Sunday, February 10, 2013

Truest statement of the week

Debating how high a pile of bodies reaches is a grubby business, and statistics have a habit of stripping humanity out of an argument. But the human cost matters. The occupiers refused to count the dead, leaving it to wildly differing estimates. The Iraq Body Count’s conservative figures are at least 172,906 violent deaths; the Iraqi government and the World Health Organisation estimated up to 223,000 killed in the first three years; one study even estimated over a million had died. When much of the city of Fallujah was razed and hundreds killed by US forces – who used white phosphorous, which strips the skins from people’s bodies – the cruise missile liberals fell largely silent.

--  Owen Jones, "What a tragedy that we couldn't stop the war in Iraq despite marching in our thousands" (Independent).

Truest statement of the week II

All this blood, and for what? In 2005, Ayad Allawi – a former CIA agent originally installed as Iraqi Prime Minister – argued that “people are doing the same as [in] Saddam’s time and worse”. Human Rights Watch warns that “the Iraq people today have a government that is slipping further into authoritarianism”, listing “draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators, and journalists, effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq”. Iraq is now 150th out of 179 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, worse than Russia or Zimbabwe; and the US government-funded Freedom House rates Iraq 6 for civil liberties and 6 for political rights, with 7 being the worst. No wonder Tony Dodge, an Iraq expert at the LSE, warns that “Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship”.

--  Owen Jones, "What a tragedy that we couldn't stop the war in Iraq despite marching in our thousands" (Independent).

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?

Owen Jones got his first truest this week.
And he also got his second. 
The protests build but the international press seems reluctant to note that -- or really to even cover the protests at all.
They thought they'd said it all but the sexism didn't stop and they were forced to return to the topic.  Ava and C.I. write an instant classic.

Jon Schwarz Tweets the embarrassing John Brennan confirmation hearing.

Dona discusses two Congressional hearings with Ruth, Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I.
Norman Solomon worked harder than anyone last week to dispell the lie that Colin Powell didn't lie to the UN.

Paul Bremer got some shoes thrown at him.

Look, I (Jim) wrote a piece all by myself!

We had a Justin Bieber piece planned -- I'm not joking.  It was written, we had the illustration.  But we were too late posting.  (It was about the concert he was doing opposite the Grammys.)  We wondered why we could offer instead and Jess suggested we grab C.I.'s writing about Lynne from one of last week's snapshot and use it.

Repost from Senator Patty Murray's office.
Repost from Workers World.

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

That's it, see you next week.


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

Editorial: Iraq protests continue to be ignored

Friday, protesters turned out in Iraq yet again.  In fact, they did so in the largest numbers so far since this latest wave of protests kicked off in December.  And that could have been a story, probably should have been.

Yet the media ran with violence.  While it was a violent day, the interesting thing there was that the week before (see our "Editorial: The US press loves to spit on Iraqis"), the press was running with Nouri al-Maliki's false allegation that the protesters were the ones doing the violence.  For example, apparently when not taking part in the continuous sit-in in Mosul, they were launching attacks.  Who knew Iraq had discovered -- and perfected! -- human cloning.

The reality is that if they were coordinating violence, they'd make sure the most violent day of the week would be something other than Friday.  Traditionally, when protests take place in Iraq, they do so on Friday.  After morning prayers, Iraqis protest.  That is the pattern, has been the pattern for over two years now.

So now the press could dismiss Nouri's paranoid ravings, right?  If they'd been paying attention, they could have.  Instead, in the face of evidence to the contrary, they let the false charges stand.  They let the false charges stand via bad reporting or just silence.  In fact, Friday only one outlet grabbed the protests that hadn't covered them the week before.  Liz Sly (Washington Post) observed, "With their huge turnouts, these largely peaceful demonstrations have the potential to present a far bigger challenge to Maliki’s hold on power than the violent and still stubbornly persistent insurgency, which continues to claim scores of lives every month without any discernible impact on the political process."

"These largely peaceful demonstrations."

And yet, according to Nouri, these are 'terrorists.'

اطفال الثورة


That's Nouri's allegation and that's what the international press let stand.  They could have called him out.  They should have called him out.

How bad was it?  Neoconservatives Kimberly and Frederick W. Kagan wrote a column for the Washington Post that provided more honesty than a great deal of the reporting from western outlets: "Eighteen days of protests in Egypt in 2011 electrified the world.  But more than twice that many days of protest in Iraq have gone almost unnoticed in the United States."



Photos are the property of Iraq Spring Media Center.

Media: The never-ending sexism

"After all, the director's chosen subject was the male subject of war."  Yeah, we're back on the topic of Katharyn Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty.  Back in December, we wrote "Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch" and thought we'd said all we needed to.

We quoted the idiotic Bret Easton Ellis, "The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man.  Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola's work you're aware of a much softer presence behind the camera."


"After all, the director's chosen subject was the male subject of war."  That sexist sentence comes for Yale professor David Bromwich.

Really, piggie?  War is a male subject?  Gee, someone should have told Anne Frank that.  She could have  left the attic, right?  Because she was a girl and war didn't effect her, right?  Silly Anne, up in that attic, hiding for her life, not realizing that since this was World War II and war is a "male subject," she could just leave at any point and be fine and dandy.

Or, to cite a more recent example, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  The 14-year-old Iraqi who was gang-raped March 12, 2006 in Iraq by US soldiers James Barker and Paul Cortez while her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered in the next room by US soldier Steven D. Green.  She should have shouted, "I am a girl!  War is a male subject!"

That would have made it all go away, right?

As we noted last time, you have to be really educated to be as stupid as people like Bret Easton Ellis or David Bromwich.

War is  gender neutral.  And female artists have not imposed a ban upon themselves when it comes to the topic of wars.  Among novelists, Merce Rodoreda's The Time of the Doves and Jayne Anne Phillips' Machine Dreams immediately come to mind.

But among writers across the board, we immediately thought: Hannah Arendt.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt was of the liberal persuasion.  That didn't stop some on the left from slamming one of her greatest works The Origins of Totalitarianism.  The problem with the book, for some on the left, was that she called out the work of Stalin.  Many of the crackpots calling out Arendt then share similarities with the crackpots calling out Bigelow today.

And maybe they need to get honest.  Not just about being something other than Democrats -- though that would be helpful.  But maybe they need to get honest that it's not the torture angle that has their jockey briefs in a wad.  No, it's the fact that Barack Obama ordered Osama bin Laden killed.   It's interesting to listen to these people or to read them and notice that they stay silent on that part of the film.  But the reality is that in real time, they weren't silent at all.  They booed and they hissed the killing of bin Laden.  Since Zero Dark Thirty is the story of the hunt for bin Laden and since the third act is invading the compound where he's hiding, this isn't a minor detail.

Attorney and radio host Michael Ratner, to offer one example, was once very vocal about the fact that he felt a crime was committed when the US government killed Osama bin Laden.  He began backing away from that position -- he still holds it but is less vocal about it -- when he realized that there was no popular support for it.

So if  the third act is something he ethically opposes, maybe he was never going to be an objective voice on the film to begin with and maybe if he had any real sense of ethics he would have noted that he didn't agree with the outcome (murder of bin Laden) so he was never going to enjoy the film?

Kathryn Bigelow has directed an important film about one of the most important periods in our country's history.  It's a film that will make you think.  If you're a thinker.  If you're a knee-jerk reactor, the film will just have you exploding and frothing at the mouth because it didn't offer the simplistic and cartoon version of events you need to feel safe.

Jason Clarke (who was so good in The Chicago Code) plays Dan.  Dan tortures.  Onscreen, we see him repeatedly torture Ammar (Reda Kateb)  Dan isn't thrilled when torture is pulled.  Dan leaves the black site and goes back to the US but not before warning Maya (Jessica Chastain) not to be the fall guy for changing administrations.

Dan brutally tortures.  And life would be so much easier for many if Bigelow had shown him with a spouse or significant other that he beat or maybe had him looking at kiddie porn on the computer.  Instead, Dan's a likable person when he's not torturing.  By not being a cartoon, Dan really forces the audience to confront the thesis Arendt proposed in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  In fact, substitute "Dan" for "Eichmann" in the following:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.  From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

Kathryn Bigelow's film does not endorse torture.  It does show the use of torture.  It captures that moment in time when American leaders decided that torture was okay and when people in the chain of command then began using torture as ordered to, that moment in time when the American people wanted to play dumb and distract themselves with some diversion instead of screaming at the top of their lungs, "WE DON'T TORTURE!"

Now you can see the film for many reasons and enjoy many things about it.  But what's surprising to us is that the people screaming the loudest against the movie are missing the point of the film.

Again, from Arendt:

"I am certainly tough and I am ready to help solve the Jewish question," Kube wrote to his superior in December, 1941, "but people who come from our own cultural milieu are certainly something else than the native animalized hordes."  This sort of conscience, which, if it rebelled at all, rebelled at murder of people "from our cultural milieu," has survived the Hitler regime; among Germans today, there exits a stubborn "misinformation" to the effect that "only" Ostijuden, Eastern European Jews, were murdered.
Nor is this way of thinking that distinguishes between the murder of "primitive" and of "cultured" people a monopoly of the German people.

What Michael Ratner apparently needs, to get his feet out of the pool of guilt that all of us Americans are standing in, is a character -- possibly named Michael -- who runs through the film insisting, "Torture is wrong!  Torture is wrong!" He needs some sort of an out, an exception, a waiver.

Tough.  You don't get that.  The country was attacked on 9-11.  Bully Boy Bush made the decision that violence would not be investigated and prosecuted but would instead begat more violence.  What should we have done?  Like Michael Ratner, we protested, we marched, we rallied, we spoke out.  It didn't stop the events from happening -- the sort of events captured in Kathryn Bigelow's film.

It's a very dark period and the movie gets at that.  But some 'film critics' like Michael Ratner and Glenn Greenwald need a film that claims torture happened because those involved were bad and evil people.  That's not what happened.

That cartoon version of reality may provide happy thoughts and pleasant dreams but it doesn't do a damn thing to provide understanding of how a nation that once knew torture was wrong ended up using torture as a first and foremost resort.

It would help if people discussing the film would see it.  There's a lie that Ammar gives up information after he's water boarded.  How that lie got started, who knows?  But David Denby certainly popularized it in his review for The New Yorker, "Yet, in attempting to show, in a mainstream movie, the reprehensibility of torture, and what was done in our name, the filmmakers seem to have conflated events, and in this they have generated a sore controversy: the chairs of two Senate committees have said that the information used to find bin Laden was not uncovered through waterboarding." And because The New Yorker no longer has functioning fact checkers, it first appeared in a 'report' by Dexter I-Lied-About-Falluja-And-Let-The-US-military-vet-my-copy Filkins:  "Bigelow maintains that everything in the film is based on first-hand accounts, but the waterboarding scene, which is likely to stir up controversy, appears to have strayed from real life.  According to several official sources, including Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the identity of bin Laden’s courier, whose trail led the C.I.A. to the hideout in Pakistan, was not discovered through waterboarding."

People have repeatedly latched onto the lie in slamming the film.  You can't get through a comment thread on any article about the film without somebody bringing that up.  But in the film itself, the water boarding does not produce a name.   How do you miss that?   In fact, in the shooting script, the scene's end is described as, "Dan and Maya exit.  They've learned nothing."

Throughout the film's public life, sexist attacks have taken place.  Some feminists, like ourselves, have stepped forward but not enough, not nearly enough.

The newest sexist spin is put out by human filth Bob Somerby who insisted upon going goo-goo over Jessica Chastain to the point that he resembles an online Peeping Tom and flasher.  It may be confusing for some who tried to read his multiple 'reviews' on the film so let's make it clear:  Jessica Chastain is never naked before the camera.  She's not shown in the shower or in bed.  It's only Bob Somerby's dirty little mind that 'sees' things that just aren't there.

He rails against the film while explaining he likes his films with female leads to have them being innocent girls on the verge of becoming women (My Brilliant Career) or government whores (Notorious).  Yes, he truly did set up the virgin-whore dichotomy in his review.

He feels that Bigelow focuses on Chastain's beauty.  We don't know where he's coming from.  In the film, Jessica Chastain really doesn't qualify for beautiful.  In person and in other roles, sure.  But she's not going for that in her portrayal of Maya.  Bob Somerby also sees the film progressively undressing her.  Again, there's no nudity and we were confused by what the hell the old fool was slobbering over this time.  According to him, as the film progresses, Chastain's blouses plunge more or she's seen wearing t-shirts.

Now we get why he misses the points of the film -- he was too busy staring at Chastain's breasts the entire time to notice plot elements.

Fueled by a brief interview Irin Carmon (Salon) badly conducted with Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal, Somerby insists that new print ads featuring Chastain's face are trying to rebrand the film in the marketing.

He really does live in fear of feminism, doesn't he?

Chastain is nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award.  Many consider her to be a real contender in the category and some feel that this is the strongest chance Zero Dark Thirty has of taking home a statue.  So that's reason one for the new ads.  Reason two?  She's not an actress in a hot film.  She's the lead in two box office hits now.  Mama has earned $64 million (through Friday) in four weeks of release (Zero Dark Thirty, through Friday, had made $83 million at the box office).  It's always funny to watch know-it-alls who know nothing about the industry tell us why something is happening.

The sexism never ends.  Like when Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin embarrassed themselves with the letter calling for censorship -- yes, government officials insisting on altering a film from the director's intended version qualifies as censorship -- whether it's the insertion of a title card or a call for deletions.

That cry for censorship was shameful.  And they've backed off that call.  In part because former CIA Director and the outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has praised the film as has former US House Rep.  Jane Harman.  But also because it was made clear that a line had been crossed.

With that checked off the list, let's return to the three senators and their little letter calling for censorship to note the sexist aspect of it.

Zero Dark Thirty is a film released by Sony Pictures.  The senators complain to "Chairman and CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment" Michael Lynton.  That position actually has a co-chair.  Amy Pascal is the Co-Chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.  How telling that the Senate -- where sexism is institutionalized -- would blow off Pascal and make their appeal to Lynton.

Or did it just not occur to them that a woman could be in charge?


Disclosure, Ava and C.I. know Kathryn Bigelow and Amy Pascal.  Piece corrected to note "War is gender neutral."  (As opposed to "War is not gender neutral."  Ava and C.I. say they have no idea what they were thinking when they typed.)

Tweet of the Week

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on the nomination of John Brennan to be the new Director of the CIA.

As you listen to the Brennan hearing, remember 6 years ago Jay Rockefeller explained senators have no power vs the CIA:


Brennan and Panette hearings

Dona: It's time for another Congressional hearing update.  Thursday morning, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Panetta is outgoing.  Chuck Hagel is the nominee to be the new Secretary of Defense.  Thursday afternoon,  CIA Director nominee John Brennan appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Reporting on those hearings, C.I. offered "Iraq snapshot" and "Thoughts on today's Senate Intell hearing (C.I.),"  Ava went with  "The disgraceful Dianne Feinstein (Ava)," Wally with "Brennan likes torture (Wally)," Kat with "Brennan tries to weasel" and Ruth  offered "If Leon Panetta told the truth . . .."  If you thought the two hearings were unrelated, Lindsey Boerma (CBS News) provides the connection today, reporting that Senator Lindsey Graham is threatening to place a hold on the nominations of Hagel and Brennan "until the White House explains its garbled talking points following the Libya attack."  Ruth, you attended both Thursday hearings and you also cover Benghazi, the Libya attack that claimed the lives of Americans Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Chris Stevens, at your site.  What you do make of it?

Ruth: I applaud it, actually.  He is doing something similar to what Vice President Joe Biden did in 2005 when he was Senator Joe Biden and Bully Boy Bush had nominated John Bolton to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations.  I do think the administration has failed to provide answers on this.  I think a number of Democrats in Congress who said 'let's wait for the report' decided, once the report was released, to change tactics and start saying, 'Let's focus on improving things.'  I do not believe the American people have gotten honest answers -- all these months later.  Tomorrow, it will be five months since the attacks and I do not feel we know any more than we did then.  It is time for accountability.

Kat: I would just add that I support Ruth's position 100%.

Dona: I was just going to bring you in because two weeks ago you reported on another hearing, the Hagel hearing, and you focused on, as your title made clear, "Lindsay Graham."

Kat: Right.  I thought he did a great job in that hearing.  It played out popularly online as you were for him if you were a Republican and you were against him if you were a Democrat.  I don't play that game.  I've been to too many Congressional hearings to reduce them to partisan calls.  Graham took Hagel's statements and asked serious questions and did so in an applause worthy manner. 

barry os favorite topic

Dona: Alright.  Let's move over to Brennan.  This hearing was not impressive, according to the press.  Wally, one thing that stands out about Brennan in the hearing that conveys that?

Wally:  Water boarding is when you simulate drowning. You do it to intimidate or scare someone into believing that they will drown.  It's done to Geena Davis' character in Long Kiss Goodbye.  That it's torture has been established. That the US government can call it that is not in doubt.  But there was Brennan insisting that he could not make a ruling there, couldn't apply the term because he's not a lawyer.

Dona: He is Barack's National Security Advisor, right?

Wally: Correct.  And if he can't apply torture to water boarding, exactly what advice does he provide to Barack Obama.

Dona: Good point.  Ava, the hearing was unimpressive all the way around.  Wally spoke of the witness, John Brennan, could you explain the problem with the Senate Committee?

Ava: Certainly.  Dianne Feinstein is the Chair of the Committee.  Background, Bully Boy Bush created monarch powers for the office when he declared that he had the right to indefinitely detain an American citizen.  Jose Padilla would be an example of someone he tried to do that with.  Barack has expanded that.  He claims he has the power to order the execution of anyone -- including American citizens -- and to do so without any oversight or check on his power.  Well DiFi to the rescue.  Apparently having settled on one bad wig means DiFi has time to ponder and think and what she's come up with is that the Congress needs to create a court, similar to the secretive FISA Court, that would 'review' Barack.  Such a secretive court would, of course, be concealed from the public so there would be no openess, no transparancy.  But even worse, DiFi is saying, "Sure the president can execute anyone he wants and let's make it official by creating a court where he can get permission."  This is disgusting and Dianne Feinstein's actions are unconstitutional and shameful.

Dona: Let me bring back in Ruth to talk about her post.  Ruth, you were the only one reporting on Panetta's testimony.

Ruth: Right.  I focused on it and specifically on how, he stated, there was not time to deploy to Benghazi after word of the attacks.  He gave excuses like lack of refueling place and claiming that fighter jets do not have their weapons at the ready so those would have to be loaded -- excuse me?  If there is an attack on Albany, is Mr. Panetta saying it will take hours to arm an F-16?  

Dona: Right.  I was also curious about the issue of the drone.  That's been in dispute.

Ruth: Sure.  Secretary Panetta testified, as the State Department's Charlene Lamb had last year, that a drone was overhead during the attack.  Video of the attack was captured as it happened.  This detail was not accurately reported on by many outlets when Ms. Lamb testified last year.  It has been ignored since.  So it was news that Mr. Panetta testified about it.

Dona: Kat, the hearing on Brennan provided you with what?

Kat: The knowledge that Barack really did not grab the best and brightest by any means.  Brennan was better than Hagel the week before but a pet rock would have been better than Hagel.  Judging him based upon a basic standard for honesty, he was evasive and embarrassing.

Dona: We are pressed for time so I have saved C.I. for last.  Your thoughts regarding anything.

C.I.: Okay.  Well, Brennan's avoidance of water boarding has led to whispers in DC that torture continues under Barack -- that wouldn't be surprising to most people.  I think it was hilarious and telling that Feinstein worked overtime to silence the people --


C.I.:  Right.  She wanted to silence those who objected to The Drone War but she was more than happy to let those who promote it and push it lie.  She was happy to let Brennan lie, she was happy to help him lie.  Dianne Feinstein never looked worse than she did at that hearing.  She was an embarrassment.  Ava's anger is very real and there's a reason for it -- we sat through that hearing.  Dianne Feinstein is an embarrassment.  You'd have to go back to the John Roberts confirmation hearing to find Dianne making a bigger ass and fool of herself.  She really should be ashamed.  CODEPINK was the only one present for the hearing doing real accountability.  Dianne objected to them and silenced them -- possibly due to her own shame for being so ineffectual.

Dona: Alright and that sounds like a wrap up.  We're using Isaiah's "Barry O's Favorite Topic"  as our illustration.  And our e-mail address is 

Hero of the week: Norman Solomon

norman solomon

Activist and author Norman Solomon had a busy week.

It was the 10th anniversary of Colin Powell's lie-soaked presentation to the United Nations where Colin Powell used one falsehood after another to try to make the case for war on Iraq.   It's how Powell earned his "blot."

Norman didn't just have to confront the lies Powell told, he also had to stand up against an MSNBC sweetheart, a Consortium News darling, Powell's guy pal Larry Wilkerson who wants you to know that Colin Powell didn't lie, no, he didn't, not Collie, not sweet Powell, not him.

You'd be shocked if you sat there and added up all the websites that reposted Lawrence Wilkerson's latest revisionary nonsense.  You'd be even more shocked if you realized that these were left websites.

While Wilkie tried to spin, Norman Solomon turned out a column of truth, went on Democracy Now! and debated Larry (Amy was so supportive of Larry, wasn't she?) and then discussed Powell's presentation on CounterSpin.

Last week could have gone a different way.  A lot of people seemed afraid -- like Amy Goodman -- to call out Wilkerson.  If Norman was worried, he didn't show it.

But he did make the case in text, in video and in audio that Powell lied.

Bremer and smelly shoes

Wednesday, L. Paul Bremer (possibly related to L. Ron Hubbard) showed up in England hoping to take a victory lap.  Rather astounding because no US official -- not even Bully Boy Bush -- was harshly criticized more in the hearing for the Iraq Inquiry.

But there was Bremer, the original US bwana in Iraq, when Yasser al-Samarani stood and hurled not one but two shoes at him.


"You have to improve your aim if you want to make such a move," Bremer smugly declared as the first shoe missed him and he himself missed in his attempt to catch the second shoe.

Yasser al-Samarani tells Bremer, "You f**ked up my country, you destroyed the country!  F**k you and f**k your democracy!"

And Bremer's reply?

He insisted, "If he had done that while Saddam Hussein was alive, he would be a dead man by now."

That's a pleasing tale, just not an honest one.  Were Saddam Hussein alive or were al-Samarani to have thrown the shoes at Bremer in 2002 when Hussein was alive, we seriously doubt Hussein would have any problem with Yasser al-Samarani's actions.

December 14, 2008, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi threw two shoes at Bully Boy Bush when he and Nouri al-Maliki had a staged photo op in Baghdad as they signed the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement.

Jim's World


Last weekend, Ava and C.I. wrote:

  • TV: 30 Rock goes out sucking
  • TV: The Super Bowl Ads
  • Media: House of Cards

  • And a few e-mails came in expressing an opinion that Elaine and Betty are prone to share with me.  That's basically: I've gone too far, I expect too much, I've overtaxed Ava and C.I. by making them write multiple pieces, and they're going to be gone, this is going to force them to walk.

    I'm not offended by people expressing those opinions.  I certainly consider Betty and Elaine to be friends, after all.

    But I think they and a few readers have it wrong.  First off, Ava and C.I. have wanted to walk since 2005 and were supposed to in November of 2008.  Why do they stay?  To keep attention on Iraq is their large noble reason and why they stay here specifically at this site is because they know they are the calling card.  Their media piece each week is always the most read article at our site.

    Last week proved something, by the way.  There are five people who e-mail from time to time who can't stand Ava and C.I.  They think the TV scope isn't serious and should be dropped and they don't support feminism.  These five are convinced that Ava and C.I.'s article is the most read each week because we publish it last allowing it to appear at other sites.

    What are they talking about?

    I can tell you and probably confuse you so let me show you instead.  Many sites have permalinks or blog lists on one side of the page or the other and it lists the titles of the sites.  There's a 'new' wrinkle there and I'll swipe from Betty's site to show you:

  • Around 2008, Blogger/Blogspot started allowing the option to allow the title of the site and it's most recent posting.  We're linked to by The Daily Puma.  That's how we found out about the development.  Some members of our TCI community -- like Betty -- have their sites set up so that the most recent post shows.  Now while we're linked to by The Daily Puma (and we link to them), there aren't a great deal of sites that have us on their lists and even less that have it so that the most recent posting shows.

    When Ty and I saw we were linked to by The Daily Puma and that it read our last item posted, we made the decision to always make that Ava and C.I.'s piece.  How come?  TDP readers are pro-women and/or feminists.  They'd probably be most interested in the writing of feminists like Ava and C.I. and the topics they take on.

    But the five who really can't stand Ava and C.I. (and aren't crazy about this site either) are convinced that the only reason Ava and C.I.'s article is the most read each week is because they are published last so the article shows up as a link on a few other sites.

    With three pieces last week, we could test that.  The piece they planned to write was "Media: House of Cards" about the new Netflix series.  That was published early and is deep in the mix.  But it has about the same number of readers as Ava and C.I.'s usual TV article one week in.  So it doesn't really matter where or when in the mix their articles are published.

    That was what they planned to write but mean old me made them write two more pieces!

    Actually, I asked them to, begged them to and badgered them.  But they're strong women and can tell me to leave them alone or to f**k off (and they have no problem telling me to do either).

    "TV: 30 Rock goes out sucking" was a piece I begged for.  They'd already done two pieces by that point and were very tired and very sick of the edition.  They hate this article.  It is the most read article of last week.  And it brought in readers because the stats are off the charts.  I knew it would.  I knew that even if it was awful, it would work. (I don't think it's awful, by the way.)  Why?  No one charted the sitcom 30 Rock like they did.  Early on they applauded a functioning comedy with promise.  But as the years went by, there were things that began to emerge.  Tina Fey apparently finds gay men and lesbians natural objects of ridicule, for example.  She's also not too fond of women -- straight, gay or bi -- with active sexual lives.  As her prejudices piled up -- and there are many more -- Ava and C.I. were there to chart them.

    And a love-fest was already going on for the show's good-bye.  This is a show that did not have an audience.  As Ava and C.I. explained repeatedly, this wasn't because people didn't know about the show or hadn't watched it.  The general pattern for the first three seasons was strong (not spectacular) ratings for the season debut and then it would taper off each week.  People gave the show a chance.

    And they found it wanting.

    The 'press' refused to take the show on.  It was a 'buzz' and a 'trend' and these 'critics' that Ava and C.I. long ago labeled "the Water Cooler Set" refused to be critical thinkers.

    With so many people refusing to watch the show -- it was always a loser in the ratings -- did the love-fest really represent the average view of the show?  Nope.

    So I knew this would be popular.  I also knew it had to be written the Sunday after the show went off.  I told them that if they waited for this week, there would be no point.

    "TV: The Super Bowl Ads" was their third piece.  And they didn't want to write that either.  I had to beg and beg.

    By posting it Sunday night, we'd be ahead of the game and among the first to weigh in.  I also hoped that just the topic alone would attract some readers and that ended up happening with a lot of new readers writing in.

    Like writing about 30 Rock, I felt the topic had to be addressed last Sunday, that to wait until this week would be a mistake.

    Grant Lynne Stewart a compassionate release


    Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. We're grabbing from Thursday's snapshot to note the latest.

    Cindy Sheehan is calling on people to write political prisoner Lynne Stewart.  Lynne Stewart early on in her career became the people's attorney.  That means her clients were often not the ones who could afford to pay for legal representation.  It means also that she represented all of the people.  Not just the cuddly types.  This became a problem during the so-called War on Terror -- a never-ending war.  You can't have a Lynne Stewart out there.  Not someone who stands up.  You need cowards.  And they're always in wide supply.  In 2005, Lynne Stewart was found guilty.  Elaine Cassel (Find Law) explained what was taking place:

    Prior to September 11, 2001, many attorneys might have sided with Stewart. They would certainly have seen a blatant Sixth Amendment violation in both the SAMs and the eavesdropping regulations - and possibly seen First Amendment violations when it came to the SAMs. And they might also have agreed that to honor the right to counsel, an attorney ought to try to resurrect the traditional attorney-client relationship despite these unconstitutional constraints.
    Now, however, the First and Sixth Amendments have been gutted--at least in terms of the attorney-client relationship. Indeed, as I argued in the first article I wrote about Stewart, the government seems to be conducting an all-out assault on the right to counsel.
    Defense attorneys who represent alleged terrorists - or even detainees who are merely suspected of some connection to terrorism -- now know that the government may listen in on their attorney-client communications. They also know that this eavesdropping may give rise to evidence that may be used in their own prosecution for terrorism if they cross the imaginary line drawn by the government.
    How can these attorneys be zealous advocates with this government-inspired fear overshadowing their every word?
    If the attorneys are prosecuted, they can expect, at trial, to be conflated with their clients - just as Stewart was. The prosecution showed an old tape of Osama bin Laden promising revenge if Rahman were not released. In a courtroom only a short distance from Ground Zero, the tape must have meant a great deal. But it related to Rahman, not Stewart. Though Rahman may be a Bin Laden confederate, that does not mean his attorney is.

    Lynne is guilty of nothing.  She broke no law. She broke a Special Administrative Measure.  That's not a law.  She broke it by giving Reuters a press release from her client.  That happened when Bill Clinton was president.  Janet Reno was Attorney General.  The Justice Dept looked into the matter.  They didn't file charges against Lynne because Janet Reno knew the law and knew breaking a SAM is not breaking a law.  Life went on.  Then the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bully Boy Bush and he picked John Ashcroft to be his Attorney General.  Ashcroft went gunning for Lynne and he should have been reigned in by judges.  Instead, he was allowed to let his crazy run free. 

    Falsely linking Lynne to 9-11 and holding the trial at Ground Zero allowed Ashcroft to get a conviction -- he linked her to 9-11 the same way the administration linked Iraq to 9-11 when trying to sell the Iraq War.   In October of 2006, US District Court Judge John Koetl sentenced Lynne to 28 months.  He noted, in his remarks, her years of work, her public service.  Lynne began serving her sentence on November 18, 2009.  The delay had to do with medical care for breast cancer.  Bully Boy Bush was gone from the White House.  Barack Obama was President of the United States.  A Constitutional professor, he claimed.  Surely, this would be good for Lynne.  Maybe, as our Elaine's noted, Lynne reminded Barack too much of his own mother?  Whatever the reason, Barack becoming president wasn't good for Lynne.  Under Barack, Lynne's 28 month sentence was replaced with a 10 year prison sentence. 

     As Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter noted on Black Agenda Radio, week of January 21st, Lynne's cancer has returned.

    Ralph Poynter:  For months, we have been worried about a spot that's shown on Lynne's lung -- one of her lungs.  And we did not want to go public with it until we were sure what was happening.  What is happening is her breast cancer is spreading.  It has spread to the other lung and to parts of her back.  We feel that it is a death sentence in the prison.  We fought in the beginning to keep Lynne out of jail, to make them take her from a local hospital with the doctor's objection because we could see the hand writing on the wall.  This was not taken up as a legal issue and Lynne went to prison and now the other shoe has fallen.  Her cancer is spreading.  She is in Fort Worth, Texas subjected to the regulations of a prison between her and health care.  From the greatest center of health care probably in the world from New York to Fort Worth, Texas and we know cancer is spreading.  And as our daughter the doctor says, cancer has to be nipped in the bud.  But first it has to go through regulations of Fort Worth Texas -- not knowing when you go to the hospital, not knowing who's going to be there.  So we're working on that.

    Lynne's now served over 38 months in prison.  Her original sentence was 28 months.  Stephen Lendman (San Franciso Bay View) explains, "She requested transfer to a New York hospital. She's been successfully treated there before.  She was denied."  Brenda Ryan (Workers World) reports, "The re-emergence of Stewart's cancer was first detected in a PET scan.  [Lynn and Ralph's daughter Dr. Zenobia] Brown noted that it took two months from the time of the scan until Stewart was able to see a doctor.  Stewart's hands and feet are shackled every time she goes to the hospital.  While there she is cruelly shackled to a bedpost by her ankle and wrist."  This is ridiculous.  She's served the original sentence.  She's now dealing with cancer again.  She needs to focus on her treatment.  She cannot do that behind bars.  She is a 73-year-old woman who has never been a threat to herself or others, she needs a medical release right now.  The US Justice Dept allows what is known as a "compassionate release" and it includes criteria such as "extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing."  That would include the return of Lynne's cancer.  There is no risk to the public in Lynne being released under a "compassionate release."  It is in Lynne's best interest for her to be released, it is in the government's best interest to release her.  On the latter, as University of California San Francisco's Dr. Brie Williams pointed out, "Current compassionate release guidelines are failing to identify seriously ill prisoners who no longer pose a threat to society, placing huge financial burdens on state budgets and contributing to the national crisis of prison overcrowding." 

    Murray speaks on challenges for military spouses

    senator patty murray

    Senator Patty Murray (above) is the Chair of the Budget Committee.  Friday, her office issued the following:

    Friday, February 8th, 2013
    CONTACT: Murray Press Office

    Murray Discusses Challenges for Military Spouses at Symposium in Tacoma

    (Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) discussed employment challenges and opportunities for military spouses at the 2013 Military Officers Association of America's Military Spouse Symposium in Tacoma.  The event, titled "Keeping a Career on the Move," brought service members, veterans, and military spouses together with local business experts and employers.  Senator Murray's remarks focused on the challenges that military spouses face to support their loved ones and her personal experiences from growing up in a military family.  As the former Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Murray is a leader in Washington on issues to service members, veterans and their families.

    The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:

    "Thank you Admiral Ryan for that kind introduction.
    “I’m so pleased to be here today as part of this important event, and I have to say that it is so great to see that so many of you came out today to access the resources, advice, and experts that MOAA has made available to help you all in what I know can be trying times.
    “So of course I want to thank MOAA and all the people who have volunteered their time and energy to make this event possible.
    “But first and foremost, I want to thank all of you.
    “Now, often times when I thank the spouses of service members I get the same modest answers back.
    “I hear – “oh don’t thank me, thank my husband or thank my wife” - or I hear “it’s not that big of a deal.”
    “But the truth is - it is a big deal.
    “So I do want to start by thanking all of you for the unprecedented sacrifices that you – and all military spouses – have made over the last decade.
    “Thank you for picking up and moving your family – time and time again – in every corner of the country in order to be with your loved one.
    “Thank you for braving the uncertainty that every new day brings when a spouse is in harm’s way.
    “Thank you for not only being Mom or Dad - but for sometimes being either, or both, when the situation calls for it.
    “Thank you for juggling schedules, and practices, and homework when there is so little time in the day, and for making ends meet when money is tight.
    “And finally thank you for being courageous enough, and self-assured enough to ask for help when you need it.
    “For coming to an event like this to figure out how the country that your family is sacrificing for can help provide you with the skills and training to find work or to get into school.
    “I know it’s not easy.
    “But I also know from my own life that reaching out can really pay off in the long run.
    “As some of you may know, I grew up in a military family.
    “My father fought in World War II, was one of the first on the beaches of Okinawa, received a Purple Heart, and came home from war to start a big family in Bothell.
    “Growing up, I was not only a twin, but I was one of seven children…..
    “So as you can imagine, personal space among us kids was a concept we didn’t quite grasp.
    “But we were a close family - not only because we slept and ate elbow-to-elbow - but also because we were a loving family that had food on the table and lived a relatively secure life.
    “But when I was 15, things for my family changed.
    “My father, who had up until that point run a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell, fell ill, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and within a few short years he could no longer work.
    “Suddenly everything fell to my mother.
    “My mother who now found herself with 7 children, a husband whose medical bills were mounting, and very few of the skills she needed to go out and find a job that would actually pay her well enough to support our family.
    “For a little while we relied on food stamps.
    “For even longer my siblings and I thought there was no way we would be able to leave our family and go off to college.
    “But my mother was brave enough to reach out for help – and thankfully the country her husband had sacrificed for was there to answer her calls.
    “Through a program established by the federal government my mom was able to enroll in courses at Lake Washington Vocational School where she got a two year degree in accounting that helped her find work that would support our family.
    “It allowed us get back on our feet.
    “It got us through a very difficult time.
    “And because that support was there for my mom and for our family, today those seven kids have grown up to be a school teacher, a lawyer, a homemaker, a computer programmer, a sports writer, a firefighter, and a US Senator.
    “So these days, whenever I talk to military spouses - who not only faces similar difficulties, but who also must constantly worry about the safety of their loved one.
    “It forces me to ask – are we as a nation there for today’s families the way we were there for mine?
    “What are we doing to keep today’s military spouses and their children above water?
    “The answer is that we are doing some, but not nearly enough.
    “I’m happy that in recent years we have expanded many of our employment efforts so that they don’t just focus on veterans and active-duty military members, but also on military spouses.
    “In some instances this has worked well.
    “We have seen many spouses take advantage of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an Army program that works with Fortune 500 companies that pledge to hire our military spouses.
    “And now that we have expanded it to the spouses of servicemembers in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines - it is having an even greater impact.
    “We have also seen spouses utilize the Military Spouse Career Center which has centralized many important resources online.
    “But for other programs, like the Transition Assistance Program that I helped expand, we still have to get the word out that military spouses can also take advantage of the training program.
    “And for other federal programs like MyCAA we have been able to attract many military spouses, only to see the government cut back benefits because of limited resources.
    “So the truth is that our response to the hardships and the unique situation that you all find yourselves in has been uneven at best.
    “And there are still many things that can be done.
    “For one, I believe that we need to do a better job of reaching out to corporate America on the benefits of hiring military spouses.
    “We talk a lot about, and I authored legislation on, how to help employers understand the skills your spouses gained through their military service.
    “But we also have to do more to help them understand what you bring to the table.
    “Like your spouses, you are all used to the sacrifices and compromises that come with being a team player, you understand hard work and the day-to-day discipline it takes to succeed both at home and on the job, and importantly, you are resilient and resourceful in ways that I’m sure few other job candidates are.
    “These are qualities we have to get across to companies large and small.
    “Second, we need to do more to provide opportunities and support for the children of military families.
    “One area that I have been working on is in helping military families with children who have disabilities.
    “Believe it or not, today many of the behavioral therapies for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities are not covered by TRICARE. I’m fighting to change that.
    “I’m also working to ensure that school districts like the ones here in the Tacoma area that are at a disadvantage because they are on or near federal land – and don’t have the tax base that other schools have – get the support they need.
    “Over the years, I have worked to get millions for the Clover Park school district here which has faced these challenges and has been affected by steep declines in enrollment due to parents moving and long-deployments.
    “These school districts are in every part of the country – and they need federal support.
    “And finally, we need to offer more opportunities like this one today.
    “Opportunities for you to join with your peers to swap stories about everything from help wanted ads to help finding a babysitter.
    “And to meet with experts on how you can translate your diverse and sometimes even disorganized work history into a resume that will get noticed.
    “To learn more about interview techniques and tips.
    “To hear about workforce training programs and the skills needed to find a job in the in-demand careers in your communities.
    “And to come together the way only our nation’s military community can to ensure that everyone has someone to lean on.
    “I applaud you all again for your determination to keep your families and your careers going in what are often difficult days.
    “And I promise all of you that I will continue to fight for federal programs that help military spouses, that create opportunities for you to succeed, and that ensure that we as a nation are there for you and your family, just like it was there for my own family.
    “Thank you for having me today.”

    Sean Coit
    Press Secretary
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

    Gay rights & the NFL

    Repost from Workers World:

    Gay rights & the NFL

    By on February 6, 2013 » Add the first comment.
    As the National Football League’s Super Bowl has grown in epic proportions to become U.S. television’s most watched single event, so has its media day, which occurs on the Tuesday before the Sunday game. On media day, the athletes and coaches, representing the American Football Conference and National Football Conference champions, are grilled by thousands of reporters from around the world on issues ranging from how nervous they are to be playing in the Super Bowl to political and personal views.

    One of the political issues that gained a lot of attention during Super Bowl XLVII media day on Jan. 28 was an unfortunate anti-gay statement made by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver. Culliver, who is 24 years old, told reporters that there were no gay football players on the 49ers, and that he wouldn’t want to have a gay teammate. It is reportedly the first time that anti-gay comments have been made during any Super Bowl media day.

    To their credit, the 49ers issued the following statement on Jan. 30: “The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made, and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.” (, Jan. 30)

    Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, an organization that both raises consciousness and battles homophobia in sports, stated: “Chris Culliver’s comments are disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him. His words underscore the importance of the Athlete Ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players.” (, Jan. 31)

    Culliver did apologize for his comments. As part of sensitivity training, he has agreed to work with The Trevor Project, which helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth cope with discrimination on a daily basis.

    The fact that the Culliver incident took place on Super Bowl media day, with its global reach, has helped to remind the U.S. public that more and more active players in the NFL — the most popular U.S. professional team sport league — are taking a principled position in support of gay rights, including same-sex marriage. For instance, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo supported the same-sex marriage bill passed in Maryland and even participated in a promotional video for the bill.
    When an anti-gay, bigoted state delegate politician, Emmett Burns, tried to pressure Ravens’ executives into censoring Ayanbadejo, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe came to Ayanbadejo’s defense.
    Kluwe went as far as to publicly resign from his post as a contributor to the St. Paul’s Pioneer Press due to their “neutrality” on the same-sex marriage issue, which they declared in an editorial. Kluwe stated: “My main issue with the Pioneer Press editorial is this: It’s a lie. I have no problem with them taking a position I disagree with. What concerns me is them presenting a completely biased piece as a neutral position.” (, Nov. 3) Kluwe has appeared on Ellen Degeneres’ popular talk show to air his support for LGBTQ rights.

    Other players, such as New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Houston Texans linebacker Conner Barwin and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley have publicly backed gay rights. Former Atlanta Falcons and Vikings defensive linebacker Ray ­Edwards stated that he would be very open to having a gay teammate.

    NFL players have historically come out as being gay only following retirement. However, the pro-gay attitudes publicly expressed by high-profile players — in a sport that is promoted as the epitome of “masculinity” — will definitely help to lay the basis for the day when active gay football players will feel free and safe to openly express their sexuality.

    This development within the NFL and other professional sports is a reflection of and a testament to the growing strength of the broader, grassroots movement for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer rights.

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