Sunday, April 06, 2014

Truest statement of the week

The tempo of U.S. military occupation of Africa quickens by the day. Seizing every real and manufactured crisis as an opportunity, Washington has created a continental infrastructure that has already reduced most African armies to appendages of U.S. foreign policy, dependencies of the Pentagon. American armed forces operate across the length and breadth of Africa and exercise effective control over the armies of nearly all of the continent’s constituent states.

-- Glen Ford, "U.S. Deploys More Special Forces in Search of Kony, Africa’s Stand-in for Osama bin Laden" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

The recent lack of action in the Middle East reflects the crisis of U.S. foreign policy — Obama simply has no idea what to do next; he’s continued the Bush-era policy of tearing the region asunder and, like Bush, he doesn’t have the political-military power to put the smoldering jigsaw back together again — at least not in a way favorable to “U.S. interests.”

-- Shamus, Cooke, "New Lows for Obama's Failed Middle East Policy" (CounterPunch).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Glen Ford gets another.
This is the first truest for Shamus Cooke.

We doubt it, to answer the question.  But April 30th, parliamentary elections are supposed to take place and thug Nouri wants a third term.
Ava and C.I. were going to cover two TV shows.  I (Jim) came in on them laughing about what might happen to Saturday Night Live and, when I asked, they filled me on the phone call.  I looked on my tablet as they were talking and no one has this story.  Would it upset their friend if they wrote about it?  No, they said, the network would probably be thrilled to have it out there.  So I asked them to write about it.  

This was a movie piece that was actually the start of a roundtable.  We record them and we were waiting for everyone to join and talking about movies when this film popped up.  Rather than make it a transcript piece, we turned it into an article. 
Jess explains his favorite TV show.
Short features, as Dona always wants.

The economy sucks.
What we listened to.
Someone had to ask.
Barack is such a fool he never grasped how offensive the rest of the world might find his remark/boasting.
Seymour Hersh has a new article.
Repost of announcement from Senator Patty Murray's office.

Repost from UK Socialist Worker. 
Repost from Workers World. 
Repost from Senator Bernie Sanders' office.

And a look at the week's best written by Mike and the gang.  We thank them for it.

And we thank you for visiting with us another week.


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

Editorial: Will prayers be enough for Iraq?

Press TV notes today, "Iraq is plagued by more death and destruction in the countdown to the parliamentary elections."  Why should the lead up be any different than the rest of the year so far or different than last year?

The violence is caused by Nouri al-Maliki.

In 2006, Bully Boy Bush insisted that Nouri be named prime minister by the Iraqi Parliament and not the Parliament's own choice of Ibrahim al-Jafaari.  His term, from 2006 to 2010, was characterized by one failure after another and life was not improved for the Iraqi people.

He was an obstacle to progress.

In March 2010, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections and Nouri's State of Law coalition lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.

What happened next?

With the whole world watching, the election was stolen.

There's so much outrage over this or that uncovered scandal in Barack Obama's administration -- the illegal spying, The Drone War, the nefarious USAID.

But here's a little reality for all the outraged posers, the Iraq election was stolen in the open.

Barack did it.

Nouri refused to step down after he lost.

For over eight months he refused.

And Barack backed him.

Instead of backing democracy or the Iraqi people, Barack backed Bully Boy Bush's puppet.

And Amy Goodman didn't want to tell you about it.  All the whores of indymedia didn't want to tell you.  Their job, as they saw it, wasn't to tell you what happened, it was to whore for Barack.

And the corporate media wasn't much better.  Charlie Rose loved to yack on TV with Michael R. Gordon . . . until Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor wrote Endgame which dealt with realities including the 2010 election and then Charlie Rose suddenly had no use for Gordon.

How did Nouri get a second term?

The White House ordered US officials in Iraq to put together a contract granting Nouri a second term (this is The Erbil Agreement).

How did they get political blocs to agree to that?

By promising them things they wanted in the contract and insisting the contract was binding and had the full support of the US government.

But Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor the promises he agreed to in the contract.

And the White House?

They acted as if they'd never heard of The Erbil Agreement.

So not only did the White House, not only did Barack, subvert democracy but also, after giving the word of the US government, they went back on the word.

That's a story that the whores won't tell.

And they won't tell you how Nouri has made the Iraqis suffer.

It's not impossible to tell the truth.  Jason Ditz ( served up the truth, "Which is to say the US forced a puppet government into power before it left, despite Prime Minister Maliki losing the last election, and put in place an election system so crooked that even the Maliki-appointed election commission resigned en masse yesterday rather than take part in April’s planned vote."

The thug wants a third term.

It's hard to imagine an outcome that could be worse for the Iraqi people.

Independent Catholic News notes today, "The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans,  Archbishop Louis Sako Raphael,  has given instructions for a special prayer to be recited in all the Chaldean churches in Iraq at the end of Sunday Masses in preparation for the upcoming elections, scheduled on 30 April."

If prayers are the answer, it's going to take a lot of them.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Nouri The Child Molester."

TV: Saturday Night Live's latest problem

"Who is Judy?" an NBC exec asked us on the phone this morning?


Oh, goody.  A game.  We'll play.

Rapid fire we wondered, did he mean folk singer Judy Collins?  The late Judy Garland?  Gilda Radner's hilarious character Judy Miller?  Maybe he meant the notorious reporter Judith Miller? Young adult author Judy Blume?  Australian actress Judy Davis?  Laugh In's Judy Carne?  British actress Judi Dench?

We got in a few more before he said, "No, no, Judy on Leave It To Beaver!"


Jeri Weil played Beaver Cleaver's classmate Judy Hensler, the closest thing to a nemesis Jerry Mathers' character had on the show with her constant kissing up to their teacher Miss Landers.

Saturday Night Live is suffering through one of its worst periods of all time.  It's been a hit, it's a been flop, it's had people calling for its demise because it was boring or just not funny but it's never had negatives like it does now.

As a result, NBC suits are monitoring the show's reception episode-by-episode these days.

The week Kerry Washington was set to host, you may remember, a media frenzy began to build over the fact that SNL had no African-American female in the cast. You may have noticed the frenzy ceased as quickly as it started because Lorne Michaels immediately announced he would hire an African-American female.

Lorne does nothing immediately.

He is the turtle.

But he immediately makes a statement (and quickly hires Sasheer Zamata) because SNL is experiencing its shakiest moment since spring 1986.  We're not talking creatively, we're talking survival.

And we had no idea until Sunday morning just how bad it was.

We ignore the show these days.  We did two pieces ("TV: A week of putrid and puerile" and "TV: No, it wasn't a feminist skit"*) on the low, low rated Lena Dunham-hosted episode only because she trashed Shonda Rhimes.

We think Shonda's tremendously talented, we personally like her and we also find it offensive that Lena -- who produces a show with an all White cast -- thought she could mock Shonda for diversity.  We think it's one of the all time low points of SNL, mocking a show for having a diverse cast.

Otherwise, we ignore the show.

We had told the NBC friend that phoned this morning, had told him over two years ago, that we just weren't going to waste our time on the show anymore.  It had become one-sided and, worst of all for comedy, predictable.

Which is why he called Sunday.

More and more SNL viewers are sounding off to NBC these days.  There's a comment form you can fill out at the NBC site -- we couldn't find it, it kept asking for another click after another.  Braver and more determined souls than us successfully navigate the site to leave comments during the show.

Mainly about how awful the show is and at what point during the broadcast they turned off.

The first skit after the 'opening monologue' (which was sung) seems to have run off most from what we were told on the phone.

One man, identifying as a Democrat, explained he just couldn't take it anymore.

The skit was about ObamaCare.

There are many jokes there.  ObamaCare is very unpopular.  At ABC News on Monday, Gary Langer noted a Washington Post - ABC News poll which found an even split on support for it with the half of Americans for it and half against it (margin of error is 3.5%) while Wednesday found Kristen Soltis Anderson (Daily Beast) pointing out that the poll was the exception with most other polls "showing opposition to the law [at] over 50 percent with support barely cracking the low 40s."  Two weeks ago, Jonathan Easley (The Hill) observed:

Democrats have been waiting for ObamaCare to become popular for four years.
And counting.
Congressional leaders and senior White House advisers have been saying since 2010 that public opinion will turn their way sometime soon. Be patient, they have told anxious members of their party again and again.

There should be some comic gold in that.  You also had that the website was down again at the start of the week -- on the supposed last day of enrollment.

So which one did SNL go with?  Or did they go with both?

They went with neither.

They went with a skit mocking Fox News, a skit where it's funny that Fox News questions the government (specifically the claim of how many enrolled).

SNL mocked questioning authority.

And they again ridiculed Fox News.

That's how Judy came up.

The show, specifically that skit, was compared to Judy on Leave It To Beaver.

Because it was a kiss-ass skit.

It wasn't funny, it wasn't novel.  It was the sort of thing, honestly, that Fox News tried in the final gasps of the Bully Boy Bush administration.

Remember that?

The 1/2 Hour News Hour?

It was comedy that was going to 'buck' conventional wisdom by telling you how great Bully Boy Bush was. Those appearing on the show (we'll be very kind and not name them) came off like kiss asses, like brown nosers.  Comedy only works when it takes on the powerful.

If your big joke is that some struggling worker lost his or her job and is now homeless, no one's going to laugh.  You aim high in comedy, go after the big targets.

A lot of people, including us, laughed at The 1/2 Hour News Hour -- at, not with -- and thought the left would never do anything so stupid.

Then came Seth Meyers and Saturday Night Live morphed into a very unfunny show.

Unfunny and unfair.

The show that used to boat it made fun of all sides became, for the first time in its long history, the comedy show that couldn't make fun of a sitting president when that president was Barack Obama.

There was hope that when Seth left the show (which he did in February), SNL would bounce back to something resembling normal.

We didn't share that hope.

We knew Seth was politically ignorant and so were the others.

Because of the call, we had to watch the episode.  Or at least the opening.

GM before Congress.

That was the 'funny.'

It could have been funny and political but instead it was sexist and Three Stooges.

Sexist in that the 'joke' was that a woman wouldn't know anything about cars.  Three Stooges in that the only genuine laugh comes from the executive attempting to wheel away in her chair and, when caught, insisting the floor was slanted.

A woman doesn't know anything about cars?  From 2008 through 2013, SNL has no African-American female cast member?

This is what we mean by the writers being politically ignorant.

They're offended by racism -- real racism and faux racism -- and denounce it in others.  But it took a protest to get an African-American woman in the cast?

It took that protest after years of SNL taking potshots at others for racism?

And they think they're so left and yet they resort to sexism constantly?

Seth Meyers, on air in a Weekend Update segment, blamed low income (mainly minority) Americans for the housing crisis and you think he's politically aware?

No, they're deeply stupid and prone to seeing the worst in others while failing to examine themselves.

That's why the jokes aren't funny and the series now revolves around TV show parodies and TV commercial parodies.

They're unable to write real skits because they're unable to examine their own lives.

And their knee-jerk comedy is killing the show.

SNL long had a problem with people turning off after Weekend Update.  These days the numbers are alarming with regards to how many turn off before.

And the predictable and one-sided, kiss ass nature of the show has resulted in huge negatives for the show.

SNL needs to be able to pull potential viewers with a big name host.  But the pool of potential viewers grows smaller and smaller.

There are too many people at present, as NBC's polling demonstrates, who will not watch the show.

SNL never had this problem before.  That's because when either Bush was in the Oval Office, they mocked him.  When Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were in the Oval Office, they mocked him.

The show's  go-to for the last six years has been mock Fox News.

Or mock Elizabeth Hasselbeck for her right-wing views when she was on The View but not mock Sherri Shepherd for saying the world was flat or for her many anti-gay remarks over the years-- most recently in January.

SNL in better times mocked abusrdity.

But these days, it's as if the writers spend each session searching through Media Matters for something stupid that the right-wing did.

The NBC exec said this morning that he couldn't believe how many liberals were offended by this.

He shouldn't be surprised.

Fairness doesn't belong to one side.  Most Americans believe in fairness and equality and when they see SNL becoming an organ for one political party, they will be appalled.

We were making this point in real time, years ago.

And to his credit, the NBC suit noted that during the conversation.

But he mainly did so to ask what we thought happened next?

Could SNL recover from this?

The season is almost over.

We don't see how.

They have spent years -- since 2008 -- being one-sided and hypocritical.  To turn that image around in a month?

They'd have to work hard and quickly and, as we noted earlier, Lorne does nothing immediately.

Look at the ruin of SNL, for example, it took him six years to give the show it's worst reputation ever, to create a large pool of people hostile to the show who will never watch, not even if Kurt Cobain rose from the dead to show up as a musical guest.

A network can stick with an iffy show that goes up and down in the ratings if it has the potential to rebound but, more and more, it's becoming clear that the number of potential Saturday Night Live viewers is shrinking.

NBC, based on statements this morning, appears to think it can handle this.  It was noted that Lorne "falls in line" when push comes to shove.

Actually, he doesn't.

He'll play  like, for example, he fired Norm McDonald or Adam Sandler because NBC really twisted his hand but he actually did so because he'd come to agree they needed to go.

The NBC suit allowed we might be right about those examples but then cited Up All Night.  Faced with cancellation, Lorne went along with every order to revamp the show ("and we gave orders," he said).

For those who've forgotten, a very funny show in its first season became an idiotic and reactionary program in its second season and it was so bad that when Christina Applegate announced she was leaving the still in-production show, no one threatened her with a lawsuit.

If the exec is right, then next season's Saturday Night Live will be of interest if only to see who wins out: the network or Lorne?


* With Marcia and Ann, we wrote a third piece:   "Paste magazine: Home of the Racist Chubby Chaser," "Paste magazine: Home of the Racist Chubby Chaser" and "Paste magazine: Home of the Racist Chubby Chaser."


Why Town & Country bombed

Warren Beatty has the filmography all of his peers should envy with the exception of possibly Jack Nicholson.  Beatty's appeared in one classic after another.  He kicked off his film career co-starring with Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass.  His next six films had moments of promise but it wasn't until he stepped up as a producer, with Bonnie & Clyde, that he appeared in his next classic.  Since then, he's had near non-stop classic films.

2001's Town & Country doesn't make that list.  But Beatty didn't produce that film nor did he direct it.

One of the all time worst directors, Peter Chelsom, directed the film.

Chelsom's many flops include Funny Bones, The Mighty, Serendipity and Shall We Dance? -- but he did have a box office hit with Hannah Montana: The Movie.  Of course, most adult directors would probably prefer to leave that last credit off their CV.

Despite a director-free film, Goldie Hawn managed an actual performance and she's quite delightful in the film.  Along with Goldie and Warren, the cast also included Diane Keaton,  Gary Shandling, Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Josh Hartman and Charlton Heston.

All have moments but only Goldie really gets a performance in and that's in part because of her talent, also because of luck and because she's offering another viewpoint in the film.

Town & Country could have been a hit film.  Chelson can point to the reels of film that were stolen and insist the film might have turned out differently.

That's a possibility.

But the film flopped because Chelson was cowardly and stupid.

I Love You To Death is a film that flopped.

Like Town & Country, the main character was a cheating husband.  Kevin Kline plays the Warren Beatty role in that film.  Both films ensure they flop by opening with cheating.

Most film goers are never going to want to know and embrace a character they meet who's cheating in the first scene and enjoying cheating.

That was pure stupidity.

So was letting Josh Hartnett play a straight character.

Gary Shandling plays Goldie's secretly gay husband in the film.  Gary's really gross and also someone who can't come across because he's always tripped up by the filigree. Hartnett plays the son of Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty's character.  He's also good looking and wouldn't be lost in neurosis the way Shandling always is.

Playing gay might also have allowed Hartnett to not provide the worst performance in the film.  Yes, there are some embarrassing scenes -- Heston and MacDowell are saddled with some of the worst scenes in the film. But Hartnett has no character to play and lacks the skill to provide anything that's not on paper.

The image below is from what should be the key scene in the film.

Hartnett enters the kitchen and has nothing to offer in the script and nothing to offer on his own.

All three around the table have just finished having sex (with various female partners).  There's not a real relationship in the bunch.

That includes Warren and Diane -- that's why he's cheating.

Josh is not a counterpoint to the other three men because the script set him up that way.

A braver script would have made clear that he's like the other three men and a braver script wouldn't have paired him with a woman.

Why pair him with a man?

To allow the film to move beyond gender victimization.

They painted themselves into a corner where the script became bad men victimize women and having established that -- without even realizing it -- the only way an ending satisfies is if Diane Keaton's character  triumphs -- see First Wives Club.

If she doesn't, the audience isn't happy to sit through a film.

By making Hartnett's character gay and joining the kitchen after sex with a man, it's more about a type of young men who can't see partners as full people.  A type of young men and one man who refuses to grow up.  It's about a group of males who mistake swagger and strutting for manhood.

That's the problem the characters have.

The film doesn't establish that point clearly and many scenes undermine it.

This includes when Hawn catches Shandling cheating at the start of the film.  Why was it necessary to have the man with Shandling dress as a woman?  It wasn't.

Goldie's character can see enough to think cheating is taking place and also assume Shandling's cheating with a woman.

By making Shandling's male lover dress up as a woman, it's one more level of insult to women in the audience.

(To be clear, Shandling's lover is neither transgender nor a transvestite.  The dress up isn't even part of some sex play.  It's a cheap and tacky ploy.)

The three men around the table are fooling themselves.  A revolutionary living on Park Avenue?  (Even the characters in the film find that unbelievable.)  A man who's unable to communicate with anyone in the apartment (including the woman he's sleeping with)?  A man who has an understanding and supportive wife who shares her life with him and cheats over and over with one woman after another?

The first two are young enough to grow out of it.  The third man, Beatty's character, should have outgrown it long ago.

That's the story that could have been told and making Hartnett's character gay would have made the point even more clear.

That film could have been a box office hit.

TV: Joan & Melissa (Jess)

In last week's "A note to our readers," Jim wrote:

Dona moderated this.  Why?  I (Jim) was doing a piece with Ava and C.I.  Ty was doing his own piece. That left Jess and Dona.  And no one thought to ask Jess.  How come?  He really grew up without a TV. He knows very little about TV.  He was allowed to watch cartoons and PBS and that was it.  So Dona told Jess she'd grab it and he could crash with a nap or do whatever.  Only a moment ago did we find out Jess has a favorite TV show.  You'll never believe what it is but you'll have to wait for next week.  We're done for this week.

Jim's provided an oversimplification of my childhood.  We didn't have the TV on in the background every hour of the day, but we did have a TV.  It was in the living room.  My sister and I did watch cartoons and PBS, but we did see a number of other things as well.

The TV show I like?

Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?

This is a 'reality' show that airs on WEtv.


I could be wrong, but Joan being a comedian, I believe she's trying to make a funny reality show.

And she has.

Now in its fourth season, it recently found Joan attempting to figure out how her daughter Melissa could make money -- big money -- Kardashian money.

Then it hit her.

A sex tape.

Melissa's the straight man of the two and she instantly rejected the idea.

Which led Joan to decide to make her own sex tape.

This meant research.  Joan visited a porn set.

It meant auditions.

I was shocked that all the male porn stars walked when they found out the woman they would be having sex with might be 70-years-old.  (Joan's in her early eighties.)

Joan is outrageous on this show and hilarious.

I'm not a fan of reality TV and caught this show by accident in the second season.

I've watched every episode since and it's often the funniest thing on TV in any given week.

Jim was shocked that I love this show.

Big surprise, he's never watched it.

If you haven't checked it out, sample an episode at the show's website.  You just may end up laughing.

Secretary of State John Kerry can't stop boasting

Slap and Tap Kerry, seen here with Ahmet Uzumcu (Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), is yet again boasting that he was blessed with a large penis and demonstrating the width of it with his hands.

Where are the jobs?

"“Today's jobs report shows our economy continues to move in the right direction," declared US House Rep. Barbara Lee on Friday.

Poor Barbara Lee, you'd think all that spinning would mean she'd actually lose weight, instead the pounds have piled on. Maybe she feels a little shame for her lies since Barack Obama became President of the United States?  Once upon a time, she said the Afghanistan War had to end.  Years and years later, it continues and, since Bully Boy Bush is no longer in office, she's grown okay with it.  Her shame, no doubt, accounts for eating problems which have led her to balloon up.

Samantha Sharf (Forbes) noted the same numbers and that they "brought little joy to job watchers.

But it was left to Senator Bernie Sanders' office to tell the hard truth, "The official unemployment rate for March was 6.7 percent, unchanged from February, but real unemployment ticked up to 12.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those unemployed for so long that they have given up looking for work."

Barbara Lee can betray the people and surrender her independence to Barack all she wants.

It won't change the fact that he has failed to fix the economy.

It also won't change the fact that, since being sworn in, he's repeatedly promised to address the issues of employment but he's been repeatedly distracted by ObamaCare, beer summits and other nonsense.

This edition's playlist

1) Cloud Nothing's Here and Nowhere Else.

2) Carly Simon's Anticipation.

3) Roberta Flack's Quiet Fire.

4) John Lennon's Mind Games.

5) Sade's Lovers Rock.

6) Animal Collective's Centipede HZ.

7) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

8) The Doors' Morrison Hotel.

9) Tame Impala's Lonerism.

10) Nina Simone's Here Comes The Sun.

Hey, Washington Post,

did it burn your tongue when you licked Samanta Power's vagina?

"Samantha Power, a longtime humanitarian advocate, had been placed in the sanctum of the National Security Council by President Obama earlier that year."

How drunk were you when you typed that?

She's a dirty ass, unwashed War Hawk who needs to fumigate herself before going out in public.


If there's anything worse than smelly ass Power, it's the suck ups who try to water down her stink.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Kamikaze Sammy."

Tweet of the week

  • Embedded image permalink

    Must read of the week

    Seymour Hersh has another explosive article.  This one is entitled "The Red Line and the Rat Line" and is published by The London Review of Books.  Here's the opening:

    In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons. Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

    VA sneaks in policy to close doors on veterans

    senator patty murray

    Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following last week.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Monday, March 31st, 2014                                                            202-224-2834

    Senator Murray Introduces Emergency Bill to Reverse New VA Policy Change that Has Shut the Doors of Homeless Shelters to Veterans

    Veterans have been turned away in the wake of sudden VA policy change made in February that limits eligibility for indispensable grant program that supports homeless shelters and providers

    After Murray introduces legislation, VA NOW says it will temporarily rescind the policy change but final legal opinion could still shutter access for homeless veterans

    (Washington D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on Thursday introduced emergency legislation that would reverse a sudden and largely unexplained Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy change that has restricted homeless veterans' access to housing and services. Senator Murray’s bill, The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act (S. 2179), reverses a new VA policy by allowing community organizations who receive funding through the VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program to once again count veterans who don’t meet certain length of service or discharge requirements when calculating the federal GPD allotment that often allows these facilities to operate.

    Just two weeks ago, a VA memo went out to these programs forbidding them from counting new homeless veterans who didn’t serve for two years or were given certain “other than honorable” discharges from service. That instruction meant that community organizations in many instances had to begin denying homeless veterans housing, and reversed the standard that VA and these providers have used for two decades. No contingency plan was given to provide for the veterans who would be turned away.

    “This is federal bureaucracy at its most heartless,” said Senator Murray. “For the VA to suddenly tell homeless providers that they are limiting a successful, 20 year-old program in a way that will put more veterans on the streets, defies all common sense, particularly when this Administration has set the bold and commendable goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015. If this is a question of cost the VA needs to come forward and say that and I will fight just as hard for funding as I will to restore eligibility.”

    The change also affects the critical Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which allows VA to award grants to organizations that assist very low income families living in or transitioning to permanent housing by providing them with a range of supportive services.

    UPDATE: Monday morning VA announced that they would temporarily place a moratorium on the policy change after Senator Murray introduced legislation to reverse it. However, the VA has indicated that change is only temporary until a final legal opinion, which is expected to reaffirm this ban, is issued.

    Matt McAlvanah
    Communications Director
    U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    202-224-2834 - press office
    202--224-0228 - direct
    Twitter: @mmcalvanah

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

    Blank Project: Neneh Cherry's comeback is worth the wait

    This is a repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Blank Project: Neneh Cherry's comeback is worth the wait

    by Sarah Robertson

    Blank Project is a new album by Neneh Cherry
    Blank Project is a new album by Neneh Cherry

    Neneh Cherry has said Blank Project, her first new album since 1996, was the creative outlet she needed after the death of her mother.

    Cherry is known as much for her style as her hits. And she has not lost the attitude or confidence that in 1988 propelled her on to Top of the Pops seven months pregnant in a Lycra mini-skirt, exciting a storm of tabloid outrage.

    Blank Project echoes the 90s sounds of Massive Attack, with whom she collaborated, and the hip-hop, pop, electro-funk fusion that she helped pioneer.

    Her versatile and commanding voice is showcased on an emotional and personal album that touches on themes of motherhood, menstruation, death and depression.

    Cherry has much more to give than those records that brought her stardom in the 80s and 90s. It’s just a shame she left it so long.

    Blank Project by Neneh Cherry is out now

    Tweets, the Cuban 5 and the U.S. blockade (Cheryl LaBash)

    Repost from Workers World:

    Tweets, the Cuban 5 and the U.S. blockade

    By on April 5, 2014

    A widely distributed Associated Press article on April 3 revealed details of yet another covert U.S. program meant to undermine socialist Cuba.

    The AP’s investigative report, titled “U.S. secretly built ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest,” describes a multimillion-dollar program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development that was meant to gather intelligence on cellphone users in Cuba for eventual use in destabilizing the country.

    Both this report and an earlier one on the secret role of USAID contractors in Cuba, published on Feb. 13, 2012, strip away the agency’s claims of helping poorer countries and show it to be really just another tool of U.S. imperialism.

    An immediate response came from Josefina Vidal, who is in charge of relations with the U.S. at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

    “The information contained in the article published by the U.S. news agency AP,” she said, “confirms the repeated denunciations made by the government of Cuba. It is once again demonstrated that the government of the United States has not given up on its subversive plans against Cuba, which seek to create destabilizing situations in the country in order to provoke changes in our political order, to which the government of the United States continues to dedicate budgets of millions of dollars every year.

    “The government of the United States must respect International Law and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and it must, therefore, cease its illegal and covert actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and the international public opinion.” (Cuba MinRex)

    The AP report describes how the U.S. carefully concealed its hand in setting up a twitter-like application, aimed at Cuban cellphone users, that it called ZunZuneo. It resorted to money laundering, fictitious offshore shell corporations, mirrored sites and computers in different countries in order to conceal the origins of the app.

    In an era of the massive gathering of electronic and phone communications by the National Security Agency, both in the U.S. and around the world, the ZunZuneo subterfuge shouldn’t be too surprising. Even former President Jimmy Carter says he uses the postal service to communicate with other heads of state because he believes the U.S. government is spying on him.

    After the AP’s bombshell, the International Business Times published a brief history on earlier U.S. attempts to undermine the Cuban government. It included images of U.S. documents from the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to Operations Mongoose and Northwoods — including assassinations and scenarios meant to provide the pretext for an open invasion.

    It took years for these plots to be revealed in the major media. So what is new, and why now?

    One factor is undoubtedly the global capitalist economic crisis, which is intensifying competition among the imperialists for economic penetration and profitable exploitation of more countries.

    Blockade of Cuba has failed

    In the digital age, the U.S. blockade of Cuba is intensifying. Take for a tiny example what happened to the British group Cuba Solidarity Campaign when it attempted to purchase a book from the U.S. publisher Monthly Review called “The U.S. Economic War Against Cuba.” The financial transaction was intercepted and blocked, and not only the left was angry.

    The U.S. blockade of Cuba was a political decision put in place more than half a century ago that was meant to destroy an independent, sovereign and socialist Cuba. But Cuba’s prestige is high and its system has survived. Today the blockade conflicts with the interests of growing sectors of the U.S. ruling class. Exposés like AP’s investigative reports strengthen their hand.

    A growing number of businesses in the U.S. are chafing at Washington’s restrictions that make trade with Cuba almost impossible. Take Florida, which has a long economic history with Cuba that goes back long before 1959, and then became a bastion of counterrevolutionary Cuban exile groups. Elected officials in Florida are pushing for changes. A recent Atlantic Council poll showed that support for normalizing relations with Cuba is strong throughout the U.S., and now even stronger in Florida.

    U.S. allies are also balking at the U.S. blockade. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba is a welcome partner. Brazil has announced that Cuba will be advertised as a tourist destination, even though U.S. air carriers are fined when they pay Cuba for overflight authorization.

    The U.S. blockade prohibits ships that dock in Cuba from docking in a U.S. port for six months. But now, shippers and port operators on the East Coast are wondering what will happen when Cuba’s new container port at Mariel is fully functional. Will China’s supercontainer ships pass through the widened Panama Canal and go to Mariel instead of Miami? Could Mariel become the transshipment point for providing goods throughout Latin America and the Caribbean?

    Cuba has just expanded foreign investment opportunities — a measure that will certainly bring problems as well as possibilities. But health care and education, two rights provided to Cubans at no out-of-pocket cost, are not for sale.

    Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy calls the blockade “a foolish, self-defeating embargo” and is calling USAID officials before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on April 8 to explain why the ZunZuneo project was undertaken without congressional approval.

    Leahy was one of 66 senators who signed a Nov. 21 letter urging President Barack Obama “to act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Alan Gross’s] release, and we stand ready to support your Administration in pursuit of this worthy goal.” Gross, a USAID contractor arrested in Cuba as a spy, was the subject of an earlier report by AP in 2012 that demolished the State Department’s claim that Gross was a humanitarian. It showed he was actually on the U.S. government payroll installing secret communication devices issued by the U.S. military or State Department.

    Back on Jan. 1, the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, President Raúl Castro said: “The attempts to disseminate ideas that deny the vitality of the concepts of Marx, Lenin and Martí must be countered, among other ways, by a creative theoretical conceptualization of the socialism that’s possible within Cuba’s capabilities as the only alternative of equality and justice for all.

    “The new generations of leaders, who gradually and orderly are assuming the main responsibilities in the leadership of the nation, should never forget that this is the Socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, an indispensable precept and effective antidote to refrain from falling under the influence of the siren songs of the enemy, who will not renounce the objective of distancing [our leaders] from our people so as to undermine their unity with the Communist Party, the only and legitimate heir of the legacy and authority of the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro Ruz.” (Progreso Weekly, April 3)

    Support for the Cuban 5

    The details revealed in the AP report point once again to the profound injustice done to the Cuban 5 and their families. These five men came to the U.S. to protect innocent Cubans and others from the relentless attacks on all levels launched from this country. They did no harm to the people of the U.S. but were arrested in 1998 and received heavy jail sentences. They are heroes on all levels. Three of the Cuban 5 still remain in U.S. prisons: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. René González and Fernando González have returned to Cuba after completing their sentences.

    From June 4 to 11, activists will bring their case to Washington, D.C. Join the “5 Days for the Cuban 5” at a rally at the White House at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. On the fifth of every month, call, email or fax the White House. Plan educational activities in your area. Get more information at and

    Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved

    Real Unemployment at 12.7% (Senator Bernie Sanders)

    Senator Bernie Sanders' office issued the following this week:

    Real Unemployment at 12.7%

    The official unemployment rate for March was 6.7 percent, unchanged from February, but real unemployment ticked up to 12.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those unemployed for so long that they have given up looking for work. The Senate is expected to vote Monday to resurrect benefits that expired last Dec. 28 for the long-term jobless. “This will impact several million American workers who are at the end of their ropes financially,” Sanders said. Passing the bill is “the morally right thing to do” and “good economics,” the senator added, but he cautioned that the measure faces an uncertain fate in the Republican-run House.

    This bill to extend long-term emergency unemployment benefits for 2.2 million Americans would restore benefits that expired nearly three months ago.The benefits, about $300 a week on average, help jobless workers fill up their gas tank to get to a job interview, feed their families, pay the rent and heat their homes.
    Each  week that the Congress fails to act, an additional 72,000 Americans are losing their unemployment benefits. Today, about 4 million Americans who are currently looking for a job have been unemployed for more than 6 months. In the wake of a slow recovery from the recession that began in 2007, long-term unemployment is near a 60-year high.

    House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans today oppose extending the benefits, but when George W. Bush was President, Republicans, including Boehner, voted for emergency unemployment benefits five times  Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, many congressional Republicans oppose extending these benefits. Since 1958, Congress has never failed to pass emergency unemployment benefits when long-term unemployment has been as high as it is today. Today, there are nearly three job applicants for every one job opening.  There simply aren’t enough jobs out there for the more than 10 million Americans who are actively seeking work.

    The long-term unemployment rate today is more than double what it’s been at any other time Congress has let emergency jobless assistance expire. For example, hundreds of people applied last month to work at a Sam’s Club in Oxford, Ala., that won’t be opening until August. In January, more than 5,000 people waited in line for just 1,500 jobs at an outlet mall in Palm Beach, Fla. That same month, 1,600 people in Hagerstown, Md., applied for just 36 job openings at a dairy farm to process milk and ice cream. Last December, 10,000 people applied for just 750 flight attendant jobs at Southwest Airlines and more than 23,000 Americans applied for just 600 jobs at Wal-Mart in Washington, DC.

    If Congress fails to extend emergency unemployment benefits, 240,000 American workers will lose their jobs by the end of this year. The overall economy will be hurt because when people lose their unemployment benefits, they don’t go to the grocery store, they don’t buy clothes, they don’t go to the pharmacy.  Businesses lose customers, they lose money, and they fire even more people.


     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.

    "I Hate The War" and "Iraq snapshot" -- most requested highlights by readers of this site.

    "Kat's Korner: When (Cloud) Nothings Matter" and "Kat's Korner: Pretenders' last classic" -- Kat offers two music reviews.

    "Robert Altman (Ruth and Mike)" and "Robert Altman (Ruth and Mike)" -- Ruth and Mike team up for a book review.

    "Marvel's worst villain (spoilers)," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Noah" and "Brokeback Mountain?" -- Betty, Stan and Kat go to the movies.

    "Raising Hope goes out sucking," "scandal," "Unforgettable returns,"  "Elementary and e-mails," "Arrow -- where Oliver reacts instead of thinking," "Robert Altman, How I Met Your Mother, American Mas...," "scandal - fitz and other things," "more crap from community," "They milk it," "No excuse for the repeats," "revenge - the good," "The Mindy Project," "Ronan and his bad show," "Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and NBC's Revolution," "revenge - the bad," "TV and Billie Jean Fraud," "The Good Wife stands still and leaves me yawning," "TV grab bag" and "TV and Ronan Farrow" --  Mike, Rebecca, Marcia, Stan, Ann, Betty, Elaine and Ruth cover TV.

    "Music," "Linda Ronstadt" and "Music"-- Elaine and Kat cover music.

    "Easy Zucchini Parmesan in the Kitchen"  -- Trina offers an easy vegetarian recipe.

    "How could he?" and "THIS JUST IN! BETRAYED!" -- Barack is a woman scorned.

    "Impeach and other topics" and "Impeach, Impeach, Impeach" -- Marcia and Betty feel it's time.

    "Benghazi hearing" -- Ruth continues her Benghazi coverage.

    "Observations on Jude Law, Emily VanCamp and Anne Hathaway"  -- Ann weighs in.

    "The Honey Pot" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

    "Supreme Court disappoints again" -- Trina notes the bad news.

    "Bradley Cooper plays Marilyn to his JFK" and "THIS JUST IN! HE'S THE BOY NO GIRL COULD CATCH!" -- Barack has a cupcake.

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