Sunday, April 20, 2014

Truest statement of the week

In the early months of 2011, as popular uprisings raised hopes for democracy around the Middle East, Iraqis were inspired to make their own call for a more democratic government and for a time, it seemed possible that they might induce significant reforms. On February 25, 2011, when thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and more than a dozen other cities, several local officials, including the governors of two Shiite provinces, were forced to resign. A few days later, Maliki, unnerved by the toppling of dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, announced a hundred-day deadline for the government to weed out corruption and improve the delivery of services. Maliki’s Sunni and Shiite critics seized upon the protests. Rather than come together to fix Iraq’s myriad problems, however, each political party saw the demonstrations as a way to pressure its rivals. It was a pattern that would repeat again and again over the next four years as politicians bullied and embarrassed one another at the country’s expense.
That summer, the prime minister responded with authoritarian tactics. During the second Friday protest in Baghdad that June, Maliki supporters and plainclothes security agents descended upon the protesters and attacked them with clubs and knives. These roving bands of pro-Maliki men, who identified themselves as victims of terrorism, waved pictures of Allawi with a giant red X slashed across his face, while shouting “death to Baathists.” Iraqi soldiers stood by and officials from Maliki’s office toured the square in praise of their armed supporters, ignoring the violence.
Maliki understood that the Americans were getting ready to leave and that the American-sponsored rules that had been imposed after 2003 were temporary. Vice President Biden, who traveled to Iraq four times between January 2010 and January 2011 to promote a successful democratic transition, had stopped coming as the American military prepared for its final withdrawal. And during the June crackdown, the US embassy—which is right across the river from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square—remained silent.
By the fall, Maliki’s office was insinuating that his own Sunni-vice president, Tareq Hashimi, was running death squads, and stories were circulating that Hashimi and his fellow Sunni politicians, including finance minister Rafaa Issawi and Parliament speaker Usama Nujafi, were conspiring with Turkey and the Gulf states to bring down the new Shiite-led order. Upon his return from a triumphant visit to the White House that December to mark the formal US withdrawal, Maliki sent security forces to arrest Hashimi, who fled to Turkey, and to surround the homes of prominent Sunni officials inside the Green Zone. 

--  Ned Parker, "Iraq: The Road to Chaos" (The New York Review of Books).

Truest statement of the week II

While this congressman is right about Obama, Duncan, and their train wreck of an education policy that is illegal and worthy of impeachment and removal, nothing would come of any hearings.
This is what happens when presidential candidates are not vetted by the media but instead are pushed 24/7.
You were all warned here on this blog years ago Obama was a total fake.
What Obama and Duncan are doing, at the behest of the hedge fund crooks and billionaires like Bill Gates who own them, is clearly illegal and unconstitutional. The federal government is barred from creating national education standards, licensing requirements, and curriculum. They both need to be impeached and removed from office. The problem is almost all D.C. politicians are in bed together and are waging a class war on everybody else.
A public good cannot be left to market forces.

-- Susan, "He's a Fraud, That's Why" (On the Edge).

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?

Ned Parker's essay is filled with 'truest' statements.  You should read it in full.
Susan's had truests before but we believe this is her first one for 2014.

Are you?  How long are people going to keep their mouth shut about what's going on in Iraq.  The ridiculous Ralph Nader wrote about Iraq Friday . . . to whine about Bully Boy Bush.  War Crimes are taking place right now.  Try calling those out, Ralph.
Ava and C.I. take on The NewsHour.  This is a strong piece.  Last week's piece -- which noted Mark Shield's sexism -- ended up being their most read piece this year -- it was huge.  I (Jim) didn't tell them that when they told me their topic because I knew they would say, "Oh, we'll write about something else."  They don't 'do' greatest hits, you understand.  This isn't a repeat of last week, they're taking on Shields for different reasons.

Did, as reader Joey pointed out, we make it through March without a single Film Classics of the 20th Century?  Yep, it appears we did.  Ava and C.I. were doing a book piece this week that we thought necessitated we go with Sleepless in Seattle this go round.  
The Most of Nora Ephron is a collection that came out in October of last year and lists for $35.  Ava and C.I. explain it may be worthwhile for those new to Nora's writing; however, it really doesn't honor Nora's work.

We almost did another John Kerry dick joke but went with Sewer instead. 
Be sure to read to the end to find out why we wrote this parody.  This actually delayed our posting by nearly 20 minutes.  The image we planned to use won't work.  It'll upload to Flickr -- twice in fact -- it just won't give us an embed code.  Finally, C.I. said there should be an older image, from 2008, that we used of Brooks before so we grabbed that.

What we listened to as we worked on the edition.

From Senator Gillibrand's office. 
From Workers World.

From Judicial Watch.  They are right-wing.  We debated that for about two seconds.  We all agree this is an important press release. 
This is from Great Britain's Socialist Worker.

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

We'll see you next week.


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

Editorial: Are you comfortable with War Crimes?

National Iraqi News Agency reports today, "Artillery bombardment renewed on Sunday evening on most of neighborhoods of the city of Fallujah."

Do you know what a War Crime is?

NINA reports, "A civilian was killed and four others injured on Sunday 20, April due to indiscriminate shelling on the neighborhoods of the city of Fallujah."

Targeting civilians?

That's a War Crime.

If this is confusing to you, Gene Dannen has compiled "International Law on the Bombing of Civilians:"

The full texts of many of these treaties, and others, are available on the Tufts University Rules of Warfare; Arms Control page.

* Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II) July 29, 1899
* Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV) October 18, 1907
* Draft Rules of Aerial Warfare, The Hague, February 1923
* Protection of Civilian Populations Against Bombing from the Air in Case of War, League of Nations, September 30, 1938
* Appeal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 1, 1939
* Nuremberg Principles, August 8, 1945
* Geneva Convention IV, August 12, 1949
* Resolution on Nuclear Weapons, United Nations, November 24, 1961
* Resolution on Human Rights, United Nations, December 19, 1968
* On the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, International Court of Justice, July 8, 1996
* Sources and further reading

Not only are these War Crimes carried out by the US-installed and maintained chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, they're being carried out with weapons the US government supplies Nouri with and with 'intel'

The US government is complicit in War Crimes and the press wants to look the other way.

Ann raised the issue during Gwen Ifill's NewsHour 'chat' last week.

Comment From Ann  
Good afternoon, Gwen. I'm bothered by the attack on Anbar Province in Iraq and the lack of western media coverage. Specifically, Nouri al-Maliki has been bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja every day since the start of the year. This is collective punishment and it is leaving many dead -- including many children. But we see nothing on the news about this in the US. Since we are the ones arming Maliki, this seems like a serious news issue in need of coverage to me. What does it take to get Iraq covered on The Newshour? Thank you.
Gwen Ifill: 
I have to say, if you're going to see coverage of the ongoing situation in Iraq anywhere, it will be on the NewsHour.

And that's about as much as the US press can offer as an 'answer' or even as 'coverage.'

Saturday,  NINA reported 1 person died and three more were injured in one bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods and  3 civilians were killed and eight left injured in a second shelling.  Fu Peng (Xinhua) reports, "In Anbar province, at least four people were killed and 15 wounded at dawn when Iraqi army pounded the town of Garma near the militant-seized city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a provincial police source said." 

Every day the death toll and the number injured mounts from these War Crimes.

At what point do they get called out?

At what point do Americans get outraged and demand that the US government stop aiding Nouri and stop pretending War Crimes aren't taking place -- stop pretending they aren't taking place and that they aren't being carried out with the help of the US government?

Every day, people are killed and wounded from Nouri's bombings of Falluja, civilians.  Often, as on February 28th, children.

  1. نموذج آخر لأهداف جيش المالكي الارهابي في حربه على الشعب: .
  2. نموذج لأهداف جيش المالكي الارهابي في حربه على الشعب: .

And the US government is okay with that.

Are Americans?

Have we really sunk that low that we can ignore these War Crimes?

For an incomplete list of some of Nouri's bombings which have left civilians dead and wounded, check out the April 16th "Iraq snapshot."

TV: Shields Overstays His Welcome By Several Decades

Insult entertainment TV all you want, but it's actually superior to 'public affairs' and 'news' programming in so many ways.  For one thing, scripted comedies garner intended laughs.

We were reminded of that Friday when we caught The NewsHour (PBS).  We weren't attempting to catch Mark Shields being sexist (as he had been the week before, click here).  Like most Americans, we honestly weren't thinking of him.

We'd heard that one of the most biased and one-sided reports was going to air on the program.  The segment, on Venezuela, was Margaret Warner at her worst and we're not just referring to those scary close ups. It was government and right-wing propaganda attempting to slime and destroy the country's president Nicholas Maduro.

For careful viewers, the only thing destroyed was Margaret Warner's reputation.

Given nine minutes on air and travel fair to Venezuela, all she can do is find three people who don't like the new president -- one of which didn't care for Hugo Chavez either.

That's all she's got to support her allegations  -- that and the lies she allows American gas bag Michael Shifter and press whore Moses Naim to spew.

It was embarrassing and you had to wonder what Warner was offered to put her name to that propaganda?  Or as Chrissie Hynde once put it, "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?"

We heard about the report from two NewsHour-ers who told us the 'report' had bothered many with the program and we can certainly see why.

We were discussing the segment when we heard Judy Woodruff say, "Welcome, gentlemen."

We groaned realizing it was a Shields and Yarnell -- er, Shield and Brooks night.

We argued last Sunday that it was time for Mark Shields to go.

He only proved that more so on Friday.

Forget politics, forget opinions for a moment.

This is what 'analyst' Mark Shields offered:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what’s — what was the lead of our program tonight, Mark, and that’s — and that’s Ukraine, this surprise deal reached yesterday in Geneva between the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, trying to defuse what’s been going on there.  Today, the reporting is all about these protesters in the eastern part of the country saying, we’re not going anywhere. Where is this headed?

MARK SHIELDS: I honestly don’t know, Judy. I will say that it appears that Mr. Putin’s plan and the Russians’ plan is to partition Ukraine. And this certainly — they call it federalization, but it is a partition of — an eventual partition of sorts. Whether it’s to destabilize or delegitimize the elections of May 25, we don’t know. But Putin made a statement. He said, the Russian Federation Council — Russia’s Federation Council has provided the president with the right to deploy armed forces in Ukraine. Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself.


MARK SHIELDS: He says, I really hope that I am not forced to use this right.

That's from the official transcript.  And "(LAUGHTER)" indicates that they all laughed.

Now it's America's turn.

Again, forget politics for a moment.

Shields states Russian president Vladimir Putin declared, "I really hope that I am not forced to use this right."  And you can find the quote at multiple outlets -- here for Jane C. Timm's MSNBC report.

So presumably the quote is accurate.

If the quote's right, what's the problem?

"Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself."

Yeah, "I" generally does refer to the person speaking.

It's also what is known as "first person."

Apparently Shields, Woodruff and David Brooks require a grammar lesson.

These are first person subjective pronouns:  I (singular) we (plural).

These are second person subjective pronouns:  you (singular) you (plural).

These are third person subjective pronouns: he, she, it (singular) they (plural).

When a person speaks of themselves in third person, they often use he or she.

More often though, especially when it comes to the famous, they use their own name.  So, for example, Mark Shields speaking of himself in the third person might say, "Oh, no, Mark Shields has soiled his Depends.  Who will change Mark Shields?"

Vladimir Putin -- despite the chuckles of Shields, Brooks and Woodrfuff -- did not speak of himself in the third person.

Mark Shields is paid to provide 'analysis' and yet he no longer can even get basic facts right.

The discussion, which took place April 18th, also noted the proposed Keystone oil pipeline and Shields offered some generic statements that added nothing.  Equally true, saying that "environmental groups" were against Keystone didn't qualify as representing their position (such as why they are against it) nor did it acknowledge the news on this topic.

RT reported the day before (April 17th), "Jimmy Carter has become [the] first former US president to speak out against the controversial Keystone XL project, which would see tar sands oil flow from Canada to the US.  Carter joined a group of nine other Nobel Prize winners who signed a letter to President Obama, urging him not to endorse the plan."

Seems like Shields, representing the 'left' (or what passes for it on PBS), should have noted that.

But, of course, he didn't.

What value does he provide?

None at all.

It's time for the 76-year-old to be shown the door.

And we really felt that way as the segment wound down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All kinds of things I want to ask the two of you about in a few minutes left.
I want to ask you about — Mark, about the Pulitzer Prize this week. Among others, it went to The Guardian newspaper, to The Washington Post for the reporting they did on the national security leaks from Edward Snowden.  I guess my question is, what was your reaction? Did you see honoring the newspaper the same as honoring the man who delivered the leaks… 


JUDY WOODRUFF: … who’s been seen as both a traitor and hero?

MARK SHIELDS: No.  I mean, the Pulitzer award goes to the dominant, most important news story and coverage and reporting. And I think it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the most important news story. And the reporting that was done on it was quite professional. The fact that along with it comes Edward Snowden is — is in no way, in my judgment, recognition of him as a heroic figure.  He was central to it. He was indispensable to it. But we saw the part he played yesterday in Mr. Putin’s press conference in Russia, where…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s why I…

MARK SHIELDS: And he certainly — he certainly didn’t rise to heroic status, I wouldn’t say, in that capacity.

Mark Shields doesn't consider Ed Snowden a hero.

That's his opinion.

We should note that The NewsHour offered no praise for Ed in the segment.

Three voices and no praise.  Because The NewsHour is not about analysis, it's about, as Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky would argue, manufacturing consent.

So PBS provides three people and not one can say a kind word about Ed which sends the message to viewers that 'this Ed Snowden,' he just isn't worth defending because, goodness, right and left (as portrayed on The NewsHour) can't stick up for him and even 'neutral' journalist (Judy Woodruff) can't.

What did Ed do that had Shield's adult diapers in a twist?

He asked Putin, in a call-in program last week, "Does Russia intercept, store or analyse in any way the communications of millions of individuals?"

Why did this anger Shields?

Snowden himself pointed out:

The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden's question and mine here.)
Clapper's lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.
In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin's evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.
The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia's surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as "extremely important for Russia". According to the Daily Beast, Soldatov said it could lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.

And that was published at The Guardian many, many hours before Mark Shields sat down for his segment.

Seems like if he's going to trash someone, he should be aware of what they wrote.

But, more and more, it's clear that Mark Shields isn't aware of anything -- apparently not even his surroundings.

In the early seventies, Shields and Yarnell had a brief run on CBS.  The husband and wife mimes were regulars on The Mac Davis Show in 1976 and then on The Sonny & Cher Show before, in  the summer of 1977, getting their own summer show.  When The Shields and Yarnell Show returned at the start of 1978, it lasted two months before getting the axe.

And outside of a guest shot here or there, that was it.  Mime by itself really isn't a draw on TV.

They really had two good years before TV viewers tired of them.

And networks found other personalities to toss on air.

By contrast, America tired of Mark Shields decades ago.  He started offering 'analysis' in 1988 on The NewsHour -- and he was already tired then.  Twenty-four years later and he still won't take a hint and leave. April's seen him offer sexism, struggle with facts and, the worst TV sin of all, be oh-so boring.  It's time he found something else to do and time The NewsHour found a fresh face (they should dump Brooks as well).

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at My Little Chickadee,  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

1993's Sleepless In Seattle is a comedy classic.  And, as far as romantic comedies go, it's probably the finest to this day.

Annie (Meg Ryan) is excited at Christmas to introduce her family to her fiancee Walter (Bill Pullman).

Christmas is less happy for Jonah (Ross Malinger) which is why he calls into a radio show . . .

about his father Sam (Tom Hanks) . . .

who can't get over the death of his wife. 

Do you follow that?

If not, follow this scene from Nora Ephron, David S. Ward and Jeff Arch's script.

Becky: Listen to this, phone service in the greater Chicago area was tied up for two hours Christmas Eve when some kid calls a phone-in radio show and says that his dad needs a new wife. 2,000 women called the radio station asking for the guy's number. 

Annie:  I heard it. This kid calls up and says, "My dad needs a new wife."  And the shrinkette practically forces the guy onto the phone and says, "Do you want to talk about it?" And he says, "No as a matter of fact I don't."  And then suddenly, for no reason at all, he starts to talk about how much he loved his wife and how he just fell in love with her like she was one of those cows in Michigan.  

Becky:  What cows in Michigan?

Annie:  It was on 60 Minutes.  There were those cows that got zapped by stray voltage.  No one knows why.  And maybe it was Wisconsin.  But, anyway, I was listening to him talk about how much he loved his wife and suddenly I was crying.  It's like what happens when I watch those phone company ads.  I don't have to see the whole thing, just the part where the daughter gives the mother the refrigerator with --

Becky and Annie:  the big red bow!

Becky:  Yes.  The Polaroid commercial -- two five-year-olds at their grandfather's birthday party 

Annie:  Making an album!

Becky: With all the glue!  That kills me!  You should write something about this.

Annie:  About what?

Becky:  Whatever it is.

Wyatt:  I'll tell you what it is.  2,000 women calling a radio station for a husband?  There are a lot of desperate women out there looking for love.

Keith:  Especially over a certain age. 

Wyatt:  You know it's easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to get married over the age of forty.

Annie:  That's not true.  That statistic is not true.

Becky:  That's right. It's not true.  But it feels true. 

Wyatt:  It feels true because it is true. 

Annie:  There's practically a whole book about how that statistic is not true.

Wyatt: Calm down, you brought it up.

Annie:  I did not, Wyatt.  Did you even read that book?

Wyatt:  Did anybody read that book all the way through?

Becky:  Are you two finished?  Good.  Now where were we?

Annie:  If someone is a widower, why do they say that he was widowed?  Why don't they say that he was widowered?

FYI, the book being mentioned is Susan Faludi's Backlash.  And Becky is played by Rosie O'Donnell.

She's part of a first-rate supporting cast which also includes Rob Reiner . . .

Victor Garber and Rita Wilson.

In fact, Rita Wilson nearly steals the film when her character explains the plot of An Affair To Remember.

Nora Ephron didn't just co-write the Academy Award, Writers Guild of America and BAFTA nominated screenplay, she also directed the film.  It was her follow up to This Is My Life and, with her second film, she scored not just a blockbuster but also a classic.

There's not a weak moment in the film.  Every moment pays off, every frame of film is needed.

Meg Ryan won an American Comedy Award for her performance and it was more than deserved.  Her Annie remains one of the foremost comedic heroes of 90s film.

And she and  Tom Hanks have real chemistry in the film -- it's not easy to have chemistry with Hanks and Meg's the only one who ever has -- in this film, in Joe Versus The Volcano and in You've Got Mail.  Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks have co-starred in two flop and demonstrated all the 'magic' and appeal of curdled milk.  Chemistry can't be forced.

With Annie and Sam, the chemistry is just there.

And Annie is the ultimate comedic hero, willing to travel across the country to pursue a possibility.

At one point, as she struggles with her hopes and likely reailty, she states,  "Destiny is something we've invented because we can't stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental."

And that may be true, but it's left to Rosie O'Donnell's Becky to sum up her best friend, "That's your problem.  You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie."

Celebrating The Least of Nora Ephron (Ava and C.I.)

Director Nora Ephron passed away June 26, 2012.  Her films include Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Michael and Julie & Julia.  Prior to directing, Nora had been a writer.  She wrote for The New York Post and then moved over to covering women's issues for Esquire magazine where she later became a media critic.  Then she moved on to writing screenplays such as Silkwood (with Alice Arlen) and, most famously, When Harry Met Sally . . .

As a director, Ephron became part of a small group of women who directed films which passed the $100 million mark in ticket sales domestically.  Penny Marshall got there first with Big.  Others include Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World), Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated). Amy Heckerling (Look Who's Talking), Betty Thomas (Dr. Dolittle and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel), Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), Mimi Leder (Deep Impact).  (Penny Marshall also directed the blockbuster A League of Their Own.) Thus far, none of the directors listed (including Ephron) have been the subject of a book examining the body of their film work.

Nora was the source for a 2013 book which focused on her writing.  As a writer, she was known for her humor and wit and that shines through in The Most of Nora Ephron which Knopf published October 13 of last year.

Robert Gottlieb writes the intro for the collection and he picked what was included.

He did a poor job, a very poor job.

If you have Crazy Salad (in any of its forms), you've got the basic writings included in The Most of Nora Ephron (which, by the way, has a hefty list price of $35).  If, at some point in the 80s or 90s, you bought Nora Ephron Collected, you've got even more of the book.

Book?  Nora wrote one novel, the wickedly funny Heartburn which primarily focused on her divorce from her second husband,  journalist Carl Bernstein.  Bernstein had no real objection to the book but he made a nuisance of himself when Mike Nichols attempted to film the novel.  Ephron, who wrote the screenplay, would be slammed by critics who didn't seem to realize she was under the threat of legal action which turned a hilarious novel into a don't-go-too-far-with-the-male-character script.

For some reason, Heartburn's included in The Most of Nora Ephron.

'Of course it is!' you exclaim, thinking we mean a cutting, an excerpt.

No, the entire novel.

Also included is the entire screenplay of When Harry Met Sally . . . and Ephron's play Lucky Guy.

It might have made more sense to do cuttings and offer samples of the play and samples from the screenplays she wrote and co-wrote.

If you're new to Nora, this collection will entertain you.

Nora was honestly funny -- not ironic, not whimsical, funny.  And she had a point of view and a voice which was consistent throughout her writing.  And when she was on fire, she burned from the intro to the last sentence.  This is most obvious with "Upstairs Downstairs:"

My friend Kenny does not feel as bad about the death of Hazel as I do.  My friend Ann has been upset about it for days.  My friend Martha is actually glad Hazel is dead.  I cried when Hazel died, but only for a few seconds, partly because I wasn't at all surprised.  About three months ago, someone told me she was going to die, and since then I have watched every show expecting it to be her last.  Once she stuck her head into a dumbwaiter to get some food for James, who had finally recovered enough from his war injuries to have an appetite, and I was certain the dumbwaiter was going to crash onto her head and kill her instantly.  Another time, when she and Lord Bellamy went to fetch James from a hospital in France (and Hazel and Georgina had a fight over whether he should be moved), I was sure the ambulance would crash on the way back.  Hazel lived on, though, show after show, until there came the thirteenth episode.  As soon as they mentioned the plague, I knew that would be it.  It was.  The particular plague Hazel died of was the Spanish influenza, which, according to Alistair Cooke, was the last true pandemic.  I was sorry that Alistair Cooke had so much more to say about the plague than he did about the death of Hazel, but perhaps he has become wary of commenting on the show itself after everyone (including me) took offense at some of the things he had to say about George Sand.

The essay is about PBS' Upstairs, Downstairs series -- a British import like Downton Abbey, but one even more popular and one which swept up many an Emmy in the 70s.

That paragraph above, her opening to the essay, is something of a prose miracle.  It pulls you in a variety of directions all at once.

It's one of Nora's finest essays.

Which, of course, means it's not included in The Most of Nora Ephron.

'Ava, C.I., your personal favorite wasn't included?  Wah! You're going to give it a bad review for that?'


"Upstairs, Downstairs" was first collected in Nora's Scribble Scrabble.

That is her finest collection, the one where her bravery really shines.

When Nora showed honesty writing about tits ("A Few Words About Breasts"), for example, the literary world could cheer.  And, of course, "A Few Words About Breasts" is included in the new mammoth book.

But the reason the essay works is largely due to its self-honesty.  That includes the cruel advice Nora received.  It was an honest voice Nora sought in all of her work.

And to write, as she did, in the 70s was something new and novel and as important to 'New Journalism' as anything any man was doing at that time.

She was frequently accused of crossing a line in real time.  Her piece on vaginal sprays, for example, received major pushback. "Dealing With The, Uh, Problem" is not included -- are you surprised?  (We're not either.)

If you're going to honor Nora's writing, you honor the bravery.

That doesn't happen here.

Nora's most important piece of journalism was when she was writing for Esquire.

There was a major scandal taking place.

A man, a reporter, had leaked a Congressional report to the press (after his own network had refused to cover the report) and, when questioned by his network, the man blamed and accused Lesley Stahl.  That's not the only colleague he burned.

And Nora outlined everything in "Daniel Schorr:"

The plot is a simple one: a reporter whose obsession with scoops occasionally leads him to make mistakes develops an obsession about a secret document and makes several terrible blunders that lead to his downfall.  What happened to Dan Schorr is a real tragedy, but only because he did so much of it himself. 

It's a tight essay, a truth-telling masterpiece.

It takes courage to write what she wrote.  Schorr was a sacred cow to some.

And that's why Esquire refused to run the essay.

She could have backed down.  It wasn't a piece that would make friends.  She wrote it, her magazine turned it down, she could turn her focus to something else.

But like Annie in Sleepless In Seattle, Nora didn't back down and when someone tried to intimidate her, they quickly learned just how strong and resourceful she could be.

With Esquire refusing to publish it, Nora took it to the journalism review magazine More where it was published.

Times really haven't changed all that much.

Daniel Schorr was a trashy person with no ethics.  Thanks to that, the Pike Report (on the CIA) became public.

That didn't make Schorr a hero unless you were one of the simpletons who needed your Little Golden Book understanding of the world.

We like Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) but he is one of those people who needs a very clearly drawn hero and will get very upset (look at how he's responded to criticism of Julian Assange) when people dare to question a fairytale.

For Nora, truth was truth.

And you were either someone who told it or you didn't.

That's why she could take on feminism -- yes, she could be critical of it even though she was a staunch feminist -- that's why she could take on anything.

Her media criticism -- especially "Daniel Schorr" -- stands, even now, as some of the sharpest the nation has produced.

And The Most of Nora Ephron fails as a collection because, despite featuring 557 pages of Nora's writing, the collection refuses to include the essay that shows  how fiercely honest Nora was, the value she placed on truth, and that she didn't back down.

Sarah Sewall prompts giggles

Just because War Hawk Sarah Sewall's shoes make her feet look like hooves is no reason to laugh at her!

Oh, wait, she was with the Carr Center and bastardized social science ethics as she promoted and devised counter-insurgency so her story's already basically The Devil Wore Crocs.

Go ahead and laugh.

In fact, throw rotten fruit if you've got it.

NYT Expose: Things get gassy out of Brooks' assy

It was last Tuesday, The New York Times Birthday Committee was meeting yet again.

1 man

Present were Chair David Brooks sporting his fetching new hair-and-scalp style, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni. Ross Douthat and Paul Krugman.  Unbeknownst to the participants, they were being recorded.

David Brooks:  Okay, okay, okay, okay we need to get started.  Where's Dowd, Kristof and Friedman?

Gail Collins:  Maureen thinks she's too good for the Birthday Committee.

Ross Douthat: I saw Friedman circling the halls.  I think he's lost again.

David Brooks:  Okay, okay, okay, okay forget them.  Kristof?

Gail Collins:  He's taking a personal day to put medication on Mia Farrow's liver spots.

A loud explosion is heard.

Paul Krugma:  What the hell was that?  A terrorist attack?

Frank Bruni:  I think someone farted.

Paul Krugman:  Gail!  C'mon!

Gail Collins:  I did not pass gas!

David Brooks:  Okay, okay, okay, okay let's stay focused. Joe Nocera's the next birthday, May 6th and --

Paul Krugman: I thought we agreed you had to do two columns a week to get a party?  Two -- one plus one.  I'm an economist and I can add and I know when I'm being ripped off.

Ross Douthat: Is that why I never get a cake?

Frank Bruni: Krugman's rule.  He said it would save money.  But Joe publishes Tuesday and Saturday.

Paul Krugman:  Are you sure?  I'm an economist and I can add and I know when I'm being ripped off.

David Brooks:  Okay, okay,okay, okay he does publish Tuesday and Saturday so Joe gets a cake, even by your rules, Paul.  Now what kind of cake?

Gail Collins: Oh!  I was at a party last week!  They had a tres leches cake!  That's Spanish.  Or maybe Mexican.  What's the difference there?  I should write a column about that.  But it's like a cake with fruit.

Frank Bruni:  You were not at a party.  No one invites you to a party.  You saw that on The Food Network.

Gail Collins: Yes, Frank, yes!  I was at home.  I was waxing my mustache, for your information, and I happened to be watching The Food Network, okay?  Is that alright with you!

Ross Douthat: I don't know if I want to eat a cake with fruit.  Call me a traditionalist, but a cake needs to have icing and it needs to have cake.  How did we become a nation of cake heretics?

Gail Collins:  Does Joe even like fruit?

Paul Krugman: Is Ross chipping in?  If he's not chipping in, I don't think he should get a vote.  I'm an economist and --

David Brooks:  Okay, okay, okay, okay!  Ross chips in, Ross always chips in.  He gets a say.

Ross Douthat: Even though I never get a cake thanks to The Krugman Rule.

Gail Collins: If we charged by how much everyone eats, Paul would have to pay for half the cake.

Paul Krugman: I have one slice.  One.  One plus nothing is one! I'm an economist, I know this.

Gail Collins: You eat one at the party but you always take the leftover cake home, swearing it's for your dogs Consumption and Surplus!  No one gives cake to dogs, no one.  I don't know who you think you're fooling, Paul Krugman!

Frank Bruni:  What about an ice cream cake?

Gail Collins: Are you trying to undercut me?  Are you trying to do that, Frank?

David Brooks: Okay, okay, okay, okay!  We can't do an ice cream cake unless we ask Bill Keller to clear all of his Weight Watchers out of the break room fridge.

Gail Collins: Why are you treating me like this, Frank?  Is it because of the sexual tension?

Frank Bruni: What are you talking about?

Gail Collins: You're a Scorpio and I'm a Sagittarius.  We mix well in bed.

Frank Bruni: I'm gay.  You're married.

Gail Collins:  We both see each day as an adventure.  That's a fact.

Frank Bruni: It's astrology.

Gail Collins: Yes, Frank, it is science.

Ross Douthat: I'm a Sagittarius.

Gail Collins: Ross, do you mind?  Frank and I are trying to talk.

A loud, muffled explosion is heard.

Paul Krugman:  Damn it, Gail!

Gail Collins:  That was not me!  Oh my God, that smells bad.  Who keeps farting?

A loud, muffled explosion is heard.

Gail Collins:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  It smells so bad!!

Frank Bruni: It's David!  David's the farter!

David Brooks:  Okay, okay, okay, okay!  I had refried beans and ranchero beans both at lunch!  Look, we'll just do a basic yellow cake with chocolate icing, a jug of Hawaiian Punch --

Paul Krugman: We still have plates and plastic ware left over from the last party!  We don't need to buy any.

Ross Douthat:  Are you sure?  I keep seeing Bill Keller using those plastic forks to eat his Weight Watchers.

Gail Collins:  Yellow cake?  I'm not sure.  What about cupcakes?  They're like fun little mini-cakes and --

A loud, muffled explosion is heard.

Gail Collins:  Oh my God!

Paul Krugman:  Do what you want and e-mail me!

Gail, Paul, Ross and Frank run fleeing from the conference room.

David Brooks:  Oh, yeah, like none of you ever had gas before!

A loud, muffled explosion is heard.

David starts coughing.

David Brooks:  Oh, that is rank!

The above is in response to the ridiculous statements David Brooks made about NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden on PBS' The NewsHour Friday:

DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I find him repellent. If somebody talked about internal conversations at the NewsHour, or at The New York Times and then broadcast them, I would find that person repellent, and doubly so when it’s national security secrets, after he’s sworn an oath to do so. So I’m no fan of him.

The arrogance and ego on David Brooks.  Internal conversations at The NewsHour or The New York Times?

Don't worry, David, no one cares about your farting.  Your secret is safe.

This edition's playlist

1) Carly Simon's Into White.

2) Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

3) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

4) Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.

5) Etta James' All The Way.

6) Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang.

7) Imagine Dragons' Night Vision.

8) Pulp's This Is Hardcore.

9) Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm.

10) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

The day after Easter

To those of you who celebrated in one form or another, Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is a special day as well.

All the candy that didn't sell goes on clearance.

This happens three solid times a year: the day after Halloween, the day after Valentine's Day and the day after Easter.  (Christmas means candy in the stores but candy gets trumped by other day-after Christmas sales.)

Local Long Island Veteran Prompts Senator Gillibrand to Introduce New Legislation Requiring Mental Health Professional on Military Review Board


Senaotr Kirsten Gillibrand's office issued the following yesterday:

Local Long Island Veteran Prompts Senator Gillibrand to Introduce New Legislation Requiring Mental Health Professional on Military Review Board

April 16, 2014

Bill Would Ensure Service Members With PTSD Get ‘Fair Shake’ 
 Garden City, NY – After hearing from a local Long Island veteran who was discharged from the military as the result of an undiagnosed mental health condition, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would require the panel that reviews military discharges to have at least one mental health professional on its board. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would ensure these service members’ appeals are expertly reviewed – and that the records of service members who were improperly discharged for an incorrect reason, or with a less than honorable rating, can be corrected.

 “The men and women of our military risk their lives to protect our county, and we need to ensure they receive the care they earned and deserve,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “Too many of our service members have been discharged as a result of an undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed mental health condition. It is important that a mental health professional be included at all review board hearings, ensuring that our service members receive a correct diagnosis and treatment for mental health injuries like PTSD, TBI and MST.”

“Although much has been done by the military to reduce the stigma against invisible wounds, many of those suffering from PTSD, TBI or MST, avoid getting help in order to preserve their careers, and as a result, go undiagnosed and untreated while in the military. Sometimes, symptoms of a service member's mental health injuries can be misinterpreted as acts of misconduct while they're in the military, ultimately resulting in a discharge that is less than honorable,” said Kristofer Goldsmith, president of Student Veterans of Nassau Community College. “Too many veterans have been denied an honorable discharge without ever being properly screened by qualified mental health professionals, and this legislation will make sure that these vets are finally afforded that opportunity.”

“Mental health injuries have become the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this legislation is a needed measure to appropriately review and potentially alter certain discharge statuses,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

John Javis, Director of Special Projects for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County and the Chair of the Veterans Health Alliance enthusiastically supported the legislation. "We encounter many veterans that have been shut out of invaluable services from the VA including mental health, healthcare, housing and employment due to their discharge status. This inability to access earned services and benefits can lead to hopelessness and suicidal thoughts." 

“Men and women who have fought for our country  in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve the best care possible and they must receive adequate and fair treatment upon discharge from the military,” said Andrew Roberts, Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Liaison Services for North Shore-LIJ.

After graduating Mepham high school in 2003, Kris enlisted with the Army as a Forward Observer and was trained to direct artillery fire. He deployed to Iraq in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, where his primary duties were focused on intelligence reporting from the field. These duties included the photo documentation of victims of torture found by his unit in a mass grave. Kris was diagnosed with Chronic Depression, Personality Disorder and Adjustment Disorder when he sought mental health treatment while on active duty.  

He left the Army in 2007 with a General Discharge, with a narrative reason for separation listed as "Misconduct: Serious Offense" after he attempted to take his own life. This type of Discharge status made him ineligible for the Post-9-11 GI Bill, and his mental state left him unemployable for years after leaving the Army. Kris was properly diagnosed with severe PTSD just two months after his discharge by VA doctors. With seven years of treatment from the VA, he is now in the process of recovery from severe PTSD and is going to Nassau Community College under the Voc Rehab program. Kris is the president of Student Veterans of NCC, and is working to help to build a strong network of veterans on Long Island.  He has applied twice to the Army Discharge Review Board to have his discharge upgraded to Honorable, and his appeal has been denied both times.  At his last discharge review hearing, a physician with no background in mental health was called as an expert witness by the Army Discharge Review Board to review his mental health files.

Nearly one million current or former service members were diagnosed with a mental health condition between 2001 and 2011, including at least 30,000 who were diagnosed with “Personality Disorder” or “Adjustment Disorder.”  It was later found that many of these men and women, who were discharged from the military without access to care or benefits, were improperly diagnosed and unjustly denied access to the services, care and benefits they had earned. A Discharge Review Board is a military panel with the legal authority to review military discharges.

Service members who receive a less than Honorable discharge can be denied access to many of the services, care and benefits to which they could be entitled, including G.I. Bill benefits, and can encounter various obstacles when looking for work or housing.

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