Sunday, February 16, 2014

Truest statement of the week

In the United States, 9/11 spawned a major conflict between the imperatives of national security and the principles of the constitution’s First Amendment. This amendment enshrines every person’s right to inform and be informed. But the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundations during George W. Bush’s two terms as president by the way journalists were harassed and even imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources or surrender their files to federal judicial officials.
There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.
The whistleblower is the enemy. Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records. 

--  Reporters Without Borders, "World Press Freedom Index 2014."

Truest statement of the week II

Referring to the speech delivered by Obama last month announcing supposed “reforms” to the NSA’s operations, Hayden stated, “The president is essentially trading some restraint, some oversight, in order to keep on doing fundamentally what he has been doing.”
Put in the plainest terms: the government is employing some window-dressing to quell popular outrage over the NSA’s colossal ongoing violation of the Constitution and is also trying to ensure that leaks do not threaten the secret program’s legitimacy in the future. As the WSWS noted at the time, “the only measure that is likely to be enacted is a proposal to institute strict new vetting and security policies designed to prevent anyone from following in the footsteps of Edward Snowden.”

-- Gabriel Black, "Former NSA chief Hayden praises Obama for 'doubling down' on Bush-era spying" (WSWS).

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:

Reporters Without Borders earns a truest.
WSWS has had many truests but we believe this is Gabriel Black's first.

As awful as the current War Crimes are, even worse is the lack of attention from the western media and the silence from so-called 'leaders' on the left.
Ava and C.I. wrote two TV pieces this week.  Comcast and Time Warner Cable want to merge.  That would be a disaster.  Ava and C.I. walk you through what happened when The WB and UPN merged to form The CW -- less diversity in the programming and less programming period.
In our continuing series, we turn now to My Little Chickadee.  I (Jim) need to repeat something here.  You can suggest a film, that's fine.  But all of us participating?  We've got our own favorites we're trying to get to.  Some Like It Hot, Death Becomes Her, Dressed To Kill, 9 to 5, The Letter, The Player and LA Confidential were some of the titles we argued and debated over this edition before going with My Little Chickadee.  Here's where e-mails can help: One reason this ended up being the choice was because a number of you have e-mailed to express your dismay over the "lack" of black and white films.  I type "lack" because, while there had only been two before this week, there had only been 12 films covered in the series.  
Ava and C.I. look at The CW's struggling The Tomorrow People versus their hit The Originals.

Why did we ever fight bringing this back?  Elaine and Dona were right, it makes for an easy and quick piece and your e-mails keep noting how much you enjoy it.  E-mail address is 
This was a toughie but Liz Sly won for stating what no other reporter had the guts or wisdom to.
This may be a new feature.  How this came about was we were joking about the (false) rumors that Beyonce was having an affair with Barack.  Rebecca said it was too bad that Rona Barrett didn't have a DC magazine.  From there we created Rhonda Baritone -- a DC crossdresser.

So make sure you see it.
Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker.  
Press release from Senator Tom Udall's office.
Statement from the Writers Guild of America, West.

A new crowd sourcing effort.
Repost from Workers World.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: The silence that greets the War Crimes

Last Sunday's death toll brought the number of violent deaths in Iraq for the month of February to 269. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes the toll is 430.  That's 131 deaths.

And it doesn't include most of the deaths from Nouri al-Maliki's ongoing assault on Anbar Province.

Iraq's Prime Minister and chief thug has declared war on the province.  He claims there are 'terrorists' present.  In his mind, this justifies attacking a province.

But his mind is not very bright nor it is very legal.

Collective punishment?

It's a defined War Crime and has been recognized as such for decades.

The US government has recognized it as a War Crime for decades.

Yet Nouri gets away with it, gets away with shelling residential areas, destroying homes, wounding people and, yes, killing them.

Iraqi Spring MC notes the military's Friday bombings in Falluja killed Sheikh Khalil al-Qubaisi Nada.

  1. وفاة الشيخ خليل ندا الكبيسي متأثرا بجراحه التي اصيب بها جراء قصف قوات المالكي جامع الشيخ عبد الملك السعدي .

Iraqi Spring MC also reports the military's assault left  a woman in Falluja injured and she had to have her leg amputated as a result.

Yet the White House keeps supplying Iraq's tyrant with more weapons to use on the Iraqi people.

Last Monday, National Iraqi News Agency reported Falluja General Hospital was again shelled (by Iraqi military) and 1 person was killed with fourteen more left injured ("including a doctor and three nurses").  Tuesday?  NINA reported the military's mortar attack on Falluja Educational Hospital left one doctor injured.  Friday, NINA reported the Iraqi military bombed Falluja General Teaching Hospital doing substantial damage and this is "the third bombing of the hospital during the last 24" hours,

 Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported Wednesday that Nouri was announcing victory in his assault on Anbar.  Alsumaria reported Nouri stated the government will inventory all the damage his assault did to private and public property and pursue reconstruction.  He went on to note the public property included bridges, hospitals and . . .  Yes, he's even speaking publicly about his military attacking hospitals.

We've gone beyond just War Crimes to admitted War Crimes.

But the White House is silent.  The western press is silent.

The Iraqi press and the Iraqi people won't be bullied into silence.

NINA noted Iraqiya MP Leaq Wardi called out the War Crimes when Wardi declared, "The continuation of indiscriminate shelling and concentrated, the past few days, on the health institutions, especially the Falluja General Hospital, confirms the existence of a deliberate intention not to resolve the crisis, despite the announcement of continuous initiatives to solve the crisis."

But the White House and the State Department are silent.

Sadly, so are too many 'leaders.'  Where are they?  The little bitches and bastards who have no voice today now that Bully Boy Bush doesn't occupy the White House?

The little bitches and bastards who pretended to care about Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and 2007.

These are War Crimes.

The Iraqi people are suffering.

And the President of the United States enables and arms Nouri.

Where are the little bitches and bastards who played 'leaders' in United for Peace and Justice and  pretended to care about Iraq?  Or the lovelies of CodePink?

When the hell do these lazy asses intend to call out War Crimes?

TV: Mergers mean less diversity

Overblown business mergers rarely work out -- and, no, we're not talking about Kanye and Kim.


Last week brought news that two cable giants -- Comcast and Time Warner Cable -- had decided to merge.

We were only slightly surprised by the whoring of the mainstream press.  Only slightly.

After the sour effects of 'synergy' from the 90s, Time Warner should never be allowed to merge with anyone or thing.  Or have we all forgotten AOL Time Warner CNN HBO et al?

They dumped AOL and, in 2009, Time Warner Cable.  And now the government's going to let Time Warner Cable merge with its biggest competitor?

Warner got away with a merger a few years back.  UPN and The WB were two separate TV netlettes.  They didn't offer much programming other than prime time and couldn't seem to provide that seven nights a week.  But each had their followers.

UPN hit with the sitcoms Moesha, Girlfriends, The Parkers and Eve,  with the dramas Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek Enterprise and with the reality show America's Next Top Model.  The CW specialized in programming for tweens and their hits were Buffy The Vampire Slayer (for five years before moving to UPN for its final two seasons), Dawson's Creek, Charmed, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, Smallville and Supernatural.

At the start of 2006, it was announced The WB and UPN would be merging to form The CW.

This was thought to be a good thing.

The WB was airing the hits Charmed, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven and Supernatural and UPN was airing the hits America's Next Top Model,  Eve and, they hoped, Veronica Mars.  

There were enough sitcoms doing well (if not hits) on the two netlettes to have a comedy night.  There were five solid one-hour long dramas that, when Veronica Mars was added, gave them six hours.

A night of comedy and three nights to use the six hours of drama?  And UPN's wrestling could move to Saturdays or stay on Friday.  That was five nights worth of programming from two netlettes that only did six nights previously.  That meant they could fill the sixth night with new programming and get to work on a seventh night as well or maybe continue the UPN weekend movie.

The CW was going to be something to see.

But those hopes faded quickly.

The CW was going to keep Gilmore Girls (for only one season, it turned out) and Veronica Mars so they couldn't keep Charmed.  That's what they said.  The WB, they maintained, had failed because the network was identified with teen girls and Charmed starred three women (Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan).  Charmed delivered Sunday nights for The WB.  The Gilmore Girls was not a bad show but it was a glib show and those tend to fade.  It wasn't a surprise that The CW's first season would end with the cancellation of that show.  Nor was it a surprise that Veronica Mars -- which never found a sizable audience on UPN or CBS (yes, CBS broadcast an episode) -- was also unwanted on The CW.  (Next month, the film Veronica Mars opens -- it'll be interesting to see if they've learned anything about entertainment since their show was cancelled.)

None of that was surprising.

It also wasn't a surprise that, having refused to pick up Charmed, The CW lost Sunday nights.  Everything they tried failed -- each one a bigger failure than the one before.  And finally they gave up on Sundays.

Charmed had delivered and could have done so for five more seasons easily.  

Its final season average was 3.5 million.  

The next fall, when The CW unveiled their programming, they'd miss those numbers as Veronica Mars would churn out a 2.5 million season average, One Tree Hill would offer up 2.9 million season average, 7th Heaven would pull in 3.3 million and Supernatural would serve up 3.1 million.

The merger didn't serve the needs of the viewers.

The 'too many women' fear was also why  Eve wasn't being moved over to The CW. This despite an identical rank and audience share as Veronica Mars.  Eve also starred rapper Eve and was the only sitcom carried by an African-American actress.  (Girlfriends was an ensemble cast.)  That wasn't an issue worthy of championing for CBS and Warner Bros as they built The CW.

But it's an issue that matters.  In UPN's final season, they aired one reality program hosted by an African-American (Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model) and eight sitcoms with African-American casts.  Over on The WB that same season, there was nothing that starred an African-American or that featured an African-American cast.

UPN is dead and gone and, after a season or two, so are The CW's claims that the merger would lead to more diversity.

This season on The CW, Tyra returned to provide the network with a ratings hit (America's Next Top Model).  


Only The Originals can be seen to have any diversity.

Yes, there's Diggle on Arrow.  

David Ramsey does a great job but he does so in a bit part.

Stephen Amell is Arrow (Oliver Queen).  He's going to be the star.  We grasp that.

We just don't grasp why it seems like every other male actor on the show gets more to do than Diggle?

The bulk of the subplots go to the one-time gay model (to be clear: he modeled gay scenes for photography books and his management has apoplexies whenever those kissing and making out photos turn up briefly online) Colton Haynes.  

It's Haynes' Roy that's had two seasons of romance with Oliver Queen's sister.  It's Haynes that runs with Black Canary's repulsive sidekick. (The sidekick is every lame minor 'tough' female character in any bad 80s action movie.)  It's Haynes that can't keep his shirt on.  It's Haynes that gets the kissing scenes and the fighting scenes.  It's Haynes that gets to play a character with newly found super strength.

Where are Ramsey's love scenes?  Why isn't Diggle involved with Thea (Oliver's sister)?  Or Black Canary?  Or Laurel?  Or any regular -- female or male -- on the TV series?

And where are Ramsey's shirtless scenes?  

No, Diggle's little more than a butler and the creators really need to address that before they add yet another White Anglo actor to the cast. 

David Ramsey's a great actor.  He's just not used.  Except maybe as a token.

One reality show and eight sitcoms turned into one reality show and one drama (The Originals) where people of color (such as Shannon Kane, Daniella Pineda and Charles Michael Davis) portray characters who are as important on the show as their White Anglo counterparts.

The merger of UPN and The WB  into The CW destroyed diversity on TV.

That's not in question, that's not debatable.  

And the same will happen if Comcast and Time Warner Cable are allowed to merge.

The lie will be that consolidating the two cable providers will increase diversity.

But that's not what happens.  It's never what happens.

Going from two competitive cable providers to one would mean they'd look for 'new' channels to air.  The 'new' ones are going to be ones geared to and featuring White Anglo males.  As the bulk of the channels the two currently offer demonstrates.  Those not geared towards that segment of the population?  They're the ones that'll be culled in a: "Well we have ___ so we don't also need _____."

Times change.

We grasp that.

AT&T has, for example, prepared their telephone installation people for the expected reality that AT&T will be out of the landline phone business in a decade (and the employees will either need to find new jobs at the company or leave the company).

Good or bad, change happens.

And we're not opposed to change.

We are opposed to the lack of diversity that already exists and we're fully aware that mergers mean less competition, less choice and less diversity.

If you'd like to make your voice heard on the issue, The Free Press has an easy online forum you can use.

Film Classics of the 20th Century

 In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

movie montage

1940's My Little Chickadee is the only pairing of legendary comics Mae West and W.C. Fields. A box office hit of its day, the film remains a comedy classic.

The film opens with singer Flower Belle Lee on a train, en route to see family.  Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton of The Wizard of Oz fame) notices her and takes an immediate disliking. 

The two end up on a stagecoach which ends up robbed by a masked bandit.

Later, at her relatives, Flower Belle is visited by the masked bandit.

Mrs. Gideon, well played by Hamilton, is a sexually repressed figure whose actions make even more sense when you grasp she's looking for sex throughout the film.  This explains why, in the dead of night, she's walking through town and discovers the masked bandit climbing out of Flower Belle's bedroom window.  She immeditately calls it to the town's attention and a trial is held with Mrs. Gideon the star witness.

Flower Belle is run out of town and Mrs. Gideon decides to tag along.  They end up on another train and, shortly after, W.C. Fields's Twillie shows up on the railroad tracks with his Native American companion.

On the train, Mrs. Gideon immediately tries to charm Twillie.

But he has eyes for Flower Belle.

And she for him when she mistakes him for wealthy.

The two 'marry' on the train (Flower Belle knows the preacher isn't a preacher) and go on to the next town (with Mrs. Gideon following them) where Tillie will become sheriff.  

He will also attempt to sleep with his 'wife' but Flower Belle puts a goat in their bed and covers it before turning down the lights and leaving.  Emerging from a bath, Tillie will move towards the bed and, when the goat makes a cry, wonder what Flower Belle is trying to say.  "Maaawwwww Maaaaawwwwww!" cries the goat leading Tillie to think Flower Bell is calling for her mother.

While Tillie messes around with the goat, Flower Belle's meeting up with the masked bandit.

Tillie and the masked bandit aren't the only ones pursuing Flower Belle, there's also journalist Wayne Carter (Dick Foran).  

Wayne: Spring is the time for love.

Flower Belle: What's the matter with the rest of the year?

Along with the masked bandit, Tillie and Wayne Carter, there's also saloon owner Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia).  As Flower Belle observes, "Funny, every man I meet wants to protect me.  I can't figure out what from."

And the boys in the school house are also taking in Flower Belle.  Told they'd been working on arithmetic when the previous teacher became ill, Flower Bell informs them, "I was always pretty good at figures myself."

While Flower Belle's teaching the boys about Cleopatra, Mrs. Gideon shows up at the jail to flirt with Sheriff Tillie and give him a pie and some gossip.

Learning of the masked bandit's fascination with Flower Belle, Tillie decides to dress up as him, sneak through the window and steal some kisses from Flower Belle because, as he notes in the movie, "If a thing is worth having, it's worth cheating for."

One kiss and she knows it's not the masked bandit.  Lights on and she knows it's Tillie.  She sends him packing and, climbing back out the window, he's spotted by Mrs. Gideon who quickly begins screaming even before he's stepping on her face.

Her screams attract attention and Tillie attempts to run off but people are pursing him since he's dressed as the masked bandit.  In the jail, he quickly changes out of his costume but is seen doing so through the window and it is not assumed that the town sheriff is the masked bandit.

He's grabbed and, with Mrs. Gideon egging them on, the townspeople decide to grab Flower Belle as well so both end up in jail.

Film critic Pauline Kael once observed Fields was "a master of inflection" and West was one of innuendo.  Both had worked at Paramount in the thirties in successful films -- Mae West's blockbusters She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel credited with saving the studio from bankruptcy.  But it was at Universal where the two would be paired in the film directed by Edward F. Cline.

And the writing?

Credited to West and Fields which allegedly ticked West off due to Field's writing only one scene.  

This was given as the reason why the two never reteamed.

Once was enough to make a classic.

TV: When Conspiracy Bores

Sometimes, you see a scary movie and bolt upright in your seat, maybe even yelp or scream in the theater. Other times, you see one and you sit there balancing your checkbook in your head, wondering if you turned off the stove before you left the house or did you remember to set up that bill on auto-pay?


In other words, sometimes the scary works and sometimes it doesn't.

That's a lesson The CW is slowly learning this season.

The Originals is a Vampire Diaries spin off and most people grasped that last year when an episode of the hit show was actually a backdoor pilot for The Originals.

Which brings us to Tomorrow People.

It's not just a Ziggy Marley song.

No, it's also an hour long program, The Tomorrow People, from Arrow show runner Greg Berlanti.  Stephen Amell turned that show into a hit with his acting and, yes, body.  So Berlanti figured casting Stephen's cousin  Robbie Amell would yield similar results.

It hasn't.

For a number of reasons including the fact that Robbie is too old to be a "Robbie" and too old to play the role of Stephen Jameson.  In the mid-90s, Robbie might have gotten away with it but these High-Def days can be savage on an actor or actress and, in High-Def, what might be little lines on the young man's forehead become deep crevices that leave him looking as if he's prepping for a guest spot on a Matlock TV movie.

He can take comfort in the fact that no one looks good on this show.

Peyton List is an attractive woman.  She is badly made up for this show.  Make up and hair and lighting are all wrong for her.  She needs at least an inch cut off the hair and she needs to have a color put on it -- either darker or lighter.  Make up needs to pay special attention to her eyes.  If they can't do that, let her do her own eye make up because her eye make up is much better when she's running around town than when she's before the camera.

Years ago, when shows had more of a chance to build an option, The Tomorrow People would kick off season two with crisper looks.  They'd have larger budgets and better people working on hair and make up. These days The Tomorrow People may not be lucky enough to get a second season.

That's partly due to changing times.

It's also partly due to the show itself.

List is Cara and Robbie is Stephen and  they are evolved people who have super powers -- telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation.  Ultra is secret government agency that wants the Tomorrow People to use them. Stephen joins Ultra with the plan to bring them down.

Stupid, stupid plotline.

You don't put the main character in that role.  On the excellent Nikita, Nikita didn't go back into Division in season one, she had Alex do it.

You use a supporting character because that creates more conflict for the main character. It creates a sense of tension and helplessness. In Stephen's case, it would have meant he was trying to rescue the supporting character and trying to help the supporting character without getting found out.  It would have added another level to the storyline.

Instead, it's just on the nose nonsense.

And nonsense is the whole show, honestly.

It's fixable and we'd love to see a second season.

But season one has been nonsense.

And you can start the list of b.s. with the fact that these 'evolved' Tomorrow People don't include any gays or lesbians or people of color.  (Madeleine Mantock is the sole person of color in the cast and she's -- at least not yet -- not a Tomorrow People.  She's just Stephen's non-evolved best friend.)

How do you do that?

How do you pretend you're writing a show about evolution but all of your building blocks are so much less than even the original cast of Mission Impossible back in 1966?

There are these dozens of White actors playing various Tomorrow People but coming off like Peter Pan's Lost Boys.  They may get a line or two in an episode, they may not.  They may just react to Cara fighting with John (Luke Mitchell -- who should have been cast as Stephen).  Some of these supporting characters, extras and walk-ons are good and some are evil.

So Cara, Stephen and John are leaders of one group of Tomorrow People who battle Ultra and also battle a group of bad Tomorrow People.

There should be enough in that to provide tension for an hour.

Too often, there just isn't.

The Originals has far less complications.  Basically, the story is that Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and his sister Rebeckah (Claire Holt) and his brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) are vampires who were all run out of New Orleans when the city was built -- run out by their father.  This allowed Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) to take over.  Now Klaus wants to be back in control of New Orleans.  That's the basic story.

Other elements are added on: Klaus mating with a werewolf who is now pregnant with their hybrid child, the dead witch Celeste secretly possessing Sabine (Shannon Kane).  Each episode finds the storyline, like a rope, circling tighter and tighter, providing more tension and more excitement.

The Tomorrow People?  On one episode this season, Cara walked into a building and transported Astrid out (as Ultra was going room to room searching for Astrid to kill her).  Cara then went back and got John (who was injured and couldn't transport himself out).  And for those scenes, you're suddenly aware of how strong the show could be.

But to get to those scenes, you had to wade through Stephen camping with his brother, their mother and the mother's new boyfriend that Stephen can't stand.  You've got to wade through that and all the boredom it produces.

On The X-Files, Mulder didn't go off on a camping trip  where he pouted like a 9-year-old over Mommy's new boyfriend.

This is garbage, not material for scenes.

It's even more garbage when you grasp that mother Marla (Sarah Clarke) has powers of her own.  Why are we stuck with boring scenes that wouldn't have cut it on Everwood when you've got people with special powers.  And that's before you get to the fact that Marla can't stand Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino).


The head of Ultra.

Oh, and he's also Marla's brother-in-law.

With all that going on, why the hell are you wasting time with a whole episode where the main character (Stephen) is off on a dull and stupid camping trip?

Arrow suffers from an inability to tell a story straight. (Stan covers each new episode of Arrow at his site, FYI.)

The writers use flashbacks to five years prior over and over because they're unable to create tension any other way.

A lot of viewers are tired of those island flashbacks and wish the show would just move forward.

They may want to rethink that though.  As The Tomorrow People demonstrates, the same team can't come up with riveting scripts.

This shouldn't be happening.

This should be a hit series -- even with the miscast Robbie in the lead.

But for it to be a hit series, it needs paranoia.

Luke's got it, Cara's got, why aren't writers building on it?

And speaking of building, the sets.

On The Originals, the sets add not just to the look of the show but also to the drama and the character.  Why is that too much to expect from The Tomorrow People which has Ultra headquarters (where people are tortured ) and The Tomorrow People's hidden lair.  The sets have all the excitement of the old shoe store set on Married With Children.  How do you make a secret lair boring?

Oh, wait, Greg Berlanti's already done that on Arrow.  People tend not to notice because Berlanti usually has Stephen Amell stripped to the waist for those scenes.

But a hidden lair is supposed to be something magical.

With only words, the juvenile book series Alfred Hitchock and the Three Investigators made Jupe, Pete and Bob's trailer come alive.  With a healthy shooting budget and cameras, Berlanti fails to do the same with the hidden lair of his show.

But he fails repeatedly.  The 'evolved' people -- with lines, names and scenes every episode -- are all White Anglo, only one is a woman and all are straight.  What year does his calendar read because our own is showing 2014?

The CW announced last week that The Originals was getting a second season.  That early announcement was a reward for a new show that's been exciting, thrilling and confident.  The Tomorrow People did not get that announcement and that's because it's never sure what it is from one episode to the next.

Paranoia is the key.

It's why Stephen's father's not around.  It's why his uncle runs Ultra.  Most of all, it's what should be making the Tomorrow People doubt themselves and one another -- creating massive conflict and spell binding drama.

We'd love to see a second season of The Tomorrow People because -- even keeping Robbie in the lead -- this could be an excellent show.  Pretty much everything can be fixed with a shift in tone, better sets, better hair, make up and lighting.  But season one has played out like an extended pilot that needed -- but never received -- a tight edit.

This edition's playlist

Our Bright Future

 1) Tracy Chapman's Our Bright Future

2) Sting's The Soul Cages

3) Rickie Lee Jones' Flying Cowboys

4) Anais Mitchell's Hymns for the Exiled 

5) Sade's Lovers Rock

6) John Legend's Love In The Future 

7) Joni Mitchell's Night Ride Home

8) Diana Ross' Touch Me In The Morning

9) Carly Simon's Have You Seen Me Lately?

10) Neil Young's Harvest 

Tweet of the Week

The Washington Post's Liz Sly.

  • Maliki promises jobs to Anbar tribes who fight for him. Don't we already know how that ends? via

  • Rhonda Baritone's DC

    Big news still rumbling is  that a certain leader of the free world -- sh, no names --  was doing the nasty with Ms. Thunder Thighs With The Squeaky Voice.  Not since the Jackson brothers pimped a teenage Michael as a lady's man has so much boasting been done to shore up the non-heterosexuality of a 'sista' of Color.

    "Who's that bitch think she's fooling?"  asked one DC insider.  "Whole f**king world knows she's gay."

    The insider, of course, is the former Secretary of State who used to live it up at NYC's long forgotten Stage 54, located close enough to the United Nations for so many diplomats to really put their mouths to greater use.

    As the former Secretary of State well knows, that was back in the days when the designer Halston's favorite pick up line was how he'd screw your lovely cafe au latit butt all night.

    In other news, get the girl a razor!

    A certain, very well known woman who lives in a very prominent DC home is still fuming over her husband's many affairs -- all with men -- and saying she might not be able to wait on the divorce as planned.

    "I am so sick of being the beard!" staff overheard her huff before she stormed off on a husband-less Valentine's Day trip.

    It weeps!  And you think a certain member of Congress is a cry baby?  Turns out the tearful eyes are the least of his problems.  Apparently experiencing some late-life re-puberty, the man's been sprouting wood all over town but what really has people talking is the damp spot always at his crotch.  It appears the member's member weeps more than even his eyes.

    Big, Bawdy and Naughty.  This overweight closet case member of the Congress has had a long, extended stay in the closet.  But 2013 was supposed to be the year, as her partner repeatedly reminds, that Big and Bawdy came out of the closet.  Big and Bawdy continues to stall insisting she has a reputation to uphold.  Big and Bawdy's got a reputation alright but it's for being Naughty in ways Madonna couldn't even dream of back when she still had the energy to dig in the crannies.

    Lastly,  The Republican Sweetheart who's left a thousand and one drag queen's panting even though we all know we shouldn't since he is, after all, a Republican.  Well Sweetheart is getting a little careless in his after hours cruising and recently had to send staff on a search and destroy mission up and down the bars of Dupont Circle when Sweetheart realized he had made it home but his wallet hadn't.  The wallet was discovered at Nellie's on U Street where the only thing hotter than the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich is the wait staff.  Don't miss the Sunday Drag Brunches and, yes, they are all you can eat -- wink, wink.

    Video the State Dept Doesn't Want You To See

    Two Thursdays ago,  Human Rights Watch released their report entitled (PDF format warning) "'NO ONE IS SAFE: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System."  The US State Department has ignored it and, in a conspiracy of silence, reporters present at the weekday daily press briefings have refused to ask about it.

    The State Department, which is over the US mission in Iraq, really doesn't want you to know about the report and certainly doesn't want to be asked about it.  They just want to facilitate the White House's transfer of more weapons to Nouri al-Maliki's abusive tyranny.

    The HRW video below reviews some of the report's findings.  For those who can't stream video or need closed captioning, a transcript is below the video.

    Former detainee Fatma:  All in all, I was tortured for seven days. They tied my hands, stripped my clothes and covered my legs with ice.  This was during the month of February, so it was very cold.  I felt like my fingers were broken from the cold, the beating, the cursing and the insults. A man handcuffed both of my hands and feet, and made me lay on my stomach. He took my clothes off.  He started to hit my face and eyes.  He pulled me by my hair.  I couldn't scream or move because if I moved the handcuffs would hurt my hands and legs. Then the man raped me.  

    Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  The number of women in Iraq in prison right now is estimated to be just over a thousand, about 1100 women.  And the abuses that we've documented against them are often typical of the abuses that men often face which is torture, beatings usually designed to extract confessions.  But in addition, because they're women with the additional vulnerability, they have faced sexual assault and harassment.  

    Former detainee Fatma:  You've just been raped, beaten and insulted and then they say they will do the same to your daughter if you don't confess what they tell you to.  What can you do then?  You will surely say that you committed those crimes.  You will say whatever they want to protect your child.  So the only option that prisoners are left with is to confess to crimes they didn't commit and hope they find a lawyer who will prove their innocence. 

    Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  We found dozens of cases of women who said they signed confessions due to torture.  We have ourselves documented their torture on their bodies, seen the marks left behind.  We have talked to judges who themselves have verified being put under pressure to convict women without evidence.

    Former detainee Fatma:  The judicial order for my release was issued in January, but then I stayed in prison for 25 more days.

    Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  It is quite common -- not just for women, but also for men in Iraq who've been detained -- to be held beyond their detention, beyond the expiry of their sentences.  And I think it highlights the dysfunction of the Iraqi judicial system.

    Former detainee Fatma:  I filed a complaint but I haven't seen any results. I was interviewed by the justice minister once.  He asked me what happened and I told him all of the details and that I didn't understand why I was tortured and raped. He said that they will look into my case and that they will take court action against those who abused me.  He also said they would compensate me for the torture I've been through and for the extra time that I spent in prison after I was supposed to be released.  But as of now, nothing has happened, and I'm afraid. 

    Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  In Iraq still there is an abiding sense of immunity for the security services which is blessed and sanctioned there.  Until Maliki makes clear that he will not tolerate torture and abuse either in Iraq's prisons or Iraq's police stations, we can expect this to continue. 

    Diverse sexuality isn't alien to Africa - homophobia is (Ken Olende)

    Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Diverse sexuality isn't alien to Africa - homophobia is

    Contrary to current stereotypes, Africa has a rich history of same sex relations that was buried by colonialism, writes Ken Olende

    The court of King Mwanga II
    The court of King Mwanga II

    King Mwanga ll of Buganda in east Africa led a violent campaign to defend traditional values in the 1880s. He executed 22 Christians for opposing same sex relationships. 

    If he hadn’t taken this extreme action it’s likely that traditional Bugandan sexual practices would have been written out of history.

    Buganda still exists as part of modern Uganda, a state currently identified with anti-LGBT bigotry and laws—against what are supposedly alien LGBT practices brought in from the West.

    In the late 19th century Mwanga was worried by the spread of Western influence. Missionaries were making inroads into the kingdom and demanding rights for their converts.

    They were the vanguard of imperial occupation by the powers that backed them.

    The imperial imposition of new sexual morals on indigenous people was part of a wider process of asserting control. This also saw new laws to control sexual practices in Britain.

    The issue came to a head when pages in Mwanga’s own court turned down his request for sex because they were converts. This caused a confrontation that led to his decision to execute them all.

    Mwanga was the head of an autocratic class-divided society. Later he would capitulate to the British Empire and convert to Christianity himself. He was no hero of LGBT rights.

    But in Buganda the idea of sleeping with people of the same sex had been considered normal for hundreds of years, a reality that is almost forgotten.

    Pre-colonial Africa was made up of a wide array of different forms of society. Many of them tolerated or celebrated same sex relations of one sort or another.

    Hundreds of African societies record same-sex sexual activity between men and more than 50 have records of it between women.


    But these societies did not have the concept of a separate LGBT identity.

    More than 30 African societies sometimes permitted “female husbands”—where two women marry.

    These included the Igbo in modern Nigeria and the Zulu people in South Africa.In the case of the Igbo it was primarily an economic relationship to keep a family’s wealth if it had no sons.

    Ethiopian Nuer people questioned in the 1960s said there were no homosexual men among their people.
    But there were people born as men who had changed their gender status and were considered to be women.

    Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe’s book Boy Wives and Female Husbands brought together anthropological research that had been ignored for decades.

    Among the Azande in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo male warriors would often take “boy wives”. They would pay a bride price to the boy’s family and live as a couple.

    Again it was not about LGBT people as such.

    This was considered to be something that men did before marriage to a woman. It was not an equal relationship—the boys were aged between 12 and 20.

    This was a stratified society where most men could not afford the bride price when they were young. Rich men would often have several wives, including young men.

    The anthropologist EE Evans-Pritchard did his field research on the Azande in the 1930s, but most of his findings on same sex relationships were not published until the 1970s.

    The kinds of relationship described here show how much richer the history of human sexuality is than what “traditionalists” choose to regard as normal.

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

    Rural Veterans Improvement Act

    Senator Tom Udall and Senator Dean Heller have teamed up to help rural veterans.  Senator Udall's office issued the following:

    WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor about a bipartisan bill he introduced with Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to address some of the biggest barriers to health care for veterans in rural communities. To illustrate the need for the bill, Udall told the stories of many rural New Mexico veterans who have struggled to access health care - traveling long distances and enduring high turnover among doctors and staff at rural VA clinics, among other problems - and discussed how his Rural Veterans Improvement Act would help improve care.

    While traveling throughout New Mexico, Udall has spoken with veterans about their frustrations with accessing care. In his speech, Udall told the story of one veteran who traveled over three hours each way, multiple times per week for two years, to receive essential mental health care that likely saved his life. He also discussed a veteran in Carlsbad who spends the entire day traveling to appointments in Albuquerque, and another in Chama who must travel 80 miles through the mountains to reach a clinic - a trip that can be impassable during the winter.

    In response to their frustrations and concerns, Udall took a four-pronged approach to improving rural veterans' health care. His bill would:

    -Expand mental health services by providing better access to treatment and including alternative therapies, as well as traditional Native American healing methods.

    -Expand transportation grants to include rural communities to help ensure rural veterans can get a ride to far-away doctors' appointments.

    -Help retain and recruit staff to work at rural clinics through increased financial incentives, medical training programs geared toward preparing doctors and nurses for work in rural communities, and streamlined hiring of military medical professionals into the VA system.

    - Create tools for the VA and Congress to more effectively prioritize expansions and improvements of VA clinics in rural and highly rural areas by requiring a comprehensive review of those clinics.

    "Rural veterans should not be left behind. They should get the care they need and deserve," Udall said in his speech. "Our bill is a step forward for the health and well-being of our veterans. This is about essential care, about access, and about honoring our commitment to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country."

    The following are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor. Click here for video and here for audio.

    Madam President, I rise today to talk about health care for rural veterans. This is a critical issue. Too many veterans are left behind. Too many are not getting the care they need.
    But first, Madam President, I want to say how important it is that we have reached an agreement to restore the cut to pensions for working-age military retirees. The cut in cost-of-living adjustments for this group of veterans never should have been made.
    The bipartisan budget agreement was critical for New Mexico and our nation, because it rolled back damaging sequestration cuts-cuts that hurt our military and military families. But working-age military retirees should not have to bear the burden. Many of these men and women have given decades of service to our nation. They were willing to give everything for us. They should get the benefits they earned.
    I have been working from the beginning to restore this cut to their COLA benefits. I'm very happy that we have a bipartisan agreement to move forward, and ensure we keep our promise to them.
    Now, Madam President, I have come to the floor today to talk about the Rural Veterans Improvement Act. I was proud to introduce this bill with Senator Heller earlier this week, because when it comes to veterans' health care, we know there are challenges. We know we can do better, and we know we have to.
    Over 6 million veterans live in rural areas, including about one third of those who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Three million of those rural veterans receive care through the VA. Our veterans have fought half way around the world for our freedom. We should go the extra mile for them. Senator Heller and I both come from rural states. We know the difficulties veterans face when distances are too far, and choices are too few.
    Our bill will do four things: Improve access to mental health services, expand transportation grants, hire and retain more medical professionals in rural areas, and give Congress and the VA improved tools to improve the quality of rural facilities.
    First, mental health care is crucial. Veterans are struggling when the help they need is not available, or is very far away. One of my constituents lives in a rural area in northern New Mexico. He fought in Vietnam, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. He required therapy two full days a week for two years-vital care that probably saved his life. The VA was there for him, and he is grateful. But he had to drive to Albuquerque-over three hours away-to get that essential care.
    The veterans in my state are clear. They need better access to treatment and more mental health options. One size does not fit all. Conventional therapy does not work for everyone. Veterans groups like the Wounded Warrior Project have long supported alternative treatments and more holistic methods. Tribal governments are also working with the VA to use traditional Native American healing techniques, helping their veterans with PTSD or other diagnoses.
    These veterans are in pain. They are at increased risk of suicide. Help has to be there when they need it. Our bill will enable the VA to work with non-VA fee-for-service providers-for veterans with service-connected mental health issues when conventional treatment is not available, or where alternative treatment is not an option.
    Second, even the best health care is useless if you can't get to it. I have talked with many veterans in my state about this and it is a big problem across the state. Veterans in Carlsbad face a six hour drive to the VA Hospital in Albuquerque-300 miles one way. One such veteran fought bravely in World War II. He is in his 80s now. He has to get up at 5 a.m., make the trip to Albuquerque to see medical specialists. Sometimes he doesn't get home until midnight. Thanks to great volunteer drivers-at the Southeast New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network-he is able to get there, but it is an exhausting day.
    One of my constituents recently retired to Chama, a rural community in northern New Mexico. He and his wife built a home there, looking forward to retirement. The VA outreach clinic was nearby, but its contract was not renewed and it closed. His only option now is the VA clinic in Espanola-80 miles each way through the Southern Rockies. And when winter storms come-as they do in northern New Mexico-he may not be able to get there at all.
    The VA offers transportation grants to help, but only for veterans in highly rural areas with fewer than four people per square mile-not for those in rural areas. In small towns like Chama in New Mexico, and in Nevada, and so many other states, they need help too. The miles are just as long. The journey is just as hard. Our bill will help by expanding VA transportation grants to include rural communities. And it will not require matching funds for grants up to $100,000, making it easier for these communities to apply for assistance.
    Third, rural VA clinics, like their private counterparts, have trouble getting staff and keeping staff. This is not news to veterans who see constant turnover of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Or who have to travel long distances just to see anyone at all. Our bill will establish a VA training program, working with university medical centers to train health care professionals serving rural veterans at outpatient clinics. Those who complete the program-and a three-year assignment-will receive a hiring preference for jobs with the Veterans Health Administration.
    We also propose a pilot program for housing incentives for healthcare professionals to work in rural VA facilities. And we are proposing that the VA streamline the hiring of military medical professionals transitioning to the civilian world into the VA system. Rural VA health centers have a big job. They do their best. We have to do all we can to help them to get staff and to keep staff-with incentives, with training, with innovation. It isn't easy, but it is essential.
    Fourth, we call for a full review of VA community based outpatient clinics in rural and highly rural areas, so we can prioritize expansions and improvements, making sure dollars are well spent, and resources go as far as possible.
    We also call for a report to Congress on whether to add polytrauma centers in rural areas to help veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan recover from multiple major injuries like serious burns and traumatic brain injuries.
    Every day, America's service members wake up far from home. And every day, they stand the watch. They do the job they promised to do, and not only if it's easy, or only if it's convenient. We owe them the same promise. Rural veterans should not be left behind. They should get the care they need and deserve.
    I want to again thank Senator Heller for working with me on this bill. He understands the problem and he is committed to finding solutions. Our bill is a step forward for the health and well-being of our veterans. This is about essential care, about access, and about honoring our commitment to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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