Sunday, March 04, 2012
-- US House Rep. Bob Filner at last Tuesday's joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (see this snapshot for coverage).
Obama wants to lower the nominal corporate tax rate form 35 percent to 28 percent. For manufacturing industries, the rate would fall to 25 percent. Big Business has long complained – dishonestly – that American companies are put at a disadvantage by the highest tax rates in the world. But that’s only true on paper. When it comes to actually paying taxes, European corporations give a bigger share of money back to their governments and societies than U.S. companies do. The fact that the U.S. posts a higher official tax rate, while in the real world U.S. corporations pay lower taxes than Europe, is proof of the absolute corruption of the U.S. tax system, where corporations write the tax code and all of its loopholes.
-- Glen Ford, "Obama's Corporate Tax Scam" (Black Agenda Report -- link is text and audio).
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,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
What did we come up with?
That's it for this week.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
Despite these obligations, the US government accepted Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and thug of Iraq) 'promise' that he would protect the residents. Instead he's terrorized them and twice attacked them. . July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."
In the late 90s, the dissidents were classified as terrorists by the Clinton administration. July 27, 2004, Douglas Jehl (New York Times) reported, "A 16-month review by the United States has found no basis to charge members of an Iranian opposition group in Iraq with violations of American law, though the group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States government, according to senior American officials." And Jehl noted, "The group remains on the United States terrorist list, though it is not known to have directed any terrorist acts toward the United States for 25 years." 2004 is a key year, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
But the US is not protecting the residents or aiding them in leaving in Iraq. Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last week that how they 'behave' as Iraqi forces move the residents out of their camp will determine whether or not they're considred 'terrrorists' by the US government.
That's how the US determines terrorism? By how well you get along with the thugs who attacked you?
Reality for Hillary Clinton, in 2010, a federal court ordered the US State Dept. to review the classification noting that due process had not taken place in the earlier deliberation (that would be while her husband was president). Hillary was court-ordered to conduct this review in 2010. Well over a year later, it's still not completed. She's making a mockery out of the law and the courts.
And when she tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as she did last week, when she stated that a "key factor" in determining their status would be the "successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf."
Someone explain it to the Secretary, the court did not charge her or her department with CREATING NEW CRITERIA to classify someone as a terrorist.
She needs to get it through her head that what the court found was that the US government wrongly made a decision to classify the group as "terrorists." The decision was wrong because they did not follow established guidelines and rules.
What Hillary is doing now? It's exactly the sort of crap the court called out when noting that the group had not received due process.
Hillary's an attorney and knows the law. Congress needs to inquire when she intends to comply with it?
We dreamed of Rules of Engagement -- returns to CBS March 29th -- specifically of Jennifer (Bianca Kajlich) and Adam (Oliver Hudson). With no promoting from anyone we remember -- or even mention of the TV show, Thursday night we both dreamt of is. In one dream (Ava's), Jennifer was taking part in a fashion show against her will and Adam was excited and jealous as he wished he was the one working the runway. In the other dream (C.I.'s), Jennifer had gotten three dresses as gifts -- the one from Audrey (Megyn Price) and Jeff (Patrick Warburton), looked like something Dorothy Michaels (Tootsie) would wear and she was furiously threatening to burn it while Adam was on the phone with Jeff. Adam wasn't whispering so much as speaking at the highest end of his voice which was cracking as Jennifer waived around the dress Russell (David Spade) had given her, one that looked like a doily. "No, no," Adam gasped, "she's taking a match to the lace ensemble." And Adam was saying "ensemble" with a heavy French pronuciation.
When the show came on, the only real reason to watch was Price and Kajlich who were (and remain) great sitcom actresses. Oliver Hudson had moments that were mostly undermined by the writers. In episode six ("Hard Day's Night"), Tom Hertz came up with an Adam that finally matched with the character Hudson was shaping. The addition of Adhir Kaylan (Tamir) and sharpened timing on the part of Patrick Warburton have resulted in a very strong sitcom.
But the thing that makes it standout in a pack of sitcoms is Oliver Hudson's Adam. Adam's adorable and infuriating and Hudson's long overdue for an Emmy nomination. Last year saw four worthy nominees for Best Supporting Actor in the comedy division, all from Modern Family. It also saw two that didn't belong there. 2012 could go a long way towards acknowledging the rebirth of the TV sitcom by including Hudson as one of the nominees.
Others who deserve to be nominated in this category? Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet for Modern Family -- they've continued to find new dimensions to their characters (Phil and Cameron); Damon Wayans, Jr. and Adam Pally (Happy Endings' Brad and Max) and as the sixth nominee we'd toss in Dan O'Brien (Mark on Whitney).
Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson (Jane and Penny, Happy Endings), Maya Rudolph (Ava, Up All Night), Zoe Lister-Jones (Lily, Whitney), Rashida Jones (Ann, Parks and Recreation) and Sofia Vergara (Gloria, Modern Family).
Jeremy Sisto (George, Suburgatory), Neil Flynn (Mike, The Middle), Lucas Neff (Raising Hope), Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons (Leonard and Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory) and Tim Allen (Last Man Standing).
Kat Dennings (Max, 2 Broke Girls), Jaime Pressly (Annie, I Hate My Teenage Daughter), Whitney Cummings (Whitney, Whitney), Martha Plimpton (Virginia, Raising Hope), Patrica Heaton (The Middle) and Courtney Cox (Cougar Town).
We don't usually do the above. Whomever is nominated is nominated and we're not going to obsess over it. We do think the people listed above (and many not listed) are more than worthy of being nominated. But the reason we finally weighed in is because we wanted to underscore two things.
First, despite the Water Cooler Set spending much of the previous decade insisting the sitcom had died and was over, the sitcom never went away and is thriving today. We know that's hard to believe what with the season one episode of Friends ("The One With The Fake Monica," written by Gail Mancuso) being ripped off in the new Kal Penn pilot (which ABC is flirting with but will hopefully dump) Prarie Dogs. (tied with NBC's Go On for worst sitcom currently being pitched -- Go On should be called If You Thought You Hated Him As Mr. Sunshine . . . ) The supposedly 'dead' sitcom genre is thriving.
Second, we were able to come up with real actors giving real comedy performances and didn't have to resort to dramedies on cable or a musical show on Fox. There's more than enough talent on sitcoms right now to fill out the comedy category.
In the last seasons, prime time, broadcast TV has gotten stronger. It's not a renaissance but it is noticeable. Whether your genre is sitcom, drama, music, action or cop shows, there's more than enough to satisfy.
The only real big question is why, in a bad economy, the big three and Fox have been surrendering Saturdays to repeats?
Last night, Fox tried Q'Viva -- a world talent show hosted by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony and Jamie King but of greater interest to us has been NBC's moving The Firm to Saturday nights' second hour, sandwiched between repeats of Smash and Law & Order: SUV.
If NBC killed the show tomorrow, it would still be costing a large sum (due to the lawsuit filed by CBS). Having given it a 22 episode guarantee, it would be stupid to bench it at this point. Artistically, it's smart to air it just for the wonderful performance Juliette Lewis is giving.
With a little effort, The Firm could be winning Saturdays and helping NBC re-build Saturdays. NBC owned Saturdays in the 80s. To own Saturdays, it just requires one show. Golden Girls delivered the night to NBC. Empty Nest was a tired show from the first episode. It coasted on Golden Girls as did many other shows. In the 90s, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman let CBS own it. The Firm could deliver it today.
Promotion would be good. Most people assume NBC Saturday is all repeats. Airing the last four filmed but unaired episodes of The Playboy Club after it on four consecutive weeks could help draw attention to new content on Saturdays. The Playboy Club was a bad show. We're not disputing that. But a "see how it all ends" ad campaign could deliver some viewers for it as well as draw attention to The Firm.
The sitcom was never dead. Nor is Saturday night. And at some point, one of the networks will realize that, program for it and be hailed as a business genius. A business genius, not an artistic one.
And there's no reason for the suits to be artistic. But they forget their place. They want to be 'creative' but they aren't. And in trying to be 'cool' by ignoring Saturday night, they forget their purpose: To deliver an audience.
That's the only thing the banks give a damn about. Somehow, network execs have lost sight of that.
The money men and women don't care the you're 'trending' online or that you're a hash tag on Twitter. They don't care. Because they know you're not social media, you're a TV network and, as such, your job is to deliver viewers. The way word of mouth travels may have changed but your job is still to provide content people will watch (now on a variety of platforms).
The Firm is actually doing its job, getting better with each episode. Last night's episode even grabbed a hot topic. A military sergeant needed Mitch (Josh Lucas) and Ray (Callum Keith Rennie) to help him find out what happened to his son. They quickly figure out that they're dealing with a murder that might go all the way up to the White House.
Ray: This kill list, an actual list created by the feds?
Mitch: Approved by the White House, enemies of the state who are pre-approved for assassination.
Mitch: If US agents or military come across names on that list they are authorized to kill -- no due, process nothing.
Ray: Okay, I understand that on a battlefield but Rashad's an American on US soil.
Mitch: We've killed people on this list before, even US citizens, but never here in the US.
They then battle with the government in a FISA court in an attempt to get to the bottom of it all. That might interest viewers. If they're aware of the storyline and if they're aware that new episodes are airing Saturday nights.
Broadcast TV is so much better than it was just five years ago, granted. Even so, it could be even better.
Dona: It's been a busy month in terms of Congressional hearings. Last week alone, C.I. and Kat covered hearings by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, a joint-hearing by both, and a Senate Budget Committee hearing. You can refer to "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Senate Budget Committee," "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot." Ava and Wally are part of the roundtable as well because they're often at the hearings. I want to start by dropping back to the first week of February -- for coverage of hearings, see "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot." February 2nd, the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing about veterans employment. That was an important hearing, in spite of itself, is what Ava and C.I. told me in real time. C.I., that was important why?
C.I.: Okay, we're talking about people who are called up for duty, while they are serving, their civilian employer replaces them. They come home and are told they no longer have jobs. That is actually against the law. It's not a new law. We go over that in the snapshot. I actually got up and left that hearing, and I note this in one of those two snapshots, step outside the room and call a friend at the Justice Dept. to ask if the law has changed. I did that because some members of that Subcomittee made statements that indicated they had no idea that what was being discussed was illegal.
Ava: To that, I would add that this was a going-through-the-motions hearing. C.I. did a great job reporting on it but she noted all that was important. In part, that's due to the fact that the
Chair, Marlin Stutzman, didn't think to call veterans to testify. You really need to hear what it's like when it happens to someone. And maybe the members of the Subcommittee would have had a lot tougher questions if they'd first heard from someone effected by this.
Wally: At a hearing the day before that, US House Rep. Michael Michaud declared, "VA comes up here and testifies that it has wonderful policies in place. Unfortunately no one ever seems to follow these policies and procedures and they seem to be no consequences for the failure to follow these procedures." That hearing was on the VA's Pharmaceutical Prime Vendor Contract but it really applies to everything.
Dona: Time and again, you four get back on Saturday and I hear about how nothing's happened, how it was going through the motions yet again. How frustrating is that?
Wally: I'm being pointed at so I'll speak. I started attending these hearings several years ago, Bush was occupying the White House then, and I thought, "Great, they've explored the problem, they've outlined it, now they're going to solve it." Yet what I tend to hear in the hearings is issues that I would have thought would be solved a long time ago. I don't know why veterans groups don't spend more time calling out the Congress, to be honest.
Dona: I like that because it's what you all tell me all the time and also because I had a pull quote from Congressional reports for the second week of February -- "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" -- that fit. This is attorney Douglas J. Rosinski at the House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations:
What my clients want to know is why -- when they're living at home or under supervised care -- their veteran suddenly has to have a VA fiduciary at all? My veterans have had decades of family members giving them care and handling their benefits without VA interruption. Suddenly, VA appoints a perfect stranger -- perfectly unknown to the veteran -- who has never contacted a veteran, who will not contact a veteran and is paid money from that veterans account to withhold the money from the veteran, to place it in bank accounts that they will not disclose to the veteran and they will not even disclose under FOIA [Freedom Of Information Act]. They will redact the veterans own information about his own money from the files they give out. My clients want to know why, that if there is a need, for a VA-appointed fiduciary, it has to be this stranger. They want to know why this veteran is told to take all of the veterans finances, all of his bank accounts and ask questions about his CDs [Certificate of Deposit] and whether he owns a boat and what his wife's salary is and where is that salary put and then go into the banks and take all of it and not tell them where it is. They want to know why VA not only will not correct that when I've had personal discussions with members sitting -- or people sitting -- in this hearing today and then they will not fix that problem? They want to know why VA defends those practices at every turn, in every court, in every discussion? This is not about numbers and procedures and policies. My clients don't care about policies and procedures. They want to know why they have $100,000 in the bank and they cannot afford the medicine that the VA doctors prescribed last month? They want to know why the power company's in the front yard when they have $50,000 in the bank? And it takes an emergency motion to the Veterans Court before these people will call the power company and tell them they'll pay $178.
Dona (Con't): Ava, what stood out about that hearing?
Ava: That was a good hearing. Katrina Eagle was another attorney addressing this issue with the Subcommittee. Basically, you're designating someone to be over your money, you the veteran. But in some cases, VA does that, they decide you need one or they overrule you on a family member or friend you've picked. And these people make money, they're paid. And yet even though they're paid and even though it's the veteran's money, the veteran, in may instances, is stuck with unpaid bills because the person is not doing their job. The attorneys didn't play and I know Wally wants to speak on that because we talked about it in real time.
Wally: Veterans groups should be advocates for veterans. But there are some groups that appear where the spokesperson appears to be a little too friendly with officials and a little too loose from the veterans. I don't know why attorneys come in with more passion than veterans groups. But that was the case. I said to Ava after that hearing, "Maybe veterans groups should hire law firms to represent them before Congress." If something's supposed to have happened and it didn't, I don't think you joke and josh with Congress. I think you talk about the failure to implement what was agreed upon has hurt veterans, and you give concrete examples.
Dona: And you don't feel that always happens. There's another thing that's really ticking Kat off, something that happens more and more often. Kat?
Kat: This is Senator Pete Sessions from last week, "We would have broken faith with the best people this country has produced." Really? I am so damn sick of the pandering. And, yes, I am aware that if we were sitting in on agricultural hearings, we would hear the same thing about small farmers. But I'm so sick of it. I'm so sick of the glorification and the elevation as though the US is no longer democracy but a tin cup junta. I'm old enough to know that this happens in wartime. But why this pandering is especially frightening is that we've now entered a time of war with no end. So this non-stop, never-ending worship of the military by the Congress is infecting us all. It's going to have longterm effects.
Dona: And this really does bother you?
Kat: Absolutely. I don't believe in this nonsense of 'best and brightest.' I don't believe about the military, I don't believe it about a graduating class from Harvard. I believe it is the people who never get the attention or the praise from a pandering member of Congress who are the best and the brightest. I believe that they are dispersed throughout our society.
Dona: More and more, you've been offering potentials or hypotheticals on this topic at your blog. One that puzzled a few people who e-mailed this site -- our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org -- were nuns and priests.
Kat: I'm Catholic. I've never hidden that fact. I'm not the world's biggest Catholic or best Catholic. Yes, the Catholic Church had a priest pedophile problem -- and probably still does -- they also have some priests and nuns who are beyond exceptional and, I'll use the word, saintly. I grew up in the Church, I know it's good points, I know it's bad points. I will readily acknowledge the pedophila crimes and the sexism towards women, but I will also acknowledge that there are priests and nuns who, truly, bleed for those around them because they try so hard to help those in need.
Dona: Very good. One person who may share Wally's exasperation is US House Rep. Bob Filner. We're now up to coverage of the third week of last month's hearings, see "Iraq snapshot," "Like Corrine Brown's grandmother's sweet potato pie," "Iraq snapshot," "The Filner-Bilrakis moment in Wednesday's hearing" and "Iraq snapshot." Kat, you wrote about it, so tell us about it.
Kat: US House Rep. Gus Bilrakis had to bring up birth control on a hearing where it wasn't a topic. And Bob Filner, Ranking Member on the Committee, did kind of a sigh and then noted that he thought they could get through at least one hearing without birth control.
Dona: Now Bob Filner's a Democrat. And this predates a Democratic move to bring up women's bodies and women's rights and women's right to have control over their bodies and to contrast that with Republican attitudes. When I read your posts, when they went up, I thought, "Interesting." Then this became an argument presented by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others. And it really feels like it started with the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Kat: I would agree with you. US House Rep. Corrine Brown registered her offense over this nonsense and I pointed out that she really was the only one present who had any knowledge -- real knowledge -- of women's reproductive systems -- she's gone through what all women do and she's also gone through what many women do which is birth. And yet all these men were clucking over birth control. But I felt like Brown was formulating her response and that what she provided became the template that the Dems would start using -- with no credit given to Corrine Brown -- in the last weeks of the month, yes.
Dona: Okay, Wally, February 15th, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing found Chair Jeff Miller declared that the president should stop threatening veterans. He was speaking of sequestration and the refusal of the White House to provide a clear answer on whether or not the Veterans Affairs would face automatic cuts if sequestration kicked in.
Wally: Right. And though she hasn't used words as strongly, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has also expressed her dismay on this point. The opinion that Miller has is shared by her, Richard Burr and Bob Filner. It cross party lines. Now the Democrats -- Murray and Filner -- may not point the finger at Barack Obama -- where they should -- but they are just as bothered by this lack of clarity.
Dona: I'm now jumping to the last week and didn't mean to but, C.I., do you agree with Wally's call?
C.I.: Absolutely. Last week, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees held a joint-hearing where the witnesses were the Disabled American Veterans and Murray noted she would be asking VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about this issue.
Dona: And she did.
C.I.: And she did.
C.I.: This goes to the frustration Wally was talking about earlier. Eric Shinsekis is the VA Secretary. Sequestration is very likely this year. Even if it weren't, as the secretary of the department, he should know that answer as to whether or not sequestration would effect the VA. He told Senator Murray he didn't know.
Dona: Okay. Ava's taking care of a number of personal and family issues these days. As a result, she's not felt the need to guest blog at Trina's site on hearings as she often does. And Wally's not been guest blogging at Rebecca's due to the lack of substance and his own feelings about the nothing-happens outlook. Also true, when they all cover a hearing it's usually a Senate hearing. I bring that up because it's been asked in e-mails. But how I want to close this out is for C.I. to give an example of something that's not happening and something that did happen. Where did the system, where is it failing?
C.I.: To use examples from last month's hearings, I would say Agent Orange. Ranking Member Bob Filner made some great statements before the Disabled Veterans of America. And I like Bob, I know Bob, each of those statements were meant. But it's like 40 years later and people serving then who now have damage, disease from Agent Orange aren't getting recognized, not all of them. When it's going to happen? I don't see it happening. I don't see people exposed to Agent Orange, in large numbers, living into their eighties. Point being, if 40 years ago you were exposed to Agent Orange, you're already at least 50 and probably a lot older than that. It really looks like there are some members of Congress who have taken the attitude that they will allow some people to die off rather than pay out the benefits needed. And you can tie that into burn pits today. I'll toss to Ava.
Ava: Senator Evan Bayh tried to create a national registry for Burn Pit victims. Senator Jim Webb blocked that proposal, prevented it from leaving the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and getting a vote on the Senate floor. This is the same Jim Webb who attacked Shinseki in a public hearing over Shinseki expanding the scope to allow more victims of Agent Orange to receive benefits. The issue isn't just Republicans, they're not the only ones doing the blocking. And not all of them are blocking efforts.
Wally: C.I. championed Evan Bayh's proposal and I trust her judgment but did feel like she was emphasizing it too often. He was a well liked senator by his colleagues, a burn pit registry would be good for a number of people, surely this would get voted on. C.I. was talking -- in the snapshots back then -- about how long and hard it was to get a national registry for Agent Orange victims. And I would think, "This is going to be so much easier." And it turned out, it's not been easier. Bayh's bill got buried in committee. And it's just really depressing. Part of what pisses Kat off about that b.s. that Pete Sessions and others offer is that it's just talk. If they meant, if Pete Sessions meant it, he'd be leading on the burn pit issue among others. And he's not.
C.I.: And for information on burn pits, refer to BurnPits 360.
Dona: Okay, now give us an example of where it worked, where the Congressional process worked.
C.I.: The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011. That's an example of something being addressed, for the Congress, quickly. It addresses unemployment among veterans. It helped that Senator Patty Murray was the chief leader on the legislation. She made sure it kept moving forward. As a Committee Chair and a high ranking Democrat in the Senate, she had some weight to throw around and she did. She wasn't afraid to publicly pressure the White House on this. It takes a great deal of work to get something passed by the Congress. That's why so little happens.
Dona: And on that note, we'll wind down. Consider this a rush transcript.
A new flavor caught our eyes, "Sea Salted SWEET POTATO CHIPS." "All Natural," the bag boasts. For those who've missed it, there's a push towards yams these days in the place of potatoes. You'll notice it in the frozen food aisle where you'll find sweet potato fries right next to the regular ones.
The back of the package looked promising, boasting, as it does, of things like:
no wheat glutens
no artificial sweeteners
no artificial colors
no artificial flavors
0g trans fat
But all the promises are quickly forgotten once you open the bag and taste.
Cardboard. Limp cardboard at that.
We've had sweet potato chips. We know what they taste like. This tasted like they were only partially cooked or stale. (We tried three bags to be sure this was the standard taste.)
We do not recommend this for anyone.
There are many serious issues right now. You wouldn't know it at many sites online. Last week on Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford (above) and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), Glen Ford discussed the push for war on Syria with international law expert Francis A. Boyle. Excerpt.
Glen Ford: France is demanding a humanitarian corridor in Syria. But of course we remember that NATO rejected the idea of a humanitarian corridor in Libya when the African Union proposed one.
Francis A. Boyle: Look at the proposal by the African Union which is the appropriate regional organization, set up under Chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter to deal with Africa. And they had a very comprehensive peace proposal there for Libya and it was completely brushed aside and indeed stymied at the Security Council and in the General Assembly. So the colonial-imperial powers in NATO and the United States paid absolutely no attention to the African Union. This is all eyewash that they're concerned about human rights. Have any of them lifted one finger at all to help the Palestinians? Especially the 1.5 million Palestinians now who are being subjected to slow motion genocide in Gaza? Of course not. So it's just preposterous. This is all propaganda here in the United States that I don't think really deceives anybody over there in the region about what's really going on.
Francis A. Boyle: Well they did the same thing in Libya in Benghazi, right? Remember Reagan tried to do the same thing in Nicaragua with the Contras and set up some kind of free zone and a liberated government that could then ask for military intervention? That is correct. So this is pretty much par for the course for these colonial-imperial powers. Right.
Glen Ford: So as an expert on international law, is Syria within its rights to defend its control over all of its territory?
Francis A. Boyle: Well I'm not justifying any human rights violations by Syria -- one way or the other. But certainly it seems to me that what is going on here is an organized attempt to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria that is being coordinated by the United States, France, Turkey, Qatar -- a dictatorship -- and by Saudi Arabia -- another dictatorship. And it appears support coming from Israel and Iraq and other forces under the control of Western intelligence agencies such as al Qaeda. For example, last week the Financial Times reported that all of these al Qaeda fighters -- after they did the dirty work in Libya are now moving over to mobilize against Syria. Also they are mobilizing now in Jordan, as we speak. The government does have a right to keep itself in power. You know, who gives Obama the right to say that the government in Syria should step down? None. But they don't really care. There has been no effort made at all by the United States, any of these imperial powers or by the United Nations or by the League of Arab States to achieve a peaceful resolution of this dispute as required by the terms of the United Nations Charter under Chapter Six -- which is what they should have done before moving to Chapter Seven enforcement measures. No effort at all has been made to produce a peaceful resolution of this matter and that's exactly what happened in Libya -- no effort at all was made. So I think that indicates just an absence of good faith at and, at this point, they have no intention of a peaceful resolution of this dispute. Their objective, their intention is to overthrow the Assad government, put in a stooge puppet if possible that will be under the control of the United States, France and at the end of the day sign some type of bogus peace treaty with Israel that will give them the control of the Golan Heights.
Patrick Stump is the singer and (with Pete Wentz) songwriter for the emo group Fall Out Boy. Last week, he became more famous as the unrealistic cry baby and we became eternally grateful that the internet is so relatively new. Otherwise, his public whine would be much more common.
In the hopes of preventing others from self-embarrassment, we're offering up this article.
Fall Out Boy is on an indefinite hiatus. That's due, in part, to the fact that the 2009 album didn't sell. It was hated by fans, according to Stump in his lengthy whine, and now his solo album has suffered as well.
First off, don't release two albums in one year if the first doesn't sell. The economy does not show that to be a smart move. Truant Wave came out at the start of the year and was an EP which never made it higher on Billboard's 200 than number 67. That was a stupid album to release to begin with and someone should have told Stump that.
Reality, initial interest in a solo career of a band member will always be highest with the debut solo release. There will never ever be cause to wonder again. Other albums may sell better or worse but the "What does he/she sound like on their own?" will never again be a question because the debut solo album will answer it.
So if you're a songwriter and singer from an emo group, you need to take care with your first album. Taking care with it does not mean assembling an EP -- a format that has never sold well in the US (LP is "long playing," EP is "extended play" and is usually four to six songs) and bragging that the songs are about characters and not yourself.
You hail from emo, your audience expects confessional.
Let's introduce a name here, Joni Mitchell. As Joni's noted many times, when she did The Hissing of Summer Lawns which contained more character songs and less confessional ones, a segment of her base turned on her. That was in 1975. Patrick Stump's ignorance of the music business does not inspire confidence in his whinings.
Having released the flop Truant Wave, he then felt the need to crowd the market with more product just eight months later. No surprise, the second solo album, Soul Punk, did only marginally better, climbing to number 47 on the Billboard 200.
Stevie Nicks is one of the few artists to not only be a member of a successful band but also have a successful solo debut and to manage both a band career and a solo career. She hails from a rock band, she's written many huge hits ("Dreams," "Edge of Seventeen," "Stand Back," "Sara," "If Anyone Falls In Love," "I Can't Wait," "Gypsy," "Rhiannon," "Rooms On Fire," "Leather & Lace," "Landslide," "Silver Springs," "Nightbird," etc.). Her solo sound wasn't an echo of Fleetwood Mac but it also wasn't a rejection of Fleetwood Mac. Meaning an AOR radio station could play a track by her or by her group. It's something Patrick Stump should have considered before releasing his awful Soul Punk album.
Even more than that, he should have considered the fortunes of Fall Out Boy, why the audience turned on Fall Out Boy and what that meant and what it would mean to his own career? Had he explored any of that, he might not have put out the crap he did but he certainly wouldn't have been surprised by the reaction to his two albums.
Fall Out Boy's From Under The Cork Tree came out in 2005. It's noted in the opening of Stump's whine and he claims "I can live with" the fact that, for many fans, that will always be their favorite. But he can't deal with it because he can't explore it. Why did that album connect when others didn't? Because it was personal. Because it had songs about experiences people could relate because they'd been through it or were going through it. Maybe the fact that Wentz wrote the lyrics is why Stump can't analyze what touched people?
If it's fear of giving Wentz too much credit, he apparently also fears giving Wentz any blame. Pete Wentz destroyed Fall Out Boy. It's there in the charts. The 2005 album sells more in the US alone than the follow up, 2007's Infinity On High , did in all the world. How does that happen? It was Wentz fault for turning in crappy lyrics about fame (no, your listeners don't relate to that) and deciding that Lil Wayne was the person he should model himself after as a lyricst. (Lil Wayne has had how many hits on the Alternative Rock charts?)
Far more damaging than the lyrics Wentz wrote was the spectacle that his life became. He is the bassist. He brought a whole new crowd to the band as 2006 came to a close. Not fans of their music, but fans of drunks who expose their penis online. That could have been nothing but Wentz appeared to ride that moment (that he apologized for) to greater fame for his looks than for anything to do with music. Emo's really not interested in pin ups. The fan base was not amused by Wentz' antics or the sudden interest from non-musical types in Fall Out Boy -- a very big problem if you're trying to float an image and you're wearing your Fall Out Boy hoodie when someone approaches you to say, "Hey, Pete Wentz is in that group, right? Did you see his dick online?"
By the time 2008's Folie A Deux is released was released, Wentz has already spent the year in the gossip columns for getting engaged to non-singer Ashlee Simpson and for their getting married and for them expecting a child. Simpson is the sister of reality-TV celebrity Jessica Simpson and has some success in music with the Disney Channel crowd. No one took her seriously. Ridicule followed her October 23, 2004 Saturday Night Live appearance when she attempted to perform a song entitled "Autobiography" but the audience was treated to her vocals for the song "Pieces of me" and it was revealed that Ashlee Simpson had gone on Saturday Night Live and lip synched when she was supposed to be perofrming live. She showed up at the end of that show to lie and blame it on her "band playing the wrong song." Two days later she offered another explanation (which still didn't really own up to the fact that she hadn't been singing live).
Pete Wentz' actions ran off listeners as much as those awful lyrics did.
Had Patrick Stump put any thought into his career, he would have realized that his band was as overexposed as Pete Wentz' penis.
When that's where you're at, the smart thing to do is lay low. If you can't do that, put out an album exploring experiences people can identify with, to make sure that they can identify with you. You can do a song (or two) about the excess you wallowed in or even an angry song about how your bassist mistook himself for the front man. There would be interest in those songs regardless of whether they were good musically or not. If you made them musical and singable, they'd be hits.
Stump released not one but two bad albums in 2011. And now he wants to whine that people didn't buy them.
He also wants to whine that people bought tickets to his show -- that they bought tickets to it. Let's quote that embarrassing whine:
Those examples of “Haters,” were people who never liked me (or at least never liked my music) and, by all rights, never really should. Such is the way of things. Different strokes for different folks as it were. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fervor of the hate from people who were ostensibly my own supporters (or at least supporters of something I had been part of). The barrage of “We liked you better fat,” the threatening letters to my home, the kids that paid for tickets to my solo shows to tell me how much I sucked without Fall Out Boy, that wasn’t something I suppose I was or ever will be ready for. That’s dedication. That’s real palpable anger.
Has no one ever had the guts to tell Patrick Stump to stop talking? Has no one ever told him that he sounds incredibly spoiled and incredibly stupid? Most people will not pay money and spend time to go to a show they know they're going to hate. Life is too short. Stump deludes himself that he's enough of a train wreck to have started pulling in that crowd.
What's happening is people are paying to see him and are grossly disappointed in what they're seeing. Again, his musical ignorance is as appalling as his whining.
"Garden Party." Stump needs to learn the song. Rick Nelson experienced audiences who weren't happy with the music he was making and he turned it into not a whine but a song ("Garden Party").
Instead, Patrick Stump churns out crap like "This City."
Who the F**K thought that piece of s**t was a single? (Someone did since it's the single used to promote Soul Punk.)
It's a bad revisit of "We Built This City" -- the Starship song that is near universally reviled (it's Homer Simpson's favorite song at least).
The lyrics are banal and boring.
Is my city
I was born and raised here
I got it made here
And if I have my wayI'm going to stay here
Worse than the chorus is the verse (we'll spare you). How f**king stupid is Patrick Stump?
His audience is not city dwellers. His audience, Fall Out Boy's audience, were suburban kids.
That's before you get to the video which appears to be Fall Out Boy On The Verge Of Coming Out. If Stump is gay, step out of the closet, might get some interest in the album. If not, he better grasp (a) he's not thin (he's still chunky) and (b) fat men trying to look like boy band members just look like Corky St. Clair in Waiting For Guffman.
And, Stump, that's before we've even touched on your need to recycle Lisa Lisa dance moves.
Well into his endless whine, Stump offers, "Add into that the economic risk I had taken [In short: I blew my nest egg on that record and touring in support of it] the hate really crushed me. The standard response to any complaints I could possibly have about my position in life seems to be 'You poor sad multi-millionaire. I feel so sorry for you.' Quite right, I still have access to enough money to live on in order to avoid bankruptcy for at least a few years as long as I stick to my budget, but money really isn’t everything and it never was."
If you're going to think that, don't go public with it.
In the real world, people go to a job every day. They don't have a big album that they can expect to live off of the rest of their lives. No one forced you to release two bad albums in one year. Nor did anyone force you to record bad dance music (with a rap) or to prance around it like it was the eighties and you were the latest music strumpet to chart.
You brought this on yourself.
It's fixable. But not until you're willing to own what you did.
In the meantime, stop whining. It's not going to bring you the self-respect that you insist you want.
Janis Ian was world famous as a teenager and quickly became the forgotten adult because audiences are fickle. What saved her was what made her: Her songwriting. "Society's Child" could, in fact, be topped. "At Seventeen," "Stars," "In The Winter," "All Those Promises" and many more proved that Janis wasn't a fluke, she was an incredibly talented writers of songs. (And a great performer as well.)
The lesson in all of this is that instead of blogging about it, you should be attempting to turn it into song. That's when you get to have the last laugh, if you've got the talent to pull it off. (We'd bet you do.)
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Bob Filner was awarded with the National Distinguished Public Service Award by the American Legion this week at the organization’s national conference in Washington, DC.
“It is extremely humbling to receive an award like this because I am working for you all and you are all the heroes,” said Congressman Filner after receiving the award (full video below).
In his speech, Congressman Filner talked about granting disability claims from Vietnam veterans. “Are you going to tell me you’re going to balance the budget on the backs of our Vietnam vets by not granting these claims?” he said. “Let’s bring down the debt, but not on the backs of these veterans.”
Congressman Filner went on to call for making sure all of our recent veterans have job opportunities when they return home, saying “Let’s welcome home everybody in this country who has served our nation by making sure they have a job and are contributing.”
In 2007, Congressman Filner became the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during which time they held more than 200 hearings and passed significant legislation to provide historic budget increases for veterans, expand access to VA health care, improve health services for all veterans, and modernize benefits earned by America’s troops. He currently serves as the Ranking Democratic Member on the committee.
100th anniversary of Bread & Roses strikeBy Sue Davis
On this International Working Women’s Day, March 8, it’s instructive to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bread & Roses strike, which provides valuable lessons for our struggles today.
The March 12 date marks the end of the two-month strike of 25,000 textile workers in Lawrence, Mass., which was the center of the New England textile industry. It’s estimated that one company annually produced woolen and cotton goods worth $45 million — an amazing sum 100 years ago!
But the companies did not share that wealth with the workers, who averaged less than $9 a week. Living and working conditions were so bad that a Lawrence physician reported that “thirty-six out of every 100 of all men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age” due to malnutrition, occupational diseases and speed-up.
Known as the Bread & Roses strike — because at least half the strikers were young women between 14 and 18 who carried signs reading “We want bread and roses too” – this work stoppage offers a shining example of how the unity, organization and determined spirit of the workers stopped corporate greed and the police state that imprisoned strikers on its behalf. It also shows how a strike can become an incipient revolution.
Strikers organize, invent new tactics
What provoked the strike? The state of Massachusetts, responding to notoriously harsh working conditions, passed a law effective Jan. 1, 1912, reducing weekly hours for women and children from 56 to 54. On Jan. 11, when Polish women weavers noticed their weekly pay had been cut by 32 cents (which would deprive them of three loaves of bread), they shut their looms and marched to all the other factories, shouting “Short pay, short pay!”
The next day, all the mills were silent, as the workers from 30 countries, speaking 45 languages, held a mass meeting. The socialist-oriented Industrial Workers of the World, organizing in the mills since 1907, telegraphed experienced IWW organizer Joseph Ettor to help organize the strike.
Immediately, Ettor set up a strike committee, with two representatives from each nationality, which met every morning to plan the day’s activities. Mass picketing was conducted daily. The strikers issued demands: a 15 percent increase in wages, double time for overtime and no reprisals for striking. Ray Standard Barker, writing in the American Magazine, called it the first openly socialist strike because its demand for higher wages was tied to the abolition of the entire wage system and of private ownership of industry.
Answering the call for organizers, Arturo Giovannitti, editor of the Italian Socialist Federation’s newspaper, set up strike relief, with a network of soup kitchens and food distribution centers run by each national group. Volunteer doctors provided medical care. In response to a national appeal, donations poured in and were distributed equitably, so no one was evicted from company housing.
The picketers invented a new tactic — an endless chain of thousands marching around the mill district wearing white armbands reading “Don’t be a scab.” (There were none.) Large groups also locked arms on business district sidewalks, and when local cops and militia tried to disperse them, the crowds went into stores, clogging the aisles.
But picketers were not allowed to protest peacefully. Police violence and arrests began the first week. When strikers, who after being drenched with water from fire hoses, retaliated by throwing chunks of ice, 36 were arrested and sentenced to a year in jail.
One of the largest demonstrations occurred on Jan. 29, after Ettor addressed a mass meeting on the town commons. When militia, summoned from neighboring towns, tried to halt the march, Ettor averted violence, leading protesters down a side street. Later that evening, a woman striker was killed when police tried to break up a picket line.
Even though Ettor and Giovannitti were at a meeting three miles away, they were arrested as “accessories to the murder,” charged with inciting violence, refused bail and imprisoned without trial for eight months. In April, striker Joseph Caruso was charged with the murder, though protesters identified a Lawrence cop as the killer. Martial law was declared, public meetings were declared illegal, and 22 more militia units were called in.
Not deterred by police state tactics
Police state tactics did not stop the strikers. IWW organizers Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn joined them. After Haywood addressed thousands of strikers on the commons, they serenaded him with “The Internationale” sung in their native tongues. “Those kids should be in school instead of slaving in the mills,” Haywood responded.
Adopting a strategy employed by French and Italian strikers, the workers, assisted by Mother Jones, sent 120 children to New York City on Feb. 10, where they were welcomed by 5,000 Italian socialists, who fed, clothed and housed them. After another group of 92 children were sent there a few weeks later, Lawrence officials, outraged by the sympathetic publicity generated, ordered that no more children could leave the city.
On Feb. 24, as 150 children were to leave for Philadelphia, police and militia waded into the crowd, swinging billy clubs as they tore children away from parents. They arrested 35 women and children, beating them mercilessly on their way to jail. That display of heartless brutality was the turning point in the strike.
A national outcry ensued, leading to a congressional investigation in Lawrence in early March. When truth about the horrific working and living conditions emerged, the biggest textile company capitulated on March 12, accepting all the strikers’ demands. Soon, wages were raised for all textile workers throughout New England. It took a two-month trial in the fall before Ettor, Giovannitti and Caruso were acquitted on Nov. 26.
Unfortunately, however, no contract was signed and the union floundered. During the 1913 recession, workers’ wages were once again cut, and speedup became even more ruthless.
But the heroic example of the Bread & Roses strike endures. The key elements were unity of the workers, though divided by language and nationality; inventive tactics that exposed the wrongs and demanded rights; and openly promoting the strike as a struggle against capitalism and for socialism.
It’s time to adopt similar strategies inspired by this struggle to counter the current war against the working class.
Sources: Joyce Kornbluh, “Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology” (Chicago: Kerr, 1988); and Milton Meltzer, “Bread and Roses: The Struggle of American Labor 1865-1915” (New York: Knopf, 1967).
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Jill Stein is running for the Green Party's presidential nomination. Her campaign issued the following last week.
Eliminate tuition, student debt, says Stein as campus protests spread nationally
As tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff protest today across the country against the corporatization of higher education, Dr. Jill Stein renewed her call for "generational justice" achieved in part by forgiving student debt and ending tuition at public colleges and universities. Stein has promised a Green New Deal for America if elected, including an Economic Bill of Rights that ends "indentured servitude" for college students.
One Milwaukee student leader, Jacob Anikulapo, expressed similar sentiments, stating that, "Student loan debt is out of control, and is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, while our administrators are still giving eachother pay raises, cutting faculty, and raising tuition. We are building a massive student movement for education rights with the belief that education should be free for all, not a privilege for those who can afford it."
Leland Pan, a student activist who is running for the Dane County, Wisconsin Board of Supervisors, expressed appreciation for Dr. Stein and her campaign, saying that, "in today's politics, we have two parties that have come together to defund higher education institutions, cut the Pell Grant, bust teachers' unions, and privatize K-12 schools. If we believe higher education is a right, if we believe teachers deserve decent workplace conditions and the right to collectively bargain, and if we believe that K-12 schools are a service to be provided to all, then the only just thing to do is to support the Green Party in the Presidential race."
Added Lucas Vazquez, a student at Walt Whitman High School in Long Island, "Education has been turned into a market for the '1 %,' in which they are run by neo-liberal policies that create re-segregation, inequality, massive debt, and undemocratic institutions. Students must resist such injustices through creating independent student unions, and a sustainable movement that presents alternatives to the market-oriented educational system we live in."
The Green New Deal promoted by Dr. Stein provides that, "We will honor the right to a tuition-free, quality public education from pre-school through college at public institutions. And we will forgive student loan debt left over from the current era of unaffordable college education."
"Good news for Troy Gilbert's family; the idiot Tim Arango" -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.
"Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Senate Budget Committee," "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. and Kat report on Congressional hearings.
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Palin" -- Isaiah on Barack now talking up Sarah Palin's 2008 energy proposals.
-- Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Ruth, Marcia, Mike and Elaine cover TV.
"THIS JUST IN! BITING HIM IN THE ASS!" and "Obamacare could be the death of his career" -- Wally and Cedric explain the jaw dropping news that ObamaCare will cost $111 million more than what was promised. Did we say million? We meant billion!!!! $111 billion!!!!!
"THIS JUST IN! WHY EVEN BOTHER?" and "Cover or don't but drop the half-assed" -- Wally and Cedric with an important media criticism.
"Oscars," "Ugh on Best Actress," "revenge and movies," "The Women Of Color," "The Oscars (Meryl is Audrey Hepburn)," "Oscars," "Thoughts on arts criticism" and "Netflix and What's Up Doc?" -- Stan, Betty, Rebecca, Marcia, Kat and Stan cover film including the Academy Awards.
"Barack's Running Scared" -- Isaiah dips into the archives. We think it's interesting how this popped up. At his site, Isaiah goes, week by week, through his old comics. It's an archive site. This week it was Sarah Palin's first appearance in Isaiah's comic. And Sunday, the new comic was about Barack swiping Sarah Palin's 2008 energy proposals. Book ends.