Sunday, August 02, 2009

Truest statement of the week

In an interview with Katie Couric, the president said, "I'm pro-choice, but I also think we have a tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded healthcare."
Actually, President Obama is about as pro-choice as he is anti-war, pro-environment, and pro-women's rights, which is to say, not so much or hardly at all when it comes to action versus rhetoric.

-- To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe's "Obama Abortion Backtrack Shows He's All Rhetoric, No Fight" (US News & World Reports).

Truest statement of the week II

Also the president is not expected to comment after the meeting. It's all part of the White House strategy to just get the issue to go away.

-- Chip Reid, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, July 30, 2009 explaining the plan for post-Crowley & Gates meeting at the White House.

A note to our readers


Hey --

Another Sunday. Along with Dallas, the following helped write this edition:

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),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Truest statement of the week -- Bonnie Erbe had the truest easily.

Truest statement of the week II -- But Chip Reid, under attack from the goon squad at FAIR, also had a strong statement.

Editorial: 2008 Lessons for the peace movement -- We can learn the lesson and chalk up the mistakes to needed knowledge or we can repeat the pattern over and over.

TV: The SchmoozeHour -- This went up without a title. Oops. My bad. Ava and C.I. wrote this and hit hard on Iraq because another feature fell apart. We thank them for that. And we love this. You will as well.

Roundtable -- The roundtable that lasted forever. I'm not joking. I (Jim) wish I were. But there's a lot in there and hopefully a few things that get your blood boiling or make you think.

Blaming the veteran -- Ava, C.I., Wally and Kat wrote this. We offered them a byline on the piece itself but they didn't want it. They wrote this because another piece fell through.

Single-Payer to get a vote -- A vote is supposed to take place. If it does, we will know where everyone in the House stands.

Reconsidering Carole King's 'failed' albums -- Each week we get asked why we don't have a music feature. This week we offer one. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it.

Coming up -- A coming attraction to give you a heads up if you're wanting to weigh in before we write the piece.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty, Ruth, Marcia, Rebecca, Cedric, Stan and Wally wrote this. We thank them for it.

And that's what we've got. We'll see you next week.

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

Editorial: 2008 Lessons for the peace movement

Iraq map
Once upon a time, it appeared there was a peace movement in the United States. For many, it was nothing but a way to create a pool of Democratic Party voters.

Cindy Sheehan caught on sooner than most that the Democratic Party wasn't going to end the illegal war.

Either she was too kind or she didn't catch on soon enough that the peace movement in the US was as fraudulent as well.

Which isn't all segments of the movement. There's Cindy, for example. There's Iraq Veterans Against the War. There's the World Can't Wait. We would have said, "There's A.N.S.W.E.R."; however, we caught that testimonial to the 'goodness' of Barack and the unimportance of the Iraq War on NPR. You repudiate those statements and do so immediately or you invite suspicion.

And we should have been suspicious all along.

It didn't take much to notice that the We Really Care About The Iraq War CodeStink really didn't. "We care!!! But we're off to Israel! And Lebanon!" They didn't care, they grabbed it because it was a popular issue and they did damn little on it. But Jodi poured her money into Barack's campaign and Medea damn sure poured her energies into knocking Hillary out of the race. But remember to pretend that either woman gives a damn about ending the Iraq War.

Leslie Cagan of United for Pretending and Jiving is a confusion to some. Those in the know point out that Leslie is a member of the Communist Party. They then generally express bewilderment that Leslie would whore herself out to the Democratic Party.

That's because they're not students of poli sci.

Leslie's not doing anything original.

Closet Communists like herself have always done what she does. It's why so many members of the Communist Party can't stand her. Rather than build up the Communist Party, Leslie is one of those weak-sisters who think the thing to do is to find an organization already established and 'change it from within.'

What's in it for her in whoring out for Barack?

She gets to beg for a little more money and hopes some of Barack's big donors will throw some pennies her way. She gets to increase her own profile within the Democratic Party. A profile built for . . . well, her kind never does anything but build up themselves. Historically, that's always been the case for the Closeted Communists trying to take over the Democratic Party. It's the main reason they never were able to.

Leslie is one of the biggest reasons WBAI doesn't cover Greens as members of a real party. Doesn't cover any third party on the same level they do the Democratic Party. Why is that?

Leslie, like all the Closeted Communists who came before her, doesn't believe the US can build a new political party and believes instead that you latch onto the Democratic Party.

So the damage she's done is not just to the peace movement, it's also to alleged free speech radio. (And she and her crew are having a snit fit over recent developments that threaten to leave them further out in the cold at WBAI. Pay attention to which 'third party' and 'independent' voices back Leslie and her crew as they attempt to restore the corrupt Bernard White. You'll see a lot of people who have worked overtime to prevent the New York station from seriously covering the Green Party -- a third party which, in that state, could make an incredibly strong showing if they got even a small dose of press.)

Why did we never get a show covering the Iraq War on Pacifica? Because a regular show would regularly note the Democrats role in the Iraq War and that wasn't what some wanted to be pushing. Even a decade ago, those kind of worries would have been laughed at. In fact, a decade ago, a program (still airing) started just to cover the first Gulf War.

We've been robbed, we've been short changed and we've been lied to.

It's time to get really pissed about what happened.

And it's also a time when some of the biggest whores are trying to sneak back into power.

Some of us made the decision to use our presidential vote in November to support a candidate who would end the Iraq War. (Which is why we voted for Ralph Nader -- except Ava and C.I. who either voted for Nader or Cynthia McKinney -- they're still not saying which.) We knew Barack was a Corporatist War Hawk and we didn't just know it, we called it out.

We did so repeatedly.

And, in doing so, we got nasty e-mails, we lost links, and more. And we'd do it all over again.

There's no point in putting in the time each weekend, in pulling all nighters, just to lie. We've got other things to do. If we're publishing online, it's because we feel there's something to say -- and a lot that's not being said.

So excuse us as we laugh at Jeff Cohen who cheerleaded for Barack and attacked anyone -- right or left -- who questioned the Christ-child or suggested that voting a thin (and 'creative') biography does not a peace vote make. Jeff Cohen, as usual, set himself up as the left thug who went around blustering and threatening. And where there is bluster and threats, there is Norman Solomon on Jeff's heels. The two of them generally confine themselves to screeching at KPFA over the premiums the station offers during pledge drives. But in election years, they whore it out big time.

And 2008 isn't going away.

Pledged delegate for Barack Norman Solomon really needs to drop the ethics lectures because when you've gone on air repeatedly as an 'independent' 'analyst' during the primaries and the general election and you've 'forgotten' to disclose that you're a pledged delegate for Barack Obama, you're really not in place to lecture one damn person. Not Howie Kurtz, not any news outlet.

You whored yourself, Norman.

They're pathetic and they're part of the reason that we don't have a functioning left in this country. They really just need to pack it in because they're an embarrassment. Norman, if you haven't noticed, is dusting off his Iraq columns and plugging "Afghanistan" into them. Which is how his "Real media don't talk about Iraqi fatalities!" became his "Real media doesn't talk about Afghanistan fatalities!"

Does anyone fall for this crap?

Was the whole point of 2008 to reveal how trashy and unethical so many self-appointed leaders of the left were?

If we're smart, we learn from 2008.

If we're smart, we look at Naomi Klein, for example, and notice that the 'thinker' is serving up attacks on Sarah Palin and has nothing to say about the Iraq War. Over and over. Not one damn word for how many years now?

Child of a war resister and she can't speak out.

Child of a war resister and she can't do one damn thing.

But she's gearing up to give us that 2005 lecture again, about how the left must not become an arm of the Democratic Party.

But it wasn't the left that turned a book tour into cheap attacks on Sarah Palin and efforts to turn out the vote for Barack. No, that was Naomi Klein.

You get the feeling that Norman and Naomi, Jeff and Leslie, and all the rest wish the Iraq War was over if only so that their past actions wouldn't be so fresh. But with the illegal war continuing to drag on and with their efforts to seek the limelight, it's hard not to remember what they once did and what they don't do now.

And there's not any blanket forgiveness. Nor is there amnesia.

Before the next Barack Booster comes along and tries to lecture those of us on the left who had the Courage to Vote Our Convictions, he or she might first try taking accountability for all the whoring they did in 2008.

TV: The SchmoozeHour

PBS is retooling The NewsHour -- both the hourly program and the website. And we think the retool, long talked about, has been long needed. We'd thought we might weigh in on the 'reboot' next September; however, we unexpectedly ended up in our little PBS NewsHour drama last week thereby flinging many pages out of calendars.

PBS friends are mad. PBS friends with The NewsHour are especially angry. Ourselves? We blame the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. And Katie Couric herself. Is she really at fault? No, but we've got to be the last American TV critics left who haven't blamed Katie for something, so let's go for it.

Last week, in Iraq, there was an assault on Camp Ashraf. CBS Evening News covered it (link has text and video, below is a transcript):

Katie Couric: When the US began turning over security to the Iraqis, it stopped protecting some valuable allies, thousands of Iranian exiles. And their camp outside Baghdad is now under attack. For two days, Iraqi police have been beating the residents. No food or doctors have been allowed in. All with the approval of Iran's government. Here's chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

Lara Logan: It started peacefully but quickly turned violent. Iraqi police using wooden sticks against these unarmed civilians. These people are Iranians living inside Iraq, members of an Iranian opposition group known as the MEK. It was the MEK that provided the US with intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

Ali Safavi (National Council of Resistance of Iran): Were it not for the MEK, the world would not be in a position to find out about Iran's nuclear weapons program and the mullahs may have had the bomb.

Lara Logan: The MEK have lived in this camp, known as Camp Ashraf, for decades. The Iranian government wants them expelled and accuses them of being involved in the recent unrest in Iran. Since the US invasion, the camp's roughly 3,000 residents have been living under US protection. That ended in January when the Iraqis took control under the security agreement. Now the US appears to have washed their hands of the people of Ashraf.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (speaking at the State Dept): It is a matter now for the government of Iraq to resolve.

Lara Logan: Images captured by the inside Ashraf showed the dead and wounded. Residents told CBS News at least 11 people were killed, hundreds wounded and thirty arrested. The number's impossible to verify because the Iraqi government has sealed off the camp. The attack was seen as the latest sign American influence in Iraq is waning as Iranian influence rises. Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government increasingly pro-Iranian.

Kenneth Katzman: The Iranians would have to cross the border to get at them directly because Camp Ashraf is clearly over the border. But they have an obviously willing ally in Prime Minister Malik, willing to do their bidding.

Lara Logan: The Iranian government praised the Iraqi government action against MEK saying they're cleaning the country of terrorists.

On Thursday, the Iraq snapshot noted that CBS and only CBS reported on the assault. Apparently, "them's fighting words."

A PBS friend with The NewsHour who has our phone numbers and our personal e-mail address didn't do as other PBS friends do and call us to complain (and complain and complain -- we think this is where they practice for the endurance needed for pledge drives). This friend instead decided to e-mail the public account of The Common Ills. Leading us to discuss it.

C.I.: ____ knows how to contact us. Why did ____ e-mail TCI?

Ava: __ must have wanted the issue addressed there. Do you think?

We batted it around for a few minutes and then the issue was taken to TCI where it was noted a 37 second headline is not reporting. Lara Logan filed a report for CBS. In a thirty minute, commercial network show. PBS, allegedly commercial free, couldn't devote a segment to the assault in a one-hour show. At twice the size of any commercial broadcast evening news, The NewsHour reduced the assault to a headline mixed in the middle of the headline segment and didn't even make it the lead Iraq headline.

The complaints were starting all over again. We both awoke to voice mail on our cells from PBS friends. Around seven-thirty in the morning (EST), we agreed we'd take a look at that day's show when it aired. "And maybe write something nice for a change," snapped one PBS friend.

Oh, honey, and we thought you knew us.

If all the hurt feelings are the reason Iraq was actually addressed outside of headlines Friday, we'll gladly be the sin-eater for our PBS friends and say it was all worth it.

Because the forgotten war actually was briefly remembered.

Due to a memo written by US Col Timothy Reese which The New York Times' Michael Gordon reported on Thursday afternoon and which made the front page of Friday's paper. In the memo, Reese, who is on the ground in Iraq, argues that all US troops need to leave Iraq in 2010:

The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis "forward." Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.

2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki

3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.

4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.

5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.

6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.

7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.

8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.

9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US's business.

The memo was raised briefly during a segment on Afghanistan when Margret Warner spoke with The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran. It was the lead item in the show's popular Shields & Brooks segment (link has text, audio and video):

JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.
First, let's talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. On the issue of declaring victory in Iraq and pulling out, what do you think?
DAVID BROOKS: I would be suspicious of that. I mean, things in Iraq are going in our direction. There are frustrations, as there have been for the past five years or six years, about the performance of this or that Iraqi player.
Nonetheless, things tend to be going in the right direction. Why would we want to accelerate a process that seems to be working? It's clear we're getting out, but why would we want to accelerate and endanger that process when so far it seems to be working reasonably well?
JIM LEHRER: And as Rajiv said, Mark, this is not a widely held position within the top at the Pentagon, anyhow.
MARK SHIELDS: No, it's just people in the field, Jim. It's the people there every day. That's where the dissatisfaction and the yearning to get out, I think, is strongest.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have a view of it?
MARK SHIELDS: I do have a view of it. I do not see what the payoff is.
JIM LEHRER: You mean, to get out?
MARK SHIELDS: No, for staying longer...
JIM LEHRER: Oh, staying longer?
MARK SHIELDS: ... for just extending it indefinitely. I mean, I don't disagree that things are going well, but I do not see the value right now. I mean, the anecdotal evidence from on the ground is that the Iraqis are very much feeling frisky or full of themselves and, you know, are enjoying it, their newfound power and authority. And...
JIM LEHRER: So let them have it?
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

As Shields notes sardonically, it's not the view at the top in the Pentagon, it's just the view of those actually on the ground in Iraq.

Mark Shields is not the great left hope. We feels that needs to be cleared up since we're mentioning him. David Brooks, for that matter, isn't the poster boy of the right-wing. Both Brooks and Shields are centrists. Each tilts slightly to one direction, but they're centrists.

And Shields' support of a pullout isn't based on a left position.

We think that's an important point and we think it's one that's been missed because there's really no peace movement in the country currently. The hapless self-appointed leaders whored it out to the Democratic Party to elect Barack Obama president and, in doing so, didn't just lose their independence, they also destroyed the peace movement.

If it were alive (there are efforts to rebuild it, we support those efforts), it would be more vibrant today because there are actually more people signing on to Out Of Iraq.

Mark Shields' reasons given are reasons many centrists and right-wing (and right-wing leaning) people are signing on to a real withdrawal and one much sooner than Barack's pretend withdrawal. They don't enjoy seeing the US military powerless or spat upon and both things are happening currently in Iraq. Those things thrill the Patrick Cockburns of the world who get some perverse thrill out of it -- as though the grunts on the ground were at the United Nations waiving vials of powder to insist Saddam had WMDs. But outside Crazy Town? Not so popular. In fact, downright offensive.

Two Saturdays ago, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported on an incident a few days prior where US forces in Iraq were attacked and responded by pursuing their attackers only to have the Iraqi military stop them (allowing their attackers to escape) and tell them they had no right to pursue their attackers and then to detain the US forces. Based on what? Because that's not in the Status Of Forces Agreement. A fact that Nouri al-Maliki, thug and puppet of the occupation, would have to admit to Karen DeYoung. Nouri would insist that it was a misunderstanding because the Iraqi military involved "did not understand the agreement."

But there's been a lot of 'misunderstandings.' And while Crazy Town residents like Patrick Cockburn wet themselves in joy and excitement over the US military being shoved around and disrespected, rational people -- on all points of the political spectrum -- grasp that the service members are not making policy and are not responsible for the continuation of the Iraq War. Rational people are outraged to see a thug spit on the help he's been given because, point of fact, Nouri would have been toppled long ago without the presence of the US military. Without US boots on the ground, he'd have to return to hiding (he calls it 'exile') in Iran, Jordan or Syria. People like Nouri al-Maliki don't fight their own battles which is sad enough; even sadder and disgusting is the fact that they then attack the people who put their lives on the line.

And Nouri's done a lot of attacking which is why he's for-show performance at Arlington Cemetery last month didn't mean a damn thing and wasn't widely covered. No one cared, after his weeks and weeks of insults aimed at US troops, that Nouri laid a wreath.

Which is how you arrive at a Mark Shields -- no rabid liberal (we, to provide a point of reference, were described Thursday and Friday by PBS friends as "rabid liberals") -- calling for US troops to get out.

What worries people like Shields and what is worrying many in the military (including, yes, some at the Pentagon) is that this disrespect and hatred aimed at the US military in Iraq by government figures is going to translate into more violence aimed at the US military and the end point will be another Somolia.

What worries a lot of people is how ineffectual Barack Obama has been on Iraq.

Disappointing but not surprising, he immediately ditched his promises of withdrawal. He immediately went along with Bully Boy Bush's Status Of Forces Agreement -- an agreement that up to the election (as late as eighteen hours before) he was decrying. It was one-sided, he insisted, and tied the US to Iraq for too long. (He was, as usual, parroting the words of others such as Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Hillary Clinton.) Gone was his 'ten month withdrawal' whereby he'd withdraw one brigade a month. (Yes, that would appear to be sixteen but, while campaigning in Texas in February 2008, he dropped his sixteen month plan to advance his ten month withdrawal plan.)

So instead of end to the illegal war, we got the continuation of it and the continuation of Bully Boy Bush's SOFA. That's not all we got. Bush had a point-person on Iraq. Barack had none. Didn't need one, didn't want one.

And for Ambassador to Iraq, he nominated the ineffectual Chris Hill who was most famous for snitching on his bosses and undermining them in negotiations. In other words, a real turncoat. Chris Hill, who cannot follow orders (as is proven by his personnel file), is the last person you want in a remote location where his actions go unsupervised. In addition, he had no grasp of the complexities of Iraq as evidenced by his loony answers in his confirmation hearing. Add to that the fact that he promised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry that, if confirmed, he would immediately go to Baghdad, he would fly out in less than 24 hours. He got confirmed and days later made it to Baghdad. The first of his many broken Iraq promises. Once in Baghdad, he stayed there for weeks and weeks. Before finally getting off his ass and visiting the Kurdistan region. He'd come off most like an idiot when answering questions about the dispute between the KRG and the central government in Baghdad over Kirkuk. Apparently his misunderstanding of the issue included his failure to grasp how insulting his long delay in visiting Kurdistan played out.

This went on for weeks and weeks. Then, in June, Barack okayed the release of two brothers whom the US military said were responsible for an attack on a US base in which five US soldiers were killed. At which point, Barack suddenly had a problem on his hands with military families. While the press was more than happy to help him out (as always) by looking the other way (ibid), it meant Barack had to back away from Iraq quickly because the parents and spouses of people who serve now had serious questions about Barack's leadership.

At that point he appointed the vice president, Joe Biden, to be the point person on Iraq. The go-to, the head cheese. And Biden, whether they agree with him or not, is relatable to by military families (his son Beau is currently serving in Iraq) and he has a solid relationship with many Iraqi Members of Parliament as well as with leaders in the KRG. He and Nouri don't get along and Barack's refusal to call out Nouri's public insult of Biden early in 2009 didn't help there.

But Biden's the point person and it's not just a thankless job, it's an impossible one.

If you diagrammed it on a flow chart (and the White House has), Biden is supposed to be the one clearing everything Iraq related. That's from the State Department, from Hill and the US Embassy in Iraq, all of it. But in reality, everyone's working independently.

At State, you've got staffers who should be following Iraq but aren't. You've got them reassigned elsewhere. You've got Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, who has been told Iraq is not her jurisdiction (she was told that long before Biden was made the point-person) and should be more than okay with that due to the fact that Barack's the one disappointing on Iraq and she doesn't need to be the target of all the anger over that (when it finally emerges and it will).

In Iraq, you've got Chris Hill who works to undermine State and Biden because, well, check his personnel file, that's what he always does. Again, you don't put him in charge of anything -- especially in a remote area. He has repeatedly made statements that have later required "correction." As the Supremes once put it, "He makes promises he doesn't keep." And when he's doing that in Iraq and is supposed to be the US face there, it hurts everything. Some working with him at the embassy describe him as "remote" (not unlike the location) and some see him as "sad" but, for our money, the best observation was made by two working with him who described him as manic. Each Monday he comes in high on energy and it quickly peters out by the end of the day and he stumbles through the rest of the week. His highs are filled with unrealistic plans and goals. And the crash usually starts right after lunch. Making us wonder if maybe the US government should do pyschiatric screening for their most important jobs?

So into that dsyfunctional maze comes thug Nouri. He'd promised the US that he wouldn't force the residents of Camp Ashraf to go back to Iran and, the US thought, he promised that he wouldn't attack the camp.

Last week, in the midst of a visit by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Nouri ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf. Gates has maintained he knew nothing of it (which is backed up by statements made to us by friends at State and at the US Embassy in Iraq). The top US Commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, apparently knew nothing of the assault before it took place either.

Now's a good place to note Amnesty International's statement on the assault:


AI Index: MDE 14/021/2009

28 July 2009 Iraq: Camp Ashraf residents attacked

Amnesty International is seriously concerned at today's attacks by Iraqi forces on unarmed residents of Camp Ashraf which left several people injured and led to the arrest of at least eight others.

Hundreds of armed Iraqi security forces are said to have stormed the camp, north of Baghdad, at around 3pm local time. They used tear gas, water canons and batons against unarmed Iranian residents who tried to stop them from entering the camp. Video footage seen by Amnesty International clearly shows Iraqi forces beating people repeatedly on different parts of the body, including the head. Dozens of people are said to have been injured.

Two of them, Reza Chelcheraqi and Mohammad-Reza Shahsavandi, are believed to be in serious condition. At least eight people, including Hasan Besharati, Humayoun Deyhim, Gholam Reza Behrouzi, Hosein Fili, Mehdi Zareh and Naser Nour Ebadian, were arrested and their current whereabouts are unknown.In the last few months the Iraqi government has publicly stated that it wants to take over full control of Camp Ashraf, in Diyala governorate, north of Baghdad. On 27 July government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh told an Iraqi satellite television channel that the government "will take over the responsibility of internal security affairs of Camp Ashraf". The authorities are reportedly planning to establish a police outpost inside the camp. Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi government to investigate the apparent excessive use of force by Iraqi security forces. The government should reveal the whereabouts of the eight people detained and ensure that they are protected from torture or other ill-treatment, as well as from forcible return to Iran.


Around 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf are members or supporters of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition organization whose members have been resident in Iraq for many years. Until recently the PMOI was listed as a "terrorist" organization by the European Union and other governments, but in most cases this designation has now been lifted on the grounds that the PMOI no longer advocates or engages in armed opposition to the government of Iran.The US forces provided protection for the camp and its residents, who were designated as "protected persons" following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but this situation was discontinued following the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraqi governments, although the SOFA makes no reference to Camp Ashraf or its residents. Public Document


For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

The assault continues and the response by the US was hugely inadequate. There was a one-day delay in even making a statement due, in part, to the fact that the US patrol in the area was unable to get close enough (prevented by Iraqi forces) to determine whether the 'everything is peaceful' reports Nouri's people were relaying to the US were true or not. The footage of the assault was already readily available. And possibly, if there truly was one go-to in the administration on Iraq, a response could have taken place quickly.

Instead, Hillary gave a response the next day which was a non-response. It was weak, it was pathetic. By this point, the US government knew Nouri had lied to them (both about things being 'peaceful' at Camp Ashraf and, earlier, about having no plans to use force against the residents). We're not really sure what Hillary could have said and we're sympathetic to the fact that this is not her problem because the issue of the MEK was one that was assigned long before Hillary was even asked if she wanted to be Secretary of State. It was assigned and it was supposed to be dealt with. No surprise, the one responsible for that was no where to be found last week.

Lara Logan reported extensively from Iraq for many years for CBS News and she grasped immediately that the assault was news and, in fact, was big news. CBS News and Katie didn't have to be sold on the idea, they agreed.

So why was it that PBS couldn't grasp it. Why was it that it was reduced to a headline and not a very enlightening thirty-seven seconds?

Friday's show was really something. It addressed Iraq, it addressed Afghanistan, the economy was analyzed by multiple guests (all from the center of the political spectrum, more or less) and Ray Suarez and panelists explored executive pay.

It was a serious program and something PBS could be proud of. Ourselves, we would have liked to see, especially in a one hour broadcast, some actual reporting. You know, where you don't invite on a guest to tell you about this or that but you go out into the field and actually report? But otherwise, it was a strong hour.

And PBS friends would, no doubt, love it if we gave The NewsHour a high grade. But the thing is, this was two days after they ignored Camp Ashraf to air a seven-minute-plus segment with Elvis Costello about his new CD available at Starbucks around the country (Kat reviews the album here). And that night also included the Federal Reserve's Ben Barnanke holding forth and pontificating as if he were Plato for over twenty-minutes. And Barnanke had been doing that daily on The NewsHour the whole week.

Friday was a much better program, moved more quickly, had more people offering points of view, addressed more serious topics and was something worth watching. But it struck us a lot like a student a day after his or her parents received a negative progress report, as though someone were in a quick hurry to prove a judgment wrong.

Prove us wrong.

We'd love to be wrong.

We'd love to tune into The NewsHour all next week and be able to offer nothing but praise and ask "Why aren't you watching?" of everyone we know. However, we're not expecting that. We'll check in again this fall when the retool should be completed. For now we'll follow our "Needs improvement" progress report from last week with a cautiously optimistic finding at present.


Jim: This is a current events roundtable and we'll be addressing topics raised in e-mails as much as possible. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Let's go to the e-mails with a 'breaking' piece of 'news.' Ty?


Ty: A drive-by named Vaughn writes in to say that, "You always cover for Sarah Palin. Well hahahaha she's getting a divorce and Digby's writing about it so why won't you? I know you won't link to Digby, you're too scared."

Dona: We won't link to Digby because we try not to link to trash and that does include whores. Digby's little stories last year about how 'hard' her life was? Cribbed. She's a little whore who wastes everyone's time. She's so busy sucking the nuts of every male blogger and trying to be the mascot of the boys club she's got nothing to say worth hearing. Her post is entitled "Dull Week and Palin Rumor Mongering" which a) tells you how pathetic she is as a person and b) as a news consumer. Whether it's the attack on the MEK, the 29 dead in Baghdad bombings on Friday or any other number of topics, it was not a dull week. But when you're part of the group working from the Democratic Party talking points each day, you don't cover a lot of news, in fact, you're whole point of existence is to cover up. My mouth feels dirty just talking about that blog whore. Can someone else grab?

Jess: Let me. For those late to the party, I'm a Green. I'm not a Democrat, I'm not a Republican. And the Democrats continued efforts to turn Sarah Palin into a cottage industry have been laughable. On the one hand, they insist the woman is stupid and dumb and everything awful and a joke. On the other hand, they can't stop writing about her. Now, at this site, when she announced she was stepping down as governor, Jim pitched a story which Ava and C.I. shot down immediately. No one knew why she was stepping down, this was before Palin gave her speech, as governor and Ava and C.I. were of the opinion that there had been more than enough speculation about Palin during her time in the national spotlight. Their opinion was, if she's stepping out of the public spotlight, which is what appeared to be happening, let her. It doesn't need to be commented on here.

Jim: I'll jump in because I was mentioned in that. As Jess pointed out, Ava and C.I. were very clear that if someone says they don't want publicity, don't give it to them. And they were also tired of having to respond constantly because every week the woman was being attacked and most of the rebuttals here would have to come from them, from Ava and C.I. And there are things they have to cover, TV wise, and it's not always easy to fit in Palin. I understood their point but I want to -- and I'm going to take a big chunk of time here -- raise a point I hoped to do in the killed piece, Palin's not a joke. Palin was turned into a joke by Scarface Tina Fey. Who doesn't look a thing like Sarah Palin. Jami Gertz could play Palin in a movie. Jami Gertz is a beautiful woman. Tina Fey's a mousy woman with a scar running down her face. And that wouldn't be an issue if she hadn't gone after Palin and then tried to publicly pin all the blame on Seth who deserves his own blame but not all of the blame. Sarah Palin doesn't speak 'funny.' She speaks like most people and try going to Congress with Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally sometime. Try going in there and listening to how our Reps and our Senators speak. You'll hear a lot of Palin-isms. Palin gave her speech that night at the GOP convention and she scored amazingly well. Then Tina Fey shows up portraying Palin as a dumb beauty queen. From that first skit with Amy's Hillary, and that becomes the narrative because that's what people wanted it to be. Sarah Palin's not an idiot. I disagree with pretty much every political position she holds, but she's not an idiot. It may make people feel good to say she is, but they're lying to themselves.

C.I.: I'm sorry, I've got to jump in here. Ava and I take the notes for the roundtables and I had to ask her to grab the note taking by herself because we didn't know this topic was coming up. Online, at real outlets, New York Daily News has a denial of the divorce, Florida's Orlando-Sentinal carries the denial, and, among many other reports, CBS News has the most in-depth. I'm really bothered that this far into the roundtable, we're denying a rumor that should have carried a denial at the start or gone straight to a denial. This is Palin spokesperson Meg Stapleton issuing a statement at Palin's Facebook page, "Yet again, some so-called journalists have decided to make up a story. There is no truth to the recent 'story' (and story is the correct term for this type of fiction) that the Palins are divorcing. The Palins remain married, committed to each other and their family, and have not purchased land in Montana (last week it was reported to be Long Island). Less than one week ago, Governor Palin asked the media to 'quit making things up.' We appreciate that the more professional journalists decided to question this story before repeating it."

Jim: Point taken but I think we all agreed, "Consider the source," meaning rumors and Digby? Who'd believe them?

C.I.: And I understand that but your whole point, Jim, is about how Palin was smeared and attacked and distorted. And part of that distortion, certainly, includes the never-ending lies. She's had to put up with lies that Trig wasn't her son. She's had to put up with lies that her daughter Bristol gave birth to Trig. With lies that her husband Todd was the father of Trig with Bristol as the mother. These lies were started on blogs in most cases and carried by news outlets -- such as The Washington Post. And when Palin talks about the way she's been under attack and liars like Anderson Cooper want to play dumb and act like this never happend, it happens over and over. It may be happening now. Meaning the divorce rumors -- which Palin's camp is denying -- may be more false rumors. But, before I toss to Ava, I want to point out something. True or false? It's no one's damn business. If Todd Palin or Sarah Palin or both go public and one of them says that they're divorcing? By all means go to town with your thoughts and feelings. But, and this is why Digby is so damn trashy, using them to 'advance' yourself? They are a married couple at present -- and may continue to be -- and it's really trashy of people like Digby to try to use the Palin marriage to advance themselves. It's really trashy. And if the rumors turn out to be true? It's still trashy. It was never any of your business. Until one of them speaks publicly, it's not your damn business and I have to wonder if any of the people who write this sort of garbage have ever been married because not grasping how private these issues are indicate that we're dealing with people who've never had any form of a relationship in their lives. For obvious reasons.

Ava: Thanks for waiting, I had to finish with C.I.'s comments. The 'source' for Digby is "Alaska Report News." Home to the seriously deranged Shannyn Moore. Moore isn't informed. C.I. and I called her tired and either ignorant or lying ass out back in 2008 when she didn't know the basic difference between Trig and Track Palin and when the idiot was telling Amy Goodman all about the rumors that Trig Palin had gotten some sort of legal trouble and that's why Trig joined the military! Had Trig joined the military and been accepted it would have been news for the record books because Trig is, of course, a small child. Track joined the military. And dumb ass Shannyn Moore didn't know that, nor did Amy Goodman. So when Moore and her 'allies' start giving you 'news'? You should consider the source. As for Digby, support for everything Dona said. She's a joke, she's always been a joke, she refused to defend Hillary Clinton during the non-stop sexism at Hillary. She's no use to anyone because she's too busy giving hand jobs online to male bloggers. She won't stand up for any woman. She's nothing but a Blog Whore -- defined as one who whores themselves out to schill. I would assume Marcia has something to say, so I'll toss to her.

Marcia: I do have something to say, thank you, but I thought you might want to respond to what Jess and Jim were speaking of.

Ava: Sure, thank you. To fact check all the lies on Sarah Palin would require a 24-7 website. Each week, C.I. and I try to figure out what we are going to tackle. Last week, for example, we were considering tackling Conan O'Brian's b.s. on The Tonight Show where he slagged Hillary yet again with more sexist garbage. Whether it's Hillary or Sarah Palin or some other woman, it's happening every week and some weeks we can fit in to a commentary and some weeks we can't. It's never just one incident. It's never just one. And there are times when we have other things to do. We don't agree with Sarah Palin but we've had no problem defending her from false attacks as well as from unfair ones. But to call out all the attacks on her, just on her -- forget Hillary and other women -- would require that everyone participating in this roundtable write multiple daily entries on nothing but Sarah Palin. Because that's how much she's under attack. "Daily" doesn't begin to describe and "hourly" might not even be enough to describe it.

Marcia: Okay. Digby's trash, we all know it. She's trash who tosses out her Reading Is Fundamental blog posts for her uneducated following that just grunts "Give me reason to hate Sarah! I need reason to live!" She exists to distract which is why she's a Blog Whore. She's far from the only one. Ava, I'm guessing, figured I'd want to respond on this due to my post Friday night, "Naomi Klein's never helped any woman." It's about how Klein shows up at the celebration for The Progressive this spring and gives a speech on . . . Sarah Palin. Despite using her repeatedly for a punchline, Klein wants to insult your intelligence and tell you it's not about Palin.

C.I.: I have to jump in, I'm sorry. I just want it pointed out that Sarah Palin did not run for president in 2008. I want it pointed out that John McCain did. I want it pointed out that this obsession with Palin is unhealthy and sexist. Dan Quayle was never the focus to this degree. Certainly after George H.W. Bush lost re-election in 1992, the left did not spend 1993 making Dan Quayle the focus of all their conversations. It's getting old and I'm real damn tired of all the slams on Palin.

Marcia: And I agree with you on that. Klein was supposedly addressing an 'educated' audience and what did she and they enjoy? Cheap shots at Sarah Palin. And it is an obsession for them. It really is, they should be ashamed. It's not like I blog about Naomi Klein daily, I'm not blogging every day about how her crotch stinks and people at book signings wondered about the smell. I could. Maybe I should. Maybe I should be like Naomi Klein and make it my goal in life to rip apart all women?

Elaine: It just amazes me that, as Marcia points out, the audience is allegedly educated and Klein supposedly a thinker and that's all they could do. Use Palin as red meat tossed out to the lions to keep the crowds cheering. That's just disgusting and it's why the left is so damn pathetic. If we want to save the United States, our problem on the left is not what the right-wing's doing, our problem is what our supposed co-horts are doing. People like Naomi Klein are no help to anyone and she ought to be ashamed but I've told [deleted at Elaine's request] she should be ashamed for staying silent on war resisters. I'm done with that stupid ass Naomi Klein. Truly, I've had my fill of the mall rat who thinks she can craft together the writing of others and be considered a thinker.

Jim: We can stay on this topic or we can move to another. Any objections if I move to another? Okay. Elaine just brought up war resisters. Why aren't we covering them! Why aren't we covering all the Canadian parliament is doing! They're not doing anything and a Canadian friend of C.I.'s e-mailed about that saying C.I. got it right.

C.I.: Jim's staring at me. A male? The one who wrote in was male? A singer-songwriter?

Jim: Yeah.

C.I.: Well credit for what I wrote goes to another Canadian singer-songwriter. That's in some snapshot and Dallas doesn't need to look it up for a link. I don't remember what was going on but we were noting it, David Solnit might have asked for the topic, and I was dictating when I said stop. I called a friend, a Canadian singer-songwriter to ask her if I had the process right on how things become law in Canada. She told me I did and gave me additional points. So the whole thing can be boiled down to: Nothing's happened and nothing will happen. The lower house has passed a non-binding resolution, more than once. They can't do a binding resolution. Canada remains a subject of the Queen of England. The process for laws includes, at the top, her. And she can reject a law for up to five years after it's passed. But, let's not get lost in the weeds here, the point is that you're asking Queen Elizabeth -- who never objected to the Iraq War -- to agree to take in US war resisters and it's not going to happen. By going the route of Parliament, it's not going to happen. They are not the final say. At the top, the Queen of England is the final say but there are also many other stops along the way which would prevent any measures from becoming law. Now the Courts, they could alter things. The Court system could. And a simple rule change for Immigration could. But there's not going to be any legislative action and that's due to the way their system works. Canada didn't have a Revolutionary War, they never broke free from England.

Rebecca: And England went along with the illegal war, Tony Blair joined Bully Boy Bush. Queen Elizabeth never objected and, in her role, she could have. Her refusal to do so has added additional fuel in Great Britain to the movement to do away with the monarchy.

Jim: And, to be clear, after incidents that took place, C.I. doesn't cover the topic unless asked to and none of the rest of us bother to due to the same incidents. And I'll move us quickly along to another topic. Marcia, Jonas e-mails to say that you were "correct. It's a certifcation of live birth, not a certificate of live birth." That's in reference to "Roundtable" last week. Judy e-mailed to say that "at least it was in the news and remains so but aren't you guilty of promoting it by discussing it?"

Wally: I believe Jess addressed that in his remarks last week. We grabbed the topic for a number of reasons including that we thought the media wouldn't shut up about it. If that week was bad, you should have seen this past week. But we're often accused of playing group-think or gatekeeper re: 9-11. Our feelings are we don't know and we don't attack the truth movement. We've stated that repeatedly. But some still feel we haven't been clear. Well that predates this site. The 'birthers'? That's going on right now and we weighed in and did so, as we would with the truth movement, to say that they aren't hurting anyone and the attacks are more bothersome than assertions coming from 'birthers.' That's only more true this past week. I believe Dona repeatedly pointed out that if the White House wanted to end the topic, all they'd have to do is release Barack Obama's birth certificate. And I'd add to that, if you're the president of the United States, why are you so scared of releasing your birth certificate? It doesn't play right, it doesn't feel right. Barack wants the story to end? Release the birth certificate and it's over. Quit blaming some 'birthers' and grasp that this story got wings because it goes to the larger issue of Barack repeatedly hiding things and repeatedly promising openenss but never delivering.

Jim: And an angry e-mail comes in saying we didn't listen to all of the audio interview with Sarah Obama, the woman who poses as Barack's grandmother.

Rebecca: What audio interview?

Jim: I have no idea.

Ava: The remarks of Sarah Obama, Barack's non-bloodline grandmother, that we referred to were printed in a newspaper. There is an interview online somewhere with her and a man translating for her. I haven't listened to the interview, I don't think any of us have, we were referencing a newspaper report where the reporter spoke to Sarah Obama.

Jim: Lowell, a Republican reader of this site, e-mailed to say he thought we were fair to all sides in that discussion and he wanted to know if we could link to Andrew McCarthy's National Review article on the topic? And, Lowell, for you we just did. Okay, next topic. Long term reader Molly, also a TCI community member, wants to know why we can't do a "What we're listening to piece" this edition? She says we don't have nearly enough on music anymore but praises our recent "Music roundtable" on the Mamas and the Papas.

Kat: Let me grab that. Wally, Ava, C.I. and I pitched an idea that, if there's time, we'll be doing this edition. It will be on music.

Dona: And Kat's "Kat's Korner: Elvis almost made a great album" went up last night and right now we're listening to Joni Mitchell's Chalk Marks In A Rain Storm.

Mike: But there may not be time and since Molly asked about the topic, let me jump in and use my time to ask Kat about the review. Kat, you're recommending Elvis Costello's new CD but with huge reservations. Why?

Kat: Well I just don't want anyone picking it up and thinking, "Kat, didn't warn me!" Elvis appears to associate country music with racism which he then ties into slavery. He's never touched on the issue before and suddenly it's the topic of a nearly six minute, meandering song. It's touched on directly in another song much better and it's actually touched on in a third song if you're listening. Now the other two are fine but "Red Cotton" just comes off as a nightmare and you really have to wonder why, on a country album, Elvis is suddenly tackling slavery, he's in his fourth decade of recording, after all. And I think a lot of people who might be interested in the album are going to pick it up and be insulted and think he's tackling it because he thinks it's somehow a part of country music -- that slavery and support for slavery is a part of country music. And I can see a lot of people being offended. I wouldn't blame them. There's no reason for it to be on the album, it was written for an opera and it's not country music -- in theme or sound. But if you can set that one track aside, there are twelve others that are very strong and probably ten of them qualify as country music.

Mike: And someone might say, "Kat, you've certainly praised albums before where you didn't like one of the songs."

Kat: And they'd be right to say that but this isn't just an issue of not liking. This is an issue of, when you put the album into context, when you put the songs on it into context, when you search for themes and concepts, the artistic statement appears to be one of blaming country music for slavery, of taking the attitude that this preachy, long, non-musical number is needed as a sermon delivered to the listeners of country music who don't know any better. It's patronizing and it's insulting to what one would assume to be the audience Elvis Costello is attempting to reach out to. As a result, I had to call it out. And am comfortable with doing so. I'd hate for someone who reads my review not to know about that song because I can picture some people seeing the album and thinking, "Elvis Costello? I never listened to him but he's supposed to be really good and Kat praised him and this is a country album and I love country so let me buy this."

Mike: And then listening and feeling like they needed to wipe the spit off their faces. I agree with your take on it, by the way. I picked up the album last week and felt the same way. That song drags on and on and it adds nothing to the album. It pretty much sinks it. When I listen, I program so I don't have to hear that song. You're also right that slavery is addressed in two other songs and that it's addressed very well in those two. But not in "Red Cotton." When I listened, I was actually thinking of community members in Texas who listen to country and what their reaction might be? I think they'd feel country music listeners were being stereotyped by Elvis Costello.

Jim: Okay, so there was music for Molly. And Dona's passed me a note saying that Stan, Betty, Ruth, Ann and Cedric haven't spoken once.

Stan: Except for Betty, we're chowing down. Sorry. Rebecca made a fondu and we've been plowing through that. Each time we wanted to speak our mouths were full and someone else made the point we wanted to.

Jim: Let's narrow the topic then for Stan, Ruth, Ann and Cedric. They're participating by phone. Betty's here with us and I've got a topic Betty'll want to grab so this new topic is just for Stan, Ruth, Ann and Cedric. Did all four of you get a chance to look at the column and comics I e-mailed you?

Ann: Yes, all of us, yes.

Jim: Okay, Tom Bevan has a column entitled "The Two Faces of Condi and Michelle" at Real Clear Politics. Cedric, do you want to summarize it?

Cedric: Yes, but let me stop a second to say I really love Joni Mitchell and Willie Nelson singing "Cool Water" on Chalk Marks In A Rainstorm. Okay, Bevan's compiled a series of comics that portrayed Condi Rice when she was in the Bush administration, both terms, and ones that portray Michelle Obama. And what's really obvious is a huge double-standard at play. Condi could be drawn in any manner and it wasn't cause for objection.

Jim: I wish we had Isaiah in this. He's drawn both of them. Anybody think he's up?

Dallas: I'm texting him right now.

Jim: Okay, thank you. That's Dallas who helps with all articles and whom we consider part of the core group of Third and would love to bill him that way; however, he insists on just the thank you in the note to the readers each week.

Dallas: Yes, he's up.

Jim: How can we do this?

Jess: C.I.'s hooking up a speaker phone to the other line. Tell Isaiah to call on the four line.

Dallas: Done.

Jim: Cedric, when we've got Isaiah, I'm going to ask you to recap again. There's the ringing. Isaiah?

Isaiah: Hey. What's up?

Jim: We're joined by Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts, he's the community cartoonist and we're to a point in the roundtable where we're discussing comics. Cedric, could you explain the basics again?

Cedric: Tom Bevan collected comics of Condi Rice and Michelle Obama and noted that anything flew with Condi. She could be given stereotypical features or anything.

Ann: And it really is true. I knew it was before going through the examples. And I really shudder at some of the comics.

Jim: Because.

Ann: I don't know if I didn't see them or they just didn't register but they're racist and, no, it's not okay that they're racist because their subject is Condi Rice.

Ruth: But I think a lot of the jokes or 'jokes' being told crossed lines when it came to her or to Colin Powell.

Stan: I don't disagree with Harry Belafonte's take on them as "House negroes" and I don't think that only Harry Belafonte or an African-American can say that. And if it's okay to say, then for a comic artist, it should be okay to draw. But I think there's that aspect, which I would see as social commentary, and then there is racism.

Jim: What would the difference be for you?

Stan: If someone's saying they're like slaves who work the house and not the plantation, meaning they're slaves in a higher position, that can be drawn and not be racist. But you draw them as is. You don't draw them with exaggerated features. That's where we come into the racism or something else.

Cedric: Like watermelon and fried chicken. A comic on that would be racist and playing into stereotypes. I see what Stan's saying and I agree with him. Belafonte had a valid criticism. And it can be drawn. But drawing it doesn't require that you make their lips bigger or something similar.

Ann: Okay, but are we saying that because Belafonte, an African-American, made the criticism, it's okay for cartoonists to draw it? For the record, Cedric, Stan and I are African-American. Ruth's Jewish and White. But is that what's being said because, if that's the case, then a comic can't make social commentary, when it involves people of color, unless they've been waived through via a public statement.

Stan: That's not what I'm trying to say. I latched onto Belafonte's statement and might have confused the issue. If Harry Belafonte hadn't made that comment and Eugene Whiteman wanted to do a comic on that theme that he came up with all on his own, he could do that. And he could do it in a way that wasn't racist. But if we're talking giving Condi these huge lips -- which she doesn't have -- then we're talking racism.

Cedric: Right and I'm glad Ann raised the point because we were focused, Stan and I, on Belafonte's statement and it could have seemed like we were saying "As long as an African-American has given the okay . . ." That's not what we were trying to say.

Ruth: The cartoon by Pat Oliphant is just disgusting. There's no way, looking at how he's rendered Condi's features, that anyone not fooling themselves couldn't look at it and call it racist.

Ava: Oliphant is notorious for racist cartoons. C.I. and I have called him out here many times. I raise that to point out that The Progressive is happy to run him and has run his racist cartoons this year.

Ruth: Well, he's really disgusting. I just keep coming back to that one as the most vile. Ann, do you see one that's more outrageous?

Ann: No, I'd agree with Ruth this one is just the most appalling. Look at Condi's lips. I just realized the man in the illustration was Bush. I was going to say, "This man has no lips because Condi's got enough for both of them in this drawing." I just got that Oliphant was drawing Bush. He's not very talented.

Stan: I'm going to agree with Ruth and Ann, that's the most vile of the comics I'm looking at. It's really disgusting. I'm amazed it ran in a paper. And if the point is that it's okay if we don't like the person, well all of us are unliked by somebody.

Jim: Good point. Okay, I want to bring Isaiah in.

Isaiah: Okay but I'm still looking at the comics. Dallas just sent them to me about a minute ago.

Jim: You've drawn Michelle Obama and you've drawn Condi Rice. Any thoughts?

Isaiah: Like Ruth, Ann and Stan, I keep coming back to this Oliphant cartoon. He's trying to make Condi a parrot, I get that. So there will be some distortion of features. But these lips are ridiculous especially when you consider that she should have a beak if she's a parrot. This is hard to defend, this comic and I'm not going to. In terms of drawing the two women? With Condi, I felt much more freedom. When I drew here, I never got these nonsense complaints. You know, the Kimberly Wilders who write in and say, "You should only be respectful of Mr. and Mrs. Obama and anything else is unpatriotic!" You know those crackpots on the left. I was never respectful of Condi and the right wing e-mailed every now and then to gripe about how I was mean but that was about it. I was never called unpatriotic by the right wing which is honestly where I would expect that kind of criticism to come from.

Jim: Okay, well you said with Michelle Obama you have less freedom. Why?

Isaiah: For one thing, I have four skin tones for African-Americans. I use dark brown every now and then. For Condi, I used brown because she was light-skinned. I had tan for very light-skinned. With Barack, I dropped to taupe. Michelle's darker than Condi but if I drew her with dark brown, I know some people would have a fit. Just drawing her skin as darker than Barack's, which it is, leads some lefties to whine. There's also the fact that Condi's an attractive woman. Michelle's billed as beautiful and that's not reality. But Condi was attractive. She had a cute nose, she has pretty eyes, she's an attractive woman. Every time I draw Michelle, I'm aware that I have to 'sweeten' her up a little because if I draw her as she looks someone will scream, "Look what you did to her nose!" Have you seen her nose? She's not an attractive woman. Hopefully, she won't be in the news and I can avoid drawing her. But I never felt constrained regarding Condi. A lot of times I have no idea until the last second what I can do for a comic. With Condi Rice, I never had a problem. From 2005 through the end of 2008, I always knew I could do a Condi cartoon and it would go over well. But I didn't make her look like a stereotype. I drew a cartoon version of her, as I saw her, I hope she didn't come off ugly because I didn't see her as physically ugly. And I could always count on her. I usually had Janet Coleman's voice in my head when figuring out what Condi would say because Janet Coleman would do her as part of CCP. And the issue in those skits always derived from her position and what the White House was doing. It didn't come from race. So it was possible, Janet Coleman proved it, I hope I did as well, that you could lampoon and poke fun at Condi and never have to go into some racist caricature.

Cedric: I think Isaiah raised a good point when he talked just now about the way the e-mails would come in if he drew Michelle as she was. There's a whole industry devoted to trying to sell the notion that she's a beautiful woman and she's not. She's really not. And you tell that truth and a lot of people will get uncomfortable. Just point out how tall she is and some people will get mad. They have this idealized version of her where she's got Halle Berry's face and she's five foot and two inches tall and weighs ninety pounds. You realize after awhile how much people are deceiving themselves.

Ann: Condi also, and I'm no fan of her's, didn't present herself as "Black Secretary of State." She presented herself as Secretary of State. And, maybe because that administration wasn't close to the African-American community, there wasn't the effort to sell her as the Black this or that. With Michelle Obama, there's a real effort to promote her not as First Lady but as Black First Lady or First Black First Lady. I don't like Michelle Obama at all but I really don't imagine that her daily life is all that different from any other modern first lady in our time. And it's honestly kind of insulting the way it continues to be stressed. Is she First Lady or is she Black First Lady? I don't know if I'm getting that across.

Stan: I think you are. I also think it's stressed so much with her because she is Black and not bi-racial like her husband. And, as Cedric pointed out, she is not pretty. You can always tell someone delusional by their insisting Michelle's beautiful.

Jim: We went way long. We've got one more e-mail we can note. This is the topic I thought Betty would want to weigh in on. Ty?

Ty: Reader Jeremiah e-mailed to ask about teachable moments from the JuniorGate episodes. He writes that he's not seeing any and wonders if he's alone on this?

Betty: I agree with him. Barack said the police acted "stupidly." Then days later he told the world that he should have chosen his words better. Then he walked off. Was the lesson that you don't have to say you're sorry anymore? There was no apology there. Henry Gates Junior accused Sgt James Crowley of assorted crimes. Then he wants to sit down with him for a beer? If someone victimized me the way Gates repeatedly hinted Crowley had done him -- and Gates used the term "victimized" -- I wouldn't be sitting down with them. The teachable moment appears to be that a lot on the left -- say Kimberly Wilder -- hate the police and think they can grab any incident to further their hatred onto others. They think that because they hate the police it's okay to lie. So they tell you 'facts' where there are no facts. It's really embarrassing. A second lesson would be that if you're rich you can cry "racism" and get support from the media -- something that rarely happens when you're a poor person who is very much a victim of racism. Outside this community, I would recommend that people read The Daily Howler. Bob Somerby's done some great work covering this.

Jim: And on that note, we'll have to close. This is a rush transcript. Illustration by Betty's kids, the e-mail address here is

Blaming the veteran

The biggest obstacle to veterans health care, the reason for the bottleneck resulting in over 400,000 claims backlogged in a single year, is veterans.

Or that's what the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee was told Wednesday by two witnesses,


Michael P. Allen of Stetson University College of Law) and John Wilson of Disabled American Veterans. Apparently, were it not for those pesky veterans with health claims, the VA's medical centers and hospitals would run just fine.

No, that doesn't make any sense but neither did they and four of us just watched, open mouthed, in horror as the proceedings continued.

Currently, the VAO has 406,000 pending claims and, thanks to Senator Jon Tester's questioning, we learned that they had approximately 25,000 to 30,000 more than that a year ago. What's the problem?

Was it staffing?

No, the VA's Patrick Dunne insisted that wasn't it. In fact, more employees would tie up supervisors with even more administrative duties. Since the GAO has recently explained that part of the problem is that a number of trained professionals are retiring (true in most fields due to the demographic bulge known as the Baby Boom), it would seem the obvious answer was to get serious about hiring and training. But Dunne didn't want anymore employees. Remember that in 2010, when the VA is again trying to make excuses for their lousy rate of approving claims.

Their lousy rate?

Veterans can wait a full year's for their claim to be addressed. This is a claim, not an appeal. Their initial filing for health care can take up to one year. Can, in fact, the Committee learned, take more than one year. If a claim has not been addressed in 365 days, Dunne stated it went to the VA Tiger Team. This is a claim and they're so backlogged that they actually have teams to work on health care claims when they haven't been addressed in a full year's time.

Now presumably such claims aren't life or death matters or we'd see them splashed on the front page of every newspaper in the country; however, when you're the one needing medical treatment, it matters to you. It matters whether you're waiting a few weeks or up to and beyond a year.

And the VA wants to claim they don't need more help?

The Government Accountability Office's Daniel Bertoni told the committee, "We have reported that an infusion of a large number of staff has the potential to improve VA's capacity. However, quickly absorbing these staff will likely pose human capital challenges for VA, such as how to train and deploy them. The additional staff has helped VA process more claims and appeals overall, but as VA has acknowledged, it has also reduced individual staff productivity. . . . According to VA, this decline in productivity is attributable primarily to new staff who have not yet become fully proficient at processing claims and to the loss of experienced staff due to retirements. VA expects its productivity to decline further before it improves, in part because of the challenges of training and integrating new staff."

What's the problem here? It's hard to believe people on the job for over a year would still be struggling. If that is the case, it goes to training. Which may be why Bertoni repeatedly told the panel (including during questioning from Senator Patty Murray) that reviews are needed and why he said that was more important to "any manager" than just "going out talking to the troops [VA employees]" because if "you do the analysis -- and indications of problems in certain areas, you can take, make remedial interventions. To date, I don't believe that is occurring."

Also on Wednesday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled Meeting the Needs of Injured Veterans in the Military Paralympic Program and Committee Chair Bob Filner noted at the start of the hearing, "I think you all know since the early years of our country, Congress has had to reassess programs created to care for our men and women in uniform, our veterans who have courageously answered our call to duty and their families who have joined in the military experience." On the same day the public learns the VA is not conducting adequate staff reviews, US House Rep Filner is noting how important it is for Congress to do periodic reviews.

And yet somehow the VA thinks it is exempt?

During that hearing, US House Rep asked Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake about outreach and rural areas and how the VA could help with that. Blake responded, "I had a good answer until you asked me what the VA could do and then I lost it."

As they say, funny because it's true.

And it'll remain true as long as the VA blames everyone else for their problems (including the shameless blaming of veterans) and refuses to conduct the needed self-reviews of their actions and of their staff. Why is their a bottleneck at the VA? Because of the VA.

For more on the two hearings, see:

Single-Payer to get a vote

Washington, DC -- Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee announced today that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to give Single-Payer an up or down vote when healthcare reform is considered before year's end.
Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Middle Class Caucus and member of the Energy & Commerce Committee who led the effort with Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA); Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY); Rep. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL); Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL); and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), released the following statement:
"Single-payer is a better plan and now it is on center stage. Americans have a clear choice. Their Member of Congress will have a simpler, less expensive and smarter bill to choose. I am thrilled that the Speaker is giving us that choice."

US House Rep Anthony Weiner's office announced the following Friday. The New York Daily News reports, "The Brooklyn-Queens Rep. looked a little surprised when Chairman Henry Waxman said Pelosi would allow that vote, and made Waxman repeat the deal to be sure it was clear and on the record."
Anthony Weiner

Weiner (above) was happily surprised. Others caught by surprise weren't happy.

Just the idea of a vote was too much for some people apparently.

Jonathan Conn (New Republic) rushed in to insist, "Single-payer is no more likely to pass the full House than it it is to pass Energy and Commerce. But having the full vote is a milestone all the same."

It is a milestone but it's also a bit more than that. A vote on the House floor? How many Democrats are going to want to face their constituents after voting down single-payer? And, come 2013, when ObamaCare would kick in, how many are going to want to have their "NO" vote on single-payer thrown in their face as everyone catches on to the waste of time and money ObamaCare is?

Pelosi promised a vote. A vote puts it on the record.

This is a crack in the dam and it could do the trick and force the House to support single-payer.

"The bottom line is that we don't need insurance companies and their vastly overpaid executives to get between us and treatment from our doctors," writes Tom Wingfield (The Coloradoan). "We ought to finance basic (not elective) health care and wellness programs the same way we finance public education, national defense, or fire and rescue services. In other words, a well-run single-payer system is the optimal way to go for everyone except those few industries that hope to continue to glean obscene profits from our presently sick and unsustainable health-care morass."

Dr. Richard A. Damon advocates for single-payer to The Billings Gazette, "A national single-payer health care program is the best plan for every American." He argues single-payer offers:

• Long term perspective, willing to spend today to save tomorrow.
• Preventive programs that save by keeping us well.
• Compassionate, personal care with choice.
• Coverage for every American.
• Simplicity of administration.
• Funding by simple, fair taxation.
• Savings by elimination of waste and duplication.
• Comparative procedural effectiveness.
• Oversight.

That's what is needed and that's what we can support.

Otherwise? We join with Single Payer Action in saying "NO" to ObamaCare.

As Barack Obama's doctor of 22 years, Dr. David Scheiner, declared, "It's a bad bill. No bill is better than this bill."

Reconsidering Carole King's 'failed' albums

The general Boys Club Critical Consensus is that Carole King made one great album in the seventies, Tapestry, and then slid backwards saving her last grace notes for 1976's Thoroughbred, after which, the rest of the decade was a complete and utter waste.

That's the consensus.

And, big surprise, it not actually true. 1978's Welcome Home and 1979's Touch The Sky weren't big sellers. So what, there's enough to cull from both which make for a solid album.

Carole King

Sadly, it's rarely culled. Touch The Sky is also the name of a US re-issue on CD that's a combination of the two albums but a combination that pretty much misses out on what was needed.

One example: How do you choose the best of the two and overlook "Venusian Diamond"? That 1978 track is unlike anything else she's ever recorded. Back in 1978, she explained in the liner notes, "VENUSIAN DIAMOND is a collaborative effort between Rick [Evers], [the band] Navarro, and me. We all appreciate the work of the Beatles, and like many people, we have harbored secret fantasies of being them. We took some of Rick's lyrics that he'd been saving for something very special and combined them with some new lyrics from me and Mark Hallman; we added every Beatle lick we could think of, along with our enormous love and respect for them; mostly we just had a good time."

She weighs in on all the songs in the liner notes but the one she writes the most of is "Venusian Diamond" which would seem to be a clear indication that she's pleased with the way it turned out which would seem to indicate if you're going to cull from the album, you grab this.

Then there appeared a serpent hanging

Like a thunder rope

He said, "Pull me" -- I did

And fell into the wrong end of a telescope

So I began to run

I knew not where I'd come

I could hear the Venusian Diamond and it gave me hope

It said "Shatter all your images

And I will be your own

Do it if you can

If you don't, you better leave it alone"





Here's our track list for the strong album that can be created from the two alleged disgraces.

1) "Seeing Red"

2) "Everybody's Got The Spirit"

3) "Morning Sun"

4) "Venusian Diamond"

5) "Time Gone By"

6) "Crazy"

7) "Changes"

8) "Eagle"

9) "You Still Want Her"

10) "Sunbird"

11) "Dreamlike I Wander"

12) "Welcome Home"

The album above would build up to "Venusian Diamond" and then offer some steamy numbers before closing with the benediction of "Welcome Home."

In various ways, each track selected is an accomplishment -- apparently a minor one judging by how little praise the songs on the original two albums have received. "You Still Want Her" is one of Carole's best written songs of any period and she performs it perfectly with just the right delivery on lines like "But you've always thought your love for her could save her, And that's how you get taken in" and the chorus:

You can't believe you still want her

After all these years of knowing her so well

All the same you'd willingly consign yourself

To a life of hell

"Eagle" and "Seeing Red" can be seen as pieces similar to the songs on her Fantasy album which found her writing from other perspectives. In the case of the latter song, she's writing about the Native Americans and these are richly textured songs. "Seeing Red" can, in fact, stand as good poetry if stripped of its strong music.

"Eagle" can be seen as a song about Native Americans but it's quite a bit more than just that and goes to the tension between performer and audience. Throughout the first half of the seventies, her fans wanted another Tapestry. Carole, while with Ode, tried to deliver an approximation. She followed 'the formula' -- a blend of new songs with some she'd written a decade earlier with Gerry Goffin. Sticking with the formula meant the fans might be pleased (might be) and ensured that each new album would be graded against Tapestry. Tapestry was actually her second solo album of that formula. She'd do it two more times and then take a break with Fantasy. After that she was done with it for the decade but the critics didn't seem to notice and there was pressure for her to team up with Gerry Goffin which she did for her final Ode album. Carole then went her own way and Welcome Home and Touch The Sky were very personal albums where she was attempting to share emotions as she'd become famous for but emotions about new experiences she was having.

"Eagle" is a song that sings of her late husband Rick Evers as much as it does Native American culture. A song about Evers and a song about Carole King:

Through it all she tends her young ones

Doing what she can to help them grow

Maybe they will fly away before her

And her only choice is just to let them go

Eagle sees her sister

Living free up on the mountain top

So she doubles her effort

Till you think that she is bound to drop

But Eagle has the courage

You can tell that she's been felled before

She was born to soar

And she's gonna soar again

It was a very brave and personal statement from a woman recently widowed. And it sailed over the Boys Club as well as over the heads of fans that just wanted to hear "Smack Water Jack" for the twelfth million time.

Welcome Home and Touch The Sky are flawed albums, no question. But they're both also brave ones. Welcome Home was recorded in January of 1978 and released in May of the same year. In between, her husband Rick Evers died. The album captures the happiness and excitement the newly married Carole was feeling. Touch The Sky is an album whose key theme is longing and that's not surprising when you grasp that one year later, she left the mountain home she and Evers shared to go to Texas and record this album.

They're flawed albums, no question. But each contains moments of such sheer artistry and honesty that is really saying a great deal about how little the work of female musicians is valued in the rock era that no one's bothered to dig in and reconsider the work Carole was doing back then.

[Both albums can be purchased on CD at Amazon as foreign imports for over forty bucks a pop, here and here. Ourselves, we'll stick with C.I.'s vinyl until they're available for download.]
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }