Sunday, August 12, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Think of this: despite taking office in the midst of a massive financial meltdown, Obama’s administration has not prosecuted a single heavy-hitter among those responsible for the financial crisis. To the contrary, he’s staffed his team with big bankers and their allies. Under the Bush-Obama bailouts the big financial institutions have feasted like pigs at the trough, with the six largest banks borrowing almost a half trillion dollars from uncle Ben Bernanke’s printing press. In 2013 the top four banks controlled more than 40 percent of the credit markets in the top 10 states—up by 10 percentage points from 2009 and roughly twice their share in 2000. Meantime, small banks, usually the ones serving Main Street businesses, have taken the hit along with the rest of us with more than 300 folding since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the industry-approved bill to “reform” the industry.

-- Joel Kotkin, "The Screwed Election: Wall Street Can't Lose, and America Can't Win" (The Daily Beast).

Truest statement of the week II

Jan. 28 was an amazing day not just for St. Louis but for all of America because it showed what we can do, together, when we unite around the pillars that hold up this greatest of nations. We used our free speech, our freedom of assembly, our collective sense of can-do and good-old American ingenuity and capitalism to create one symbolic day when we were not falsely divvied up by political preferences but genuinely united in our awe of so much American sacrifice and our determination to actively participate in this time of mass transition from soldier to citizen.

-- Craig Schneider, co-organized the St. Louis welcome home parade for veterans that inspired the other parades taking place across the country,  "People, not politics"  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

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

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

And what did we come up with?

Barack's a corporation's best friend.
This is from an important column.  If you haven't already read it, please make a point to.
Iraq where terrorism ended . . . except Nouri forgot to tell the terrorists.
Ava and C.I. look at Alphas, The Bionic Woman, the Olympics and Will & Grace among others in this article.

Dona talks to Elaine, Kat, Wally, Ava and C.I. about Congressional hearings and developments.

This video is at a half-million views already and it just went up last week.

Our campaign coverage.

Which we continue by noting just how small and petty Mr. No Stuff is.

Romney and Ryan at the big announcement.

A press release from Senator Patty Murray's office. 
A repost from Workers World.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it. 


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

Editorial: Our face is red

Last week,  we offered "Editorial: The very successful Islamic State of Iraq" and is our face red.  See, last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki announced that terrorism had ended in Iraq.   Xinhua reported that the Little Saddam declared, "The battle with terrorism has ended and the remaining are cells here and there looking for an opportunity or a gap."

Silly us, thinking the Islamic State of Iraq was making their presence known.

We are so embarrassed and would issue an apology -- something Nouri demands of the press -- were it not for the fact that it turns out that we weren't the only ones who got it wrong.

The Islamic State of Iraq also foolishly thought that terrorism continued as evidenced by their various attacks all through the week culminating Sunday in the assault that killed 6 or 7 Shi'ite boys who were swimming.  The day before a suicide bombing killed 5 people (plus the bomber) and left seventy injured.

And remember that audio recording that the Islamic State of Iraq released July 22nd?  The one that announced  a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." Well they targeted a government prosecutor last week.  KUNA reported they invaded his Baiji home in Salahuddin Province.  Alsumaria quoted a police source stating that the assailants stormed the home, firing automatic weapons as they did, killing the government prosecutor, his wife and five other family members.   Xinhua identified the prosecutor as Adnan Khayrallah.

And all through the week you saw Sahwa and Iraqi police and Iraqi soldiers targeted.

So apparently, even though Nouri says it's all over, it's not all over.

The Plan for Day 101

We'd suggest Nouri be the red faced one but, as his record demonstrates, he's incapable of shame.

Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan For Day 101."

TV: The Continuation

Alphas is a Syfy original series airing Mondays and the premise is that certain individuals are more 'gifted and talented' than others.  This series, created by Zak Penn and Micahel Karnow, is a blend of Mutant X, The Bionic Woman and X-Men.  In fact, The Bionic Woman herself, Lindsay Wagner, appeared in episode five of the first season playing her Warehouse 13 recurring character Dr. Vanessa Calder.


Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) oversees a team of Alphas.  There's Gary (Ryan Cartwright) who is autistic and who can see communication signals traveling through the air, Bill (Malik Yoba) who can have superhuman strength and speed, Rachel (Azila Ghanizada) whose senses of taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight are so strong she can be overwhelmed just sitting in a room alone, Cameron (Warren Christie) who basically has perfect aim (except when nervous) and Nina (Laura Mennell) who can "push" people -- she stares at you and tells you what to do and you do it.

They are not the only Alphas, they are the five working with the government and, as season one ended, why they were working with the government was becoming a serious question.  Season two (episode four of which airs Monday) finds Nina brought back into the team.  Throughout season one, she questioned the team's actions and why, if they were supposed to be helping, they kept killing or aiding in the killing of Alphas.  By episode seven, when her Alpha friend Skylar (Summer Glau) returned, Nina was obviously estranged.  After they aided in a Pentagon assault on Alphas in the season finale, Nina was out of the group.

The fact that Gary was missing was enough to bring her back in.  But, after Gary was saved, she tried to get back with Cameron only to find out he was sleeping with Dr. Rosen's daughter Danielle (Kathleen Munroe) and Nina realized she couldn't go back.  She's left the group and some fear she's gone rogue (watch Monday night's episode -- no spoilers).

In the meantime Kat (Erin Way) is with the team and has managed to release the stress that had built up in Bill.  A common theme in season one episodes was that Bill was not listening.  Kat teaches him how to relax and it not only allows him to relax, it allows him to access his super strength and speed without needing to become so enraged that sweat pours down him and his heart is in danger.  While things are going better for Bill, they're not for Gary.

Gary fell for Anna (Liane Balaban) in season one.  She appeared to be unable to understand what was going on around her but, in fact, she can understand any language and she speaks in a series of knocks and thumps that can be decoded by Gary or by a machine the size of Kindle.  She is a leader of a Red Flag unit.  They are Alphas who want to destroy.  Despite this, she cares for Gary and he cares for her.  In the first season finale, she was one of the many Alphas the Pentagon killed.  In season two, Gary ended up working with the NSA until they put him into a prison/torture center for Alphas and put a chip in his head.  Though rescued by his team, Gary now feels the need to yell every morning to express his grief over what's happened, primarily that the government murdered Anna.

If you've followed all of that recap, good for you and we won't push more off on to you (though there is plenty more) except to note that the bad guy of season two was introduced in season one: Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson) whose abilities include that he does not die.  He served in the Civil War and was shot in the head and 'killed' but came back gasping for air.  He has killed repeatedly over the centuries to keep Alphas underground and he has a working relationship with Danielle that is not clear to the viewers yet (and is unknown to Dr. Rosen and his team).

Early on in season one, there was a killer in a small town.  People would die and no one could figure out what was going on.  They were going into detox but of what?  As Lindsay's Wagner's character Dr. Calder watched a high school senior struggle on his apparent death bed, she reached for his hand clawing the air and held it.  Dr. Rosen noted how the young man immediately improved.  It was the touch.  And from there they were able to solve the case.

That episode is Alphas.  They want to be part of the world around them but they are scared -- for good reasons in some cases -- of that world.  Even Bill, the most normal, is scared if he's honest.  If you talk to fans of the show, many will draw a comparison between Nina and Wagner's Jaime Sommers.  They're right to do that.

Like Jamie on The Bionic Woman, these Alphas are not just battling bad guys, they're asking deeper questions about who they are and how they fit into the world.  Nina's departure from the team is not unlike the moves Jamie makes in the final season of The Bionic Woman.  It's why the second season is even deeper than the first (the first season is available for online streaming at Netflix).  Currently, it's Scfy's most compelling series and one you'll want to start catching if you aren't already because the way season two's finale all fits together is going to be a very satisfying shock.  In fact, we don't think there's been such a satisfying finale since season two's "Becoming" of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

That two-part episode of Buffy not only was the finest moment of that show, it was also one of the finest moments of nineties television.  So Alphas is really hitting some strong notes this season.  And watching it, we had to wonder what sort of Alpha the world of entertainment needed the most?

We decided it was an Alpha with super TV executive powers.

Among the super skills this Alpha would possess would be common sense.

If that doesn't seem like a super power to you, it might not have seemed like one to us either until last week.  That's when NBC decided to 'honor' the women athletes competing in the Summer Olympics with a video.  As Erin Gloria Ryan (Jezebel) explained:

 Unfortunately, to NBC, showcasing the "Bodies in Motion" of the XXX Olympiad means taking footage of conventionally attractive female athletes competing in sports that require them to be scantily clad, slowing it way down as the camera lovingly caresses their butts, breasts, and bouncing ponytails, and playing some soft core porn music over it. Apparently NBC is too busy focusing on jiggling ladies' asses to notice ladies kicking ass.

NBC paid $1.1 billion for the rights to air these Olympics and they turn it into smut without any warning signals or bells and whistles going off internally?  Is production assistant Paige Westin the highest ranking woman behind the scenes?   We know David Michaels is the senior producer of the event for NBC and we wonder exactly what sort of 'senior' experience he brought to the proceedings that allowed the smut-fest.  NBC would pull the video but there was no apology, not even a weak-ass explanation offered.  That's how a responsible broadcaster behaves?

This was a historic Olympics for women and NBC had to belittle it and them?  Last month,   Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reported, "For the first time in Olympic history, every country will have a woman competing on its team, including longtime holdout Saudi Arabia, the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday. Brunei and Qatar will also send female athletes to the London Games for the first time."And they did amazing well.  Belinda Goldsmith (Reuters) observes, "The London Olympics have been hailed as the Women's Games, with female athletes competing in all 204 national teams and in all 26 sports for the first time as women boxers made their debut." Last week, Kathryn Olson of the Women's Sports Foundation explained to Jeffrey Brown (PBS' NewsHour):

Well, there's no question that the passage of Title IX 40 years ago has -- we have seen the fruition of that and that come today in what we're seeing in the games, particularly as you look at the strength of the team sports, you know, soccer winning today, water polo winning for the first time.
We have had such success in the gymnastics all-around, as well as other teams as well. And, so, 40 years ago, it was really not -- there were not that many women playing sport. There were one in 27 playing sport. And we have advanced to two in five today.
So I think what you're seeing today, 40 years after Title IX, is the strength of women athletics and the interest in the skill that they have in these games.

 And along comes NBC serving up a T&A reel passed off as a tribute to the Olympic champions.  They should be ashamed.

 On the plus side, NBC found out last week what Aaron Sorkin's also discovering, objectifying women is not something you can get away with forever.  And, indeed, audiences are far smarter than the suits at NBC.

One reason we're smarter is TV.  Last May, US Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the Sunday chat and chews and demonstrated why speaking your truth matters.  When we covered it, we stayed with the big picture aspect of his statements (on marriage equality).  But we also agreed with a comment he made that led to some ridicule.  Joe Biden credited the sitcom Will & Grace with helping improve America's attitude towards gays and lesbians.  Jon Stewart especially enjoyed mocking it.  We like Jon, but, as we've long told you, he's just not that smart.

Prior to Will &  Grace, Ellen had pretty much been run off TV.  First, her ABC series got stuck with a warning label for all the episodes -- and some of those episodes were beyond mild.  Then people from GLAAD went all over the media insisting the show was "too gay for TV."  Never underestimate GLAAD's ability to undercut the LGBT movement.  CBS was willing to star Ellen in another sitcom and she could even be gay but, hey, no dating, okay?  So we were back to the days of 'progress' when the NYPD Blue male receptionist was out sexually but forever in a social closet.

TV and film did more than anything in the last 100 years to stigmatize gays and lesbians.  Well, comedians may have done more to stigmatize the LGBT community.  Is Jon Stewart aware of that?

We're aware of homophobic jokes Jon did in the 90s.  Maybe that'll give him a moment of zen.

Into that environment where gays either didn't exist or they had no lives came Will &  Grace.  Chop off the series finale and you've got the best sitcom of the second half of the 20th century.  It delivered ratings and it delivered the funny.  And for eight years, audiences saw Will and Jack, two gay men, and ambi-sexual Karen.  They saw Jack pursue sex and sometimes love.  They saw Will long for someone to replace Michael.  And finally find someone who could.  They saw Grace, Will, Jack and Karen fight, laugh, love and carry on in their lives in ways that they could relate to in terms that went beyond sexuality.

Hopefully, the show helped young gays and lesbians form a positive self-identity.  But what it surely did was expand the views of many people who otherwise wouldn't be talking or thinking about the subject.

And we bring that up because  Gary on Alphas can change the way people are seen as well. He can be a face of autism for many viewers.  There are a lot of cheap and mean-spirited jokes made about people who are challenged or disabled.  As with homophobia, that kind of hatred/fear usually exists the most in people who don't know the disabled or challenged.  

Last year, Landon Bryce (The Autcast: A Blogazine for the Aspergers and Autism Community) noted how he didn't enjoy the show but "I love the way the Syfy show Alphas depicts Gary Bell, an adult with autism. He's likable and, with the realm of this farfetched science fiction show, realistic."   That realistic portrait didn't come about by accident.  The Autistic Journalist explains:

Much detail and care was included in the science portion of the science fiction show. Dr. Susan Bookheimer, a faculty member of UCLA’s neuroscience program, is a consultant for Alphas who reviewed each script for the show’s inaugural season while offering on advice on aspects of Gary’s presentation and symptoms. Cartwright’s research included consulting with people who work with autistic individuals, reading books by autistic authors Temple Grandin and Daniel Tammet along with blog sites created by autistic people (I wonder if he came across this one :-p) and watching documentaries on the subject. Cartwright credits this research for helping him understand the reasoning behind the attributes and difficulties of autistic people to create and not imitate the physicality of Gary. Cartwright’s biggest goal? Playing the person and not the disorder.

And that same level of care has gone into all the characters -- in the writing and the acting -- which is why, as all the pieces come together this season, Alphas is even more satisfying TV program.

Congress and Veterans


Dona: This is a Congress and Veterans discussion and we had e-mails asking if we planned on doing another since we went several weeks without doing one.  We had a fiction edition which wouldn't allow it and we had other things.  We'd hoped to do one last week it didn't happen.  We hope they'll be others before the end of the year but that will depend on whether there are  hearings of the Veterans Committees after they come back form break and after the November election.  Our e-mail address is  I'm moderating this dicussion with The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,  Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,  and Wally of The Daily Jot.  I want to start with Kat and "Camp Lejeune (justice finally)" which she wrote last week.  What's going on there?

Kat: From 1957 to 1987, hundreds of service members and their families were exposed to toxic and harmful water at Camp Lejeune. It is believed that one million people were exposed, at least one million people.  Some live with problems as a result.  Others, like Jerry Ensminger, died as a result.  She developed leukemia because of her exposure and she died at nine years old.  Her father, retired Master Sgt Jerry Ensminger was among those working all these years to get justice.   Monday, the  Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 was signed into law.  Within the Senate, Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has championed the need for justice for these victims for some time.  In his statement, Burr thanked Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain specifically in the statement he issued along with "all of the advocates who fought tirelessly to expose this issue and right the wrongs that were done this group of Americans."

Dona: Thank you, Kat.  Who is Mike Partain?  I wondered that as I read over Kat's entry.   This is C.I. from the October 8, 2009 snapshot when Partain appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
Michael Partain's parents were stationed at Camp Lejeune.  His mother became pregnant there, he was born on base.  Camp Lejeune residents "were exposed to high levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TC), dichloroethylene (DCE), benzene and vinyl chloride in the tap water provided to my family by the Marine Corps."  In his testimony, Partain discussed the song-and-dance and outright lies between 1981 through November December 198 and, "The misrepresentation did not end with the public and the media, it extended to the EPA. On November 1, 1985, there was a meeting at Camp Lejeune between base officials and EPA representatives.  During this meeting, base officials including Robert Alexander, told the EPA that the contamination had not reached the distribution plants.  Three years later, another base official, Assistant Chief of Staff Facilities, Col Thomas J. Dalzell was quoted in the media that prior to 1983: 'At that time, we were not aware of any of these particular compounds that might have been in the ground water and we have no information that anyone's health was in any danger at that time'."  Again, among the many health problems that Michael Partain faced as a result of his exposure to these chemicals was breast cancer.

Dona (Con't): So recognition has been long overdue and we join Kat in applauding Senator Richard Burr's long leadership on this issue.  Now I'm moving on to the joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Veterans Committee which C.I. reported on with  "Iraq snapshot"  and "Iraq snapshot" and Ava reported on with  "The joint Armed Service and House Veterans hearing (Ava)."  I think House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller summed up the hearing best by noting, "in 1961 John F. Kennedy said we'd put a man on the moon, eight years later, we were there.  We're talking about an integrated electronic health records by 2017.  Why could we put a man on the moon in eight years and we're not starting from ground zero on the electronic health record -- why is it taking so long?" Why is it taking so long, Ava and C.I.?  You were at the hearings, you've been at hearings for, what, six years, on this topic?

Ava:  Because every VA employee lies on this issue.  That's my opinion.  The people who testify only testify for X number of years.  They retire and the problem remains.  This is ridiculous.  It's all so damn sick.  I cannot imagine, for example, that you were UCLA and your admissions computer system didn't work properly and you would, each year, pour out money for a solution and, each year, see no slution.  If you were UCLA, you'd be screaming your head off.  But the VA officials don't give a damn.  If they did this would have been taken care of.

Dona: C.I.?

C.I.: I think a lot of Committee members would agree with Ava's opinion.   And certainly, in that hearing, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was ridiculously bragging about the fact that he and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had 17 months of discussions about what the new systems needs to do.  Not only has Congress already outlined that but the commission headed by Robert Dole and Donna Shalala, the Dole -Shalala Commission, was created to come up with the list of needs and they did come up with it.  Shinseki's bragging about wasting time.  Leon Panetta takes over as DoD Secretary in the summer of 2011, there was no need for 17 months of discussion. You do what you've been assigned.  Instead, they dicked around and veterans suffered.

Dona: I wanted to ask about that.  The way I'm seeing it, if anyone sees it differently say so, you attend the hearings, I don't, when Bush was in the Oval Office, he was supposed to ensure that his Secretary of the VA and his Secretary of Defense were working on this.  And then it became Barack's job when he became President Barack Obama.  So I carry it beyond the two departments.  Anyone feel differently?

Wally: No.  No, I think you're right.  I think Robert Gates was a failure as Secretary of Defense and part of that failure is this right here.  If he was unable to work with Shinseki and with James Peake before Shinseki, if he was unable to work with them he should have gone to Bush and then to Barack.  His failure to do so doesn't impress me.  But, yeah, Dona, the two departments are supposed to be working together on this issue and the person who oversees that officially would be the president.

Dona: Okay.  C.I., you reported on US House Rep. Loretta Sanchez in that hearing.  I found that interesting, could you summarize what her office was doing?

C.I.: Yeah.  Veterans she represents in her California district have contacted her office about a number of issues including that they're ready for surgery and they're scheduled but then they VA informs them that the surgeon didn't show up and the surgeries cancelled.  And this wasn't one time or five times.  This is repeatedly and she wants to know why that is, why the VA keeps scheduling surgeries and doctors aren't showing up.  In addition, once those surgeries are cancelled, it takes Loretta Sanchez's office calling the VA to get the surgeries rescheduled.  The veterans calling on their own are stonewalled and not helped.  Only when the person on the other end knows they're talking to Congresswoman Sanchez's office is the VA able to reschedule.  As she said it shouldn't take her office calling to get surgeries rescheduled.

Dona: Okay and we're still on the VA's failure to deliver on their promises.   July 18th, the House Oversight Committee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations held a hearing.  C.I. reported on it in  "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" and Elaine covered it in "San Francisco to DC to NYC ay-yi-yi."  Elaine, the Chair of the House Oversight Committee itself made an appearance.  Tell us about that. And bring in Allison Hickey.

Elaine: Sure. He declared, "It's unacceptable the federal government is doing nothing but continuing to promise what they promised before."  He was talking about the VA and, goodness knows, that could describe any number of problems with the VA.  He was focused on the claims processing,  So he made a statement about how there was no progress.  Allison Hickey is with the VA and she learned, among other things, that US House Rep. Bob Filner isn't the only member of Congress that will demand answers when she appears.  She thought she could stall and that's especially a problem in the House as Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I. have noted already in these Congress and Veterans roundtables, that's especially a problem in the House where each member is given less time for questioning.  Mainly, she wanted to use May figures in July when figures for June and figures for July thus far were available.  House member Jason Chaffetz and she got into a disagreement where she played dumb about the number he was using but, as C.I. established, Chaffetz was using a current number while she was using an out-of-date one. 

Dona: In the Senate, each members gets a longer amount of time for questioning.  C.I., Elaine talked about Hickey trying to run out the clock and that is a problem that gets noted every time here.  I really think this should be addressed by Congress, these witnesses who try to run out the clock.  I also think the big news from the hearing what was you wrote about several times that week, not just in the snapshots.  What came out of that hearing?

C.I.:  At a time when the entire federal government is allegedly short of funds so the people in this country supposedly have to make do for cuts, the VA has handed out $2.8 million to 245 senior executives.  Jason Chaffetz is actually the Chair of the Subcommittee and he brought up that issue.  Hickey refused to respond.  Oh, she offered words.  They made no sense.  And she attempted to eat up time and finally just took it for the record.

Dona: Meaning that she'd get back to him on that, outside of the session and away from the cameras and reporters.  Elaine, like I do, you read the snapshots so you were familiar with Allison Hickey but this was your first time seeing her testify.  What was your impression?

Elaine: She would benefit from learning to control her emotions in a hearing unless she means to fly off the handle so much in public.  She was loud, she was defensive, it was high drama when Hickey testified.  That may be who she is.  To be honest, I was less bothered by her -- maybe because I expect officials to stonewall Congress -- and more upset with certain Democrats who felt the need to tell you how wonderful Hickey was and how lucky they were to have her before them.  I believe she's a government official.  I believe we pay her salary.  I believe if she is asked to testify before Congress, she gets her ass down to the hearing.  I don't see any need to stroke her ego or sing her praises and I lost a lot of respect for the Democratic Party that some members used their time to praise her.  It was ridiculous.

Dona: Now, I remember C.I. reporting on this, Bob Filner called out a member of his party for doing just that at a hearing.  That was a June hearing.  Who was he calling out?

C.I.: Timothy Walz.

Dona: Right.  And Ava, you were at that hearing too.  What happened?

Ava: Hickey wasn't answering questions.  We were now going into the second round and some idiots -- including Walz -- were defending her and allowing her to defocus.  Walz went into this little sermon that can be summed up as, "You poor dear having to appear before this mean committee."  And Filner told him he didn't need that, that the Committee didn't need that.  That they needed answers and Hickey needed to start answering.  Elaine's point is so true.  There are people I have no respect for.

Dona: We are short on time because we are scrambling for time.  I'm going to wind down with Ava just expanding on that thought.  Ava, go.

Ava: If you're on the veterans committee in the House or Senate, the veterans better be your first priority.  Not who is in the White House.  Steve Buyer, for example, is a GOP-er to the core.  But when he was in Congress and Bush was in the Oval Office, Buyer didn't give a damn.  He didn't sit there and fawn over Bush's officials.  He wanted to know why the hell they weren't able to provide dignity to veterans who were buried in national cemeteries.  A good question.  By contrast, I'm in no mood for Timmy Boy Walz or that stammering idiot Corrinne Brown and her vast wig collection -- all of them bad and ill fitting -- using their time to make excuses for the VA because Barack's in the White House.  And then there's Hank Johnson who truly acts as if he showed up for work stoned.  During this time period, we attended a hearing where Hank Johnson rambled around, losing his thoughts, stopping suddenly, commenting on a noise that no one else heard, saying there it was again, again no one else heard it and just rambling on like he was stoned.  And that was how he chose to 'question' -- he didn't ask one damn question -- Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki.  He had the VA Secretary before him and couldn't think of a single question.  So he spent his entire time listing Shinseki's resume.  And hearing noises.  It was embarrassing.

Dona: Alright on that note we'll conclude and this has been a rush transcript, but you knew that didn't you?

Video of the week

The campaigns for the Oval Office

 One campaign, freaked out, one got arrested and also makes history tonight, another announced a running mate and a fourth made it onto the ballot in four more states.

Last week ended with the big announcement.  Who would be Mitt Romney's running mate?

the new vp candidate

That's  Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "The New VP Candidate" and Romney chose US House Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The Romney-Ryan campaign notes:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is in his seventh term in Congress representing Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to rein in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers. He also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he has focused on simplifying the tax code and making health care more affordable and accessible.
In January 2010, Ryan gained attention nationwide after unveiling his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a proposal to eliminate the federal deficit, reform the tax code, and preserve entitlements for future generations.
Representative Ryan was born in Janesville, Wisconsin on January 29, 1970. A fifth-generation Wisconsin native, Ryan was the youngest of four children born to Paul Ryan Sr., who worked as an attorney, and Betty, a stay-at-home mom.
In April 2000, Ryan proposed to Janna Little, a native Oklahoman, at one of his favorite fishing spots, Big St. Germain Lake in Wisconsin. Later that year, the two were married in Oklahoma City.
The Ryans reside in Janesville with their three children, Liza, Charlie and Sam. The family are parishioners at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.
Upon entering Congress in January of 1999, Ryan was the youngest member of the freshmen class at the age of 28. Prior to running for congress, Ryan served as an aide to Republican Senators Robert Kasten Jr. and Sam Brownback, former U.S. Rep. and Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp, and as a speechwriter for Education Secretary William Bennett.
Ryan is a graduate of Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville and earned degrees in economics and political science from Miami University in Ohio. He is an avid outdoorsman and is a member of his local archery association, the Janesville Bowmen.

Roseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy SheehanCindy was arrested last week protesting nukes.  Today she calls for an end to Barack Obama's kill list on her radio program.  In something of a first, a presidential candidate gets roasted on TV tonight.  This evening, Comedy Central roasts Roseanne.

 Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri Honkala. Last week, they made it onto the ballots in Washington, Wisconsin, Kansas and Maryland.

And there is the Obama-Biden ticket.  Those two set a new record for FULL ON FREAK OUT.  Paul Ryan was announced as the pick yesterday.  This morning Barack's campaign featured Laruen Peterson, Tripp Wellde, David Axelrod, 2 pieces by Mary Hough and one by Jim Messina.  Six attacks on Paul Ryan.

Well, why not?  Isn't that what they did in 2008?  Made it all about the v.p. pick and played bitchy?  Bitchy Barack can do.  They're in panic mode.  How very telling.

Bitchery of the week

Less than 4 hours after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate, the Barack Obama re-election campaign had a little slogan and photo up.


You can't have good sports when you've got a bitch in the race.  Since Barack entered politics, he's repeatedly set new records for bitchery.  Smear an opponent as a wife beater to win a primary?  He's done it.  He's done it all.

He's been such a little bitch for so many years.

But there's something truly trashy -- not 'rapid response' like -- about the latest attack.

If we were as effete as Barack and had such a problem connecting with so many men in America, we probably would try to lower the volume on our bitchery.  But Barack's got be Barack, right?

Campaign photo of the week


Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan was his running mate on Saturday.  The two are running on the GOP's presidential ticket.

Military and Community Partnerships (Senator Murray)

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

Friday, August 10th, 2012 (202) 224-2834

TUESDAY: JBLM: Murray in Lakewood to Highlight Importance of Military and Community Partnerships
Senator Murray will attend a meeting of the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership
(Washington, D.C.) – On Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, will attend a meeting of the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership (SSMCP) in Lakewood to discuss the importance of military communities working together with the common purpose of improving the availability of critical resources to local servicemembers and veterans. SSMCP has gained Joint Base Lewis-McChord leadership’s respect in finding constructive paths forward to solving community problems that involve their soldiers, airmen, employees and families. Senator Murray will discuss her work to support the military community, including her work on veterans employment, ending veteran homelessness, and servicemember and veterans’ behavioral health care.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Andrew Neiditz, City Manager, City of Lakewood
Anthony Chen, Director, Pierce County Health Department
BG Bret Daugherty, The Adjunct General, Camp Murray (State)
COL Edward Peterson, Deputy Chief of Staff, JBLM Garrison
Dawn Masko, City Administrator, City of DuPont
Debbie LeBeau, Superintendent, Clover Park School District
Don Krupp, Manager, Thurston County
Gary Brackett, Manager, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce
Kevin Dayton, Regional Administrator, WSDOT
Kevin Phelps, Deputy County Executive, Pierce County
Lon Wyrick, Director, Thurston Regional Planning Council
Rick Allen, Executive Director, United Way of Pierce County
Scott Spence, City Manager, City of Lacey
T.C. Broadnax, City Manager, City of Tacoma
Tom Knight, Chief of Staff, JBLM Garrison
Cathy Wolfe, Commissioner, Thurston County
Doug Richardson, Mayor - City of Lakewood
Pat McCarthy, Executive, Pierce County
Robert Thoms, SSMCP Coordinator
WHAT: Senator Murray will attend a meeting of the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership
WHEN: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
10:15 AM PT
WHERE: Lakewood City Hall
3rd Floor Conference Room
6000 Main Street SW
Lakewood, WA 98499
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Who's arming the 'rebels'? (Workers World)

Repost from Workers World:

Syria defends itself against imperialist onslaught

By on August 8, 2012 » Add the second comment.
Hands off Syria!The fighting in Syria is shaping up as a military showdown between the Syrian army on one side and “rebel” fighters openly backed by the U.S.-NATO imperialist powers, along with Israel, on the other. These “rebels” are being armed directly through NATO-member Turkey and the Qatari and Saudi Arabian monarchies.
The Western imperialist powers have targeted the Syrian state for regime change because it is one of the few states in the region with some independence from the imperialists, because it is allied with Iran and with the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, and because it has supported Palestinian self-determination.
According to Gen. Wesley Clark, in his book, “Winning Modern Warfare,” every country in the Northwest Africa/Southwest Asia region with some measure of independence from imperialism has been on Washington’s hit list since September 2001: “beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”
This strategy has nothing to do with democracy or human rights or with the wishes of the Syrian people. It is aimed at imperialist conquest of the oil-rich region.
The corporate media in the imperialist countries have waged an intense propaganda war against the Assad government since protests started in March 2011. They blamed the regime for massacres of civilians even where they knew there was conflicting evidence, as in the town of Houla. The media published opposition press releases as if these were facts.
Despite the media’s overall anti-Assad bias, some reports are finally beginning to reveal the extent of U.S.-led Western intervention and the armed opposition’s crimes.
U.S. role revealed
Until now, the U.S. administration had played down its meddling in the Syrian fighting except in the diplomatic arena and especially in the United Nations. Republican militarists like Sen. John McCain have even criticized the U.S. policy as being too cautious and called for military intervention.
This changed as August began. The following story was reported throughout the media: “President Barack Obama has signed a covert directive authorizing U.S. support for Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, U.S. officials told CNN on [Aug. 1]. The secret order, referred to as an intelligence ‘finding,’ allows for clandestine support by the CIA and other agencies.” (CNN, Aug. 1)
“White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not deny that the United States is helping the Syrian rebels,” said a Voice of America report on Aug. 2.
Anyone closely following the events in Syria would have known of the U.S. role. Veteran Washington Post editorialist and executive, David Ignatius, who has a direct line to the CIA, had already revealed in his July 18 column, that “the CIA has been working with the Syrian opposition for several weeks under a non-lethal directive that allows the United States to evaluate groups and assist them with command and control. Scores of Israeli intelligence officers are also operating along Syria’s border, though they are keeping a low profile.”
Ignatius undoubtedly was briefed by the CIA before writing these words. A veteran of 42 years with the CIA, Melvin Goodman, now with the Center for International Policy, has called Ignatius “the mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency.” (The Public Record, July 16, 2009)
The New York Times on Aug. 5 also spelled out the State Department and Pentagon’s plans for material and propaganda aid for the Syrian opposition: “The planning is being closely coordinated with regional allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel, and it coincides with an expansion of overt and covert American and foreign assistance to Syria’s increasingly potent rebel fighters.”
The Times notes that the “administration has authorized $25 million in direct assistance for medical supplies and communication equipment to help the fighters and civilian opponents of Mr. Assad coordinate their activities and, crucially, disseminate reports about the fighting to the rest of the world.”
The administration denies supplying weapons, but in any case, the Times continues, “Other countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are providing weapons, assisted by a small number of officers from the Central Intelligence Agency who are vetting the fighters receiving them and working with State Department officials trying to unify the fighters with political leaders inside and outside the country.”
The Times also reported in the same article that “the American ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, who closed the embassy in Damascus in February — and is now based in Washington — met in Cairo last week with more than 250 Syrians to shape plans for the inchoate opposition groups to form a transitional government.”
Ford was appointed ambassador in January 2011. He is a protégé of John Negroponte, who organized death squads in El Salvador during that country’s civil war. Ford was Ambassador Negroponte’s number two in Iraq in 2004-05, where he again organized terror squads, that time to tear apart Iraqi society and sow sectarian hatred in order to divide the Iraqi resistance.
British imperialism is also involved. A British newspaper on July 22 reported: “The Daily Mail can reveal some rebels inside Damascus have been trained by former SAS [Special Air Service, a corps of the British army] soldiers working for teams of private security contractors from two companies based in the Middle East.”
These reports clarify that the U.S. is coordinating its NATO and regional allies in an all-out attack on Syria much as it did on Libya in 2011. One difference is that Russia and China have so far resisted U.S.-NATO efforts to get a United Nations Security Council mandate for military intervention. In Libya, such a vote opened the door to a months-long NATO bombing campaign that eventually ground down the forces supporting Moammar Gadhafi’s legitimate Libyan government.
After the George W. Bush administration’s negative experience sending in tens of thousands of U.S. troops to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon and the Obama administration appear to have shifted gears. They are minimizing ground forces even as they continue efforts to reconquer the former colonial countries. The ultimate version of this strategy is the drone war — using pilotless planes to hunt and kill.
The Pentagon used this model based on air power in 1999 to destroy Yugoslavia and in 2011 in Libya. War and subversion in Libya put its oil and gas in the hands of the Western monopolies, with no casualties among imperialist troops.
The downside is that instead of a stable puppet ruling Libya, NATO has left much of post-Gadhafi North Africa destabilized. In Syria, too, it is unlikely the imperialists will have complete control of the anti-Assad forces. However, they are going through with this strategy whatever the costs to the Syrian people.
Al-Qaida-type forces in Aleppo
In the fighting around the two major Syrian cities, Damascus and Aleppo, an ever-greater role is being played by al-Qaida-like groups of fighters. These include mercenaries from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Libya that even some anti-Assad fighters admit make up as much as 10 percent of the forces. One of these groups of mercenaries uploaded a video on Aug. 3 showing them executing people who supported the Assad government.
The imperialists call these groups their “enemies” in the so-called war on terror, as they spread prejudice against all Muslims, persecuting them in the U.S. and Europe. However, by conspiring for “regime change” in Syria, the Western powers have created a situation where these al-Qaida-like forces can flourish.
These groups get special treatment from the Saudi Arabian and Qatari funders and they are well armed. They grow in importance as the battle becomes more military than political. By spreading religious intolerance and even executing people who belong to a different sect, they spread fear throughout Syria.
Washington has promoted these groups before. In Afghanistan starting in 1979, even before the Soviet Union intervened, the U.S. armed the al-Qaida-like groups through the Pakistani secret service. The U.S. called them “freedom fighters” and funded them through Saudi Arabia to fight first the progressive Afghan government and later the Soviet troops. Even after 9/11, the imperialist Cold-War strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said it was well worth it to promote al-Qaida and the Taliban since that helped bring down the Soviet Union.
The New York Times, however, worried aloud about the role of al-Qaida-type groups with the so-called Free Syrian Army in a July 30 article: “Syrians involved in the armed struggle say it is becoming more radicalized: homegrown Muslim jihadists, as well as small groups of fighters from Al Qaeda, are taking a more prominent role and demanding a say in running the resistance.”
Syrians say there are 26 different religious groupings in the country. There are also Kurds and Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. All feel threatened by the foreign fighters, whether or not they support the government.
The Palestinian neighborhood of Yarmuk in suburban Damascus already came under attack from opposition fighters, killing 15 Palestinians. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 3) The New York Times report on this assault implied that the government forces were responsible for the killing.
Imperialists train leaders of SNC and FSA
To get a handle on the fighters, the U.S. has focused on nurturing the external umbrella organization known as the Syrian National Council. They believe that this would allow them to marginalize the al-Qaida-type groups and to push aside whatever remains of popular organizations inside Syria. Many in these latter groups were oriented toward compromising with the Assad government to resolve the differences peacefully.
Charlie Skelton’s article in the Guardian on July 12 showed how many of the leaders of the main opposition located outside Syria have been groomed, trained and built up by U.S. government agencies or imperialist think tanks. Here are three examples that are just the tip of the iceberg in Skelton’s article:
Bassma Kodmani is head of foreign affairs and a member of the executive bureau of the Syrian National Council. She says, “No dialogue with the ruling regime is possible.” In 2005, Kodmani worked for the Ford Foundation in Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation program. In September, she became “the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative — a research program initiated by the powerful U.S. lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations.”
Radwan Ziadeh, the SNC’s director of foreign relations, also gets lots of coverage in the corporate press. “Ziadeh has an impressive CV,” writes Skelton, “he’s a senior fellow at the federally funded Washington think tank, the U.S. Institute of Peace.”
Ausuma Monajed, adviser to the SNC president, writing for Huffington Post UK, called for “direct military assistance” and “foreign military aid” to the SNC. Monajed is “the Founder and Director of Barada Television,” a pro-opposition satellite channel based in Vauxhall, South London. “In 2008, a few months after attending Syria In-Transition conference, Monajed was back in Washington, invited to lunch with George W Bush,” says Skelton.
U.S. imperialism and the other NATO powers — that is, the former colonialist powers that still dominate the world — are on one side of the battle for Syria. At this point, the only contending force is the Syrian national army directed by the Assad government. For anti-imperialist and working-class forces, the only choice is to defend the Syrian government against imperialism.

Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


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.

 "Blackwater walks, Bradley remains imprisoned""Iraq's sex tape rumors"

 Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Taxer"  and  Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Dirty Debbie" -- Isaiah did not one but two comics last week. 

"Caribbean Casserole in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a healthy recipe from a surprising source.

"Curiosity lands on the cover of Time!," "Mars and Curiosity," "4 men, 3 women,"  "curiosity makes cover of time!,"  "curiosity," "cartoon, video, mars," "Mars and more,," "curiosity and mars,"  "Mars and more" and "mars" -- Betty and Rebecca (and one post by Ann) are the Curiosity bloggers. 

  "Drought = inflation" and "The drought" -- Ruth wasn't trying to become the drought blogger.  She thought she was blogging about it once this summer but once became twice became three times turned into four and . . .  That's how she became the drought blogger.

"Brand new Laura Nyro information"  and "Liza and Michael" -- Kat blogs about Michael Feinstein's radio show.

"Dream journal" -- Stan shares a dream.

"Women who run for office" -- Elaine weighs in with a few thoughts about coverage and the lack of it.

"The corporations get away with everything under Barack" -- Mike notes the corporations best friend.

"Like bratty, little children" -- Elaine on how embarrassing some can be.

"If you can wait 18 years, he might have an answer" and "THIS JUST IN! HE NEEDS A LITTLE TIME TO DECIDE!" -- Cedric and Wally on how long it takes for Barack to form an opinion.

"Soccer" and "Women grab the gold for 3rd Olympics in a row" -- Trina and Marcia blog about the Olympics.

"So I get a sandwich at Subway and . . ."  -- Stan explains how he got sick.

"Shutting Down the Domestic Arts Czar" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Idiot of the Week" -- Mike picks the idiot of the week.

"Where are the crowds? Maybe next year." and "THIS JUST IN! WHERE ARE THE CROWDS?" -- Cedric and Wally on Barack's inability to turn out the large crowds he did in 2008.

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