Sunday, July 13, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Having ignored Iraq since 2009, the Obama team is now desperately trying to devise a way to prevent its total collapse -- and to roll back the jihadi state newly established on a third of Iraqi territory.

The only slim hope of doing either requires the ouster of the leader whom the United States has backed for nearly a decade, Iraq's paranoid prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. 

--  Trudy Rubin, "To save Iraq, dump al-Maliki"  (San Jose Mercury News).

Truest statement of the week II

It comes as no surprise that the latest poll has deemed that the once-overly glorified Barack Obama, who has shown few real democratic (small d) bones in his body, is no longer able to lead the country – that is of course assuming he ever truly had the competence, experience or character required in the first place.
And as if that were not the worse bad news for Democrats on the eve of the mid terms, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that the majority of Americans believe Obama to be the worst president since WWII.   Edging out George W. Bush at 28% with Obama at 33%, almost half of those polled now believe the country would have been better off if Mitt Romney had been elected.
While none of this is really new news since the President’s approval rating has been sliding for the ditch since at least 2010 when Congressional Republicans trounced the President’s Democratic party on the heels of having rejected either an extension of Medicare or some sort of public health option, the truth is that Obama has richly earned such repute.

In his usual fashion of pointing the finger elsewhere, the president was reported to respond that Americans are “extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now” as if to suggest that he is entirely undeserving of public disaffection and devoid of any responsibility for his plummeting poll numbers or publicly insupportable policy decisions.

-- Renee Parsons, "If Senate Democrats Won’t Vote for You, Why Should You Vote for Them?" (CounterPunch).

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?

See you next week.


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

Editorial: The Political Solution Nouri al-Maliki Can Offer

Today the Iraqi Parliament met and the hopes were that a new government would be formed following April 30th's parliamentary elections.  That was the hope.

That was also the hope July 1st, the first time the Parliament met.

As Americans learned in 2009 (and 2010, and 2011, and 2012, and 2013 and 2014) there is hope and then there is reality.

All Iraq News notes some members of the Kurdistan Alliance, those hoping to arrive in Baghdad this morning by flying in, did not attend due to a dust storm at Erbil International Airport.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that 233 MPs did manage to attend today's session.  (That's 233 out of 328 elected.)

But the session that quickly started also quickly ended.  NINA notes acting Speaker of Parliament Mehdi al-Hafez announced the end of the session and that the Parliament would meet next on Tuesday.

The monkey wrench tossed into the proceedings?

Nouri al-Maliki.

Even trying to sugar coat it here -- AP notes destructive Nouri.

The two-term prime minister and thug made his support for the candidacy of Salim al-Jubouri (nominated by the Sunnis to be Speaker of Parliament) conditional upon the Sunnis backing Nouri (whom they loathe for good reason) for a third term of Prime Minister.  Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq (a Sunni) told AP, "This will not happen as we do not accept that."

When the offer was refused, the session fell apart.  All Iraq News noted that Sadr MP Baha al-Araji even took to nominating Nouri for the post of Speaker of Parliament -- presumably in an attempt to prevent a third term as prime minister for Nouri.

Prior to the session starting, the House of Representatives had been used for another meeting, one called by Iraq National Alliance head Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  All Iraq News notes the meeting was to address the issue of the three presidencies (Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister and President).  Alsumaria reports that the meeting ended with no resolution.  Nouri apparently rebuffed efforts to work on a scenario where he didn't get a third term as prime minister.

While Nouri moved to block al-Jubouri's nomination to be Speaker of Parliament, NINA notes that Ibraihm al-Jaafari's National Alliance had already agree to back al-Jubouri for the post.

In their write up, AP refers to a sense of urgency.

What sense of urgency?

How about AP's sense of stupidity?

The formation of the government was supposed to have begun May 30th.

It's July 13th, stop kidding about a sense of urgency.

More importantly, this is how thug Nouri wins.

His strategy is not new.

He attempts to derail a process, to out wait his opponents and, by doing so, he exhausts everyone's patience and, instead of standing firm, everyone plays the indulgent parent who spoils the brat by giving in instead of teaching him the needed lesson that he needs to learn to play well with others and that he won't always get his way.

Nouri is a thug.  He's run secret prisons where Iraqis have been tortured, assaulted and raped.

Nouri is a War Criminal.  Since the start of the year, he has daily punished the Sunnis in Falluja by bombing residential neighborhoods (collective punishment which is a legally defined War Crime recognized as such by most governments included the United States of America).

It's been a few a day killed and wounded and slowly the numbers have climbed.  As noted in Thursday's Iraq snapshot:

On the topic of tyrant Nouri, NINA reports Falluja General Hospital released numbers today on the dead and injured from Nouri's bombings of Falluja's residential neighborhoods (which is legally defined as a War Crime).  Since January 1st, Nouri has killed 542 civilians in Falluja and injured 1880 more.
Yet, Nouri keeps getting more bombs and missiles from the US government -- in violation of treaties, laws and the Leahy Amendment.
After the hospital's announcement, another of Nouri's bombings killed 3 civilians in Falluja and left four more injured.

Nouri is the problem and Nouri needs to go.

As the Kurdistan Regional Government noted in a statement they issued last week, "You must apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. You have destroyed the country and someone who has destroyed the country cannot save the country from crises."

The problem can not fix itself, Nouri has had two terms, eight years, to attempt that.

He has only made things worse.

The story of his second term is the story of his destroying the fabric of the country with his actions and words.

His War Crimes are destroying Iraq.  Friday, Al Mada reported that Nouri's bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja is increasing -- to the point that people are having to bury their loved ones (killed by these bombings) in local parks, public squares or keep the remains in their freezer while they wait for some form of security or peace to return.

The only political solution Nouri can contribute is offering his resignation.

TV: How Extant won (and so did you)

It makes sense that on last Wednesday's debut of Extant, the new CBS series starring Halle Berry, a creepy young male robot appeared to threaten and intimidate Halle as he insisted of a dead bird, "It was like this when I found it."  The robot then added, "Your hair looks really pretty."

As if that wiped away everything else?  As if that's the level the mind works on.

It's certainly the level the Water Cooler Set's mind works on.

Halle Berry's show pulled in over 9 million viewers Wednesday night making it the most watched show on Wednesday.

So how were the women hating Water Cooler Set members going to attack?

Because you knew they were going to attack, you always knew it.

Some basics, Halle is playing astronaut Molly Woods who is married to John Woods (Goran Visnijic) and they have a young robot Ethan who John sees as their son (child actor Pierce Gagnon plays the role, we don't comment on child actors).  On the space mission, she sees her dead husband Marcus who writes "Help me" with his finger on a window.  Molly attempts to help him and they make out.

When she comes to after, she checks the video footage and sees only herself in it.  She deletes is, convinced it was some sort of mental episode.

Back on earth, her friend and doctor, Sam Barton (Camryn Manheim) gives her the news she's pregnant and Sam wonders how, knowing Molly's just returned from a solo mission, a thirteen month solo mission.

Molly worried that her late husband is following her.

However, when she confronts the follower, it is Harmon, a man she used to go on space missions with but who supposedly took his own life.

And this is where the audience begins to realize Molly's not crazy and the Yasumoto Corporation which controls the space mission is a little more sinister than it may appear.

This is the same corporation that Molly's husband John tries to get a grant from.  He wants to mass produce Ethans so that no one needs to feel alone and everyone can have a companion.  However, the Yasumoto Corporation is mainly interested in how you put down the robot if something goes wrong. John freaks out and is appalled that the woman is asking how he plans to kill his son.  Later, Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) will meet with John and personally bankroll him -- but mainly because of the corporation's interest in Molly.

What is going on, what's really taking place, is a mystery?

On the show.

In real life, it was no mystery.

Halle's amazingly strong debut was downgraded the next morning by the Water Cooler Set.

Don't you know, they sniffed, Halle's audience was older?  Don't you know that she failed to deliver the debut numbers Under The Dome did and didn't that prove how lacking she was?

No, it didn't prove any such thing.

About the only thing it proved is how hateful the Water Cooler Set it.

Under The Dome, for those who don't know, was a project that found Steven Spielberg teaming up with Stephen King.  On his own, Spielberg is a name and a draw on TV.  On his own, Stephen King is a draw on TV -- a bigger one than Spielberg.  Stephen King, the writer whose classic horror stories remain touchstones for each new generation, is a huge TV draw -- more so on TV than on the big screen.  The Stand and the TV version of The Shining, for example, were -- and remain -- hugely popular.

A false equation was constructed, after the fact, to argue that the strong ratings debut of Extant was minor and nothing to see, certainly nothing worth remarking on.

Over 9 million watched on Wednesday.  CBS' Reckless debuted June 19th and didn't manage to crack 4 million.  But the Water Cooler Set looked the other way.  Halle comes along with a debut that more than doubles that and the men and male-wanna-be women of the Water Cooler Set start insisting the debut was a bust.

Was it a bust in England as well?

There the first episode was available on Amazon Prime and it set the record, Colin Mann (Advanced-Television) noted, "attracting three times more streams on release day than the first episode of any previous show on the service."

Extant is a hit and debuted as such.

But the same instinct to rip apart any project starring a woman went after Halle's show.

The Water Cooler Set has trashed Whitney and really bared their bitchy fangs when Ashley Judd starred in Missing.  Ashley's acting couldn't be assailed so they went after her face and were apparently quite pleased with themselves for that stunt.

(There was and is nothing wrong with Ashley's face.)

With Missing, they got to have the last word.  Thanks to the Whitney bloggers (Betty, Marcia and Ann), the Water Cooler Set began walking back their slams on the sitcom.  And the Whitney bloggers were ready to do the same again, to ensure that Halle's show got a fair shot.

But, it turns out, they weren't needed in the way they had been on a sitcom.


Sci-fi audiences.  Sci-fi gals and sci-fi guys.

Sci-fi gals aren't in search of the elusive Mary Sue.  They want strong, relatable women characters.

And Sci-fi guys may be the least sexist men in America.

They like strong women, whether it's Storm, Wonder Woman or Xena.  They don't start gagging if a science fiction film stars a woman -- they love Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and turned the Alien franchise into a film classic.

For about 24 hours after Extant's debut, the Water Cooler Set appeared to be controlling the dialogue but the Water Cooler Set is a weak group that is easily distracted.  So as they went off to play hipster, the sci-fi-ers, the geeks, the devoted, took control of the discussion and the conversation again became about the show.

The 'trendy' became less important and the merits of the show were brought to the forefront in the online discussions.

And that's how Halle ended up winning and Extant ended up winning.  Most of all, it's how conversations about television ended up winning as something beyond trendy became the focus.

The grab bag roundtable

 Jim: It's roundtable time.  We're all face to face for a change so we're doing a roundtable.  Our e-mail address is And our topics for this roundtable are coming from your e-mails.   Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): First off, Bert wants to know if anyone remembers Guantanamo?

Isaiah: I think everyone but Barack Obama remembers Guantanamo and that there are people held there, disappeared there.  Maybe even Barack remembers but, if that's the case, you can be sure that he hopes everyone's forgotten his promise to close it. I do get where Bert is coming from.  It's not a pressing topic today in many ways.  I'd argue that's not because time's being wasted on trivia but because there are so many important topics to cover.

Jim: Alright, Eileen wants to know why we aren't covering what's recently blown up in Gaza?

Rebecca: Why the f**k would we?  I'm the one who covers that topic in this community but I have no interest in it because I'm sick of  all the 'leaders'  rushing off to the topic of Gaza after, what, one piece on Iraq?  Not in the mood.  Iraq's in trouble that's where the focus should be.  But on the left we got the sigh of relief and, "Palestine!  Thank goodness we don't have to pretend to care about Iraq anymore."  This bulls**t is exactly why I don't give a f**k.  I am not the damn Red Cross. I can't go running after every disaster.  I'm also not silly putty.  Stop pulling me in a million and one directions.

Jim: You're serious, I can tell.

Rebecca: I am completely serious. This happens over and over.  The self-righteous return to the topic of Iraq for a brief second, they get everything wrong because they haven't paid attention and then they immediately drop the topic.  I'm sick of it.

Jim: Okay.  On the topic of Iraq, Denise wants to know if anyone has an opinion on the Kurds taking over two oil fields the Baghdad-based government had been running?

Trina: I'll jump in.  Thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has lost control repeatedly of cities, towns, weapons, oil fields, etc.  As I understand the statement the Kurds issued, it makes sense that someone needs to control the fields, to protect them.

Jess: Trina, I'm going to jump in just to read the statement into this roundtable.  This is what the Kurdistan Regional Government issued regarding the takeover:

Erbil, Kurdistan Region ( - This morning, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oil fields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area, after learning of orders by officials in the federal Ministry of Oil in Baghdad to sabotage the recent mutually-agreed pipeline infrastructure linking the Avana dome with the Khurmala field.
The nearby Bai Hassan field and the other fields located in Makhmour district are now safely under KRG management. The KRG expects production at these fields to continue normally. Staff at the North Oil Company that previously operated these fields have been informed that from tomorrow they will be expected to cooperate with KRG management. Those who do not want to do so can leave.
The new pipeline linking Khurmala with Avana was designed and constructed with the express purpose of facilitating export from the Makhmour, Avana and Kirkuk area fields through the KRG pipeline network to help increase revenues for Iraqis, at a time of great need and at a time when most of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is under ISIS control.
The new infrastructure was built and paid for by the KRG, working in full cooperation with officials and engineers at North Oil Company. However, the KRG learned on Thursday that some officials in the federal Ministry of Oil gave orders to a number of NOC staff to cease their cooperation with the KRG and to dismantle or render inoperable the valves on the new pipeline.
The Avana and Makhmour fields have been unable to export since March because the main Iraq-Turkey pipeline has been damaged by terrorist attacks. The main Iraq pipeline lies mostly within territory recently surrendered by the federal government to ISIS.
Despite the inability to export and the halt to refining at Beiji, the Avana and Makhmour fields were producing about 110,000 barrels of oil per day and utilising the associated gas to help with the operation of the LPG bottling plant in Kirkuk.
But instead of using the new KRG pipeline infrastructure to export the produced oil, officials at the NOC were ordered by Baghdad to re-inject the oil back into a small, disused field in Kirkuk. This politically motivated decision risked causing great damage to the field in question with a permanent loss of most of the oil that has been re-injected. It has also deprived the people of Iraq of much-needed oil export revenue.
From now on, production at the new fields under KRG control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market. This will ease the burden on ordinary citizens caused by the failure of the federal authorities to protect the country's vital oil infrastructure in the region.
The KRG will also claim its Constitutional share of oil revenues derived from these fields to make up for the huge financial deficit triggered by the illegal withholding of the KRG’s 17 percent share of the federal budget by Baghdad.
The KRG has been and always will be open to cooperation and coordination with Baghdad, according to the rights and responsibilities of the Regions as outlined under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG still hopes that Baghdad climbs down from its policy of punitive political and economic sanctions against the citizens of Kurdistan.
This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage.

Jim: Thanks, Jess.  So, Trina, you accept that explanation?

Trina: Surely.  Am I supposed to instead believe Nouri?  Nouri al-Maliki is a non-stop liar.  I don't know that the Kurds have entered the liar-liar-pants-on-fire stage.  So I'll take them at their word.

Jim: Any other thoughts -- from anyone -- on the Kurds?

Ann: I'm glad that they've shocked the US government by making clear that they're not waiting for orders.  The White House -- White Houses past and present -- have treated the Kurds as people who have no thoughts or dreams of their own but just wait to serve the American government.  Good for them.  And, as C.I.'s noted, this is about the new leadership for the Kurds, President Massoud Barzani who is not the weak willed Jalal Talabani.

Cedric: And I agree but I'd also add that Nouri accusing them -- the Kurds -- of harboring terrorists, that was a new low even for him.  And he had to know this would inflame an already tense situation but Nouri doesn't care.  He just doesn't care.  Supposedly, President Barack Obama outlines to him that any US help was conditioned upon a political solution for Iraq.  And yet, Nouri's spent week after week attacking other elements in Iraq.  He's done everything to prevent a political solution.  I wish Barack would publicly make it clear that Nouri's actions thus far are not just unhelpful but they are also destructive and putting at risk any US assistance.

Jim: That is true.  And Ty actually had a point on that when we were talking -- him and I -- mid-week.

Ty: By any standard, I was saying to Jim, Barack's non-defined plan is a failure.  By keeping things so vague, however, he's able to spin everything.  But this is a failure and Nouri should be held accountable.  I would hope to see this failure pointed out.

Jim: But Ty and I are both aware how much denial there is on the so-called left.  Morey e-mailed to ask "What's the magic number for troops Barack's sending to Iraq that makes people care?"  Anyone want to hazard a guess.

Elaine:  If one US service member dies in Iraq, that does the trick immediately.

Dona: I'd agree with that. And I wouldn't be surprised if that happened if we saw that Barack could be as crafty as Bully Boy Bush when it came to hiding coffins and preventing them from being photographed.

Wally: I wish I could disagree with Elaine -- both for what she said and what she didn't.  I think she chose her words intentionally in both cases -- meaning that unless a service member dies in Iraq, most will be willing to look the other way on Barack sending troops back in.  Did I read you wrong there?

Elaine: No, not at all.  I don't think it matters for most people.

Jim: Why?

Elaine: They don't want it to.  They don't want their world 'rocked' by reality. I have had patients -- veterans -- in the last few years who are disturbed by the fact that people in their own lives don't have any interest in issues like Iraq. They have returned to friends who sat out the world and whose days revolve around playing Halo and watching Adventure Time on Comedy Central.

Wally: And those aren't complaints about the culture at large.

Elaine: Exactly.  Those are complaints about specific people, usually close friends.

Wally: And as awful as everything else must be, to come back to the US and your best friend is basically a never-grow-up teenager who can't even try to have an adult conversation?  That must make people feel very lonely.

Jim: Muhammed wants to know if we thought, when we started this site, that Iraq would be a non-story by now?  He writes, "Surely, in 2005, you had to think 'a year or two and this is over'."

Ava: Hindsight's always tricky.  I can tell you, because it's up here in the archives in the summer of 2005, that a lot of us thought the Iraq War would be over by 2008 and C.I. didn't think that at all.  Again, it's in the archives. Prior to that moment, I had no idea what I thought, I really can't remember.  But I know at that moment my belief was, "Yes, it will be going on for many, many years to come."

Jim: Ruth question for you from Abe, "Coke or Pepsi?"

Ruth: I can drink both but if I am ordering or I am in the grocery store, I always pick Pepsi.  It has a sweeter taste, to me.  Did he say why he was asking?

Jim: Nope.  His subject line is "Question for Ruth" and then he writes: "Coke or Pepsi?  Best, Abe."  Darcy e-mails wanting to know why we don't weigh in on the immigration issue?

Ava: As a Latina, I'll grab thar. We have weighed in on this issue in the past.  Barack's 'plan' strikes me as nonsense that will go nowhere and so I'm not going to waste my time on it.  Effective legislation could be passed but not by Barack who is an idiot. You could let people earn citizenship immediately if you had a clue.  First off, "earn," not "give."  Use the proper language.  Second, "earn" means the rules are still in place they're just moving more quickly.  By that I mean, immigrants already in this country could earn citizenship by passing the history test all immigrants currently have to take.  This is how they earn it.  And that test is about making sure they understand the country they want to become a citizen of.  And most importantly, make English the language of the country.  That's not hurting anyone.  And it reassures opponents on this issue that they won't wake up in two or five years and find the whole country is speaking Spanish.  Note I did not giggle or laugh.  I'm not making fun of their fear.  They want to preserve their culture.  That's a natural inclination among immigrants and non-immigrants.  So just take that fear off the table as a compromise measure and reform happens quicker and with broad support.

Jim: And what would English being named the language of the US mean?

Ava: I would assume it would mean that business was done in English.  For 9-11 and hospitals, you'd need Spanish language speakers but you want to open a business in Palo Alto?  You're going to have to speak English and not just keep waiting for the Spanish speaking employee to wait on you.  You want to run a business in the US?  Well you need to be able to speak English.  That's really not asking a great deal.  If you don't speak English, you bring someone with you who does.  Bilingual pay is becoming an issue and it's ticking a lot of workers off.  I don't just mean the ones who don't speak a second language and don't get it.  This is a government workers' issue.  You've got a lot of people doing translations without getting bilingual pay -- sometimes there is a cap on how many people in your section can get the pay, sometimes you're supervisor is just too lazy to send you through the certification process, etc.  But just do away with it because unless it's an emergency situation, you need to be able to speak the language of the country.  And I'm sure there are people who will object big time to what I'm saying.  That's fine, they can.  But I'm not trying to create the most perfect scenario in the world.  I'm trying to get a real path to citizenship started for immigrants in need.  And the big block to this happening is fear that this takes place and suddenly the country changes who it is.  So something as minor as saying "English is the language of the land" could allow us to move forward on real immigration reform.

Jim: Alright.  Victor e-mailed, Kat, wanting to know how the year is shaping up musically?

Kat: I think it's been a strong year so far.  You've had major releases from Tori Amos and Ben Harper and Chrissie Hynde and Afghan Whigs.  There have been people taking real chances.  I honestly think 2013 sucked.  Already, I think 2014 is topping last year.

Jim: Kat, he also wants to know who your favorite male artist is?

Kat: Okay.  Hmm.  Ben Harper.  I listen to him more than any other man -- only Neil Young comes close.  I think Ben is operating right now -- and probably for the next five years -- at the height of his powers.  I think he's made tremendous artistic strides and he's going to make some more in the immediate future.  He's the male artist who excites me the most when I see he has a new album coming out.

Jim: Last week, we did our summer read edition and that led Louise to e-mail asking when Rebecca and Marcia plan to do their joint-book read for the summer?

Marcia: We're talking about maybe doing it this week.

Rebecca: In the past, we've scrambled.  So this year, we made our choice back in May.

Marcia: Which gave us plenty of time to read it and discuss it.  We only fear that it might not come off fresh since we're not rushing through a book and immediately writing.

Rebecca: So if this one is a bust, we'll go back to our old ways.

Jim: Louise asks that we consider doing a piece on a book of some type here.  She notes we haven't done one in some time.

Stan: Well we've done some last August and there was one we did around November or December.  Also, Ava and C.I. did "She sang so much, she wrote so little (Ava and C.I.)" last October.

Jim: That's true but Louise is far from the only reader we have asking for more on books so we'll try to work something in during the next few weeks.  And on that, we're going to have to wrap up because we are out of time.

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at You Only Live TwiceSleeper,  Diamonds Are Forever,  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.

This week, we look at an 80s classic.

The 70s saw many film directors flourish including such notables as Alan J. Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola, Elaine May, George Lucas and Brian De Palma.

De Palma is responsible for directing many classics including 198's Blow Out, the script for which he also wrote.

In this film, John Travolta's a sound effects guy in the film world and the sounds seem a little generic to one director who wants Travolta to move from using stock audio.  Which is how John ends up on a bridge with a boom microphone recording when an apparent blow out of a tire sends the car of a governor under water.

The governor dies before John can get to the car but the woman with the governor, Nancy Allen, is alive and John rescues her.

Nancy's a woman who does make up for car shows but has bigger plans, "I've seen these big movie stars like Barbra Streisand, you know?  They don't know how to do her right.  I know how to fix her face."

But Travolta's focused on what he recorded which appears to reveal it wasn't a blow out.  Instead, it sounds like the tire was shot out.

A lot of things aren't what they seem.

And as facts change, the constant is the chemistry between Travolta and Allen.

Allen and Travolta had genuine chemistry in another Brian De Palma classic (Carrie).

Brian's called "the master of suspense" more often than anyone except Alfred Hitchock.

But Brian De Palma is a true master.  He's the last of the big directors to make a '70s film.'  Blow Out is very much a 70s film where nothing is as it seems and, at times, you feel you're watching a character study and not a movie only for the next second to spin everything around and have you marveling over how easy it is for De Palma to switch tones and do so convincingly.

The movie will take you through a full range of emotions the way few films ever do.  And it has an ending that is rife with meaning and resolution.

Blow Out is one of the best suspense classics of the 20th century.

De Palma, Travolta and Allen are at their finest in this film.

Sometimes a gal just wants to dish

Sure he could be ordering more murders with his drones.

Or sending more troops to Iraq.

Or even just listening in on all the communications of the American people.

But sometimes a gal just wants to dish.

This edition's playlist

behold a pale horse

1) Ebony Bones'  Behold, A Pale Horse.

2) John Lennon's Mind Games.

3) Prince's Dirty Mind.

4) Prince's Controversy.

5) Laura Nyro's First Songs

6) Carly Simon's Hello Big Man

7) The Mamas & The Papas' The Papas & The Mamas.

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

9) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

10) Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else.

The moment Barack confesses . . .

. . .  to being a helpless, little bitch.

One with no shame.

Murray Delivers Remarks on VA Reform, Secretary and Conference Committee


Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 08, 2014                                                      (202) 224-2834
Murray Delivers Remarks on VA Reform, Secretary and Conference Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding reform at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), the VA Secretary nominee, and the ongoing conference committee.  

Full remarks as prepared:

“M. President, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. Like many of my colleagues I have been very troubled by the most recent allegations of VA failing to provide veterans with timely health care. VA generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as -- or better than -- the private sector. But when you are caring for the nation’s heroes, and you have the backing of the full resources of the Federal government, ‘just as good’ is not enough – we expect more.  

“So I am very frustrated to be here again talking about these deeply disturbing issues, and the Department’s repeated failures to change. GAO and the Inspector General have reported on these problems many times over the years. And last Congress we did a great deal of work around wait times, particularly for mental health care. I think VA is starting to see that business as usual is not acceptable. 

“The Administration has taken steps to begin addressing some of the major, system-wide problems -- but much more needs to be done. Tomorrow, when I meet with the President’s nominee for VA Secretary, I will ask him about how he plans to make these changes. And that is why I am very glad to be serving on the veterans conference committee – because Congress needs to act as well.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to pass responsible and effective legislation to bring much needed reforms to VA. And we need to do it soon.

“There have been major bipartisan efforts in both the House and the Senate to move legislation addressing these problems. Many Members have been part of those efforts and I commend them all for their commitment to bipartisanship and for putting the needs of our veterans first. 

“Now it is vital that we continue to build on this bipartisan momentum – and continue making progress if we are going to address some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA, and to fix its deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.

“I know Members have a wide range of concerns with the bills. And I believe we can address these concerns responsibly and in a way that puts our veterans first and gives the VA the tools they need to address the challenges they face. That means building and strengthening the VA system so it delivers the best care over the long term.

“But it is important for us to act quickly to start making these changes.  We cannot allow this process to break down. Veterans are still waiting to get the care they need. Many of us were rightly outraged that VA did not act to help veterans – because the Department ignored all the information and did nothing. 

“This Congress must not do the same thing and fail veterans by not acting. I urge all of my colleagues to work as hard and as quickly as possible to finalize an agreement and get it to the President.

“As more problems will be uncovered, and the investigations will proceed, and we will need even more action from VA, the Administration, and Congress.

“Because the nation made a promise to the men and women who answered the call of duty—and one of the most important ways we uphold that is by making sure our veterans can access the health care they need and deserve – no matter what it takes.”

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

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

John Anthony La Pietra Attorney General For the People


In the photo above, from John Anthony La Pietra's Facebook page 4 the people, you can see his billboard when he ran for county clerk.  Now the Green Party of Michigan member is runing for Attorney General.

John Anthony La Pietra
    Attorney General
    For the People

386 Boyer Court  *  Marshall, MI  49068
    Facebook:  jalp4thePeople

For Immediate Release
July 9, 2014

La Pietra Kicks Off Campaign for Attorney General
With "Opinion For the People" on Informed Primary Voting

    John Anthony La Pietra, the Green Party of Michigan's 2014 nominee
for Attorney General, has posted a chart of alternative candidates who
will be on the November 4 general-election ballot to help inform
Michigan citizens who want to vote strategically in the August 5 primary.

    The chart is available via on John's campaign Facebook page:

and referenced in a 1-page PDF document on his blog:

    The latter is the first of what John plans as a series of "Opinions
For the People", talking about ways he would make the position of
Attorney General serve the people of Michigan.

    As John posted last month, in announcing his nomination:

        When the Attorney General or someone on his staff
        appears in court "for the people", that phrase
        should mean just what it says.  For the people.
        Not for entrenched interests in government
        institutions -- or for the moneyed interests
        controlling them.  For the people.

    The new opinion post notes that "46% of voters polled by Gallup
last month identified themselves as neither Republicans nor Democrats [.
. .] the percentage has been going up over the past ten years, and might
top 50% soon."

    Add in "voters who see themselves as Democrats or Republicans but
who also want to consider voting strategically", says John, and you have
a majority that could use the general-election candidate information "to
help us decide what votes would be in our own best interests."

    For that majority, John created a chart in PDF format, which he has
posted on his blog:

    The chart is a first attempt at a task the Bureau of Elections has
so far failed to do -- telling Michigan voters not only about candidates
on the primary ballot, but also candidates who have already qualified
for the general election.

    The Bureau set up a Webpage in March to do this, and has known
since mid-May about some of the candidates who will be on the November
ballot.  Still, it has not used the page to let the public know about
any of those nominees yet.

    Michigan courts have recognized that the primaries are "primarily
party functions”.  But, adds John, as long as primaries are run as
publicly-funded elections, they should be run For the People.  The
courts have also recognized "the right of qualified voters, regardless
of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively" as a
right "basic to effective political expression and merit[ing] strong
constitutional protection."

    Michigan courts have declared that primaries are "primarily party
functions”.  But the courts also recognize "the right of qualified
voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes
effectively" as a right "basic to effective political expression and
merit[ing] strong constitutional protection" under the state mandate to
"preserve the purity of elections".

    John concludes that, as long as primaries are run as
publicly-funded elections, they should be run for the people.

    So he has combined information from the Websites of GPMI and other
alternative parties on the ballot in Michigan, as well as the
campaign-finance filings of candidates of those parties and others
running as independents (with "No Party Affiliation").  He invites
anyone with updated information to contact him.

    For more information about John's campaign -- and his future
"Opinions" and proposals to make sure the job of Attorney General gets
done the most effective way *For the People* -- contact him via phone,
e-mail, or USPS mail, or visit his campaign Facebook page:

    John Anthony La Pietra -- Attorney General For the People
    386 Boyer Court
    Marshall, MI  49068
        phone:    269-781-9478
        Facebook:  jalp4thePeople

    For more information on the Green Party of Michigan, its Ten Key
Values, its platform, and its other candidates, contact:

    Green Party of Michigan
    PO Box 504
    Warren, MI  48090-0504
        Facebook:  migreens
        Twitter:  @migreenparty

#    #    #

prepared and distributed (with donated labor) by
John Anthony La Pietra
    Attorney General
    For the People

    386 Boyer Court
    Marshall, MI  49068
        phone:    269-781-9478
        Facebook:  jalp4thePeople


This is from ETAN:

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-917-690-4391,

July 10- The Indonesian people have voted. Although the results will not be finalized for several weeks, most "quick count" exit polls show that Jakarta Governor Joko (Jokowi) Widodo is the apparent winner of Indonesia's third popular election for President. Although his opponent former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto has yet to concede, barring fraud during the counting or coup, Jokowi will take the oath of office in October.

Jokowi campaigned as a reformer, and most voters were not swayed by a massive smear campaign by supporters of his opponent or Prabowo’s nostalgic appeal to Indonesia’s authoritarian past. Many voted for Jokowi expecting a sharp break with that past. Whether their hopes are met will depend on consistent pressure from those who want positive change. The forces of the status quo - from oligarchs to the military - will certainly be urging him to maintain and expand their prerogatives. The fact that Prabowo came so close to winning despite his horrendous human rights record shows how entrenched this status quo remains more than 15 years after the end of Suharto’s dictatorship. 

Jokowi has responded positively to some calls for justice for past human rights violations, including those 
from 1998, the year that the three-decade long dictatorship of Prabowo's former father-in-law Suharto ended. Jokowi also spoke about ending restrictions on international media access to West Papua.

The U.S. government, which often says it supports accountability for human rights crimes committed by Indonesian security forces, should strictly condition any security assistance on credible trials for past violations and an end to police and military rights violations in West Papua and elsewhere.

The Obama administration should suspend its 
renewed collaboration with Indonesia's Kopassus special forces until allegations of improper interference with the election are independently investigated. Just prior to the vote, independent journalist Allan Nairn reported that Kopassus and the state intelligence agency (BIN) were "involved in a covert operation to influence the presidential election" in Prabowo's favor. 

A number of prominent members of Jokowi's campaign team face accusations of serious human rights violations. President-elect Jokowi should make clear his commitment to human rights by keeping these and other tainted officials out of his administration and by making it clear that no one is above the law.
One prominent backer is General Wiranto, who on February 24, 2003, was indicted for crimes against humanity by a joint UN-East Timorese court. Soon after, the U.S. State Department placed Wiranto on its visa watch list. Jokowi should work with Timor-Leste to ensure prosecution either in Timor-Leste or by international courts for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation of its neighbor.

Whether Jokowi voters hopes are met will depend on consistent pressure from those who want positive change. The forces of the status quo - from oligarchs to the military - will certainly be urging him to maintain and expand their prerogatives.

Others in Jokowi's campaign team are also accused of serious violations of human rights.General AM Hendropriyono has been implicated in a 1989 massacre of civilians Central Lampung, in the assassination of human rights lawyer Munir while head of Indonesia’s intelligence agency (BIN), and in the forced deportation of over 250,000 people from East to West Timor in 1999. Former BIN deputy chief retired Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono also stands accused in the murder of Munir. A U.S. Department of State cable described Muchdi, a career Kopassus officer, as “one of Indonesia's most vindictive public figures to justice” and placed him “at the heart of one of the nation's human rights tragedies--the 1998-99 abductions of student and pro-democracy activists.”
Former Jakarta Military Commander Lieutenant General Sutiyoso is accused of torture in Timor-Leste. In 2007, an attempt by Australian investigators to question him about the October 1975murder of five Australia-based journalist in Balibo, Timor-Leste, caused a diplomatic incident.Sutiyoso was Jakarta military commander when thugs backed by troops and police attacked the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party in 1996. Retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu is a hardliner known for his xenophobic remarks and criticism of rights activists. As army chief of staff, he oversaw the implementation of martial law in Aceh beginning in May 2003.


Indonesia's electoral commission will announce the official results on July 20 or 21. If the results are challenged, the Constitutional Court will announce the final results between August 22-24. The winner will take office on October 20. Indonesia's Parliament, elected April 8, will be sworn in October 1.

At the end of June, ETAN and more than 30 other organizations challenged Indonesia's incoming Parliament and next President to "to break with the past [and] fully and meaningfully address the legacy of impunity for past human rights violations," adding that "the continued lack of accountability for past and ongoing violations of human rights threatens lasting progress." 
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded in 1991. ETAN supports democracy, human rights and justice in Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN is non-partisan. It works on human rights and related issues and does not support candidates or political parties in any country. Website: Twitter: @etan009.

East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873
Tel. +1-718-596-7668,   

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