Sunday, June 01, 2014

Truest statement of the week

However, the Black delegation to the U.S. Congress from Florida is nothing for any Black person to be proud off. All three Black Caucus members from the state – Corrine Brown, Frederica Wilson, and Alcee Hastings – signed on as co-sponsors of the Venezuela sanctions bill. Once again, the Black Misleadership Class shames 40 million African Americans with their slavish devotion to the imperial powers-that-be. Venezuela is overwhelmingly a black and brown country struggling to overcome centuries of racist internal rule and national subjugation to the will of the White Colossus in the North. The brown Obama is no better, nor are the sycophants of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose notions of solidarity begin and end with a checkbook.

If Venezuela’s sovereignty and dignity are to be preserved, it will be through their own efforts and the determination of South Americans to run their own affairs, to act in the spirit of Chavez, and the still-living example of Fidel.

-- Glen Ford, "Black Caucus Members Shame Themselves, as South America Warns U.S. Not to Sanction Venezuela" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

The US media has broadly cast the speech delivered by President Barack Obama at West Point on Wednesday as a farewell to the decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an embrace of a more multilateral and less militaristic American foreign policy.
This interpretation willfully ignores the content of the speech, which even more than those Obama has given in the past asserts a policy of permanent and global war in pursuit of the interests of the US financial elite. The media distortion is driven, on the one hand, by the partisan motives of Obama’s Republican rivals, who seek to portray him as weak-kneed, and, on the other, by the support from a wealthy and privileged “liberal” elite for wars of aggression waged under the banners of “human rights” and “democracy.”

-- Bill Van Auken, "Obama’s West Point speech: A prescription for unending war" (WSWS).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.  And look how early we are!  We've never been this early since our first year all those years ago.

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?

Glen Ford gets another one.
Bill Van Auken also gets one.
John Kerry needs to think about if he's doing his job before he starts advising Ed Snowden or anyone else.
The sixties and The Sixties.  One's a decade, one's a bad documentary.  Ava and C.I. are your tour guides and, for the General Hospital fans who've lobbied for a mention of the show for three weeks now, Ava and C.I. make a detour to include that daytime drama.

**********Congress and Veterans************* 

Did you read that when it went up?

It was longer.  It posted and we have no idea why it's gone now.  Actually, we do, we think we deleted a draft of this and deleted it in the process.  Ava and C.I. said there's no f-ing way they're reptyping.  So apologies to Wally and Ruth who had a comment that's not in here now.  (Ava and C.I. say anyone else of the rest of us who wants to retype can.)

Added 5 minutes later: Ava and C.I. have gone in and retyped Wally and Ruth's remarks, the piece is complete and as first published.

What we listened to.
Short feature.

There is no excuse for the latest X-Men to be a bunch of men holding each others dicks and making cow eyes at one another while the women are sidelined.
Yes, we waited too long to do another.
Go Cindy!

Senator Patty Murray's statement.
US House Rep. Jeff Miller's statement.
Socialist Worker repost.
Workers World repost.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them.

See you next week.


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

Editorial: Hey, John Kerry, who needs to 'man up'?

Last week, NINA spoke with Falluja Teaching Hospital's Dr. Ahmed al-Shami who explains at least 461 civilians have been killed in the last five months and 1466 injured from these bombings:

Al-Shami told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that / 461 / civilians, 18% of them children, and 11 % women were killed, adding that the number of wounded reached / 1466 / people, 19% of them children, and 17 % of them women .

Those numbers should be disturbing.  Is there a reason that news outlets outside of Iraq refuse to report them?

Oh, wait.

We just gave the reason:  Those numbers should be disturbing.

So the same press that sold the illegal war is the last place to expect to be forthcoming or honest.

Human Rights Watch did address the issue in "Iraq: Government Attacking Fallujah Hospital:"

Iraqi government forces battling armed groups in the western province of Anbar since January 2014 have repeatedly struck Fallujah General Hospital with mortar shells and other munitions, Human Rights Watch said today. The recurring strikes on the main hospital, including with direct fire weapons, strongly suggest that Iraqi forces have targeted it, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war.

Since early May, government forces have also dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Fallujah and surrounding areas, part of an intensified campaign against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). These indiscriminate attacks have caused civilian casualties and forced thousands of residents to flee.

“The government has been firing wildly into Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods for more than four months, and ramped up its attacks in May,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “This reckless disregard for civilians is deadly for people caught between government forces and opposition groups.”

The armed groups fighting against government forces in Anbar, including ISIS, say they have executed captured Iraqi soldiers. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for suicide and car bomb attacks against civilian targets in other parts of Iraq in response to the assault on Fallujah. Human Rights Watch has found that ISIS abuses probably amount to crimes against humanity.

In Fallujah, ISIS has planted improvised explosive devices along the main highway and other parts of city, and is operating prisons in Fallujah and elsewhere, Fallujah residents said.

Six witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed, three of them hospital staff, gave credible accounts of repeated strikes by government forces on Fallujah’s main hospital since January that have severely damaged buildings and injured patients and medical staff. An Iraqi government security officer based in Anbar, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity, said government forces have targeted the hospital with mortars and artillery on 16 separate occasions.

The three hospital employees said mortar shells and projectiles had at various times struck the emergency room, the intensive care unit, the central air conditioning unit, a trailer that housed Bangladeshi hospital staff, and other parts of the hospital. The attacks injured four Bangladeshi workers, three Iraqi doctors, and an unknown number of patients, they said.

Such accounts of repeated strikes over four months, corroborated by photographs of apparent damage to the hospital, strongly indicate the hospital has been targeted, Human Rights Watch said.

Two witnesses to the hospital attacks, one of them a hospital employee, said that non-ISIS anti-government fighters were guarding the hospital and that wounded fighters were receiving treatment there. The Anbar-based government security official said that, according to information he received through his work and from hospital staff, ISIS has partly taken over the hospital, using the second floor to treat wounded fighters and administrative offices to detain high-level local officials.

All hospitals, whether civilian or military, are specially protected under the laws of war. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Under customary international law applicable to the fighting in Anbar, hospitals remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. Armed groups should not occupy or use medical facilities.

Witnesses and residents of Fallujah also described indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks that have killed civilians, and damaged or destroyed homes, at least two mosques, and one school that were not being used for military purposes.

Accounts from witnesses, residents and the government security official indicate that, since the beginning of May, these indiscriminate government attacks have included the use of barrel bombs, dropped from helicopters, on populated areas of Fallujah. The Anbar-based security official said the army has been using barrel bombs since about May 2 in Fallujah, as well as in the towns of Garma, Saqlawiyya, Ibrahim Ibn Ali, and surrounding areas. “They started using them [barrel bombs] because they want to cause as much destruction as possible,” he said. “My government … decided to destroy the city instead of trying to invade it.”

And did Nouri cease his bombing of residential neighborhoods after the report came out?


In fact, he also returned to bombing Falluja General Hospital.

He did that because the report came out on Thursday and was widely ignored.

AFP did work it into a report.

Where was everyone else?

Not in the press corps that covers the State Dept.

That group of lovelies refused to even ask about the civilian dead or even mention the Human Rights Watch report.

And what of the State Dept itself?

They can't say a word.

Not about this.

Who needs to "man up"?

Might it be the person over the US mission in Iraq?


The State Dept gets billions to oversee the US mission in Iraq.

John Kerry, is the US mission in Iraq to kill civilians? 

Is that the point of it?

If that's not the point of it, then you need to get off your ass and do your damn job.

That would be the job you're not doing when you're making bitchy little remarks about Ed Snowden or anyone else.

These Iraqis are dying under your watch and you're not saying one damn word.

Not one damn word.

Secretary of State is your ride into the sunset.

There will be nothing to burnish your credentials with afterwards.

It's your final performance.

If you continue to say and do nothing as Iraqi civilians are slaughtered, you better get ready for the reviews filed on you, they will not be glowing.

TV: The documentary that fails

The sixties?  A crazy heady time that produced TV shows like Bewitched, Batman, The Flying Nun, Gidget, My Mother The Car, Gilligan’s Island, Mission Impossible, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Beverly Hillbillies, Julia, That Girl, The Man From Uncle, Honey West, I Spy, Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, The Smothers Brothers, The Dean Martin ShowThe Doris Day Show, Here’s Lucy, The Lucy Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Star Trek, The Name of the Game, Dark Shadows and so much more.


So much, much more, in fact, than the new series The Sixties bothered to cover in their first episode last Thursday.  Some will argue that each episode is only an hour so there was a limit to what could be included and that is a valid point.

However, there are other valid points to be made as well.

The Tom Hanks produced series didn't, for instance, need Tom Hanks yacking about TV.

Not only did his musings add nothing, but he also didn't appear on sixties television.  Bosom Buddies was his seventies sitcom and when he did guest spots on Family Ties that was the 80s. 

Not only did Hanks not belong, neither did Phil Rosenthal.


Phil created the cesspool that was Everybody Wants To Love Raymond.  Phil isn't a bad person but it needs to be noted that this was one of the worst productions of the '00s.  We're not talking about what was onscreen.

We're also not talking about the cast.  We're talking about the people behind the scenes.  We're specifically speaking of two sexual predators who used the show as a lure for various assignations.  They went around the country doing promo and all they spread was ill will and a few social diseases.

Phil can work again.  The two we're speaking of have no future in the industry because you can only get so many calls to the cops in various cities before the industry isn't willing to risk a scandal for your mediocre talents.

Maybe Hanks can tell us about that when he does a series on the '00s?

But this is a series on the sixties  which underscores why Phil shouldn't have been on.  He produced nothing for TV in the sixties.

But there he was talking about sixties TV and how it changed everything and how you had diversity and –


Did the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond just talk about diversity?

Where was the diversity on Raymond?

Sherri Shepherd's Judy for eight episodes?  Robert's police partner was African-American.  She was barely on -- 8 episodes out of  210 episodes.  And that was it for the otherwise all White cast.

'It was a family show!'  

Well the family had friends.  Why was it that none of Raymond’s friends or co-workers were people of color?  Why is it that Frank and Marie knew so many couples but none included even one person of color?  Why did the ‘liberal’ Deborah not have a friend of color?  Why is that Robert dated and dated and dated but that never resulted in a woman of color?

The Romanos being White doesn't mean that they have to live in an all-White world unless you’re in the mind of Phil.  There was no reason to let Rosenthal yack on The Sixties about diversity (Bill Cosby "made race undeniable!") unless the point was to show hypocrisy.

There was Phil Rosenthal babbling on about the breakthroughs of sixties television as, hopefully, viewers registered that when Phil got around to creating a show, he didn't advance anything, he didn't even stand still.  Instead, he actively turned the clock backwards.

Diahann Carroll was on briefly, speaking about her sitcom Julia which was a break through by being the first sitcom to feature an African-American female lead.

Well, one in a professional, white collar job.  Julia was a nurse.

The 'documentary' forgot Beulah.

That sitcom started airing in 1950 with Ethel Waters in the title role.  The second season found Louise Beavers in the role and then Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel.  For the third season, the role was played by Beavers.  Julia debuted 18 years later.  Ethel Waters is the first African-American woman to star in a sitcom.

Then you had Petula Clark talking about how she and Harry Belafonte were singing a song on her special and she touched his arm during the performance enraging a sponsor and worrying the network.

They then went to Bill Cosby accepting an award.  Bill, first as a co-star on I Spy, is a television pioneer, no question.  Nichelle Nichols is as well and her Uhura (Star Trek) may be one of the best remembered characters of sixties TV.  But if we’re talking breakthroughs for African-Americans on sixties TV, the list has to include Diahann Carroll, Bill Cosby, Nichelle Nichols and -- pay attention -- Greg Morris.

Morris starred on every season of Mission Impossible.  He was the strong man, the muscle, who intimidated and -- No, he wasn’t.  That was Willie.  Casting Morris in that role would have fit stereotypes.  You still see that stereotype used in multiple TV shows and movies today.  Morris played Barney who was the brains of the show.  Yes, Jim Phelps was the leader but Barney was the brains.  And Morris was playing a smart, dignified and sexy male at a time when African-Americans had been relegated to the roles of servants or criminals.

We can think of others who should have been mentioned but weren't.

Clarence Williams III.  Shouldn't he have been included?   Linc, Julie and Pete?  The three crime fighters of The Mod Squad.  Yes, Claire Danes and company starred in a psyche cringing film remake of the TV show but don’t hold that against sixties TV.  The trio was a team of equals in the series.  How do you forget Clarence Williams III?  Or what about Lloyd Haynes who not only starred in Room 222 with Karen Valentine but who was also nominated for Best Actor in the Emmy's comedy category?  How do you forget him?

Maybe the same way you forget women.

Along with Carroll, Sally Field is among the celebrities speaking to the camera.  She’s funny in her brief moments.  But how do you do sixties TV without mentioning Marlo Thomas and That Girl?  Or talking about what a breakthrough Mary Tyler Moore was as Laura Petrie?

Lucille Ball and Gracie Allen had created pioneering TV characters in the 50s.  While Allen retired in 1958 (and died in 1964), Lucy would continue to show women could be funny throughout the sixties, but this go round playing widows. 

TV wives, with Ball and Burns no longer playing them, were not funny.  They were the straight men for the funny husbands. 

Then came Mary Tyler Moore.

A beautiful woman, she was hired for her looks and charm as well as the chemistry she and Dick Van Dyke had in readings. 

She could have been the latest wife on The Danny Thomas Show except for the fact that The Dick Van Dyke Show had a comedic genius behind it: Carl Reiner.

Reiner knew comedy and loved comedy.  When he saw that Mary could handle some small funny bits, Laura was given more and more to do and one of TV’s funniest comedians was embraced by sixties America.

Marlo Thomas followed in Mary’s footsteps.  She played Ann Marie an aspiring actress in New York City who, in a first, was unmarried and didn’t live at home.

While Mary, Marlo and Diahann deserve tremendous credit and praise for the trails they blazed, we especially wonder where was Lucy who the special never named and only showed briefly at the Emmys presenting an award?

The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy were tremendously popular sixties programs and both have never stopped airing in syndication. 

Women were short-changed over and over in the broadcast.  Goldie Hawn became famous on Laugh-In

To watch the special she did so because she danced in a bikini sporting body paint.

That's not why Goldie Hawn became famous.

Many women danced in bikinis on Laugh-In.

No offense, most are forgotten today.

Goldie became a star on Laugh-In for the same reason that Ruth Buzzi, Joanne Worley and Lily Tomlin became famous on the show – she was funny.

Judy Carne was a good sport, she was not funny.  That was true of many others who were known for the show.

But the women who actually became famous did so because they were funny.

Gracie Allen lived on in Goldie's Laugh-In character.  Goldie’s timing was strictly her own but her character was in the tradition of Gracie's work – much more so than Marilyn Monroe's movie roles. 

How sad that women were so unimportant to Tom Hanks and company.  

TV critics were featured commenting in the hour and they even managed to include one woman.  But they didn't manage to include any critics of color.  Which was rather strange and left actress Diahann Carroll as the only person of color discussing the breakthroughs for people of color in the sixties.  

In other words, Tom Hanks has a lot of Phil Rosenthal in him – and your first clue there probably should have been the overwhelming Whiteness of his films after he becomes box office gold.  (We’d start the count with Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own which proved Big wasn’t a one-shot hit for Hanks.  After he becomes box office gold, he can get anything he wants and, in film after film, he appears to want a White world – plus Denzel as an attorney and another with a bunch of pirates.)

It takes a lot of Whiteness to create a supposed documentary that wants to note racial advancement but only as long as the people providing the commentary and the critiques are White.  

There were over 21 commentators and the only African-American among them was Diahann Carroll.   Diahann was among four women allowed to provide modern day comments.  

Hanks makes clear his disinterest in women and his belief that the story of TV’s Sixties Civil Rights Battle will be told by White America – even though his picks weren't participants and they weren't present for events.

The series tried to argue that you were present for events, we were all present for events, via television.  A nation of couch potatoes were no doubt spawned in the sixties, however, watching TV isn't being present.  The notion that it is would be as ridiculous as Hanks and company claiming television news took over in the sixties and became dominant.

No, it didn't.

They offer Vietnam footage for about 15 seconds in the special and that’s supposed to establish the importance of TV news.  But the bulk of the important Vietnam coverage would come in the seventies, not the sixties.  With the exception of Vietnam, sixties news really didn't have much.

‘Ava and C.I.! What are you talking about!  TV news told us President Kennedy died, it showed us riots in Chicago at the DNC convention! It –‘

It offered ‘coverage’ that was the equivalent of headlines.

Yes, Americans largely learned JFK was shot or that Americans landed on the moon via TV news. 

But that was headlines, that was announcements, that wasn't reporting.  It was stick your head out a window and see what's happening across the street.  Consider that 'displaying' but don't call it 'reporting.'

In the sixties, TV would do better at reporting in documentaries.  But the episode never noted documentaries.  Seventies TV, largely spurred by the model that turned Jessica Savitch into a local media star before NBC News grabbed her, would advance television reporting.

The reality of news was absent.  Even more absent was daytime TV, especially children’s programming and soap operas.

ABC’s General Hospital is currently celebrating its 50th  anniversary meaning it began airing in 1964.  By the end of the sixties, it would be part of ABC’s daytime schedule which also included One Life To Live, The Young Marrieds, The Nurses and Dark Shadows while CBS’ offerings included As The World Turns, Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, Love of Life, Secret Storm and Search for Tomorrow and NBC was airing soaps like Another World, Young Doctor Malone, Days of Our Lives and The Doctors.

In the desire of Hanks and company to promote ‘trippy’ in a family-safe-and-friendly manner, you had an idiot (Hanks) declaring Disney’s ABC offerings in the sixties were like Technicolor acid trips ("acid trip of a show").  But if you wanted the television equivalent of an acid trip, you should have been checking out General Hospital’s recent Nurses Ball episodes.

‘Luke’ (Anthony Geary) married Tracy (Jane Elliot) while Lucy (Lynn Herring) was out of her dress kissing Scott (Kin Shriner) on stage as the curtains went up and her husband Kevin and everyone present looked on.  If that didn’t leave you reeling  Dr. Obrecht (Kathleen Gaiti) should have.

The woman isn't just a doctor or just the chief of staff of General Hospital, she’s also a criminal who, most recently (April) kidnapped Elizabeth and a baby.  Prior to that, she’d kidnapped Robin, Jason and Scorpio.
So when Dr. Obrecht takes to the stage to sing "You were always on my mind . . ." while scanning the audience, you sort of picture the various doctors and nurses assembled shivering in their seats.

Between the plot lines, the casting of Donna Mills as Dr. Obrecht’s sister Dr. Madeline West,  and Dr. Obrecht’s German accent circa MGM’s forties films, things can’t get much trippier.

ABC's last surviving soap opera has an annoying habit these days of offering 30 seconds of a scene before switching to another.  So, for example, someone will be talking about Alexis or Julian and then suddenly the camera cuts to Alexis and Julian for a few seconds before going back to the earlier scene.

These little quick cuts are supposed to create tension and rhythm – something producer Gloria Monty and director Marlena Laird used to do on General Hospital back in the eighties via camera shots – they’d switch shots to add beats to the scenes.

If you’re thinking this cross-cutting serves to advance the storyline, you’re wrong.  Sonny discovered Ava had lied to him about AJ (leading Sonny to kill AJ) and that Ava had killed Connie so he rushes to the island to confront Ava.  It's three episodes after the confrontation starts before Sonny tells Ava he knows she lied about AJ.

Three long episodes.  Start and stop scene after start and stop scene while the viewer waits for Sonny to confront Ava over how he killed his adopted son’s biological father, breaking a promise to his adopted son, because of her lies. 

Three long episodes.

The quick cuts don’t advance the story one bit.

That's also true of The Sixties which also favors quick cuts.  It’s a good thing for Sally Field that she is naturally funny.  If, like a few others, she’d tried to offer insight, she would have come off rather slow.

The Sixties illuminates nothing as it rushes around in a scattershot manner, a never ending conga line of factoids which never register as anything greater than paint droplets splattered on canvas.

Congress and Veterans


Dona: We’re talking Congress and veterans with Ruth, Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I.  Last week was big news for veterans.  Chief among them the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Wally: Something we have repeatedly called for.

Dona: Correct.  It was about two years ago we called for it in one of these.  And now it’s happened.  Surprising?

Wally: Not really.  Last Sunday, it was up in the air if this was even possible.  However, things changed quickly last week as more Democrats began calling for Shinseki to step down – this time elected Democrats not Democrats running for office.  On one day, you had five sitting US senators, all Democrats, call for Shinseki to resign.  This came with a White House official leaking to CNN that Shinseki wasn’t safe.
Ruth: And then came  the release of the Inspector General’s interim report on the Phoenix VA Medical Center and documenting the existence of secret lists.

Dona: Explain that for those who missed it.

Ruth: VA Secretary Shinseki set the 14-day standard.  Veterans needing medical attention would call in for an appointment and see a doctor within 14 days.  The Phoenix VA was keeping two sets of lists.  The official list documented that the 14-day standard was being met.  The other list documented the reality of veterans waiting weeks and months for appointments.  These lists are said to have been prevalent throughout the VA and currently over 40 centers are being investigated.  Whistle-blowers came forward and I think you can make the point that CNN’s reporting has long documented the secret lists were in place.  But with the Inspector General issuing the report and confirming it, that took the issue to another level.

Dona: Was anyone surprised that Shinseki resigned?

Kat: I’m sure US House Rep. Corinne Brown flipped her wig but for the rest of the world, it was expected.  Shinseki was becoming a “distraction” – a term used by both Shinseki and Barack – and this scandal reflects on Barack Obama and the image got even worse as nothing was done about it.  So Shinseki had to go.  On Friday?  I was surprised only that it didn’t come later in the day.  But obviously if you want to make an announcement like this you will do it on Friday.  Unless it’s a Saturday Night Massacre – thank you to Ava and C.I. for getting my Watergate joke just now, they’re laughing.  But, yeah, it had to happen on a Friday.  And for the reasons that Wally and Ruth outlined, this was coming, this was going to happen.
Dona: What changes now?  Shinseki’s gone, what’s been accomplished?

Ava: Accountability.  There are people at the VA who now realize the Secretary lost his job over this.  If he can be held accountable, anyone can.  And anyone should.  In Friday’s snapshot, C.I. addressed the very big issue that everyone’s ignored: The VA has operated in a culture of secrecy.  This has been going on since 2009.  The VA has not been open, it has not provided Congress with needed information,it has ignored Congressional requests, it has lied and so much more.  Shinseki’s departure means other officials are grasping they could be held accountable as well.  It puts people on notice.

Dona: I was hoping to wait a bit on noting the hearings but Ava’s opened the door so let’s do it now.  Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Subcomittees held three hearings.  Everyone was at all three, right?

Kat: Yes.  But the Wednesday night hearing was one that Wally, Ava and I were only at for the start.  We left during it.  I think we were there for 90 minutes.  Ruth and C.I. were there for the full hearing.

Dona: Okay.  So there’s the Wednesday night hearing, the full House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  The reporting on it is: 

Dona: Kat, big stand out?

Kat: The hearing itself.  By Friday, as the conventional wisdom was whining, “We’re all at fault!,” it was left to C.I. to note, “Uh, no.”  This hearing was about Congressional requests being ignored by the VA.  The Committee had to issue subpoenas and they are still being denied what they’re requesting.   It’s amazing how much secrecy the VA has been allowed by the administration to operate in and amazing that it’s left to C.I. to cover this while others are screaming, “It’s Congress’ fault!”

Wally: How can Congress be at fault when they are fighting to get information that they are legally entitled to?  Efforts to blame Congress actually really point the administration’s refusal to make the VA comply with the law. 

Dona: We seem eager to get into the culture of secrecy so let me bring C.I. in.  Ty printed up 32 e-mails from veterans who stressed that C.I.’s “culture of secrecy” got to the real heart of the matter.  So clearly this – this strummed a chord others have heard.  It resonated.  Ava’s laughing at my “strummed a chord” – I was trying to avoid a bromide.  So, C.I., “culture of secrecy.”

C.I.: The minute Shinseki’s resignation became public, various gasbags tried to rush out with, “We’re all to blame!”  No, we aren’t.  As Wally was saying earlier and Ava had noted before that, you can’t provide oversight if you’re not provided facts.  Congress does not serve at the pleasure of the President.  The Congress is the people’s voice.  The Legislative branch is a co-equal branch of government.  The executive branch, which the VA is part of, has not respected that.  They have refused to hand over information, they have lied and they have concealed.  The secret list is about this.  The culture of secrecy is found in the Washington state scandal where the VA was caught stripping veterans of Post-Traumatic Stress diagnoses in order to avoid giving them the benefits – money – that they needed.  There is a big mistake being made right now –

Dona: I agree and I’m stopping you for a second.  The snapshot went up so early on Friday.  Jim noted it wasn’t even five o’clock yet here, in California, when it went up.  He said, “C.I. must be trying to get ahead of it.”  Ahead of the gas baggery that was rewriting history and events.

C.I.: Yes, Jim was correct about that. That’s the big mistake where we start acting (a) like it’s everyone’s fault and (b) like it’s one event.  There have been numerous scandals under Shinseki.  The common thread is the culture of secrecy.

Dona: You note how this secrecy is encouraged.

C.I.: It really is.  You’ve got, one example, the Office of the Inspector General finding errors in VA’s Quick Start program and the VA insisting these aren’t errors by their definition.  By their definition?  The watchdog’s definition is the definition that needs to be used.  But VA is allowed to create their own definitions and terms to hide reality.  This needs to stop.  Immediately.  This is how the road you’re on ends in cooking the books and keeping secret lists.  The transparency is not there and it is not appreciated – these are cultural issues within the VA that need to be addressed immediately.  And if they are, the VA can be stronger and serve veterans.  If the cultural issue is not addressed, it will continue and the Congress will be dealing with one scandal after another as they have been since 2009.

Dona: What was striking about your report on Friday was just how many scandals there were and how, come October, there will be more problems if anyone wants to pay attention.   You talk about how none of Quick Start’s goals are going to be met.

C.I.: It’s impossible.  The IG provided the true figures Thursday afternoon in the Subcommittee hearing and this was the first Congress was hearing.  They’d heard from the VA about the progress.  The VA had lied.  To offer just one example, the number of days for a disability claim?  They’ve shaved off a few days over the last years but you’re looking at them cutting in half their current totals – doing so in five months.  This is not practical.

Dona: And no one’s reporting on it.

C.I.:  Acknowledging it doesn’t fit in with the narrative some are trying to impose.  The VA is failing.  It is failing badly.  Until the VA starts embracing a culture of transparency there will be continued scandals as they try to cover up their mistakes.

Wally, what stands out to you from the hearings?

Wally: I would just state that Dr. Thomas Lynch and Joan Mooney both agreed to support the Justice Department investigating the VA if that is what the IG said.  I think that’s important because I’ve seen too many people make these remarks and then go back on them.  So I want that out there for the record.

Dona: Okay.  Ruth?

Ruth: It would be the Thursday morning hearing that blind veterans testified in.  C.I. wrote about that as we were sitting in the hearing and I thought – I marvel over how she addressed Browsealoud.  That is what the Committee has on their website.  And the blind veterans were talking about how the site was not accessible.  This puzzled one Committee member.  C.I., reporting on this as it happens, notes that Browsealoud is geared towards dyslexics not the blind.  Like the Committee member, I would not have thought there was an issue there.  But there is an issue there.  I also thought the veterans did a very good job of explaining what they experience and noting the need for the registry of veterans who have suffered eye injuries. 

Dona: Kat, your turn.

Kat: First and foremost, Beto O’Roarke really is the hottest man in Congress.  Paul Ryan needs to pass on the crown. 

Dona: The Texas Democrat.

Kat: Yes.  I’ll go with Beto, in fact, for what stood out.  In El Paso, veterans using the local VA medical center are not being served.  They lack a full service VA and, as a result, something as basic as a prescription involves a journey that resembles the days of The Pony Express.  That needs to be addressed and dealt with.   Like Ruth, I was impressed with the blind veterans testimony.  A Democrat, I can’t think of who –

C.I.: US House Rep. Mark Tanko from California.

Kat:  Thank you.  That’s him.  He pointed out how some groups are less represented in the conversation and the blind veterans brought important issues that needed to be raised and they did so very well.  As the first panel ended, it was very clear that not all the needed issues had been touched upon and I’ll leave it at that except to note a veteran pointed that out to them as the panel was ending.

Dona:  Ava?  Oh, wait.  Corinne Brown.  The e-mails from veterans said to thank you and to thank C.I. for calling out Corinne Brown.  She has a lousy reputation with veterans.  I’m trying to wind down but, Ava, could you talk about Brown?

Ava: Sure.  She’s a lousy member of Congress.  She was a vocal defender of veterans and would talk about how bad the VA was when Bully Boy Bush was in office.  Now she spends all of her time defending the VA.  In hearing after hearing, she’s made clear that she’s an apologist for the VA – even worse so than Senator Bernie Sanders.  This year, she reached a new low when veteran ***** appeared before the House Committee and explained how poor medical service and lack of access to health care led his cancer to go undiagnosed until it reached stage-four.  The ridiculous Corinne Brown wanted to lecture a dying man on his attitude and to tell him that she had a friend who was supposed to die immediately but he’s still here.  She’s trash.  And she needs to be off the Committee.  Where would you place her?  How about the Education Committee?  Then every time she opened her mouth, we could all laugh that someone too stupid to know the English language was sitting on the Education Committee.  Veterans do not like Corinne Brown.  They don’t like her because she blames them, she attacks them and she excuses the VA. 

Dona: Thank you.  Briefly, what stands out to you from the three days of hearings?

Ava: Honestly, I guess that they took place.  That showed serious focus and effort on the part of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  There was a hearing years ago, when Bob Filner was Chair, where C.I., Kat, Wally and I were about 15 people present because everyone wanted to leave DC for the Christmas break.  That hearing showed dedication.  These three did as well.  Especially the night hearing.  I would have loved to have stayed but I do have a young child and I did need to leave.  But even though I left, I do applaud the Committee for their stamina and determination.

Dona:  Wally, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders should step down or continue as Committee Chair?

Wally: Step down or be replaced.

Dona: A veteran e-mailed to say you two discussed this last week after the morning hearing Thursday.  He's from Philadelphia if that helps jog your memory.

Wally: Yeah, I know him.  He's a good guy.  He's usually at the hearings and he's one of the people we usually talk to.  Bernie Sanders has made a point to offer excuses for the VA and has refused to stand with veterans.  Prior to that he held a hearing on yoga and other topics and most veterans I've spoken to feel that when there's a wait list issue and vets are suffering, you shut up about yoga and focus on real issues.  All the vets I spoke to last week feel Sanders has betrayed them.

Dona: And Ruth, why not make the same case for Ranking Member Richard Burr?

Ruth: Senator Burr is not seen as betraying veterans or being an apologist for the VA.  He has upset the heads of some Veterans Service organizations for criticizing them.  That is not the same thing as being seen as an excuse maker for the VA.  And I agree that Senator Sanders needs to be replaced. 

Dona: C.I., what stands out to you from last week's hearings?

C.I.:  Too much.  Let me focus on the lack of common sense.  VA doctors are overworked.  One reason is they are doing all of this data entry.  US House Rep. Phil Roe addressed this.  He is also a doctor.  He said if he was attempting to do this, it would take up 50% of his time, that the VA needed to hire clerks for the doctors who would take on those tasks and it would allow the VA doctors the time to see more patients.  That’s basic, it’s common sense.  Applause for Roe for seeing the problem, identifying it and explaining how to fix it.  But that’s the kind of common sense you really wish the VA had internally but doesn’t.

Dona: Alright.  Thank you all.  This is a rush transcript.  Our e-mail address is  And finally, C.I. has noted her belief that the best person for the job of Secretary of the VA is Patrick Murphy.  Jim and I want to add our voices to that.  Murphy is an Iraq War veteran and he’s also served in Congress.  The VA is a mess and it’s going to require a lot of energy and a lot of caring to improve things.  Murphy is up for the job and has the needed skill set.  He would also see it as a duty to fix the VA.  He is the best choice for the job and I hope he is at least considered for it.

This edition's playlist


2) Carly Simon's Hotcakes.

3) Prince's Sign of the Times.

4) The Mamas and the Papas' Deliver.

5) John Lennon's Mind Games.

6) Patti Smith's Horses.

10) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses

Film classic remade

Barack Obama and Eric Shinseki remake Robert Altman's 1973 classic The Long Goodbye.

And Disney Created Sexism . . .

Wanna explain how you go from this in 2000 . . .

to this in 2014?

How you go from an X-Men that features strong and active women involved in the storylines like Storm, Jean Grey and Rogue as well as Mystique to a 2014 embarrassment where Storm's an extra who dies without even getting a hero's death scene?

Where Kitty Pride is reduced to nothing?

X-Men: Days of Future Past is based on the earlier comic and in the comice it was Kitty who was sent back in time to save the mutants.  In the film, it's Wolverine and Kitty doesn't go with.  No, she just stands by his body throughout the film with her hands on either side of his head.

Rogue and Jean Grey?  They're in the tacked on ending to the film.  And at least Jean gets lines.  We don't even hear from Rogue.


Rebecca Romijn played her as an active villain in charge of her destiny.

Jennifer Lawrence plays her as a simpering victim throwing a tantrum.  (Lawrence isn't helped by a script that turns Mystique into a pawn for Charles and Magneto to fight over.)

Women are useless in the latest installment.

For more on this topic, see C.I.'s "X-Men: The Face of Sexism," Betty's  "X-Men: Days of Future Past"  and  "Further thoughts on X-Men Days of Future Past"  and Stan's  "X-Men: Days of Future Past just another racist film," "Why Ant-Man's film should be shelved" and "Alyssa Rosenberg is an embarrassment."

And drop back to December to read our "Movies: Are they all the Invisible Woman?" -- when we first called out this film for its lack of women.

Film Classics of the 20th Century


In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at Sleepless In Seattle,  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.

Our choice this go round?

Diamonds Are Forever.

It's a film where a near nude Lana Wood gets tossed out a high rise window.

A film where Sean Connery sports James Bonds' misogyny openly.

A film with a little suspense.

And multiple Blofelds but only one white cat.

Scratch that, more than one.

And, back to Blofeld, there's even one in drag.

It's a film where two women who battle Bond are seen as lesbians.

And where the two main villians are seen as gay lovers (Putter Smith plays Mr. Kidd and Bruce Glover plays Mr. Wint).

It's a film where Jill St. John's Tiffany Case wears multiple outfits.

She even fires a gun . . .

Forgetting to aim, but still.

Roger Moore brought camp to the James Bond franchise.

That is the argument made.

But Diamonds Are Forever (as Shirley Bassy reminds us over and over in the theme song) plays out like a Bond parody.

While other Sean Connery starring Bond films had humor, none were camp.  Diamonds Are Forever demonstrates where Bond was headed for in the seventies.

Cindy Sheehan's campaign ad

Cindy Sheehan's running for Governor of California.

Murray Statement on the Resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

senator patty murray

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
Friday, May 30th, 2014                                                          
Murray Statement on the Resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

(Washington, D.C.)  Today, Friday, May 30th, 2014, Senator Patty Murray made the following statement on the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

“There are serious problems at the VA that won’t be solved simply by replacing the Secretary, but I am hopeful that this leadership change will spark structural, cultural, and personnel changes, from the top of the organization to the bottom, to make sure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.

“I will be working closely with President Obama and his Administration as they look for a new Secretary who will provide strong leadership for the Department and who will work with me and others to make much-needed changes and improvements at the VA. This transition is also a time for every employee at the VA to step up and do everything they can to help veterans and work toward a culture of transparency as changes are being implemented. And as these changes are being made, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure these improvements are being supported.

“I stand with veterans and families in Washington state and across the country in thanking Secretary Shinseki for his years of work for veterans and for his lifetime of service to the United States of America.


Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510


Miller Statement Regarding Sec. Shinseki’s Resignation

US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following on Friday:

May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following the announcement of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement.

"Everybody knows Eric Shinseki is an honorable man whose dedication to our country is beyond reproach. I thank him for his legacy of service to our nation. Unfortunately, Shinseki's tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs will forever be tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical center officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency with Congress, the public and the press. Appropriately, Shinseki is taking the brunt of the blame for these problems, but he is not the only one within VA who bears responsibility. Nearly every member of Shinseki's inner circle failed him in a major way. Those who surrounded Shinseki shielded him from crucial facts and hid bad news reports, in the process convincing him that some of the department’s most serious, well documented and systemic issues were merely isolated incidents to be ignored. Eric Shinseki trusted the VA bureaucracy, and the VA bureaucracy let him down.”

“Right now, VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. VA’s problems are deadly serious, and whomever the next secretary may be, they will receive no grace period from America’s veterans, American taxpayers and Congress.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Comics Unmasked: Drawing the battle lines in a fun fight with authority

This is a repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Comics Unmasked: Drawing the battle lines in a fun fight with authority

The British Library exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy calls for Britain’s tradition of comics to be taken seriously, writes Annette Mackin

Comics - more than just for children
Comics - more than just for children (Pic: Enokson on Flickr)

Storytelling through a sequence of images has a history dating back to cave paintings, through illustrated newspapers right to modern comics.

Detractors of comics say that they are outdated or just for children. But a big and broad exhibition at the British Library seeks to challenge this idea. It showcases some rare and interesting examples that take on the notion that comics begin and end with the likes of the Beano and the Dandy.

The exhibition approaches comics from the angle that they are largely subversive and a challenge to authority, whether in a good way or a bad way.

It presents examples of how comics have inspired real world resistance. In every nook and cranny are mannequins wearing the iconic Guy Fawkes mask from Alan Moore’s dystopian V for Vendetta graphic novel, now ubiquitous on many protests.

It is the politics section of the exhibition which presents the real power of the comic as a cultural product.

One of the first publications on display is Riot, a comic from 1981 which deals with the conflicted narrative of a police officer during the Brixton riots. It runs through his experiences of the police’s brutality and racism.

Finally, disgusted with what he sees, he refuses to give evidence against a looter.

A rarity on show is Action Pact, a 1979 publication by unknown authors which arose out of the anti-fascist movement around the Anti Nazi League.

It tells the story of two school friends with super powers who fight the lies of a baddie dressed like the Ku Klux Klan. It was circulated in schools to help popularise anti-fascist views and equip children with arguments in the playground.

Not all comics present righteous challenges to dominant ideas however. Also on display is wife-beating alcoholic Andy Capp, a comic strip which still exists albeit in a heavily toned down form. It stands in a tradition of anti-working class and reactionary characters that also go right back to the 19th century.

There is also the first ever comic strip to have been written and illustrated by women. Enid Blyton wrote and Dorothy M Wheeler drew Mandy, Mops and Cubby, which was printed in the Evening Standard newspaper in 1951.

In it a black boy voices his desire to have a white face, and asks a painter if he would whitewash him so he can “look beautiful”.

This and many other exhibits bring home that neither comics nor any other medium is inherently progressive or subversive. But there’s still a rich tradition of comics that are—one that continues to this day.

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy British Library, central London Until 19 August, Various ticket prices, booking essential at

No to U.S intervention in Syrian election

This is a repost from Workers World:

No to U.S intervention in Syrian election

By on May 31, 2014

Following is the statement of the International Action Center on the upcoming election in Syria.

The Syrian people are holding a presidential election June 3. What makes this election unique is that it can help protect the sovereignty, even the existence of this country. It can help end the bloody war that has drained the lifeblood of the country. It is seen as an essential step toward national reconciliation.

For the past three years, Syria has been under attack by the U.S., NATO and by the U.S.-allied absolute monarchies that govern Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They are fighting a proxy war with mercenaries and reactionary sectarian forces that Washington itself recognizes are terrorists — when they’re not carrying out U.S. plans.

Washington’s stated goal is “regime change,” that is, to eliminate the government led by Bashar al-Assad.

What “regime change” really means is the destruction of Syria. To bring this about, the U.S. and its allies have financed a war that has killed over 150,000 people and displaced one-third of the 23 million Syrians.
Washington claims they want “democracy” in Syria. But U.S. wars have never brought democracy. Just destruction. Think of what U.S. intervention has brought to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans. Think of the fascists that U.S. intervention put in positions of power in Ukraine. The worst thing that can happen to the Syrians would be for the U.S.-NATO-Saudi forces to win.

Election observers from the U.S. are expected to join observers from the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — and Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries, representing the overwhelming majority of the people of the world. This election is a national expression of the fact that the Syrian people are determined to chart their own future.

U.S. anti-war activists, including from the International Action Center and other anti-war organizations, are participating as election observers in Syria. They participate knowing that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population is against another war. Any such war will not only harm the people of Syria, but also the U.S. population. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967, the bombs that drop on Vietnam — or on Libya or Syria, we need to add — also drop on the inner cities of the United States. They attack the working people in the U.S.

Self-determination for the Syrian people!

We need jobs, health care and housing, not endless war! 212-633-6646

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


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

"Bernie Sanders has a Bernie problem, not a Republi..." -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack's VA re..." -- Isaiah takes on the VA scandal.

"Iraq snapshot." "VA did not make providing quality care a primary g...," "A few comments on Senator Richard Burr,"  "Iraq snapshot," "VA censors who appears before Congress, "Another VA scandal brought to you by Shinseki," "US House Rep Corrine Brown should retire," "Blind veteran describes computer issues" and "Time for a criminal investigation (Wally)" -- C.I., Ruth, Kat, Ava and Wally report on Congressional hearings.

"If Bernie Sanders can't lead, he doesn't need to be a Chair." "Shinseki has to go"

"X-Men: The Face of Sexism,"  "Give her an Oscar," "Maleficent," "Further thoughts on X-Men Days of Future Past,"  "Why Ant-Man's film should be shelved," "Shirley MacLaine" and "Alyssa Rosenberg is an embarrassment" -- Betty and Stan go to the movies.
"White Beans, Spinach and Tomatoes in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a tasty recipe.

"Idiot of the week" -- Mike hands out the award.

"Carney leaves" -- Ruth on the departure.

"I'm Over All That" -- Marcia hits the book shelves.

"Diana Ross' Swept Away," "Jody Watley and other dancers," "and Carly"  -- Elaine, Marcia and Kat cover music. 

"The War Hawk administration" -- Ann notes only some are allowed in. 

"Head injury could explain a lot" and "THIS JUST IN! HIS POWDER PUFF FOOTBALL INJURY!" -- Cedric and Wally report on Barack's injury. 

"Robert Redford whored himself out for a neoliberal" -- Mike breaks it down.

"The Hot Topics Dumpster" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"He suffers" and "THIS JUST IN! OH, HOW HE SUFFERS!" -- it really is all about Barack -- in his own head, it really is.

"bloom off the rose" -- as Rebecca notes, the glory days are gone.

"Afghanistan -- the never-ending war" -- Elaine on that which never ends.

"Save the net" -- Ruth with a mission.

"another outed c.i.a.-er" -- Rebecca on another Barack bungle.

"Heck of a government, Barry" -- Ann takes time to note reality.

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