Sunday, September 28, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Back in 2006, after three years of failure in Iraq, George W. Bush agreed to a timetable for withdrawal from that country. He had little choice, because the Congress was in no mood to continue his war. But last week President Obama, by a vote of 273 to 156, was allowed a second throw of the dice in what may turn out to be an even larger war in Syria and Iraq and who knows where else. The reason that Obama’s wars have such longer shelf-life, is that Democrats will not oppose him, including such luminaries of the Caucus left wing as John Conyers and Maxine Waters, who were among the 23 Black members who gave the president a blank check, last week.

-- Glen Ford, "The Black Caucus 'Left' Wing Crumbles Before Obama’s War Machine" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

America has become unrecognizable, World Conquest in the air we breathe, a POTUS Caligula-like who feigns the persona of Mother Theresa, utterly corrupt in his professions of peace as he rolls out what has become shock-and-awe demonstrations to which the world, under duress, is becoming accustomed. Nothing out of bounds: Tomahawk missiles from offshore, waves of airstrikes, business as usual. Not a drop of hesitation, as lawyers dust off 9/11-era authorization for what is proving a never-ending onslaught, today, terrorists, tomorrow, Russia, the next day, China, then perhaps day after, dissidents, such that remain, in America itself, a rapacious, devouring, demiurge of insatiable conquest-at-any-cost.
Would ISIS even exist, had not the US sought to control the Middle East ever since the deposition of Mossadegh in Iran, the military build-up and defense of Israel, the American military bases throughout the region, the invasion of Iraq (fill in the in-between blanks, and carry forward to today)? America has not learned that repression breeds resistance, that counterrevolution establishes interconnections among the oppressed, that occupations and spheres-of-influence cannot (thank goodness) be made permanent. In every sense of the word, the US has CREATED what it now calls terrorism, the fruit of unwanted intervention, power politics, installing regimes which do our bidding.

-- Norman Pollack, "Mission Creep Turns Global" (CounterPunch).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Yet another Sunday.

First, we thank all who participated this edition which includes 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),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Glen Ford notches up another truest. 
As does Norman Pollack.
Barack just stirs up the violence and refuses to solve anything.
CBS found a way to make a madam boring.  Ava and C.I. take on Madam Secretary.
Betty brought this topic to the edition and we think it's a strong piece.
Normally, we just offer up our list.  But Ty wanted us to offer some more context for 1974.

Short feature!

This is more of a list piece. 
What we listened to while writing this edition.

Repost from Socialist Worker UK.

Repost from Workers World.

And Mike and the gang offer a look at the week's best.

We had some glitches when posting that we think we fixed.  Not all illustrations were showing.  They should be now.


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

Editorial: Scrambled Iraq

With The Common Ills hammering away for two weeks now on the White House's failure to work the diplomatic side in Iraq, to offer only military responses, Barack and company have slowly realized they need to beef up their game.

The State Dept goal this week is to work on the Cabinet, to work the new Cabinet ministers, to establish relationships and curry favors.

Yeah, that should have been done about 28 days ago.

But it's what they have to do now.

Have to do?

Well they can't focus on Parliament.

Yes, that's where the focus should be.

That's where new prime minister Haider al-Abadi's nominations for Minister of Defense and Minister o the Interior have been buried.

But focusing on the Parliament is a no-go this week and most of next.

Parliament's on vacation and won't be back in session until October.

It's one of those events a functioning White House would have prepared for.

See, it's the religious holiday of Eid.

It takes place every year.

Does no one in the White House own a calendar?

Apparently not.

And as Barack's bombings in Iraq continue to lose their shock value, the failure of the White House to work the diplomatic side becomes even more appalling.

The Common Ills has rightly noted Bully Boy Bush's surge was a failure.  It failed because additional US troops were sent into Iraq to address the violence and create a space for Iraq to find a political solution.

Barack's insisted Iraq needs a political solution.

But like Bully Boy Bush, Barack focused on military responses and forgot to work on political solutions.

Instead of helping, his plan has scrambled Iraq yet again.

TV: The Boring Madam

Last Sunday, CBS debuted Madam Secretary starring the always amazing Tea Leoni and we knew we'd love the show.

And then we watched.

Tea Leoni is pretty much amazing in everything.  Her finest film role remains Tina in the comedy classic Flirting With Disaster.  On TV, her finest performance was either season one of The Naked Truth or Flying Blind which she co-starred in with the equally amazing Corey Parker.

The two had chemistry.

There's no chemistry between Tea and Tim Daly on Madam Secretary.

They play a married couple and, early on, in bed, he says all these dopey things including that he's turned on by her masculine sexuality before begging her to tell him what to say.

It's a horrible scene and maybe penance for how he and his sister Tyne, after their father died, treated their father's male lover.  Tyne's gay fan base would be shocked to grasp that her role in Mothers &  Sons was a lot closer to reality than she'd ever liked known.

Tim's always been the better looking of the two, the pretty one.

And pretty's held up an amazingly long time for him.

But the acting really isn't there, even all these years into the career.

This is the most obvious in the final scene of the first episode

Tea's just pulled off another impossible scene, followed by filler, then walks into her office to find her husband.  She's excitedly talking away about the State Dinner she just attended when she notices his glum, sad sack affect.

Like the audience, she's puzzled.

Unlike the audience, she's puzzled briefly.

But we all caught on the moment she walked in the door.

So we've had time to wonder.

Did he get fired from his Georgetown job?  Is he leaving her?  Does he have AIDS?

It's not a good sign for her character, the show or Tim Daly's acting that any of the choices would have rung true.

Instead, he's there to tell her about a death.  Put a pin in that.

Tea's the new Secretary of State.

Some say she's playing Hillary Clinton, but she's about two decades too young for that.

Bebe Neuwirth's in the cast.  She's worth noting.  She and Keith Carradine are about the only ones worth noting.

Carradine's playing the President of the United States. He's giving a strong performance in a limited role and with bad hair.

We make a point to note his bad hair because it makes no sense.

Tea arrives in  DC and the White House chief of staff (not worth naming -- he was lousy in Heroes, he was lousy in Revolution, he's lousy in this series as well) is insisting Tea get a sleek make over and sends a stylist to her office.

Does anyone think Keith looks sleek?

We're not asking for a faux hawk but couldn't he at least have something as contemporary as Chris North's hair on The Good Wife?

The show wants so much to be like The Good Wife.  Sadly, it may be.

Not like the series in its first two seasons when it could do no wrong.

But like The Good Wife ever since they tried to make domestic abuse sexy by having Kalinda be sexually aroused when her estranged husband beat her.

Ever since audiences rejected that horrible storyline, the show runner and writers of The Good Wife have struggled to figure out what they're doing.

Or maybe they're just bound and determined to punish the audience for rejecting their sick storyline?

It is in the outlandish terrain of the current incarnation of The Good Wife that Madam Secretary comfortably fits.

Remember when Tim Daly's there to announce something?

It's a death.  And he can't act without words but he may be even worse when he's given dialogue.

He tells Tea someone's died.

Does he gasp?

Does he gulp?

Does he struggle?


Okay, those would have been solid acting choices.

But there are many more.

For example, the news might force him to blurt it out.

It's uncomfortable news, he might not be able to sugar coat it.

So blurting would be a solid acting choice.

Tim Daly doesn't make acting choices.

He's just a cute, little doll who, when you pull his string, says the lines written with little to no emotion.

Like Steven Weber on Wings, Tea Leoni is acting rings around Daly.

And that's part of the problem with the show beyond the lack of chemistry between Tea and Tim.

Tea is an amazing actress, probably one of the ten most underutilized in the US today.

But the writers appear so enamored with Tea's skill that they've written showy (and meaningless) scenes that offer no character unless Tea's supposed to be the kid in the class who never put her or his hand down.

It's not just that she never shuts up (will she ever not get the last word?), her character's also in competition with everyone.  In big scenes and minor scenes, she's forever in a pissing match.

And forever winning.

On big matters, she's right.  This includes when two young Americans are arrested in Syria.  The Chief of Staff wants to send the Navy Seals in.  She wants to use back channels.  He railroads her (mainly because she doubts herself briefly -- only she can defeat herself!) and it turns out she was right.  To get face time with the president, she goes around the Chief of Staff and convinces the president to do her back channels. Negotiating with Syria, she tells the man assisting her no to the $2 million request, it will be $1.5 million and it will be food and medical supplies and you tell Syria the world can be a lonely place and . . .

She just knows everything, doesn't she?

You don't the half of it unless you watched.

Two of her staff, one of which is her speech writer, barge in about an innocuous statement she needs to issue.  Though this is their job, she's the one who knows how it should be worded and, not only that, she gets a little dig in about how they are paid to do what she just did.

Dining with a head of state from a foreign country, she knows it's the time, in front of his many wives, to bring up AIDS and his failure to move on AIDS education.  It's a tense moment but she was right.

She's always right.

Meeting, on the street, two tourists from Minnesota, it's not enough for her to let that 'land of a thousand lakes' slide by, she has to correct it by noting it's more like 15,000.

Is Ms. Know It All an actual character or the winning contestant on this week's Jeopardy?

We have no problem with intelligent women.  The first two seasons of Body of Proof, for example were largely wonderful and flawless and we applauded Dana Delaney's Dr. Megan Hunt.  But medicine is a field you study and learn.  It's a bit like mathematics.


Politics is constant learning.  The social science is considered a pseudo science by some exactly because there are so many variables.  So Tea's character knowing everything and never being wrong is more like a Monday morning quarterback with time travel ability and less like a real person functioning in current times.

And what's the point of this show?

That one woman is amazing and wonderful and smart and can do everything?

We were dismayed by scene after scene of Tea with men.  Other than Tea, Bebe's the highest ranking woman in the administration apparently -- and she serves under Tea.

Where are the women?

Some might argue this is reflective of Barack Obama's miserable record with regards to women as Cabinet Secretaries.


But Keith Carradine is not performing his role in Black face.  Meaning he's an Anglo White male and the press has never had any problem calling that group out for lack of diversity.

It's 2014 and this show has been created and it's pure crap.

They don't even give Tea a female friend.  Getting to see the president, we learn, was done by her calling up the First Lady who is a friend.  We don't see the call.  Hell, we don't even see the First Lady.

That a woman created this show is appalling.

That all this time later, we're still having to call out these Deanna Durbin 1,00 Men and a Girl type TV shows is disgusting.

So is the false notion that Tea's playing Hillary.  Madeline Albright was the first woman to be Secretary of State.  That was in the '90s.  In the '00s, Condi Rice became the second woman.  In the '10s, Hillary became the third.

And in the '10s, when Madam Secretary is set, why are you creating a show which endorses and amplifies Queen Bee?

Would Tea's know it all character really stand out less if she wasn't the only woman with power in the room?

Apparently so.

And apparently scenes proving that a woman can do it all -- or close to it -- are what someone thought TV needed.

Madam Secretary plays out like a Little Golden Book instructional.

We're supposed to cheer the (hollow) character Tea plays as she one ups everyone.

This episode, she one-upped Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, the US press and the American president.  Where does she go from there?

It's not a storyline.

Not even to one of Joan Crawford's working girl flicks of the thirties.

And if you're not getting how bad it is, those young Americans in Syria?

When Tea visits the parents (to instruct them not to talk to the press), she's even competing with them.  The parents are explaining the two guys are largely non-political and Tea has to inform her son is an anarchist and here's what she'd do.

It's all so off putting.

The dead guy?

The one Daly announces the death of?

In his sole scene early in the episode, the not-yet-dead guy announces there's some conspiracy going on with the administration, it involves cover ups and Venezuela and he can't say much because he's at Tea's home and the house is probably bugged.

When she learns of his death, a single-car accident, he hit a pole, she knows -- and she knows so we know it must be true -- that his death was no accident.

Those two scenes were about the only ones of any real interest.

As a Scandal rip-off, Madam Secretary may have a future but as a weekly testimonial to the power of one woman (and just one woman) it's a yawn-fest.

CIA Pet?

Gloria was a rescue animal.


Gloria had, she herself admits, traveled on CIA money while in college.  If she traveled on the money, then she did so

The CIA found Steinem in college and, needing a front, hired her to spy on youth activists participating in a 'radical' European festival.

She explained, before she became feminist Gloria, that she wasn't troubled by working with the CIA because they were progressive.

After the festival, Gloria went to India, a trip that resulted in her first published book because, in the early sixties, the big book craze was writers you never heard about before writing about India.

Oh, that wasn't a big book craze?

Well somehow, she landed the book contract.  Even with bad writing.  Gloria's writing has improved over the years but she's still not able to write a book -- as she demonstrates repeatedly.

She can do journalism but journalism isn't really book writing -- not the kind of books she tries to write anyway.

So it really is amazing that this woman with nothing to point to and no one to network -- other than the CIA, of course -- ends up with a book contract.

It's amazing that this woman does this -- and does it as Betty Friedan's writing The Feminine Mystique which more than documents the obstacles so many women face in trying to work.

But not the coed with no claim to fame.

While other women struggle, while a name like Anais Nin has to self-publish, Little Gloria lands a book deal.

And then it's back or 'back' to work for the CIA post-college.

These are many other issues -- does a feminist really let Henry Kissinger stick his cock in her? -- are why The Redstockings asked about Gloria's CIA past.

She'd brought it on herself by, in 1976, refusing to stand with feminists at the DNC convention and instead insisting that women needed to stop demanding from the Democratic Party and instead accept what was being offered.

Moments like those stood out.

Gloria was this little nothing journalist who stroked a lot of male egos -- Norman Mailer, Clay Faulkner, Jimmy Breslin, etc. -- and was the mini-skirted token or mascot as a result.

She posed as a Playboy Bunny and did other stunt journalism to call attention to herself.

And then, suddenly, she notices the feminist movement.

And then, just as suddenly, she's the leader.

Yes, as Susan Faludi's noted in Backlash, the ascension was in part due to the media's love of a young(ish) blond.

But it's hard to think of any political movement where a neophyte moved from spectator to leader so quickly.

It's also hard to think of any political movement which was (briefly) so open that Gloria could move up and then quickly closed ranks to ensure that no one ever rose up to challenge her.

The Redstockings did challenge her.

They were there at the beginning.

They had done the work.

And they weren't 'disgruntled.'

They were puzzled.

The feminist movement, which they'd helped lead, had challenged and fought and, as a result, you had reproductive rights, abortion rights, more women in the media, a dawning realization that house work was work, and much more.

This resulted, again, because women challenged and fought.

Then came 1976 and, four years of the humiliation of women in Miami (a DNC convention that left Gloria crying in public), the 'leader' of the feminist movement was not fighting, was not challenging but instead fighting for the Democratic Party honchos (and fighting against feminism) while insisting women needed to accept the crumbs offered them.

(If you're new to Gloria's 1976 stab in the back, see  Veronica Geng's "Requiem for the women's movement," the November 1976 cover story of Harper's.  And for ab earkuer take from 1972 that paints Gloria as a sell-out to women, see Germaine Greer's "McGovern, the big tease" from the October 1972 issue of Harper's.)

It is in this environment that Gloria's CIA past became an issue.

Before becoming a feminist 'leader,' Gloria loved to talk about her CIA past.  You can find print interviews and video interviews of her doing just that.

After becoming a feminist 'leader,' she acted as though those days never existed.

And when confronted by the feminist movement, she outright lied.

She minimized what she'd done and then insisted that she'd spoken and the book was closed.

Maybe Betty Friedan's questioning of Gloria's CIA involvement was just that ravings of a woman of a certain age being pushed aside by a younger woman.


Of course, that's a really sexist explanation.

Another explanation is that Betty truly believed Gloria was destroying feminism.

Looking at all that's been lost under her 'leadership,' we'd say Betty was concerned for good reason.

We'd also say that Gloria's only real contribution to feminism has been modeled weakness and subservience to existing power structures. It's past time the elderly woman explained whether that was by intent or she's just inept.

Top ten singles of 1974

Forty years ago,  films like Chinatown, The Godfather II, The Conversation, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Parallax View, Claudine, The Girl From Petrovka, Young Frankenstein, The Man With The Golden Gun, For Pete's Sake, The Sugarland Express,  Herbie Rides Again, Murder On The Orient Express, Blazing Saddles, Phantom of the Paradise, A Woman Under the Influence and Thieves Like Us were making their mark.

Americans were reading Stephen King's Carrie, Lois Duncan's Down A Dark Hall, Judy Blume's Blubber, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's All The President's Men, Elmore Leonard's 52 Pick Up, Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstine, John le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Maya Angelou's Gather Together In My Name, Patricia Highsmith's Ripley's Game, Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Agatha Christie's Poirot's Early Cases: 18 Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Marilyn Monroe's My Story, Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, Patricia Neil Warren's The Front Runner, Kurt Vonnegut's Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, Angela Y. Davis' An Autobiography, Jackie Collins' The Love Killers (originally published as Lovehead), Noam Chomsky's The Chomsky -- Foucault Debate: On Human Nature, Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew's Mystery of the Glowing Eye, Grace Paley's Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Doris Lessing's The Memoirs of a Survivor and Danielle Steel's Now and Forever.

And music?

We're boiling down all the hit singles of 1974 to the ten best.

1) Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me"

2) Steve Miller Band's "The Joker"

3) Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye's "My Mistake (Was To Love You)"

4) Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love"

5) Carly Simon's "Haven't Got Time For The Pain"

6) Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love"

7) Ashford & Simpson's "Everybody's Got To Give It Up"

8) Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You"

9) Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me"

10) Joni Mitchell's "Help Me"

Giving Them What They Want

The press bursts into applause as Eric Holder leaves the room and his post as Attorney General.

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