Sunday, January 19, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Promised reforms are likely to remain meaningless as long as criminals continue to serve in the administration. The director of national intelligence, in particular, has already been caught lying to Congress and must be removed from his post for the American people to have any trust in the execution of any changes to the NSA's dragnet spying activities.

-- Shahid Buttar, Bill Of Rights Defense Committee Executive Director, from "Today's speech by the president: A missed opportunity" (BORDC).

Truest statement of the week II

What Maliki chooses to ignore and what Ban Ki-moon has singled out is precisely what the protest movement has been demanding all along: looking at the root causes of the problems. In Iraq's case, they are sectarianism, corruption, lack of basic services, violations of human rights, increasing unemployment and organized gangs and militias flourishing under a kleptocratic government.
The Maliki government has been harvesting over $100bn a year for some time now, from the nation's oil wealth. That amounts to about $20,000 a year per average Iraqi household of 7 people, except that Iraqis are left deprived of basic commodities. The wealth is squandered or stolen, a situation illustrated by Transparency International as: "Massive embezzlement, procurement scams, money laundering, oil smuggling and widespread bureaucratic bribery have led the country to the bottom of international corruption rankings, fuelled political violence and hampered effective state building and service delivery."

-- Haifa Zangana, "The real forces behind the violence in Iraq" (MWC News).

Truest statement of the week III

Adding to its crimes against Iraqi people, the US continues to deliver to al-Maliki's regime weapons and equipment, abetting its militarization and uncontrollable violence against civilians.

-- Haifa Zangana, "The real forces behind the violence in Iraq" (MWC News).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Yet 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:

We'd planned to be all Iraq in our truest this week.  But when the Bill of Rights Defense Committee makes a statement like that, we pretty much have to note it.
Iraqi activist and novelist Haifa Zangana gets a truest on Iraq . . .
In fact, she gets two truests on Iraq. 

When does the western press plan to notice that Iraq is populated with people -- or that these people have thoughts and ideas and can express and communicate them?

Ava and C.I.'s masterpiece that they finished at 6:00 am PST and thought we'd be posting shortly after.  Nope.  We didn't have our ducks in a row the way they did.  This is really a powerful piece and led to the scrapping of the strong piece I thought we were writing collectively -- when Ava and C.I. went off to do their TV piece, the rest of us began working on a piece about the spying.  We didn't know that was their topic.  Normally, I would have bothered them to cover this but they're both still recovering from the cold-flu thing that's going around so I (Jim) was biting my tongue for a change.  When I started reading this out loud to everyone, I knew about four paragraphs in that they'd nailed it and we no longer needed the piece the rest of us were working on.

This was a pretty interesting roundtable.  I like that we had something different to offer in some of it.

If you missed it, Ava and C.I. spent about five hours researching in C.I.'s library.  They read about the Pike Papers, they read about earlier spying, they drug down some old Ms. magazines and read about TV, and more.  


Ding Dongs.  They were my weakness from about third grade through junior year of college.  I really wanted to love their return.  I think we all wanted to.

Ava and C.I. gave us Barack's line from the speech and we turned it into a short feature.  Along with a photo, you may notice this piece includes a list of "new" books -- like Sons & Lovers.  I told you Ava and C.I. were in her library.  They pulled the Times Literary Supplements  from 1913 and got that list from that and that's also where the list that pops up in the roundtable came from as well.  We thought of it as curios and wanted to work them in.

A quote from the Pike Report.  And we padded it out with another 'found' ad.  C.I. says this was Harpers and probably either 1975 or 1976 because they were going through those years (for the Church and Pike Committees).  "Sofonisba Anguissola has been waiting five centuries for equal rights," the ad notes. 
Unlike some people, we like Faye Dunaway.  A look at 80s TV in Ms. magazine, led Ava and C.I. to check something so they pulled C.I.'s bound issues of Variety.  While flipping through, they passed this.  Ava noted it was a great photo of Faye -- and it is.  She also noted she never saw that movie.  C.I. explained there were script and other issues and Faye passed on the film which, when made, starred Julie Andrews instead.  At which point, they decided to bring it to the rest of us to see if we could use it from time to time for some-things-don't-go-as-planned stories.  Absolutely we can and we hope you all enjoy the photo in the ad as much as we do.  Faye Dunaway's an Academy Award winning actress and one of our favorites.  Jess, Ty and I used to watch The Champ on DVD in college over and over and would avoid looking at each other at the end when Ricky Schroeder would be telling the Champ to wake up -- but Jon Voight was dead. And, of course, we also loved her films like Chinatown, Network, Barfly, 3 Days of the Condor, The Three Muskateers, The Four Muskateers, The Wicked Lady, Eyes of Laura Mars,  Don Juan DeMarco, The Handmaid's Tale, Bonnie & Clyde, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Mommie Dearest, Supergirl . . .

A repost from Workers World.
Michigan Greens never stop fighting for justice for all.
A repost from Workers World.

And Mike and the gang wrote that and we thank them for it.

That's our edition.


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

Editorial: The Iraqi people

By the end of 2011, western media had largely withdrawn from Iraq.

No one forced them to.

They can't even claim that costs forced them too because they've spent a fortune on covering and miscovering Syria.  Or advocating for war on Syria.  That was, after all, the point of Christiane Amanpour's on air September 12th meltdown on AC360 Later (CNN).

She exploded at the panel, shouting for war on Syria, insisting, ""There is no moral equivalence! [. . .] The president of the United States and the most moral country in the world based on the most moral principles in the world, at least that's the fundamental principle that the United States rests on, cannot allow this to go unchecked, cannot allow this to go unchecked."

 When Andrew Sullivan, of all people, observed, "This is not reason, this is emotion," Amanpour snapped back, "It's not emotion! This is history coming out!" Through Saturday, 698 violent deaths so far this month according to Iraq Body Count?

The war did not end.

And in all this time, the western press still can't find Iraqi people.

They're in Iraq right now but, though they can quote Nouri and his minions, they can't quote the Iraq people or report on the ongoing protests.

That's Samarra on Friday  -- Iraqi Spring MC posted the video here.  December 21, 2012, a wave of protests kicked off in Iraq and they continued today. Protests also took place Friday in Amiriya, Rawa, Falluja,  Tikrit, Baiji, and Baquba.  They just, apparently, were invisible to the western press.

And when Iraqis come to the US, they're invisible as well.

MP Nada al-Juburi: It is very important when we talk about violence and sectarianism and corruption, I think there is a relationship between the three.  And these three topics came together in Iraq and effected the work of these institutions. I'm not here pointing at one certain institution but all the institutions.  At the end of the day, the citizen is not satisfied generally speaking.  And this is a very important issue especially at this stage.  And what is going on right now, during the two terms of Parliament and the political blocs that are inside the Parliament played many roles and played important roles.  I think there are two terms of the Parliament are considered to be very important to the history of Iraq when we talk about democracy because it established and worked in a very difficult time, there is no doubt about it.  But, on the other hand, when we look into the political divisions and differences impeded the stability.  And some of the political elements, I say a few, they might have a direct link to the violence.  Bu they are not representing a huge sector.  But when you look into the discourse that sometimes comes out that could also lead to violence in the street.  So I say it is very important the quality of the political discourse.  The message inside the political discourse will direct the street to a certain direction.  And also the terrorists will exploit these occasions when there is inflamatory political speech, these terrorists will exploit the chance to conduct terrorist actions everywhere and it increases.  When we talk in Mosul but in Mosul suffering a lot oof killing of people and journalists.  So when we look into 2012 it was a tragedy compared to any place in the world. So, again, the political blocs will play an indirect role to increase the violence through its political discourse.  So if we have a rash now -- political discourse -- and supporting national reconciliation, especially after the withdrawal and where all the politicians were all elected.  And so I think again that national reconciliation, if it took place clearly and transparently and will give high assurance to the people -- especially at this time where we are witnessing new elections parallel to combating terrorism.

Nada al-Juburi is an Iraqi Member of Parliament.  Search LexisNexis for any mention of her.  She was here in DC.  She made those remarks publicly at the US Institute of Peace.  Press attended.  They reported on Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's remarks.  One even noted al-Mutlaq's remarks and a male MP's remarks.


That's where the news value is?  When you've got two Iraqi MPs and one's a man and one's a woman, the news value, the uniqueness is the male MP?

It was just further proof that the American press doesn't give a damn about Iraq.

The US government led the attack on Iraq and the press wasn't interested in introducing the Iraqi people before the war, they've been uninterested throughout the illegal war.  It's kind of like Vietnam.  It wasn't until years and decades after the American government's assault on Vietnam, when the country's economic value was becoming apparent and it was becoming a major tourist destination that the western press showed any significant interest in telling any stories about the Vietnamese people.

Maybe that moment will arrive some day for the Iraqi people?

Possibly.  But at present, they are still rendered invisible as Iraq is a story the press chooses to tell only through western voices and officials DC imposed upon the country.

Nada al-Juburi was quoted in the January 16th "Iraq snapshot."

TV: The speech about nothing

As he started speaking Friday morning, the first thing people may have noticed was US President Barack was standing in front of six US flags.

Maybe he should have been standing in front of six white horses?

Six white horses came today
to take my Daddy far away
Mommy said I must be good
and stand as big as Daddy would.

A then-high school student, Candy Geer, wrote those words in her poem "Six White Horses" where she sees the passing of JFK through his son's eyes and we thought of it as we listened to Barack drone on about, what was for all intents and purposes, the death of the Fourth Amendment. That amendment protects the American people from unreasonable searches and seizures.  It's important enough to be part of The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution make up The Bill of Rights).

The Bill Of Rights Defence Committee issued a statement from Executive Director Shahid Buttar:

The reforms announced by the president today are a meager step in the right direction, but far from enough to fix the NSA's assault on the rights of hundreds of millions of Americans. Requiring the NSA to secure judicial approval in order to query its massive databases is the very least the president could require. Allowing bulk collection to continue, whether by the NSA or private corporations, will undermine freedom of thought and erode democracy.
[. . .]
The president's own review board, as well as the privacy and civil liberties board, and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, have issued dozens of recommendations, most of which the president has continued to ignore. Promised reforms are likely to remain meaningless as long as criminals continue to serve in the administration. The director of national intelligence, in particular, has already been caught lying to Congress and must be removed from his post for the American people to have any trust in the execution of any changes to the NSA's dragnet spying activities.

Well said.

"Thank you," Barack fluttered as he walked to the podium in the Justice Dept.  "Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Please have a seat."

He was so ethereal, we expected him to launch into a reading of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.

Instead, he opted for a history lesson and started in on his prepared remarks -- flashed before him on two teleprompters, "At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee uuuhhhh borne out of the The Sons of Liberty was established in Boston."

With that long "uuuhhh" we thought certainly he was going to serve up another Estelle Parsons imitation.

But he surprised us for a second time as this was the only verbal Method moment in his performance.  There were glitches, to be sure, like when he spoke the comments about the illegal spying disclosures providing "more heat than light," he spoke too quickly and got ahead of the teleprompters requiring the president to take a long noticeable pause as he waited for the new words to scrawl across the screens.

As quickly became apparent, the delivery was really about show casing his jazz hands.

More than jazz hands, actually.  More than even Kenny Chesney hands.

We noticed the weird thing Barack did with his thumb and fore finger, a Vanna White-like move with his palm, the hand pops, the dribble, the woah, the gesture with the fist, the sign of the cross, the hitchhike, the pointer and especially the odd hand gesture that appeared to reference the Bangles' "Walk Like An Egyptian."

He pretty much did every gesture except the Vulcan salute.

We appreciated the effort, especially when so many of the gestures went against the natural flow of body movement.  We saw that as his own private tribute to the work of Bob Fosse.

And, certainly, all his lips offered was all.  That.  Jazz.

His historical lesson, for example,  was a page from something other than A People's History of the United States.

He quickly tied Paul Revere to the Civil War, WWII and then "the rise of the Iron Curtain."

It was disturbing to discover Barack clings to the Cold War like very small children believe in the Easter Bunny.

"After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering," Barack prattled on.  "And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe."

That's so inaccurate that it's even false in terms of chronology.  The Cold War starts in 1945.  Truman establishes the NSA in 1952.

Barack quickly offered another factually inaccurate statement, "In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance.  And in the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War.  And partly in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens."

This is why you don't need a president who spends his or her formative years outside of the country.  Barack knows nothing about US history.  Now if he's stayed in Indonesia, no problem.   As someone schooled in Indonesia, there's really no reason for him to be up on the finer points of US history.

But he chose to return to the US where he was a so-so prep school student and  college student and he never learned the basic historic that most Americans know.

The war on Vietnam did not end in the 60s, it lasted into the seventies.  Tricky Dick only became president in 1969.  Nixon's Enemies List was written -- and sent to John Dean who apparently wasn't troubled by it at the time -- in 1971.  Mary McGroy, Washington Star columnist (late of The Washington Post), made the top twenty (the original 20) and was the only one to appear twice on the full list. Actress and activist Jane Fonda's mail was read, her calls listened in on and much more and that's in the seventies as well (Fonda also made Nixon's Enemies List).  And, as the Pike Committee Report (US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) documented, the FBI had spied on the Socialist Workers Party for 34 years (1941 to 1975). Or how about the five year FBI 'investigation' on IPS (Institute for Policy Studies) which began in 1968 and ended in 1973?

Or how about the 1975 hearings for that report?  How about how similar to today they sound?

Chair Otis Pike: Does your system intercept the telephone calls of American citizens?

NSA Director Lew Allen: I believe that I can give a satisfactory answer to that question which will relieve the Committee's concern on that matter in closed session.

That's history.

It's just not history Barack wanted to impart.

He felt his loyalty was to the NSA and spying when, in fact, he is the public's servant.  He does not answer to the NSA, he answers to the American people.

Barack bemoaned, "And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance."

So the American people can still be spied upon but foreign leaders won't be?

Does he not get who he's supposed to be serving?

Friday, he also whined, "It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11."

Oh, poor babies.

Was it hard for them?

Cause, you know what?  It was kind of hard for everyone in America.  That's what made it a tragedy.

At this point, he's so divorced from reality that he should only get to see authenticity and actuality on the weekends

And, even then, those visits should be supervised.   Because he also stated, "What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale -- not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens."

Let's pretend for a moment that the illegal spying that's been taking place, the bulk spying, wasn't illegal or maybe didn't happen.

Just set it to the side, for just one moment.

Back in September, Evan Perez (CNN) reported:

The National Security Agency's internal watchdog detailed a dozen instances in the past decade in which its employees intentionally misused the agency's surveillance power, in some cases to snoop on their love interests.
A letter from the NSA's inspector general responding to a request by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, lists the dozen incidents where the NSA's foreign intelligence collection systems were abused. The letter also says there are two additional incidents now under investigation and another allegation pending that may require an investigation.
At least six of the incidents were referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution or additional action; none appear to have resulted in charges. 

That's not violating the law?  That's not being cavalier about civil liberties?  Perez's report notes that one man used his NSA powers to go through the e-mail addresses of an ex-girlfriend?

Not only is that violating civil liberties and privacy laws, it's also violating laws about government spending.

Barack's so dishonest even Nixon, from the grave, is screaming, "Liar!"

When dishonesty wasn't enough, he resorted to bitchery.

A put upon Barack shared, "Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.  And given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or his motivations; I will say that our nation's defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets.  If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy."

And if the government would only follow the law, no one would have anything to expose you with.

In the end, Barack's speech outlined that he'd really do nothing.  No surprise there.

As Elaine noted earlier in the week, Senator Barack Obama, campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination loved to put down others for not resolving problems, he sneered at those who "kick the can."  Elaine and Mike both rightly assumed that kick the can would be exactly what Barack would do with his Friday speech.

They called it and we all saw it.

US House Rep. Rush Holt offered this verdict on the speech:

“The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.
“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause.  They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second.  They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware.  They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying.
“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’  But this is a faulty and false choice.  As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’
“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies.  To the contrary, they exist to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases.
“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen.  A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough.  Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”

To read about Holt's Surveillance State Repeal Act, click here.  Senator Rand Paul issued this comment:

While I am encouraged the President is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details. The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails. President Obama's announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration. I intend to continue the fight to restore Americans rights through my Fourth Amendment Restoration Act and my legal challenge against the NSA. The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house.

Barack gave a speech offering nothing because, as Stephen Collinson (AFP) pointed out, "the president left many of the details of proposed reforms either with Congress, top officials or the NSA itself."  It was carried live by all the networks Friday morning and the White House knew sections would make newscasts throughout the day and weekend.  But there was no meat to Barack's speech.  There was nothing but mangled history and paranoia on display.

In a column before the speech, Marjorie Cohn wrote, "The high court checked and balanced President George W. Bush when he overstepped his legal authority by establishing military commissions that violated due process, and attempted to deny constitutional habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. It remains to be seen whether the court will likewise refuse to cower before President Barack Obama's claim of unfettered executive authority to conduct dragnet surveillance. If the court allows the NSA to continue its metadata collection, we will reside in what can only be characterized as a police state."  That felt sad but true on Wednesday when the Jurist published her column.  Friday after the speech, it felt even more so.

Mr. Pretty Words, Mr. Pretty Lies couldn't even offer up any highs in this overly written speech.  Looking at him, we realized that the pretty had been more than rubbed off over the last five years.  The lines are there, to be sure, but it's more than that.  Women with advanced and untreated eating disorders get a special sort of skull face, the kind Barack now has.

The pretty is gone.  From his face, from his words.

What's left?

"In the long, twilight struggle against Communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security."

Yes, just the paranoia.  He's like Nixon in his final days at the White House, sitting naked in a chair, drunk on scotch, flicking his cigar ashes on the carpet.

"The long twilight struggle against Communism"?  He's swallowed every bit of Red Scare propaganda there ever was and then wants to spit it into America's face.

Six flags behind him and we thought of the significance of the number in the I-Ching and hexagram six -- how internal cunning can result in external determination -- and how that seemed to sum up the mixture of the face Barack now wore.

Six flags behind him and we thought of the Tarot's Six of Cups where distractions prevent harmony.  But we also remembered there are six realms of Existence in Buddhism and how, in Hinduism, the number six represents the mind.  We thought about the Six Arts of China's Zhou Dynasty (rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy and mathematics) and the Guggenheim's historic 1963 exhibit Six Painters and the Object (Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol).  Maybe we had missed something?

The only thing we'd missed was how desperate we were to demonstrate that our liberal arts education hadn't been for naught -- and in that moment we grasped what had led all the goofballs to insist from 2009 to 2011 that Barack was playing three dimensional chess when he so obviously couldn't even handle checker.

But as we rewatched the speech and Barack and the six flags, we mainly thought of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and the SkyScreamer which seems to offer so much thrill as you wait for your turn on the ride but which is honestly rather mundane, dull and predictable -- just like Barack and his speech.


Jim: It's roundtable time.  We're going to cover Lynne Stewart, Iraq, the media and a few other things probably.  This will be a more relaxed roundtable and if something pops up, will explore that topic. Remember our new e-mail address is Please note that is a change. Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't):  Longtime reader William writes that Lynne Stewart is free and we haven't noted it.

Ty: We have covered Lynne Stewart more here than anyone except an Oval Office occupant.  Seriously, Lynne has always been covered at this site.  We picked her as "2013 Person of the Year" and did so right before her release.  And January 5th, we carried "Lynne Stewart freed (Dolores Cox, Workers World)."  Obviously, we're happy for her and wish her the best.

Jim: And the pick for person of the year was by all of us, we all felt she was person of the year and that we needed to make her that to show our support.  But that piece was largely C.I. and she was already getting sick then.

C.I.: I'll cop to that.  It's more than a cold, it's less than a flu.  And it lingers.  I'm still coughing up phlegm -- it's like being a heavy smoker. Ava's got it still too.

Ava: And it's also fever for both of us and I also have a runny nose.  I'm very glad my daughter hasn't caught it.

C.I.: But, as Mike has noted, at its worst, you really can't think.  You just sort of drift away.  I had that for at least eight days.  It was very hard to write anything at The Common Ills or dictate the snapshots.  Speaking only for me, I wasn't able to write anything else on Lynne.  I'm very happy that she's out, she needs to be.  I'm very hopeful that she'll get solid medical treatment.  But I'm very sad about the time that was taken from her, I'm very sad that the cancer's returned.  When we wrote the person of the year piece, I could barely stay awake, I was so sick.

Jim: And I kept demanding that she stay up and focus. C.I.'s the one who came up with the angle about the love story, by the way. The editorial's are often conversations, with Dona or someone writing down key sentences.  This is in the editorial:

And it really was one of the great romantic stories of the left.  Lynne, an Anglo White woman, and Ralph, an African-American man, meet in the mid-60s, at a Harlem school, fall in love and make a life and family together.

Jim (Con't): That was from the conversation.  And it was part of what Dona put in her notes and when we read the notes after to figure out our editorial, that stood out.

Dona: Honestly, too often the editorial 'conversation' is C.I. and Jim with Jim basically boring down on C.I. to come up with something different.

Jim: Because we have covered Lynne so much, as Ty noted.  And to do it in another piece, especially if we were going to name her person of the year, we needed to write about her in a different way to make the piece fresh.

Dona: And we did.  And we even used an opening that Ava and C.I. had written for another piece that we scrapped.  I don't even remember the topic now of that piece but the whole Miley Ray Cyrus, Curiosity, Ed Snowden opening was written by Ava and C.I. for another piece for the edition.  Ava, do you remember what it was on?

Ava: No.  C.I. and I were doing shots of Robitussin -- we were on our second bottle probably -- we consumed three each during that edition, that I do remember.  And we had no idea what we were writing.  I think the piece that came from was a piece that maybe one more paragraph to it before we sort of zoned out and gave up on it.

Rebecca: Can we talk about this flu-cold?  I ask because I keep getting e-mails about it.  In Colorado, for example, I have two readers who've had it and they have had it now for about a month.

Jim: Sure, it's supposed to be all over the country.  Trina, you didn't have it but your husband did.

Trina: Right.  I got a flu shot.  I think that's really the only way to avoid it.  Ava and C.I. usually get flu shots but were in DC for hearings so much that they weren't in California and kept forgetting to get their shots.  My husband probably passed it on to Elaine and Mike's daughter, my granddaughter, and that's where C.I. and Ava caught it.  My husband's still coughing at night, by the way.  The fever's gone, the runny nose, the being wiped out and just sleeping all day, all that's gone.  But he's still coughing at night.  One thing that's helping there is Vic's Vapo Rub.  He puts some on his chest and some on the bottom of his nose.  This keeps the coughing from being so bad it wakes him up.

Jim: But you?

Trina: Oh, yes, it wakes me up.  But that's fine.  I just go back to sleep.

Jim: Mike, you caught it.

Mike: I did.  I had a very mild case in that it probably lasted 36 hours if that.  But, at the worst of it, I couldn't even blog.  It was a Thursday night and I didn't do a post.  And I didn't do a make up post which I've done before when life's been too hectic to do a post.  I couldn't.  All Thursday through Friday evening, I just was a blur.  And I had even gotten on my laptop and was just staring and Elaine finally suggested I just forget blogging for the night.  Which I did.  But I don't know how C.I. did it.  She had it so much worse and she had to deal with multiple sources, multiple links in those snapshots, big ideas, big themes, broad vistas, so much more than I ever do at my site.  That night, for example, when I couldn't blog, I was supposed to be blogging about the TV show Elementary that I had just watched.  I couldn't get my brain to focus. That's the weird thing, you just sort of stare a lot.

Jim: Betty, you got it too.

Betty: Yeah.  And like Mike said, you just stare a lot. "I'm going to turn off the TV," you think to yourself, looking at the remote in arm's length.  But 20 minutes later, you suddenly realize you still haven't turned off the TV.  Like C.I., I couldn't eat.  Ava didn't have that problem, but for me everything tasted bitter, even chocolate and cotton candy -- my oldest son got me some cotton candy thinking that wouldn't taste bitter.  Even it did.  And thank God he could tell because otherwise I would've eaten the whole thing just to be nice.  I probably slept 19 hours for three days in a row.  Cold medicine was not helping me.  C.I.'s house keeper very kindly brought me chicken broth to drink -- I couldn't even stand noodles in chicken noodle soup, they were too bitter tasting to me.  And she insisted I take two calcium, magnesium and zinc combo pills every time she caught me awake.

Jim: Trina, can I come back to you for a moment.  You called out, early on, a local TV personality in your area for dismissing the sun.

Trina: Right.  This cold-flu, whatever it is, that some people have died from this year, is serious and in my area, Boston, we had this idiot go on TV and say that we'd have a little bit of brightness and sun and then he went on to say that this didn't matter and people get colds in tropical areas and blah blah blah.  The sun does matter.   If you've got sunshine, get out in it for at least 20 minutes.  At least.  It's the best source of vitamin D there is.  And vitamin D will help you get better.  I don't know about the other two but zinc is good to combat a cold as well.  And the chicken broth -- either by itself or in a chicken based soup -- will break up the phlegm in the chest from a cold so that's good as well.

Jim: Jess, you also caught it.

Jess: I was out with it for two weeks.  I couldn't and can't believe it.  I consider myself a healthy person.  I don't eat meat, I run six days a week, I lift weights three times a week.  But for two weeks, I basically only got out of bed to use the bathroom.  And I'd be standing at the toilet, urinating, and thank goodness that's something automatic because I was so out of it that it'd be like I took a little nap or something when I started peeing and suddenly woke up.  It really does a number on you, like Mike was saying.  And I'll be honest, it also depresses you, it makes you feel like dying, are like you are dying.  There were times in those two weeks that I honestly thought I was going to die.  I'm not joking.

Jim: It's weird though because not everyone gets it.  Trina's husband got it but no one else in the house did -- that would be Trina, Mike's oldest brother and his daughter.  Her granddaughter did and so did Mike but Elaine didn't. Jess and Ava both got it but their daughter didn't.  Now in Trina's case, she had a flu shot.  In Betty's case, her three kids had a flu shot but Betty didn't.  Dona and I live with Ava and Jess and we didn't get -- and our kid didn't get -- sick.  But Dona and I didn't have the flu shot.

Elaine: I would offer up that it seemed to be those who were weakened.  C.I., for example, was extended far beyond anyone's idea of reasonable limitations.  She was exhausted when she was exposed.  I think Ava was as well.  I know Mike's father was because he was on the go with last minute Christmas shopping, with family repairs -- his parents and Trina's parents both had home projects right at Christmas -- and Betty's been working like a dog since before the Thanksgiving break.  Jess, I'm sorry, I don't know your schedule.  Were you getting enough rest?

Jess:  No.  I think your point's well taken.  I'd also point out that Betty and I are fully recovered now but Ava and C.I. aren't.  That may be because Betty and I took to our beds and stayed there until we were better.  Ava and C.I. had to do speaking things and I remember telling C.I. she was too sick to be going back to DC but she said Petraeus --

C.I.: Ray Odierno.

Jess: Sorry, Ray Odierno.  She said Odierno was speaking the next day, a Tuesday, and that the press would get his remarks wrong.  She was there, the snapshot has his remarks and, yes, the press did get it wrong.  But I think she should have stayed home and stayed in bed to get better.  My opinion.  But I also understand her point, Odierno's remarks needed to be noted.  And, as she suspected, he places the blame for the current crises in Iraq on Nouri and specifically on the 2010 events.

Betty: And that is important, to get the record right.  C.I.'s been a lone voice calling out the US government for imposing a second term of Nouri as prime minister on Iraq.  They did that via The Erbil Agreement which they got the heads of the political blocs to sign and which Nouri used long enough to get his second term and then promptly disregarded it.  Odierno was the only one, ahead of the 2010 elections, in the US government that saw Nouri not winning the elections and then refusing to step down -- which is exactly what happened.  So, yes, we all want a full strength, healthy C.I. But I completely understand and respect why she went to DC for that.

Marcia: I agree.  And on the topic of The Erbil Agreement, my grandmother -- this is the one Stan and I share, we're cousins -- was at the beauty parlor last Wednesday and Iraq came up, the violence that's getting attention right now even from US TV news, and she was able to explain to them about The Erbil Agreement, how Nouri lost the 2010 elections and the White House brokered this legal contract that gave Nouri a second term in exchange for various concessions from him to the other political bloc and how Nouri used it to get his second term but then said implementing the contract would have to wait and how, by the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya were all calling for it to be implemented.  But this power-sharing agreement was never implemented.  And this is what the various crises today stem from.  She said everyone was so impressed with her knowledge and they said she must watch the news twenty hours each day to which she replied, she just reads her grandkids' websites and The Common Ills.

Stan: Yeah, I heard about that too. Only, I heard it from your mother and had to call our grandmother to get her to tell me the story.  The Erbil Agreement is so important and so many people in the US don't know about it.  They don't know that when Parliament finally held its session in November 2010 naming the president and the prime minister-designate, Nouri then announced that the contract would have to wait and Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, walked out and Barack Obama gets him on the phone and asks him to please return to Parliament.  Because this is all a big, fake photo-op for the US.

Jim: Why don't people know about The Erbil Agreement?  We'll be guessing here, I know, but this was November 2010, the US still had large numbers of troops in the country, there was still limited American media coverage of Iraq.  Why don't people know?

Ruth: Well go to the snapshots for that time period.  What you will notice -- what I have noticed when I pull them up now -- is that really The Guardian newspaper out of England did a better job than anyone.  After that, you have Reuters which is an international newswire service.  But American outlets really were not interested in covering The Erbil Agreement.

Jim: Because?

Ann: Because it reveals what a fraud the US government is.  I mean think about what was done there with that contract.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  Allawi should be prime minister today.  Why isn't he?  Because Nouri refused to step down.  Can you imagine the outrage in January 2009 if Bush had said he wasn't leaving the White House?  That's what Nouri did.  And the US government backed him on that. He brought the country to a stand still for over 8 months.  Parliament wasn't meeting.  Nothing was happening.  And the White House backed him throughout this.  Then, to make it worse, they negotiate a contract that gives this loser a second term.  Of course the US media didn't cover it.

Wally: Right because it's so revealing.  The government lies that they're bringing democracy to Iraq but, in 2010, they don't like the way the Iraqi people voted so Barack pisses on democracy.  It's brand new to Iraq, this idea that citizens are in charge.  And Barack pisses on that notion, says forget who you wanted to lead the country, I want Nouri so he's going to lead.  Why even have elections if the US government's going to overrule you?  Of course the US media didn't cover The Erbil Agreement.  That contract goes against democracy, against everything we supposedly stand for as a country.

Isaiah: Yeah, but -- I agree with what Wally and Ann and Ruth are saying -- but if Bully Boy Bush had been in the White House in 2010, the media would have crucified him for this.  Certainly, The Progressive and The Nation would have gone to town on him.  But since it was Barack, everyone looked the other way.

Cedric: Can -- I'm sorry, Isaiah, were you done?

Isaiah: Yeah, it's fine.

Cedric: I think, and this is point Jim and C.I. have both made for years but one I'm finally starting to grasp, that Bully Boy Bush became an embarrassment to the country and so the media turned on him.  That's big media, small media, all of them out to get him.  And good, I don't care for Bully Boy Bush.  But they weren't upset about illegal wars.  They weren't upset about spying or Guantanamo.  They were upset that he was such a buffoon, he basically fell down and embarrassed himself and the actions.  So they get behind smooth talker Barack and they don't care about anything but helping him sell imperialism.  They don't care about anything.  And there real problem with Bully Boy Bush was that he became a lousy salesperson for empire.  If he'd been able to move more cars off the lot, they would have kept him and kept fluffing for him.

Isaiah: I think that's a really strong point.  The Nation and The Progressive should be leading the way right now but they're not able to.  Why?  Because Barack's a Democrat?  Maybe.  Or maybe it's because, for all of their pretense during the Bully Boy Bush years, they're okay with empire -- especially when it's a Democrat leading it.

Kat: Yes.  That's really the case.  I mean, let's remember, The Nation had an expose on Senator Dianne Feinstein and they killed it. She's helping her husband get rich and abusing her position but The Nation kills the piece.  They're not about reporting.  They're not about issues.  They're about pimping empire but from the Democratic Party side.  The magazine has never been as bad as it is today.  And it's been plenty bad before.  I can remember Naomi Klein, when she still had bravery, talking about how when she wrote about what James Baker was doing in Iraq, the magazine really didn't want to know about what Madeline Albright was doing -- both were involved.  The Nation is more than okay with empire when carried out by Dems.

Jim: And The Progressive?

Rebecca: It's Salon dumbed down even further.

Jim:  I believe that's where the reader says, "Snap!"  And on that note we'll wind down the roundtable. Again, this is a rush transcript.

Nostalgia and other lies of the past (Ava and C.I.)

A lot of people tell lies.  For example, there's the woman who did her notorious kiss-off to a magazine in 1986 and got on a soapbox when the actual reality was she felt her movie wasn't promoted 'enough' by the magazine and that's why she wrote her ridiculous letter.  (And, yes, it was ridiculous.)  Then there are the people who are Larry Hagman freaks and rush to insist that he was not mean or homophobic to Dack Rambo.  But he was.  And these idiots also seem to mistakenly believe that Hagman and Rambo met when Rambo joined the cast of Dallas in 1985.  No.  The two met seven years before when Hagman guest starred on the pilot of Dack Rambo's Sword of Justice.  Hagman didn't feel he was properly courted and fawned over -- he was especially upset that the crew paid more attention to June Lockhart (also guesting in the episode) and that a 20-year-old actor just starting out, Lorenzo Lamas, had established himself in the 'regular guy' role on the set that Hagman usually cast himself in. He also made cutting remarks about another guest star for the episode, Cristina Ferrare (then Cristina Ferrare DeLorean).Rambo, of course, was the star and Hagman  And the conflict began there for Hagman who never met a grduge he couldn't stop nursing. And, yes, he and others on the set of Dallas openly baited Rambo with homophobia.

And then there's Bob Somerby, the media critic who doesn't seem to grasp the difference between reporting and a TV talk show.

Worst of all, he's glorifying a past that wasn't that glorious -- the days of Cronkite and Huntley. This was covered in the January 3rd "Iraq snapshot" and that snapshot also included this 1992 quote from Hillary Clinton:

None of these women need lectures from Washington about values.  They don't need to hear about an idealized world that never was as righteous or carefree as some would like us to think.

But for those who don't get how wrong Bob Somerby is about the 'need to return to days of yore'?

Judith Hennessee's  "Some News Is Good News" appeared in the July 1974 issue of Ms. magazine.  CBS had 4 women correspondents, as did ABC and NBC (the photo above is from the Ms. magazine story).  This did not mean they were used regularly.  At CBS, for example, three of the women were covering DC and Sylvia Chase was stationed out of New York.  Being stationed out of New York meant Chase was used far less.  At CBS, Hennessee observed, "it's an event whenever any of the three women in the Washington Bureau -- Mayra McLaughlign, Connie Chung and Lesley Stahl -- appears on the screen."

That's what Bob Somerby wants the country to return to.

Nostalgia can be a sickness.  In Somerby's case, it certainly is.

Tweet of the week

  • From The TESR Test Kitchen

    After shoddy labor relations, Hostess went under.  It was liquidated in 2012 and that was the end of Ding Dongs, Twinkies and more.  Under new owners (Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos and Company), the Hostess snack cakes returned to supermarket shelves last summer.  Hostess Brands brought back Twinkies, Cup Cakes, Zingers, Donettes, Suzy Q's, Mini Muffins, Ho Hos, Sno Balls, Cofee Cakes, Fruit Pies, Jumbo Honey Bun, Cinnamon Roll and, yes, the Ding Dongs.

    Ding Dongs are part of America's cultural heritage -- so important, they even pop up in the movie Can't Stop The Music when Steve Guttenberg tells Valerie Perrine, "Anyone who could swallow two Sno Balls and a Ding Dong shouldn't have any trouble with pride."  They also happen to be our favorite Hostess snack cake.

    The first thing you'll notice -- we spotlighted in in the photo above -- the Ding Dongs are no longer wrapped in foil.  Instead, each one is in a plastic sleeve.

    Wrapping each Ding Dong in aluminum foil probably wasn't good for the environment.

    Was it good for the taste?

    We're not sure.

    We think the cakes taste fresher now.

    We also think they're being made a little lighter.  To be clear, the most recent any of us can remember eating a Ding Dong before the research for this test kitchen was 2009.  But we all remember the cake -- and especially the chocolate icing -- being thicker than on the current batch.

    Each box contains 12 Ding Dongs.  That's how it's been since 1967 when the snack cakes first emerged. Today's box if 15.3 ounces; however, before Hostess went out of business in 2012, the boxes had always contained 17 ounces.

    The 1.7 ounce difference in the 12 Ding Dongs is noticeable.

    As a snack cake, we'd rate it an 8 out of 10.

    But as a Ding Dong, we'd rate it a 4 out of 10.

    The box tells you it's "THE SWEETEST COMEBACK IN THE HISTORY OF EVER."  The box lies.

    You can still save the internet

    Friday, US President Barack Obama declared,  "As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control."  What world does he live in?

    On the one we call earth, the country was already reeling from a court decision.  Thomas Gaist (WSWS) reported: :

    The Washington, DC Circuit federal Court of Appeals ruled 2-to-1 Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2010 Open Internet (OI) regulations were based on a wrong legal argument and are void.
    The ruling represents a significant blow against “net neutrality.” Net neutrality principles forbid discrimination by Internet Service Providers (ISP) against their clients. Essentially, net neutrality asserts that the Internet is an example of “common carriage,” a legal concept which protects the right of the public to access basic services and infrastructure. The common carriage concept, which has existed for centuries, was developed to prevent companies that operate railroads, ferries, airplanes, telecommunications networks and other universally necessary infrastructures from giving privileged access to certain types of customers.
    The regulations, declared legally invalid by Tuesday’s ruling, required Internet service providers to disclose information about “congestion management” practices on their systems. Centrally, the OI regulations prohibited the selective blocking or slowing of legal Internet content by the Internet providers, ensuring equal access to broadband for clients, and prohibited “unreasonable” discrimination against customers.

    Brad Reed (Information Clearing House) insisted of the ruling,  "Any semblance of net neutrality in the United States is as good as dead. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 order that imposed network neutrality regulations on wireline broadband services. The ruling is a major victory for telecom and cable companies who have fought all net neutrality restrictions vociferously for years."

    It's a bad ruling, to be sure.  But we hope the people can still fight back.

    Save The Internet isn't going down without a fight:

    Bad news: Three judges just dealt a huge blow to the open Internet.
    Their ruling means that companies like Verizon can now block or slow down any website, application or service they like. And they’ll be able to create tiered pricing structures with fast lanes for those who can afford the tolls — and slow lanes for everyone else.
    Tell the FCC to do everything in its power to fight back.

    And click here for the take action form where you can put in your name, your e-mail and your zip code and let the FCC know how displeased you are with the decision.

    True four decades ago, true today

    If the Committee's recent experience is any test, intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond lawmaker's scrutiny.

    -- The Pike Committee report, quoted in Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers," February 16, 1976, The Village Voice.

    Some things don't go as planned

    Meeting seeks justice for Iraq (John Catalinotto)

    Repost from Workers World:

    Meeting seeks justice for Iraq

    By on January 18, 2014

    An increase in deaths in Iraq from internal fighting and bombing doubled in 2013 from a year earlier, reaching levels unseen since 2008. In early January, the Nouri al-Maliki regime launched an attack on demonstrators in Falluja and Ramadi, using the alleged presence of al-Qaida as a pretext and asking for U.S. military aid.

    It is more than appropriate now for those who opposed the 2003 invasion to fight for reparation payments from the war criminals who invaded and occupied Iraq. The following notice from the Bertrand Russell Tribunal explains what is being done to accomplish this. In the U.S., the International Action Center is supporting this effort, as are others.

    “The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a nongovernmental organization having consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, will hold its 18th Congress in Brussels, Belgium, April 15-19, 2014. This Congress will be the number one meeting, networking and exchange opportunity for hundreds of legal activists throughout the world.

    “Two days of this Congress will be dedicated to several commissions on topics and themes in which legal activists worldwide are involved. In partnership with IADL the BRussells Tribunal will organize a commission on April 16-17 about ‘Accountability and Justice for Iraq.’

    “The aggression against Iraq, launched by the ‘Coalition of the Willing,’ under the command of the U.S. and Britain, was not just immoral, it was properly illegal and fits the Nuremberg definition of a Crime against Peace. Such a war should have its legal consequences for the aggressors and rights for the victims under international law.

    “To date, no official has been brought to justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and for waging a war of aggression, the supreme international crime. We have to change that equation. All those who are responsible for the invasion of Iraq should be held accountable for the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, its economic and social structures, its historical past and its health and education.

    “Reasonable legal experts should work towards the goal of making reparations to the Iraqi people, who have been so deeply affected by this war and its aftermath and they should bring the perpetrators to justice.”

    Developing a ‘roadmap’ for justice

    “The BRussells Tribunal intends to bring together international legal experts and activists who will explore the possibilities for legal actions against those responsible for the war of aggression against Iraq. Participants will also share their experiences about past and present legal procedures and will discuss the different forms of legal action.

    “In participation with the International Anti-Occupation Network (IAON), the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War, the Geneva International Center for Justice and other humanitarian organizations, we will try to develop a legal roadmap that can be used by law professionals and activists worldwide.

    “The Coalition’s military operations, including massive attacks on cities like Falluja, and the counter-insurgency policy, led to substantially increased mortality and massive displacement, affecting millions of people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or maimed, families have been destroyed, displaced, and forced into refugee status all over the world. Iraq’s education system has been destroyed and its society deconstructed.

    “The sectarian political process, organized by the occupying powers, has created a failed state characterized by the complete collapse of all public services, and systematic violations of all aspects of human rights, including the right to life. The U.S. deliberately provoked various factions in Iraqi society in order to divide and rule the country. An ancient, deeply rooted culture has been destroyed, brutalized, thrown into chaos.

    “People’s tribunals, citizens’ arrests and other forms of activism may represent the conscience of the world community and should be deemed necessary in the absence of implementation of international law, but that’s not enough.

    “Legal action is essential and can take many forms: universal jurisdiction, defending Iraqi victims in court, seeking arrest warrants when former U.S. politicians want to travel outside the U.S., etc.

    “We cordially invite you to join us in Brussels in April. If we want to restore the respect for international law; if we want international law to be enforceable; if we want to ensure the legal rights of the victims of illegal aggressions, Iraq should be high on the agenda of lawyers and human rights organizations.”

    Contact: Follow this event on facebook:

    Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

    Michigan Greens Oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership

    The Green Party of Michigan opposes the under-covered new trade treaty.

    Ecological Wisdom      *  Social Justice
    Grassroots Democracy  *  Non-Violence

    Green Party of Michigan

    **  News Release  **
    **  ------------  **
      January 15, 2014

    For More Information, Contact:
    John Anthony La Pietra, GPMI Platform Committee Chair
        (269) 781-9478

    Michigan Greens Oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
    GPMI Urges All Michigan Voters to Contact Members of Congress
    to Oppose "Fast-Track" Authority for Secretive Trade Treaty

    Leaks Provide Only Public Glimpses So Far at "NAFTA on Steroids"

        The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) has unanimously adopted a
    resolution opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty -- and an
    urgent position against "fast-track" authority for the United States
    Trade Representative (USTR), to protect the public's chance to find out
    about and openly debate the secretive trade treaty.

        GPMI urges all Greens and all voters in Michigan to call on their
    US Senators and Congresspeople to vote "no" on fast-track for TPP.  That
    procedural maneuver, promoted by Rep. Dave Camp (R, MI-04) among others,
    has been re-branded as "Trade Promotion Authority".  But just as it
    greased the skids for NAFTA, fast-track for TPP would still block all
    amendments, limit Congress's oversight, and make it harder for the
    people to hold their members of Congress accountable.

        It is particularly hard to have a real debate about the contents of
    TPP when they have been so aggressively kept secret.  Negotiations have
    been held in increasingly secret sessions for years -- but the only
    texts publicly available are leaked drafts.  WikiLeaks revealed the
    draft chapter on intellectual property in November, and the
    environmental chapter just today.

        "The worst thing we know for sure about TPP," notes GPMI vice chair
    Art Myatt, "is that the provisions have been negotiated in secret and
    the terms are still kept secret.  When the terms are actually revealed,
    then we'll know the actual worst.

        "The immediate action we can take -- feeble though it may be -- is
    to urge our 'representatives' in Congress to deny fast-track authority.
      They should take whatever time and effort is necessary to make all the
    currently secret clauses public -- and so should we.  I suspect this
    treaty is worse than NAFTA, and I would very much like to know the
    details the 1% want to keep secret until it is too late for us to object."

        Leaked proposals include allowing corporations to sue to override
    national, state, or local laws and regulations in the US and eleven
    other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean.  Protections for the
    environment, food safety, and people's rights could be wiped out as
    "barriers to free trade" -- or, more honestly, limits on unrestrained
    corporate profits.  This is what has led some analysts to dub TPP "NAFTA
    on steroids".

        Linda Cree, an Upper Peninsula member of GPMI, feels that President
    Obama is attempting to keep the TPP secret and fast-track it because he
    knows people will be very opposed once they realize what the TPP is
    attempting to do.

        "From what we've learned, the TPP will consolidate even more power
    in the hands of corporations, and tie the hands of citizens.  It will
    greatly increase the difficulty of protecting ourselves from GMO foods,
    environmental degradation, and any other abuse that will increase
    profits for corporations.  It's incredible that our Congress should go
    along with this effort in any way."

        "It would set up international tribunals to allow corporations to
    challenge any laws they took exception to, and even to file pre-emptive
    lawsuits against possible proposed legislation -- such as legislation
    banning fracking!  If ratified, the TPP would make it impossible to
    protect labor, food safety, or environmental standards in the twelve
    nations involved."

        Adds Aimee Cree Dunn, GPMI member and Upper Peninsula resident:
    "'Free' trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT, and the rules
    promulgated by 'free' trade organizations such as the World Trade
    Organization (WTO), have undercut the sovereignty of local governments
    and economies around the world.

        "They penalize countries for favoring local products over foreign
    imports, for enforcing environmental and labor regulations, for banning
    dangerous foods such as genetically modified meat, and more.  They also
    undermine the health of local economies, non-corporate farmers and
    businesses, and -- through the expansion of industrial projects such as
    mines and oil drilling -- the very land upon which we depend for survival."

        Dunn continues, "The TPP is rumored to have even greater reach and
    impact than NAFTA or GATT.  But Obama has not informed the US citizenry
    about what exactly is in the TPP and who is party to it.  Not only has
    the agreement been hammered out by the Obama Administration in secret,
    Obama plans to fast-track the deal *without* informing American citizens.

        "Secrecy leads to tyranny.  It is not a trait conducive to
    democracy.  Americans need to, at the least, demand that the full
    details of the TPP be made public.  Without an informed citizenry, we
    have no democracy."

        John Anthony La Pietra, GPMI's Platform Committee chair, agrees –-
    and adds that the Obama administration initiated negotiations with the
    EU a year ago for the equally secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment
    Partnership.  "If TPP sneaks through, TTIP will be next -- and the same
    anti-democratic, pro-corporate agenda will take over 60% of the
    worldwide economy.

        "A fair and open discussion of TPP is vital -- but transparency
    alone isn't enough.  We need a genuine chance to affect the result of
    the negotiations . . . to put people and the planet ahead of profits."

        For more information about TPP, visit the links given below.  For
    more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its values, and its
    candidates, visit:


        For GPMI's latest news, “like” the Green Party of Michigan US
    Facebook page and follow the party Twitter feed @MIGreenParty.

    #    #    #

    created/distributed using donated labor

    Green Party of Michigan
    PO Box 504
    Warren, MI  48090-0504

        GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental
    issues in Michigan politics.  Greens are organized
    in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Each
    state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its
    own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:

        Ecological Wisdom
        Grassroots Democracy
        Social Justice
        Community Economics
        Respect for Diversity
        Personal/Global Responsibility
        Future Focus/Sustainability

    For the latest news,
    “like” the Green Party of Michigan US Facebook page --
    and follow us at Twitter:  @MIGreenParty.


    Selected Links for More Information
    About the Trans-Pacific Partnership
    (TPP) and Some of Its Secret Contents

    IFCO/Pastors for Peace resists IRS attacks (Workers World)

    Repost from Workers World:

    IFCO /Pastors for Peace resists IRS attacks

    By on January 18, 2014

    Once again the U.S. government is targeting the solidarity movement with harassment in an attempt to silence the progressive movement in this country.

    IFCO (the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization)/Pastors for Peace says it has become the victim of “political persecution and an aggressive harassment campaign by the IRS.” At the root of this recent attack, according to government documents, is IFCO’s work with Viva Palestina.

    A faith-based, social justice agency, IFCO/Pastors for Peace was founded over 40 years ago and was the first national foundation, they proudly declare, founded and controlled by people of color. It has carried out some of the most groundbreaking and historic campaigns in solidarity with Cuba and has been a leader of principled actions that defy U.S. policy in bold and even heroic ways.

    The co-directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Gail Walker and Father Luis Barrios, issued a statement Jan. 6 on behalf of the organization alerting the progressive movement to a two-plus-year campaign by the Internal Revenue Service against IFCO.

    This campaign has resulted in an attempt by the IRS to strip IFCO of its tax-exempt, nonprofit organizational status, commonly known as 501(c)(3). Hundreds if not thousands of social organizations in the U.S. use this status in order to raise badly needed funds and to save on costly government taxes.

    If the government is successful in stripping IFCO of this status, it could be a blow to other organizations, too — such as those fighting for immigrant rights and the rights of the homeless, the poor, youth and countless other populations who depend on these organizations for services and survival.

    It would send a chilling message to any organization and progressive movement that it could easily be targeted for harassment. But IFCO’s response to this harassment is another example that the movement will not be silenced and will fight back.

    Muslim bashers behind IRS audit

    IFCO representatives explain that the IRS audit was put into motion because of requests by Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, and Sue Myrick, a retired Republican congressperson from North Carolina, in a rare show of bipartisan unity. They wrote to the commissioner of the IRS, the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury alleging that IFCO “may be raising funds for Hamas.” Hamas is a Palestinian organization with broad grassroots support, especially in Gaza where it is the elected authority, but it has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S.

    Former Rep. Myrick is an extreme conservative. According to the Charlotte Observer, upon her resignation from office last year, “Myrick may be best remembered for her outspokenness on illegal immigration and terrorism. Her supporters were plentiful … repeatedly casting their ballots to keep her in office. Her critics accused her of fomenting hate against immigrant and Muslim communities. She penned the forward [sic] to a book — ‘Muslim Mafia’ — whose researchers called Islam a disease. Citing the book, she joined other Republicans in 2009 calling for an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a pro-Islam nonprofit, accusing it of planting ‘spies’ within national-security committees to shape legislative policy.
    “Said Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, ‘I honestly believe that she really thinks there is a conspiracy behind almost any Muslim in public life. That’s what her legacy will be. Someone who promoted Islam-o-phobia and thinks there is a conspiracy behind every Muslim in public life.’” (Dec. 29, 2012)

    In response to IRS charges, IFCO states, “This is a blatantly false allegation. IFCO is being persecuted because in 2009 we agreed to serve as a fiscal sponsor to the U.S. component of the project Viva Palestina. Viva Palestina is a ­British-based charity organization that provides food, medicine and essential goods and services needed by the civilian population [of the occupied Palestinian Territories], and that highlights the causes and results of wars with a view to achieving peace.”

    Solidarity is not ‘terrorism’

    Viva Palestina is an international solidarity campaign that brought material aid to Palestine in defiance of sanctions, blockades and other acts of war against the oppressed Palestinian people. It helped organize the delivery of $1 million in food, medicine and essential supplies to the Palestinian people, accompanied by such prominent figures as author Alice Walker, New York City Councilperson Charles Barron, British Member of Parliament George Galloway, former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and many others, during some of Israel’s fiercest attacks on Gaza.

    Co-directors Walker and Barrios add that the IRS is also attacking IFCO’s decades of solidarity work with Cuba. As the government escalated its years-long harassment with these recent charges, IFCO/Pastors for Peace and all the supporters and friends of IFCO immediately went into motion to challenge and resist this attack.

    Countless groups and individuals called IFCO, Walker reports, to show solidarity and ask how they could help. An email campaign asking people to carry out solidarity tore up the Internet with phone calls and emails to the government.

    A legal challenge is of course part of the response. The IFCO Appeal, according to Walker and Barrios, “eloquently described work we have historically done to advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination. The Appeal proves that the projects we support and operate have faithfully furthered our mission and our organization’s tax-exempt purpose.”

    The appeal also points out that the Viva Palestina project “was not designed to nor did it in fact support any terrorist group but was designed to provide ambulances and medical supplies to the people living in Gaza who had been suffering from the lack of such humanitarian supplies and equipment.”

    Against blockade and ban
    on travel to Cuba

    In addition, IFCO/Pastors for Peace has for decades organized caravans filled with aid to Nicaragua and other places in Central America.

    Because of entrenched animosity to the Cuban Revolution by U.S. imperialism, unlicensed travel and aid to Cuba, as well as spending U.S. dollars there, are all forbidden by the 50-plus-year blockade against that country.

    But IFCO/Pastors for Peace decided heroically in the early 1990s to defy that ban because it is wrong. It not only took forbidden aid to Cuba through the U.S./Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, but refused to apply for any kind of license. And upon reentry to the U.S, the caravans and the Venceremos Brigade openly and publicly declare they have traveled to Cuba.

    Each year ever since, dozens of cars, buses, vans and even trucks filled with all kinds of vital aid have made their way across the U.S., stopping in cities where forums, rallies and meetings explain what kind of country Cuba really is.

    These caravans are groundbreaking, and will be part of the progressive and revolutionary history of the Cuban solidarity movement in this country.

    During the second caravan to Cuba in 1993, with tons of aid stowed on a little yellow school bus and other vehicles, Pastors for Peace refused to sign legal documents that justified the blockade of Cuba. The caravan was prevented from crossing the U.S.-Mexican border for many days.

    As a result, a hunger strike by dozens of the hundreds of participants began right there at the Texas-Mexico border and lasted for 23 days.

    This struggle made national news on one of the rare occasions that anything positive is said about Cuba. Time Magazine wrote that the government “blinked” in the confrontation with IFCO.

    The caravan and its aid were finally released, to the cheers of the hundreds of participants. This stalemate resulted in a victory not only for Pastors but for the millions in solidarity with Cuba ­worldwide.

    It was this example of defiant heroic solidarity that earned IFCO the wrath of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Indeed, Pastors for Peace has continued to refuse to go along with any laws that justify the economic and political war against Cuba.

    OFAC is the government entity that enforces the blockade of Cuba. It has attempted for over 20 years to harass IFCO, including with injunctions, but has failed.

    The progressive movement is confident that today’s attack against IFCO/Pastors for Peace will result in another victory for IFCO and all those struggling for a better world. The organization will prevail because, as IFCO points out, aren’t conditions such as 15 million children in the world dying of hunger each year and 50 million living in the United States without health insurance real acts of terrorism? These conditions are the basis for a real fightback against the right.

    IFCO writes, “We have no way of knowing how the IRS is going to respond to our Appeal, but we want you to know that as always, we are ready to fight; to defend and protect IFCO and its rich history. As we wage this battle we are counting on your support and participation in this vital campaign to defend ourselves and those that we support, against this brutal IRS attack.”

    Indeed IFCO/Pastors for Peace deserves the support and solidarity of everyone. Cuba and Palestine and all those in struggle deserve no less.

    For more information and to find out how to participate in the campaign to defend IFCO/Pastors for Peace, including making needed donations, visit or call the office at 212-926-5757.

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