05/20/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- This Time They’re Keeping Her

When the phone call with the results from mom’s blood tests came we were looking for an elevated white count, but her white count was fine. The nurse practitioner told me that mom’s creatinine level had gone from 1.6 to over 3 and that she wanted to touch base with mom’s doctor and get back to me. Before I even sat the phone back in it’s cradle it rang; it was mom’s doctor telling me that she thought mom was in kidney failure and needed to get to the ER.

I call the ambulance, I call my sister, I text my other sisters. I have to call my mom’s one surviving sister. I don’t want to, this is her baby sister, it’s hard. I’m going to her 90th birthday party at the end of this month and I thought I’d be going with mom, but that’s not going to happen.

The ambulance pulls up and I walk out to direct them up the steps. The neighbors from across the street, Marv and Gloria, are detouring from their route to their car to come over to me. Will she be all right? They didn’t know it was that bad. Of course they’re concerned–she was in the hospital having my childhood playmate Butchie at the same time mom had me. There’s not that many old timers left on the street, but another one is waiting for me at her door as I come back to my porch after Gloria’s hug. I fill her in and she asks how my dad is holding up, tells me she’s worried about him. I assure her that I’m looking after him too.

The EMTs bring mom down the steps in a chair-like contraption and she is smiling. I tell her that she looks like a queen, she smiles even wider. They stop at the bottom, so I lean in and give her a kiss, tell her I love her, that the hospital will get her fixed up and she’s going to be okay. Then they take my mom away. My dad goes in the ambulance with her. Sissy will meet them there. I want to go, it feels like somebody is physically squeezing my heart when that ambulance pulls away without me, but I can’t go. My kids will be home soon, and Cleetus needs to leave for work.

I sit and wait for the phone call. When it comes I’m not surprised that they want to keep her. She doesn’t need dialysis, they can treat her, they can keep her hydrated, it will be for the best, I know this is true. Still, I’m worried. Will they let dad stay with her? Will she be scared? Is it just for one night? I don’t know. I wish I was there.

The Iraq Invasion Was Based on Lies & The MSM Knew It. (Up Date)

There are those of who knew that the Bush administration was lying about the intelligence that led up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Rolling Stones‘s Matt Taibbi put it, the invasion was as much a joke then as it is now and he calls out the media for their hypocritical “hounding of Jeb Bush” over his really stupid answers about his brother’s war. They seem to have forgotten their own complicity in the banging of the war drums.

So presidential hopeful Jeb Bush is taking a pounding for face-planting a question about his brother’s invasion of Iraq. Apparently, our national media priests want accountability from leaders on this issue. [..]

We can call this the “None of us pundits would have been wrong about Iraq if it wasn’t for Judith Miller” line of questioning. This rhetoric goes something like this: since we invaded, the war has gone epically FUBAR, so it’s obvious now that it was a mistake, and so we can mock you for not admitting as much.

But because of Judith Miller, it wasn’t obvious even to all of us geniuses back then, which is why virtually every media outlet to the right of Democracy Now! (MSNBC included, as old friend Alex Pareene wittily pointed out) got it wrong for years on end, back when this issue actually mattered.

Go back up a few paragraphs and look at that list of media outlets. All of them – the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times obviously, the Chicago Tribune – they were all card-carrying Iraq war cheerleaders.

I get that many of the individual writers involved in bashing Jeb this week were not the same writers who whored for the Bush administration back in the day. [..]

But the individuals aren’t the issue. It’s the general notion that the Iraq War issue was some kind of tough intellectual call that we all needed hindsight to sort out. It wasn’t, and we didn’t.

It was obvious even back then, to anyone who made the faintest effort to look at the situation honestly, that the invasion was doomed, wrong, and a joke. [..]

The Iraq invasion was always an insane exercise in brainless jingoism that could only be intellectually justified after accepting a series of ludicrous suppositions. [..]

That’s why the lambasting of Jeb Bush by all of these media voices grinds a little. At least plenty of Republicans sincerely thought the war was a good idea. But I know a lot of my colleagues in the media saw through the war from day one.

The bulk of them hid behind the morons in our business, people like Tom Friedman and David Brooks and Jeffrey “I trusted the Germans” Goldberg, frontline pundits who were pushed forward to do the dirty work, the hardcore pom-pom stuff.

Many others, particularly the editors, quietly sat by and let lie after lie spill onto their papers’ pages, telling themselves that this wasn’t wrong or a mistake until years later, when we found out for sure the WMD thing was a canard.

Hundred of thousands of people have died because none of these people in the media had the courage to stand up to the Bush administration’s lies.  Thousands are still dying and will continue to die at the hands of the militants the Iraq war unleashed and at the hands of the Obama and future US administrations under the guise of another lie, the Global War on Terror. The MSM continues to justify the invasion and this slaughter with the parade of pundits, both neo-con and neo-liberal, who refuse to mention their own complicity.

Up Date: 5/22/2015 19:30 EDT In an exclusive web interview with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nareem Shaikh, Matt Taibbi discussed his article and the complicity of journalists and the mainstream media in the run up to the Iraq war.

Transcript can be read here

Guilty As Charged But Nobody Goes to Jail

The new Attorney General Loretta Lynch proves why she should not have been confirmed, as she rubber stamps the same weak polices of her predecessor Eric Holder regarding the prosecution of the “Too Big to Jail” bankers.

5 Banks to Pay Billions and Plead Guilty in Currency and Interest Rate Cases

By Ben Protess and Ben Corkery, The New York Times

Adding another entry to Wall Street’s growing rap sheet, five big banks have agreed to pay about $5.6 billion and plead guilty to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates, federal and state authorities announced on Wednesday.

The Justice Department forced four of the banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland – to plead guilty to antitrust violations in the foreign exchange market as part of a scheme that padded the banks’ profits and enriched the traders who carried out the plot. The traders were supposed to be competitors, but much like companies that rigged the price of vitamins and automotive parts, they colluded to manipulate the largest and yet least regulated market in the financial world, where some $5 trillion changes hands every day, prosecutors said. [..]

A fifth bank, UBS, will also plead guilty on Wednesday to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, a benchmark rate that underpins the cost of trillions of dollars in credit cards and other loans. Federal prosecutors had previously agreed not to prosecute the Swiss bank over the Libor scheme. But in a rare stand against corporate recidivism, the Justice Department voided that non-prosecution agreement after learning that UBS was also taking part in the effort to manipulate currency prices.

The guilty pleas, which the banks are expected to enter in federal court in Connecticut on Wednesday, represent a first in a financial industry that has been dogged by numerous scandals and investigations since the 2008 financial crisis. Until now, banks have either had their biggest banking units or small subsidiaries plead guilty. But with the four banks charged with currency violations, the guilty pleas will come from their parent companies. [..]

For the banks, though, life as a felon is likely to carry more symbolic shame than practical problems. Although they could be technically barred by American regulators from managing mutual funds or corporate pension plans or perform certain other securities activities, the banks have obtained waivers from the Securities and Exchange Commission that will allow them to conduct business as usual. In fact, the cases were not announced until after the S.E.C. had time to act.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Wall Street watchdog group Better Markets weighed in on the lack of any criminal prosecutions:

Better Markets called it a “slap on the wrist” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an e-mail: “That’s not accountability for Wall Street. It’s business as usual, and it stinks.” [..]

Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a non-profit group, said that the Justice Department had not done enough, saying “it talks tough, but winks at Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks’ criminal conduct, structuring sweetheart deals to minimize the impact on the criminals.”

Kelleher said the fines alone wouldn’t deter future criminal acts and that the Justice Department should punish bank executives and their supervisors for bad behavior. “Banks don’t commit crimes, bankers do,” he said.

Warren said “the big banks have been caught red-handed conspiring to manipulate financial markets, and several have even admitted in court that they’re felons – but not a single trader is being held individually accountable, and regulators are stumbling over themselves to exempt the banks from the legally required consequences of their criminal behavior.”

At Esquire Politics, Charles Pierce is not impressed by Ms. Lynch:

What a fake. What a fraud. What an insult to any stick-up kid doing five-to-fifteen for robbing a bodega. The banks don’t even have to look between the cushions on the sofa for the loose change they’ll use to pay the fines. They get to use their stockholders’ money to pay the fine. [..]

This is altogether remarkable. Here we have a staggering series of crimes that did very real damage to thousands of people all over the world. Here we have a staggering series of crimes, but not a single identifiable criminal. Who rigged the markets? The bank buildings? A shadowy cabal of ledgers? Motorcycle gangs made up of quarterly reports? This is the only area of criminal justice where law-enforcement actively avoids identifying anyone as a criminal.

Let us face facts. Within these institutions, there have to be hundreds of people who were involved in some way with a scam this large. There were people who supervised those hundreds of people, and people who supervised them. Somewhere, in that mass of criminal activity, I’m willing to bet something substantial that a human being committed an actual crime.

But, no. “The banks” get fined. This is just too freaking hilarious.

After all this evidence and investigation, not one person has been arrested. Sure some were fired at insistence of some regulators, but never criminally charged. So, the crooks are still getting away with breaking the law. Fines are a joke. Most of these banks will recoup those fines in less than a day and, at the end of the year, deduct them as business losses, so the tax payer once again foots the bill. I would hardly call that a victory. It’s a joke.

Good Germans (Again)

Kind of a follow up to yesterday’s piece- Illinois Abu Ghraib.

Government Seeks ‘Emergency Stay’ of Decision Ordering Release of Thousands of Torture Photos

Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

May 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM PDT

In March, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York was no longer willing to tolerate the government’s secrecy arguments or the government’s refusal to individually review each photo and explain why each photo would pose a national security risk if made public.

The judge immediately issued a temporary stay and gave the government 60 days to file an appeal.

With that 60-day period about to elapse, the government abruptly announced it would appeal on May 15 and filed a motion requesting a stay.

Back in August, when Hellerstein ruled that the Secretary of Defense’s certification for keeping the photos secret was “inadequate,” the government was instructed to individually review the photographs and inform the court of why each photograph could not be released. Government attorneys rebuffed his request.

In October and February, the court reminded the government that the Secretary of Defense had to certify each picture “in terms of its likelihood or not to endanger American lives.” It explained again afterward that the government could not certify a mass of photographs as a risk to national security. The government never complied, which led to the judge’s decision in March.

The government maintains in its motion that an “emergency stay” will cause minimal harm to the ACLU. On the other hand, no stay will mean the photographs are released and the “status quo” is destroyed. It will harm the ability of the government to appeal.

“The absence of a stay will cause the disclosure of records that the Secretary of Defense has certified to be exempt from disclosure under the PNSDA, a statute that was enacted by Congress in order to protect U.S. citizens, members of the US Armed Services, and US government employees from harm while overseas,” the government argues.

According to the government, the Secretary of Defense’s certification of the photographs is not subject to “judicial review.” They could remain in secret in perpetuity if the Secretary of Defense kept re-certifying them as a risk. The district court also erred in making its own “assessment of the likelihood of harm, based upon its own analysis of the military situation in Iraq. That was reversible error.”

While it is true that the “status quo” will be preserved if the government is granted an “emergency stay,” the ACLU suggests that is no argument for automatically granting such a stay because a stay will make it possible for the government to “continue to evade its statutory responsibility of openness to its citizens.”

This impacts the ACLU, which has worked to educate the public on the torture and abuse committed by US officials and military personnel. If the photographs continue to remain secret, the American public will remain in the dark on the extent of torture committed in their name.

Roasting the Chicken Farm Industry

On HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.

As they satiate America’s vast, gnawing chicken hunger, the four big poultry companies use a system of contract farmers that leaves many of those actually raising the chickens taking on debt and living below the poverty line. With a business model that sees farmers taking on all the expenses of equipment and infrastructure – subject to frequent demands for upgrades – while the corporations own the actual chickens, “That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money,” Oliver notes. To make matters worse, he reports that the big poultry companies are known to retaliate against any farmers speaking out against the practices.

Toward the end of the segment, Oliver gets into the legislative meat of the issue: although protective rules for poultry farmers have been written, they are not enforced, thanks to a rider inserted into the agriculture appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing the rules. Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur introduced a measure forbidding such retaliation, which failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee the first time around. But since the committee is meeting again next month and Kaptur might propose her provision once again, Oliver has a solution.

Introducing the 51 voting members of the committee, Oliver suggests citizens engage in a particularly delectable form of rumor-mongering for those who don’t vote in favor of Kaptur’s provision: “Because chickenfucker accusations do not come off a Wikipedia page easily.”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vnaden Heuvel: The GOP Still Doesn’t Get It on Iraq

During a friendly interview on Fox News, a Republican presidential hopeful from Florida was asked a simple question: Was it a mistake to go to war in Iraq?

“No, I don’t believe it was. The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn’t run Iraq,” he said, adding, “Hindsight is always 20/20, but we don’t know what the world would look like if Saddam Hussein was still there.”

That interview took place in March; the candidate was Sen. Marco Rubio. [..]

The uproar on the right was especially remarkable given that hawkish foreign policy has become something of a litmus test in the Republican primary. At the recent South Carolina Freedom Summit, Rubio summed up his strategy toward global terrorism by quoting Liam Neeson’s character from the movie “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.” In addition, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker-who previously suggested that his crackdown on Wisconsin’s public-sector unions prepared him to take on the Islamic State-told the crowd that the United States needs “a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.”

Britney Cooper: White America’s Waco insanity: The shocking realities it ignores about racism & violence

The response to the Twin Peaks shootout says everything you need to know about how white privilege really works

Malcolm X was different. His unflinching honesty about the evils of white racism made even King, formidable orator that he was, scared to debate Malcolm in public. Though he eventually toned down his rhetoric about the people that he was known to refer to as “white devils,” he never backed down from holding white people accountable for their investment in and perpetuation of white supremacy. For instance, in a 1963 public conversation and debate with James Baldwin, Malcolm X told him, “Never do you find white people encouraging other whites to be nonviolent. Whites idolize fighters. …At the same time that they admire these fighters, they encourage the so called ‘Negro’ in America to get his desires fulfilled with a sit in stroke, or a passive approach, or a love your enemy approach or pray for those who despitefully use you. This is insane.”

And indeed we did get a front row seat to such insanity this week, when three biker gangs in Texas, had a shootout in a parking lot that left nine people dead and 18 people injured. More than 165 people have been arrested for their participation in this thuggish, ruggish, deadly, violent, white-on-white street brawl but there has been no mass outcry from the country about this. Though these motorcycle gangs were already under surveillance because of known participation in consistent and organized criminal activity, as Darnell Moore notes at Mic, “the police didn’t don riot gear.” Moore further notes that “leather and rock music weren’t blamed,” and there hasn’t been any “hand-wringing over the problem of white-on-white crime.”

Amy B. Dean: The Democrats need to stand for something

The Republican vision for America is disastrous. Do Democrats have an alternative?

Anyone who donated to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 or has given money to support a liberal Congressperson is regularly bombarded with fundraising emails from the Democratic Party. Their consistent focus: the overwhelming imperative of stopping the Republicans.

A recent blast from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office warns, “House Republicans just passed a budget that would hit middle class families hard.”

And when Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, the Democratic National Committee sent an email, studded with ominous photos of Republican presidential candidates, reading, “She’s In For 2016 … So We Need To Know Right Now … Are You?”

But what, exactly, are we supposed to be in for?

Other than vague bromides about “the middle class” and “our values,” it is not clear what the Democratic Party offers as an alternative to conservative ideology. The true believers at the base accept this weak tea because the Republicans are so extreme. But the rallying cry of “stop the other guys” is hardly going to inspire the unconverted.

Gwen Moore: Food stamps for filet mignon? Hardly, despite what paternalistic politicians say

Americans on programs like Snap and Tanf are becoming the target of punishing policies that robs them of their dignity

When you’re trying to feed your family and stretch a dollar, steaks and short ribs don’t make it to your grocery list. As one of nine siblings in a low-income household in Wisconsin, my mother made a habit of buying inexpensive stewing meat for us. These tough cuts of beef came in handy when shopping on a budget, but if Missouri lawmakers have their way, stewing meat will be off the menu for the working class.

Republican State Representatives have recently introduced legislation (pdf) that would regulate the kind of groceries one can purchase with taxpayer money, banning sales with food stamps for “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.”

Impoverished Americans and the social safety net programs they depend on have increasingly become the target of forced political paternalism. Politicians at the local, state and federal levels have set behavioral standards as a condition to receive public assistance, ranging from ridiculous to outright unconstitutional. Implemented under the guise of fiscal responsibility and self-sufficiency, efforts to regulate the activities of low-income Americans have emerged all over the country.

Zoë Carpenter: ‘I’m Going to Call a Drone and…Kill You’ and 9 Other Insane Things Lindsey Graham Has Said

The field of Republican presidential contenders does not want for hawks. Marco Rubio is already talking about attacking Iran. Jeb Bush has stacked his foreign policy team with his brother’s neoconservative advisers, including Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz. Scott Walker wants to be “a leader that is willing to take a fight to them before they take the fight to us.” Even Rand Paul has proposed to increase defense spending. (As for the other side, Hillary Clinton has plenty of questions v] to answer about her [support for military intervention.)

Now the flock is about to get a candidate to out-hawk all the others: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is expected to announce his bid for the White House on June 1. “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart; I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy,” he said Monday on CBS This Morning.

Graham’s foreign policy is essentially a philosophy that force can solve most problems. He pushed aggressively for the invasion of Iraq, for putting boots on the ground in Libya, and for military intervention in Syria. Graham isn’t unique for trying to peddle violence-it’s the fear he uses to market military action that makes him stand out. From his claims that Saddam Hussein was “flat-out lying” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that “chemical weapons in Syria today means nuclear weapons in the US tomorrow,” to his assertion that ISIS “will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world,” Graham’s track record is a long, terrifying trail of hyperbole.

Karen Hansen-Kuhn: Trade Rules Create Obstacle Course for a Better Food System

There were some decidedly Kafkaesque aspects of the Congressional debate this week on Fast Track legislation, designed to speed through the passage of secret trade deals that could have a serious impact on our food system. At first, the Senate refused to approve a bill to limit debate on Fast Track. Then, when the Senate did approve that bill, it turned out the real debate over Fast Track wouldn’t be happening in the Senate at all, but rather in the House (but not yet). [..]

So much of the debate on free trade agreements is about unmasking the corporate agenda in what appear to be obscure legal texts. “Free trade” agreements are for the most part not about trade at all. Writing about Investor-State Dispute Settlement (included in both TPP and TTIP) in The Guardian this week, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz commented, “Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the 21st century.”

These rules matter for our food system as well. Whether it’s the GMO labeling law in Vermont, limits on eggs produced in battery cages in California, or ambitious efforts to connect farmers, eaters and decision-makers in food policy councils across the country, people are taking action to create new rules to rebuild our broken food system. On those issues, the bottom line is that trade deals create new obstacles to change.

The Breakfast Club (With A Little Help From My Friends)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Charles Lindbergh begins his trans-Atlantic flight; Amelia Earhart starts her trek across the Atlantic; Freedom Riders attacked in the South; Explorer Christopher Columbus, comedienne Gilda Radner die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Gilda Radner

On This Day In History May 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 20 is the 140th day of the year (141st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 225 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1896, the six ton chandelier of the Palais Garnier falls on the crowd resulting in the death of one and the injury of many others. The falling of one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier resulted in the death of one person.

This incident, as well as the underground lake, cellars, along with the other elements of the Opera House even the building itself were the inspirations of Gaston Leroux for his classic 1910 Gothic novel, The Phantom of the Opera.

The ceiling area, which surrounds the chandelier, was given a new painting during 1964 by Marc Chagall. This painting was controversial, with many people feeling Chagall’s work clashed with the style of the rest of the theater.

The Palais Garnier, known also as the Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier, but more commonly as the Paris Opéra, is a 1,600-seat opera house on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris, France, which was the primary home of the Paris Opera from 1875 until 1989. A grand building designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque (or “Baroque Revival”) style (it is also said to be of the related Second Empire style), it is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time.

Upon its inauguration during 1875, the opera house was named officially the Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris. After the opera company chose the Opéra Bastille as their principal theatre upon its completion during 1989, the theatre was re-named as the Palais Garnier, though Académie Nationale de Musique is still sprawled above the columns of its front façade. In spite of the change of names and the Opera company’s relocation to the Opéra Bastille, the Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opéra, as have all of the several theatres which have served as the principal venues of the Parisian Opera and Ballet since its initiation.


The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, who chose Baron Haussmann to supervise the reconstruction. During 1858 the Emperor authorized Haussmann to clear the required 12,000 square metres (1.2 ha) of land on which to build a second theatre for the world-renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies. The project was the subject of architectural design competition during 1861, and was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825-1898). The foundation stone was laid during 1861, with the start of construction during 1862. Legend is that the Emperor’s wife, the Empress Eugénie, asked Garnier during the construction whether the building would be built in the Greek or Roman style, to which he replied: “It is in the Napoleon III style, Madame!”

Last Chance to See (Part 2)

I have written Letterman diaries, probably more than you think.

By 2007 I was a regular participant in The Daily Show / The Colbert Report diary series at Daily Kos.  When those shows were on vacation or Tia Rachel needed a break, I would cover the repeats, fill in the gaps, and handle the new shows.  I looked on my activity as similar to that of a lighthouse keeper or a convenience store clerk, you don’t expect much business but you keep the door open for the poor souls who really need it.  I don’t celebrate holidays much so it was no hardship for me.

Now when David Letterman signed with CBS in 1993 he did two incredibly smart things.

First of all he hired anyone from his old show who wanted to come along.

Second he hired anyone from his old show who wanted to come along.

Let me explain that a little.  He started his own production company, World Wide Pants, who contracted to provide a work product, Late Show to CBS.  CBS could air it or not, they could extend the contract or not, but employees of World Wide Pants worked for David Letterman.

Not CBS.

David signed their pay checks, he decided who was hired or fired, and if any of the ‘suits’ from the network didn’t like how you were doing your job they could take it up with the boss or go pound sand.

So at the end of 2007, after many years of fruitless negotiation, the Writer’s Guild of America went out on strike.  Most longer term productions simply shut down to wait it out.  Networks ran re-runs.  However there is a substantial amount of scripted television, like talk and reality shows that were expected to continue providing fresh content.  Reality TV tried to argue that it was not scripted to which the reply was- yeah, and Professional Wrestling isn’t either, so they had to shut down too.  Also the initial part of the strike took place over holiday season when many talk shows would be on hiatus anyway.

Some talk show hosts, like Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert used this time to feign solidarity with greater or lesser degrees of sincerity, but there came a time when their corporate masters said- hit the set or the street and we don’t care how sucky the show is.  As I recall Jay sucked a lot because he’s the most over rated comic of his generation and is nothing without his writers.

I don’t know how Jon and Stephen fared, I’m not a scab.

The concept of the ‘suits’ was that if you could inflict pain on the writers by demonstrating television would go on and on making money without them forever, they’d give up.  The hosts were ordered back to work under their ‘performers’ contracts to inflict that pain and to be fair to Jon and Stephen they did publicly offer to pay what it took to get their writers back.  That request was refused because it didn’t bring enough pain.

They didn’t have David Letterman contracts.

Before the strike even began Dave inked a separate deal with the WGA (Is that all you want?  Here’s the check.).  His show ran seamlessly and when CBS started talking about bringing the pain he looked at them and said- See this contract?  You can take me off the air or you can go pound sand.

I was on watch at the beginning of the strike and had quickly switched to Late Show as an alternative inspiration.  When it was announced that Jon and Stephen would be crossing the line Tia who’d been sitting it out said- Ok, they’re back.  Thank you for your service.

Um… strike’s not over yet.  Until the Union writers are in their cubicles I am covering the real deal and not scab shop replacements.

She has probably never forgiven me, I wouldn’t have because now it wasn’t enough just to do it, I did it better.

As is the case now in my exile.  Everything I write is crap, but it’s quite practiced and craftsman-like crap and I do it more regularly than almost anyone I can think of.  Once in a while I’m tempted to write more or deeper but that would simply raise everyone’s expectations.  I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now and while I don’t imagine I’ll have a Letterman like 33 year streak I’m not as tired as I used to be and less tempted by bright and shiny objects.

Tonight’s guests-

There will be at least one more piece tomorrow.