Sunday, May 25, 2014

Truest statement of the week

From the late-18th century Alien and Sedition Acts through the Palmer Red Raids through McCarthyism and HUAC, right up to now, the continuum of thought control has been inscribed in the nation’s DNA, only today, having by now become the normalization of repression, we pay little or no heed. Jim Clapper is our Joe McCarthy, but for that matter, so is Barack Obama, John Brennan, and the whole merry band of White House nutcakes, except that they are not nuts, they’re very efficient and methodical, and it is we who are nuts for letting them get away with stealing our freedoms.

-- Norman Pollack, "Surveillance, Cyberspying, and the Fig Leaf of Democracy" (CounterPunch).

Truest statement of the week II

Earlier this month President Obama visited a Bay Area Wal-Mart to praise the world's largest and most anti-union retailer for its supposed environmental responsibility. The fact is that Wal-Mart's maintenance of diesel-fueled supply chains between its stores and wherever on the planet wages are lowest and environmental restrictions are totally absent make it a major ongoing contributor to runaway climate change. The president's appearance therefore, was simply a hypocritical exercise in greenwashing for Wal-Mart.

-- Bruce Dixon, "Always Low Wages, More Pollution: Why Barack & Michelle Obama Relentlessly Shill For Wal-Mart" (Black Agenda Report).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Norman Pollack gets another Truest. 
As does Bruce Dixon.
And it's really sad and disgusting.  
Ava and C.I. look at the 'brave new world' of internet programs and find grossly disappointing (The Young Turks) and the inspired (The Guild).  Along the way, they journey through Iraq.  This is one of the pieces that, when you read it, you wonder why someone else hasn't already written in before, seconds later, grasping no one but Ava and C.I. could have written this.
It would appear Barack is.
Dona regroups to moderate another roundtable.

What we were listening to.
We did a big piece here instead of a series of short articles due to this topic being so important.
IAVA press release.
Senator Patty Murray press release. 
Sherwood Ross. 
Workers World repost.
Great Britain's Socialist Worker.

Senator Patty Murray press release.
Mike and the gang look at the week's best.


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

Editorial: The Western Press Keeps Lying About Iraq

Last week, the preliminary results from the April 30th parliamentary elections in Iraq were released.  It was not a pretty sight.

The Plan for Day 101

Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan For Day 101."

The western press had called Nouri the victor before the campaigning even started.  But the results demonstrated Nouri al-Maliki was just as unpopular in 2014 as he was in 2010. 

But somehow the press needed to spin this as a sweeping victory for Nouri.

He won nothing. 

State of Law, his political coalition, won 92 or 93 or 94 seats depending upon whether you were reading Reuters, AP or AFP.  That's not enough to be dubbed prime minister-designate and begin forming a Cabinet.

Nouri defined his goal ahead of the elections.

He wanted no form of a power-sharing government.  He wanted a majority rule government.

In order to have that, he needed to secure 165 seats in Parliament.  He failed.

So he lost.

He will now have to woo other political blocs and try to get them to join in a coalition with him.

As you reflect on what we're writing, you're no doubt not only thinking, "He didn't win."  You're probably also thinking, "Why would the press play this as a victory?"

That's a good question.

And we may have the answer for you.

See, Nouri didn't win in 2006 and he didn't win in 2010.

So how did he get two terms as prime minister?

Because the US government demanded it.  Under Bully Boy Bush, the US government nixed Ibrahim al-Jafaari and demanded Nouri be named prime minister.  That was 2006.  Four years later, US President Barack Obama demanded that Nouri get a second term even though the voters had said otherwise.  He ordered US officials in Iraq to negotiate a contract (The Erbil Agreement) which would go around the voters and the Iraqi Constitution to give Nouri a second term.

Is it possible that the press is yet again serving the interests of empire, specifically US domination, by attempting to portray embarrassing results for Nouri as some form of a sweeping victory?

The Western press has long had a truth problem when it came to Iraq.  Since 2002, it has actively misled and lied  -- with few exceptions --  about the realities of Iraq --  both pre-invasion and post-invasion.

Last week's bad coverage looks less like stupidity and more like duplicity -- an effort by the western press to make those outside of Iraq believe Nouri achieved something when, in fact, he failed at his stated goal and, even with serious allegations of voter fraud (2 million dead voted in the election would be one of the more serious charges), he wasn't able to pull off anything that could pass for a victory.

TV: The Brave New World?

The internet was supposed to be an amazing equalizer.  It was going to clear the way for many.  But, reality, many was mainly many men.  Women are left out repeatedly.  It's not a new phenomena.  As early as 2005, it was being noted how male bloggers linked to one another but avoided women.  This outcry led to a few token linkings, nothing more.

But what about the world of original programming?

Surely, that's been better, right?


Netflix has a woman problem -- it's only got one original show which is female led (Orange Is The New Black).  Hulu can only point to the animated Mother Up.

A man like the hideous actor Tyler Labine can get his own Hulu series (Deadbeat) despite his previous three (TV) shows failing (Reaper, Sons of Tucson and Mad Love).  But where are the women?

Julia Stiles stars in Blue.  She's very good in the show.  But we're more interested in the work of two other women because they acted, produced and wrote their online TV shows.

Illeana Douglas came to most people's attention via the film Cape Fear.  Her strong acting was on full display in Allison Anders' amazing Grace Of My Heart.  Those are just two of Douglas' strong credits. Starting in 2008, she starred in the web series Easy To Assemble -- starred in, produced and wrote.  The premise of the 48 episode sitcom was that Illeana feels disconnected and thinks working at IKEA may be a way to find herself.  The series show cased her dry wit and featured guest appearances from Justine Bateman, Keanu Reeves, Jeff Goldblum, Tim Meadows, Ricki Lake, Patricia Heaton, Tim Meadows and many others.

The show debuted online in September 2008.  At that time ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW were airing thirteen comedies.  Only two of those thirteen starred women:  Samantha Who? and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

So the fact that Illeana got a sitcom online was even more of a big deal.  The fact that she was responsible for the show and that it was consistently funny should earn her a page or two when the history of internet programming is written.

The thing about Easy To Assemble is that, after four seasons, when it ceased production, it didn't go away and people continue to discover and enjoy the program.

Felicia Day is the other actress we want to emphasize.

While most know Easy To Assemble is no longer in production, many refuse to believe The Guild has ended its run.  The series ran for six seasons and 70 episodes.  And, yes, the series finale was filmed and broadcast.

Unlike Illeana's program, The Guild revolved around six characters including Day's character of  Codex.  The other five were part of her online gaming world.  There was the   Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh), Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda), Vork (Jeff Lewis), Bladezz (Vincent Caso) and Clara (Robin Thorsen).

Did you notice that?

It's a six person cast and, shocker, there are three women and three men.

Watching last week's output from the not-so Young Turks (forty is not young, kids), we were really marveling over the world Felicia Day created.

The Young Turks is an internet program starring middle-aged men.  They were all White last week.

Supposedly, this is a public affairs program with a focus on politics.


It doesn't have a focus on facts, that's obvious.

In a segment on a young college student who took her own life, Whitney Mixter felt the need to declare, "I believe she was a freshman."  You're the one providing background and you don't even know if the woman was a freshman?

The Young Turks cannot be bound by facts, you understand.  Facts weigh down their ability to craft pleasing narratives and ratchet up the outrage.

"Look, this is speculation and I really don't know," Ana Kasparian declared as an intro to her 'background' on Mark Cuban.  She didn't know what she was talking about, she didn't even know enough to know he was frequently controversial (apparently, she missed 2008's "The Burns and The Bees" episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns tries to emulate the antics of Cuban).

But nothing to be ashamed of there, the show is full of uninformed commentary.  A Fox News host was arrested for drunken behavior.  This prompted a lengthy segment in which John Iadarola felt the need to offer this 'insight,'  "I was not there.  We don't know the exact details of what happened.  But I have to imagine there was a 'Do you know who I am?' thrown at the police at some point."

Why does he have to imagine it?  Why does Kasparian have to insist Mark Cuban's under investigation when she's also stating that she's not sure that he is?

Because if The Young Turks weren't allowed to use fantasy role play in order to improve on the facts, their tired program would be even more threadbare than it already is.

This is a deeply stupid show.  And it's a deeply sexist one.  Ana Kasparian and Whitney Mixter were lucky to get one segment a show last week (it was one or the other on each episode, you got an Ana episode or a Whitney one).  They were brought on as the Mommy to these middle-aged men who thought f**k was the most important term in the English language.

Mommy Ana or Mommy Whitney would pop out for one brief segment and their role was basically to set the segment.  To act as moderator while a man or two men speculated.  Then they were gone and the segments after, like the ones before, featured John and Ben Mankiewicz (and sometimes a third man).

Ben was especially offensive as he mangled facts with regards to the VA scandal and then added this nonsense:

Ben Mankiewicz: This is veterans coming home from wars that we're fighting now.  You know, this isn't Vietnam, we're not sneering at veterans --

John Iadarola: Yeah.

Ben Mankiewicz:  -- thankfully anymore.

Thankfully anymore?

So The Young Turks, an allegedly liberal program, exists to repeat hoary lies about the left being against veterans?

It's unclear why this awful show exists at all.

Women may make up over 50% of the US population but they barely register on this program and when they do appear in their one segment each episode -- when one woman shows up -- she's tasked with playing Mommy putting out the toys for the little boys to then play with.

We should also point out the 'politics' they tackled.  Episodes last week dealt with such 'political' issues as what is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban like deep in his soul and whether he was 'under investigation,' a young woman took her own life after a porn film she made became public knowledge in her home town, a Fox News host was arrested at an airport for apparently being drunk, Wendy Davis campaigning in California  and being greeted with signs proclaiming her "Abortion Barbie," etc.

Now Davis jetting over to California was news -- news the show avoided.  She's campaigning for governor of Texas.  There was a story there about deep pockets and issues of who is being represented.  All that got avoided to focus on "Abortion Barbie."

This, we were told, is an offensive phrase.

That surprised us.

Not because we urge people to call any woman "Barbie" -- implying she's a doll.

But because we'd only heard that term once before.

No, not from conservative Erick Erickson who The Young Turks attacked.  (Attacked and didn't really explain who he was despite a whole segment on him.  We'd never heard his name before and don't feel we learned much about him from their segment.)

We heard the phrase, "abortion Barbie,"  back in March and heard it used on MSNBC.

We noted it when we reviewed Ronan Farrow's hideous show:

Besides calling her "abortion Barbie," he gushed of Wendy Davis, "I am a fan of hers, personally."

Maybe The Young Turks called that out?

(No, they didn't.)

This is a deeply stupid program where faux issues like a high school principal recalling prom invitations is treated as news with global impact.

We watched all week in vain as we waited for the program to raise the issues of War Crimes.

That, in fact, is the sole reason we watched.

Early last week, we were noting how the world press looks the other way as Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki kills Iraqi civilians.  He's long labeled Falluja -- where he is deeply unpopular -- a city where 'terrorists' have a foothold.  At the end of December, he began assaulting Anbar Province (whose big cities include Falluja and Ramadi), a Sunni dominant province which fueled the long standing charges that Shi'ite Nouri targets the Sunni population.

Labeling Falluja a hot bed of terrorism, Nouri began bombing it.

Falluja is a major city.  It has a huge population.

Nouri began bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja at the start of January.

This bombing continues all these months later.

Even if you believe there are 'terrorists' in Falluja, you are not allowed to kill civilians.

This is what is known as "collective punishment."  It is a legally defined War Crime and has been for decades.  The US government recognizes it as a War Crime in various laws and treaties.

Nouri is committing War Crimes.

Each day people are injured and/or killed.


And no one in the US government speaks out, the western press offers no fiery editorials.  At one or three dead a day, it doesn't apparently seem that much.  But as the days turn to weeks and as the weeks turn to months, the tolls of the dead and wounded add up.

Nouri's also bombed hospitals in Falluja repeatedly.  This too is a War Crime.

And yet, all we get is silence.

No, a male college student insisted last Monday, "The Young Turks wouldn't ignore this."  Two hours later, another fan of the show told us we needed to catch The Young Turks because they would be "all over this."

In both cases, we stopped and apologized.  We were unaware that The Young Turks had tackled the issue. We were happy to be corrected, thank goodness for The Young Turks.

What, we asked, did they say about the issue?

It turned out, no one could answer that question.

They hadn't seen The Young Turks cover the issue, you understand, they just felt that it was an issue The Young Turks would tackle.

Even their own 'fans' apparently don't bother to watch the episodes.

But we did.

Last week.

And we found a lot of nonsense, a lot of gossip and nothing of any real importance.

We think TMZ does more socially responsible work than The Young Turks which exists to tell you how awful this person or that person is -- while insisting that in comedy you "punch up" -- and that some morning shock jocks got fired for saying rude things.

They agreed, the two men discussing the topic introduced by a female Mommy, that shock jocks saying outrageous and offensive things was nothing new and that even the firing may have been nothing new.  And yet they devoted an entire segment to this.

Iraq came up briefly.  Sort of.

As an aside.

A thundering monologue (so you know it was a man) touched on Karl Rove and how he was responsible for the Iraq War and that 4,000 Americans had died and at least 100,000 Iraqis because of Karl Rove.

First, the number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.  When you're grandstanding on Iraq and don't know that number, you unknowingly expose your lack of caring and lack of knowledge.

Second, we'd go with The Lancet's study from a few years back which found over a million Iraqis died.  We'd assume the number now stands at 1.5 million but note that the numbers were deliberately kept vague, that the US government lied that they weren't keeping a count, etc.

Third, Karl Rove controlled Hillary Clinton?

We did not know that.

He controlled John Edwards and John Kerry?

A number of Democrats -- including those three -- voted for the Iraq War.

We didn't realize Karl Rove controlled them.

Or that he controlled Josh Micah Marsall, Ezra Klein and other 'left' voices who advocated for the start of the Iraq War.

We didn't realize that he controlled The New York Times, ABC News and every other outlet that promoted the 'need' for an illegal war.

We didn't realize he controlled John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, who joined in on the war campaign.  Or that Karl controlled Tony Blair, the UK prime minister who was shoulder-to-shoulder with Bully Boy Bush.

We think Karl Rove is a liar and that he has no ethics.  We have no problem classifying him as a War Hawk and a promoter of the illegal war.  But to hear the bluster of The Young Turks in full blown profanity because Bill O'Reilly called Rove "Mr. Rove"?

It was more than over the top, it was unstable.

Having briefly remembered the Iraq War, we thought, "Okay, when they're done with this nonsense, they'll make a point to talk about Iraq today."

They never did.

They apparently prefer nonsense to reality and, as much as they love the f-word, they love wasting everyone's time with trivia passed off as news.

And, again,  The Young Turks is a deeply sexist show.

This show was created for the web.  Where are the women?

This isn't an entrenched TV show on for decades that women have to fight to get even a little representation.  This is a show created on this 'brave new world' of the internet and no one, not one of the modern thinkers, thought to include women.

Forgive us for scoffing at the notion that the web will be the great equalizer.

The Young Turks includes Cenk Uygur and that's good because it gives them at least one person of color.

They had none last week so, realizing how hypocritical they may have come off attacking Rush Limbaugh for his very real verbal racism while they themselves employed systemic racism, they rushed to include a staff member, an African-American staff member, in the conversation.  Mainly to ask him how long it took him to put together the reel of Limbaugh's comments and also to ask him if he had eaten lunch.

And then they were more or less done with him.  Because White men should control the discussion of racism in this country, right?

If you answered back with a sincere "right," you might be a conservative or a Young Turk host.

And Toni Braxton's abortion and what she feels about it now?  Wasn't it great, after a Mommy set the boys up, to have two men pontificate endlessly about abortion?

We really appreciate the faux insight Ben Mankiewicz had to share.

We kept waiting for him to offer his best Helen Reddy as he burst into song, "Yes, I am wise.  But it's wisdom born of pain."

Even on abortion, the middle-aged men of The Young Turks want to grab center stage and act as the voice of the issue.

Which brings us back to Felicia Day.

How did she manage to create a sitcom that valued women?  That had three female cast members and three male cast members?  That included an Asian-American cast member and a Indian-American cast member?

Amazing that Day looked around for inspiration for her show and chose to reflect the world she lives in and not the White and Male world of TV broadcasting.

And maybe it was wanting to portray this world that made The Guild so rich?  The character details were amazing, the twists of plot lines surprising.

The Guild is probably the best series created for the internet.

Yes, we think it's far superior to Netflix's House of Cards but if that offends your Water Cooler sensibilities, grasp that House of Cards was not created for the internet, it's a remake of a British TV program.

We think Illeana Douglas has earned her page in internet video programming history and we think Felicity Day has as well.

But there's more with regards to Day.

She's one of the creators of Geeks & Sundry, a two-year-old YouTube channel.  You can find The Guild there, yes.  You can also find Wil Wheaton's Table Talk (board games game show), Arcade Arms with Nika Harper, Felicity and her brother Ryon Day's Retro: Let's Play, The Flog, Swords & Lasers, and much more.

The Young Turks took a distorted view of the world broadcast on TV for decades, a primarily White and male world, embraced that view and amplified it.

Felicity Day, however, personifies what the net was supposed to provide us, a wider range of voices.  Some may dismiss the sitcoms, gaming shows, vlogs, cooking shows, book and comic book shows, etc. as "just entertainment."  There's a lot of life coming out of these "just entertainment" programs.

Furthermore, The Young Turks fails at political and is just a messy gossip show.  Too bad they can't even rate as "just entertainment."

Reactionary is the term for what the boys of The Young Turks are offering.  We're not sure we'd call Felicity Day a "visionary" (we wouldn't object if someone else called her that) but she's certainly a pioneer and one who represents the best that the internet can and should offer.

Who's a thong wearer?

Congress and veterans


Dona: We’re back with another roundtable on Congress and Veterans.  Participating are Ruth, Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I.  And their most recent reports on Congressional VA hearings were C.I.'s Thursday, May 15th snapshot and Friday, May 16th snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Senator Richard Blumenthal says call in the F.B.I.," Kat covered it in "Shinseki needs to be fired," Ava covered it in "Shineski (Ava)" and Wally covered it in "More talk, no action (Wally)."    We’re touching base now not because of a new hearing but due to the week that was.  Wally, can you give us the back story on the latest VA scandal?

Wally: Sure.  The VA has a problem with some medical centers around the country – how many is not known but at least 26 are known to be under investigation currently – keeping cooked books.  To make it appear that they are serving veterans in a timely fashion, a fake set of records is kept which gives the impression that veterans are getting medical appointments within 14 days of requesting them.  The real records are kept out of the computer system and show veterans waiting weeks and months for needed medical appointments.

Dona: Clearly, this is a problem for veterans' health.  40 veterans are said to have died due to the cooked books in Phoenix.  But the criminal issue is something C.I.’s hit upon and it’s beginning to get traction.  Ruth, could you speak of that?

Ruth: Surely.  Mid-level officials, for example, have received bonuses.  The woman over the Phoenix center, for example, received nearly $9,000 last month as a bonus for the great work she has been doing.  Last week, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki rescinded that bonus.  But that woman is not alone.  Many have used the cooked books to get bonuses.  As C.I. has pointed out, these cooked books do not just influence bonuses.  These false figures also are influencing salaries because they are being used in performance appraisals.  This would be fraud.  The two sets of list qualify as fraudulent but when those lists result in bonuses and higher pay, there is another level of corruption and criminality, they are defrauding the government and the taxpayer.

Dona: Ruth, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has spoken of the criminal aspect last week and two weeks ago your own senator, Richard Blumenthal, was stating that the issue needed to be turned over to the Justice Department.

Ruth: Correct.  Senator Blumenthal is a former prosecutor.  Sitting in that hearing, I was proud of him for making that point.  However, the response from Mr. Shinseki was that maybe, after the Inspector General’s report was issued, he, Eric Shinseki, might think about doing that.

Kat: He really is inept.

Dona: In C.I.’s first report on Shinseki testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, she included a lengthy exchange between Shinseki and Senator Richard Burr.

Kat: Right.  And that exchange grew more popular last week with many columnists, Dana Milbank with The Washington Post being only one, citing it.  Shinseki did not appear to grasp the seriousness of the hearing and showed up thinking ‘I don’t know’ was an acceptable answer.

Dona: The hearing wasn’t a pop quiz.  One of you made that point in your report on the hearing.

Kat: That was C.I. and the point was that Shinseki knew the scope of the hearing before he attended and yet he showed up unprepared, unable to answer the most basic questions.  He did not exhibit any confidence as a leader and he did nothing to convey he felt any urgency about the problem, about the scandal.

Dona: And that has become the press narrative.  Ava, you've been present for numerous hearings where Shinseki’s testified.  A reader, an Afghanistan War veteran, wondered how much of this might be Shinseki’s usual dynamics as opposed to the way it’s portrayed by the press.

Ava: I think that’s a fair question.  Shinseki can have a flat affect when speaking.  I’ve certainly seen that, yes.  But, let’s take the October 2009 hearing as an example.  He wasn’t offering testimony in a louder volume or with firmer vocal sounds.  But he was aware of the facts and did convey them.  When he didn't in that hearing, or any others, he still conveyed concern.  That was absent in the hearing two weeks ago.  This wasn’t an issue of how he spoke or his basic nature, it was an issue of not caring enough to do the prep required for a topic.  It was not a pop quiz.  He knew the topic ahead of time and he couldn’t get through the most basic questions.  Let me note Richard Burr.  He’s the Ranking Member.  That means Chair Bernie Sanders gets to ask the first series of questions, then Ranking Member Richard Burr goes.  This is important because this wasn’t Shinseki fading as the hearing went on or fading because the questions got deep into the weeds.  This was the second series of questions, they were basic questions.  You wouldn’t even call them compound questions.  Yet repeatedly Shinseki did not know the answer and didn’t seem too concerned about not knowing the answer.  He was not engaged.

Dona: Now we move to the topic of Senator Bernie Sanders who is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  We heard from a number of veterans that Sanders needs to step down.  We also heard from one veteran who stated C.I., in last week’s roundtable, was attempting to “rescue Sanders.”  Jim’s note to the readers dealt with the session -- our writing session -- but it did not go up until Monday because we were so tired.  The veteran e-mailing about C.I. felt “she was much stronger in her snapshot reports and I know she thinks she’s doing a big favor to everyone by speaking little in roundtables but I just felt she kind of tied a pretty bow around it.”  That roundtable was an iffy one.  C.I. called it the worst one we’d done ever.  In terms of Ava and C.I., it needs to be noted that they had pink eye.  Their eyes were running and hurting -- Jim had put this in his note but apparently some people didn’t see it.  C.I. also got greeted, during the writing edition, with the news that one friend had died, then two friends had died and then a third call came in about a third death.  That all was before we did the roundtable.  So I want to say all that before I toss to C.I.

C.I.: It wasn’t my intent to rescue Bernie Sanders.  I do try to be fair.  If the reader feels I went beyond fair and tried to rescue him, my apologies for that.  As Dona noted, it was not an easy or fun writing edition.  That doesn’t excuse my rescuing Sanders if I did rescue him.  I just wanted to get done with it, sorry.

Dona:  Okay, so Bernie Sanders.  In the second of the two reports you did two weeks ago, C.I., you noted that you spoke with five veterans who attended the hearing and were critical of and gravely disappointed in Bernie Sanders.  Last week, some veterans went public with remarks similar to the ones you’d reported on the week prior.  What’s going on with Sanders?

C.I.: I’m going to piss people off with what I’m about to say, I’m sure.  I’m trying to provide an overview.  This is not necessarily how I feel about, for example, alternative medicine.  I’m referring to Sanders’ image.   Senator Daniel Akaka was Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee when Kat, Ava, Wally and I first began attending hearings.  Akaka had many issues he pressed on but one of the main ones would probably be the issue of families who’d lived on bases and suffered pollution-related illnesses and diseases.  That’s a strong issue.  That’s one veterans across the country can relate to.  It doesn’t necessarily effect a large number but a large number will have lived on bases and can relate to how awful it would be to have your health or your family’s health destroyed because of the conditions on a military base.  Senator Patty Murray became Chair next.  She also had many issues.  Her three most prominent issues were the VA’s failure to treat Post-Traumatic Stress, the issue of assault and rape within the ranks and veterans employment.  Like Shinseki’s key issues, Murray’s issues had wide support in the veterans’ community.  Now comes Senator Bernie Sanders as Chair.  Bernie is a Socialist.  That’s not a bad thing.  But it does make some veterans wary.  There are veterans of every political stripe including Socialists – many of them, for example, are in Iraq Veterans Against the War.  But for the broader community, that did put a question mark on Sanders.  Not a mark against him but a raised eye brow, an attitude of, ‘Okay, let’s see where this ride goes.’    I’m going to toss to Ava for Bernie’s issue in part because I’m bored with my own voice. 

Ava: Senator Bernie Sanders has made his key issue:  Alternative medicine.  He’s for acupuncture and yoga and other forms of treatment that go beyond just medicating.  He is not opposed to medicating when needed, he’s not trying to deny veterans medicine – we speak to veterans groups and there are some who wrongly feel that he is.  He sees alternative medicine as part of total approach to health care.  It is not the only aspect, but it is one aspect and hopefully its use – the VA’s studies are incomplete at this point – will prevent overmedication.  That is a serious issue and it can turn a veteran into a drug addict, it can allow real issues and symptoms to be masked and go untreated.  C.I.?

C.I.: Thank you.  Sanders was greeted with a raised eyebrow and then, at a time when veterans need jobs and veterans suicide rates are still a very serious issue, he’s doing – he’s championing an issue that a number of veterans see as a ‘soft’ issue at best.  With all of this going on, a new scandal breaks and the veteran community looks to see how Sanders will respond.  April 30th, they held a hearing.  Sanders made a brief remark about the scandal and then stuck to alternative medicine.  This pissed a lot of people off.  40 people were said to have died in this latest scandal and the reaction from veterans we spoke to – veterans groups, veterans who are friends – was that Sanders made a big mistake there and failed to show leadership.  Then came the hearing this month on the issue and Sanders faded during the hearing and after, the same day, goes on CNN and is rescuing the VA to such a point that Chris Cuomo pointed it out to him on air.  In March, Senator Bernie Sanders had a better image among veterans.  This scandal has hurt him because he’s failed to seriously address it.  There’s a hearing coming up and maybe he can get serious in that but I doubt it due to its scope.  If he doesn’t get serious about this issue, veterans are going to be calling for someone else to be the Chair.

Dona: Or possibly the Republicans might take control of the Senate in the November elections in which case, they’ll have the post of Chair.  I really can’t believe how poorly the Democrats are handling this scandal because it is going to cost them votes in the mid-terms.  They need to be calling this out and calling out Shinseki.  The hearing C.I.’s referring to is on proposed legislation, by the way, and that’s why C.I. said what she did about the scope of the hearing.  A Gulf War veteran wrote to say, “The reality is that veterans need help from everyone and Sanders is too busy serving the Democratic administration to serve veterans.  I found it very interesting that C.I. wrote a piece defending Senator John McCain’s right to speak out for veterans and then a day later IAVA meets with McCain.  I’m not a huge fan of McCain’s but he has been there on the Shinseki issue and I applaud IAVA for not playing partisan nonsense.”  C.I.?

C.I.: I am against the Iraq War.  John McCain is for it.  Because he was and is for it, he was being attacked on Twitter with the argument that he could not speak out on behalf of veterans.  I can speak out – I can be against the war and speak out for veterans.  McCain can be for the war and speak out for veterans.  These are not contradictions.  McCain believing in a war, believing it is just and needed, does not preclude him from defending veterans.  I was really offended by the Twitter nonsense.  As the Gulf War veteran pointed out in their e-mail, it can’t be one side fighting for veterans issues.  Everyone has to work together or it’s just not going to happen.  I have many problems with John McCain but his defending veterans is not one of them.  I applaud him for defending veterans.  Ruth?

Ruth: I would agree with that.  And like the Gulf War veteran who e-mailed, I have a lot more respect for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America for their willingness to talk to both sides. 

Dona: Okay then.  This has been a rush transcript.  Our e-mail address is

This edition's playlist


22)      Dashboard Confessional's The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most.
33)     Diana Ross' Swept Away.

44)      Donovan's A Gift From A Flower To A Garden.

77)      Love's Forever Changes.
88)      Prince's Parade.

99)      Aretha Franklin's A Rose Is Still A Rose.

The Untouchable Eric Shinseki?

Eric Shinseki’s tenure as Secretary of Veterans Affairs has been plagued with one scandal after another.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Shinseki's Limited Hang Out

The first scandal was in the fall of 2009 when many veterans were not receiving their fall tuition checks.  Remember that scandal? 

The VA insisted publicly that the problem was with the academic institution and/or the veteran. 

That wasn’t the problem.

That was a lie.

And the VA knowingly lied.

Shortly after Shinseki was made VA Secretary, he was informed that VA’s own studies showed that the rollout of the new GI Bill was not going to go smoothly.  Shinseki then hired an outside consultant who told him the same thing.

At this point, Shinseki should have informed Congress.  He did not.  Did he inform the White House?  We don’t know.

But we do know that many veterans were left taking out loans and juggling to stay afloat because of the VA’s inability to deliver.  We know that because Shinseki admitted to it in an October 14, 2009 hearing though the press ignored his comments.

That scandal – which went beyond a screw up to include lying to the public and to Congress – should have been enough to end Shinseki’s tenure as VA Secretary.

It was not.

Since then, other scandals would include his deceit on the VA getting together with DoD to form a seamless transition, electronic record that would follow a service member throughout their time in DoD onto the VA when they left the military.  This would allow for faster claims and make it easier for the veterans to file the claims since the information would already be on the record the VA had.

This was supposed to have been worked out in 2009.

People were led to believe it was.

Last week, Chuck Hagel, Secretary of DoD, gave decidedly lukewarm support for Shinseki when speaking to Charlie Rose (CBS This Morning).  That surprised some people.

It shouldn’t have.

Hagel doesn’t care for Shinseki.

It has to do with the electronic record.

In 2009, Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense.  He and Shinseki agreed to a record.  (The issue with the record is that DoD and VA’s computer systems cannot currently ‘speak’ to one another.  The first issue is deciding whose computer system would be the basis and moving on from there.)  Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  Shinseki and Panetta discussed what was already decided.

Nothing was done.

Then Hagel became Secretary of Defense.

By 2013, Congress has poured a lot of taxpayer money into this issue and they wanted to know where things stood.

He told Congress that the plan hadn’t been implemented yet because of Hagel who was still getting used to his duties and . . .

Hagel hit the roof.

This is why President Barack Obama got involved.  He met with Hagel and Shinseki and supposedly there is now an agreement on whose system to use.

But none of this had anything to do with Hagel.  Gates had agreed years before, then Panetta had agreed.  It should have been implemented under Gates.  But Shinseki has been a roadblock on this issue and repeatedly used the changing of Defense Secretaries as an excuse to avoid moving forward.

When he threw Hagel under the bus, he created his own personal nemesis.

In the latest scandal, the press has documented how various VA centers have been using two lists for appointments.

The first one, the one they enter in the computers and use to justify bonuses and performance appraisals, documents veterans making appointments and receiving them within 14 days.

This list is false.

The real list, the one off book, shows veterans waiting weeks and months for appointments.

This hidden wait is said to be responsible for at least 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA medical center.

It is also what led veteran Barry Coates to stage-four cancer.  As he explained to the House Veterans Affairs Committee April 9th, he did not get timely treatment, his symptoms were ignored, a competent doctor would have ordered tests and work ups but instead he got substandard treatment in his first visit and attempts to schedule follow up appointments were impossible and it was a year after the problem emerged that he finally got the basic test he needed by which point he had stage-four cancer.

Thursday on The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN), Dana Bashrevealed that Shinseki had boasted that morning that he had not offered to resign.

He really is a stupid man.

What has saved him thus far is this notion that he’s owed something because he served in the military.

He is owed something for that: health care, pension and a few other things.

He is not owed a job, he is not owed a job he fails to perform.

Were Shinseki active duty military and making these mistakes, he’d be disciplined.

But outside the military, there’s this notion that he can’t be disciplined and can’t be fired, that doing so would be an insult to veterans.

Shinseki’s substandard leadership at VA is an insult to veterans.

Democracy is what the US military is supposed to defend.  And democracy is not, “Here’s an idiot who keeps screwing up in his job so let’s keep him in that post.”

The saddest thing about Shinseki last week was his boasting that he hadn’t offered his resignation.  When he was in the military, he knew accountability mattered.  Now that he’s out of it, he thinks he can game the system and cite his (past) military record as an excuse for his current incompetence.

IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or


IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal
Leaders applaud his strong leadership on VA accountability

Washington DC (May 22, 2014) – Today, leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), including IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, met with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of only two combat veterans in the Senate, about the ongoing crisis of confidence in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Senator McCain and IAVA have lead the charge for reform and accountability at VA since the news first broke four weeks ago. 

“Since this scandal first broke, Senator McCain has had our back. While others have followed, delayed and made excuses, he has stepped out in front. We applaud his strong leadership, tenacity and demands for real accountability. As a fellow combat veteran, and the father of a post-9/11 veteran, Senator John McCain uniquely understands the outrage that IAVA members feel as this crisis at the VA continues to escalate.” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder and CEO. “Just days before Memorial Day, it was an honor to stand with Senator McCain to call for strong leadership, action, and results. He more than anybody understands that our veterans deserve nothing but the best from their elected leaders. Together, we will fight to ensure they get it.”

From left to right: Paul Rieckhoff, Senator McCain, Lauren Augustie and Alex Nicholson

Senator McCain and IAVA also discussed effective measures to combat suicide among America’s troops and veterans, IAVA’s top priority for 2014. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

VETERANS: TODAY: Murray to Continue Call for Immediate VA Action

 VETERANS: TODAY: Murray to Continue Call for Immediate VA Action

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, May 22, 2014                                                                (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: TODAY: Murray to Continue Call for Immediate VA Action
Murray: “What we need from VA now is decisive action and I think this Committee should be clear to the VA what we expect. The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — TODAY, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will attend the Senate Appropriations Committee’s first Full Committee Markup of the year. During consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill, Murray plans to continue her push for immediate action at the VA, and express support for provisions in the Appropriations bill that would address wait times and increase accountability.

WHO:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT:          Remarks on the VA at the Senate Appropriations Committee Markup.
WHEN:          TODAY
                        10:30 AM EST/7:30AM PST
WHERE:       SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building

WEBCAST: (Note: Video/audio will be available upon completion of the hearing)

Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Oswald Helped Thwart Plot Vs. JFK in Chicago

This is from Sherwood Ross:


Media Consultants
To arrange interviews contact: Sherwood Ross
                                                  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Far from assassinating President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was a loyal American who warned the FBI in writing in Oct., 1963, that there was a plot afoot to shoot JFK if he came to Chicago, a new book asserts. 
Oswald's timely warning caused the Chicago plot to fizzle, writes lawyer Navy Lt. Cmdr. James D. Norvell, J.D., late of Ft. Worth, Tex., in his just published book, "Treason, Treachery & Deceit: The Murderers of JFK, MLK & RFK."
Oswald was being "run" by David Atlee Phillips, formerly CIA station chief in Mexico City, and he tried, Norvell says,"to see if he could pass along any useful information about the conspirators to any and all loyal CIA/FBI who were noninvolved with the JFK assassination (planning)efforts. (Page 293)
"Forensic tests proved that Oswald had not fired a rifle or any other shoulder-fired weapon on the day of the JFK assassination," Norvell writes. "There is abundant eyewitness evidence that he was on the second floor at the time of the shootings instead of on one of the upper floors of the Texas State Book Depository(TSBD)."
What's more, Oswald's carbine was a low- not high-velocity, rifle, "and could not have caused the severe damage to Kennedy's head,nor could the slug have survived a trip through the bony structures of JFK's neck, Norvell writes, adding, the other shots were probably fired from high-powered, high-velocity rifles.
Norvell writes that it was the CIA's Atlee Philips who got Oswald to take the TSBD job a few weeks before JFK's murder. The job was designed "to give the conspicuous, dissident, lone-nut Oswald a means to get at JFK from a tall building near a potential parade route so he could be framed conveniently for the assassination later on," Norvell wrote. He points out, further, that Oswald was carrying a U.S. government I.D. card when he was arrested in Dallas.
Kept from the public was the fact Dallas police arrested two Oswalds' after the JFK murder at the Texas Theater and put them in separate police cars. En route to the police station,  the police dispatcher radioed the car with Lee Oswald: "We got the president's murderer, so you need to release the guy you got there." The policemen obediently take the handcuffs of Lee Oswald's wrists and release him. The other Oswald, named Harvey, Oswald's double, is taken to the police station, where he is interrogated and shot the next day by night club owner Jack Ruby. 
At the time of President Kennedy's murder, the uninvolved Oswald was drinking a soda in the TSBD with the depository's superintendent in the employee lunch room. A Dallas police officer enters with pistol drawn and tells Supt. Roy Truly he is looking for the shooter. Truly replies, motioning to Oswald, "He's all right; he works here," and the officer moves on. Oswald decides to go home and walks nonchalantly toward his apartment, then takes two buses and finally a taxi when his bus gets caught in traffic.
In charge of the JFK killing, Norvell writes, was Major General Edward Lansdale, a CIA Black Ops expert, who afterwards paid some shooters as much as $100,000 for their role, the 585-page book says. 
Upon resigning his naval commission after several tours of duty in Viet Nam, Norvell worked as a trial lawyer for 30 years, including as the attorney for LBJ aide Billie Sol Estes. 
Norvell goes on to write that the Soviets learned of the JFK assassination plot and feared they would be blamed as Oswald defected to them in 1959, after which he was "sheep-dipped" by his handlers to assume a pro-Castro image.  #

(This news release prepared by media consultants Sherwood Ross Associates. Reach Sherwood Ross at or write to him in care of Ross Associates, 102 S.W. 6th Avenue, Miami, FL, 33130. Phone: (305) 205-8281)

US fast food strikers stage mass sit-in at McDonald's shareholder event

This is from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

US fast food strikers stage mass sit-in at McDonald's shareholder event

by Julie Sherry

The mass sit-in outside McDonalds corporate shareholder event
The mass sit-in outside McDonald's corporate shareholder event (Pic: Nequasia LeGrand)

More than 2,000 fast food workers and their supporters joined a mass sit-in outside a McDonald’s corporate shareholders event in the US city of Chicago on Wednesday 21 May.

The protest followed strikes at major fast food chains in more than 150 cities in the US last week. It was part of a fast food rights global day of action that saw solidarity protests take place in over 30 countries.
The strikers have a simple demand—$15 (£9) an hour and trade union rights.

Nequasia LeGrand, a 22 year old KFC worker from Brooklyn, New York, was at the sit-in. She told Socialist Worker, “People came from all over—New York, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Florida, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Detroit, Tennessee, Kansas City and many more.”

The bosses’ event took place in a western suburb of Chicago at ‘McDonald’s University”, a 130,000 square foot training facility of McDonald's Corporation.

Nequasia said, “We were all pumped and excited. It was amazing seeing all these workers that believe we can win and are ready to take McDonald’s down. We marched and shut down one of Chicago's main highways.

“We chanted all the way to McDonald’s University to get our voices heard. But, of course, you know they’re not gonna just let thousands of people walk in.”

The bosses were clearly rattled by it. The strikers are growing in number, influence and confidence.

In a bid to weaken their resolve riot police waded in to the protest, arresting 137 demonstrators—101 were fast food workers. But the attempts to intimidate may prove to have backfired.

For many on the protest, the heavy-handed police tactics only acted to deepen their determination to keep up the fight.

One of the arrested strikers, 20 year old Natasha from Milwaukee, described singing and chanting in the crowd that was facing down the riot police, and how she felt a process of “pushing away my fear”.

“You stand up for your rights and you make history… If I have to constantly get arrested until they make a change, I will do it.”

Nequasia agreed, “People were willing to do whatever it takes, even if that is getting arrested, for your rights and a better future for the world.

“Over a 100 people decided to push their way through to get our voices heard. It was the most wonderful feeling everybody felt.

“I can see it in workers’ eyes that we have no choice but to win $15 and a union.”

Read Socialist Worker's interview with US fast food strikers and how they have organised their fight

Ukraine oligarchs strike back: Time for anti-capitalist struggle

This is from Workers World:

Ukraine oligarchs strike back: Time for anti-capitalist struggle

By on May 21, 2014

May 20 — The Ukrainian struggle has entered a stage of maneuvering in light of the failure of the coup regime to defeat the resistance in the eastern regions. The puppet government in Kiev is now negotiating with different factions of the Ukrainian ruling class and political establishment and desperately trying to pull off the May 25 elections to find a fig leaf of legitimacy.

Meanwhile, the resistance of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk must find a way forward to widen and elevate the struggle after their resounding referendum victories of May 11.

The Kiev regime has convened a so-called “unity meeting” in Kharkov to pass on to parliament a 12-point “Memorandum of Understanding” to “restore order” in the country. The MOU may include a pledge to change the constitution to extend more power to Ukraine’s regions, grant a limited amnesty to separatists, condemn the unlawful use of weapons and secure the status of the Russian language.

The meeting originated with the European imperialists through the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. None of the leaders of the rebellion in the eastern regions were invited, nor were any of their representatives present. On the contrary, they were denounced.

The issue of extending political power to the regions is partly meant as an attempt to placate popular regional resentment against Kiev and also to make concessions to oligarchs from the region who want more autonomy.

Thus the regime of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, the candidates of the U.S. State Department, are trying to find a modicum of stability and legitimacy in the wake of their coup and their failure to subdue the rebellion in the east and the south.

Military offensive collapses

This “unity” discussion comes in the wake of the collapse of the military offensive in the east. The Washington Post reported May 20 that the Ukrainian military is in no shape or state of mind to attack or dislodge the resistance.

“At a frontline post near pro-Russian rebels,” wrote the Post, “a Ukrainian military unit gave off a vibe that did not exactly convey a readiness to fight.

“One soldier — without helmet, flak jacket or rifle — stood off to the side of the unit’s roadblock to sun himself as a line of vehicles waited to pass. Other soldiers hung out laundry.”

The Post continued, “The disorder on the road to rebel-held Slovyansk on a recent afternoon underscored the severe challenges facing Ukraine as it seeks to regain control of its restive east.”

“‘Ukrainian soldiers have been on U.N. peacekeeping operations, but not in actual combat,’ said Taras Beresovets, a Kiev-based political analyst. … ‘The Ukrainian military doesn’t have the military experience. They are a peacetime force, not taught to kill.’”

Oligarchs in command

The regime is now relying on the Ukrainian oligarchs for support. The leading candidate for president in the May 25 elections is billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who has said that Ukraine must be with Europe. He owns Roshen, the largest confectionery company in Ukraine as well a shipyard, a TV channel and auto and bus factories. He was a financier of the Orange Revolution in 2004, the first attempt by U.S. and European imperialism to move Ukraine into the Western orbit.

In Mariupol, a rebellious coastal city of half a million people in the east, Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, orchestrated an agreement with the mayor, some union representatives and the police to deploy steelworker patrols on the streets and to clear the area of debris.

Akhmetov, worth $12.2 billion and ranked 92nd on Forbes’ list of billionaires, is the largest employer in the Donetsk region, employing 300,000 workers. He has a private security force of 3,000, made up of former elite Ukrainian commandos. (WP, May 16)

Akhmetov has since made a menacing call for demonstrations against the resistance in Donetsk and Lugansk. His call has been endorsed by Yatsenyuk.

In the southwest, the major prop of the regime has been oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who is the governor of Dnepropetrovsk. Worth $2.4 billion, Kolomoisky is the third wealthiest man in Ukraine and owns the largest bank, Privatbank, with assets in oil, ferroalloys, food industries, agriculture and transport. (RT, May 8)
Kolomoisky is strongly suspected of involvement in the massacre in Odessa on May 2. He has been a decisive factor in holding back the resistance in Dnepropetrovsk, an important industrial city.

These and other oligarchs are the foundation of the ruling structure in Ukraine as the Kiev putschist government tries to stabilize itself. This very fact lends itself to opening up a countrywide struggle against the capitalist ruling class.

From separatism to class struggle

The struggle in the east to establish local sovereignty was a necessary step to keep the coup regime from taking over this key industrial region. It was a blow to the imperialists who sponsored the coup and to the reactionaries in Kiev. It lifted the morale of all anti-fascist forces and everyone opposed to being absorbed by Western imperialism and being put under the rule of the International Monetary Fund and its austerity program.

But separatism as a program for the struggle in Ukraine must now be put aside in favor of a multinational, countrywide struggle against capitalist austerity, against the oligarchy and against capitalism itself.

Separatism was a temporary expedient, but now it can only serve as a diversion to a great struggle that has begun in the east. Small capitalist mini-states can only restrict the struggle of the working class and give an advantage to the ruling class. The masses have experience in self-organization, both military and political.

This is an invaluable first step. But this struggle must be spread throughout Ukraine. The basis for spreading the struggle is to expand the movement into an anti-capitalist struggle and against the oligarchs who are the props of the puppet regime.

This is the key to victory of the Ukrainian working class and the key to the defeat of imperialism and its attempt to take over the country.

Fred Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callej√≥n sin salida.” See web site and blog Order books at online booksellers.

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