Sunday, August 24, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Next door in Iraq, an emboldened Nouri al-Maliki waged his own sectarian campaign to consolidate power, betraying promises to his political partners to share it around. Within days of being welcomed at the White House and praised by Barack Obama for his leadership, Maliki returned to Baghdad to mastermind the arrest of his principal Sunni rival, vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi.
Supported by Iran and armed with US-made Humvees, M-16s, and M1A1 tanks, Maliki's forces closed in on Hashimi, only to see him flee to Kurdistan. Dozens of his guards were imprisoned on terrorism charges. At least one of them died under interrogation.
Another Christmas purge followed a year later, when a second prominent Sunni rival, the finance minister Rafea al-Essawi, found his home surrounded by Maliki's US-made tanks. He fled to the sanctuary of his tribe in Iraq's Anbar province, and was eliminated from Iraqi politics.

-- Ali Khedery, "How Isis came to be," (Guardian).

Truest statement of the week II

Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq this month, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be al-Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again.
To his likely successor, Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki will bequeath an Iraqi state that has reverted to the authoritarian muscle memory it developed under Saddam Hussein. But it will be a state that effectively controls not much more than half the territory Saddam did.
As al-Maliki and his loyalists succeeded in consolidating control of the government and pushing rivals out of power, they drove the constituencies of those they excluded -- especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds --  into political opposition or armed insurrection. Their drive for power alienated Iraqis across all communities from the central state whose wards and clients they had once been, leaving almost no provincial population trustful of the central government.

-- Dallas Morning News' editorial board, "The coming disintegration of Iraq" (Dallas Morning News).

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?

We never did the note last week in terms of discussing the articles -- a point a few readers complained about.  Woops.

Mike nominated this one.
And Trina brought this one to the table.
Does it matter if Nouri's gone when the press continues to use his reasoning?
Ava and C.I.  Hmm.  I (Jim) was hoping this would be an Iraq piece.  They told me they were doing entertainment only, that the readers would want that and that they knew what they were doing.  I'm sure they do but would have planned the edition differently had I known earlier.  ("Then you should have asked earlier," Ava just said.)
A new feature will be doing.  And on regular features, next week we'll have a Third Estate Test Kitchen piece.  We were working on that and another piece on books when the ground shook.  Not bad in this area, not like it was in Napa.  But we couldn't pick those pieces back up, the flow was dead.  We'll do them next week.

They were supposed to compliment our music and list focus this edition.  This is on dance music.
This is on disco.  I'll explain the lists in a "Jim's World" next week.
Taylor Swift gets a nod.

What we listened to this week.
Workers World repost.
Socialist Worker repost.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: The Nouri Press

For so many years now, various US outlets have refused to call Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki out (pictured below from 2009).


Now that US President Barack Obama has, they're eager to join the chorus.

But while they call out Nouri now, they continue to espouse his beliefs.

Take the ridiculous New York Times which published Ben Hubbard's "Response to Attack Reflects Iraq's Sectarian Divide" -- an article that didn't resemble reporting but did resemble Nouri's pronouncements.  The Sunnis, Hubbard informed readers, were being unreasonable for asking that things like the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods stop -- that the Baghdad government stop bombing homes in Falluja.

How is that unreasonable?

Is is established law that you 'terrorists' or 'fighters' or whatever you call them being in a city or town does not give you a right to bomb or attack civilians in the town.

Doing so is collective punishment.

The New York Times, if you're paying attention, is now on the side against international law, it's now embracing collective punishment which is legally defined as a War Crime.

For years, US outlets covered for Nouri al-Maliki and ignored calling out his crimes.  Now as they rebuke him, they continue to insist on embracing the thuggish behavior.

It is past time for the US peace movement to find its voice and demand that the bombing of civilian neighborhoods in Falluja cease.

If it doesn't happen and doesn't happen loudly before Nouri steps down (hopefully in about two weeks), the bombings will continue under the next Iraqi prime minister.


For a detailed response to Hubbard's ridiculous article, see "I Hate The War" at The Common Ills.

TV: Watch the viewers scatter

Last May, we noted the problems luring audiences to ABC's promising Black Box and "Americans don't like illness, the entire American culture is geared towards ignoring and avoiding any sickness."  The feedback from friends in the entertainment business was a long the lines of 'how insightful.'  No, not really.



We're just noting the obvious.

And it's even more obvious when it comes to sick children.

For example, many share the hostility Sharon Stone's character expresses in Diabolique -- anger that Kathy Bate's character acknowledges and discusses her breast cancer.  That's hostility isn't even shocking at this point but we were a little taken aback last December when we began hearing people complaining about St. Jude.

That's the non-profit hospital officially known as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital which Danny Thomas founded and which Marlo Thomas is now National Outreach Director of, does great work. And even the people complaining agreed on that when we asked them.

If the value of the work done and the necessity for the work wasn't in question, what was the problem?

The commercials with Jennifer Aniston and St. Jude's patients.

Where we saw happy kids who filled us with joy, some saw manipulation (some compared it to the infamous animal abuse PSA that used Sarah McLachlan's "Angel") while some saw realities they just didn't want to address  which really is the typical American attitude on most issues.

We thought about that as we watched The Red Hand Society, Fox's new hour long drama-comedy -- the pilot of which has been made available for streaming online for a brief time before the series debuts next month.

We've seen two episodes and read several scripts.

The people who can't handle the St. Jude commercial?

They're not going to be able to handle this series about a group of children with cancer.

Thing is, though, they're not the only ones who will have a problem.

Who the hell cast the 'juveniles'?

If you're not 18 or over and in you're in the cast, we're not talking about you.

(We don't criticize actors who aren't adults -- we offer neither negative or positive criticism of them.)

But a number are 18 and over and it's like the juvenile cast of Spielberg's Hook, you watch and wonder where in the world these thespians came from because they fail to resemble actual children.

They're like performers turned away for McDonald commercials for being too happy.  These performers were born and bred by Central Casting.

As they attempt to sparkle in every scene, you may have trouble remembering that they have cancer.  It's a detail the actors apparently struggle with remembering as well apparently confused that they are not starring in a new version of Glee set in a hospital.

We mentioned Spielberg's Hook earlier, this series is from Spielberg's production company and will only serve to remind you that the only child star Spielberg worked with whose career had legs was Drew Barrymore.  Worth noting there, she hails from an acting dynasty which includes Lionel, Ethel, John and Diana Barrymore as well as her late father John Drew Barrymore.  In addition, before she started filming Spielberg's ET, Drew had already received near universal praise for her film debut in Altered States.

There's no Drew among this cast.

If you move over to the adults who play adults, you have Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson and Brothers & Sisters' Dave Annable as Dr. Jack.

Not surprisingly, the two elevate every scene they're in.

Sadly, Nurse Jackson never grabs Jack and whispers, "Let's you and me play doctor."

That would make the show worth watching and not just because the two can act and then some.  In addition to that reality, there's also the fact that Spencer and Annable have the kind of chemistry casting directors go insane trying to discover.

But instead of exploring that rich terrain, we're left with the ah-they're-so-sugary-sweet-they-rot-my-teeth kids.

Will viewers stick around once the show starts airing?

We doubt it.

We have no idea why it even got a greenlight.

Is there a need for a series on this topic?


But no one should have thought a needed show on this topic would come from Steven Spielberg.

Aliens he can handle.  Sometimes sharks.

But this man who has worked with Academy Award winners like Goldie Hawn, Audrey Hepburn and Leonardo DiCaprio and only Goldie walked away with a film worth watching Sugarland Express.

His ability to handle special effects has never been in question but many of the other needed skills -- especially to handle a series on a topic like this -- just aren't there.

Tales of Bad Customers

A number of our readers work in customer service and share horror tales.  A few have jobs that require them to address customer service problems.  They love to share those.

A  reader who works with McDonald's shared the following:

Tell me which part of my visit was acceptable.  I was next in line and waiting for the couple ahead of me to order.  They do and walk off.  So does the woman (***?) working the register.  She goes to the front of the store and out the side door.  After a few minutes, she comes back in, walks behind the counter -- where I'm still waiting -- and to another female employee.  "Is he the one in the blue car?" she asks.  The other woman (working on putting an order in a sack nods) and '***' again walks out the door.  Minutes later, she's back in, explaining she couldn't get a good look and "I have to wait on the customer" said in a complaining voice.  
I'm sorry, is my attempt to order food interrupting your attempt to get paid for doing nothing?

She comes to the register and does not say "Welcome to McDonald's" or greet me unless opening with "What do you want?" is a greeting.

And to really be Worst Employee of the Month, she drums her fingers on the counter as she asks.

I stare at her drumming fingers until she stops drumming them.  

I then say, "I'll have a number six, large fries, large drink.  For here.  I'll also have a Buffalo Ranch McChicken."

She has entered nothing into the register but hands me a medium cup.

"I said large," I say.

She sighs.

Then she wants to know, "What number did you order?"

"The number six."

She now enters it while rolling her eyes.

"And what else did you want?"

At which point, I said I would go elsewhere and did.

This was awful

If you've got a tale of bad customer service, let us know at (or e-mail and note "For Third") and we'll share it.

The essential dance tracks

1) "Together Again" -- Janet Jackson

2) "Looking For A New Love" -- Jody Watley

3) "Believe" -- Cher.

4) "Move In The Right Direction" -- Gossip.

5) "outside" -- George Michael.

6) "Throb" -- Janet Jackson.

7) "Running Back To You" -- Vanessa Williams.

8) "Let The Music Play" -- Shannon.

 9) "Son of a gun" -- Janet Jackson (with Missy Elliott and Carly Simon).

10) "West End Girls" Pet Shop Boys (tie) "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" -- Janet Jackson.

In the world of dance music, Janet is the word.

Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty.

Running down a brief listing of the essential dance tracks, Janet places four songs on our top ten (eleven, there was a tie).

In the world of dance, Janet is the ultimate artist.

She's joined by other strong artists: George Michael, Jody Watley, Cher, Pet Shop Boys, Gossip, Vanessa Williams and Shannon.

In all cases, are selections were based on the dance mixes of the tracks and not the single that made the chart.

Yes, after the ultimate tracks above, we can easily think of ten more but the above are the ultimate and essential dance tracks.

The Disco Ten

1) "Upside Down -- Diana Ross.
2) "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" -- Michael Jackson. 
3)  "Heart of Glass" -- Blondie
4) "Love Hangover" -- Diana Ross. 
5) "Love to Love You Baby" -- Donna Summer.
6) "We Are Family" -- Sister Sledge
7) "Lead Me On"  -- Maxine Nightingale
8) "Rock The Boat (Don't Tip The Boat Over)," Hues Corporation. 
9) "Enough is Enough" Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.
10) "I Love The Night Life" -- Alicia Bridges

Springing from the discotheques of the sixties, disco took hold in the seventies and went on to birth dance music.

It took hold in the seventies and was so popular that everyone began doing disco songs: the Rolling Stones, Cher, Wings, Rod Stewart, Ethel Merman, David Bowie, ELO, Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow and many more.

Disco had many chart successes but the only artist to come to fame from the genre was Donna Summer who explored disco and took it as far as anyone could.  Two of her biggest hits make our list.

Diana Ross tops the list.  And lands another in the top ten.

Not a surprise.  The artist who shot to fame in the sixties was experimenting with disco elements as early as the sixties (The Supremes "You Keep Me Hanging On').  Diana would score other disco classics with "The Boss," "I'm Coming Out," "Your Love Is So Good For Me," "It's My House," "Once In The Morning," "I Ain't Been Licked," "No One Gets The Prize" and more.  The two on our list above both stormed to number one the Hot 100.  As a true artist moved into the genre and demonstrated what could still be done with the genre. 

Like Diana -- and to a lesser degree Blondie, Barbra Streisand was among the established artists who began recording disco.  She hit with the theme to her film The Main Event and followed that up with the monster hit on our list, her duet with Donna Summer which spent nine weeks at number one on the Hot 100.  

The Hues Corporation had their moment in time with their classic "Rock The Boat" while "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" was only the first of three disco hits he'd have in 1979 and, in 1982, he'd find even greater success as he moved over to dance music but we'd argue this song and "Rock With You" are the two finest Jackson ever recorded and demonstrated the true range of his talent better than anything he released before 1979.

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