Sunday, July 20, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Bill Maher makes us physically ill.

The hypocrite gives Obama's PAC one-million dollars in TWO-THOUSAND AND TWELVE and then accuses "liberals" of being "useless Obama hacks."

-- Cindy Sheehan, "Bill Maher: Soapbox Hypocrite of the Month Award" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).

Truest statement of the week II

Five and a half years into the Obama era, some of his African American supporters finally admit black voters didn't get much of substance for their nearly unanimous support of the First Black President. Of course the black political class does its level best to blame everything on evil racist Republicans who don't even like what the president had for breakfast. In a shameful flip on the notion that black faces in high places should represent us in the halls of power, our black political cognoscenti relentlessly belittle any expectation that the lives of real people down here on the ground ought to improve behind the election of the first black president as unsophisticated and unrealistic. Meanwhile black family wealth continues to fall, black unemployment and mass incarceration remain about the same, and our black political class continue their glittering careers. 

-- Bruce A. Dixon, "What Corporate Media and Corporate Latino Politicians Won't Tell You About Central American Child Refugees" (Black Agenda Report).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

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

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

And what did we come up with?

See you next week.


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

Editorial: Sometimes a Tweet can say it all

  • Welcome to Nazi Germany circa 1938 - aka Mosul, Iraq. The Islamistake identified Christian homes in the province.

    TV: What the return of 24 meant

    24 was a show of the '00s, capturing all the fear, cruelty and hate of that ugly decade and regurgitating it into mass propaganda.


    Art transforms and enriches.  However, the program that blurred the line between Fox entertainment and Fox 'News' was the televised equivalent of nitrogen deficiency, robbing humanity and common sense from the public.  It was awarded with honors it didn't really deserve and became the show pimped by Rush Limbaugh and others in his set.  From the left, there were a few of us who pushed back (we did in 2006, Matthew Rothschild is another on the left who pushed back).

    The pushback was stronger than the endorsement -- in part because the pushback against the vile lies of the show included commentary from Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas, the parents of 24 star Kiefer Sutherland.

    Noted actors and leftists, Sutherland and Douglas didn't go public with their sharp critiques but their private critiques led Kiefer to begin public rebuking the torture the show embraced and portrayed as effective.

    His parents criticism also led to Kiefer's two follow up projects.

    First up was the ten-episode web series The Confession which paired Kiefer with John Hurt.  The 24 star went from playing 'rouge' agent Jack Bauer to playing a hitman confessing to a priest (Hurt).  The ten episodes explore issues of guilt and rage as well as consequences.

    It was weighty fare for Kiefer and led many to wonder if it was also his penance for 24?

    There was no question that Touch was penance.

    That 26 episode  (spread out over two seasons) series found Kiefer playing a journalist whose son was the target of a corporation's conspiracy as well as a centuries old religious conspiracy.  There were twists and turns and possibly the ratings for the second season might not have been so bad if the show hadn't aired on Fridays?

    Equally true, Friday is a night of the week and the networks, when they program smart, can pull in viewers on that night.

    What's not in dispute is that Kiefer's Martin Bohm was far removed from Kiefer's Jack Bauer.  Martin avoided violence as much as possible and resorted to it only when his son was in danger.  In many ways, the series recalled Lindsay Wagner's TV classic The Bionic Woman with conflict resolution being more important than fist-a-cuffs.

    Equally true, it attempted to forge a new career path for Kiefer Sutherland, even more so than The Confession.

    In May of 2013, Fox cancelled Touch.

    A year later, Kiefer was back on Fox with the 12-episode series 24: Live Another Day.

    Jack Bauer returned but this time he was the terrorist in England, not America.  As usual, he wasn't seen as a terrorist at all.   He was the 'tortured' and brooding thing of beauty.

    Torture porn?

    Casino Royale's opening with a nude Daniel Craig being tortured had many dismissing the Bond reboot as torture porn.

    And, coming after 24, the events onscreen may have confused many.

    We define torture porn as using violence to titillate while pimping the lie that torture works.

    That had nothing to do with the Daniel Craig scenes.

    Actresses tend to go middle or working class -- a peculiar form of movie 'middle class' and  'working class' -- when they reach a certain level of stardom.  They want to be seen as real and usually portray mothers attempting to save their children -- especially if stardom was found via the comedy route.

    When men reach a certain level of stardom, they want to suffer as well.  But children sick or missing aren't enough for them.  They want to be strung up like a side of beef and suffer physical abuse.  See the work of Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, among others.  Especially pay attention to the work of Mel Gibson who probably exemplified male beauty better than any actor (peak years 1979 to 1990) and who indulged in repeated scenes of onscreen abuse and torture.

    When the star is physically tortured or battered, this really isn't torture porn.

    It may be masochism.

    But it's really not torture in the sense that we now, thanks to the Bully Boy Bush and Barack administrations, contemplate when we hear the term 'torture.'

    24 was always torture porn.  In its eighth season, it also indulged in torturing Jack Bauer.

    But that suffering seems mild in comparison to 24: Live Another Day.  Should the series return for another season, Jack Bauer's suffering may surpass that of the title character in the Mel Gibson directed film The Passion of the Christ.

    The latest season found Jack suffering beatings, suffering the loss of a loved one (a former flame he gave up seasons ago), suffering the kidnapping of his only friend (Mary Lynn Rajskub's Chloe O'Brian) and much more.

    We were supposed to marvel over how Jack endured, how he carried on, how -- when the Russians had Chloe in the final episode of the season -- Jack sacrificed himself for Chloe.

    All of this claptrap was supposed to make Jack come off noble.

    And for the simple-minded, it probably did the trick.

    Chloe is kidnapped by the Russians and Jack hands himself over because he's a 'man of honor' -- that's what some probably thought.

    But he's not honorable, not at all.

    Margot al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) was this season's villain, the widow of a terrorist killed by a US drone who wanted vengeance.  She wants US President James Heller (William Devane) to turn himself over to her -- to go to a sports stadium alone -- so that she can use a drone to kill him.

    If he does not agree, she will use the US drones (which she's found a backdoor into) to kill hundreds of people throughout England.

    When Jack's unable to locate her or to disable the drones, President Heller makes the decision to turn himself in at the stadium.  He does this to save the lives of innocents.

    But Jack does a video loop of Heller to make it appear that he's standing in one spot in the stadium when he's actually at another spot.

    The 'man of honor' is happy to trick terrorists to save Heller's life.

    But when he could have done the same to save himself and Chloe?

    Jacky Bauer goes all weak-kneed.

    We're also missing the honor in torturing Simone al-Harazi (Emily Berrington) who is already injured and at death's door.  We also question the 'honor' in the decision to toss Margot al-Harazi out a window to her death instead of having her stand trial.

    Most of all, we don't see anyone -- man or woman -- of 'honor' firing at and injuring civilians just to create a distraction.

    In the episode "Day 9: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.," Jack is at the US Embassy, unable to enter and pursued by the CIA (primarly Yvonne Strahovski's agent Kate Morgan).  So what does he do?

    He shoots at -- and wounds -- civilians taking part in a peaceful protest against drones.

    In the next episode, Kate Morgan will argue that Jack's trying to help because he aimed at the bullet proof vests of the people he shot.


    No, the protesters were not wearing bullet proof vests.  In this follow up episode, once in the Embassy compound, Jack fires at US military personnel and, instead of killing them, aims for their vests to knock them out.

    What he did to the civilians immediately prior to entering the compound -- which Kate Morgan observed -- is never mentioned nor noted.

    Jack Bauer is a good guy, Kate insists, because he didn't try to kill soldiers.

    She is not the least bit concerned that Jack shot into a crowd of civilians and injured several.  Or that he risked human life just to get into a building.

    24 returned and managed to demonstrate that it could get even uglier.

    But what it really revealed is how stunted and over Kiefer Sutherland's career is.

    Second acts on TV are not common.  They do, however, take place.  Alyssa Milano, for example, can smoothly move from a star of Who's The Boss to a star of Charmed to a star of Mistresses.  Larry Hagman can go from starring on I Dream of Jeannie to Dallas.  Kate Jackson can go from The Rookies  to Charlie's Angels to Scarecrow & Mrs. King.  Jane Curtin can go from Saturday Night Live to Kate & Allie to 3rd Rock From The Sun to Unforgettable. That's luck and it's talent.

    But there are those who lack luck and who, especially, lack talent.

    They stop trying to find new roles to explore and instead repeat the only thing that ever prompted applause.  Usually, you see an actor or actress go a decade or more before admitting defeat -- David Caruso comes to mind -- and repeating themselves.  Not Kiefer.

    Four years after he was determined to try something new, he's back on TV repeating himself, the Bob Denver of his peer group, as he admits to himself and to the world that he's little more than a one trick pony.  And it's that  desperation factor and sameness that made 24: Live Another Day such a tired and pointless effort.

    Film Classics of the 20th Century

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

    Three women work together to help each other out in a comedy that becomes the biggest comedy Fox has for the year.

    You probably think we're talking about 9 to 5.

    While that does describe the Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton classic comedy, it also applies to an earlier comedy classic.

    In 1953, Fox released How To Marry A Millionaire.  Jean Negulesco directed the film, Nunnally Johnson wrote the script and Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable starred as three friends and models who work a scheme to marry rich.

    Betty Grable had been one of the biggest stars (and pin-ups) of the 40s.  How To Marry A Millionaire would be her last blockbuster film.

    Lauren Bacall became a star in 1944's To Have and Have Not opposite future husband Humphrey Bogart.  The two would reteam for the classics The Big Sleep, Key Largo and Dark Passage.  On her own, Bacall's hit films would include Designing Woman, Harper, Sex and the Single Girl, Murder On The Orient Express, Written On The Wind, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Misery and The Walker.  At 89, Bacall continues her film career.

    Marilyn Monroe, of course, became one of the most famous actresses of all time.

    For all three, How To Marry A Millionaire was a high point.  As noted before, it's Betty Grable's last big hit.  For Bacall, it demonstrated she could do comedy quite well.  For Monroe?

    When Monroe walked away from Fox and went to NYC to study at The Actors Studio it was because of films like this.

    No, not awful films.

    She made this movie, she loved it and she was loved in it.

    But a lot of inferior scripts followed that she would turn down.

    Good scripts had helped her become famous in small roles (All About Eve, Monkey Business, Clash By Night, etc.).  Niagara had made her famous and been followed by the classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

    Good scripts gave her the chance to be more than a sex object.

    How To Marry A Millionaire provided her with a character too vain and too scared to wear needed glasses.  This provided laughs and added a humanizing touch as well.

    And the film is one of the movies first big comedy blockbusters in which the leads are three women.  Many more would follow, including 9 to 5, First Wives Club and The Other Woman -- but it started here.

    The telling photo

    Did you ever see four more guilty looking men?


     Jim: It's roundtable time.  If there's a topic for this roundtable or a theme, it would be the fakes.  We're sick of them.  Judging by your e-mails, so are you.  On the topic of e-mails, remember our e-mail address is  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, Kylie e-mails regarding Mike's "Israel isn't my pressing issue" and C.I.'s "Israel isn't my pressing issue" and I'm quoting from "As do people who will scream if Palestinian civilians are killed in Israel but will remain silent on the killing of civilians by a government in Iraq."  Kylie feels that Mike and C.I. have not given enough attention to the plight of the Palestinians.  Mike, your response?

    Mike: The plight of the Palestinians never ends.  It also never fails to get non-stop attention.  Iraq got a tiny bit of attention, for example, two weeks ago.  Then another attack by the Israeli government and Iraq is dropped and forgotten completely.  I'm tired of it.  This has happened over and over.  I can remember it happening in 2006, for example.  I'm tired of it.  There's a whole platoon of lefty writers who do nothing but cover Israel.  I don't see them accomplishing anything but distracting from every other issue -- including Iraq -- that we should be focusing on.   I have no animosity towards the Palestinians.  I don't even argue attacks on them shouldn't be covered.  But my point is the lack of focus on Iraq.

    Jim: C.I.?

    C.I.: The focus of The Common Ills is Iraq.  With that focus, we can cover events in Iraq, investigations into the war taking place in other countries, peace activities, veterans issues, etc.  I've never done the Palestinian snapshot.  I'll evaluate any criticism that's valid in terms of my missing something that's within our scope.  But we don't cover Palestine, we've never pretended to so I honestly think Kylie's question has no validity for The Common Ills.  She could try aiming it at Third which has a wider scope but it's not pertinent for The Common Ills.

    Jim:  Okay, let's talk Fake Ass.  Isaiah, you've done several comics on this theme, so why don't you go over the Fake Ass.

    Isaiah: Sure.  A Fake Ass is any number of people.  I created "Fake Ass Jeans" for a series of comics where people get called out.  Like then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in "Limited Hangout."

    Isaiah: A fake ass is someone who says one thing to try to look good but really doesn't mean it.  They're just pretending -- fake assing.

    Jim: So, Elaine, a fake ass?

    Elaine: Tom Hayden.  Oh, he cares about Iraq, he cares.  What's he writing about this week?  Oh, fake ass moved on to a different topic. That's what a fake ass does.  Repeatedly.  They have no ethics and they can't focus for longer than 15 seconds.

    Jim: That's another way of summing up a fake ass and certainly Tom Hayden's earned his place on that list.  Trina, you just wrote "The fake" at your site.  Talk about that.

    Trina: Sure.  Elizabeth Warren is the left's great savior?  I'm not buying it.  Not only is she comfortable calling for attacking Iran, not only was she a Republican until recently, but what does she have to show for anything.  TARP?  She told us money went missing.  Uh, okay.  Wasn't she supposed to be providing the oversight?  If I leave my cat with you to watch and I come back and you tell me my cat is dead, I guess you watched it but I'm not sure you did a good job of watching it.  Elizabeth Warren needs to demonstrate a few actual accomplishments.

    Stan: Amen!  And what the hell?  Another one term senator is going to be pimped for the presidency?  Barack is like the ultimate fake ass and clearly he was not up for the job.  At the time of the 2016 election, she will have served three years in the Senate.  This qualifies for experience?

    Marcia: I think Trina said it all in her post when she wrote, "I wish we had someone who could fill us with hope.  Even more, I wish we would stop looking for heroes and stop deluding ourselves."  That really does say it all and put the blame where it belongs -- as much on the fake ass as on ourselves for repeatedly falling for this crap.

    Mike: Yes but don't forget the media's role in this as well.  I mean, my pick would be Robert Parry.  Barack wouldn't be a successful fake ass without the likes of Robert Parry -- an elderly fool willing to act like a teenage groupie over Barack.  He disgraces himself repeatedly.

    Cedric:  Right.  And I mean Robert Parry is awful but he's just one.  There are so damn many who have whored themselves and better grasp that when Barack is out of the White House, that doesn't mean all is forgiven.  All is certainly not forgotten and certain people better grasp that they need to shut their mouths because we know that they're whores now, we know that they called out Bully Boy Bush for, for example, illegal spying but made a point to look the other way for Barack.  That crap is not forgotten and it will not be forgiven so those who whored their good names for Barack better grasp that they have no clout anymore.

    Jess:  And include the Green Party on the list of whores.  My party, I'm a Green, should have been objecting to every move Barack made.  None of it was about helping the people.  It was all about selling out to corporations.  The Green Party should have been screaming for job programs, demanding an end to The Drone War and just going out of their way to provide real opposition to these programs and actions that embrace greed and destroy the people.

    Ann: Jess is 100% correct on this.  And I'd toss in Ralph Nader.  I'm a Green.  I voted for Ralph in 2000, in 2004 and in 2008.  So it pains me to see him become a little whore for Barack Obama.  Where's big brave Ralph?  No where to be found.  He lacks the spine and the ethics to denounce Barack.  That's what's required.  Ralph is just not up to it.

    Ruth: And that is what really stands out for me about the last years -- how many people we have lost, people we thought we could trust who revealed themselves to be Democratic Party operatives and not independent agents of truth.  Robert Parry has been a disappointment, so has Danny Schechter.  And, of course, Medea Benjamin and CodePink.  We thought certain people had ethics but instead we discover there is the so-called standard and then there is the exception that is made for President Obama.

    Dona: I'll jump in because Ruth just noted "the exception" which should remind us all of fake ass Amy Goodman who hectored and lectured the press in cut and paste 'book' after cut and paste book but has there been a bigger whore than Amy Goodman?  Hell, the Goody Whore was even auctioning off inaugural party tickets in 2009 to put a little more green into her dirty g-string.

    Betty: While there is much to call out, it's also true that there's a sense building of: Enough.  We're doing this roundtable because readers of this site are part of that sense of no-more with regards to the fake ass.  That's building every week.  Then you have, for example, Cindy Sheehan calling out the hypocrisy of Bill Maher.  There is real and genuine repulsion over the fake assing of the last years and that's something to see as a good thing.  My opinion.

    Wally:  I would agree with Betty and note that it's genie out of the bottle time, it's not vanishing or disappearing.  All the fake asses who thought they could use this time to whore and to come out strong later on and be believed?  It's not happening.

    Jim: Wally, "come out strong later on and be believed"?  Explain that.

    Wally: These cheap whores think that, for example, they can attack Hillary Clinton and have us applaud them.  No.  I supported Hillary in 2008.  I don't support her today.  But I'll offer a real critique of her and not just a screed of hate.

    Kat:  I don't know.  I think they really count on us being stupid -- these so-called 'leaders' of the left -- because if we're sheep that can be led, they've got a job, they have power.

    Rebecca: So the best way to hurt the whores is to take away their power.  Stop listening to them, expose them and their fake assery.

    Jim: Okay.  On that point, we'll need to wrap up because we're out of time.  This is a rush transcript.

    This edition's playlist


    Our Bright Future

    1) Tracy Chapman's Our Bright Future.

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

    3) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

    4)   Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm.

    5) Boy Hits Car's All That Led Us Here.
    6)  Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

    7) Carly Simon's The Bedroom Tapes.

    8) Angie Stone's Stone Love.

    9) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

    10) James Blake's James Blake.

    VA OIG Report Shows Backlog Progress Numbers Over-stated

    This is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

    CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or

    VA OIG Report Shows Backlog Progress Numbers Over-stated
    Ahead of prime time House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, VA Scandal continues with allegations of wrongdoing in Baltimore and Philly

    New York, NY (July 14, 2014) – According to USA Today, new information to be released by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) finds that the VA struggles to properly pay veterans their disability benefits. Furthermore, investigators at a Philadelphia VA benefits office are examining allegations that staff shredded or hid mail related to claims or failed to respond to 32,000 requests. In Baltimore, a VA claims processor was discovered storing 8,000 pieces of unprocessed claims-related mail, Social Security data and other documents in his office, in addition to 80 other pending claims.

    Tonight, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) will hold a hearing on evaluating the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) process in achieving its goals at 7:30 p.m. at 334 Cannon House Office Building. You can watch the hearing on C-SPAN 2 and the HVAC website. 

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff released the following statement: 

    “Once again veterans learn they cannot trust the VA’s numbers,” said Rieckhoff. “As more terrible news breaks out of Philadelphia and Baltimore, its clear the VA scandal is far from over. With just weeks left before the summer break, IAVA encourages Congress and the President to pass the Sanders-McCain VA Management Accountability Act and the Clay Hunt SAV Act. Our veterans cannot afford, nor do they deserve, to wait months on end for their disability benefits. A number of our veterans are facing financial strain, and delayed exams and ratings only exacerbate their stress. For over a year and a half, IAVA has been fighting to end the VA backlog, and will continue to do so until we reach backlog zero. Despite this bad news, the President has failed to meet with IAVA and other VSO leaders to discuss the path forward for the VA and other pressing issues including suicide.”

    This afternoon the VA reported that 267,000 veterans are waiting at least 125 days in the disability claims backlog. Also, there are 280,502 veterans waiting for their appeals to be processed. 

    Since IAVA started a campaign to end the VA backlog last year, the VA has reduced the overall backlog by 57.8%.  Last summer, IAVA launched The Wait We Carry, a data visualization tool that highlighted the delay veterans faced in receiving their benefits. IAVA members continue to voice concerns about the quality of claims processing and rise of appeals.

    Last Thursday, IAVA stood with HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) as Miller introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act). The legislation widens access to quality mental health care and combats veteran suicide.

    The Campaign to Combat Suicide was designed to raise public awareness of the suicide crisis, demand Congressional action and a Presidential Executive Order to start to reverse the suicide trend.

    All year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on the ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.

    Note to media: Email and call 212-982-9699 for requests to interview IAVA leadership. 

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

    VETERANS: Murray Continues Call For Transparency, Accountability at VA



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

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, July 16th, 2014                                                            (202) 224-2834
    VETERANS: Murray Continues Call For Transparency, Accountability at VA
    Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered remarks at a committee hearing on the State of VA Health Care with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. In her opening remarks, Murray continued her call to address the systemic problems at the VA in order to ensure veterans are getting the care and support they deserve.
    Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
    “Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing. 
    “As we all know, this is a critical time for the Department.
    “VA is still struggling with major systemic problems, there are many vacancies in key leadership positions, and most importantly, veterans are still waiting too long for care.
    “Secretary Gibson, as we discussed yesterday, I appreciate you stepping up during this crisis. 
    “The Department needs strong leadership right now - because VA is facing serious challenges.
    “Rob Nabors’ review identified several of these issues – which we have also been discussing here for some time.
    “A corrosive culture has developed in the Department – one that is unworthy of VA’s many dedicated and talented medical providers who only want to help veterans.
    “Management failures and a lack of communication is a problem at all levels of VHA. And VA needs more providers, more space, and  modern IT systems.
    “As we continue to work in the conference committee to craft a final bill, I hope an agreement will be reached so we can send it to the President…
    “And start making the changes needed at VA to get veterans into care, create transparency, and hold people accountable.
    “The compromise bill will be an important first step.  As more reviews are done and more problems are found, we will need to take additional steps. 
    “And while we continue working on these problems, we cannot lose sight of many other pressing issues. 
    “Too many veterans still die by suicide each day, and sexual assault survivors still need help. 
    “VA must continue to make progress toward the commendable -- and even more challenging -- goals of eliminating veterans homelessness and reducing the claims backlog.
    “On a more positive note, Secretary Gibson, I appreciate your help in finally getting the money to build the Walla Walla State Veterans Home.   We have been working on this for a very long time. 
    “Now, hundreds of veterans in the area will be able to access the long-term care they need.
    “As I have said repeatedly here in this room -- when the nation goes to war, it also commits to taking care of the veterans when they return home. 
    “Their needs are a cost of war, and we will provide for them – no matter what. 
    “We know many veterans will need VA care for several decades to come. 
    “Others will come to the VA for the first time many years after their service has ended. 
    “So today I want to hear about solutions to these systemic problems, and smart ways to strengthen the VA for the long-term. 
    “Because VA needs to be there for our veterans,  ready to help, right away, and every time.”
    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

    NSA spy campaign against Muslims exposed

    This is from Workers World:

    NSA spy campaign against Muslims exposed

    By on July 17, 2014

    On the one hand, the U.S. government, through its Supreme Court, has decided that corporate bosses, if their religious biases are “sincerely held,” can use them to deny fundamental reproductive rights to women workers, namely insurance funding for contraceptives.

    On the other hand, that same U.S. government continues to wage a non-stop campaign of racist surveillance and repression against Muslims because of their religious beliefs.

    Recent documents released by whistle­blower Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA and the FBI monitored the e-mails of five Muslim Americans. (, July 9) They include:

    • Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative who served in the government under President George W. Bush.
    • Asim Ghafoor, attorney who defended clients charged with terrorism.
    • Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian- American professor of international relations at Rutgers University.
    • Agha Saeed, former political science professor at California State University and an activist for Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights.
    • Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

    Snowden released an NSA spreadsheet named “FISA recap” — short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That worksheet lists the email addresses of these five men. The FISA law was enacted in 1978 when news reached the public that J. Edgar Hoover and presidents from both parties used U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on dissidents and political enemies.

    FISA restricts such surveillance only to targets who “are or may be engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage or terrorism;” a judge must approve them. For U.S. citizens, as all five are, the surveillance can last only 90 days before it must be renewed.

    Yet for all five men, NSA spying continued for years between 2002 and 2008. There is absolutely no evidence that any of them did anything that met the FISA criteria that would merit such spying. And there is no evidence that the NSA went before a FISA judge before spying on them.

    When Asim Ghafoor was asked why the government spied on him for many years, he responded: “I believe they tapped me because my name is Asim Abdur Rahman Ghafoor, my parents are from India, I travelled to Saudi Arabia as a young man, and I do the pilgrimage” [to Mecca].

    FBI training manuals uncovered by Wired magazine in 2011 show that the bureau taught agents to treat “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism, to view charitable donations by Muslims as “a funding mechanism for combat,” and to view Islam itself as a “Death Star” that must be destroyed if terrorism is to be contained.

    Another Snowden-released 2005 NSA document explains to intelligence agents how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Ragh – - d.”

    The Snowden FISA worksheet shows more than 5,000 email addresses that were subject to NSA and FBI spying. And of course this is only one part of a racist, anti-Muslim campaign conducted by the U.S. government.

    Last year Rasmea Yousef Odeh was arrested by agents of the Homeland Security Department and charged with “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization.” (, May 28) The 65-year-old Odeh is a leader in Chicago’s Arab and Muslim community. Earlier that year Odeh received the “Outstanding Community Leader Award” from the Chicago Cultural Alliance, which described her as a woman who has “dedicated over 40 years of her life to the empowerment of Arab women, first in her homes of Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon, where she was an activist and practicing attorney, and then the past 10 years in Chicago.”

    In the 1970s Odeh was imprisoned and tortured by the Zionist state of Israel. Now the U.S. government is seeking to banish her for speaking out for Arab people’s rights.

    Exposed for all the world to see, it is time for all workers to stand against these secret government campaigns of racist repression against Muslim people.

    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.

    "The press and Extant" -- Ruth, Mike, Stan, Rebecca, Elaine, Marcia, Ann and Betty cover TV. 

    "The Gayle" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

    "Joe-mentum" and "THIS JUST IN! THE VICE RISES!" -- Cedric and Wally on how Joe has trumped Barack.

    "band-aids," "They put it all together," "How stoned is Jack?," and "State Farm" -- Rebecca, Stan, Mike and Kat cover commercials. 

    "Carly Simon's Hello Big Man" and "Good for Chaka Kahn" -- Elaine and Kat cover music. 

    "The fake" -- Trina weighs in on Elizabeth Warren.

    "Immigration" -- Betty weighs in on immigration.

    "Lois Lerner the criminal on the loose" -- Ruth on the crook.

    "Greasy Debbie Wasserman Schultz" -- Ann notes an embarrassment.

    "Cindy Sheehan's 'awards' hypocrite Bill Maher" -- Marcia notes Cindy Sheehan.

    "Called out by Cheney" and "THIS JUST IN! BARRY O WILL AT LEAST FOR NOW HAVE JAY-JAY!" -- Cedric and Wally on just how bad things have gotten.

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