Sunday, May 20, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Under the change, only a contracting officer could procure a prosthetic item costing more than $3,000.  This policy would effect essential items including most limbs like mine and wheel chairs.  It would require the use of a system designed for bulk procurement purchases that involves manually processing over three hundred -- that's 300 -- individual steps to develop a purchase order.  This system may be great for buying cinder blocks and light bulbs but it is certainly not appropriate for providing timely and appropriate medical care.  Equally troubling, this change offers no promise of improving service to the warrior.  Instead, it would mean greater delays. The change could realize modest savings but at what cost?  A warrior needing a new leg or wheel chair should not have to wait longer than is absolutely necessary.  I know warriors who have stayed home from our events, stay home from school, from work, can't play ball with their kids or live in chronic pain while they wait for a new prosthesis.   I know first hand what it's like to not be able to put my son into the crib while I'm waiting for a new prosthetic, to live in chronic pain and to have my daughter ask my wife once again, "Why can't Daddy come and walk with us?"   With VA moving ahead on changing procurement practices, wounded warriors need this Committee's help.  A prosthetic limb is not a mass produced widget. Prosthetics are specialized, medical equipment that should be prescribed by a clinician and promptly delivered to the veteran.  We urge this Committee to direct VA to stop implementation of this change in prosthetic procurement.

-- Southeast Wounded Warrior Project's Jonathan Pruden testifying to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee (see Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot").

Truest statement of the week II

We represented the father of  Anwar al-Awlaki and that was, of course, at a time when the president or -- somehow they had leaked out the kill list, on an assassination list.  I don't know if they leaked it out because they wanted a test, because they wanted to send fear into people, etc., but it was one of the cases that we knew in advance that they were aiming to kill him in Yemen.  And we didn't know, we didn't -- I mean, it's not the issue whether we suspected him of doing something involving terrorism or not but he was known as a militant, fiery preacher. He did happen to be an American citizen. Now what's interesting about the case is that we got a fair amount of support even from people that I  wouldn't expect it from because he was an American citizen.  And they said, 'How can you kill an American citizen outside of any war zone without some kind of due process from a court saying he's being killed because?'  The because we admitted in our briefs, the only because is if he were actually about to put his finger on a trigger and launch some kind of missile into the United States.  In other words, the only way the president can take action against anyone is if it's eminent -- really eminent destruction about to be visited on the United States.  And there's no case -- no one says that's what the case was with Anwar al-Awlaki. Short of that, you have to have due process, you have to have a way in which -- Why should the president and think about it  -- The president can just decide on his own that, 'Today I'm going to kill al-Awaki?' who's not even in a battle zone?  'Tomorrow, I'm going to kill X.  Maybe I'm going to kill this guy sitting in the Montana mountains tomorrow because we consider him a danger. There has to be some check on the president doing that or basically he's say -- he is saying that, 'I can assassinate anybody in the world.'

--   Law and Disorder Radio  co-host Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) speaking to Cindy Sheehan on this week's Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.

Truest statement of the week III

Today Obama ordered the renewal of this executive order, which is just a tad bit disconcerting considering we are (were?) supposed to be finished in Iraq.

--  Alexander Abad-Santos (The Atlantic).

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.

We thank them all. What did we come up with?

Iraq War veteran Jonathan Pruden.
Michael Ratner racks up another truest.
We believe this is the first time anyone with The Atlantic has been awarded a "truest."

It really is amazing how in the tank the US press is.  

You wanted a CW overview, Ava and C.I. give you one.  This is both a hard hitting look as well as basic reporting -- something Ava and C.I. know how to do even if the Water Cooler Set doesn't.  When's the last time you read Bill Carter or any of the Docker Boys writing about what the affiliates want?  Exactly.  Great piece.

The finale is this Wednesday.  I (Jim) already was informed by Dona that I'll be watching our baby solo when this broadcasts.  Dona and Ty roundtable on the series with Ann and Rebecca.

A short feature.

Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox was our pick this week.

There's what Barack Obama tells the people and what he tells Congress.

A repost of Cedric and Wally's song parody paired with an Isaiah comic.
We heard the song performed by Jenkins while listening to Cindy's Soapbox and thought we had a video to please those e-mailing for us to share more videos.

Senators Patty Murray and Richard Burr lead the call for dignified burials.

Jill Stein is campaign for the Green Party's presidential nomination.

Repost from Workers World.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: The Iraq the US press ignores

Here's Nouri

How bad are things in Iraq currently?

So bad that even the kangaroo trial of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi hasn't been able to dominate the news cycle in Iraq.

Human Rights Watch revealed last week that Nouri al-Maliki continues to run a secret prison in Iraq where people are tortured.

How bad is it?

So bad that the White House advised him to invite a few Americans in for the sort of dog-and-pony show Sean Penn was slammed for taking part in when Saddam Hussein was still president of Iraq.

Nouri's trying to spin that while also wondering if there's any way he can pull Moqtada al-Sadr back into his circle?

Last week, repeatedly, all eyes were on the Shi'ite cleric Moqtada who, as Nouri's stocks falls, sees his own rise.  While Nouri fumbles and flops, Moqtada continues to appear more and more the statesman.

Currently, Iraq waits to see if there will be a no-confidence vote on Nouri.



Oh, that's right, The New York Times and other US outlets didn't cover any of that.

But Moqtada gave Nouri a dealine to implement the Erbil Agreement and Moqtada's 18-point plan as well and, if it's not implemented, as May winds down, Moqtada says they will move for a no-confidence vote.

They have already come up with a list of people who could replace Nouri as prime minister -- and the list is public.  Currently, they're whittling it down to one choice.  All the names on the list belong to the National Alliance -- as does Nouri.  (The National Alliance is a Shi'ite political slate with various groups including Nouri's State of Law, as well as Moqtada's bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.)  Saturday, elements of the National Alliance were at Moqtada's Najaf home along with representatives of the Kurdistan Alliance and Iraqiya. 

Maybe some day the US press will feign interest in the topic?

Maybe not.


Illustration is Isaiah's "Here's Nouri."

TV: The Vanishing CW

If only urban legend were true, things wouldn't be so bad.  But, contrary to gossip, when Fred Silverman was in charge at NBC, there was never a season where he took an axe to every one of the network's shows that had debuted that fall.

The CW gutted their net-lette.  Only one show that debuted last fall will return this fall -- Hart of Dixie.  And that's actually the least of their problems.  Last week, we did an overview of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and left out the CW -- intentionally as Jim noted in his "A note to our readers." The reason we did that is you can't group the CW with the others.

Not because it's a net-lette and not an actual network -- or not just because of that.  When NBC was saying publicly that they would stick with The Jay Leno Show, we told you they wouldn't (while news outlets were saying they would) and we told you why.  That's because we're apparently the only ones in the world aware that NBC may own a few stations but the bulk of its programming airs on affiliates.  Unlike, for example, The New York Times, we spoke to affiliates and that's how we found out that the Leno show would be pulled.  The affiliates couldn't take the bad ratings hit every night and were letting NBC know that they would lose that hour on the affiliate stations.  With Leno tanking nightly, they had no lead-in for their local nightly news, where they make money on commercials, and the affiliates weren't going to stand for it.

While we were telling you about those realities, news outlets were quoting NBC execs stating things like the show was so cheap to make the ratings didn't matter.  The ratings did matter to the affiliates.  More than any other network or net-lette, the CW is a story of affiliates.

The only reason the CW has remained on the air the last three years was due to affiliate contracts.  Those were long term contracts and many will be up for renewal in the coming years.  We spoke to affiliates that are part of the Tribune Company and we spoke to affiliates that weren't.  No one is happy with the ratings.  If things don't improve quickly and dramatically, many plan to walk.

It wasn't supposed to have been turned out this way.  The CW was born from the ruins of The WB and UPN.  It was to replace them both and had its pick of the shows airing on both.  But it made choices that telegraphed it had no clue what it was doing.  It chose not to pick either Eve or CharmedEve would have fit in with the Sunday comedy block they were going for.  And maybe it wouldn't have failed with Eve as opposed to, for example, The Game?  Regarldess, Charmed delivered a Sunday audience for the WB.  Without Charmed, The CW couldn't deliver Sunday ratings and, eventually, just stopped trying.

The scheduling choices themselves telegraphed that this wasn't going to be a network for women in scripted shows.  Gilmore Girls was wrapping up its final season and it was paired with the UPN's chronically low-rated Veronica Mars which, even with a Gilmore lead-in, still couldn't get better ratings than it had on UPN.

This time last year, the net-lette was convinced it had figured out how to bring back the Charmed audience: The Secret Circle.   But the Kevin Williamson show started off shaky and got much, much worse.  There's a campaign to bring the show back and we wish it well but the claiming of "millions" of fans is a bit hard for a show that failed to deliver "millions" in the ratings.  Among the biggest problems was the prudish drip Cassie who, sadly, was the show's centerpiece.

The Secret Circle wasn't the new Charmed, it was a Dawson's Creek update but the show lacked even one appealing male lead and all the actresses were more gifted than the series lead Brittany Robertson and each time the show went back to her and away from a subplot, the energy was sucked out of the room. 

The Secret Circle was a weekly train-wreck and it's surprising it lasted as long as it did.   They still don't understand the Charmed vibe as evidenced by the new programs offered this fall: Emily Owens, M.D., Arrow and Beauty and the Beast.  In January, they'll begin airing the most likely to bomb The Carrie Diaries.

We'll start with the last one.  This hour long show will replace Gossip Girl and follow the adventures of Carrie Bradshaw.  "Great," you may think, "I loved Sex in the City!"  Grasp that this show doesn't pick up where the series or the films left off.  No, it wants to go back in time.  Because what do kids love more -- teen girls are the target audience -- than the 80s?

If you found Carrie shallow -- and many did -- after 'insight' and 'realizations' from several seasons of Sex in the City, grasp that you're now going to see her without even that.  In what world is a character popular with women in their 30s and 40s nearly 15 years ago, the ideal for a new series attempting to lure teens in?

Now it might work.  And, if it does, who knows, maybe The CW can build a show around Dorothy Zbornak and Blanche Devereaux in the 1940s?

Meanwhile the old Beauty and the Beast fairy tale gets a(nother) modern-day update.  They're putting this on Thursday nights and it's a sign of how bad things are ratings wise for The CW that most will be noting it's paired with its hit.  Hit?  The Vampire Diaries had its highest ratings in season one.  In fact, this season's finale?  Half as many people watched it as watched the show's series debut back in September 2009.  When that's your hit, you've got serious problems.  Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast is a a risk but, at least there, if it pays off, it will be worth it.  The Carrie Bradshaw show is going to alienate fans of the original series (it won't be able to follow the bible for Carrie created by the previous show).  Arrow's another dumb move.

Arrow's hoping to bring back the Smallville magic.  Smallville was about high school Clark Kent learning about his super powers and eventually becoming Superman.  Series star Tom Welling was in his mid-twenties when he began playing underage Clark.   Stephen Amell will be 31 when Arrow starts airing this fall and viewers see him playing Oliver Queen the Green Arrow.  So the pre-teen and early teen audience is in doubt before a single episode airs.  Add in that Green Arrow is not a comic book character that brings a huge following with him.  So this show is really going to need to be smart and inventive.  The creative talent offscreen doesn't make for high hopes.  For example, we loved Eli Stone and No Ordinary Family but they didn't make for ratings successes.

Even worse for The CW is the fact that they want to pair this new Wednesday night show with Supernatural..  See Friday, with networks starting to walk away from the night, was becoming the CW's best night, most dependable, in terms of competing with the big three and Fox.  Supernatural teamed with Nikita could have made gains this season.  Fridays The CW was becoming a real threat to Fox.  Now they're going to kick the night off with a dying reality show about fashion models and pretend that's compatible with Nikita which will move into the second hour time slot.  In addition to screwing up Friday nights, it's asking a lot to expect Supernatural to go up against Modern Family (among others) on a new night.

This is a big deal to affiliates. They like both shows and they hoped they'd be kept together next fall so that they could build on the action-adventure audience they were carving out together. They would have been happy to stick with Ringer as well but they're not too crazy about the renewal of Hart of Dixie.  What The CW has apparently never learned is that the affiliates will love teen operas provided they bring in the ratings.  When they don't, you're dealing with a ratings loser and a show that most adults -- including those running the affiliates -- won't watch.

Not being fond of the lot-of-love-little-medicine mix of Hart of Dixie, they're already underwhelmed by Emily Owens, M.D.   They're not crazy about the title, question Justin Hartley as a male lead since he couldn't parlay his Green Arrow on Smallville into his own superhero TV show and are, frankly, confused as to why Meryl Streep's daughter (Mamie Gummer) was cast in the lead on a CW show?

"Any hopes I had for this fall," we were told, "vanished at the upfront."

When you're at the bottom, you really need to dream big.  When you're at the bottom, you should be shooting the dice and then some.

Affiliates have ideas for shows and don't feel they're listened to.  They wonder why there's no animated programs?  If nothing else, the WB half of the equation should be able to put together a "Wonderful World of Warners." Basically, a program utilizing the classic Warner Brothers cartoons.  In other words, no new content at all.  That actually does seem like an easy enough thing to pull off and beneficial to Warner Brothers.  Would Disney be Disney today without The Wonderful World of Disney airing on network TV from 1954 to 2008?  (The show aired on ABC, CBS and NBC.)  That much talked of CIG film starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird and others doesn't seem to be going anywhere but, if it ever does, wouldn't airing some of the classics on network TV had helped build awareness for the film?

There's also a feeling that while everyone else was flirting with music -- either singing or dancing -- The CW let it all pass by.  Four different people described a program that sounded a lot like what MTV used to offer with Unplugged -- a bare bones music show.

When your ratings remain in the tank you really need to please the affiliates especially when the contracts will be expiring in a few years. "Instead," said one, "we're getting Meryl Steep's daughter.  I don't think when she was starting out anyone saw her as a potential TV star so I'm left wondering how her lookalike daughter can be seen as one?"

Revenge thoughts in the lead up to the finale

Dona: This Wednesday, ABC airs the season finale of Revenge.  We roundtabled on the show back in April with "Revenge: A Discussion."  Ty and I were joined by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude who blogs about Revenge each week. and she joins us again as does Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.  Ty?


Ty: I guess we should probably start with the illustration we're using.  Nolan (Gabriel Mann) and Emily (Emily VanCamp) are chained to a wall. [Click on the illustration above if you don't see Emily -- in some browser the right side of the photo is cut off.]  That's on the episode airing Wednesday.  Anyone want to take a guess?

Ann: The man who killed Emily's father, the white-haired man, was found.  Nolan went into his home and planted a camera.  And, as Rebecca pointed out, that episode ended very Rear Window-like with Nolan discovering too late that the stream was on some sort of loop and the white-haired man was in Nolan's house behind him and choking him until Nolan passed out.  Nolan had been on the phone with Emily and apparently the white-haired man then goes after her.  Or that's one guess.

Rebecca: And I'd guess different just because I'm wondering if the white-haired man found out Emily was involved, wouldn't he go to Conrad?  And especially with Emily being Amanda Clark and especially with Emily being engaged to Daniel Grayson, Conrad's son, wouldn't the white-haired man go to Conrad and say something like, "Look how you've screwed up?"

Ann: That's a good point.

Ty: Yeah because Conrad is going to be back next season.  So obvioulsy, he can't find out anything about Emily -- either that she's David Clarke's daughter or that she's anything less than an innocent.  So maybe Emily goes to Nolan's house to find out what's going on and that's when she gets nabbed. 

Dona: So we've seen five new episodes in a row as the lead up to this Wednesday.  What stands out the most?  I'll toss out my choice: How little I care for Daniel.  Anyone else feeling that?

Rebecca: Well he's so bland.  And Jack's so much more interesting.  Daniel's Emily's fiancee, Jack's who she loves.  She sometimes loves Daniel but then he shows his ass and she remembers she's come back for revenge.

Ann: Meeting Daniel at the start of the season wasn't an accident.  As we've seen in flashbacks, she visited the Hamptons to see what was going on and where she stood.  She'd just gotten out of juvie.  Her father was killed in prison. She'd believed he was innocent when she was a little girl but that had vanished over the years.  So she went back to the Hamptons for the first time as an adult and discovered just how evil the Graysons were.  So that's when she decided she wanted revenge.  And that she'd become Emily Thorne, created that identity and eventually moved to the Hamptons into the beach house across from the Graysons.   So I actually get bothered when Emily's off her game because she's feeling romantic love towards Daniel.  He's a spoiled bastard.  I don't see how anyone could like him.  The accident and all.

Ty: Right.  Ann's referring to his causing a woman's spinal injury.  This season was about mainly one summer at the Hamptons.  And the summer before, Daniel was drunk and had a car accident.  He walked away fine but the woman he was dating, she ended up with a spinal injury.  You'd hope he'd learn from that and mature.  Instead, he's becoming his father's bitch-boy.

Rebecca: Right?  Last week, when he threatened Victoria, his mother, with having nothing to do with her, what was that?  Victoria's a mess and a trouble maker but Daniel's the one person that she always tries to do the best for.  And Conrad?  He'd cut Daniel in a minute.

Ty: You really believe that?  Isn't Daniel his golden boy?

Rebecca: I believe he'd cut Daniel in a minute to save his own life. Don't forget, what we know of Victoria betraying David Clarke and helping Conrad frame him for terrorism, it was Conrad threatening not just harm to her, but suffering for Daniel.  But Conrad has always acted for himself.

Ty: Do you agree with that, Ann?

Ann: Yeah, I think Rebecca's on to something there.  I mean, remember what happened when he found out Charlotte was actually David Clarke's daughter and not his own, he kicked her out, he cut her off, he wanted nothing to do with her.  For whatever reasons, probably because his father got involved, remember, suddenly he's decided he'll have a little to do with her.  But, yeah, Conrad would cut Daniel in a minute.  Imagine if he discovered Daniel was actually that painter's son and not his?  He'd dump him in a minute. 

Dona: And while Conrad's bad and evil, he's an interesting character.  He's not like Daniel.  Daniel's a Ken doll.  Two episodes back there was a flashback episode and it had a lot of revelations including Emily about to learn the truth from her father's friend Roger until Conrad ordered Roger killed.  But what I found interesting was what stood out to Rebecca.  She blogged about it at her site and noted how it soured her on Lydia.

Rebecca: Lydia was Victoria's best friend.  Lydia was also Emily's first victim.  Emily knew Lydia and Conrad were sleeping together and arranged for Conrad to have a reaction at a hotel that he would mistake for a heart attack.  She 'happened' to be outside as the ambulance arrived and pretended to Lydia that she thought the man was Lydia's husband.  Later, at Victoria's boat party, Emily would fill Victoria in on what happened to Lydia's 'husband.' Since Victoria had met Conrad at the hospital that day, she knew what was going on.  She immediately ended her friendship with Lydia and tossed Lydia to the wolves.   Now watching that, I had no harsh feelings for Lydia.  I assumed that an affair resulted from chemisty and being tossed together and that Lydia and Conrad had both fought the urge.   But what we discovered in the flashback was that Victoria's best friend actually went after Conrad.  Lydia was married as well and that didn't bother her either.  And I felt no sympathy for her at all.  Instead, I felt very sorry for Victoria that one of the few people she trusted cared so little about her she would knowingly try to hurt her.  I loathe Lydia now.

Ty: For me, the character who most benefitted in the last six episodes was Mason Treadwell.  I really enjoyed his downfall that Emily created.  But when we came back from the long break, we got to see him the flashback episode as well as in one non-flashback.and he was about sticking it to the Graysons.  He also had a really good line after he used Daniel's criminal trial to advance himself by butchering him in writing, Victoria told him there would be hell to pay and he responded something like, "How? By not inviting me to one of your parties that people are no longer coming to?"

Dona: I don't know that I liked anyone better in the last five episodes.  I think my opinions were pretty much fixed by the sixth episode of the show.  Ann, anything change for you?

Ann: Just how Daniel was a minor irritation and has now turned into someone I hate.  I can't stand to see that spoiled brat playing at being a man.  He just gets on my last damn nerve.  If your opinions of the characters didn't change, Dona, did anything from the last five episodes change?

Dona: I think I just get more and more Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Why Revenge resonates."

Ty: Okay, what are your hopes for this last episode?  Since Revenge isn't coming back on until January 2013, my hope is minor in that, having seen the photo, I hope the end of the episode isn't Nolan and Emily still chained to the wall.

[*** CORRECTION 5-20-2012: Lauren e-mailed to say she didn't think that was right about the show returning in January 2013.  I (Ty) checked with Ava and C.I.  Lauren's correct.  Revenge comes back this fall but on Sunday nights.  My apologies for my mistake.]

Rebecca: I loathe Daniel as much as Ann.  But what I would like this episode to do, in a perfect world, is clarify what Daniel feels about Emily.  She's gone from love of his life to courtroom accessory. He's a total dick but I would like to know how much of a dick.  Does he really love her at all?  I have no idea.  Especially with Ashley having seen Jack and Emily kiss this last episode.

Ann: Ashley's gone over to the dark side but she really turned against Emily -- or got honest about it -- when she was dating Ty.  The minute Ty started trashing Emily, Ashley didn't stick up for her 'good friend,' she rushed to agree with him.  Ashely resents Emily.  For me, I'm more interested in what Victoria's going to do?  I think she's the one to watch this coming episode to determine where next season is headed.  Dona?

Dona:  I won't get what I want.  I want clarity on what exactly David Clarke was framed for.  Terrorism?  A plane went down?  How did Conrad share responsibility for that, how did he push it off on David?  It's still not clear to me.  But we're clear that we've got to wind down.  Ty?

Ty: So remember, last hour of prime time Wednesday night, season finale of Revenge.  Last new episode until 2013.  Don't miss it.  And this was a rush transcript.

How cute!

 to do list

Well isn't that just the sweetest thing!  Barack Obama and the administration spent some time coming up with a things-to-do list for Congress.

The always golfing or on vacation Barack comes up with a to-do-list for someone else.

Question: When are they going to get around to writing a things-to-do list for Barack?

Radio moment of the week


On this week's Cindy Sheehan Soapbox, Cindy spoke with Law and Disorder Rado wco-host Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) and among the topics they discussed was the de-legitimization of protest.  Excerpt.

Michael Ratner:  In that sense, it allows the Secret Service and others to really round up a tremendous number of people that might be protesting or otherwise the presence of a US official.  So it's another, I look at it as really another step in what I call the de-legitimization of dissent in this country.  And it's  an important aspect that you can be arrested for that but, as you know from the many demonstrations that you've been on, Everything from pens, to batons, to pepper spray, to denial of permits, to mass arrests of people who are just protesting, this is all part of something that's been going on not just since 9-11 but really since Seattle in '99 and the G8 -- or the WTO [World Trade Organization] rather. 

Cindy Sheehan: Well one of my cases, I was arrested in front of the White House at a protest and it was when Obama was president.  When Bush was president, I got arrested in front of the White House I don't even know how many times.  I lost count somewhere around a dozen..   And when Obama was president, I was arrested in front of the White House twice.  And the second time I was arrested, we were held in DC jails for 53 hours, brought to court in shackles -- literal shackles -- and then we were given a stay-away order. from the White House for it turned out to be for four months.  And that never happened when Bush was president.  I just thought it was so extreme -- just for laying on the sidewalk in front of the White House.  I thought that was a very extreme punishment.  And if we violated the stay-away order, it would have gone to six months in jail

Michael Ratner: That's what they do.  They're always -- I mean, I find that to be really outrageous.  I've been arrested in front of the White House as well.. You know, even before --  I haven't been arrested while Obama's been president But in the old days -- I have a sister [Ellen Ratner] who works in the press in whatever the downstairs is, where they have the press people.  She's a White House correspondent.  And when I visit her, I'm not allowed to go in and just walk over there, I have to have an escort.  I haven't done this for a few years.  But once or twice, I went in to visit my sister and I'm not allowed into the front gate. And I'm sure you'd probably be worse --

Cindy Sheehan: [Laughing] Yeah, I'm pretty sure

Michael Ratner:  But they had an escort follow me in through there.  But I find the idea that they put those kind of conditions on civil disobedience -- which is a most honorable tradition in the United States --  really honorable.  It's the way we get change got change.  It's the way King got change. It's the way the auto workers got change.  It's a key aspect.  They would keep you out, keep you out, keep you from being in front of the White House the most important protest people can make in the United States around presidential policies is right in front of the White House.  And that they would keep you away from there, in my view, is a violation of our broad view of the First Amendment.  And my view is that it includes civil disobedience.

Safe Iraq?


US President Barack Obama pictured above with torturer Nouri al-Maliki.  If the war is over, if Iraq is safer, why did the White House release the following on Friday?

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2012

Message -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq



Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2012.
Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.
Recognizing positive developments in Iraq, my Administration will continue to evaluate Iraq's progress in resolving outstanding debts and claims arising from actions of the previous regime, so that I may determine whether to further continue the prohibitions contained in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, on any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq, the accounts, assets, and property held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and Iraqi petroleum-related products, which are in addition to the sovereign immunity accorded Iraq under otherwise applicable law.

The Incredible Shrinking Barack

baracks shrinking stature









Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack's Shrinking Stature"  and Cedric's "Sing it, Barry!" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARRY O'S 2012 THEME SONG!" offers a twist on Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away."

Video for the week: Jenkins rocks Occupy

We're adding a video pick to the roster.  We don't plan to do it every week but there's been a strong response to videos.  This is Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind) performing in December at Zuccotti Park for the Occupy movement.

Senators call for Dignified Burials

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following:

Thursday, May 17, 2012 Burr 202-228-1616
VETERANS: Murray, Burr Introduce Bill to Ensure Dignified Burials
Comes after veteran’s remains were discovered to have been buried in cardboard box

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, introduced legislation to help ensure every veteran receives a dignified burial. The Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012 would authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish a casket or urn to a deceased veteran when VA is unable to identify the veteran’s next-of-kin and determines that sufficient resources are not otherwise available to furnish a casket or urn for burial in a national cemetery. This bill would further require that VA report back to Congress on the industry standard for urns and caskets and whether burials at VA’s national cemeteries are meeting that standard. Under current law, VA is not authorized to purchase a casket or urn for veterans who do not have a next-of-kin to provide one, or the resources to be buried in an appropriate manner.
Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr, joined by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced this legislation after a veteran, with no known next-of-kin, was buried in a cardboard container at a VA National Cemetery in Florida. The exposed remains were discovered during a raise and realign project at the cemetery. The veteran’s remains were later placed in a bag and reburied with what was left of the cardboard box.
“When America’s heroes make a commitment to serve their country, we make a promise to care for them,” said Chairman Murray. “That includes helping to provide them with a burial honoring their service. I was deeply disturbed when I heard this news. There is no reason why the remains of a veteran should ever be treated with this lack of dignity. I am pleased we are taking the appropriate steps to right this indescribable wrong.”
“Those who have served our country in uniform deserve our honor, appreciation, and respect, and that responsibility does not end when they pass away,” said Senator Burr. “My heart goes out to those affected by the problems at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. We must ensure that the remains of veterans and servicemembers are treated with dignity and respect and that the families of those who have passed away have no doubts as to the quality of the final resting place of their loved ones.”
“All veterans deserve a dignified final resting place,” said Senator Nelson. “A cardboard box certainly isn’t one. That’s why we’ve got to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“Those who serve our nation in uniform deserve our respect and support, from the moment they commit to serve through their deaths and even beyond as we honor their legacies,” said Senator Rubio. “Providing dignified burials for veterans is a solemn pledge we must uphold. Cases like this are outrageous and need to be corrected so that no deceased veteran is ever dishonored in this way again.”
Meghan Roh
Deputy Press Secretary | Social Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Jill Stein on the JP Morgan fiasco

Jill Stein

  Jill Stein (above) is campaigning for the Green Party's presidential nomination.  She weighs in on the JP Morgan fiasco:

President Obama is Wall Street's "chief damage control officer" according to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.  "He has failed miserably to fix the Wall Street system that is ruining our economy - and the recent $2 billion JP Morgan fiasco is further evidence of that.  His role is to talk tough when Wall Street misbehavior hits the headlines, and to appropriate to himself the role of the one who will fix the problem. This essentially heads off all other attempts at true reform.  After the story fades from the headlines, he cuts a deal that protects the status quo. President Obama is a facilitator, not a reformer. He will never change the Wall Street system."
Stein was especially critical of the President's recent praise for CEO Jamie Dimon who oversaw JP Morgan's investment strategies. "The President kept emphasizing how smart Dimon is, as if that is a justification for letting him play fast and loose with people's money.  Well, Mr. President,  there is a time to blow the whistle on a pack of thieves, even if they're smart thieves. I want to be a different kind of president. The smarter the thieves are, the harder I will work to unravel their clever schemes."
Stein noted reports that the JP Morgan investment executive who oversaw the $2 billion loss had earned over $31m in the past two years. "That's the kind of cash that our economy is hemorrhaging into the pockets of the Wall Street elite while ordinary people can't get banks to refinance their mortgages" Stein observed.
"President Obama justifies his so-called reforms by saying they will protect Wall Street from collapse. There are two things wrong with his approach. First, he has no intention of making the real, substantive changes we so desperately need to reign in the wheeler-dealers. And secondly, he shouldn't be trying to perpetuate the status quo and let Wall Street grow even more powerful. Wall Street needs to become a much less influential player in determining the life and death of our economy. We need to break up the big Wall Street banks, take major capital investment decisions out of their hands, and create an economy in which small businesses and workers grow prosperous instead of being robbed."

Stein has proposed a "Green New Deal" that would break up the big Wall Street banks and emphasize state development banks that would get credit directly to small businesses and homeowners. "When the foreclosure crisis hit, the President gave interest-free loans to the big banks.  But instead of loaning that money to families facing eviction, the banks bought Treasury bonds to make a quick profit for themselves while families were tossed out on the streets.  I'm going to end the President's trickle-down approach. I'm going to bypass the Wall Street banks and help state development banks loan directly to the families that need help."

Noting that "Republican Mitt Romney now says he wants to repeal the ineffective Dodd-Frank legislation, Stein decried what she called "the phony script that is being written for the 2012 presidential race".

“So now we're supposed to go through the 2012 presidential race with two candidates, a Republican pushing for repealing regulation and a Democrat arguing for preservation of ineffective regulation. The American voter is supposed to choose between dumb and dumber,  and Wall Street escapes in either case. It is vitally important that the Green Party break through to let the American people hear a third opinion and know that they don't have to vote for increasing the financial clout of the Wall Street elite. Without a third voice, the election will end with a phony mandate for four more years of increasing Wall Street empowerment. Millions of voters are ready to vote against that, and that's why we are working so hard to be on the ballot."

CeCe McDonald (Kris Hamel)

Repost from Workers World:

Campaign to free CeCe McDonald continues

Published May 19, 2012 10:46 AM

The second-degree murder trial of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald in Minneapolis started April 30 and ended May 2. McDonald’s situation highlights the anti-transgender bigotry and racism rampant in society, as well as the inability of the “justice” system to mete out justice for the oppressed.McDonald, a young African-American trans woman, survived a racist, anti-trans attack in July 2011. As she and her friends, all of them youths, African-American and queer or allied, walked to a grocery store late one night, they were brutally set upon by a group of racist whites outside a bar. McDonald was hit in the face with a glass and her cheek severely punctured. She was jailed and was the only person charged after a melee that left one of her attackers, a racist complete with a swastika tattooed on his body, dead.
Originally charged with second-degree felony murder and facing a possible sentence of decades in prison, McDonald agreed to the prosecution’s offer of pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter, with a prison term of 41 months.
Katie Burgess, of the Trans Youth Support Network, stated in a press release: “The executed sentence will be reduced by one-third, for ‘good time’ and credit for the time McDonald has served pending this resolution.
“The plea agreement comes nearly a year after McDonald was arrested, interrogated, denied adequate medical care for a laceration she suffered during the attack and held in solitary confinement for a month for being a transgender person. During the pre-trial proceedings, supporters raised worldwide support for the charges against McDonald to be dropped. [In April], supporters delivered to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman a petition for dropping the charges with over 15,000 signatures and dozens of letters of support for McDonald from organizations and prominent individuals from around the globe.” (, May 2)
Criminalized for fighting back, surviving
Transgender people of color face violence, murder and injustice daily throughout the United States. For surviving her attack, McDonald is criminalized. Others are not so “lucky.”
On April 16, Paige Clay was found dead in Chicago’s West Garfield Park from a single gunshot to her forehead. Clay, 23, was a trans woman of color. No one has been arrested for her murder. Brandy Martell was shot and killed on April 29 in Oakland, Calif., as she sat in her car, talking with three trans friends. The killer fired even as she tried to drive away. Martell, 37, was a trans woman of color and a peer advocate for transgender people in need of psychological and medical assistance. No arrests have been made. (, May 9)
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs issued a report in 2011 on “hate” violence motivated by gender identity and expression, sexuality and HIV status. A whopping 70 percent of anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans murders in 2010 were of people of color. Forty-four percent of these victims were transgender women. (, July 18)
McDonald, like other trans women, will most likely face threats of sexual and other violence when she is incarcerated in an all-male facility.
The struggle for justice for McDonald continues. Stated Burgess: “We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman of color has to go through this.”
Supporters in Minneapolis and surrounding areas are urged to attend her sentencing on June 4 at 1:30 p.m., in the courtroom of Hennepin County Judge Daniel Moreno. A petition urging Minnesota’s governor to pardon McDonald can be signed at Visit for more information on how to support justice for McDonald and other trans people and people of color.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"The Glenn Greenwald Brigade (C.I.)" -- most requested highlight of the week, C.I. fills in for Betty.  

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Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack's Shrinking Stature" -- Isaiah notes Barack's shrinking presence.

"The Eagle" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"Princess Brat Campaigns" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.
"THIS JUST IN! HE'S THE PRESIDENT OF WHAT?" and  "Which country is he president of?" -- with the US economy tanking, Barack wants to address poverty . . . in Africa!
"And it was Joni singing . . ." -- Kat on music.

"THIS JUST IN! HE'S A LITTLE HORNY!" and "If only he were cute when he flirts"  -- Barack had a hard on for David Beckham.

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