Sunday, June 23, 2013

Truest statement of the week

However, what we do know about U.S. domestic “terror” spying is enough to dismiss the whole premise for the NSA’s vast algorithmic enterprises. The actual “terrorist” threat on U.S. soil is clearly relatively slight. Otherwise, why would the FBI have to manufacture homegrown jihadists by staging elaborate stings of homeless Black men in Miami who couldn’t put together bus fare to Chicago, much less bomb the Sears tower? Why must they entice and entrap marginal people with no capacity for clandestine warfare, and no previous inclination, into schemes to bomb synagogues and shoot down military aircraft, as in Newburgh, New York? Why this steady stream of government-invented terror, if the real thing is so abundant? If the FBI, with NSA assistance, is discovering significant numbers of real terrorists, wouldn’t we be watching a corresponding number of triumphal perp-walks? Of course we would. The only logical conclusion is that terror is a near-negligible domestic threat, wholly unsuited to the NSA’s full-spectrum spying on virtually every American.

-- Glen Ford, "The Lies of Empire: Don’t Believe a Word They Say" (Black Agenda Report).

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?

[6-30-2013 -- We never got back together to note the edition, sorry.]


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


What issue dominated your week?

What issue captured you?

E-mail us at and we'll tally up the results.

Next week, FYI, the summer read edition.

Media: Lazy and crazy Jonathan Alter

NPR just gets nuttier and nuttier.  Every time you think that they've reached the zenith of crazy, something else comes along to up the insanity just a little more.

a radio

Last week, it was gossip columnist Jonathan Alter whose baldness has left him with a scarier hairline than Bette Davis when she played Queen Elizabeth I.

Imagine what Davis could have done with this dialogue:

They had a group of analytics experts, most of them in their 20s, not just data scientists, but they had a child prodigy, they had a biophysicist, they had three professional poker players who had all been hired on the basis of extremely difficult online exams where they solved various analytical problems.
Then they took their models and their algorithms, and they applied them to the workaday problems of the Obama campaign in field organizing and fundraising and so forth. So, the hundreds of thousands of Obama volunteers out there who were really at the heart of my story, because they did change history, their tasks were greatly enhanced by technology.

So Obama was able to marry technology and old-fashioned shoe leather in door-to-door canvassing, in a totally new way that made even 2008 look primitive by comparison.

You don't just picture it in clipped tones, you also picture Bette's eyeballs bulging.

About the only thing that bulges on Alter is his huge belly.

And the fat f**k can't do a damn thing with anything as he proved repeatedly on Fresh Air (NPR).

After creating a reality that doesn't exist  -- child prodigy and poker players can't determine what Alter goes on to offer (who has early voted and who hasn't).

As always Jonathan makes promises his vast body can never lumber up to and Dave Davies pretends not to notice that Alter's gathered the crowd by promising a two-headed, bearded lady.

But this bait and switch has been Alter's m.o. since his time at Newsweek and no one's ever really called him on it.

Being unable to support his claim of a gaggle of precogs, right out of the Minority Report, Alter just transitions into gossip about Bill Clinton.  And what does that really say other than "How boring is Barack?"

When not talking up his latest bad book on TV and radio and when not waiting to be fed, Alter dabbles in 'scandals.'  He doesn't see any.

The spying on the press?  Well Barack's said he is "troubled" and that's all it took for Alter.  As for the targeting of political groups by the IRS?  Alter clearly hasn't paid attention to the details but does that surprise anyone?  Alter dismisses it as a non-scandal.

The spying on Americans?

Alter thinks it's necessary.

Is anyone surprised by this lying?

Of course not.  At the end of 2011, Alter was writing the following for Washington Monthly:

Barack Obama was not in office for more than a couple of minutes, it seemed, before conservatives began trying to cover him in muck. Yet for almost three years, the administration has been scandal-less, not scandalous. In a capital culture that over generations has become practiced at the art of flinging mud pies, Republicans and a few reporters have been tossing charges against a Teflon wall.

It's pathetic on every level but the most appalling is the desperation level.

Ronald Reagan is considers the "Teflon President." For whatever reason (limited vision), Alter needed Barack to be Reagan.

Here's the reality that Alter can never speak: Barack is boring.

Barack isn't just boring, he's so boring.

How boring is Barack that Alter has to bring in gossip about Bill Clinton to pad out his 'analysis' and to ensure that listeners remain listening?

Alter's never finished the work required.  That's obvious even in his latest book which is entitled, The Centers Holds.  He left out the direct object of that statement: Nothing.

Why Does Best Buy Knowingly Sell Crap?

best buy

Best Buy is a big box retailer that's so far not gone under (so far).  That's surprising when you consider how much they piss off shoppers.

For seven months now, we've been hearing from readers who've purchased some version of an Insignia TV at Best Buy.

We finally decided to try it out ourselves and last week tested Insignia in San Francisco, Boston, the DC area and Connecticut.

The piece of crap TV doesn't work.

It works great as a monitor, it's lousy as a TV.

That's if you have cable or satellite or if you're just trying to pick up channels through the air.

Forget it, because this piece of crap doesn't work.

Why do people buy it?

Reader Cedro was the first to write and complain so he was the first one we contacted.

"Best Buy," he explained.  "I bought it because it's Best Buy.  It was cheap but they had another brand cheaper.  Best Buy carried it so I thought it worked.  And it insisted on the package that it was green so I thought I was getting something good for the environment.  It is an energy saver, alright, I never turn it on because it doesn't pick up any channels."

Compared to Cedro, Amanda is living the high life.  She can pick up her local Fox station in New Mexico.  And?

That's it.  She has cable.  If she connects cable to the Insignia, she can't even pick up the Fox channel.

She offers,  "I never thought that, in Albuquerque, I'd have trouble picking up stations.  But that's what's happening. With Insignia, anyway.  I got a Samsung a few months later and no problems.  But with the Insignia, I wasted money on a TV that only plays one channel."

As this community forum and this community forum and this community forum (we could keep going) make clear, this is neither a new nor novel problem.

Insignia makes TV that are pieces of crap.  That Best Buy carries a product that is so problematic and so faulty doesn't speak well of them either.

Save your money or spend an extra $20 for a TV.  Or go to Wal-Mart which, for all its other problems, at least doesn't carry Insignia. (Insignia is a Best Buy exclusive, a home brand.)

Moving along the highway (Jess)

"One more song about moving along the highway . . . " Carole King's eternal classic "So Far Away" resonated this weekend as Stan moved into a  house and Mike, Elaine and their child moved off to Hawaii.

Tears and joy dominated the weekend.

Elaine, Mike and their daughter left Saturday morning because some couldn't take a very long good-bye.  Rebecca wasn't even sure she would be able to say good-bye in person.  But, at the last minute, she showed up, eyes red and puffy.  And making a point to tell Mike that it wasn't just her former college roommate Elaine that she was going to miss.


A few hours after that, a number of us helped Stan move into his new home.  I joined Wally, Kat, Marcia, Rebecca (and her husband), Ruth (and three of her grandchildren), Isaiah, Trina (and her husband), Ava and C.I. in moving Stan in.

We were the moving crew.  We had everything moved, unpacked and put away in five hours.

And the last 30 minutes were the hardest emotionally.  Stan moved an hour away from where he was living and he had been only a half hour away from Marcia (his cousin).

It's weird because Stan only moved an hour away but his move felt like a loss in the same way Elaine and Mike moving off to Hawaii feels like a loss.

The three of them aren't participating in this edition but will be participating next week.

With my limited vision I don't understand 
Why anybody has to lose a friend 
Everybody has to follow their heart 
But it can hurt so bad 
To see changes
-- "Changes," written by Carole King, first appears on her Welcome Home album

It's not as if we're not going to be talking all the time.

But there's something really fearful about someone you can count on suddenly making even a small change.

As if that small change means your relationship with them changes.

And it also goes to the fact that we are all changing.

When this site started, for example, I wasn't even dating Ava. Now we have a child together.

I told Stan Saturday night that he was going to be overwhelmed about ten minutes after we left and he texted me that I predicted correctly.

No surprise.

We moved, my family, all the time.  We moved constantly.

And I hated it.  Some were just to different neighborhoods and I got to stay in the same school at least, but some were into school districts or new cities.  I hate moving.

I hate letting go.

That's the stuff you can't take because you can never take everything.

Stan, for example, ended up tossing away journals.  I had no idea he even kept a journal.  He had almost forty volumes.  And he was tossing them.


No time to pack them, he said.

And you have to be ruthless like that.  I can remember my mom telling me to pick three toys, three comic books, three this, three that because there wasn't room on the moving van for everything.

And Dad would drive the van, and my sister, Mom and me would be in the car behind following.  We'd have our dog Rex with us.  Rex would be walking all around the station wagon (the back of it).  He'd look at this and look at that.  And, like most dogs, was happiest when the car was moving and he could stick his head out the window.

Then we'd be approaching the new home and my sister and I would try to figure out which house we'd be renting.  That was a good distraction, by the way.  But then we'd see Dad turn into the drive of one of them and we were no longer wondering which home would be our new home, we were now really aware that we were moving.

I had so many friends that I lost because of the constant moving.

Shaun was my best friend in middle school.  And I swore I would keep in touch.  He made me do a blood oath on that.


I never wrote him once.

How come?

I was depressed as hell, honestly.

Every day, I thought about the tree house we'd built -- sound and real -- in the woods behind our homes.  I'd think about the little creek back there and all the fun we had.  And I'd think about my new school and how everyone was either mean or indifferent.  I'd think about writing Shaun but then think, "Why?"

To depress him?

To make him feel bad too?

To let him know how lonely and alone I felt?

Didn't seem like the thing to do and by the time 'things got better,' we were moving again.  We were always moving.

And remember the threes?  Three comics, three toys, three this and three that?

A few times my stuff never made it.

I love my parents but they know, to this day, do not make a joke about that.  I have told them repeatedly, if you had to toss my stuff for space, tell me that's what happened.

They swear it never did.  But I can remember three non-consecutive moves where my stuff was the only stuff that was lost.

And the stuff matters because your memories are gone.

I was supposed to marry Courtney, for example.

I was in 8th grade.  And I really loved her.  And she seemed to really love me.  She had a very difficult family life.  And we weren't moving this time, my parents swore.  Why, we'd probably be able to graduate high school (my sister and me) from this same address.  But by the end of eight grade - actually a month before the end, we were moving again.

But for a little while that school year, I was able to pretend  I was like most of the other kids, going to grow up together, going to school together from start to finish, etc.

It's awful to always be the new kid, it really is.

Even when you fit in, you've still got everyone sharing the story about 4th grade or this or that.

I have no idea what the moves this weekend triggered in everyone else, but, above, is some of the stuff it made me think about.

To be the last to leave, the last to be gone,
stolen from the ones who hung on to it.

To be the last in line, the ones that live on,
silhouette of a dream, treasured by the ones 
. . . who hung on to it.
-- "Fireflies," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac Live.

And that's what we're all really thinking about, right?

When does this end?

And how does it end?

I'm referring to Third but you may have thought I meant "life" or something else.  Whatever you thought, think about what that says about you.

Steal of the week

Doing Best Buy research for this edition, led us to purchase The Mel Brooks Collection.

It's not something we're ashamed of but it wasn't until Sunday that we mentioned this.  "You got it too!"

The Mel Brooks Collection is an $89.00, nine film, Blu-Ray collection that Best Buy's currently selling for $39.99 or, in one instance, $29.99.

So you get all of his films?

No, you don't.

You don't get The Producers (the first film he directed), Life Stinks or Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

But you still have a plentiful serving.

You have more than enough, in fact, to trace the downfall of Mel Brooks.

Following his first two films, Mel Brooks did a string of parodies -- in fact, the only other non-parody he did was Life Stinks.

This destroyed his talent.

At least that's the popular lie.

Mel Brooks was funny and could direct a funny movie today -- if he'd seen his own work objectively.

Of all the films on the boxed set, The Twelve Chairs is the one most probably haven't seen or heard of.

It's cute and charming and more like someone else's film (Rob Reiner's) that it is like a Mel Brooks' film.

Blazing Saddles kicks off Brooks' comedic streak and remains a classic.  The 1974 western parody was one of three classic films Brooks made in the 70s.

Even more successful was Young Frankenstein.   Gene Wilder was the star of both films. As Meg Ryan brought Nora Ephron's writing to life, so Wilder did with Brooks.

Silent Movie is more than watchable but it's not classic.  Part of the problem?

While Gene Wilder's gone, everyone else in the world appears to be in it -- including, James Caan, Liza Minelli, Burt Reynolds, Anne Bancroft, Bernadette Peters and Paul Newman.

The most serious problem may be Anne Bancroft who is seriously miscast and too stiff in the role.

High Anxiety follows and is a classic film.  This one takes off on several Alfred Hitchcock films.  Mel Brooks is better as a lead in this film than he was in Silent Movie.  But something else happens as well.

The 80s find Mel offering History of the World Part I which disappointed on release. The best moment in the movie was Madam Defarge (Cloris Leachman)  stirring up a mob, followed closely by Empress Nympho (Madeline Kahn) during the Roman Empire.

There was your answer if you were paying attention.

To what?

Why no other films are classics.

To Be or Not To Be is a remake of a classic.  Anne Bancroft had many acting strengths but coimedy really wasn't among them.  Spaceballs is funny but it's not a classic. Robin Hood Men in Tights has its moments.

So what went wrong?

Brooks' films starring Gene Wilder weren't hits because of Gene.  They were hits because of strong casts.  They were hits because men and women went to Mel Brooks films to laugh.

And they could laugh at the men and women onscreen.

But Mel began to appeal to males only when he stopped working with Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn.   Kahn appears in all three of Brooks' 70s classics, Leachman in two of them.

These were strong actresses.

As time progressed, Brooks went for Anne Bancroft (also his wife) who was  a strong actress but really didn't do comedy so tended to be the 'straight man' in the proceedings.

The History of the World Part I is the last time Mel Brooks works with Leachman and Kahn (Leachman would try to get Brooks to let her recreate her role in Young Frankenstein when the film was turned into a Broadway musical but Brooks said "no").

After that, a strong comic role for a woman happens in only one film: Spaceballs.  Joan Rivers plays a robot who's onscreen far too little.

That's what destroyed Mel Brooks' films.  He was a comic playing to men and women and then, suddenly, women were these cheescake straight men.

None of his females ever looked as lovely on film as Teri Garr in Young Frankenstein but Garr wasn't just pretty to look at, she brought strong comedy chops to the table.

Madeline Kahn was a zany high point of Blazing Saddles and came close to stealing Young Frankenstein.  In High Anxiety, she is hilarious trying to sneak through airport security or on the phone with Brooks.  And Cloris Leachman was hilarious and sporting the cone bra long before Madonna.

It's a shame it happened because first the female leads became simplistic and then all the characters did.  It didn't have to be this way.  Just as he's losing interest in funny women, three of the funniest are kicking off their film careers:  Gilda Radner, Jane Curtain and Laraine Newman were all departing Saturday Night Live and hoping to find film careers. Maybe if they'd left in 1977, Brooks could have found roles for them?

G8 protests (Britain's Socialist Worker)

Repost from Britain's Socialist Worker:

Anti-G8 protesters defy intimidation in Northern Ireland

by Simon Assaf in Belfast

Leaders of the world’s richest countries met in Northern Ireland this week for a G8 summit.
David Cameron played up talk of getting tough on rich tax avoiders.
But leaders were wrangling over ways to protect the bosses as Socialist Worker went to press.
 Meanwhile some 8,000 police, backed up by Ireland’s Gardai and thousands more from England and Wales, descended to protect the summit from protesters.
 The heavy policing is estimated to cost tens of millions of pounds.
 This in an island that is wilting under austerity, with high youth unemployment and low wages.
 Ahead of a march last Saturday the police hyped up the threat that the north was about to be invaded by “5,000 extremist anarchists”. In the days before the march, police swooped on dissident Republicans.
 Despite this atmosphere of intimidation some 2,000 trade unionists, activists and environmental campaigners braved heavy rains to march through Belfast.
 The march was called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). 
ICTU chair Pamela Dooley told the rally, “We are facing the consequences of a corrupt capitalist system bereft of moral standards”.
More protests took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

PAYMENTS© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Obama escalates U.S. role in Syria (WW)

Repost from Workers World:

Obama escalates U.S. role in Syria

By on June 18, 2013 » Add the first comment.
After a series of meetings in Washington, the Obama administration escalated the war against Syria by announcing that the United States would ship weapons directly to their proxy rebels in Syria. The New York Times described this materiel as “small arms and ammunition,” but added that the transfers may include anti-tank weapons as well. (New York Times, June 14)
Reports that the deliveries will exclude anti-aircraft missiles should not be taken for good coin. The excuse that the Syrian government used sarin nerve gas has been exposed as unsubstantiated by chemical weapons experts and even by United Nations officials.
Pressure has been building for more direct intervention among both hawkish Republicans and leading Democrats, such as former President Bill Clinton. The imperialist establishment during the past two years and more has worked toward toppling the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad without risking direct intervention. They have been supplying weapons and political support to factions inside Syria and encouraging foreign mercenaries to flood into Syria during that period.
The imperialist-backed rebels, however, have never coalesced politically or militarily and suffered a shattering defeat when they lost the battle for control of Qusair, a town near the Lebanese border, at the beginning of June. The Times reports that “large parts of the rebellion could be on the verge of collapse.” (June 14)
The rebels have been getting large shipments of weapons from the reactionary monarchies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia funneled into Syria from NATO ally Turkey and the Kingdom of Jordan. The CIA has been exposed as directing this operation and running the anti-Assad rebel training camps. Direct shipments from the U.S. will require more U.S. troops in supply operations and for training.
According to reports, the Syrian government has been moving troops and supplies into Aleppo in the north, the largest city in that country, following their victory in Qusair. Aleppo has been the scene of fighting between rebels and government forces neighborhood by neighborhood for the past year. reports an offensive by the government to retake this important city, called Operation Northern Storm.
U.S. troops in war exercises
Thousands of U.S. troops, along with soldiers from 16 other countries, have been engaged in “war exercises” in Jordan, just south of the Syrian border. “The U.S. will keep Patriot missiles and F-16 fighter jets in Jordan” when the war games end next week. These advanced weapons require hundreds of U.S. troops to operate and maintain them. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that “any attempt to use the F-16s to impose a no-fly zone over Syria would violate international law.” (, June 16)
Russia has supported and supplied arms to the Syrian government since the Western imperialist powers began their drive for regime change.
Short of a massive bombing campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria, the Pentagon has drawn up plans to create a protected “buffer zone” on Syrian soil north of the border with Jordan. The June 15 New York Times reports that this safe haven for rebels would be “enforced by Jordanian troops … and supported politically by the United States.”
The new expanded weapons shipments from the U.S. are also expected to flow through Jordan. Should Syria retaliate, U.S. missiles, fighter planes and troops are already stationed in Jordan, ready to attack the Syrians.
Jordan has become the nation of choice for U.S. escalation of the war since the Turkish regime has been facing massive rebellions across that country. Using Turkey at this time might trigger larger and more political uprisings, undermining U.S. plans.
Washington has also dragged the government of Egypt into the deepening regional crisis. President Muhammad Morsi of Egypt announced on June 15 that he was breaking diplomatic relations with Syria.
The Obama administration along with the entire U.S. ruling class is pushing forward into greater military adventures in the Middle East while the people of the U.S. are more and more opposed. A June 7 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 61 percent oppose U.S. intervention. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of June 12 reported that only 11 percent support arming the Syrian rebels.

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


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"CODEPINK and other whores who lie about Iraq" -- mosr requested highlight by readers of this site.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Predator of the United States" -- Isaiah examines Barack's spying.

"American Skillet Goulash in the Kitchen" -- Trina serves up an easy recipe.

"The awful Newsroom,"  "How I Met Your Mother goes off the rails," "The Client List," and "Mistresses" -- Betty, Ann, Ruth and Stan cover TV.

"so little, so late" -- Rebecca refuses to play the fool.

"Larry Johnson's pain" -- Ruth praises a piece of writing.

"Bono and his fake ass ways" -- Kat takes on Bono.

"DC Blogger and other wastes of time" -- Marci's tired of the nonsense.

"Barack's been backing the Syrian 'rebels' for months now" -- Elaine with the obvious.

"Getting ready for the big move" -- Mike's announcement.

"Come down easy" and "THIS JUST IN! BARACK'S BAD TRIP!" -- This used to be his playground.

"so little, so late" -- Rebecca won't forget.

"James Gandolfini" -- Betty offers an obit.

"On my infant son and on the community" -- Ann on a variety of topics.

"Joy" -- Kat offers a post on a different topic.

"Chicago Pride can't stop fawning over Barack" -- Marcia breaks it down.

"naomi wolf, the self-liar" -- Rebecca remembers the big liears.

"Another Benghazi hearing -- but a catch" -- Ruth continues her Benghazi coverage.

"Carly Simon, Janis Ian, Cher and Tina Turner (and the sexism of the music world)" -- Elaine weighs in on music.

"The government's disarm con" -- Mike won't plaq Barack's sucker.

"Serena and her non-apology" -- Betty on the fake Serena.

"More on Etheridge" -- and the equally weird Etheridge.

"big apology re: streaming online" -- Rebecca writes about streaming issues

"Nichols and May" -- Ruth remembers the comedy team.

"Breaking the canon" -- Kat on music and praising Elaine.

"Summer movies" -- Stan on the hype.

"The stuffed shirt" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"With a little luck" -- Mike writes about Sunburn.

"Eric Holder loves wasting your tax dollars" and "THIS JUST IN! THANK YOU FOR WASTING OUR MONEY!" -- Cedric and Wally are back on the beat.

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