria over it last week. It's why people didn't bother, in the Black community, to get the facts. I saw what Marcia wrote about, and there were a lot of people who couldn't be bothered with facts. All they needed was one person telling them, "They are saying Barack is a monkey!" and suddenly it was time for the Bible thumpers to start screaming. And I believe in God and I go to church regularly. I'm talking about an extreme thread in the Black community and people better stop their nonsense about putting on Yolanda King or any of these other hate mongers and thinking it's okay because they're Black and they're religious. People like Yolanda King are no different from Pat Roberston and White people need to stop thinking "Oh that's how those colored folks are. That's just how they are." It's insulting and it's offensive. And it gives an excuse -- perfect point by Marcia last week -- it gives an excuse for it to continue in the Black community -- the hatred and the ignorance -- because we get a pass. We're not called on it. White people are scared to call elements of the Black community out on it's scientific ignorance and it's hatred of others. But thsoe elements exist and it's really irritating, as a Black woman whose church has long worked on addressing the issue of homophobia, to see so-called 'progressives' like Amy Goodman air Yolanda King's homophobic crap and treat it as something wonderful. The same words from Pat Robertson would not have been broadcast on Pacifica Radio. But let Yolanda say it and no one wants to object. I call that out. I'm sick of it.

Stan: I agree with Betty, the evolution aspect was what led to eneragement. Al Sharpton knew what he was stroking and did so intentionally. If you saw the people protesting you saw some people who were fearful of evolution and that was the whole reason they showed up.

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Isaiah: I'm looking at the comic, one of the White Mommas -- male but a White Momma -- posted it at his site on Thursday and then a long winded piece of crap from an idiot named Larry on Friday. Corrente said there were two bullet holes and they were supposed to feminize by being stand-ins for nipples. There are three bullet holes. Two below the breast plate, obviously below the breast plate and one high on the chest, above where a nipple would be. Stan, I may have cut you off, sorry.

Stan: No, that's cool. The evolution thing does disturb me and the refusal to hold the conservative elements in the Black community accountable disturbs me. But the other things that disturb me can be boiled down to two issues and I wanted to get Isaiah's take on that. First, I do not believe the cartoon was supposed to be Barack but I think the reaction to the cartoon goes to the refusal by people to take the same shots and jabs at Barack that they do other presidents. I'd like that discussed. And, second, I'm really bothered by the interpretation factor here. There is no need for interpretation, for example, when you look at the photo of Rhianna's battered face. But there is no condemning Chris Brown. Danny Schechter, the White Momma I believe Isaiah was speaking of, never posted Rhianna's photo, never called out Chris Brown. So when we see real violence, when we see its effects, we give it a pass. But we want to bend and strain a comic to try to see some hidden meaning? I'm getting really sick of it. Marcia, my cousin in case anyone doesn't know -- feel I have to disclose that because I'm about to praise her -- and Betty and C.I. raised, in the round-robin last week, the non-stop attacks on Roland Burris which include racists attacks -- and coming from self-identified PUMAs. Where's the defense of Rhiana, where's the defense of Roland Burris? We want to 'interpret' a cartoon for the worst meaning possible and get outraged by that but we're not real interested in actually doing a damn thing to help the community. That's how I see it.

Rebecca: Before Isaiah comments, I want to jump in to make a point about scope. The New York Post is a tabloid. It is a local tabloid. It is not a national paper and it's not even a state paper with any influence in upstate New York or elsewhere. But this cartoon has been turned into a national issue and that's really frightening. I'm done. Isaiah?

Isaiah: I agree with what you're saying, Rebecca and I agree with what everyone's saying. In terms of Stan's remarks, I really want to tackle the issue of interpretation. At my site, I'm avoiding telling you what the comics mean and that's because they mean what you interpret them to mean. Now you can take me to task for a drawing of Laura Bush or of Barack or whomever. You can take me to task for a caption. But when you start taking me to task for your interpretation, you better be sure you grasp that you're not dealing with what I put out there, you're dealing with what it means to you. Don't ascribe your meaning to me. The King of All Internet Thieves Lambert (Corrente) wanted to huff, "A joke's not funny if you have to explain it." Actually, moron, you're incorrect. There are many jokes that are funny that some people don't get. A lot of people didn't get Richard Pryor early on. Not everyone liked Seinfeld, not everyone thought it was a funny show. But a joke does not have to have universal appeal to be funny. Some of the funniest jokes, think George Carlin, sailed over the heads of many and that only made the jokes even funnier. So stop trying to appear erudite by repeating stale bromides that never made sense, Punk Ass Lambert. But hold me accountable for the way I draw someone, for the words I put in my comic. That's fine. I'll disagree with you or agree. Or blow you off. But when you start trying to tell me what my illustration means based on your interpretation and you're trying to tell me that your interpretation is correct and the only possible interpretation, I'm telling you that you don't know the first thing about art and that you're a conservative reactionary when it comes to art.

Elaine: I can't stress enough how strongly I agree with what Isaiah's saying. Some may say, "Well it's subtle but I see racism in it." I can nod along with that. I can agree with that if we're looking at a piece of art. Someone telling me, however, that the piece is racist, not "I see," and basing it on their interpretation is someone that has no background in the arts and really is not suited or trained to offer criticism. I mean, there are many times Ava and C.I. could rip apart the way a scene is staged. For Hilda's Mix, sometimes, they'll offer that as "Interpretations." Clearly defined as such. They'll note the power dynamics and the violence of a scene that's not supposed to be violent and they'll explore what that could mean. But for their pieces here, they don't do that. And they don't ever --at Hilda's Mix -- offer, "This is what it has to mean!" They know art, they grasp art, they grasp that it is open to interpretations. I have no problem looking at illustrations or statues or whatever with friends and hearing them say "I see . . ." But I have a huge problem with anyone who offers their interpretation and tries to pass it off as something other than an interpretation.

Ruth: I want to point out that the artist who did the poster of Barack is something that we toyed with doing an article on here. And we all decided to pass because we felt the arts were under enough reactionary attacks. We don't care for the artist, we don't care for his poster but we passed because 2008 especially showed the left joining in some of the worst attacks on art, the sort of attacks we would normally associate with the right-wing.

Little Dicky Breaks It Down

Mike: I'm glad you included that because I was thinking about that or thinking about offering another point. So I'll go with my other one. "Linkage" was mentioned earlier. And two ways were covered. Two ways that if you play a linkage game you can summon outrage over the comic of a chimp. But there was a third way that didn't get mentioned when we were discussing it and, no surprise, this was offered at the cesspool that is Corrente as well. The comic, we're told, is racist. Why is it racist? Does the artist have a past history of racismin cartoons? Well, Corrente found a past history of homophobia! So if someone's homophobic, they're racist! Not necessarily. Nor do you have to be racist to be homophobic. But if you play the linkage game, you can say the artist is homophobic so therefore he must also be racist. I didn't click on the links, I was sent that garbage in e-mail -- I think we all were. But I did think about it -- not the idiotic argument Corrente was attempting to pollute the world with, but the fact that The New York Post is a conservative tabloid with a conservative audience and I had to wonder if someone raising points that can be seen as "gay" in such a venue is necessarily pushing homophobia or if he or she would be pushing the envelope and forcing conservatives to leave their comfort zones? I don't know. I didn't look at the 'evidence' and don't intend to. I'm not impressed with that cartoonist. I have a life and I'm busy. But my point is that there are always multiple interpretations and it's interesting how some will play linkage to argue the worst.

Kat: Right. Linkage. Not pattern. Ava and C.I. will say "goes to pattern." They will establish, for example, a clear pattern of sexism and back it up. They will not play linkage. They will not say, NBC in 1952 said . . . They will establish clear patterns and do so in that legal framework as though they were arguing in a court of law. If these people playing linkage with the cartoon were in a court of law with a competent judge presiding, they'd be laughed out of court. I firmly agree with what Elaine's saying and not just because it's an issue I'm raising in my latest CD review that goes up this morning at The Common Ills. I'm not self-plugging, I want to be sure everyone knows Elaine and I were on the same wave length and doesn't think I stole from Elaine without crediting her.

Dona: Isaiah, before we wrap up, I want to get back to the issue of interpretation. You are an artist. You draw it, you put it out there. You know it will be interpreted in a variety of ways. You now have a site and you are avoiding -- as you've done in every interview we've done with you -- interpreting a comic for the audience. You're presenting it, but you're not going to also say, "This is what it means." So this is a big issue with you and I would like to give you a chance to make some final comments on that if you'd like to.

Isaiah: Okay, let's pretend I drew the cartoon that was the center of attention last week. Okay? I draw that cartoon. You can hold me accountable for the way I drew the police officers -- some have complained that they both appear to be White. You can complain about the way I drew the chimp. You can complain about my "Beware Dog" sign posted, or the way I drew the two cars. You can complain about my caption. All of those are valid complaints. But anything you add to what I've drawn goes to interpretation and you better grasp that just because it means X to you does not mean it means X to me. I'm fine and dandy with you having an opinion. I'm appalled if you want to take your opinion and use it to condemn me or what I drew. You've crossed a line, not me. I've drawn a comic that is self-explanatory. But you want to leave the text and the subtext and pull in other things that the comic conjures for you. Then you want to toss it back at me, you want to take your racist garbage or racist fears and attack me with them? That's not valid. And I'm so offended by this and other attacks on art -- both in this country and outside of it -- recently that I'm not disputing "artist." Normally, I do. I don't think I'm that great because I'm not. But I will claim the title "artist" and do so because artists are under attack and maybe someone reading this, because it is a community site, will say, "Hey, I like Isaiah. He's an artist." And the next time some idiot -- used to be right-wingers, now it's the left, as Ruth pointed out -- is attacking artists, the person will say, "Isaiah's an artist." And they'll be less quick to buy into attempts to villify art or artists.

Jim: I would just add that sometimes a chimp is just a chimp. I would further add that Danny Schechter wanted to argue that domestic violence terrorist Ike Turner needed to be seen as more than just an abuser. He's posted nothing on the abuse Rhianna suffered through but he's had plenty of time to go to the well on a cartoon. He's one more person who feels the need to protest cartoons as opposed to violence. Isaiah, we're glad you've started a site. And we'll try to do a real interview with you soon. This is a rush transcript. Participating were Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts, The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, tossing Dallas in here, and me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, 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, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

Illustrations used in this article:

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Rose Ceremony."

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Influence of the Bully Boy"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Brokedown Democracy"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully is . . ."

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Damn Alito!"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Little Dicky Breaks It Down"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Boy Finds New Ways to Invade Our Privacy"

The continued witch hunt of Senator Roland Burris

Senator Roland Burris

One of the big issues in Friday's White House press conference were the remarks Robert Gibbs, White House spokesmodel, made regarding US Senator Roland Burris. He attempted to back away from them but the press noted "It sounds like a resignation call," "It sounds like you're telling him to resign" and "And, I mean, you -- this White House is, coming through your mouth, basically saying that this man has shaded the facts and he needs -- or changed -- you said he had a variance."

Gibbs claimed he wasn't saying any such thing and that Burris needed to decide what to do. No, we don't believe Gibbs is sincere. But Roland Burris is the one who needs to decide what to do.

Did he pay for his nomination?

There's no proof he did, there's no indication he did.

If, however, he did, he should step down.

The press has offered nothing despite non-stop attacks on Senator Burris.

Monica Davey, the drive-by taxi hack of The New York Times, has filed one report after another with teases and innuendo. All she has is that Burris filed an affidavit with the Illinois state legislature adding to his remarks. She wants you to believe she's unearthed . . . a public document. One Burris handed over.

In the questioning by the Illinois state legislature in January, Burris was asked a host of questions. He states that he thought of additional comments -- questioning had 'moved on' during the inquisition (which is what it was) -- and he followed up with the affidavit.

It's news because?

"His story keeps changing!"

That's the cry of the lazy press and some idiots. No, not really. Did he give money to Burris? No.

That's really all that matters.

Durbin, Burris and Reid

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (pictured above with Burris) has thankfully been less eager to turn a minor news cycle into a scandal this go round. Illinois' other US Senator, Dick Durbin (also pictured with Burris), would do well to think before he speaks. (It might even allow him not to cry in public.) Reid's approach boils down to: 'The matter's being sorted out. If there's any action needed, we'll address it then.' Good for Harry. (See we can praise Reid.) But Dick Durbin's making a bigger fool of himself than he did when apologizing for his Nazi comparisons a few years back.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of hatred aimed at Roland Burris and we do believe some of it is racially motivated. Roland Burris is the only Black US Senator. Blacks, not bi- or multi-racials, have always made The New York Times nervous. Bi- and multi-racial gets the front page and praise from the paper of record (true this decade, true in the 90s, true in the 30s -- truth be told). Blacks? For an allegedly liberal paper (editorial wise), The Times has a very racist history which includes there never-ending attacks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (hatred that as late as this decade resulted in his widow Coretta Scott King's passing being treated as something so minor it required no editorial or column).

So Monica Davey didn't go out and buy her White shirt, she just took it out of the paper's cloakroom.

Roland Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blaogjevich was under investigation for a variety of alleged offences. He remains under investigation. He still hasn't been tried in a court of law. Whether he's guilty or not will be determined if the matter ever goes to court. Roland Burris is not accused of anything illegal. Roland Burris is not charged with anything illegal.

He was appointed by the sitting governor of the state of Illinois. When they finally decided to impeach Blagojevich, the legislature moved quickly. They could have done the same action at the start of December. It's not as if they had any more evidence -- or any? -- when they finally did so at the end of last month. The legislature, knowing Barack Obama had been elected president and would not be serving in the Senate, knowing the governor (Rod Blagojevich at that time) would be appointing the next senator, elected to do nothing. Only after he had appointed Burris to the US Senate did the legislature finally talk seriously about taking action to impeach the governor and, weeks later, finally do so.

Roland Burris had to leap through hoops, after being appointed to the Senate, to actually be seated. There was never any reason for that. The law is the law.

But he jumped through the hoops. He met with the legislature and answered their questions, he met with Reid and Durbin and answered their questions.

Name another appointed senator who has ever had to do that. You can't. Those are special rules created for Burris.

Now Illinois just kicked out a governor based on charges (not facts) and may end up with egg on their face as a result (egg and a lawsuit if some gossip ends up true).

But that's not enough for some people.

Burris filed additional comments!

His story has changed!

He elaborated.

Get over it.

Some dumb PUMAs -- such as Heidi-Li -- are leading a witch hunt on Burris and doing so because they're, honestly, ignorant.

Heidi-Li proved there is no connection between thought and writing as she offers her fact-free rant against Burris.

Having nothing worth saying, she attempts to craft a comparison to The Sting. Robert Redford and Paul Newman's characters and actions are nothing like Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevich. Equally true, Heidi, is that audiences applauded Redford and Newman's characters and rooted for them, so right there, your allusion fell apart. Like Gail Collins are Maureen Dowd, you're so desperate for a pop culture ref to pad out your facile 'thought,' it doesn't even bother you whether it fits or not.

Heidi-Li then goes on to claim that Blagojevich and Burris "race-baited." A bold-faced lie. They did not.

These lies are why PUMA gets the reputation of being racist. Clearly they aren't bothered by that reputation or they wouldn't continue to attack people with lies.

Heidi-Li wasn't done playing the fool. She wanted to insist Roland Burris is the establishment's choice: "Let's see if the DNC and the DCCC get behind Kirsten Gillibrand’s reelection in 2010 or whether they leave her to fend for herself while they try to vindicate the Burris appointment by a 'redemptive' election."

Roland Burris is not supported by the DNC or the DCCC. Your first clue is he wouldn't have had to jump through hoops to be seated if he had the party establishment behind him. He also wouldn't have had Barack come out against him. (Barack only changed his mind when his comments caused a backlash in the African-American community.)

Heidi pits Kirsten against Roland and you have to wonder why that is?

Maybe Heidi could 'explore' that?

Reality, Roland was wanted no more than Kirsten was. Reality neither was the establishment's choice. Which is why both are so savagely attacked in the press. Grasping that PUMAs don't have longterm memories or a big knowledge base, we'll keep it simple: Barack is an example of a candidate endorsed by the establishment. As such, Barack gets fawning press and will continue to do until he's no longer the establishment's choice. Got it? Or was that too difficult for you to grasp?

If they could see beyond their own tantrums, the PUMAs who are factually challenged could grasp that Roland Burris was hated for the same reasons they are: "too old." The pick was supposed to be Tammy Duckworth. That would be the pro-war Tammy Duckworth.

And that may be the most amazing thing about all this. Now granted PUMAs are now called racists and Republicans. And apparently aren't overly bothered by that description. So possibly for them, the Iraq War doesn't matter. (And if you doubt that, check out any of their sites and you'll find multiple music videos, UFO conspiracies, fashion and hot chick/dude talk, and not a great deal more. But you will not find the Iraq War covered. That's heavy lifting and PUMAs aren't up to doing hard work apparently.)

Roland Burris is against the Iraq War. Not kind-of, sort-of. Not "let's do smarter war." And at a time when war is being repackaged under Brand Bambi to be sold again, Burris is a vote that's needed in the US Senate.

If Roland Burris has given money to Blagojevich or committed any other crime, he should step down as US Senator immediately. If he hasn't, it's time to stop the witch hunt.

Not only did Burris have to jump through hoops to be seated, it now appears the press wants to lead a monthly attack on him (aided by Dick Durbin) forcing Senator Burris to 'audition' over and over.

That's not being done with any other senator. And Ted Stevens stepped down when? Right. After he was convicted of a crime. It's only with the (only) Black senator that there's a higher standard at play. With the only Black person in the US Senate, he needs to step down -- the press and racists argue -- for words. Not for actions. Not for crimes.

For words.

If he were a White man from Alaska, he'd be laughing right now. Instead, he has to continue to hold his head high and try to maintain a sense of dignity while these indignities continue.

It says a great deal about how non-post-racial the US is that this witch hunt takes place with so few stepping up and saying, "That's enough."

Small change turns to no change

White House emblem

File it under "Small change turns to no change" or "Brother, can you give a damn?" Friday, at the White House, the press confronted spokesmodel Robert Gibbs on the behind-closed-doors secrecy regarding the Attorney General's upcoming visit to Guantanamo:

CNN Ed Henry: Let me follow up. The first week in office the President signed the executive order to close down the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. The Attorney General is going on Monday for the first time to get a close look at it. This is a very serious issue. The American people want to know about where are these detainees going to go. And my understanding is the Attorney General is not bringing any media, it's completely closed press. How does that square with the President's vows that we've talked about on transparency? When the American people are wondering how is this policy going to be implemented, the chief law enforcement officer is basically operating in secrecy.

MR. GIBBS: I don't think the chief law enforcement officer is operating in secrecy --

CNN Ed Henry: Well, why isn't he bringing in a camera?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think what this administration is working to do, per the executive order, is to come up with a plan that ensures our security and does so in a way that meets the test of our values and protecting the men and women that keep this country free and safe. I don't think you have to do all of that through a photo op. I think this is a working trip; that this is -- a very serious number of decisions lay in front of this government, and it's important for -- whether it's the counsel here or the Attorney General or any other member of this administration working to find some of those very tough solutions -- to be able to do so not as a photo op, but as something that's --

CNN Ed Henry: Well, the question is -- it doesn't have to be a photo op if he doesn't want it to be a photo op. If he wants it to be substantive, why not let the American people in on these deliberations?

MR. GIBBS: Well, we are letting the American people in on these deliberations. That's why there's a review process that's -- that's ongoing. I think the Attorney General feels comfortable that he can make those decisions without cable.


ABC News Jake Tapper: A quick follow-up on Ed's question on the trip to Guantanamo. Can you just give us any sort of timeline for the decision about Guantanamo? You have Greg Craig there now, Eric Holder going down there next week. Is there any sort of timeline you have for the decision and when --

MR. GIBBS: I thought the -- I'll go back and check the executive order. I thought the whole process was 180 days, but I will -- I'll go back and --

ABC News Jake Tapper: This is on the 180th day, an announcement will be made?

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no -- I assume when they get done and have made those decisions. I think obviously we're in probably the 20-some-odd day. So I don't expect -- I don't -- certainly don't have any announcements today, but as we obviously get closer and make those determinations, we'll have them for you.

No change. New Bully Boy under a different name.
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