Sunday, April 21, 2013

Truest statement of the week

While the VA budget presented by the administration is a strong one -- and I applaud the president for that -- I remain deeply disappointed that the White House included in their budget request, the so-called 'Chained CPI.'  Switching to a Chained CPI would mean major cuts in Social Security and the benefits that disabled veterans receive.  Veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1425 at age 45, $2341 at age 55 and over $3000 a year at age 65.  Tens of thousands of dollars within their lifetime.  This, to my mind, is unconscionable and I will do all that I can to prevent these cuts from taking place.

-- Senator Bernie Sanders, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, in Thursday's hearing.

Truest statement of the week II

Executing people in batches like this is obscene.  It is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse. The criminal justice system in Iraq is still not functioning adequately, with numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards. The application of the death penalty in these circumstances is unconscionable, as any miscarriage of justice as a result of capital punishment cannot be undone.

---  Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the non-stop executions in Iraq (last year at least 129 people were put to death in Iraq).

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?

Six days later (Jim) I can tell you:

We got a ton of e-mail on this one including noting that this editorial made the Green Party pull the sexist nonsense from their website.

Ava and C.I.  They worked over four hours on this.  That's not counting the time it took to stream all the shows at Amazon or stream all the episodes of Hemlock Grove at Netflix (I believe Hemlock has 13 episodes).  They were not thrilled, when they completed this, to find out that nothing else was completed while they were working on this.  They were not thrilled by all the hours that went into the edition.  They were not thrilled, and made sure I and others knew, that after 18 hours straight of working on this edition, in the last two hours, it shouldn't be pulled together.  But that's where the bulk of what we have came from.

Such as this which I believe was Wally and Cedric's idea. 

Such as this which was an idea we've tossed around forever. 

Ty found this.

Another idea pitched forever.  Rebecca selected the album for us to start with.  Film classics and great albums are two features we plan to be regular features -- maybe every six weeks, maybe sooner.

Mike and the gang wrote this.

So what happened?

As the note continued not to go up, some saw us having recorded our White Album (Beatles) and expected a quick packing for this coming week (tomorrow -- I'm writing this on Saturday after it posted Sunday).  Some saw it as the Mamas and the Papas splitting up.

Ava and C.I. were very angry and made it clear that they were angry.  They felt, for example, that after an hour of trying a roundtable (on Cindy Sheehan), we should have ditched the idea instead of trying to do it for another hour.  They felt that a lot of wasted time was spent.  And I understand where they are coming from and it's not even a new argument.

But when we run 18 hours straight and people are exhausted, we're going to hear about it from Ava and C.I. Will there be an edition tomorrow? Yeah, they've already pitched two article ideas by text this week (they pitched them Thursday).

Rumors (hopes?) of our disbanding were overblown.

But it is true that at some point this website does go dark.  The plan was never to go on forever when we started in 2005.  By that summer, our plan, announced here, was that we'd go dark in November 2008 after the elections.  Ava and C.I. accidentally extended that.  In a TV article, they noted that they had problems with the new show Fringe but that friends with the show asked them to give it a few more episodes.  They wrote in the article that they agreed and they'd be looking at it in the new year.  They didn't realize they had just extended us.  None of us did.  Readers were the ones who pointed that out.  After which, we were fine with it.  (I was always fine with keep this going.)  Then Stan was wanting to start a website but didn't want to do so if everyone else was shutting down.  SO we extended again.  Right now, we run through June and, after July 4th, decided if we extend again or not.  We probably will extend.

The Cindy Sheehan roundtable. It was an attempt to get some attention to her Tour De Peace.  Of course, C.I. did that repeatedly last week promoting Cindy's Thursday event . . . only for Cindy to cancel it to go protest the opening of the Bush library in Texas and reschedule it for Friday.  Good luck to the Tour De Peace but we probably won't try to promote it now.

When you have an announced event and people try to get the word out for you and you cancel the event, doesn't really make people want to promote any more events.  Because on their end, they're getting e-mails about, "Hey, that event didn't take place?  Did you lie?  Was it a joke?  Did you have the information wrong?"  Nope.  The event was cancelled so that the Bush library could be protested.  The announced event was dropped.  As any concert promoter will tell you, cancelling a date the week of an event is never a smart move.


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

Editorial: The Laughable National Green Party

Did you catch this garbage at the Green Party website?


"From Blue to Green, Why I Left the Democratic Party" and "Hillary won't get my vote in 2016.  I'm not riding the donkey anymore."    She's a publicist so she does understand the importance of the image you toss out and the power of words.

The Green Party is a joke because it made itself one and that didn't start with the above but it certainly continues the stupidity.

Hillary Clinton has not announced that she's running.  But the 'ad' implies that all good thinking lefties must be repelled by the scary woman and rush to join the Green Party.

Sasha Brookner is a Whore for the Patriarchy.  She's pushing thoughts of 'the scary woman' and so that's what she is.  Several (three) (all?) of her friends have rushed to e-mail The Common Ills last week to insist that Sasha's not a Whore for the Patriarchy, that if you read her essay, one wrote to C.I., "she actually agrees with you."

No, she doesn't.  Because if that was C.I. being used to pimp 'scary other,' C.I. would be telling the Green Party to cut that s**t out.

But it is interesting that her friends insist that Brookner  wasn't saying what the headlines imply.  That would mean that the sexism within the Green Party -- very rampant and long noted -- is distorting Brookner.  (And until she makes them stop doing that, she remains a Whore of the Patriarchy even if that wasn't her intent.)

It's really amazing that Barack Obama is trying to gut Social Security right now, he's running The Drone War, he's sent several teams of Special-Ops back into Iraq for CT actions and what's upsetting the Green Party is that Hillary might run in 2016.

That's really telling.

And it goes to their sexism and their lack of ethics.

Please note that, yet again, when the Green Party goes sexist, its left to outsiders to call it out.  Why is that?  You can probably read Elaine's "Lisa Savage, feminism will not miss you" and form your own accurate conclusions.

Two anniversaries of the Iraq War have come and gone -- the start and the fall of Baghdad -- without any statement issued from the Green Party.  They certainly haven't bothered to condemn Barack for sending US troops back in.

The reality is that the Green Party refused to call out Barack in 2008.  Rosa Clemente embarrassed herself by slobbering over Barack in public while she was supposed to be running on the Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente Green Party presidential ticket. 2012 saw minor criticisms from Jill Stein (who was running for president) that were all silenced the second Barack tanked in the first debate opposite Mitt Romney.  Suddenly, Jill Stein's campaign began to be non-stop attacks on Romney and she refused to call Barack out.

That's because they're a fake party.  Nationally, they're a fake.  They don't want to win elections (nationally), they just want to be the little sister to the Democratic Party.  They're an embarrassment and anyone who thinks that this is a party to gather around in 2016 is fooling themselves.  Ralph Nader has called them out and been correct every time.  For all the crap they threw at Ralph Nader, the reality is that it is the Green Party that didn't build after 2000.  Ralph wasn't even a member.

He put them on the map with his 2000 run but they're the ones who refused to build anything in the years that followed -- while claiming it was non-member Ralph.

They probably are wet-dreaming that Hillary will run in 2016 and that she'll get the nomination.  That's the only way they could call out the Democrats, if the party gave them a woman to hate because they really hate women in the national Green Party.

For more on the above topics, you can see:

"Sickos like Sasha Brookner"

"Sasha Brookner Green Party 'hero' doesn't like Muslims"

"Iraq snapshot"

TV: Worse than the same-old same-old

So we're watching the latest garbage and our first thought is: A bad actor is someone who can't hold still when he's supposed to. But quickly, we're wondering why a woman's sporting a bi-level and why, when the wind blows her hair across her face as she walks, she doesn't move it so she can see?

There are no answers on display, just her breasts as she rides the ugly actor in his small car.  He pulls out a razor blade and we think he's going to cut or kill her.  Instead, self-obsessed, he cuts his little finger and then, apparently under the influence of Devendra Banhart's "Foolin'" video, he uses his finger to smear blood on the woman's shoulders.


Woman:  You're so weird, Roman, but I like it.

Roman:  Shh.  You don't know my name.

Moon-jawed Bill Skarsgard is not just ugly, he has a way about him that screams yokel out of Deliverance.  He also has a nose -- or the early growth of one.  It's as though you're watching "The Eye of the Beholder" episode of The Twilight Zone.

But you can't think about that too much because suddenly it's a high school classroom and the teacher and student Brooke are exchanging meaningful looks.  Both, like the woman earlier, appear to have stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. The student ends up waiting for the teacher that night by the railroad tracks where, instead of getting it on,  she gets violently killed by someone or something.

Quickly we see  the great and talented Lili Taylor and Famke Janssen quickly followed by Landon Liboiron leaving us to yet again wonder: Where do they get these ugly men?

In Landon's case, Canada.

Disgusted, we're moving away from Netflix's new 'original' series Hemlock Grove.  We're streaming Alpha House, Amazon's 'original' series which opens with a shot of a woman jogging, breasts a-bouncing. And yet again, we're reminded that Alan Menken and Tim Rice may have won the Acadamy Award in 1993 for "A Whole New World," but when we look at the world of entertainment, we don't see much difference.

Amazon tells you, "Alpha House was written by Academy Award nominee and Pulitzer-Prize winner Garry Trudeau (Doonsebury, Tanner '88) and features John Goodman (Roseanne, Argo, Treme), Clark Johnson (The Wire), Matt Malloy (Six Feet Under, Law and Order), and Mark Consuelos (American Horror Story: Asylum, Guys with Kids)."

We'll tell you: Alpha House is unwatchable crap.

It doesn't help that the 'funny' lines aren't funny or that the scenes fall flat.  Some will be generous to the show in spite of that and we have to wonder why?  The show isn't generous.  It's an attempt to mock Republicans repeatedly.

Garry Trudeau got a 'created by' credit and was an 'executive producer' on Tanner '88.  No one in the world should have believed those credits were earned.  Tanner '88 was Robert Altman's baby.  The HBO mini-series starred Michael Murphy, Pamela Reed, Cynthia Nixon, Kevin J. O'Connor, Daniel Jenkins, Jim Fyfe, Matt Malloy, Ilana Levine and Veronica Cartwright.

Right away, that screams Altman.  It doesn't scream Trudeau.

Because Robert Altman's films had women in them.  Garry Trudeau has done an overrated cartoon strip that won a Pulitzer in 1975 over 38 years ago.

Robert Altman also never believed Democrats weren't worthy of mocking.  And the equal hand is why Tanner '88 featured a wide variety of people playing themselves including Studs Terkel, Kitty Dukakis, Linda Ellerbee, Bruce Babbitt, Ralph Nader, Robert Dole, Pat Robertson, Sidney Blumenthal, Mickey Leland, Ed Markey Rebecca De Mornay and Kitty Dukakis.

 An Altman project is also an improvised project.  The script is an indicator, not sacred text. So dispense with the idea that Garry Trudeau did any heavy lifting on that HBO mini-series.

What you're left with is Doonesbury, the tired strip Trudeau's done since 1970.  It sparks occasional interest -- not for anything funny or clever.  But it can still prompt outrage.  Last year, the outrage was over a week's worth of comics about abortion.

Trudeau probably feels real proud of that and that he angered some conservatives.  He shouldn't feel proud at all.

Women did not applaud this comic.  The idea that he would do an abortion comic and the natural thing for him was to have a scared and frightened woman be at the hands of a man repeatedly who tormented her?

How is that comic or funny?

Many pro-choicers, including us, found the cartoon highly offensive and indicative of his history as a cartoonist.  Women don't matter.  He's in his fifth decade on that tired comic strip and he still can't point to any moment in all those years where women were featured prominently and were in control of their own agency.  Five decades.

And now, in 2013, he creates a sitcom and women are sidelined again.  But he will feature their tits in what can only be seen as a further embrace of sexism.

That's far from the show's only problems.  Seth McFarlane had struggled to create live action fair.  With the film Ted, he may have finally licked that problem.  Trudeau faces the same problem but doesn't appear to even be aware of it.  So you get stylized scenes without the direction or the visuals to stylize them and it just looks unnatural.  There's a world of difference between a comic panel and a live action show, even if that never occurred to Trudeau.

Meanwhile, what if you're a promising film director who has one original movie to your credit but you hate women and don't want to do a sequel with the actress who starred in your sole film of acclaim?  You move over to television where you're a hired gun with nothing to do but shoot-to-order.

Amazon describes Michael Lehmann's awful Betas as "Set in the land of Silicon Valley start-ups, Betas, written by Even Endicott and Josh Stoddard, follows four friends as they attempt to strike it rich with a new mobile social networking app.  Michael Lehmann (True Blood, Dexter) directed and produced the pilot along with Emmy Award winners Alan Freedland and Alan Cohen (King of the Hill), and Academy Award nominee Michael London (Sideways)."  The sitcom revolves around Joe Dinicol, Karan Soni, Jonathan C. Daly, Charlie Saxton and office 'stud' Tyson Ritter.  For those puzzling over "Karan Soni," that is a man's name.

If your idea of hilarity is a fat f**k with a scraggly beard asking a woman online if she's wet while he's using his laptop in a laundromat or throwing out references to "Katy Perry's rack," then this is the show for you.

Is your idea of a show to watch is a I-couldn't-complete-the-assignment-on-time one that tells you what you're watching will be different if Amazon picks up the pilot for a series, the whole thing will be filmed in stop-motion?  In other words, you're wasting your time enjoying what's before your eyes because a bigger budget means they will do the show differently than Dark Minions is the show for you.  Amaazon says:  "Written by Big Bang Theory co-stars Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie, Dark Minions is an animated workplace serious about two slackers just trying to make a paycheck, working on an intergalatic warship."  Workplace comedy? It has seven regulars and the only female Jamie Denbo is listed last and as a supporting actor.  Even the sixties-set Mad Men has better representation than that.

Then there's Those Who Can't which Amazon describes as, "Written by Andrew Orvedahl, Adam Cayton-Holland and Benjamin Roy (Grawlix), who were discovered through Amazon Studios' online open door process, Those Who Can't is a comedy about three juvenile, misfit teachers who are just as immature, if not more so, than the students they teach." Unlike the previously mentioned pilots Amazon's serving up, this one is actually funny.   Like when three teachers plot their revenge on an annoying asshole of a student:

Adam Cayton-Holland:  And what does Bryce love more than anything?  And what can't La Cross players do?

Andrew Orvedahl:  Play baseball

Benjamin Roy:  Have consensual sex.

Adam Cayton-Holland:  Both good guesses.  The answer is drugs. Student athletes have to be drug free.

In a small role,  Erica Brown makes a real impression as the school secretary Tammy.

What registers in  Zombieland -- from the creators of the film -- is that, despite a strong (and funny) opening scene, it follows in the footsteps of Private Benjamin, Baby Boom, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Honey I Shrunk The Kids  and other failed attempts at turning films into TV shows.  From that funny scene of two office workers at their desk complaining about the day's problems while behind them zombies attack and are attacked, the show toes into one long, talky scene after another.  Not only do the characters sit around and talk far too much for a show with "Zombie" in the title, we're also stuck with a voice over.

Oninon News Empire isn't bad.  It's from The Onion, after all.  But it's biggest problem is that the news industry is already skewered in Aaron Sorkin's unintentionally camp The Newsroom.  In fact, Onion News Empire plays like a spoof of The Newsroom from the cold bitch at the top to the underwritten female characters lower down the chain.  Equally true, considering the state of news today, a 'news' network focusing on ratings gold like "the bear mauling at the porn star celebrity car wash" doesn't really seem that different from what they actually do today.

Browsers finds a newer target and provides fresher laughs.  Amazon describes it as, "Written by 12-time Emmy-winning comedy writer David Javerbaum (The Daily Show) and directed by Don Scardino (30 Rock), Browsers is a musical comedy set in contemporary Manhattan that follows four young people as they start their first jobs at a news website and features actress Bebe Neuwirth."

Four interns go to work for Arianna Huffington.  They don't call Bebe's character that but let's be honest, four interns go to work at The Huffington Post for Arianna.  Marque Richardson lists reasons he likes her ending with "And so pro-gay."  Leading Brigette Davidovici to ask,  "Didn't she marry a gay man once?"  Richardson replies  "So pro-gay."  They call her Julianna Mancuso-Bruni and the webpage The Daily Gush.

While supposedly pro-gay, she's off to lunch with a homophobe -- again, it's Arianna. And Bebe is hilarious in her role.  Also hilarious is Supanatural: "Supanatural is an animated comedy series about two outspoken divas who are humanity's last line of defense against the supernatural, when they're not working at the mall.  The series was written by Lily Sparks, Price Peterson and Ryan Sandoval and, the pilot was produced by Jason Micallef (Butter) and Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show)."  Lucretia (Jameeliah Garrett) and Hezbah (Lily Sparks) work at the mall when not trying to save the world from the supernatural, fight the Vatican to get them to make good on a hot check. and use Chili's when a guest blows out their toilet.

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming 

If only the theme to Aladdin were true.  But it's not.  Online, it's not even the same old world, it's worse.  Amazon offers eight sitcom pilots, not only do five of them leave women on the oustide but of the three in which woman do offer something other than their boobs, only one revolves around women (SupaNatural).  And when you lump Amazon's offerings in with Netflix's Hemlock Grove and its earlier House of Cards, something else becomes obvious.

An ugly, an overweight, an untalented male -- or even an ugly, untalented and overweight male -- can and will be cast as lead in these shows.  But a woman has to be talented and gorgeous to get cast and she better, like film star Famke Janssen in the 13th episode of Hemlock Grove, had better be ready to do full nudity.

Netflix offers three series (Arrested Development debuts with new episodes next month) and all are male dominated shows -- a detail that never enters their mind.  Amazon offers eight sitcom pilots -- sitcom, the genre Lucille Ball dominated and defined -- yet only one of those pilots was created by women.

In Hemlock Grove, after declaring that Pennsylvania leads the nation in hate crimes and Ho-Ho consumption, Penelope Mitchell asks Bill Skarsgard to guess what she's thinking.  We were hoping he'd guess, "What happened to the rest of my nose?" Instead he guesses, that she's wishing summer would never end.  He's wrong and so are we.  She explains,  "I'm thinking that it's time to go home."

It's definitely time to go elsewhere, somewhere other than Netflix.

Photo of the week

iraq protests april

Iraqis protested on Friday (above in Falluja) and plan to protest Monday as well.  Though the western press ignored it, Friday at the Hawija sit-in, Nouri's forces shot one dead and three more were left injured.

Stand with the Iraqi protesters or, like WSWS, stand with thug Nouri al-Maliki, the Augusto Pinochet of the 21st Century.

The reviews are in!

The long promised, billion-dollar backed project is now out.  From Cult of St. Barack Productions, Safety Net Scissorhands.

safety net scissorhands

And the reviews are in . . .

--  He always planned to gut Social Security.  I just, wrongly, thought we'd have enough decency to stop him.  Clearly I was over-estimated us.  Go to In These Times, go to ZNet, go to . . .  Oh, hell.  Maybe their silence is better off.  Matthew Rothschild minces at The Progressive: [. . .] Look, you stupid idiot, he's doing what he planned to do.  Take responsibility for supporting him, you dumb ass, you Cult of St. Barack, you idiot who are harming the entire country by whoring for Barack on a daily basis. -- Trina, Trina's Kitchen, "Catfood Meat Loaf in the Kitchen?"

Paul Krugman is having a hard time facing the reality Barack Obama IS the real-life Manchurian candidate and Trojan horse of right-wing, billionaire and bankster, interests.  That "D" after Obama's name has inoculated him from much-deserved criticism and investigation as to who was backing him when he first ran for president in 2007 despite having very little national political experience.  -- Susan, On the Edge, "A 'Democrat' Tries to Destroy the Legacies of FDR and LBJ."

The Obama Hangover has begun. The drunken delirium that descended on Black America after the pale Democratic caucuses of Iowa endorsed a brown-skinned corporatist just after New Years Day, 2008 – conveying white "viability" on a Great Black Hope – is definitively over. It's the morning-after in Black America, a scene of economic and political ruin bathed in the searing daylight of Obama's second term and umpteenth betrayal. It would be easy to say that the Great Nausea of 2013 was occasioned by Obama's blunt object assault on Social Security and the whole array of entitlements. However, the First Black President's obituary is not written in his budget. The onset of post-Obamaism has more to do with the calendar than anything else. Since Election Day, November 6, Black folks have been forced to come to grips with the finality of Obama's second term – the impending emergence from the dream. There is the sound of a finger snapping. “In a few moments, you will wake up."  -- Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, "The Big Nausea: Waking Up With an Obama-Ache."

Unfortunately, President Obama has accepted the agenda of the Washington elite, putting cuts to Social Security and Medicare at the center of his budget and offering little that will help to speed the growth of the economy and create jobs. -- Dean Baker, US News and World Reports, "Obama Accepts the Agenda of Misguided Washington Elites."

Obama’s move to cut Social Security is certainly outrageous, and it’s encouraging that a wide range of progressive groups are steamed at Obama as never before. But this kind of outrage should have reached a “boiling point” a long time ago. The administration’s undermining of civil liberties, scant action on climate change, huge escalation of war in Afghanistan, expansion of drone warfare, austerity policies serving Wall Street and shafting Main Street, vast deference to corporate power. . . The list is long and chilling.  -- Norman Solomon, Common Dreams,  "Time To Bell The Obama Cat."

Just last week, Obama offered as his opening position in negotiations with Republicans, the chaining of social security and all other federal benefits to the consumer price index --- a monstrous betrayal that will reduce social security benefits by as much as $100 monthly by a decade from now. It wasn't anything he had been cornered into by Republicans. It was the point from which Barack Obama decided to start. That's continuity. Only a Republican president, like Richard Nixon, could go to China in the 1970s. Only a black Democrat can break his promises to labor on championing a card check law, refute his commitments to a just and fair media with network neutrality, and do nothing to roll back the prison state which has engulfed black and brown youth. Only a black Democrat could deport more Latinos than all the last three Republicans together, in his first term alone.  -- Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report, "Is This Barack Obama's 2nd Term? Is it Bill Clinton's 3rd? Or Is It Ronald Reagan's 9th?"

With the formal publication of Obama’s budget this week, Obama’s left apologists will be called on to diffuse the vast political opposition to cuts in Social Security and Medicare. But despite their best efforts, the administration’s assault on the most basic social rights of the US population must inevitably lead to mass opposition and social upheavals. -- Andre Damon, WSWS, "Obama defends plan to cut Medicare and Social Security."

Yes Virginia, there is a class war going on in America.  There always has been, and the tide for working people ebbs and flows depending upon their own level of activism, world events, or economic conditions.  For the past several decades working people have been losing and by growing margins with every successive presidential administration.  -- Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, "Obama and the Class War."

This week, President Obama birthed a still-born budget that Herbert Hoover could have loved. With little surprise but much fanfare, Barack Obama unveiled his new call for austerity in the midst of a near-jobless recovery. The budget does nothing for the bulk of working Americans— who endured a 2 percent Social Security tax hike as the price of not tumbling over the fiscal cliff—except, of course, leaves a tax increase in place that will cost a family making $40,000 a year an extra $800 in payroll taxes.  -- Lloyd Green, The Daily Beast, "Barack Obama's Herbert Hoover Budget a Political Boon for Republicans."

What will happen to our Social Security benefits? This question is being asked by the program’s 56 million recipients in response to the Obama administration’s proposal to cut the annual cost-of-living raise for all who receive these monthly checks, as part of his 2014 budget.  This scheme, which is being cheered by financial barons and many politicians and pundits, is an assault on the most vital and popular federal program, which most workers contribute to throughout their years of employment. It is a historic, frontal attack on the working class, which boldly fought for, won and has paid into the Social Security program for nearly eight decades.  -- Kathy Durkin, Workers World, "Social Security belongs to the workers."

Film classics of the 20th Century


Among the classic films the US has produced is Outrageous Fortune -- a rare thing, a Touchstone Picture that is actually funny.  That 1987 classic is directed by Arthur Hiller from a script by Leslie Dixon.  It pairs Bette Midler and Shelley Long for comic gold.  What's the film about?

Bette Midler: Some guys are chasing us 'cause one of them stole a virus that's going to kill and destroy all the plants and all the trees for thousands of miles all the way around.  We stole it back. So now they're trying to kill us.  You get it?

George Carlin:  Jesus, the sixties were good to you, weren't they?

Yes, the always hilarious Carlin is in the cast.  So are Peter Coyote, John Schuck and Florence Stanley.

In this caper film, Shelley Long is an actress wanting to train with a master teacher (who is, in fact, a KGB agent) and Bette Midler decides she'll do it as well.  Uptight Long and foul-mouthed Midler are at odds and have nothing in common -- they think.  But both are sleeping with a spy played by Peter Coyote.


They discovered this when Coyote dies and they both go to see the body -- only to realize that he's not dead, this isn't his corpse.

In real time, Kevin Thomas (Los Angeles Times) observed:

Debuting writer Leslie Dixon has come up with a female bonding movie in "Outrageous Fortune" that allows Long and Midler to be sensational together and as individual presences. Under Arthur Hiller's direction, "Outrageous Fortune" has the smart, raucous drive of Touchstone's previous hits "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Ruthless People," but don't expect the satirical thrust of those movies. This is a very broad comedy-adventure, pure and simple, in which the laughs come with gratifying regularity, much as they did in Hiller's "The In-Laws" and "Silver Streak." (There are deft touches, however, particularly in the beginning.)
Carrie Rickey (Philadelphia Inquirer) noted, "Written by Leslie Dixon, Outrageous Fortune's truly outrageous script goes below the belt - and comes up with belly laughs."  Yes, boys and girls, long, long before a word of Bridesmaids was ever written, Leslie Dixon was doing what Kristen Wiig supposedly invented.   Pauline Kael noted in her 1987 New Yorker review the film was "an old-Hollywood chase comedy repackaged with what is being called 'female raunch' -- i.e., comparative anatomy." 

Karen Hollinger explains in her book In The Company Of Women:  Contemporary Female Friendship Films, "Dixon, in fact, took over the screenwriting project from a group of male writers who were unable to complete the script.  The success of Dixon's screenplay can be attributed to her combination of female friendship with the male buddy plot formula."  And Daniel Stephens (Top 10 Films UK) observed last November:

Both Midler and Long are clearly having a great time with their roles, their creative freedom allowing them to play off each other. Midler was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe but Long is equally as impressive. There’s a wonderful scene when Long uses her acting ability to con a couple of drug dealers into revealing Sanders’ whereabouts, the intrepid twosome becoming Cagney and Lacey for a brief moment. Long also leads from the front when attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of an airline desk clerk while trying to gain information of Sanders’ flight. The pair are also equally funny when they dress up as hormone-riddled teenage boys to get access to a flea-bitten brothel where they believe their man might be hiding. Midler and Long are a perfect fit, their individual talents combining to create one of the best “buddy” combinations of the 1980s. It is also refreshing to see two women given both the platform and the freedom to excel in a genre overpopulated by male pairings.

To track down their lover and confront him, they have to find him, and that requires a trip to New Mexico, help from Native Americans, cross-dressing to enter a brothel and much more.


Shelley Long:  Honey, I'm an actress.  I love to dress up and pretend.  And the hat is fabulous. But what we need right now, is to find a man.

George Carlin:  Well, okay.  It's not going to be that great.  I'm a little bombed.

Shelley Long:  What?

George Carlin:  And it's still 20 dollars.

Shelley Long: No, no, no, no.  We're looking for a specific man.

Bette Midler:  So we can kill him.

George Carlin: Oh, then you need a witness.  Hey, I'll stand up for you in court.  "I saw the whole thing.  It was an accident.  The axe slipped out of your hand."


Whether Bette knows it or not, she never had a better comic partner in film than Shelley Long.  (That includes the very funny First Wives Club where the three leads were too often off in their own storylines.)  It's a testament to the ongoing sexism in the world of film that no effort was made to reteam Long and Midler after their box office hit and despite efforts by Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton to kick-start a project for the three of them after their blockbuster, no effort was made to reteam the three of them.

Video of the week

To do our part for international harmony, this week's video pick is 2NE1, a South Korea group.

Great Albums of the 20th Century

In August 1963, Barbra Streisand released her second album and called it . . . The Second Barbra Streisand Album.


What the title lacked in creativity, the album made up for in artistry.

While the first album had frequently hedged bets ("Much More"?), this one was eleven tracks of perfection from the start.  Grabbing onto Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," Barbra tore it away from Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr. and everyone else.  Even to this day, to listen to this track is to feel you are hearing it the only way it could have been sung.

Meanwhile "Right As Rain" was rescued with a tender vocal that brings so much life to EY (Yip) Harburg and Harold Arlen's song you wonder why others didn't rush to grab this song and run with it.  Harburg and Arlen's "Down With Love" is another immediate classic take.  The yearning Barbra brings to the song, the way she breathes into the notes and rides them to new heights makes this one of her most confident takes ever.  There's a yearning quality in most of the tracks and another reason for that is that the songs are arranged in higher keys than Barbra used on the first album (or on subsequent ones). 

There's also so much confidence on this album which she began recording June 3, 1963.  Why is that?  Because the success of the first album proved her instincts right and there was no hesitation with this album.

The album sailed up the charts to number two -- without any hit single -- and remained there for three weeks.  "Down With Love" is performed with the kind of gusto that still shows up 101 vocal gymnists who've failed to grasp that delivery is more than the notes hit.

Words of War

Mqy 9th,  The Headstrong Project has an event in New York:


The Headstrong Project is proud to be hosting the first ever “Words of War” event on May 8th at IAC HQ in New York City.
This cocktail fundraiser is designed to further support the mission of the Headstrong Project, to help veterans recover from the hidden wounds of war in order to lead full and meaningful lives. Specifically, “Words of War” will support comprehensive mental healthcare for military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The evening will include a war poetry reading by Jake Gyllenhaal. Additionally, Adam Driver (from HBO’s Girls and major motion picture Lincoln) and Joanne Tucker of “Theater of War” will perform a scene from Sophocles’ Ajax. This short presentation of wartime poetry, literature, theater and letters articulate the exuberance and ideals that drive men and women to war, the thrill and horror of combat, the difficulties of returning home, and the experience of family members worried about their loved one at war. Iconic wartime images, by photographers Ashley Gilbertson, Lucian Read and Jonathan Alpeyrie will be projected during the presentation.
“Even for those who have fought and served in combat, PTSD can be a tough term to understand,” said Zach Iscol, Executive Director, Chairman of Headstrong Project. “It isn’t accessible and there is a stigma attached to it. This event will speak to how normal and timeless the reactions and emotions felt in and returning home from war can be. Of course you’re going to feel grief over losing a close friend. Of course you’re going to feel shame and guilt about life and death decisions made in the fog of war…any good person would.”
The Headstrong Project began treating military veterans in August 2012, and will be using funds raised from this event to expand care to veterans and their families. In partnership with their media partners Google, Newsweek/Daily Beast, and Pixel Corps, Words of War will also benefit Team Rubicon, Team RWB, and Student Veterans of America. These organizations have been incredibly effective at building communities of veterans- a strong antidote to the effects of PTSD and moral injuries.
Over 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans report symptoms of PTSD. The VA estimates we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide and the Department of Defense reports 30-50 active duty troops take their lives every month. Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are at particular risk. It has been estimated that for every troop we have lost in combat this year, 25-30 take their own lives. These numbers also do not reflect increases in dangerous and destructive behavior – such as astonishing increases in domestic abuse, substance abuse, and even motorcycle accidents.
The evening will benefit the Headstrong Project, Team RWB, Team Rubicon and Student Veterans of America. For more information of the Headstrong Project or to purchase tickets to the “Words of War” please visit

Will the Labor Dept protect service members?

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray (above) is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.   Her office issued the following on Thursday.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, April 18th, 2013                                                              (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Questions Secretary of Labor Nominee on Protecting Servicemembers
Sen. Murray questions nominee on how the Department of Labor can better serve and protect veterans and servicemembers
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) attended a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on the nomination of Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor.  At the hearing, the Senator asked Perez to elaborate on how he would address the needs of servicemembers and veterans in his new position. In his current position as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice, Perez has played a critical role in ensuring protections for veterans, from voting rights, to employment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), to housing and mortgage protections.
“As a member of, and the past-Chair of, the Veterans Committee, I’ve fought long and hard to ensure that our country steps up to meet the needs of our servicemembers and veterans who sacrifice so much in defense of our nation,” Senator Murray said at the hearing. “Can you share with the committee how you’ll continue to address the needs of servicemembers and veterans as the Secretary of Labor?”
Watch the exchange HERE (Senator Murray begins speaking at 02:15:15)
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

CIA's criminal paramilitary actions (Workers World)

Repost from Workers World:

CIA’s criminal paramilitary actions grew after 9/11

By on April 19, 2013 » Add the first comment.
Created in 1947 as a successor to the espionage agency born during World War II for use against the U.S.’s imperialist rivals, Japan and Germany, the Central Intelligence Agency rapidly developed into an international arm of repression for U.S. imperialism against the world’s working-class and liberation movements. It especially targeted the Soviet Union, People’s China and the socialist camp during the Cold War.
The CIA never was restricted only to gathering information. It used this information to help carry out a long history of secret activities that range from attempted assassinations and regime change — for example, 1953 in Iran, 1954 in Guatemala — to the support of death squads — the Phoenix program in Vietnam — and fascist coups — Chile, 1973 — up to the wholesale buying-off of puppet politicians.
Though the CIA has always been an integral part of the state apparatus serving the imperialist ruling class, its tendency to operate secretly without government constraints has occasionally raised some opposition both outside and within the ruling-class establishment.
The most prominent efforts came in 1975 following the report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities chaired by Sen. Frank Church.  President Gerald Ford then publicly banned political assassinations in 1976. Ford followed this effort in 1981 with the creation of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, to make sure the CIA stayed in line with orders from the government and in its relations with other state organs like the Pentagon and the FBI.
Despite these token gestures, in the post-9/11 era the CIA — like the other state organs — has increased all its powers. It operates a full-blown shadow paramilitary outside of any semblance of legality or accountability for its crimes. In the nearly six years after 9/11, the Intelligence Oversight Board found exactly zero CIA violations worth investigation.
The CIA has also taken on tasks that the Pentagon did earlier, before the U.S. military was stalemated by resistance forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is now in charge of extrajudicial drone killings, dragnet surveillance on all domestic communications, and a kidnapping/torture regime that spanned 54 countries.
Recent revelations by government whistleblowers shine new light on the agency’s vastly expanded crimes over the past decade.
Last week, McClatchy Newspapers obtained top-secret intelligence documenting how “contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al-Qaida and allied groups, the [Barack] Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified ‘other’ militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area.”
Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations has reflected on the report, writing that it “plainly demonstrates that the claim repeatedly made by President Obama and his senior aides — that targeted killings are limited only to officials, members, and affiliates of al-Qaida who pose an imminent threat of attack on the U.S. homeland — is false.”
The CIA’s documented practice of “signature strikes” on unnamed targets based on secret “pattern of life analysis” has long contradicted claims from top Obama administration officials that drones only target specific individuals characterized as “senior operational” and “high-level al-Qaida leaders.” Last week’s report showcases just how extreme the agency’s ignorance of its drone targets is, however. Even after the fact, in many cases the CIA cannot determine whom it has killed, forcing it to rely on fuzzy categories like “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”
Such nebulous designations have allowed for the murder of three U.S. citizens without legal justification, as well as unnamed thousands in as many as six Muslim countries where these bombings have disrupted the lives of millions who must fear each day that their children may be murdered from the sky.
The newly revealed case of Nek Muhammad again highlights the rogue nature of the assassinations program. In its first-ever drone killing inside Pakistan, the CIA secretly bargained with Pakistan to kill Muhammad — a militant tribal leader and a Pakistani, but not a U.S., target — in exchange for permission to use Pakistani airspace for its own assassinations. Claiming “covert action authority,” the CIA arranged to never acknowledge drone strikes inside Pakistan while the Pakistani government “would either take credit for individual killings or remain silent,” choosing the former option in Muhammad’s case. The agency has applied similar reasoning in its refusal to disclose in federal courts whether or not the drone program even exists.
The extreme veil of secrecy over which all CIA activities, and drone killings, in particular, are draped leads to a toxic unaccountability when crimes are uncovered. The contractual shelling of Muhammad’s compound in 2004 also killed several others, including two boys aged 10 and 16. CIA internal reports show a single civilian casualty in an April 2011 strike that actually killed “five women and four children,” after which John Brennan — Obama’s “assassinations czar” and newly confirmed CIA director — knowingly lied to the public to claim zero civilian drone casualties had ever occurred.
Throughout its history, the CIA has treated civilian populations as legitimate targets who could become “collateral damage.” A recent episode with still stinging repercussions was the plot to assassinate Osama bin Laden, an operation disguised as a polio vaccination campaign in one of the three countries that never eradicated polio.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani children now face the risk of exposure in a deeply suspicious climate that has already seen a dozen polio vaccinators assassinated in retaliation. Pakistanis still hold bitter resentment over the case of Ray Davis, a CIA contractor and ex-Blackwater mercenary who killed three men on the streets of Lahore before forcing the victims’ families to accept “blood money” and then fleeing the country.
Complementing the CIA’s growing illegality and inhumanity has been the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on the government whistleblowers who are supplying us with what little we do know about the agency’s abuses. As the CIA continues to destroy communities abroad, democratic rights within the U.S. wilt under the weight of unparalleled surveillance and censorship.
The CIA has always been a criminal organization directed against the workers and oppressed of the world. U.S. workers cannot and should not bear the burden of this globally despised shadow paramilitary.

Articles copyright 1995-2013 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Murray has questions on the backlog

This is from Senator Patty Murray's office.  And on Congress, time ran out and Dona and the gang will do a Congress and Veterans piece next week. 

CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, April 19, 2013
(202) 224-2834

Murray will question VA Secretary on implementation of plan to cut down claims backlog at Budget Committee hearing next Tuesday 

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, released the following statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) plan to expedite processing of benefit claims that have been pending for a year or more, in order to reduce the claims backlog. Senator Murray plans to question VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on implementation of the program this Tuesday, April 23rd at a Senate Budget Committee hearing that she will chair. 

“This is a problem that continues to confound the VA and frustrate veterans of all eras. I’m pleased that the VA is taking action to get benefits into the hands of veterans quickly, but this has never been a problem that lends itself to easy fixes and I have a number of questions about how this program will be implemented.”
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
Twitter: @mmcalvanah


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.

"You insult women veterans and mock the families of..." and  "Lisa Savage, feminism will not miss you" -- the two most requested highlights of the week by readers of this site.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Safety Net Scissorhands" -- Isaiah takes on Barry.

"Iraq snapshot," "Sanders makes impression early in tenure as Committee Chair," "I can always count on Senator Richard Burr," "Iraq snapshot," "Secretary Kerry doesn't really support women's rights," "The budget hearing that avoided the budget,"  "Kerry pressed on Benghazi," "I'm sick of Democrats in Congress" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I., Ava, Kat, Wally and Ruth report on Congressional hearings they attended last week.

"Pizza Casserole in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a new recipe.

"New planetary system discovered" -- Betty covers science.

"Gun coverage" -- Ruth on the latest gun news.

"Heart" -- Kat notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

"Barack's non-surprising attack on the safety net" -- seriously, who didn't see it coming?

"Reuters lies about Iraq -- corporate media, what do you expect?" and "Piss Ant Prashant Rao is Idiot of the Week" -- Elaine and Mike take on bad Iraq coverage.

"THIS JUST IN! THOSE WACKY RUMORS!" and "Rumors swirl around him" -- poor little celebrity.

"The Client List," "Fringe and other things,"  "Smash," "The Good Wife,"  "community 'intro to knots',"
"screw matt lauer and the today show," "Fringe," "Body of Proof" and "Nikita: Broken Home" -- Ruth, Marcia, Elaine, Stan, Rebecca and Mike cover TV.

"Boston," "Know-it-all Ruth Conniff," "Boston" and  "Tell the asshole Glenn Greenwald to shut his insulting mouth about Boston" -- Trina, Mike and Elaine cover the Boston Marathon attack.

"Political prisoners" -- Ann on the media forgotten.

"THIS JUST IN! THE BIG BABY STOMPS HIS FEET!" and "Look who's da pouty little boy"  -- Wally and Cedric on the big whiney.

"It takes a starlet" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

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