Note: The first two transmissions of this quarter were repeats of Episode #335 on December 20 and 27, 2004.
Episode #368: Celebrated As Success
First Broadcast: 1/3/05 Transmission began at 2:01:54 AM and ended at 2:29:47 AM.
We welcome in this new year on a sad note, like many others, talking about the tsunami that struck 11 nations on December 26, 2004. At the time we were taping, the death toll was estimated at between 70,000 and 100,000 people (it has since gone up to between 137,000 and 150,000 people as I write), but the first news reports in the U.S. estimated around 4,000 deaths, and quickly moved on to other items on the menu. Now, even though the very first preliminary reports estimated the tsunami deaths as being greater than the deaths at the World Trade Center in 2001 (over 2,800 estimated deaths at last count), and definitely greater than the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion (over 1,300 so far), why did the tsunami disaster receive so much less immediate coverage than either of those other two items? Was it because it was a natural disater instead of man-made destruction, or because it happened in Asia instead of America, or because it happened to brown people instead of white people, or because it happened to mostly Muslims instead of mostly Christians, or all of the above? Whatever the case, the news coverage of the event certainly has improved, but I still wonder about the initial decisions behind its media treatment. Additionally, we talk about how three of the latest recipients of the Medal of Freedom--which, since 1963, has been a reward for primarily civilian acheivement--were three of the stooges responsible for the carnage of the Iraq War, namely Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks, George "slam-dunk" Tenet, and L. Paul "This is not a country in anarchy" Bremer. We agree wholeheartedly with Sidney Blumenthal, that "These awards are signs that failure will be celebrated as success." We also agree with Representative John Conyers of Michigan, that the five big TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox) who collected data for exit polls for the 2004 Presidential election should release the data immediately for independent analysis. After all, if the difference between exit polls and official results was considered to be significant enough to require a whole new election in the Ukraine, could it also be significant enough to require a new election here as well? Or, at the very least, could it require a new vote in Ohio? Who can say?
Episode #369: Wonk Insurance
First Broadcast: 1/10/05 Episode began at 2:00:45 AM. Volume lowered by around 5 db relative to MNN's bumper. Transmission ended at 2:27:55 AM, cutting off the program before it finished.
This insurance is what I call the method of appearing to be on both sides of an issue by not voting on either of them, which seems to be the route taken by many of the Democrats in the House and the Senate during the Joint Session where the electoral votes were counted for the 2004 election on January 6, 2005. Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Ohio objected to Ohio's flawed results in the House, and Barbara Boxer from California objected in the Senate. The final outcome: 132 Representatives, 80 of them Democrats, did not vote on the issue; and 25 Senators also did not vote, 8 of them Democrats. And one of the more noticably absent Democrats was none other than John Kerry, who had the convenient excuse of being in Iraq at the time. As you can see from Kerry's statement on the matter, he's taken a page from the Clinton playbook of covering all bases at once:
While I am deeply concerned about the issues being highlighted by my colleagues in Congress and citizens across the country and support their efforts to highlight the need to ensure voting rights, I will not be joining their protest of the Ohio Electors.
To coin a phrase, we've had quite enough of that.
On another note, apparently God was annoyed with every living person in Southeast Asia, with various Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians insisting that God was punishing that part of the world with a tsunami because the people there were not Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian enough--take your pick. I personally don't think the 150,000 dead people were killed because of any punishment; I think they were killed because they couldn't get out of the path of the tsunami in time--radical concept, I'm sure. I think it's sad that anyone would use this event as an excuse to push their own bigoted religious views, much in the same way that some people used the events of September 11, 2001, to show how New York and the rest of the U.S. were somehow being "punished" by God. In my mind, anyone who subscribes to these "punishment" ideas might as well be a follower of Osama bin Laden, who also thinks that mass deaths are judgements by God against those who don't subscribe to his extreme fundamentalist creed. So, to those who may have viewed the tsunami as God's wrath, I ask you this: would you rather be in the same boat as bin Laden, or would you rather show a bit more tolerance, and make the world a better place by discouraging hatred and violence?
Episode #370: The Stuff, The Things, The Nouns
First Broadcast: 1/17/05
So, apparently, piling naked hooded prisoners into a pile in the shape of a pyramid isn't torture because "cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year," according to Guy Womack, the attorney for Sergeant Charles Graner, the "ringleader" of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That, and putting a leash on a naked prisoner and having him crawl on his hands and knees isn't torture either, because "You've probably been at a mall or airport and seen children on tethers; they're not being abused," according to the same lawyer. Fortunately, the military jury overseeing Graner's court-martial didn't fall for that bullshit, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison with a reduction in rank to Private, without pay. Unfortunately, the higher-ups responsible for this abusive interrogation policy (i.e., Bush, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, etc.) have yet to be called into court. Maybe the Germans will get involved, but I'm not holding out hope. Closer to home, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ordered that stickers which stated that evolution is "a theory, not a fact," be removed from biology textbooks in Atlanta. Luckily, he agreed that evolution itself is a fact. The exact nature of how and why it happens may be up for grabs, but the fact that it has happened and is happening is beyond dispute. So, there's at least one victory for science and reason out there. Will there be many more over the next four years?
Episode #371: Political Dress Barn
First Broadcast: 1/24/05 Transmission switched from MNN's "Coming Up Next..." bumper to black at 2:00:38 AM, then to our color bars at 2:00:54 AM, then back to MNN's "Coming Up Next..." bumper at 2:01:00 AM, then finally to the opening title of our program at 2:01:19 AM, with the audio 5-10 db lower than the audio of the "Coming Up Next..." bumper.
Repeated: 7/4/05 Episode began at 1:59:50 AM.
Watching the second Inauguration of George W. Bush was not something I'd recommend for anyone with a weak stomach. Fortunately, C-SPAN came to the rescue with live continuous coverage of Inauguration protests, which was a refreshing change from the usual vapid bullshit that passes for coverage of political events. That type of coverage, of course, was left to CNN, and they didn't disappoint in that respect. Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you look at it) of the events I saw on both channels on January 20th:
All your bullshit
All your lies
We will never compromise
-- protest chant at A.N.S.W.E.R. rally along Inauguaration parade route in Washington, D.C., C-SPAN, 2:48 PM
You are not my President
-- A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, C-SPAN, 2:49 PM
The real terrorists in the world today
are Bush, Cheney, and the C.I.A.
The biggest terrorists in the world today
are Bush, Cheney, and the C.I.A.
-- A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, C-SPAN, 2:52 PM
Lockheed Martin Profits from Our Children's Blood
-- sign at A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, C-SPAN, 2:53 PM
-- protestor's voice on CNN
"Sorry Tom, I'm gonna have to interrupt you, we're having trouble hearing you."
-- Wolf Blitzer shortly afterwards, CNN, 3:13 PM
"The protestors were much larger in the recent past, and more vocal in the past than they are today."
-- Barbara Kellerman, immediately after saying how the turnout for this year's inauguration was low because of security and the weather, and because it isn't free to get in, CNN, around 3:15 PM
"It would be unimaginable that [Bush] supporters wouldn't outnumber protestors here by a huge margin."
-- Jeff Greenfield speaking in Washington D.C., where people voted 9-1 in favor of Kerry in 2004, CNN, around 3:16 PM
"We should also remember that Washington D.C. is not red state country. It is the most solidly democratic territory in the country."
-- Jeff Greenfield, about 10 minutes later, CNN, 3:26 PM.
"I think they're paying a lot less attention to the protestors at this point, and who can blame them?"
-- Barbara Kellerman, speculating on whether George and Laura Bush were noticing the "non-sanctioned" protestors outside of the "protest zone" along the parade route, CNN, 3:28 PM
"As a dog-lover, I welcome the inclusion of dogs in this parade ... from all over the animal kingdom, this parade is really about inclusion..."
-- Barbara Kellerman, commenting on the appearance of rescue dogs in the parade, CNN, 4:11 PM
"I don't look for the President to answer all things in my life. That's Jesus Christ."
-- Dan Leithauser, "Bush voter" from Ohio commenting to reporter Carlos Watson about Bush's second term, CNN, 4:15 PM
And that didn't even include the Inaugural Address! I guess that'll have to wait until next week.
Episode #372: A Nice Little Detour
First Broadcast: 1/31/05 Transmission started at 2:00:30 AM at the episode title point, cutting off our "Free New York" title. Transmission ended at exactly 2:28 AM, cutting off part of our end credits.
The detour this week was a short reminiscence about Upton Sinclair and what may be his most famous work, The Jungle, and how this past week of cold weather in New York reminded me of this particular passage from that book:
This old house with the leaky weatherboards was a very different thing from their cabins at home, with great thick walls plastered inside and outside with mud; and the cold which came upon them was a living thing, a demon-presence in the room. They would waken in the midnight hours, when everything was black; perhaps they would hear it yelling outside, or perhaps there would be deathlike stillness--and that would be worse yet. They could feel the cold as it crept in through the cracks, reaching out for them with its icy, death-dealing fingers; and they would crouch and cower, and try to hide from it, all in vain. It would come, and it would come; a grisly thing, a specter born in the black caverns of terror; a power primeval, cosmic, shadowing the tortures of the lost souls flung out to chaos and destruction. It was cruel iron-hard; and hour after hour they would cringe in its grasp, alone, alone. There would be no one to hear them if they cried out; there would be no help, no mercy. And so on until morning--when they would go out to another day of toil, a little weaker, a little nearer to the time when it would be their turn to be shaken from the tree.
Funny, that's almost the same reaction I had after listening to George W. Bush's second Inaugural address. Diff'rent Strokes for different folks, I guess. (P.S.: The episode from last year that I mentioned was #337: Arctic! Arctic!!; and the Blackspot Sneaker is the anti-Converse.)
Episode #373: Forks And Spoons
First Broadcast: 2/7/05 Transmission began at 2:00:42 AM, cutting off a little bit of our "Free New York" title. Transmission ended at 2:28:00 AM, cutting off the end of our program.
This week, we go somewhat in depth analyzing George W. Bush's 2005 State of the Union address, spending time in disbelief at his claim that "Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims". Never mind that between regulatory inaction and industry refusal to police itself, sometimes lawsuits are the only ways people can make companies obey the law (and occasionally reform the law); recent episodes with Microsoft, General Electric, and--oh yes--Enron are good examples. I also got quite annoyed with Bush quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt twice in the same speech that proposed changing the nature of Social Security--as if FDR would ever endorse such a ridiculous notion as making sure that "a set portion of the money you earn" "can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds". Would that idea have ever been endorsed by the same man who said this:
In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The legend that they were invincible--above and beyond the processes of a democracy--has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten. . . . This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.
How about, instead of throwing a few trillion dollars of government money into the hands of corporations and shareholders--who, for the most part, are the wealthiest percentage of the population--we eliminate the income limit on the Social Security tax, so that someone who earns $1.5 billion a year actually pays more into Social Security than someone who earns $90,000 a year? (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Bill Gates.) Is it any coincidence that was the one option Bush didn't mention in his speech? You can read a more detailed account of my critique in this latest "Thought of the Moment," Dark Days and Lessons Learned, and maybe then The Nation will print it.
Episode #374: They're Also Paying With Their Lives
First Broadcast: 2/21/05 Transmission began with our countdown at "5".
First, we briefly discuss Warner Brothers' new concept for Bugs Bunny's futuristic descendants, the "Loonatics," who appear to be some of the more "menacing-looking" cartoon characters I've ever seen. Then, we discuss the body counts of both Iraqi civilians and "Coalition" soldiers since the Iraq war began, and how most of the American military casualties seem to be from "blue" states, and how even casualties from the "red" states seem to be from the bluer areas of the red states! Coincidence? Look at the maps of the casualties, the red and blue states, and purple America (and the Civil War, while we're at it), and tell me if I'm wrong, because I don't think I am. The U.S. has already wasted over $150 billion on the war to date; it needs to get out of Iraq immediately before it wastes any more money--or more lives, for that matter.
Episode #375: Jesus Holding A Press Conference
First Broadcast: 3/14/05 Transmission began at 2:00:19 AM, cutting off a portion of our opening animation. Transmission ended at exactly 2:28 AM, cutting off a portion of our end credits.
We start off by noting how several web sites have cropped up that are endorsing Barbara Boxer as a candidate for President in 2008. Considering that Senator Boxer unequivically opposes the Bush plan to privatize Social Security, rightfully took Condoleezza Rice to task for her and the White House's deceptive statements about Iraq's (nonexistant) weapons of mass destruction, and admirably objected to Ohio's electoral votes in light of suspicious activity in the 2004 election, Free New York thinks Ms. Boxer would be a very strong candidate for 2008. Additionally, I think the fuss over Ward Churchill's essay, "Some People Push Back," is misguided. Yes, in the essay he is very unsympathetic about the people who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (or, at least, about the "technicians" who died there), but I believe that Churchill takes this attitude to make the point that since so many "innocent" people have been killed by Americans over the years, Americans by default (and as a whole) are not nearly as innocent as they might be portrayed in their own media. I differ with his conclusion that those who were killed can be held just as responsible for the U.S. government's actions as those who do the government's planning, but I understand his rationale that if the citizens of Nazi Germany can be (and were) held accountable for their government's horrendous actions, then the citizens of the United States today can be held accountable for its government's horrendous actions as well. The problem is, since our current government seems to be just as unresponsive to its citizens' concerns as many undemocratic governments around the world, a good deal of America's citizens (perhaps half, or more) may be just as unresponsible for its government's actions as other innocent civilians are across the world. It's a point worth considering either way.