Sunday, April 13, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Chicagoland is an eight part miniseries-length campaign infomercial for Rahm Emanuel first airing a little less than a year before his mayoral re-election bid. Chicagoland is produced for the Sundance Channel by Brick City TV LLC, the same crew who did a similar "documentary" to boost Newark NJ mayor Corey Booker's political career in 2009-2010. Chicagoland does what every commercial tries to do, sell its audience a product and/or proposition without having that audience engage in any rational thought about it. The product is Rahm Emanuel's 2015 re-election run for mayor, and the proposition is putting happy faces on austerity, punitive policing, privatization, and “cities that work” for the wealthy and well-connected; the neoliberal vision of life in urban America.

-- Bruce A. Dixon, "CNN's Chicagoland -- An 8 Part Miniseries Campaign Commercial for Rahm Emanuel & Urban Neoliberalism" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

In his testimony, Snowden said the NSA has “specifically targeted the communications of either leaders or staff members in a number of purely civil or purely human rights organizations…including domestically, within the borders of the US.” Snowden said that the NSA has been targeting “peaceful groups, unrelated to any terrorist threat,” citing surveillance operations against the United Nations Children’s Fund. The NSA engages in indiscriminate spying based on a “de facto policy of guilt by association,” Snowden said.
Snowden’s remarks come as yet another refutation of the US government’s claims that the surveillance operations are directed exclusively against terrorist plotters. Instead, the spying apparatus targets billions of telephone and Internet users worldwide, with special attention going to critics of, and rivals to, US imperialism.

-- Thomas Gaist, "Snowden says NSA spying on civil rights organizations" (WSWS).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, 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?

Bruce A. Dixon gets another truest.
We believe this is Thomas Gaist's first truest. 
It's really not that hard.  
Ava and C.I. pull in a number of elements to note a construct and who imposes it and how it harms.  As you read, ask yourself when you last read an article that worked in Carly Simon, Anais Nin, Joni Mitchell, Judy Chicago, Joan Crawford, Jerry Lewis, Mark Shields, Marilyn Monroe, The CW, 30 Rock, Rosemary's Baby and more?  This is a mamoth piece.

Dona sits down with Ruth, Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I. about last week's veterans hearing in Congress. 
Our parody piece.  We want to come back to it next week with another take.  
What we listened to while we were writing.
She really is something and none of it's good for Iraq.

Kate Randall told the truth.
From Senator Patty Murray's office. 
Repost from Socialist Worker.
From Patty Murray's office. 
Workers World repost. 
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: If the US wants to reduce the violence in Iraq . . .

If the US government wants to reduce the violence in Iraq, it's not that hard: Get rid of Nouri al-Maliki.

Not Quite There

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Not Quite There."

The Iraqi people attempted to get rid of Nouri in 2010.  Their votes put Iraqiya in the lead.  Nouri lost to Iraqiya.

Instead of supporting the results of a democratic election, US President Barack Obama had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract which overrode the vote of the people to give loser Nouri al-Maliki a second term as prime minister.

And it's been all out hell ever since.

It doesn't have to be that way.

As explained in Saturday's "I Hate The War:"

What is termed 'al-Qaeda' in Iraq is actually a group of bodies.  Their only common issue at present is opposting to Nouri's rule.
Want to break them up right now?  Pay attention, Barack -- remove Nouri from power.
That requires no troops.  It only requires an honest election (as took place in 2010) and that the results be honored (which did not happen).
If Nouri is not prime minister for a third term, you're going to see the bond that binds the various groups break away.
Violence, once another person is named prime minister-designate, could actually fall as a result.

No third term for Nouri could provide a brief respite in violence as everyone waits to see what a new leader means.

No third term for Nouri could mean that a loose grouping of rebels, militants and others no longer share a common bond.

The solution is so easy.

And, as C.I. noted in "I Hate The War," preventing Nouri's third term doesn't require bombs or bullets, it just requires that the White House get honest and stop covering for Nouri.  Talk about how refused to honor The Erbil Agreement, talk about how for his entire second term, as violence has grown worse and worse, he's refused to nominate people to head the security ministries.

Iraq has no Minister of Defense, for example.  They haven't for four years.

This is huge in a country where violence has been increasing.

If the White House briefed on that, if the State Dept. did, the press would have to include those details in their reports.

Maybe the solution is missed because the obvious root of the violence is so often overlooked?

February 20, 2014, C.I. explained the root cause:

Grasp what took place in 2010, the voters unseated Nouri.  But Barack wouldn't allow that to happen. And that's why Barack's hands are just as bloody as Nouri al-Maliki's are.  He ensured the tyrant stayed in power and he refused to demand that the power-sharing contract (one he ordered negotiated) be honored.
When a people have voted out a violent dictator but he stays in office?  When their other political leaders go through legal procedures to remove him from office but the Constitutional measure are not honored?  When the people take to the streets to protest and they're ignored?
What the hell is left but violence?
If you need something more than my take, in August the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State" and this was their take on Hawija:

As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

Why is it that US officials never want to talk reality?  Because doing so would mean taking accountability.

Need another source?  Here's Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi (CSIS) from two days ago:

Iraq’s main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. The 2010 Iraqi elections and the ensuing political crisis divided the nation. Rather than create any form of stable democracy, the fallout pushed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate power and become steadily more authoritarian. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat further destabilized Iraq.

Their votes were rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama, their Constitution was rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama.  

And that's why Iraq is where it is today, veering from one crisis to the next.

TV: The lines drawn

As Carly Simon once sang, "What do they want, what shall we do about them?"


Last week was a series of head shakers and sighs as we realized how the lines drawn weren't being redrawn in a way to benefit women.

We were still the other.

Trina put us wise to Stephanie Hallett's "What Women-Led Movies Can Do for Hollywood" (Ms. magazine's blog) which noted "the Bechdel Test -- a standard that requires films to have at least two women characters who have a conversation on a topic other than men -- actually have a better return on investment than films that don’t pass the test."

What a load of crap.

We hadn't heard of the 'rule' but we knew enough as women to sniff out discrimination when we smelled it.

Why the hell wouldn't women's conversations about men matter?

And is it men or is it sex?

Actually, it's sex with men.  Lesbian Alison Bechdel popularized the rule.

Which is why women having a sexual conversation about women would be okay by her rules but women having a sexual conversation about men wouldn't be okay.

In other words, it's all f**king bullshit.

So was the coverage of (and embrace of) it on NPR.  Listen to Neda Ulaby say the following and spot the mistake:

Of course, there are shows that follow the Bechdel Rule. In "Brothers and Sisters" on ABC, women talk about the family business. On NBC's "30 Rock," women talk about what's funny.

What women, on 30 Rock, talked about what was funny?


Liz Lemon was surrounded by men.  When she spoke to Jenna it was about men or her problems.  When she spoke to Cerie it was to give an order. There were 14 members of the cast who got billing in the opening credits over the run of the show.  11 were men.

What women, Neda?

What women were around for Liz to talk funny with?  The glorified extra Sue?

The Bechdel Rule?

We're straight women and we'll support all women up until one starts telling us what we can talk about or what's subjects have value.

At that point, we flip you the middle finger.

Did the feminist movement not already fight this battle once before?

(Yeah, we did.  In the seventies.)

Alison Bechdel is apparently ignorant of that and seem to think her sexual desires were more important than those of straight women.  Ourselves, we're happy to respect and honor her desires.  But we'll be damned if we'll let her get away with slamming our own.

Shame on her and shame on Ms. for promoting such a stupid 'rule.'

We do grasp, don't we, that by Alison's rule, a film with a scene of a feminist consciousness raising group where two women -- both straight -- discuss the division of labor in their homes wouldn't pass the so-called rule.

Alison Bechdel  should have grasped long ago that when devising 'rules,' you aim for inclusion of all, not just think up what turns you on.

Here's Walt Hickey (538) running wild with Alison's bullshit rule:

One of the most enduring tools to measure Hollywood’s gender bias is a test originally promoted by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in a 1985 strip from her “Dykes To Watch Out For” series. Bechdel said that if a movie can satisfy three criteria — there are at least two named women in the picture, they have a conversation with each other at some point, and that conversation isn’t about a male character — then it passes “The Rule,” whereby female characters are allocated a bare minimum of depth. 

We're sure Walt loves Alison's rule.

A number of men would -- certainly men born before the sixties.

And they would love Alison's rule for the very reason that women need to talk about men.

The reason that women -- pay attention, Alison -- need to talk about men includes safety.

If, in a movie, two women pull over to the side of the road and get a table in a bar, if there's a man watching them, should those two women not be discussing him?  Should they not be asking is he a predator or a prince or somewhere on the spectrum in between?

What shall we do about them
When they move into your neighborhood
They take over but good
They want you all body and soul
Then it's just your body
Then they go
What shall we do about them

-- "Them," lyrics by Carly Simon, music by Carly and Mike Mainieri, first appears on Carly's Come Upstairs album.

What shall we do about them?

In a comment to the Ms. magazine post, Trina noted:

Myself, I would propose a different test. Does the main female have a female friend? If not, it’s probably not very reflective of women’s lives. Think about how many films feature women --  usually only one but sometimes the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ woman -- and women have no female friends.
Ava and C.I. have a theory about that and I’ll try to get them to write about it.

We do have a theory, Trina's correct.

Why are women so often invisible in the films of so many men?  Oliver Stone, for example.  If a woman appears, she's a token and she's got no friends.

Why is that?

Think back to high school.  When a guy wanted to approach a girl, what did they most often do?

Peel off the friends.

Using cunning or their own male friends or whatever, guys would attempt to isolate the girl they wanted.

They felt a little more secure, a little stronger, when she was by herself.

And this is how some guys prefer it and they reflect it over and over in one film after another.

Think of Rosemary's Baby.  The 1968 horror classic has Guy Woodhouse frightened only twice.  This is the man who makes a deal for the devil to impregnate his wife.  He's scared, and rushes home, when Rosemary's elderly male friend Hutch visits,  But as scared as Guy is in that scene, he's sweating bullets in another when Rosemary's old female friends attend a party and talk to her -- he's frightened by Rosemary speaking to other women.

Sweating bullets.

Afraid of what the women will share with one another.

One of them asked me to dine
Then he ate me all up
Got full and then he blew me up
I got big and round and lovable
He saw I was immovable
He got bored, went to war
I got one baby, he's giving me more
Once I swore I'd never give myself up

Women sharing their experiences is never a 'waste' or 'wrong.'  Women sharing their sexual experiences, their love affairs, their marriages is not a 'waste.'

The personal is political.

That is a point that second-wave feminism made clear.

If you're Alison Bechdel or similarly clueless, click here to stream (at For The Vault) this 1972 conversation feminists Anais Nin and Judy Chicago.

"Once I swore I'd never give myself up."

Spoken by one woman to herself it has some power.

Spoken aloud to other women is has immense power via recognition.

When women realize their experiences aren't isolated actions but part of a larger system, their is the strength of discovery and the possibility of collective action.

On TV, where can you find scripted programming that tells women's stories?

Not on NBC where every new show this fall and spring season has starred men.

Two e-mailers disputed this statement when we last pointed out NBC's sexism, "About A Boy isn't just an NBC sitcom, it's also their programming strategy."

The two pointed to Crisis.  Good try, but the star of that show is Dermot Mulroney.  Rachael Taylor isn't even the co-star.  She's very talented, we've praised her work before, but she's not the star.  There's also something a little sad about a soon to be 30-year-old woman (July) being bossed around and bullied like the character she plays.

Even Fox is better than NBC.  If your ranked the others in order of progression in terms of female portrayals, it would go CBS, then ABC and, at the top, The CW.

With the exception of Supernatural, all the scripted shows feature women prominently.  The Originals, Reign, The Vampire Diaries and Arrow have all been renewed for next season.

Questions still linger over the state of Hart of Dixie, Tomorrow People, The 100, Beauty and the Beast, The Carrie Diaries and Star Crossed.

Thursday, Marcia noted the rumors that Hart of Dixie, Star Crossed, The Carrie Diaries, The Tomorrow People and Beauty & The Beast.  She noted that The CW should actually renew all and use them to avoid the constant repeats that have plagued networks this season -- a season when the February Olympics gave them several weeks off but they still are plagued with repeats.

Renew those five shows for 12 episodes each an you could have a winter season.  End the shows like Arrow with a winter cliffhanger at the end of November or the first week of December and then air those five shows (with repeats from select other shows) for 12 weeks as a winter season before returning Arrow and the rest of the fall shows in March to finish out their run with no repeats at all.

Marcia also pointed out, "And axing Beauty & the Beast isn't just a bad move due to the quality of the show, it also risks angering the viewers who are embracing The CW these days."

She's exactly right.

The CW really had its best year and should be thinking of how to thank the viewers and expand next season. Beauty & the Beast fans are loyal -- even the switch to another night didn't result in mass defections.  Hart of Dixie is another show that shouldn't get the axe.  It's (a) the only real 'adult' show on the network and (b) able to be plugged in anywhere on the schedule and get solid ratings. The Tomorrow People is a show with problems (which can be fixed and some already have been) but as we noted in February, "We'd love to see a second season of The Tomorrow People because -- even keeping Robbie in the lead -- this could be an excellent show.  Pretty much everything can be fixed with a shift in tone, better sets, better hair, make up and lighting.  But season one has played out like an extended pilot that needed -- but never received -- a tight edit."

The 100 is just awful.  The best that can be said for it is that it conveyed how governments lie to make their actions sound benign.  For example, when the government on the space arc kills someone, it is said they "floated" the person.  That's sounds so much more gentle than what happens when the person is sucked out into space.

Otherwise, you're left with a show about building a new government on earth where the lesson is you need to lie to the citizens and this government is led by a glum little princess who is played by Eliza Taylor.  She's either so glum because resident bad boy Bellamy (Bobby Morely) has bigger breasts than she does or because she's played by a one-note actress who holds the record for being the worst actress on The CW in this or any other season.  Princess has no female friends and is surrounded by countless men though there's a woman headed from the space arc to earth who will . . . hate her when she finds out princess has slept with the woman's boyfriend.

Star Crossed is a promising show with real chemistry between the leads (Aimee Teegarden and Matt Lanter), a strong supporting cast and improved plot points with each episode. The Carrie Diaries is doing better on Fridays then Nikita did last fall.

This has been the best season The CW has had artistically speaking since it came into being.  These are building blocks that any network would kill for -- especially NBC which is finding out that About A Boy was a premature ejaculator and each broadcast finds less and less viewers tuning in.

I know that them we are not
I have loved them a lot
And I have loved a lot of them
You could say that I'm experienced
Enough to know that they are aliens
Do you keep them away, beg them to stay
Say it's O.K., do it their way
I used to swear I'd never give myself up


Men of a certain age certainly are and proved it repeatedly last week.  To note only two examples . . .

Friday on The NewsHour (PBS), 'analyst' (hack) Mark Shields said of Kathleen Sebelius, "She was secretary of HHS. She stepped up manfully, to use a bad adverb. She took responsibility. She took accountability. She apologized."

Mark Shields wanted to compliment a woman and the only thing he could think of was "manfully"?

That's the standard for praise, in 2014, that's how we judge a woman?

As the sixties were ending, Joni Mitchell used to explain the way Reprise marketing execs responded to her first album, "They said I didn't have balls.  Since when do women have balls anyway?  Why do I have to be like that?"

Exactly.  And Joni's a trailblazer who's proved that she can write classic songs on her own terms, explore her own muse and leave a lasting body of work, become a legend.  And she did that not by aping some man but by being herself.

But 'herself' isn't good enough for Mark Shields clearly by his use of "manfully" to praise women.

Which begs the question of why is Mark Shields on the show?  Why, every Friday, is America presented with male experts unless it's vacation time and Ruth Marcus gets to fill in as one of the two experts?

Mark Shields is paid to 'analyze' on The NewsHour and his best 'analysis' is to say a woman acted "manfully"?

That's when it's time for the 76-year-old man to be shown the door.  His day is done.

By the mid-sixties, Jerry Lewis' day was done as well.

But he's still leaving a filthy ring around America's bathtub.

Most recently, he did so on Saturday.

Like Alison Bechdel, Jerry wanted to dictate what women could and could not talk about.

Jerry Lewis has repeatedly and publicly said in recent years that women aren't funny.

Saturday, he wanted to expand on his 'thoughts,' "Seeing a woman project the kind of aggression that you have to project as a comic just rubs me wrong. And they're funny -- I mean you got some very, very funny people that do beautiful work -- but I have a problem with the lady up there that's going to give birth to a child -- which is a miracle."

His attempt to rationalize?

It's as full of crap as he is.

A woman can do whatever she wants and her actions do not need the approval or Jerry Lewis or Alison Bechdel.

But there's another aspect of Jerry Lewis' remarks: He's a damn liar.

His supposed 'respect' for women?

March 2, 1953, Bob Thomas (AP) interviews Joan Crawford and she notes Marilyn Monroe's entrance at the February Photoplay Awards in a skintight dress, "It was like a burlesque show.  The audience yelled and shouted, and Jerry Lewis got up on the table and whistled."

Yeah, Jerry, deep respect for women.

No respect for women.  That's what it really comes down to.

And, consider it progress, a woman can impose restrictions on other women as Alison Bechdel has done and now she is the measure for some people, she has defined the unit and determined what is and is not acceptable.

Anais Nin: You know, we've had so many things taboo.  But one of the things that surprised me the most when I went around and talked to women's studies about women's writing and talked about how women writers had developed this extraordinary faculty for perceiving human relationship within a very small circle and that this quality could be transferred to larger issues -- you know, could be preserved and transferred to larger issues.  And I, if you'll remember, somebody said once, 'When women are good at this they call them interpersonal relationship and when men do it, they call them diplomats.'  And I said, 'Of course we can transfer this into diplomacy and always with the hope of ending war."   

Feminism is not about telling a woman she can't talk about this or that.  Feminism is not about saying a woman can't do stand up or that, if she's a comic, she can't or shouldn't be 'crude.'

Feminism is about choices.

What we need on the screens -- big and small -- is our lives reflected.

And the notion that we, as women, are served by tokens is laughable.

It doesn't reflect our lives.

It does try to tell us that 'normal' is women who live apart from other women -- what we long ago called the Deanna Durbin syndrome (100 Men and a Girl).

It's a construct that isolates women on screen.

It's a male created construct.

And it's a construct that needs to be torn down.

It'll never be torn down when portrayals of women in film and TV is judged not on the world the women live in onscreen but only on whether or not -- in one brief scene -- they had names and spoke of something other than men.

Congress and veterans


Dona: Last Wednesday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing with regards to the lack of accountability on the part of the VA.  Joining me for a discussion of the hearing are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Ruth of Ruth's Report, and Wally of The Daily Jot.  All attended the hearing and Ava and C.I. reported on the hearing in "No accountability at the VA (Ava)" and  "Iraq snapshot."  Longterm reader Keith, an Afghanistan War veteran, e-mailed to say how "grateful I am for both reports. I made a point Thursday to go to the website and stream the hearing" -- click here for that -- "and I still can't get over it.  This was an important hearing and thank you to Ava and C.I. for covering it.  I really want to underline that I laughed at C.I.'s coverage of Congresswoman Corrine Brown but didn't get how truly awful she was until I streamed the hearing.  Brown is no friend of veterans and, as a Democrat, that really saddens me."  US House Rep. Corrine Brown is from Florida as is our own Wally.  Wally, your thoughts?

Wally: I agree with Keith.  It's sad.  I also thought it was hilarious the way C.I. covered it.  Brown's an idiot and an airhead who appears to spend all her time shopping for bad wigs.  When she was babbling on --

Dona: Hold on.  Here's a section of what C.I. wrote:

It was a rare moment of coherence for Brown.  And she actually stood with veterans . . . while reading from her prepared remarks.

Then she wanted to insist, at the end of the first panel, that the VA is not broken: "I don't feel like it's broken, I feel like we need to do what we need to do to fix it."  Which would imply a break.

Hey lady, you lady.  Corrine Brown quickly got lost in her Charlene impression as she declared she'd been to "those areas in Florida or Tampa" -- yes, Florida is in Tampa, don't expect logic from Corrine Brown -- "I've been to, or Jacksonville or Gainseville or Lake City.  I mean, I've been to California . . ."

and anywhere I could run
I took the hand of a preacher man
and we made love in the sun

Poor, Corrine Brown, she's "been to paradise but I've never been to me."

Well, for a few moments she wasn't the biggest joke on the Committee.  We're being real kind and not quoting Loony Corrine Brown telling a man with stage-four cancer that she's got a friend that the hospital released and told him he was as good as dead but, somehow, maybe one of her magic wigs, he's still alive today.  If the story's true, Brown really needs to learn to edit herself and grasp that cancer patients don't need lectures or your hopium.  Loony Corrine Brown.  We're going to need two straight jackets -- one for her wig.

Wally:  Yeah!  I'm laughing right now.  But Brown's so stupid "in Florida or Tampa"?  So stupid.  And when she started listing places, I looked over at C.I. who was furiously taking notes and grinning and when Bown said she'd been to California, I knew what C.I. was thinking.  Brown's a real idiot and I thought C.I. really exposed that.

Kat: And the moment when she was telling this veteran, Barry Coates, who has stage-four cancer, when she was lecturing him on this didn't have to be a death sentence and he could have a full and happy life if he'd just grab a positive attitude because she had a friend once, who got released from the hospital, and he was told he'd be dead within a month, but he wasn't.  She sounded so patronizing, so stupid and was declaring a war on science.  Can someone shut that woman up?  She's so stupid.  Every veteran we spoke to after the hearing ended was offended by Brown and how dare she lecture a veteran with stage-four cancer.

Ava: Well, I mean, let's back up.  Barry Coates has stage-four cancer because of the VA.  He went to doctors for a year before he got the help he needed -- and then only because he refused to accept waiting six months for an exam -- and during this time his cancer got worse.

Dona: Right.  This is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller, "Mr. Coates waited for almost a year and would have waited even longer had he not actively, persistently insisted on receiving the colonoscopy that he and his doctors knew he needed.  That same colonoscopy revealed that Mr. Coates had stage four colon cancer that had metastasized to his lungs and his liver.  Maybe that is why VA does not want to define accountability in terms of employees who have been fired."

Ava: And that's correct.  If they'd done their job, the VA, Barry Coates' cancer would have been caught much earlier.  Yet Corrine Brown wants to offer snake oil and lecture him.  She needed to shut her damn mouth.  She's such an idiot and she never knows what words sh's using, she's an embarrassment to the entire Democratic Party.  But the hubris of the whorish woman.  Insisting to Barry Coates that the VA is not broken?  After what he's been through.  She's an idiot, a damn fool.

Ruth: She is justifying the VA's actions and minimizing the pain Mr. Coates was in as well as minimizing him being in stage-four today.  Try to understand that he was dismissed as having hemorrhoids.  He came in presenting with the symptoms that should have resulted in an immediate colonoscopy but instead Mr. Coates' pain and suffering was minimized by a VA doctor who insisted it was just hemorrhoids.  There are 19 deaths that we know of.  That we know of, as US House Rep. Julia Bronwley pointed out, there are likely more.  And Chair Jeff Miller pointed out that just one death is one death to many.  Ms. Bronwley is a Democrat, Mr. Miller is a Republican.  On both sides of the aisle, everyone seemed to get how important this was -- everyone except for Corrine Brown.  And she did not just minimize what took place -- criminal actions, if you ask me, and I was married to a doctor, this is malpractice, that is what we are talking about although no one wanted to use that term in the hearing -- but Ms. Brown not only minimized it in the abstract, she minimized in the concrete, she minimized it with an actual person who suffers, whose life is shortened and will likely pass away soon sitting in right in front of her.  Ms. Brown is a joke and she is a very sick joke.

Dona:  Alright, thank you all.  Let's move to a different point.  Barry Coates never got an apology from the VA for this.  C.I., you report how this was an issue in the first panel, members of Congress -- not Corrine Brown of course, but actual representatives -- were asking Coates about this and there was no apology.  And as if realizing the oversight, the VA's Dr. Thomas Lynch runs over to Coates to offer a quick apology before testifying so that he can tell the Committee that he apologized to Coates.

C.I.: And if you didn't get that the apology was fake and for show, you weren't paying attention.  Before even starting in on reading his written testimony, Coates tells the VA that he'd just apologized to Barry Coates.

Dona: I want to get that part of the report in:

"Before I walked up here, I apologized to Mr. Coates," the VA's Lynch wanted to insist.  Yes, yes, you did.  At a Congressional hearing, after Barry Coates had testified -- and testified that no one in the VA had apologized to him, after Coates was done testifying and right before Lynch was about to, he rushed to get in a quick and perfunctory -- we all saw it -- 'apology.'  And to make clear just how insincere it was, Lynch wanted to make his first statement to the Committee, before he started reading from his prepared remarks, "Before I walked up here, I apologized to Mr. Coates."  Give him a gold star -- for insincerity. Coates had stated he did not receive an institutional disclosure (Chair Miller had specifically asked) and to make the 'apology' even more insincere, Lynch wanted to immediately rush into "if he did not receive an institutional disclosure" -- it's not if.  It's testimony to the Committee. 

Dona: And there was no accountability.  That's what Miller had feared would happen.  And the other representative, the woman who cried because her father was a veteran who had died of colon cancer --

C.I.:  US House Rep. Jackie Walorski.

Dona: Thank you, I was trying to find that section.  What state is she from?  She's first-term right?

C.I.: This is her first term.  She's from Indiana.

Dona: Let's put an excerpt of her exchange with Barry Coates in here.

US House Rep Jackie Walorski:  I sit here as a freshman lawmaker, so frustrated that there's a bureaucracy that's out of control and if this happened in the civilian world, where negligence was proven time and time again, we would be in the street with signs saying 'shut them down.'  It's an outrage, is what it is. This is an outrage.  And so, I just join the rest of my colleagues here.  This isn't a partisan issue.  This is an American disaster that we have sat here and witnessed -- for me, probably 16 months.  And if I could change your circumstance, I would. I would do it in a heartbeat.  [Sharp intake of breath.] 

Barry Coates: Thank you.

US House Rep Jackie Walorski:  My dad -- [Voice breaking] My dad . . . was a veteran . . . that died of colon cancer.  [Sniffling] This is so personal to me. And as a Committee, I can tell you right now what the VA's going to say when they sit here. They're going to say what the Chairman read in his opening remarks.  They're going to give us long dramatic answers and nothing is going to change unless we in this Congress -- on the House and the Senate side -- decide to stand up and take on one of the biggest issues in this nation -- which is this negligence toward taking care of the people who fight for freedom, fought for liberty and allow us to sit and serve in a place called the US Congress. 

Dona (Con't):  Okay, how often is it that a member of Congress cries at a hearing?

Kat: Have we seen anyone do that before?

Wally: Al Franken in the Senate.

Kat:  Oh, yeah.

Dona: So it's rare.  What was that like watching it?

Wally: I don't think anyone was appalled or even embarrassed.  I think there was gratitude that someone on a Committee could really relate to a veteran sitting before the Committee.  Walorski clearly was sincere and her frustration was visible.

Ruth: The VA's Dr. Lynch showed up for this hearing last week.  This is an important point to me, sorry.

Dona: No, it's fine bring it up.

Ruth: He shows up for this hearing where the first panel is veteran Barry Coates and a spokesperson for the American Legion.  He shows up knowing Mr. Coates will be testifying.  He shows up knowing he will be asked about Mr. Lynch's case.  And yet what does Dr. Lynch tell the Committee?  "I have not received specifics of his situation and I assure you I will."  If you want a better example of the VA not caring and not being accountable, there it is.  Dr. Lynch does not even bother to call for the records and review them before attending a scheduled hearing when he knows he will be asked about the specifics of Mr. Coates' case.  That really goes to how the VA does not give a damn.

Kat: Very good point, Ruth, very good point.

Dona: And the VA shows up at one hearing after another promising  accountability but it never comes.  The Committee can't even get their requests for information from the VA honored in a timely manner.   As of Friday, these are the statistics on the outstanding requests:

Number of Outstanding Requests: 103
Three Oldest Outstanding Requests: June 5, 2012; December 4, 2012; December 12, 2012
Requests Pending since 2012: 3
Requests Pending since 2013: 109

Requests Pending Longer than 60 days: 63

Dona (Con't):  That's from the Trials In Transparency page of the House Veterans Affairs Committee website.

Wally: We were talking earlier about the 19 deaths.  Since we're talking about VA's refusal to answer the Committee in a timely fashion, let me point out that Chair Miller noted in the hearing, "It concerns me that my staff has been asking for further details on the deaths that occurred as a result of delays in cases at VA medical facilities for months, and only two days before this hearing did the VA provide the information we have been asking for."  If the hearing hadn't been scheduled would they have even gotten that information?

Ava: I seriously doubt it and I don't understand why this isn't a bigger issue -- a department's refusal to promptly answer to Congress.  Congress has oversight responsibilities.  It cannot carry out its duties without having the information they need in order to evaluate and determine what's actually taking place.  That the VA is unable to provide timely responses is appalling.

Kat: No request from Congress should take more than 60 days for the VA to respond to.  That some are a year old or older is just disgusting.

Ava:  And the VA just keeps lying and making empty promise.  I'm quoting from a section C.I. emphasized in her report on the hearing, this Chair Jeff Miller:

On the 22nd of February,  in a Health Committee hearing, Dr. [US House Rep Dan] Benishek asked Dr. [Robert] Petzel to provide a list of circumstances surrounding the removal of six SES employees over the last two years.  Dr. Petzel promised at that hearing that he would provide that information at the end of that week -- this is February 26th.  It's been six weeks since the Committee asked for the information.  We have not received it.  

Kat: Exactly.  They'll lie in a hearing and say, "You'll get the information at the end of the week."  But over a month later, they still won't have it.  You have to wonder why VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is unconcerned and not raising hell over this -- until you realize that this is a pattern of non-transparency.

Dona: A few e-mails came in about the hearing asking why Kat, Wally and Ruth did not cover it.  Ruth, I know why you didn't cover it and I think most people do but let me start with you.

Ruth: Sure.  I attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.  I then attended the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday.  Tuesday night, I had started my coverage of the Foreign Relations Committee hearing and I finished that up on Wednesday night.  Now I could have reported Thursday night on the Wednesday VA hearing but I really felt C.I. had said pretty much everything in her report with Ava's report containing the only other thing I might have emphasized.

Wally: I would agree with Ruth and add that Rebecca did offer me the chance to blog at her site Wednesday night but I turned her down.  I blogged at her site Tuesday night to cover the Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  That meant she had to put her second part of Revenge coverage on hold.  If I'd blogged there Wednesday night as well, I would have pushed Revenge back again.  Also, I knew we'd be covering the hearing here like we're doing right now.  Kat?

Kat:   I didn't cover either hearing at my site because Tuesday I heard the Afghan Whigs new album Do The Beast [Kat's review is here].  I was on a huge high.  I love that group.  I had no idea they were doing an album.  When C.I. was playing it in the car last Tuesday, I nearly exploded screaming.  I'm not joking.  I have written about them over and over at my site and in my reviews.  They are one of my all time favorite bands and they broke up in the 90s.  So there new album had me focusing one night on music and I have no idea what I wrote about the other night.  I was off in my own musical world for most of last week.

Dona: By the way, our e-mail address is  As we wind down, the hearing found the Committee -- except for Corrine Brown -- expressing the frustration that you have been expressing since we started this feature -- there's no accountability at the VA, the VA does not answer requests from Congress in a timely manner making oversight near impossible, etc. Where do things stand now?

Wally: I'd say where they stood before the hearing.  The elephant in the room was noted and called out but I didn't see any change on the part of the VA witnesses.

Kat: I'd agree with Wally.  Miller -- Chair Jeff Miller -- and others stated, before the VA witnesses testified, what those witnesses would say and that ended up unfolding just as predicted.

Ruth:  And to hear the VA's Dr. Lynch, for example, testify, "I don't mean to sound like a broken record. We know you take this seriously. We will get back to you."  It was horrifying.  And he was so blase.  The fact that the VA just does not care was made painfully clear.

Ava: Exactly.  And I also agree with Wally and Kat but, to be honest, I was glad to hear members of the Committee -- Democrats and Republicans -- voice these issues.  Dona, you pointed out that we've been talking about this here and we have.  But as it goes on and on and as no one else seems concerned about it, you can start to feel like, "Am I seeing something that no one else is?  And if so, is that because it's not really there?"  So there was a validation aspect to the hearing.  I heard that when we spoke to veterans after.  So I would say that was an acknowledgement, if nothing else.

C.I.: I think everyone's making  good points.  But I also think when members of Congress take their frustration public, it does make a difference.  I think this could be the start of accountability because it does throw it out there.  It's on the record.  This could be where Congress moves towards actual accountability.

Dona: This is a mid-term year, sorry to interrupt, and there's talk the Republican could win control of the Senate.  In which case, you'd have Republicans in control of both the House and Senate.

C.I.: Assuming the House stayed Republican.  If that happened?  Yeah, you'd get accountability.  There's an impulse of Democrats to refuse to demand the accountability they did under Bully Boy Bush.  Republicans control the VA committee in both houses?  They could apply so much pressure that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki might be forced to resign.

Dona: Alright then.  This is a rush transcripts.  In addition the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, the gang also attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and reported on that in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot," Ruth's "Laughable John Kerry says retirement is the same as death," Cedric's "John Kerry knows nothing about money," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BOTOX KERRY TALKS MONEY!," Wally's "Learn the Constitution, John Kerry," Ava's "John Kerry gets prissy and rude before the Senate (Ava)," and Ruth's "Rand Paul's security concerns re: Benghazi."  Be sure to check those reports out.  Again, our e-mail is

Michael Franti's new confessional song "I am a bitch ass"

When not attempting to fist his own ass while he stares at a screen saver of Barack Obama, one time protest singer Michael Franti occasionally writes a new tune.  To discuss that and other issues, we met up with Franti at an out of the way leather bar on Castro street.

Franti looked heavy, probably 25 to 39 pounds more than usual, and wore a t-shirt which read "Kill Snowden."  We asked him about the shirt (not the weight gain) and he explained, "Mr. Snowden should die and rot in hell for what he has done to my president.  My president is a good man, a great man, and if he spies on us it is not an 'invasion,' it is simply like a parent sticking their head through a bedroom door at night to make sure you are sleeping soundly.  I like the idea that Saint Barack watches over me.  Sometimes, when I think he's watching, I pull down my tighty whities, roll over and stick my ass in the air.  I wiggle it and moan.  Just so he'll know it's there if he needs it."

Asked how he reconciles his well known desire for peace with Obama's actions, Franti explained, "I don't. What's so bad about invasion?  I would love to be shocked and awed in the middle of the night by my president and his mighty love wand. And if I struggle and he took me by force, all the better.  Look, I wasted a lot of time speaking out against war and for peace but when I dropped that nonsense and embraced my inner victim, that's when I found success with some of my shallow thoughts and music."

For all of his running from his only masterpiece, Yell Fire!, it seems Franti can't stop circling back.

"I am working on a political album," he explains.  "All People outright flopped so I realize that my superficial phase has come to an end and I'm regrouping with a new political album.  It's going to be protest songs, protesting the people who are against my president.  I think it's really important to be a mindless lackey who defends the powerful and not the disenfranchised.  I see myself as Bob Roberts, you know.  I will sing to defend my president.  Suddenly, I get -- I really, really get -- all those people I used to make fun of who would scream with joy for Bush.  I get it, at last, I get it.  Screw the people, worship a president.  It's so much more socially acceptable."

"Have you heard of mounding?"  Franti asked out of the blue.

We hadn't.  Was it a baseball term?

"No, no," he laughed.  "It's where they cut open your nut sack, place your penis inside and then sew it back up.  That way, you're no longer in charge of your penis.  I'd like to do that for Barack Obama, you know, to really let him know he's in charge. I'm all about the surrender these days."

With that, Franti stood and asked if we'd like to hear his new song?  We pointed out that he didn't have a guitar and he explained, "No guitars.  The whole album's just going to be me and clapping.  It's a clap along album filled with clap along songs."

With that, he walked to the center of the bar and, while clapping, unveiled his newest song.

I am a bitch ass
And I f**k  over my fans
Because my fans
Don't mean shit to me

Yes, I can,
Yes, I can
Tongue Barack's tiny left ball
While the bombs fall
Yes, I can
Yes, I can

I am a bitch ass
And I f**k  over my fans
Because my fans
Don't mean shit to me

I see the blood flow
But I love the big O
So you don't mean shit to me
Your children die
As the drones fly by
No, you don't mean shit to me

And in Iraq
Where Barack has thug Nouri's back
I stand with my personal savior
Barack Hussein Obama
Arm in arm saying

Let the blood flow like rivers
Let the women be oppressed
Who cares who Iraqis voted for
Barack knows best
Let the blood flow like rivers
Let the Christians and gays die
Kill a few reporters
Bama's still my guy

I am a bitch ass
And I f**k over my fans
Because my fans
Don't mean shit to me

Back at home,
Back at home
We're all spied upon
From dusk till dawn
Yes, he can
Yes, he can

I am a bitch ass
And I f**k over my fans
Because my fans
Don't mean shit to me


Yes, this article is a parody.

This edition's playlist


1)  Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

2) Carly Simon's The Bedroom Tapes.

3) Angie Stone's Stone Love.

4) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

5) Ludo's Prepare The Preparations.

6) Soundgarden's Superunknown.

7) Tori Amos' American Doll Posse.

8) James Blake's James Blake.

9) Brenda Russell's Get Here.

10)  The Mamas & the Papas' Deliver.

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