Sunday, March 29, 2009

Truest statement of the week

I-I read them last fall [Status Of Forces Agreement and the Stragic Framework] when they were, I think, wrongly categorized as "restricted information" -- where you had to go to a room to read a couple of documents that were not even classified because the previous administration, in my view, was trying to keep this issue away from the public debate. I re-read them again, about ten days ago, and I'm an old-legislative-council, words are very important to me. You've been through this many times and I also notice in your testimony and in the phraseology that's now being used we're talking -- you are talking, the administration is talking more about the drawing down of forces rather than the withdrawal of forces. And I think -- I think that's a pretty important distinction when looking at the verbage in this agreement. My concern is this: I was among a number of people -- the chairman [John Kerry], I know, also was, Vice President [Joe] Biden was one -- who was saying an agreement of such magnitude should have had the approval of the United States Congress. Whether or not it was raised to the level of a treaty, it certainly should have had the approval of the United States Congress. It required the approval of the Iraqi Parliament. And yet because of all the machinations and the presidential campaign, the business of the Congress, this agreement was basically done through executive signatories. It wasn't brought before the Congress at all. Now if you go and read this agreement -- and this is, if you're not familiar enough in detail to give me an answer today, I really would like to hear what the administration thinks. If you read this agreement in toto -- if you take Articles 2, 24, 27 and 30 and read them with the defintional phrases against each other, there really seems to be quite loose language when we're talking about a full withdrawal by the end of 2011. Just very briefly and I appreciate that the chairman will allow me a possibly couple of minutes over [overlapping, Commitee Chair John Kerry tells him to take the time he needs] but hopefully not. In the "Defintion of Terms" a "member of the United States forces" means any member who is a member of the United States Army, Navy, Airforce, Marine Corps. Any individual. Now if you read that against Article 24, I'm not going to go into detail through all the phraseology, it says, "All United States forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011." I -- I am of the understanding, although I was not a participant, that that at one time said all United States forces "must withdraw" but now says "shall withdraw" -- "All United States forces shall withdraw no later than December 31, 2011." If you then look at Article 27 there are two fairly lengthy paragraphs that I'm not going to quote in total but they basically talk about if there is any external or internal threat to Iraqi soverignty, political independence -- some very loose language -- that we will take appropriate measures. And it also says there will be close cooperation training, equipping, etc. And finally, if you read all of that against Article 30, it says -- and this is important because of the way we came to this agreement -- it's important to me, anyway, as a legislature: "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." Well the argument can now be made that, since the Congress was not a part of the approval of the document, that an executive agreement, a signature in the same form as the way this agreement was signed, could basically say "Okay, we're not going to be out of there by December 2011. December 31, 2011" And in listening to the discussions with respect to residual forces and this sort of thing, I -- I'm not really hearing clearly that it's the intention of the administration to have a complete withdrawal of all United States forces by December 31, 2011.

-- US Senator Jim Webb addressing Chris Hill (nominated to be Ambassador to Iraq) at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Wednesday. (See Thursday's snapshot for the entire exchange.)

Truest statement of the week II

That process is supposed to be completed by June under the so-called Status of Forces Agreement between the countries.

-- Rod Nordland, "Iran's Parliament Speaker Disparages Obama's Video Overture" (New York Times) on the handover of Iraqi cities to Iraqi control.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Sunday and we've got another edition. Somehow. We thank all the people who worked on this edition including Dallas and the following:

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.

And what do we have? Or as we worried, "How bad is it?"

Truest statement of the week -- Jim Webb was the clear choice for the week.

Truest statement of the week II -- A rare moment of truth in the paper of record deserves noting.

Editorial: Same Way To Quagmmire -- This wasn't the planned editorial. The planned editorial was ditched after no amount of editing could save it (despite repeated tries). At which point, this article became an editorial with various bits of tweaking. It works as an editorial. Luckily.

TV: Crime and Intent -- "How bad is it?" was our question about the edition. The answer was, "So bad we need to ask Ava and C.I. to redo their commentary." Why? They covered Criminal Intent which we were told last Wednesday they'd be doing. And, as they'd stated, they'd just cover that show. This edition was shaping up too poorly so, when they came back with their commentary, we said, "Great. But could you go back and redo it to include some news?" They'd planned to do a separate article on The Tonight Show but we asked them to go long and toss it in here as well. They managed to make it all work -- to their surprise and our surprise -- and when I was reading this out loud to everyone, I could feel everyone (including myself) breathe a little easier. ("Myself." This is Jim.)

The Roy Wilkins goes to . . . -- A failed piece on homophobia also left us with a huge hole in the edition. It was suggested by Rebecca we do a piece on this topic and Betty asked, "What was that guy who sold out Paul Robeson?" C.I. said, "Roy Wilkins." And we were off and running.

Ty's Corner -- Remember the failed piece on homophobia? When we sent Ava and C.I. back to the drawing board to redo their commentary, Dona asked Ty if he would grab just one example from our failed article -- any one -- and do a Ty's Corner on it. He agreed and we thank him for this.

Roundtable -- We should have done a music feature. Why? No matter how awful it might have turned out (and most things we worked on this weekend were turning out awful), we would have posted it because we could have justified it under the excuse, "Well, the readers always e-mail asking for music features." The edition was over except for typing and editing and we'd thanked everyone not of the core six and told them to get some rest. Then I remembered I'd asked Stan to hold a topic he was planning to write about at his site. We never got around to that topic this weekend. So I asked him if he'd like to take part in a very quick roundtable (and said I'd understand if he was too tired). He was up for it and the plan was one movie on DVD, one movie now playing in theaters. But we never got to the second one because there was too much to say on the first choice. Thank you to Stan for holding the topic for Third and for participating in the roundtable.

Chris Hill sings 'Much More' -- Marcia thought of the song. Rebecca would be the obvious choice but Marcia's quickly become as huge a Barbra fan as is Rebecca. This was a last minute feature and may have been the last thing we wrote before we told everyone to go to sleep. (Dona says it was the last thing.) So we had spent forever on a solid idea that Betty had. We'd written it every way possible including as a fiction piece and it never, ever worked. We said we'd take another pass at it after we heard what Ava and C.I. had written. After I finished reading that to everyone, it was time to take another swipe but Betty said, "It's just not working." So instead, we quickly substituted this as a topic.

They're they go again -- "Short items would mean we'd already be done," said Dona throughout the writing. Even so, this is the only one we managed.

'Thousands March Nationwide: End the Wars!' -- a reprint of a greaty article by the Party of Socialism and Liberation.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty, Rebecca, Wally, Marcia, Ruth, Stan and Cedric wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's what we have. Via strong contributions by Ava and C.I. and Ty, we ended up with a stronger edition than it looked like we'd have. We like the editorial. We like the short item. And maybe it's a better edition than we realize due to the fact that it was a pain in the ass this weekend? Who knows? We'll see you next week.

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

Editorial: Same Way To Quagmire

If the previous administration's catch-phrase was Condi's "No one could have guessed," this administration's catch-phrase comes from the top "Let me be clear." Barack Obama's in the habit of repeating that one non-stop and it's always a tip-off that he's about to lie.


He pulled it out for Friday's press conference:

So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban -- or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged -- that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

It's really funny that whenever this administration or the previous one wants to push for more death and destruction they suddenly know where al Qaeda is. About the only thing missing from Friday's press conference was Love & Death's Ivan muttering, "Medals, we get medals!"

Realizing that his reach around with the Taliban wasn't going to play, Barack made sure to repeat what a danger and menace the Taliban was. And naturally no one asked, "Then why is your administration attempting to cozy up with them?"

Maybe everyone's minds were reeling from listening to garbage like the following:

We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and our allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists. So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

No, that is not a clear and focused goal. That is a porous and permeable goal and one that makes this "Same Way To Quagmire" 'plan' no different than anything offered by the previous administration. How, pray tell, do you measure the above?

He basically said, "Our nation will continue to be steadfast and patient and persistent in the pursuit of two great objectives. First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world." For those who find the statements strangely familiar, it's George W. Bush, from his January 2002 State of the Union address.

Barack's strung together a lot of lofty sounding goals, none of which are achievable and all of which continue to elevate criminals (terrorists) to the level of nation-states. Bully Boy Bush pulled this same nonsense and the American people can be forgiven for wondering exactly when that promised 'change' is supposed to kick in?

Those who follow the region were no doubt laughing when Barack declared, "It's important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda." Really? Because Pakistani intelligence has always know where they were and always had an open channel with them. While proposing an increased military adventure that will waste billions of dollars, Barack also stated the US will give in excess of $7 billion to Pakistan over the next five years and wanted to add, "At a time of economic crisis, it's tempting to believe that we can shortchange this civilian effort."

Why not "shortchange this civilian effort"? It's done at home, here in the US, all the time, president after president. And Barack continues the pattern. We will waste billions on the military under Barack and do nothing for the people of America.

Or as Barack would say, "our people." In a speech that was, one would think, aimed as much at overseas audiences as domestic ones, Barack couldn't stop with the "our people" (already noted once above). He even trotted it out near the end to link it with 9-11. 9-11 itself? He name checked it four times. Apparently the Bush-Cheney-Condi axis leaves on and the best way to argue for more war is to incessantly say 9-11 over and over.

It also helps to lie. Lie a little? No, go for broke. And Barack certainly did.

"I remind everybody," Barack declared eager to pimp the big lie, "the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives."

How many Afghans have been killed since the October 7, 2001 start of that war, killed while "doing nothing more than going about their daily lives"? But let's fall back to the big lie: that "the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan."

For those who have forgotten, the Afghanistan War started because, according to the previous administration, the Taliban was harboring al Qaeda and the US requested that Osama bin Laden be turned over. For those who have forgotten, the Taliban -- then the ruling government in Afghanistan -- responded by stating that they would turn over bin Laden if the US provided proof of his involvement in 9-11. Collie Powell, Bush lapdog and gay baiter of many decades, responded they'd get their proof when they turned him over. This wasn't a fleeting offer -- though it plays that way in the national memory today. October 14, 2001, after the war had started, found the Taliban proposing that they turn bin Laden over to a third country where he could be tried if they were provided evidence of his 9-11 involvement but Bully Boy Bush dismissed the offer, "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."

The Afghanistan War started because the US wouldn't provide proof. We're not saying it wouldn't have started for other reasons (by July 2001, it was generally known that the US would be going to war with Afghanistan in October of 2001). We are saying the public record of the lead up to that war shows the US government throwing down the marker that bin Laden must be handed over to them and the Afghanistan government responding that they needed proof.

Instead of providing proof, the US government decided to go to war. Barack's a damn liar, the US government deliberately and decisively made the choice to go to war.

Barack's remarks raise serious questions such as whether or not his bellicose language might prompt a terrorist response? Instead of addressing those questions, we're sure we can expect more timidity and stupidity from what passes of the American left. Like Sonali Kolhatkar, appearing two Mondays ago on KPFA's The Morning Show (Ava and C.I. addressed it here), they rush to say the problem is that Barack's got 'bad' advisers. Oh really?

We thought George W. was supposed to be the mental midget and Barack the intellectual giant. That is the media myth, correct? So at what point does Barack have to take accountability? Or are we all supposed to join Sonali in her racist belief that Barack's too dumb to know what's going on around him? Are we all supposed to pretend, like Sonali, that a war which started in 2001 is something Barack never bothered to form any of his own opinions on?

Barack Obama made the decisions to continue the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. They are no longer "Bush's wars," they are Obama's. A real left would grasp that and call him out. A real left would also grasp that when you've hit a sink hole, you back the hell out. You don't decide, "Hey, the thing to do is throw more money and lives at it."

TV: Crime and Intent

Criminal Intent is the smartest of the franchise, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and it's the one we always avoided reviewing -- mainly due to knowing Vincent but also due to the fact that it's really not the eye sore that the rest of the franchise is. And now that we zoom in on it, we can hear someone cry, "It's not even on broadcast TV anymore!"


This Wednesday, it returns to NBC, taking the first hour of prime time -- from the disaster that is The Chopping Block which replaced the disaster that was Knight Rider. As if to celebrate (or at least warm up the audience, prime the pump), NBC broadcast "Legacy" last night -- a Betty Kaplan directed episode which originally aired last August.

Calling Criminal Intent the best of the franchise, admittedly, isn't saying a great deal. Whether it's the original show, Special Victims Unit, the blink-and-you-missed 'em Conviction and Trial by Jury, they all practice the ripped-from-the-headlines 'writing' and, for the rest, that means no writing at all. They change the names (and often the genders) of some criminal incidents in the paper and film them. They're not interested in depth, they're not interested in entertaining. The goal of the franchise is nothing more than to churn another episode out of the meat grinder and serve it up before the audience grasps how badly it tastes.

The difference with Criminal Intent is that it actually shows some taste. It has actual scripts and the actors take those and add to and improve on. You're never, for example, watching Kathyrn Erbe (Eames) and noting how out of the scene she is. Instead, she's always fully in character. She's a detective, her partner is Goran, and the two of them attempt to solve crimes. Yes, that probably is too complex for the franchise considering the other shows all rest on the assumption of guilt from the first minute. But Criminal Intent is interested in examining the crime, narrowing down the suspects and attempting to figure out the intent behind it.

The intent is something which had us baffled all last week. It started on Sunday with CBS' 60 Minutes where Steve Kroft interviewed the starlet-in-chief Barack Obama. Who knew an economy in crisis could produce the giggles in the president of the United States?

But before that moment took place, we caught Barack again telling the same unflattering story on his daughters. As he did, we talked about how he had jazzed it up since the last telling, how he was like a starlet constantly 'improving' the story as she made the talk show rounds. And then we stared at each other for several seconds of silence before picking up the phone and calling friends working on NBC's Tonight Show.

See, we were offended by Barack's disgusting effort to get a cheap laugh at the expense of special-needs children the week before. And we heard a hundred and one pathetic excuses for why he did it and we stood firm that it was disgusting. The reason we knew it was disgusting is because nothing 'just happens' on TV. And we'd talked about that, talked over that point, and never really explored it.

The people sitting down opposite from Jay Leno or David Letterman or anyone, what you're watching isn't a 'cold interview.' It's not happening for the 'first time.' Prior to that, a staffer is on the phone with the celebrity and doing a pre-interview.

The pre-interview allows topics to be narrowed down so you don't end up with the infamous interview Joan Rivers had on the early eighties with a prick of an actor who answered every question with 'uh-huh' or 'no' and nothing else. That Tonight Show interview is infamous. Pre-interviews avoid that. The staff finds out what stories really are interesting -- not every story is -- and also finds subject areas that the writers of the show can work on jokes for. For example, Julie Andrews is heavily into a new flower in her garden and about to go on Letterman, the writers can prepare some gardening jokes.

Repeating, nothing on TV 'just happens.'

And as we confirmed last Sunday, the White House did participate in a pre-interview. Not Barack himself (which didn't surprise us). And the White House asked that Barack's bowling be a topic. The White House requested that.

Barack's little ad-lib? As calls to friends in the administration revealed, there was a whole list of 'ad-libs' for him to choose. Barack went with the Special Olympics "joke."

Now we know that the Cult of St. Barack is made up of a bunch of mental midgets, but there's also such a thing as the real press, the working press. And how the hell they avoided doing the basic work that we did last Sunday night is beyond us.

But, for the record, the White House participated in a pre-interview where various ideas were pitched. The White House requested that Barack's bowling be included as a topic. The White House prepared several ad-libs for Barack to go with.

What you saw two Thursdays ago on NBC was the closest to scripted The Tonight Show can come. And those who rushed to give the Christ-child a pass on his offensive remarks need to grasp that. They might try also noting a point Dan Froomkin (Washington Post) made last week who declared, "The best explanation I've seen for why Obama wants to get every word just right, by the way, was in a profile of Obama speechwriter John Favreau, by Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune: 'I've never worked for a politician who values words as much as the president does,' Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. 'The speechwriter is an unusually important person in the operation. [Obama's] willingness to entrust his words to others is limited.'"

Yes, Barack does value words and that's how he ended up repeating the same stale (and crafted) 'humanizing' stories on 60 Minutes which he'd already told Leno.

We'd spent so much time working the phones to find out about (and confirm) the details of the pre-interviews, that we'd missed the rest of the 60 Minutes interview (video at the following links: here for part one of transcript and here for part two of transcript). As a result, we only heard about Barack's giggles on Monday when we were speaking at a college and students kept bringing it up. Unlike the press, the students had multiple examples. For example, they found these remarks by Barack, about the American people, offensive:

People don't resent folks getting rich. And they don't mind people getting bonuses for doing a good job. They certainly don't understand getting bonuses for doing a bad job. And they don't understand this concept of retention bonuses when, from their perspective, the retention bonus is not losing your job. (CHUCKLE) And so, I think the anger is healthy if it's channeled.

It's funny to him that, for the working class, a "retention bonus is not losing your job"? He finds that funny? Maybe American will have the opportunity to laugh at his lack of a 'retention bonus' come 2012?

Barack's interview was a disaster as he laughed throughout and giggled like a ninny. In one section, he would laugh about spending money "to fix the banks," laugh that the American people are impatient with his response to the crisis, laugh that "the only thing less popular than putting money into banks is putting money into the auto industry," and more. The economy's not a laughing matter to most people and it was not reassuring to them to see the president of the United States yucking it up on a news program. It was so bad that the following exchange took place:

KROFT: You're sitting here. And you're-- you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. What is-- I-- are people gonna look at this and say, "I mean, he's sitting there just making jokes about money--" How do you deal with-- I mean, wh-- explain the-- the--

OBAMA: Well--

KROFT: --the mood and your laughter.

OBAMA: Yeah, I mean, there's gotta be--

KROFT: Are you punch drunk?

OBAMA: No, no. There's gotta be a little gallows humor to (LAUGHS) get you through the day.

Well whatever gets you through the night, Pretty Boy.

It was a disaster and even with White House friends explaining the intent of the interview (a casual setting to address the economy), we still couldn't see it.

Amazingly, Barack never spoke of Iraq during his 60 Minutes interview except, in a single sentence, to joke about how a year ago, he assumed this would be the big challenge the president would be facing today. (The lack of pressure on Barack to end the illegal war allows him to turn Iraq into a joke.)

Tuesday night, the starlet-in-chief needed more attention and more ego feeding. So he appeared on prime time to discuss . . . Policy wise, nothing. He had nothing to say or offer. He also had nothing to say about Iraq and this got attention.

Steve Padilla (Los Angeles Times) manages to do right from the top: "In all, he fielded questions from 13 reporters. It's worth noting some of the things that did not come up during the Q & A with the press.Iraq, for one. Never came up. Isn't there a war going on?" Also noting the silence were Michael D. Shear and Scott Wilson (Washington Post), "During the 55-minute news conference, Obama faced no questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, or terrorism. Instead, the president focused consistently on his administration's efforts to boost the economy, presenting his first budget proposal as the critical and most far-reaching step in that process." It was also caught during The New York Times' live blogging:

Helene Cooper 9:01 p.m. I'm still slackjawed over the shocking lack of national security issues raised. This is a new world we're living in, after seven years of Al Qaeda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Hard to imagine a Bush press conference focusing so singularly on the economy, but then, these are clearly different times.

Jeff Zeleny 9:00 p.m. The second prime-time press conference for Mr. Obama is in the books. Thirteen questions, but not one about Iraq or Afghanistan. That would have been impossible to imagine during his presidential campaign. So what's the headline? "Hang on Americans, We’ll Get Through This."

Barack's gotten a hell of a lot of TV time lately and it's worth noting that he only raises Iraq when he needs a punchline.

After utilizing the teleprompters for his nothing-new speech, Barack declared, "With that, let me take some questions. And I've got a list here. Let's start off with Jennifer Loven, AP." And, oh, did he have a list. Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) would explain the next morning, "As president, he has broken with precedent by having his press office notify correspondents that they will be called on at upcoming news conferences."

After the silence on Iraq, the most telling moment for us fell under the pattern of what we've dubbed "Barack Bitchery." CNN's Ed Henry declared, "You spoke again at the top about your anger about AIG. You've been saying that for days now. But why is it that it seems Andrew Cuomo seems to be in New York getting more actual action on it? And when you and Secretary [Timothy] Geithner first learned about this 10 days, two weeks ago, you didn't go public immediately with that outrage. You waited a few days. And then when -- you went public after you realized Secretary Geithner really had no legal avenue to stop it. And, more broadly, I just want to follow up on Chip [Reid, MSNBC] and Jake [Tapper, ABC]. You've been very critical of President Bush doubling the national debt. And, to be fair, it's not just Republicans hitting you. Democrat Kent Conrad, as you know, said, quote, 'When I look at this budget, I see the debt doubling again.' You keep saying that you've inherited a big fiscal mess. Do you worry, though, that your daughters, not to mention the next president, will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control?"

Joan Collins, at her Alexis Carrington finest, couldn't have intoned more witheringly Barack's opening line, "Of course I do, Ed, which is why we're doing everything we can to reduce that deficit." He then babbled on, echoed Bully Boy Bush by explaining it's-hard-work ("This is hard") and danced around the question completely. This led Ed Henry to repeat it, "But on AIG, why did you wait -- why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage? It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the attorney general's office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, 'Look, we're outraged.' Why did it take so long?"

We're not sure what was more distressing, the bitchy line Barack tossed off next or the fact that the press corps laughed at it? Barack snarled, "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." Again, file it under "Barack Bitchery." It takes a real social climber (which is what Barack was born and what he hails from) to think they can get away with insulting a state's Attorney General, let alone a member of their own party, at a press conference. It takes a real disgrace to do so from the office of the president.

After eight-years of a frat boy occupying the White House, we needed a grown up. Instead we got a catty boy. If me-ow and cat claw gestures qualify for leadership, Barack's your fellow. And that seems to be the intended message of his press conference.

The intent of many Americans was just to avoid Barack. Steve Gorman, Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney (Reuters) report, "Taking to the airwaves again to pitch his economic plan, President Barack Obama drew 40 million viewers for his latest news conference, down some 9 million from his first prime-time press encounter last month." Some attempted to spin it as though 31 million was impressive. First off, he's still not gotten the number of viewers Bill Clinton did in his first year in office. Second of all, Barack's not on one network. He pre-empted the entire spectrum except for the CW (and MyTV, if anyone actually watches that). He was carried live on PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox (entertainment). He was carried live on CNN, MSNBC and Fox "News." He was carried live on CSPAN. There was no easy way to escape him, but millions of Americans made the effort. If you're among the tiny number who accidentally missed the press conference, click here for transcript and video.

Thursday, Barack showed up desperate for more publicity doing a webchat. At what point does he turn up on the Home Shopping Network?

Barack's supposedly a 'star' -- people used to say 'rock star' but few living rock artists ever qualify as an actual star. First thing any actual star learns is the danger of over exposure. Were Barack a real star, Team Obama would have been rationing him long ago. Instead they send him out to all but the opening of a hot dog stand (this morning, he'll show up on CBS' Face The Nation). Star power, as a Robert Redford or Michelle Pfeiffer or Debra Winger could tell you, is as much about saying "no" as it is about saying "yes." The rule is always, paraphrasing Redford here, "They want what they can't have." When they can have you, when they can have you for coffee, lunch, dinner and late night snack, they don't want you. When you've become an installed fixture in their homes, not unlike a toilet, you've lowered your cachet and your image.

In the primaries, one thing became obvious, the more people saw Barack, the less they liked him. That's one reason so many rallied around Hillary as the primaries continued. The more they saw of mythic Barack, the more they grasped how there was no 'there' there. But Team Obama couldn't learn that lesson. That's partly because, having pulled off one of the biggest cons in campaign history, they think the American people are dupes. But it's also because they've begun to believe their own hype. That's always a danger. And Barack's on the verge of entering the terminal phase of celebrity: Where one refers to one's self repeatedly in the third person. (On 60 Minutes, he'd already begun referring to himself in the second person.) Though Barack and Team Obama are enchanted with the myth they've created, the rest of America is increasingly less so.

Every recent attempt of the Christ-child to walk on air waves furthers the notion that there is nothing special about Barack. Overexposure will tend to do that.

Of course, that was always the reality about Barack. He was the most ordinary and craven of politicians, he had nothing to show for his life except having been president of the Harvard Law Review, two decades prior. He'd never accomplished anything and he'd never done any heavy lifting. He was a truly non-remarkable man.

But Team Obama cast him as "the other" (while insisting opponents were doing that) and created a myth of how he was better than us and smarter than us and more wonderful than us. And Barack would save us.

What they created was a Cult leader. And what you saw was how many weak minds there were. Now it's not at all surprising when Americans move like lemmings to whatever the current craze is or whatever's considered 'hot' at whatever moment. What was surprising was how many allegedly 'educated' and 'wise' 'leaders' revealed themselves to be weak minded and in desperate need of a father figure.

It's led to non-stop embarrassments and three took place Friday. First up, Friday morning began with Barack before the cameras again. Talking about Afghanistan. A subject he'd ignored in his Tuesday night press conference. Suddenly, he was interested. He was interested, if not interesting.

And he babbled on and sketched out his "Same Way To Quagmire" rehash. But that's a topic for another article. We'll just note that his intent was very clear here: More death and destruction.

And Feminist Majority Foundation's Ellie Smeal and Dr. Suzy Samar were very clear that they'd hauled out their vinyl copies of Tapestry, put 'em on the turntable and were eager to sing along with Carole King: Where you lead . . . I will follow . . . Anywhere that you tell me to . . .

Has a more pathetic response ever been offered in the (faux) name of feminism? [If you're late to the party, you can check out "Afghanistan and Iraq," "AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ," "Roundtable Friday," "roundtable," "Roundtable," "Roundtable in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq and Afghanistan," "Roundtabling Afghanistan and Iraq," "Roundtable Friday," "Roundtable Afghanistan and Iraq," "Roundtable" and "Roundtable."]

But Friday wasn't over and the America that had already endured Barack stating 'I am the third term of George W. Bush' and Girls Say Yes To Boys Who Wag Their Cocks Ellie Smeal still had to endure Dana Carvey.

Failed non-star Dana Carvey defines truly untalented Saturday Night Live alumni. As a result, America rarely has to endure him on the TV. But there was he Friday night on The Tonight Show.

At one point, as he praised Barack and mocked Ahnuld, he was rolling around on the floor and declared, "I took that a little far." Jay Leno chose to ignore it and return to the still unanswered question about Carvery's early (failed) dramatic roles. But the reality was that Dana Carevey "took that a little far" way before then.

In fact, we'd say NBC owes an apology to America for broadcasting Carvey's hate speech on what is, after all, supposed to be an entertainment program.

AIG was brought up by Carvey but he's not smart enough to do a riff on them. He's not smart at all which is why he turned the villain into US House Rep Barney Frank.

As he did his little act, we kept asking, "Is he intentionally lisping?" When he started having Barney Frank use Sylvester the cat's catch phrase ("suffering succotash!") we knew he was lisping intentionally. He followed that by tossing his (limp wristed) hands around and stroking himself in mincing gestures. But he really 'went for the gold' when he hopped to the floor and stuck his ass in the air indicating someone should 'rear end' him. It was disgusting, it was homophobic and it didn't belong on the entertainment program that spent years refusing to let a guest call out the Iraq War (when guests did early on, that was edited out and the excuse was "we're an entertainment program" -- opposing war not allowed; homophobia embraced).

For those who don't know, Barney Frank is openly gay. What does his being gay have to do with AIG? Not a damn thing but Dana Carvey's as unintelligent as he is unfunny. Presented with the financial scandal, he naturally decided the 'way to go' was to serve up homophobia. In his sick mind, it made sense to turn it all into a blast of homophobia -- as if the LGBT community is responsible for the economic meltdown?

The moment should never have been broadcast. The week before Jay Leno yucked it up as the disabled/challenged community was mocked. He was lapping up Dana Carvey's homophobia routine Friday. NBC loves to make those little PSAs where various of the network's performers talk about the need for tolerance and dignity. But maybe those PSA wouldn't be needed if the network could make it clear that homophobia wasn't funny and wasn't worth airing on an entertainment program?

The intent there? Dana wasn't funny. Seeing an old and flabby man bounce around like they're on a cocaine high while they spit out slurs is never funny. We couldn't even grasp the intent of booking a failed, has-been like Dana Carvey to begin with.

Maybe Eames and Goren could make sense of it? Goren is, of course, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, one of the finest actors in any medium and someone who has upped the bar on television just by appearing.

While Criminal Intent is the best of the Law & Orders, it's still part of them and, as such, has the same dialogue problems. Eames and Goren usually have better dialogue but the minor characters? An educated young woman at an expensive prep school declares, "You already Guantanamoed my locker." Really? The police rifled through her locker. That really doesn't fit with Guantanamo's image of 'detainees' (prisoners), now does it?

Criminal Intent works as a "Who Done What?" Not a "Who Done It?" because red herrings aren't just dismissed with, they're flogged. And bit by bit, in a circular logic manner, Eames and Goran will zoom in on the suspect. The audience sometimes beats them there. For example, in "Legacy," when John Shea shows up in a throw away scene, we'd bet most viewers knew he was either the criminal or connected to it in the same way if for no other reason than suspicion based upon guest star stature.

So as the episode worked it's way to a close, as they'd dismissed with student Tessa as a suspect and discovered that her teacher mother Anna was not a suspect but, in fact, the target and that the suspect "Joe" never even existed it was time, Goran explained, to go "line fishing."

Goran: Whoever's behind Joe is obsessed with taking Anna down. The thought that he failed . . . Maybe he'd react?

And he does, but first they have to go through other suspects. If Law & Order shows are usually about the procedure, Criminal Intent is about the journey. And, in the best news of all, Chris North is no longer tagging along. The way the show works is there are Eames and Goran episodes one week and then episodes with another detective team the next. Chris North's weighed the show down with his mediocre acting and uninspiring presence. He's out, Jeff Goldblum's in. That should make for a much more pleasurable journey.

In sixty minutes time, Criminal Intent manages to figure out all the motives and solve the crime. Though they use circular logic and deduction, after it's all laid out, the events are fairly liniear and plain. That's how you know it's TV. In the real world, there are a lot more angles. For example, Barack was backed by Wall Street, yes, and they're benefitting big time. However, he was also backed by the nuclear industry and, with all the drama over the economic crisis, few have noted how much prep work for new plants that sector is currently conducting -- which includes lower level administrative meetings.

The Roy Wilkins goes to . . .

Eleanor Smeal and Sima Samar are the winners of this week's Roy Wilkins Award. The two may feel that's praise and something to aspire to because Roy's known for many things.

But for us, Roy will forever be the piece of trash who cooperated with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to smear Paul Robeson. Never forget it's the ones closest who can do the most damage and, Friday, Ellie Smeal and Sima Samar were eager to do damage.

They were whoring themselves out in the cause of war. It wasn't the first time so they're not just whores, they're tired whores. Both women worked extensively with Bully Boy Bush on the Afghanistan War in the first part of this decade. In fact, the 2002 State of the Union Address found Bush signaling Samar out for praise as he did his other invited guests.

Instead of rushing to prop up the current administration, as they did the previous one, the two might consider how to best advocate for Afghan women but that wouldn't provide them with the easy access or easy money, now would it?

So like Roy Wilkins before them (Wilkins was the president of the NAACP at the time he worked to destroy Paul Robeson), they whore it for the government.

For Sima, it was important to attack women working for Afghanistan women, hence her attacks on RAWA. In 2002, RAWA posed a question still worth asking, "Can we ask this from Madam Masooda Sultan, Sima Wali, Sima Samar, Shorish and others that why you along with your financial backup and truly very much 'people loving faces' and 'pro-Islamic' and 'anti-Maoist' and 'anti-radical' and with compromising slogans could not and can not organize a small demo of hundred people?" It really is all about "the financial backup" for Sima.

The same RAWA letter addressed Ellie, including this section:

Ms. Smeal is again mistaken by considering the "Northern Alliance" better than the Taliban. In our opinion only paying attention to the crimes of the "Northern Alliance" against the women and raping of pregnant women and making them give birth to their babies in front of the fundamentalists and the presence of mass-graves, is enough to realize the deepness of their cowardness more than the Taliban. Maybe we will have to prove many facts but the stain of blood on the faces of the "Northern Alliance" is a reality that needs not to be explained much. In the best conditions, comparing the "Northern Alliance" with the Taliban is like wild wolves and dogs. If Ms. Smeal has borrowed this realization from Afghans, she should know that a great number -- not all -- of men and women living in the US consider the "Northern Alliance" "better" in order to speak in favor of the policies of the US - that is the defender of the "Northern Alliance"-- without caring about the future of freedom and democracy in their devastated country.

Ellie steamrolled her way onto Ms. magazine and women foolishly let her do that. She now owns and helps destroy Ms. Ellie was pimping more war and destruction and neither she nor Samar could be bothered with mentioning the Taliban in their speeches. It took reporters questioning them for the women to finally (and briefly) address the issue.

"Reconciliation" is a word that has abruptly come into vogue -- with Karzai and with some U.S. officials and experts. But it is absurd to think that an Afghanistan partly or wholly given over to some imagined "moderate" Taliban would not in short order turn back into a sanctuary for international terrorism. Promises that the Taliban might make in the process of gaining a deal would not be worth the paper they were written on.

Sadly, those words didn't come from Ellie or Samar. That's Sarah Chayes, writing in a Los Angeles Times column last week (here for PDF format version, here for HTML).

Instead of offering even a fraction of the strength Chayes regularly does, Ellie and Samar played it like good little Barack whores, desperate not to offend, eager to be the go-alongs. After all, it's the john's money, right? He gets to decide.

Well, girls, we'd suggest that in the future, you get the money upfront before you screw over the feminist movement. Get it up front and count it. And grasp that every time you swing that ass for the government, you lower your own worth.

We'd explain that further but Smeal and Samar have a street lamp to rush under.

Ty's Corner


I really get tired of the whores. For those e-mailing, media whores are called out here and there's always a lengthy debate as to whether to apply the term "whore" or not? If it's a woman, the question is, "Have we used it on a man recently? This isn't a fallback term for any time we want to criticize a woman, is it?" And we debate it and discuss it. If there's another term, we'll go with it (to describe men or women) but there's a lot of whoring going down. In fact, I would argue that there's more media whoring going on right now than at anytime during Bush's two terms.

All of that's my way of warning those of you offended by the use of the term "whore" that it's about to pop up so stop reading.

Last Monday, KPFA's Against the Grain featured two women I wish were idiots. If they were idiots I could call them that and dismiss them. They're not idiots so that leaves whores.

And if they're not happy with that, my advice to Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini is, "Stop acting like whores."

Did you know that a homophobic preacher against marriage equality is countered by a less homophobic preacher also against marriage equality?

This gay man never knew that.

Thank you, Annie and Jannie for clearing that up.

I have no idea whether the women are straight or gay but what I do know is that they chose to speak on gay issues so they damn well should know their facts.

They're the whores were, reviewing their Barack specialities, explaining Rick Warren was a homophobe who didn't support same-sex marriage. But, they told us, Joseph Lowery counteracted him. In discussing Warren, they specifically mentioned his opposition to same-sex marriage. In discussing Lowery? They forgot to mention he also opposed same-sex marriage.

They presented the two as bookends, as the yin and the yang, as complimenting one another with their differences when, reality check, neither man supports marriage equality.

Left out of the discussion, KPFA broadcasts in California, was Proposition 8 or rather how those pushing Proposition 8 were able to use Barack's own words, his own voice, in their robo calls and how Barack never called it out.

Noting that was apparently too much for two little Barack whores.

If KPFA can't seriously address gay issues, maybe it's time to stop covering them? The cowardice across the board at the station when it comes to holding Barry Bam-Bam accountable is putrid but when it comes to the LGBT community, it's become rancid. Who would have ever thought a supposed 'free speech' radio station broadcasting from San Francisco could be so weak when it comes to LGBT issues?


Jim: We're doing a roundtable and this is being done quickly and with limited participation. I had asked Stan to hold a topic he was planning to blog about last week and instead bring it to Third. He did and because he did, despite the fact that we are running way behind, we're making time for a quick roundtable. You can consider this the entertainment roundtable. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, and me, Jim, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. Stan hates a movie he saw last week on DVD. Dona hates it too. We'll start there.


Stan: I never saw Bewitched at the movies. I really have no idea why. I like Nicole Kidman. Last week, I got it at my library and it is awful. It is probably the worst big budget film of this decade.

Dona: I would agree with that. I found the film so insulting and I am a huge fan of the TV series Bewitched. It wasn't funny, it wasn't anything.

Ava: Well let's pin the blame on the responsible: Nora Ephron. She directed it, she's a producer of the film and a co-writer. It is a piece of garbage and it is so bad that she should honestly never be allowed to direct again.

Jim: Those are strong words! C.I., do you agree?

C.I.: If I were in charge of all green lighting, she'd never get one. That film was masturbation, it wasn't art. I'll explain but someone, Dona, you were a fan, describe the TV show.

Dona: Betwitched was a sitcom that started in the sixties and ran through the seventies. It starred Elizabeth Montgomery as the witch Samantha. She married mortal Darren -- played by two different actors over the course of the series. He is bothered by her powers -- except when he needs her to use them -- and they have two children, Tabitha and Adam. Her family can get on his nerves and his family, chiefly his mother, is a real pain in the ass.

C.I.: It was a very popular ABC sitcom, original episodes from 1964 to 1972, and it featured strong women. Samantha and her mother Endora being two examples. The film ditches Endora and instead presents you with Samantha and her father. Yes, it's "Daddy Issues" time yet again. And at 38, did anyone want to see Nicole Kidman playing such a woman? No and it was an insult to fans of the TV show but the biggest problem was the concept which is why I'd never greenlight anything with Ephron attached. You do not take a beloved TV show that has millions and millions of fans and do a movie like she did. The 'joke' is that Nicole plays a witch in a TV show and Will Ferrell plays her husband Darren. They're remaking Bewitched. Shirley MacLaine plays Endora on the remake but she's not Endora. Can you follow that garbage? Your average audience isn't going to enjoy that mental jerk off. And as they watch Nicole and Will play actors acting out scenes in a TV show, they're only reminded that Nicole and Will are actors. The little stunt robs the audience of the ability to invest in the characters. It was mental masturbation and a sure sign that someone's rested on too much praise and fancied herself above the audience she needs to continue her career. It was insulting and offensive and the film didn't make back it's filming budget in the US.

Ty: Well let me jump in on Will Ferrell. I'll leave it to others to decide whether or not he's funny but I don't know anyone who would argue he's great looking. I know few who would call him good looking. This is who we're supposed to want Nicole to end up with? And that's before you factor in that his character is a selfish and self-obsessed prick. There are many plain women you might set Will up with but Nicole Kidman is one of the most beautiful women in films and if we're supposed to be in the midst of a romantic fantasy, she needs a Prince Charming, not a toad who stays a toad.

Stan: I felt that way too, honestly. I didn't want her to be with him. And I couldn't believe how long it took for the film to get even a little interesting. We had to be at the thirty minute mark when the Who song started pumping and Kidman's finally using some real magic. It was so slow and it was so stupid and it was so badly written, so, so badly written. The jokes weren't funny and, like C.I. pointed out, the "Daddy Issues." Nicole was too old to being played Daddy's Little Girl wanting to stand on her own -- if Daddy will go along with it. It was embarrassing. My goodness, how immature is Nora Ephron that she saw that as a view of women worth sharing, worth putting up on the screen. I agree that it was insulting to the audience and I think she has a real hatred for the audience if this is the sort of crap she wants to serve up. I really loved the show, Bewitched, the TV show. I didn't expect to love the movie just because I loved the show so much. But I like Nicole and I thought it would have to be funny and I could take whatever differences there were. I was wrong. It was awful.

Dona: Because of the advertisement for the film, I honestly thought Shirley MacLaine was playing Nicole's mother. She's not. She plays an actress who plays Endora on the TV show the characters film. I was so surprised at how little Shirley was given to do. It was bad enough that there wasn't an actual Endora, but to use Shirley so little was disgusting. Especially when every time you blinked there was the always annoying Michael Caine yet again.

Stan: I've written a lot about Shirley MacLaine at my site -- and no links because I know we're rushing to get this done -- but she's a really solid actress. And she provided the only life in the film. But she'd only get a second here and a second there. Between what was done to her character and what was done to Nicole's, I really had a hard time believing two women wrote the script. The film catered to Will Ferrell and some people might like that but I avoid his films. I have no interest in them. They're the dumbest things since Ernest Goes To Camp or whatever. I'm not interested in that low grade humor. But that's what Nora Ephron served up.

Jess: I think a key point made was by C.I. about the daddy issues Ephron saddled the character with. When you start doing that, you're screwing with the formula and by making the 38-year-old Kidman play an airhead to begin with, you've already watered down the character. Samantha didn't pop out of a bottle, she didn't call her husband "master." There are some shows Ephron could have pulled this revisionary crap with but Bewitched isn't one of them. And I'm with Stan, I can go my entire life without having to endure another Will Ferrell film. In a small supporting role, he can almost hold attention. In a full blown leading role, it's like he's attacking you from the screen.

Dona: I agree with that -- with Jess and Stan's opinions. But I also agree with Ty that this was just not any kind of a romantic fantasy. Will Ferrell isn't my idea of dream material. I don't think he's that funny and I find him physically repulsive. Not unattractive, physically repulsive. It says a great deal to me about Nora Ephron's state of mind that for her bad film, she felt a woman had to be beyond beautiful but a man could be butt ugly and still qualify as a leading man. Talk about endorsing a double standard. Endorsing, hell, she spread her legs and welcomed it inside her.

Ava: I'm laughing so hard at that. If I wasn't taking notes right now, I'd go over and hug Dona for that. Wonderfully said.

Jim: Stan saw it this week, Ava and C.I. had already seen it and Dona dragged me to see it when it was at the movies. But Ty and Jess watched it last week for the first time when I said Stan was going to bring the topic over here. And the thing had such a stink to it, the film did, that they really didn't want to watch it. Is it the worst TV show turned into a film?

Stan: I never saw The Dukes of Hazard movie but I have a hard time believing it could be worse than this. A lot of people trash, for example, the movie of The Beverly Hillbillies. But that actually has some genuinely funny moments with Cloris Leachman and Lily Tomlin. There was no genuinely funny moment in Bewitched -- which is billed as a comedy. Shirley MacLaine would have an entrance or a line that would set you up for a good laugh but she'd be immediately gone and you never got it. And I really think when you're training the camera on Michael Caine nonstop to catch him doing the same thing he's done for over forty years now, you're pathetic. MacLaine is a funny actress and she was doing bits that she's never done before. She wasn't recycling Steel Magnolias or any other film she's been in. She had a new character and it was an interesting one. Except to director and co-writer Nora Ephron. I don't know if she'll make another movie or not but I can tell you I will never pay to see a film she makes again.

Ava: Her new film, due out this summer, is about Julia Child and stars Meryl Streep.

Stan: A good actress but I won't see the film.

Jim: What would it take to make you pay money to see a Nora Ephron film?

Stan: Meg Ryan. But I really get the feeling that she hates Meg Ryan so I don't expect them to work again.

Jess: That's interesting. Why do you say that?

Stan: Her only film success comes with Meg Ryan. Meg onscreen is really how Nora sees herself. But the fact that she can't make a hit without Meg is something she resents. At first, she tried to make films where she wrote the part Meg played and had other women play those parts, like in Michael, but that didn't work. So then she writes these characters, like the one Nicole played, which are so fake because she's refusing to write about herself. She's really a very limited talent. If you look at Sally or any of the roles Meg played -- and Meg did a great job in those roles -- you'll see they are Nora on the page of any of her old essays. And Meg became her onscreen and she wants to kill off Meg. She's a lousy writer. Her only strength comes from writing about herself. Julia Child isn't her. The film might do well because Meryl Steep's in it but I don't think it'll be a hit.

Jim: And you won't pay to see it?

Stan: I will never again waste my money on a Nora Ephron film. Bewitched exhibited real hatred of the people who pay to see her movies.

Jim: Dona, are your feelings as extreme as Stan's?

Dona: I don't know that his feelings are "extreme." But I share them. I didn't realize it until he was talking about Meg Ryan, but I agree with everything he said about that. And short of Meg in the lead role, I won't see another film by Ephron. That's pay money for it, watch it on cable, you name it. Life is too short and she really has some serious I'm-so-above-my-audience airs as evidenced by Bewitched.

Jim: And someone shoots back, "But there are so few women directors! How can you not support her?"

Dona: I shoot back that there was nothing about Bewitched that was positive about or for women. Give me a Penny Marshall film, I'll pay to see it. Give me Streisand, I'll pay to see it. Nora? Her pattern was a Meg film, a bomb, a Meg film, a bomb. And now there are no Meg films. Meg lifted the material to a higher place. We saw a lot of other actresses try to play that same character -- good actresses -- and fail. So the reality is that Meg made Nora. Without Meg, there's no Nora worth hearing from. I hope the Julia Child film bombs.

Ava: Which is highly likely. They last worked together on Heartburn which bombed. But, to sum it up, Jim, Dona's under no obligation to support woman director Nora Ephron when Ephron's Bewitched did nothing to support women.

Jess: And I think what you're hearing from Dona and Ava specifically is a real revulsion because Nora Ephron has no excuse for serving up backlash stereotypes of women on the screen. She's supposed to be smarter than that.

Stan: I'm curious, Jim, what was your opinion of the film?

Jim: As I remember it, Dona can correct me if this is wrong, I laughed at the first scene Will had. He's taking a meeting with his agent and the writers for the Bewitched TV show. And I laughed. He was doing his usual babble which is funny. But then came a scene almost immediately after where he spies Nicole for the first time and he's dancing around with the camera repeatedly finding him. It wasn't funny. And his only shtick is the babble. He's not a physical comedian. So it surprised me that the overly verbose Nora Ephron chose to have the two meet basically via a series of exchanged looks. That was my first indication that the film was going to be bad. And it really did suck. But I believe I said, correct me if I'm wrong, Dona, "This movie is going to suck." At the point where Will was eyeing Nicole.

Dona: Yes, you did. And what's interesting about that sequence is we do get babble. From a minor character serving coffee. And Jim's correct that babble is all Will Ferrell can offer so when you put him in the important scene -- the one that's supposed to make you believe he and Nicole have chemistry -- you don't take away his only strength.

Ty: If I could make one quick comment before we close, I don't think Nora Ephron's got a visual style. There were things about Sleepless that indicated she did but then came Michael and, worse, You've Got Mail where she appeared to believe that her job as director was just to get the actors to say their lines. Her shots are standard fare in everything since Sleepless in Seattle and by the time You've Got Mail rolls around, they're standard and schmaltzy.

Jim: Interesting. And we are going to have to close. We had another entertainment topic but we'll save it for another time. This is a rush transcript. If there's an illustration, Betty's oldest son did it.

Chris Hill sings 'Much More'

I'd like to waste a week or two
And never do a chore.
To wear my hair unfastened
So it billows to the floor.

So sings Barbra on The Barbra Streisand Album ("Much More" written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt) and though thee 1963 release would win a Grammy for album of the year, who knew it would provide the interior monologue for a Barack nominee?

Obama has nominated Chris Hill to be the US Ambassador to Iraq and, last Wednesday, Hill appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee . . . leaving his hair . . . unfastened. And uncombed.


With his twigs and fly away hair untamed, Hill began the proceedings flaunting his inability to follow the most basic of instructions. Senator John Kerry chairs the committee and supports Hill's nomination. Based on those two things, when Kerry makes a request in the committee hearing, you'd think Hill would rush to follow up on it. That didn't happen.

In an attempt to move the hearing along, Kerry asked Hill to summarize, and not read, his prepared remarks. Hill agreed to do just that and then . . . he read, word for word, page for page, his entire prepared remarks.

Where was the confusion, Hill?

You were asked to do something. You agreed to do it. And then you didn't do it.

That's really basic and he couldn't even follow through on that which led many who have worked with and/or supervised Hill over the years to begin whispering about how this was exactly the way he performed his job. He'd nod in agreement at whatever order he was given and then go off and do whatever he wanted.

With Iraq being a hot spot, that temperament really doesn't seem suited with the country.

But Hill and Iraq seem a very poor fit. He pontificated at length about the "Awakening" Councils and was wrong repeatedly. Feeling sorry for him, a senator threw back one portion of his statements, allowing Hill the chance to correct it but Hill stuck with it.

No, Nouri's not taken over payment for all the "Awakenings." No, he's not paying the ones he's supposed to be paying. But Hill was happy to make such claims.

He had even less of a clue when it came to the oil-rich Kirkuk and, sadly, he bragged about having requested a briefing on Kirkuk and having received one yet there was no indication from his statements that the briefing took.

Just a land dispute, he said. Not at all uncommon from what he saw in Bosnia. Really, he dealt with oil-rich cities and disputes over them in Bosnia? He dealt with cities where one group of people were run out and another transplanted in based on the whim of whomever was ruling? Really?

He had no clue and only made it worse with statements implying the United Nations was at work on the situation and had been. (The UN forced a compromise decision on Kirkuk in late 2008 after the issue flared up in the summer of 2008 and threatened to prevent the provincial elections from being held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces last January. The compromise was that the fate of Kirkuk would yet again be tabled. In other words, the UN got all parties to agree to hit the snooze alarm and wait.)

He had no concept of the meaning of oversight and, when asked about it, was eager to push it off on the auditors in the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's office.

What's especially scary is that Hill's been the nominee for over a month. What's especially scary is that last week's Senate hearing was scheduled in advance. Despite that, Hill showed up completely unprepared.

For more on the hearing, refer to Wednesday and Thursday's Iraq snapshots.

They're they go again

The White House can't stop militarizing everything. They demonstrated it yet again last Friday as they rushed to praise the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Act,:

The bill contains key elements of the President’s national service agenda: Creating an army of 250,000 Americans a year involved in full and part time service to address some of our nation’s greatest challenges, including healthcare, education, energy and economic opportunity; expanding service-learning to engage young-people and put them onto a pathway to service; providing better service opportunities for seniors and boomers; and establishing a Social Innovation Fund to identify and grow programs that fix tough community problems.

So writes failed thespian (all but laughed off the stage in his multiple roles in Damn Yankees), failed reporter (Boston Globe, among others) and failed at everything else but toady Carlos Monje Jr. (Maybe his community service was giving up acting? It certainly made the world more grateful.)

"Creating an army," Carlos, really? With all the comparisons bandied about between The Cult of Barack and Hitler Youth, you want to use the term "army"?

'Thousands March Nationwide: End the Wars!'

The best report on last weekend's protests comes from the Party for Socialism and Liberation:

Thousands March Nationwide: End the Wars!

Reports from the March on the Pentagon and simultaneous marches in San Francisco and Los Angeles

On March 21, the anti-war movement returned to the streets in a big way. After an initial rally at the State Department in Washington, D.C., thousands marched on the Pentagon, the crowd swelling as it crossed the Memorial Bridge into Virginia. What followed was a dramatic direct action at Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and KBR, corporations that demonstrators labeled "merchants of death." The predominantly young crowd continued to grow as the day proceeded. The march, stretched out as far as the eye could see, went through the Pentagon north Parking Lot and then into downtown Crystal City, where the leading war profiteers’ headquarters are located.

March 21 2009, Washington D.C., 03-21-09
Washington, D.C.

The march was led by a contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. James Circello, an Iraq war veteran and member of the Veterans and Service Members Task Force of the ANSWER Coalition, said, “We refuse to accept the new administration’s attempts to rewrite the history of the occupation of Iraq into that of a humanitarian mission.”

There was a significant delegation from members of the Arab and Muslim communities and many students participated. Jai Hurdle, a student at York College in New York City, came on a bus from the Bronx. Jai explained to Liberation why he decided to protest for the first time: "I am a poor student, and this governent is taking money from CUNY [City University of New York]. That is my education at risk. My grandmother was forced to retire early and she is the only worker in my household. At this very moment I have a dollar in my pocket, but I am here. ... Today is just one step."

The Arlington County Police mobilized in full riot gear in an attempt to block the demonstrators from delivering symbolic coffins--draped with the Iraqi, Palestinian and Afghani flags--at the doorsteps of the war corporations. The police brought tear gas, snarling dogs and guns loaded with rubber bullets pointed directly at demonstrators. A tense face-off ensued, but demonstrators held their ground and proceeded to deliver the coffins. It was fitting imagery with the coffins laying at the feet of the "robocops" dressed in full black, standing guard for their fellow merchants of death.

The Arlington County Police also put out an absurdly low count of the demonstration, which was more than 10,000 people.

"This is the launch of the anti-war movement in the post-Bush era. Bush is gone, but the occupation of Iraq continues, the war in Afghanistan is escalating and the people of Palestine are living under a state of siege," stated Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition.

San Francisco

The San Francisco protest drew 4,000 people in opposition to the continuing occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. A spirited march proceeded from the Embarcadero along Market Street to Civic Center. The crowd, with a large proportion of youth, stopped at banks in the Financial District where the marchers chanted "Stop the war against the poor," "Occupation is a crime: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine!" and "Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!"

March 21, San Francisco, 03-21-09
San Francisco, Calif.

Among the speakers at the rally were San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar; Sharon Cornu, Alameda County Labor Council; Malik Rahim, New Orleans’ Common Grounds Collective; Jess Ghannam, National Council of Arab Americans; Tony Gonzalez, American Indian Movement; and Gloria La Riva, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

During the rally at Civic Center, police provoked the demonstrators by wading into the peaceful crowd, pushing, shoving and then arresting and clubbing demonstrators--some as young as 11 and 13--who had been engaged in a militant verbal exchange with a few dozen Zionists from S.F. Voice for Israel, who had been holding a racist counter-protest against the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. The police threatened the youth using anti-Arab racist slurs. During the encounter, ANSWER Coalition emcees and others called on the police to leave the plaza while the rally chanted "Hands off the people," and "SF cops out of Civic Center." Later in the day, six more arrests of Palestinian youth were made in a nearby transit station, bringing the total of the number of arrests to 10. More than half of those arrested face bails exceeding $50,000.

A significant contribution to the rally was made by three members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The veterans, who are living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, spoke out powerfully against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. One of the young men also spoke about his experience of racism within the U.S. military.

Interviewed for this article, Preeti Shekar of Berkeley said she had come to the event to "protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to make the connections between those occupations and Palestine." She opposed President Obama's plan to expand the occupation of Afghanistan and called for the people to make him accountable for his actions.

Mona Farooq and her husband Sharar heard about the protest from their mosque in San Jose, Calif. "I don't think people should ever give up marching, there is value in every action collectively and power in numbers." She spoke of the difficulty of finding work in the recent economic crisis and struggling with the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

Greg Miller of Health Care for All said it was "important to keep going because the war continues." Others chimed in that the troops are still not home, and he pointed out single-payer health care for all would be the best stimulus for the population.

While the bus from South Bay ANSWER was boarding to return to San Jose, several youth engaged with the reporters. "Even though Bush is out, the war continues. They didn't bring troops back from Iraq, but sent more to Afghanistan." They complained that due to the economic crisis and skyrocketing military expenditures, they have suffered cutbacks in course offerings at school and a reduction in bus service for students.

Los Angeles

"The Obama administration has continued the Bush plan on Iraq. But I've got something to say to the President: he must end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. And the government must begin taking care of veterans and all people right here in the United States. There are too many homeless; there are too many unemployed. Being in the streets today is the most important place to be."
Ron Kovic

March 21, Los Angeles, 03-21-09
Los Angeles, Calif.

Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of "Born on the Fourth of July" delivered a rousing, yet solemn speech to 4,000 protesters in Los Angeles on the sixth anniversary of the war. Kovic spoke at the end of the day as veterans and students delivered 40 coffins draped with Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian and U.S. flags to the doorstep of the Hollywood military recruitment center.

March 21 was a historic protest for Los Angeles because it was a militant, veteran- and youth-led action that culminated in a series of dramatic actions targeting the U.S. war machine. The surging energy of the crowd was palpable throughout the day.

A rally with community leaders, anti-war, union and student activists kicked off the action. "Today is a new beginning for the anti-war movement," said Michael Prysner, Iraq war veteran and member of the Veterans and Service Members Task Force of the ANSWER Coalition. We are initiating a new period of struggle against the racist policies of the U.S. war machine."

Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council denounced the U.S. government’s continued attacks on the Muslim community. He called for an end to U.S. wars, the occupation of Palestine, and for a revolution in the United States.

Other speakers included Hamid Khan, South Asian Network; Jollene Levid, GABRIELA Network; Christine Araquel, Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Blase Bonpane, Office of the Americas; David Clennon, Screen Actors Guild; Chloe Osmer, National Assembly to End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; Muna Coobtee, ANSWER Coalition and Free Palestine Alliance; Mahmud Ahmad, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Ryan Endicott, IVAW; Tina Richards, Veterans for Peace; Marylou Cabral, Cal State Long Beach student and leader of Youth and Student ANSWER; Carlos Alvarez, Party for Socialism and Liberation; Jim Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild; and others. Rebels to the Grain performed political hip-hop. The rally was chaired by Tamara Khoury, a Palestinian student and ANSWER organizer at Cal State Fullerton, and Peta Lindsay of ANSWER.

After the rally, protesters marched behind a procession of coffins through Hollywood to the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, the busiest area in Los Angeles. The march stopped in front of the famous Kodak Theatre where organizers led a symbolic "die-in" to dramatize the effect of imperialist wars on innocent people. Thousands lay down in the middle of the street as the sound of bombs and air raid sirens blared over loudspeakers. Scores of bystanders watched the action with rapt attention on the sidewalks nearby.

The end of the protest was the successful delivery of mock coffins to the recruitment station, where veterans and organizers faced off with a line of police.

"I'm a student who can barely afford to stay in school, and I'm so mad about the war and tuition hikes. This was the most powerful action I have ever been a part of. It makes me want to do more--everything I can, to stop this system," said Yasmin Abdullah, a Lebanese American student at Los Angeles Valley College.

Another protester, Miguel Herrera, a retail worker from East Los Angeles, told Liberation that he did not think people would protest after Obama got elected, but "now that we are out here together in the thousands, I'm so glad to be here. It really shows me that people can make a difference by coming together in common struggle."

The people, united, can stop the wars!

Kerbie Joseph, Keith Pavlik, Michelle Schudel and Ian Thompson contributed to this report.

--Articles can be reprinted with credit to the Party for Socialism and Liberation--


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" -- Most requested entry of the week, C.I.'s. (Most requested by readers of this site.)

"Afghanistan and Iraq," "AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ," "Roundtable Friday," "roundtable," "Roundtable," "Roundtable in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq and Afghanistan," "Roundtabling Afghanistan and Iraq," "Roundtable Friday," "Roundtable Afghanistan and Iraq," "Roundtable" and "Roundtable" -- Roundtabling Friday. Not planned but needed. Be sure to check this out because there is a huge cross section of topics including refugees and how the word gets out to fight disinformation.

"Iraq snapshot" & "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. covers the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearing on Chris Hill's nomination to be Ambassador to Iraq.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Celebrity President" -- Our Starlet-In-Chief, Barack.

"THIS JUST IN! SPENCER ACKERMAN & HIS KRYPTONITE VAGINA!" and "Spencer Ackerman has problems" -- Wally and Cedric offer media critique of the former New Republic writer Spencer Ackerman -- former because he was, of course, fired.

"Wanda Coleman," "julia alvarez, elizabeth schulte," "Gwendolyn Brooks," "LoVerne Wilson Brown," '"Straight Talk" (Judith Moss),' 'Melvin B. Tolson's "Napoleon Hannibal Speare",' "Ramon Guthrie, force-feeding" and "e.e. cummings, Iraq" -- Betty, Rebecca, Ruth, Kat, Marcia, Stan, Elaine and Mike cover poetry in this Tuesday night theme.

"Dorothy West," "cole swensen: is it poetry?," "Glyn Maxwell's Hide Now," "Latinos In Lotusland," "Jenny Schwartz God's Ear," "He thought he could write a book but he was wrong," "Wallas Shawn's Our Last Night" and "Neal LaBute" -- Betty, Rebecca, Ruth, Kat, Marcia, Stan, Elaine and Mike cover books in this theme Wednesday night post.

"What Ava and C.I. said, amen!," "The economy and more," "Langston Hughes, Isaiah" and "Iraq, Edna St. Vincey Millay" -- Betty, Ruth and Elaine covered poetry Monday night thereby influencing Tuesday and Trina's post influenced all week long. Call it the 'predictors'.

"Ted Rall: Wussie Boy" & "Norman Solomon, bust him on a morals charge" -- Needed media critiques from Mike and Betty
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