Sunday, February 19, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are swigging the ale with their fellow buccaneers. These “human rights” warriors, headquartered in the bellies of empires past and present, their chests shiny with medals of propagandistic service to superpower aggression in Libya, contribute “left” legitimacy to the imperial project. London-based Amnesty International held a global “day of action” to rail against Syria for “crimes against humanity” and to accuse Russia and China of using their Security Council vetoes to “betray” the Syrian people – echoing the war hysteria out of Washington, Paris, London and the royal pigsties of Riyadh and Doha. New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced Moscow and Beijing’s actions as “incendiary” – as if it were not the empire and its allies who were setting the Middle East and Africa on fire, arming and financing jihadis – including hundreds of veteran
Libyan Salafists now operating in Syria. Under Obama’s “intelligent” (as opposed to “dumb”) imperial tutelage, colonial like France now propose creation of “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria “to allow NGOs to reach the zones where there are scandalous massacres.” NATO flatly rejected such a corridor in Libya when sub-Saharan Africans and black Libyans were being massacred by militias armed and financed by the same “Friends” that now besiege Syria.

-- Glen Ford, "'Human Rights' Warriors for Empire" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

So the problem here is that we are not working with a friendly government. Maliki is not our friend. He's a puppet of the Iranians. And he's a big problem for us.

-- Howard Dean, speaking to Ellen Ratner on Talk Radio News Service Friday.

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.

What did we come up with?

Glen Ford. No, we didn't mean for words to be underlined. The whole thing messed up. If links don't work, use the link to Ford's article at BAR (which you should anyway to read the article in full).
Howard Dean on Nouri al-Maliki.

Technical issues and other things ended up putting us behind. We had already agreed that we'd use this piece C.I. wrote somewhere. Dona's the one who decided to make it an editorial.

Ava and C.I. praise Revenge again and take on the Water Cooler Set.

When so much was falling apart this edition, I (Jim) mentioned how much I enjoyed the third season of The Bionic Woman on DVD which led to us b.s.-ing about our favorite super hero TV shows which eventually led to this article.

We sample two kinds of snacks.

This may be it for Diane Rehm. Ann is sick of the show (we don't blame her). So she joins Ava and C.I. for a 10 month look.

A UN diplomat is supposed to conduct themselves in a diplomatic manner.

Press release from Senator Patty Murray's office.

Repost from Workers World.

Press release from Senator Patty Murray's office.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

That's it for this week.


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

Editorial: Tareq al-Hashemi was right


After many claims that he could not receive a fair trial, Tareq al-Hashemi's
assertions were backed up today by the Iraqi judiciary.

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BAGHDAD -- Today a nine-member Iraqi judiciary panel released results of an investigation they conducted which found the Sunni Vice President of Iraq was guilty of terrorism. Monday, December 19th, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swore out an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (above) who had arrived in the KRG the previous day. Mr. al-Hashemi refused to return to Baghdad insisting he would not receive a fair trial. Instead, he was the guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.

During the weeks since the arrest warrant was issued, Mr. al-Hashemi has repeatedly attempted to get the trial moved to another venue stating that Prime Minister al-Maliki controlled the Baghdad judiciary. Mr. al-Maliki insisted that the vice president return and that he would get a fair trial.

Today's events demonstrate that Mr. al-Hashemi was correct and there is no chance of a fair trial in Baghdad. This was made clear by the judiciary's announcement today.

A judiciary hears charges in a trial and determines guilt; however, what the Baghdad judiciary did today was to declare Tareq al-Hashemi guilt of the charges and to do so before a trial was held.

Not only do the events offer a frightening glimpse at the realities of the Iraqi legal system, they also back up the claims Mr. al-Hashemi has long made.


C.I. wrote the above in Thursday's snapshot to illustrate how the press should have reported on the news. We agree it's how it should have been reported and we're making it our editorial.

TV: Bypassing the Boiz Club

Amanda hopped in a car with Satoshi Takeda after Jack insisted she run when he discovered her on the beach over a dead body. Jack was attempting to drag the body off but had to run for cover when his brother Declan and Charlotte came running down the beach to go skinny dipping. Victoria would lead the engagement party in running down the beach to the corpse, she'd cry out for her son Daniel only to discover the corpse was Tyler. And Tyler would emerge from the dunes, covered in blood and start to speak only to have Victoria caution him not to say anything. And that was just 15 minutes of ABC's best hour long drama Revenge.


If you've never heard of Revenge, you most likely listen to Fresh Air. That's where TV 'critic' David Bianculli is forever humping the leg of some man. He's the primary TV critic for Terry Gross' bad show. He's been doing TV criticism since 1975 so his sexism is already well and widely known. In reviewing 2011, he had to attack Snooki, a personality on the 'reality' TV show Jersey Shore.


That's the worst thing about television?

Or did David forget to zip up and did his sexism get exposed yet again. Snooki didn't create Jersey Shore. If you loathe the show that much, one would assume you'd feel that the creators or the network (MTV) were the worst things about TV in 2011. So when you instead attack Snooki, you're really just exposing your own sexism.

And sexism isn't considered a bad thing on NPR or Fresh Air. In 2010, women made up only 18.546% of the guests on Fresh Air. One of NBC's hit sitcoms from the fall is Up All Night. It stars Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph. This is Christina's third successful sitcom and Maya's first. It's Will's attempt to recover from the disaster that was Running Wilde. So two women and one man in the cast, who did Terry interview from the show?

If you were stumped, you are obviously very smart and demonstrate this by refusing to listen to Fresh Air. Will Arnett. Of course it was Will Arnett. He's a man.

Which isn't to say that that Terry and David can't mention women at all. Come on like a stereotypical lesbian in a fifties women prison drama but do it in a minor role on a TV show -- giving the exact same performance you gave in that bit part you had in Practical Magic -- and Terry wants to interview you! And David wants to rave over you! But the honest truth is, you give the same non-performance in every role you play -- bit part or supporting -- and it was the writing that put the character over the top, not your 'minimalist' acting.

Time and again, the interviewed and the raved are men. And that's not just an issue for Fresh Air. Morning Edition, for example, manages to reach new levels of sexism every time their (male) TV critic feels the need to try to 'understand' women. (Which usually requires -- as with his review of Oprah's network -- his spending some air time vouching for his own manliness.) Men and masculinist women made up the '00s Water Cooler. And that's why women were reduced to nothing on the small screen over and over until a number of women and men began fighting back. The Water Cooler Set can't deliver ratings, never has been able to pick out a hit. They like wordy. Overly wordy. And male casts with few or no women.

And so time and again, shows that actually are quality shows and/or enjoyable ones are left without champions while the Water Cooler Set works overtime to explain to you why Mad Men really isn't sexist and why Louis CK really isn't a homophobe. Sometimes, as Terry did, they'll 'prove' Louis is not a homophobe by playing a clip of his show where a gay man is at a poker game . . . and called the f-word . . . repeatedly by Louis and friends. And they'll laugh at the clip, Louis and Terry.

And no one's ever supposed to object or call it out.

Just like you're supposed to nod along and pretend it's normal for David to pick The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for his "Top 10" news programs of 2011. No, that's not acceptable. The shows may be entertaining and may even provide commentary that reaches levels of satire, but the news reports. Ideally, that includes investigative reporting. News is supposed to be things that matter and effect our lives. Though those Comedy Central programs may make you chuckle, if you mistake them for news, you are a Fan Boi, but you're not a TV critic.

A TV critic would be all over Revenge. "But it's like a soap opera!" Do you not pay attention to the Water Cooler Set? The Water Cooler Set is all about the soap opera -- as long as the show's cast is mainly men. It's as though HBO's Oz birthed this crowd back in 1997.

Emily VanCamp plays Emily Thorne who's really Amanda Clarke. When she was a little girl, she saw her single father David carrying on with Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) and then saw Victoria turn on David. Though she'd promised David he would be free, Victoria stood with her husband Conrad Grayson in framing David for terrorism. While her father went to prison, she went to foster homes and then to juvenile detention. Victoria didn't lose touch completely, she paid off a prison psychiatrist to torment Amanda.

The television series is loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo. In the Alexandre Dumas classic, Dantes is imprisoned falsely and could be consumed with despair were it not for Abbe Faria befriending him. In Revenge, it's not a fellow prisoner that steers Amanda out of despair, it's Warden Sharon Stiles (CCH Pounder). It's Stiles who points out she can keep fighting with Emily (Margarita Levieva) or make a friend of her and then be in control.

Upon her release from juvie, Amanda learns her father is dead and he's left her his estate. She also learns something she knew as a little girl but was forced to let go of (forced by, among others, the psychiatrist Victoria controlled): Her father was innocent.

Now she wants revenge. She flips identies with Emily. And she begins trailing her targets to learn about them. Then she moves to the Hamptons, first renting then purchasing the beach house next to the Graysons' summer home. When Daniel (Joshua Bowman) falls for Emily, she's back on Victoria's radar. There's something about this Emily that she doesn't trust and she certainly doesn't want her around her precious son.

And maybe Victoria could do something to stop Emily . . . if Victoria wasn't constantly dealing with upsets. First up, Victoria learns that Conrad (Henry Czerny) is having an affair with her best friend Lydia (Amber Valletta). This discovery, part of Emily's handiwork, not only upsets Victoria and Conrad, it also takes on Lydia who betrayed David Clarke and had been his secretary. Emily's working from her enemies list and, time and again, people (or pawns) around Victoria keep getting taken out.

Only one person believed in David while he was in prison, Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann). They were business partners and Nolan visited him every week. He's the one who tells Emily (as she emerges from juvie) that her father was innocent. He's the closest thing she has to an ally. His affair with Tyler (Ashton Holmes) demonstrated he wasn't her puppet.

Nolan worries about Jack (Nick Wechsler) who has been in love with Amanda since they were both kids, taken her dog Sammy when she was forced into foster care and still wonders what happened to Amanda. He feels like he knows Emily. (Sammy knows who she is.) And he can't understand the attraction to this woman seeing and then engaged to Daniel Grayson. That attraction's momentarily forgotten when Amanda Clarke (really Emily -- remember they switched identities when both became adults) comes to town. She's not quite the way Jack thought she'd turn out but with everything that's happened . . .

Jack is the only way Emily can be hurt. Thus far, she's even willing to sacrifice Nolan. But she forever attempts to ensure that Jack is safe.

That's not always easy to do because her plans to take out certain targets often also result in harming bystanders. For example, a reporter visited her as a little girl in juvie. He told her he would prove her father was innocent. She trusted him and let him videotape their interviews (he videotaped all of his interviews). She told him about Victoria visiting the house. When he confronted Victoria and Conrad, he made it clear that money was sorely missing in his life. The Graysons were happy to find money for him. Years later, he's on the enemies list. He shows Nolan and Emily his home and brags about how he writes his books on an old typewriter, not a computer, and doesn't even keep carbon copies. Later, Emily will bust into his home, steal all the videotapes he made while interviewing people about her father and then torch his home -- ensuring that the only draft of his almost-finished book went up in flames.

That was the plan and he's crying and screaming as she expected.

But she didn't expect that Victoria, assuming 'Amanda Clarke' did the break in and torching, would send thugs over to Jack's and Jack would get beat up. She didn't expect that she'd watch a video of her father explaining he could prove his affair with Victoria because Charlotte Grayson is actually his daughter.

All these surprises and many more make it hard for Emily to stay focused on just revenge. And Nolan's always appealing to her to give up this quest. But his most recent attempt fell apart when Daniel returned from confronting Victoria about Charlotte's father being David Clarke.

Daniel told Emily that Victoria admitted it but that she got pregnant as a result of David raping her. Emily had been willing to send Daniel away, to let him out of her plans, but hearing him repeating the lie that her father raped Victoria is too much.

It's a show with many twists and turns, so many that Rebecca's called it the "omg" show. It's fiercely crafted, immensely enjoyable and highly addictive. Madeleine Stowe and Emily VanCamp are giving breakout performances. For the fall season, there were no other actors who could touch them. Only the cast of NBC's Smash can match Stowe and VanCamp. Yet this is a show that viewers share with other viewers. No one goes on Fresh Air and talks about the talented performances or the intricate plots. Had Emily/Amanda really been Eric/Allen, the show would have Water Cooler buzz. Especially if Eric/Allen could have been forty-ish. Forty-ish is really important to the Water Cooler Set -- not as important as a penis, but important still.

As if to prove that reality, over the next two weeks you're going to hear that a new show called Awake is amazing. It's not. It's crap. Not even adding Laura Innes to the cast in the second episode improves it. It stars an actor eleven years older than the woman playing his wife, though he looks 25 years older than her. Trophy wives aren't anything new on TV. But the man's a police officer, not a wealthy executive. Maybe he started out, in his 20s, as a crossing guard and met her when she was starting pre-K?

By the way, his wife, she's dead. Sometimes. He switches back and forth between alternating worlds. In one, the craggy man and his wife emerge alive from a car crash that takes their son's life, in the other world, the son survived but the wife died.

NBC's airing it, just like they aired the earlier one-man-two-lives bomb My Own Worst Enemy. The Water Cooler Set raved over that 2008 show and managed to prop it up for its first episode but approximately half of the viewers left in subsequent weeks.

The Water Cooler Set loves these little conceits and tricks. Audiences? Not really. Take a look at Fringe which no longer altnerates between World 1 and World 2, but this season has taken Peter (Joshua Jackson) to Worlds 3 and 4 and, in the process, run off the bulk of the audience. All the audience wants is Peter back with World 1 Olivia. They're not oooh-ing and aaaaw-ing over the conceit.

Time and again, in the last 12 years, the Water Cooler Set has hyped crap and ignored quality. They've jaw boned and gas bagged over every episode of the lamest and most retrograde TV shows in the world. And hyping these bad TV shows has left them no time to champion the shows that needed it. While they gas bagged over a lot of useless and derivative crap, shows that could have used the buzz, most noticeable with The New Adventures of Old Christine, were left buzz-less and easy pickings for a network uncomfortable with leading actresses. That the Water Cooler Set hasn't used each week to buzz over Revenge is only surprising if you haven't grasped that Boiz Club exists to propagate and promulgate itself.

5 Best Super Hero Shows (Live Action) of All Time

In honor of TV Day Monday (we're declaring it TV Day, much more worth celebrating than elected officials), we've made our selection for the five best super hero (live action) TV shows of all time.

1 batman

1) Batman (1966 to 1968). This classic half-hour series starred Adam West and Burt Ward for all three seasons as well as Yvonne Craig for season three. Half hour? Yes, it managed to pack a punch, provide jokes and advance the storyline all in 30 minutes. Something to remember the next time you suffer through a never-ending hour long episode of a live action super hero series. It was pop art and camp and, when you catch the show as a child, you may not appreciate that and just take the stories straight. But those two aspects are part of what makes it remain so enjoyable once you've seen the episodes over and over. Though the Batcave was very cool, season three featured Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) changing into her costume "secret walls, hidden rooms"at a desk in her apartment and then she emerges as a piece of her apartment's exterior wall comes down to allow her to drive off on her motorcycle. Boasting probably the best guest stars as villians including Julie, Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Vincent Price, Joan Collins, Victor Buono, Burgess Meredith, Tallulah Bankhead, Cesar Romero, Liberace, Shelley Winters, Frank Gorshin, Ida Lupino, Roddy McDowall, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Our vote for best single episode? Season three's "The Unkindest Tut of All." Best multi-part episodes? Season three's "The Londinium Larcenies," "The Foggiest Notion" and "The Bloody Tower" which find Batman, Robin and Batgirl in London (with Alfred).

1bionic woman
2) The Bionic Woman (1976 - 1978). Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was already featured in two Six Million Dollar Man two-parters (1975). The first one found her dead at the end but the character was too popular to kill off. So they brought her back the following and then they gave Jamie her own show. On a top twenty list, The Six Million Dollar Man (starring Lee Majors) would surely place. But The Bionic Woman was the far better show because it had storylines and moments that resonated. Majors and his character of Steve Austin could be rigid to the point of stiff whereas Wagner kept Jamie more fluid with reactions similar to what the audience might have. This is most obvious in the Bigfoot crossover storyline between the two shows. And while Steve thought nothing of killing various bad guys, Wagner didn't want that kind of show and insisted on more humor and a lighter touch. Jamie also had a sense of humanity that was missing in The Six Million Dollar Man. Confronted again with Lisa (con-artist and crook who is made to look like Jamie via plastic surgery) in the two-parter Deadly Ringer, Jamie stops Oscar from sending in agents, states "she's a human being" and enters the carriage house to confront (and hopefully reach) Lisa all by herself. This is a thread throughout the series and includes Jamie breaking Max (the bionic dog) out of the lab at the start of season three because he's gong to be put down as well as the entire last episode ("On the Run"). Some of us saw this show when it aired in real time, some of us caught it in syndication and learned of Jamie (and Steve) via the three bionic TV movies. But with season three of The Bionic Woman now on DVD, there's a whole new chance to appreciate the show and the amazingly real character Wagner created. In terms of the historic DC vs. Marvel approach to characters, you could call Jamie Sommers TV's first live action Marvel character.

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3) The Incredible Hulk (1978 - 1982). Scientist David Banner (Bill Bixby) is haunted by the death of his wife and, after treating himself with gamma radiation, he transforms into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) whenever he is angry. Like Batman, The Incredible Hulk had many name guest stars including Mackenzie Phillips, Loni Anderson, Scatman Crothers, June Allyson, Esther Rolle, Lewis Arquette, Rick Springfiled, Sherman Hemsley, Sally Kirkland, Ernie Hudson, Pat Morita and Debbi Morgan. Like The Bionic Woman, it offered a lead character you could identify with and root for, one who was even more alienated than Jamie in season three. It's the quality that no one else potraying the role of Dr. Banner has yet been able to pull off but maybe Mark Ruffalo will manage to in this summer's Avengers.

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4) Dark Angel (2000 - 2002). Titanic might have made James Cameron King of the World, but it didn't make him king of TV. He was a creator and producer of this show which starred Jessica Alba as a genetically enchaned soldier trained by the government since childhood to be a killer. Visually stunning and fast paced, the show also offered a nice sexual tension between Max (Alba) and Logan (Michael Weatherly). Alba's strongest performance thus far is in this series. When watching all the fights Max gets into, you realize what a mistake they made on the Fantastic Four films by sidelining her and refusing to utilize her for the action scenes. If Alba were really smart, she'd be talking up a Dark Angel movie to studio heads.

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5) The Cape (2011). Police detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is burned by a dirty cop and framed for murder. He's also wrongly thought dead. He assumes the identity of The Cape while hoping to one day be able to return to his wife and son. But for that to happen, he will need to bring down ARK (think Blackwater) and its CEO Peter Fleming. Among those helping him are Max (Keith David) who runs a circus and Orwell (Summer Glau) an anonymous blogger who is also the daughter of Peter Fleming. Some elements of the show were still coming together when NBC decided to air the season (and series) finale on the web only but Lyons, David and Glau were already a formidable team. Like the other shows on our list, The Cape got the axe just as it was hitting its stride. Which says a great deal about what the networks really want from super heroes.

From The TESR Test Kitchen

Do you like Cheetos? What would you think of an "all natural" Cheeto?

1 smart puffs

That's what we wondered when we came across Smart Puffs which contain "REAL WISCONSIN CHEDDAR." The puffs from Pirate Brands (in Sea Cliff, New York) features a man on the package proclaiming, "GENIUS!!" -- a man who looks as if he's the love child Ben Stein produced with Ira Glass.

They kind of taste a little like Ira Glass: Weak and bland.

"Robert" proclaims on the back of the package that "Smart Puffs is a deliciously light and airy snack" -- and our big question was: Who the hell is this one-named Robert?

Before we could pursue that line of inquiry, we stumbled upon a new Ruffles flavor: Smokehouse Style BBQ.

1 ruffles

The front of the package sports 4 juicy looking ribs which will raise your hopes way too high. They taste like Ruffles BBQ chips with a spice that may lead to heartburn after eating for some people (Jim and Ty both ended up with heartburn 30 minutes after eating). Minus that extra spice, it's really just "Authentic BBQ" Ruffles.

Equality doesn't equal 34% (Ann, Ava and C.I.)


The Diane Rehm Show is a public radio program which airs five times a week, for two hours each day. (A weekend 'best of' also airs on many NPR stations.) Rehm is the host and has been for many decades now. You might expect a public radio program hosted by a woman to be friendly to book an equal number of men and women as guests but if there's one thing we've learned about NPR, it's that gender imbalance may be more common on public airwaves than pledge drives. For example, in 2010 women made up only 18.546% of the guests of Terry Gross' guests on Fresh Air. Or take what happens when the CPB funds a music radio progam to correct 'diversity' issues, and ends up with a radio program which considers 14 women in five hours of commercial free, non-stop record spinning radio programming.

We've surveyed Diane's program for ten months (April 2011 through January 2012). During this time, she's had 1533 guests on her program. How many of those guests were women?

As we've pointed out before, in the United States women are said to make up 50.1% of the population. So half the country is women. This should mean that half of Diane's guests were women.

But that's not the case. Over ten months, only 34% (33.9%) of Diane's guests have been women.

So although women make up half the country's population, they make up only 34% of Diane's guests.

How does that happen?

This is on NPR which is funded with taxpayer dollars and listener contributions and was created with a mandate for diversity. So how is that women are repeatedly so underrepresented on the airwaves?

And how does a host of program pretend she doesn't notice the imbalance?

Especially when there have been whole two hour broadcasts where every guest was a man. You'd think a host would notice that.

And you'd think a host that didn't register that she was speaking to only men was a host that might need to consider packing it in.

For previous hard numbers, see "Diane Rehm manages to book even fewer women (Ann, Ava and C.I.) " and "Diane Rehm's gender imbalance (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" as well as the numbers below -- covering June 2011 through the end of January 2012 -- which should add up to 335 women and 625 men (thank you to Jim who did the math on this piece to help out):

Susan Rice: Bolton With Less Charm

Alice in Barackland

Above is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Alice In Barackland." Susan Rice has always been a piece of trash. She demonstrated it through out the 2008 primary campaign.

But one would have hoped that when made the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Rice would have picked up a sense of decorum if not, in fact, any actual class.

That was not to be. So when the Security Council vote at the United Nations didn't go the way she (and the White House) wanted, she began hissing and snarling in public, "Outrageous!"

What was outrageous was the fact that her behavior was no different than that of John Bolton's and when Bolton was the US Ambassador to the United Nations those of us on the left were appalled by his blustering and bullying.

Maybe it's time Barack learned to curb Rice? Unless, of course, this is the way he wants the world to see his administration.

Homeless Women Veterans

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tester Press Office (202) 228-0371
Snowe Press Office (202) 224-8667

VETERANS: Chairman Murray and Senators Tester and Snowe Call on VA and HUD to Provide Answers about Homeless Women Veterans

After GAO report emphasizes data collection partnership opportunities between VA and HUD, Murray, Tester, and Snowe ask Secretaries for answers ahead of the March 14 Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on veteran homelessness


(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray, Committee Member Jon Tester, and Senator Olympia J. Snowe sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinkseki and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for explicit answers to questions in light of a GAO report highlighting missed opportunities for the two departments to improve services for homeless women veterans. The report also highlighted limitations in available housing options for women veterans with children and an inability to ensure the privacy, safety, and security of women veterans in mixed-gender housing facilities.

"It is critical that we continue doing absolutely everything we can on behalf of the brave men and women who have already made tremendous sacrifices for our nation," the Senators wrote. "Until every single veteran is off the street, we must not relent in our efforts to provide the services and assistance they need to find adequate and long-term housing for them and their families. In doing so, we must make every effort to ensure we are addressing the needs of our entire veteran population, particularly our women veterans, to ensure their needs are being met and they are not falling through the cracks."

The Senators have requested a response in advance of the March 14 Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing scheduled on veteran homelessness.

The full text of the Senators' letter follows:

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Honorable Shaun L.S. Donovan
United States Department of
Housing & Urband Development
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410

Dear Secretary Shinseki and Secretary Donovan,

We appreciate your ongoing efforts to reduce homelessness among our nation's veterans, and applaud your request for an increase of $333 million for programs to end veteran homelessness in the fiscal year 2013 budget. Recent reports of a 12 percent reduction in the homeless veteran population over the last year are certainly a testament to your hard work and leadership. Despite these gains, we have concerns that the particular needs of homeless women veterans are frequently being overlooked. As we see more and more women veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is increasingly critical that we do more to help them transition home.

As you know, a recent Government Accountability Office report, "Homeless Women Veterans: Actions Needed to Ensure Safe and Appropriate Housing," highlighted an opportunity to increase collaboration between your two agencies when it comes to gathering data about homeless women veterans. As you would undoubtedly agree, without that data, it is impossible for us to have a clear understanding of the demographics of this population or to develop a strategy that can effectively address their particular needs.

The report also highlighted limitations in available housing options for women veterans with children. Although VA has a referral policy in place for temporary housing, it is not being implemented uniformly nationwide. As a result, homeless women veterans in some parts of the country are forced to return to the streets until they are admitted into the Grant and Per Diem or HUD-VASH programs. Additionally, infrastructure needs such as private and secure rooms and showering facilities are often lacking -- placing women veterans in uncomfortable and potentially unsafe situations. We can and should do better.

In light of this report, we request responses to the following questions:

* What steps are your agencies taking to better capture information on our homeless women veteran population?

* How do you track both the demographics and particular needs of this population?

* What strategies are being employed to effectively address their unique needs?

* What improvements will be made to VA's implementation of its referral policy?

* What type of gender-specific safety and security standards will be implemented for VA's Grant and Per Diem program?

* What additional steps need to be taken to reduce the rate of homelessness among female veterans?

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that, although the overall number of unemployed veterans has decreased significantly over the past year, the unemployment rate amongst women veterans is now more than double the national average. As unemployment rates often directly correlate with rates of homelessness, how closely are your Agencies working with the Department of Labor to reduce the homeless women veteran population by addressing one of the underlying symptoms of their unemployment or underemployment?

It is critical that we continue doing absolutely everything we can on behalf of the brave men and women who have already made tremendous sacrifices for our nation. Until every single veteran is off the street, we must not relent in our efforts to provide the services and assistance they need to find adequate and long-term housing for them and their families. In doing so, we must make every effort to ensure we are addressing the needs of our entire veteran population, particularly our women veterans, to ensure their needs are being met and they are not falling through the cracks.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and request a response to inform our views in advance of the March 14 hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on veteran homelessness. We look forward to working closely with both of you to address this critical issue.


Chairman Patty Murray

Senator Jon Tester

Senator Olympia J. Snowe


Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Get Updates from Senator Murray

The empire targets Syria (Workers World)

Workers World repost:

Defend Syria against imperialism

Published Feb 18, 2012 9:35 AM

Workers World has made its position clear again and again with regard to the recent events in Syria: no imperialist intervention! That means the U.S., Britain, France and all of NATO must keep hands off. It means “no” to intervention, whether or not NATO, the Arab League or the United Nations Security Council approves.

Workers World welcomes the decision of China and Russia to veto the resolution before the Security Council that would have opened the door to U.N.-backed intervention against Syria. Last March, such a resolution disguised as a means of protecting civilians in Libya led to the deaths of thousands of Libyans, and the destruction its infrastructure and its sovereign government.

Nassar Ibrahim of the Alternative Information Center wrote a thorough analysis on Feb. 9 in the article, “Syria: the Middle East’s tipping point.” It is worthwhile to excerpt some of his points here.

“The struggle for Syria isn’t just about Syria,” Ibrahim writes, “it’s the struggle for a free, democratic Middle East versus one that lives under the yoke of American and Israeli hegemony. … [It] has a crucial significance from various strategic points of view. …

“From the moment that the Arab League made the decision to suspend Syria’s membership, entailing a series of sanctions against the Syrian people, the clashes happening in Syria have moved to another level. This became even clearer with the second proposed U.N. resolution — calling for a democratic transition and for Bashar Al Assad to step down — which was stopped by Russia and China’s vetoes last Saturday for the second time in four months.

“There have been two attempts to prepare the ground for a military intervention — that the U.S., European and Arab countries would like to see and that 13 out of 15 U.N. Security Council members voted for. Such fervor reminds one of the international climate before the war against Iraq began in 2003.

“With the recent developments, the fa├žade has tumbled down disclosing the real goals hidden behind different masks, revealing that the slogans demanding freedom, democracy and human rights have been used as a battering-ram by the advocates for an intervention to break Syria. The objective seems clear: depriving the country of its role and the Syrian people of their will.”

The imperialists, writes Ibrahim, have two possible scenarios in Syria.

First, “to ride the wave of the Arab revolts, employing full force to overthrow Syria using a comprehensive political, psychological and media war, including the internationalization of the crisis and the call for an external intervention (like the one that occurred in Libya) to finally turn this NATO-hostile country into a satellite state. …”

If this fails, to “sink Syria in a quagmire of destruction, exhausting its resources as state and society and, in doing so, erasing the gains of its historical role at the regional and international level. This would be achieved by fueling sectarian violence and by arming terrorist organizations and extremist groups.”

Ibrahim concludes with this point: “There is no room to be neutral or ambiguous in the face of this confrontation, and the duty of the resistance forces and the actors struggling for a democratic change across the Arab world — the actors that shouldn’t be forgotten — is, therefore, to evolve and protect Syria and the broader Middle East.” (See

For the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement inside the U.S., there is a similar conclusion. We should do everything within our power to prevent and obstruct the intervention of the imperialists in Syria.

Senator Murray speaks with Olympia veterans Monday

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:

Friday, February 17th, 2012

CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

MONDAY: Murray in Olympia to Hear from Veterans

(Washington, D.C.) -- On Monday, February 20th, 2012, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, will hold a listening session to hear from area veterans on local challenges and to discuss her efforts to improve veterans care and benefits nationwide. This will be Senator Murray's first discussion with local Olympia veterans as Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Senator Murray will use the struggles, stories, and suggestions she hears on Monday to fight for local veterans in Washington, D.C.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Local veterans

WHAT: Veterans listening session with Senator Murray

WHEN: Monday, February 20th, 2012
2:30 PM PT

WHERE: Harbor Wholesale Foods
3901 Hogum Bay Rd. NE
Lacey, WA 98516


Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Get Updates from Senator Murray



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.

"Iraq snapshot," "Like Corrine Brown's grandmother's sweet potato pie," "Iraq snapshot," "The Filner-Bilrakis moment in Wednesday's hearing" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. and Kat report on Congressional hearings.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Alice In Barackland" -- Isaiah takes you through the looking glass.

"Whitney," "How Whitney and Alex met," "no revenge for 2 weeks!," "revenge: the 'omg' show," "Whitney," "Body of Proof," "Awful Lemon," "Cougar Town," "Smash," "Unforgettable," "Desperate Housewives" and "Nikita, Third" -- Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Marcia, Stan, Ruth, Elaine and Mike cover TV.

"Syria" -- Elaine on the lust for war on Syria.

"I have no use for Ann Powers" and "Ann Powers: Gender Traitor" -- Trina and Kat call out Ann Powers.

"Whitney," "Whitney and the rumors," "Whitney Houston" and "Vultures" -- Kat, Marcia, Stan and Betty on the death of Whitney Houston.

"Farming out the hard work yet again" and "THIS JUST IN! DO THE WORK FOR HIM!" -- does Barry O ever do any work himself? Ever?

"Happy V Day"
"Begging for bucks"
"Idiots of the week"
"Jack Healy and other idiots"

"Don't go to U of Houston for a degree in journalism" & "THIS JUST IN! MORONS IN CHARGE!" -- Cedric and Wally note an editorial staff of a college paper . . . that doesn't know what a quote is -- partial or otherwise. Way to fail your major.

"Enchilada Bake in the Kitchen" -- recipe for easy enchiladas.

"Solyndra" and "Solyndra" -- Ruth continues the Solyndra coverage.

"Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"Change You Can Believe In" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Idiots of the week" -- Mike picks the idiots of the week.

"Jack Healy and other idiots" -- Mike notes the liars.

"The not fun times of blogging" -- Marcia on Blogger/Blogspot.

"2 Cloud or not 2 Cloud" -- Stan offers a tech post.

"The joke that is the Iraqi judiciary" -- bonus post from Mike.
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