Sunday, July 27, 2014

Truest statement of the week

To be clear, ISIS's take-over has been aided by Prime Minister Maliki’s malfeasance and incompetence. Maliki has disastrously failed to reconcile with key Sunni groups. Many -- including myself and Ranking Member Engel -- urged him to form a more inclusive government so that ISIS could not exploit legitimate Sunni grievances. Maliki has only proven himself to be a committed sectarian; certainly no statesman. It is time for Iraqis to move forward in forming a government that serves the interests of all Iraqis. 

-- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce at Wednesday's Committee hearing.

Truest statement II

You know, this Committee has the jurisdiction over arm sales.  And my reticence to arms sales to Iraq has in some respects been proven true when in fact we've had much of our equipment abandoned and now in the hands of ISIS.  So unless you're going to give us a sense of where the security forces are at, moving forward, this Chair is not going to be willing to approve more arm sales so that they can be abandoned to go to the hands of those who we are seriously concerned about in terms of our own national security interests. 

--  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez at Thursday's Committee hearing.

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?

US House Rep. Ed Royce.
Senator Robert Menedez. 
Because they don't know what the heck they're talking about.

Ava and C.I. examine some new changes in Chris Cuomo.

The US evacuated all diplomatic staff from Libya this weekend.  How safe are the US embassies.
We roundtable with your e-mail questions.

Films still not available. 
Dona reviews some basics. 
What we were listening to. 
Some shouldn't throw stones.  They really shouldn't. 
Mike and the gang pick the week's best. 

See you next week.


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

Editorial: Maybe some people shouldn't talk about Iraq?

To declare Iraq a mess would be to put it kindly.

To ignore Nouri al-Maliki's role in creating one crises after another would be sheer stupidity.

Last week, the threats against Iraqi Christians meant Iraq got a little more media attention than it did the week prior.

That wasn't always a good thing.

For example, in Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer called out "Iraqis" and "the Iraqi people" -- as opposed to Iraqi leaders.  In one 'those people' statement after another, she insisted that they did not honor the American sacrifice (a sacrifice most Iraqis did not ask to be made) and that 'those people' couldn't get their own act together.

We thought that was the low.

We were wrong.

At Pathos, Oklahoma legislator Rebecca Hamilton wrote a column which included:

What we have is a bunch of killers who’ve obviously gotten their arms from countries who are capable of making armaments, who are running around Iraq, engaging in mass murder as a quasi military tactic in another of those wars of civil destruction the region can’t seem to avoid. They are also killing every Christian in sight.
What we have is an on-going, real-time genocide of the Christians in Iraq.
We made this mess my friends. We pulled the Saddam Hussein stopper out of the bottle and now we’ve got something even worse. What we never considered, and what I hate to say and hope I’m wrong about, is that the only kind of government that can control these murderous mobs that run throughout society in this part of the world is a government that is under the thumb of a murderous dictator.

What a disgusting statement to make -- and couching it with you "hope I'm wrong about it" doesn't make it any less disgusting.

Boxer and Hamilton are lawmakers.  You'd think they'd take care to not come off so xenophobic and racist when discussing Iraqis.

As for Iraq needing "a murderous dictator"?

That's what they've had since 2006, Hamilton.  They've had Nouri al-Maliki since 2006.  It hasn't made things better.

More importantly, when has "a murderous dictator" -- in any part of the world -- been a good thing?

TV: When All Eyes Are On You

Chris Cuomo became the it boy of last week.  That's rarely a good thing.


The CNN star has done what Chelsea Clinton, Ron Reagan, Jenna Bush and so many others have failed to do: establish themselves in a prominent journalism career.  Maybe being spawn of the Oval Office is the hindrance?  Certainly Maria Shriver and Cokie Roberts proved the children of politicians could become big names in the world of broadcast journalism (Cuomo's father is former NY state Governor Mario Cuomo.)

The rise has had bumps from time to time and that's to be expected.

During a recent interview, Cuomo asked US House Rep. Mike Rogers to "shoot down" the rumors that the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane crash resulted from a missile (or missiles) being fired on the plane.

A number of people responded with mockery over the word choice.

For us, it's a wince.

Poor word choice that was completely expected in a media system that tries to 'weaponize' the language daily and the natural oops factor involved in live interviews.

It wasn't the end of the world, it wasn't shocking and it wasn't that big of a deal.

Among those running with it?  Comedy Central star Jon Stewart who does what a comedian does: Mock.

Speaking to Eric Wemple (Washington Post), Cuomo expressed his distaste for Stewart.

We like Jon.

That doesn't mean he's not above criticism.

And Chris certainly has the right to say whatever he wants.

But having the right to do something doesn't mean you should.

Chris told Wemple, "If it seems like I'm being disrespectful of Jon Stewart, it's only because I am. He's funny but he doesn't do the job we do and he shouldn't pretend he does."

Is that really appropriate?

When you consider Chris' position, are those remarks really appropriate?

In an interview in May with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, Chris Cuomo rightly noted that Sanders came off like a minimizer for the VA.

We applauded Chris pointing that out.

Was that our mistake?

Maybe so.

We saw it as Chris noting how -- in the midst of the VA scandal about veterans dying as they waited for medical appointments (a scandal CNN's reporting exposed) -- the man he was interviewing seemed uncomfortable standing with veterans and instead elected to carry water for the VA.

But maybe our applause and that of others confused Chris?

It possibly did because, of late, he's felt the need to offer more opinions than a Thomas Friedman column.

And it's only getting worse.  In fact, last week, he took part in CNN's worst on air moment in years.

Cuomo and Peter Lavelle had a cantankerous exchange on air.  We didn't think it was the end of the world but we did agree with Lavelle's take post-interview, "My take coming away from the interview was Cuomo conducted himself like a 'drama queen' appealing to emotions and probably his sense of moral justice.  However, emotions and any sense [of] moral justice are not substitutes for facts."

That is a path Chris seems unable to step off of these days.

Where he used to be able to construct logical arguments in interviews (especially see his work on ABC's 20/20), these days he instead repeatedly pulls out a righteous anger card.  It dumbs down the conversation and makes him come off more like a carny barker and less like a journalist.

Now that was bad but the next day brought far worse.

There was Chris, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira on CNN's New Day with Bob's Big Boy look alike Brian Stelter.  With all going on in the world -- Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, etc. -- what was the topic for this segment?

Peter Lavelle.

They gushed over Chris and how Chris handled himself in the interview with Lavelle while Chris offered a blend of false modesty and insisting he would have been even tougher if it weren't for the satellite delay.

The four CNN employees used CNN airtime to praise CNN employee Chris and to attack RT and Peter Lavelle.

That alone was unethical and embarrassing.

Things got even worse.

It takes a lot of Ho-Hos to fill Selter's big belly so it was no surprise he brought up Fake Ass Liz Wahl to trash Lavelle and RT.  Wahl is the woman who tried to media event her way into fame but instead fell on her fake ass.  As  Macedonian Intl News Agency noted:

The recent on-air resignation by former RT news anchor Liz Wahl was just the latest stunt orchestrated by a neo-conservative think tank, according to a new investigative report shedding light on the group’s role in an ongoing Cold War revival campaign.
An extensive account of the days and minutes leading up to Wahl’s remarks and public denunciation of “propaganda” tactics during her news segment on March 5 by authors Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek via truthdig has revealed connections with the little known neoconservative think-tank Foreign Policy Initiative.

Stelter didn't mention that -- maybe he was munching between shots? -- but he did offer what a joke RT was -- an opinion the other three CNN employees agreed with.

This took up an entire segment on a CNN show not called Reliable Sources.

A supposed news program wasted an entire segment to attack one journalist and one news outlet and this was considered appropriate?

Chris Cuomo was blessed with very good looks.  Chelsea Clinton, Ron Reagan and Jenna Bush are also good looking.  Cuomo's rise was based on his work.  He had the chops.  He still does.  But more and more, he's moving away from news and towards attack commentary.

He could have been more.  Maybe he still can.

Safety and the US embassies

Today on ABC's This Week, Jonathan Karl declared, "It's an extraordinary move the president rarely makes completely shutting down a U.S. embassy and rushing the Americans inside to safety. That call was made in South Vietnam at the end of the war, in Somalia nearly two years before Blackhawk Down and just hours ago President Obama did it again ordering the evacuation of our embassy in Libya with a daring and dangerous military operation to evacuate the Americans there on the ground."

Libya is where terrorists attacked Americans on September 11, 2012 -- leaving US Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith dead. Some testimony to Congress indicates the risks were taken because the US government was determined to establish a bigger and growing presence in Libya.

Right now, they have none.

Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube and Elisha Fieldstadt (NBC News) explain:

American officials told NBC News that the 158 Americans, including 80 heavily armed U.S. Marines, left the embassy compound early Saturday in a caravan of SUV's and buses and drove west toward neighboring Tunisia.
Besides the Marines who were the embassy’s security force, the caravan was also protected overhead by two American F-16 fighter jets and unmanned drones that shadowed the group on their drive.         

For This Week, Terry Moran offered:

MORAN: As fighting increased in Tripoli, Ambassador Deborah Jones and her staffers were spirited out of the heavily fortified compound about 150 people, nearly half of them marines.
A convoy of armored SUVs, a surveillance drone flying above, two F-16 fighter jets patrolling nearby and at sea a destroyer ready to react.
Photos released by the Pentagon show U.S. marines on board Osprey aircraft ready to land if the convoy came under attack.

Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm Jack Kirby declared Saturday, "The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours."

The US has embassy staff around the world.  For us, the events in Libya made us think of Iraq and the US Embassy (and consulates) there.  

Raising the flag

Wednesday, the Defense Department's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and testified:

First, we have added forces to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq. The safety of U.S. citizens and personnel in Baghdad and throughout Iraq is our highest priority. The Department of Defense is meeting all requests from the Department of State for security support to US Embassy Baghdad. As described in the War Powers notifications we transmitted to Congress on June 16 and 26, DoD has sent a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST ), a Crisis Response Element (CRE), and additional military assets and personnel to reinforce security at our diplomatic facilities in Baghdad and the Baghdad International Airport.

Thursday, she and the State Department's Brett McGurk appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the following exchange took place:

Senator Barbara Boxer: Last question is: Are you confident we have adequate personnel on the ground to truly protect our embassy and the Americans in Baghdad?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Senator, yes.  We have moved in substantial assets both into the airport and also into the embassy.  Uhm, I was just there as late as [last] Thursday and we're confident that our defensive parameters and everything -- that our people will be safe.  Our Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security just visited Baghdad last week to do his own assessment.  We've also had teams on the ground from Centcom and this is an ongoing assessment.  And our intelligence assets have the entire everything all around the parameter of Baghdad, the airport and our embassy, very well covered so we're 

Senator Barbara Boxer: Okay.  Can you tell us how many people we have at the embassy or is that something that you don't want to discuss in open --

Brett McGurk:  We have total in Baghdad about-about 2500 now.

Both the State Department and the Defense Department made the administration's position clear to the Congress last week.  As far as the White House is concerned, all necessary precautions have been taken.  Hopefully, that is the case.

However, should events demonstrate that was not the case, the testimony administration officials provided will be especially worth recalling.


 Jim: E-mail roundtable time.  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): So let's dive in.  Kris e-mails to ask how many US troops Barack has sent into Iraq so far.  Anyone?

C.I.: I'll grab it.  Last week,  Felicia Schwartz (The Wall St. Journal) reported:

The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.

Elaine: And does anyone seem to care.  What was the number, C.I. made this point last week, 300? What was the number?

Jess: Yeah, C.I. noted the 825 contrasted with what Barack Obama declared June 19th,  "We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy, and we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors -- up to 300 -- to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward."

Elaine: Exactly.  Where is the anger over that?

Betty: It's really kind of creepy how Barbara Lee is.  Three times the number Barack said, basically.  And where's fake ass Babsie Lee?  Fondling Barack's nut sack, apparently.  She can't stand up, she can't stand for peace, she can't call Barack out.  She's an embarrassment.

Isaiah: The fakes and the frauds crawl around like cock roaches these days and I'd happily use a can of raid on the likes of Barbara Lee.  She doesn't care about peace, she doesn't care about putting US service members at risk.  All she cares about is defending War Hawk Barack.

Jim: I'd agree with that absolutely.  How many is the number that makes Americans care?  How many US service members sent into Iraq.

Ava: I think Elaine was right when she said earlier, back in the July 13th roundtable we did:

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?

Ava (Con't): So that would be the game changer.

Jim: Louise e-mailed to ask should Iraq be split into three independent regions: Kurds, Shia and Sunni?

Ruth: If that is what Iraqis want, then obviously that should happen.  But it is not something that should be imposed upon them.  For example, I am not bothered at all by the Kurds splitting off.  That is because the Kurdistan Regional Government is made up of people who represent the Kurds.  So that would be self-determination.  Other areas?  I am not so sure because I do not know that they are actually well represented in the Shi'ite community.  It seems that the bulk of Shi'ite leaders are people who were imposed upon Iraq by the US government -- people such as Nouri al-Maliki, the current thug and prime minister, who spent over two decades prior to the start of the 2003 US invasion out of the country but the US installed him as a leader.  With the Kurds, I have no concerns because their leaders represent them.  I would be concerned about the Shi'ites if they took up the call, I would be concerned whether the Shi'ite politicians were representing the Shi'ite people or not.  And by concerned, I mean concerned.  I do not mean, "Let's go to war!"  I just mean that as I watched the news reports, I would pay close attention and hope this what the Shia populace really wanted.

Jim: Okay.  The Sunnis were left out.

Ty: I'll jump in.  I think Ruth left them out for a reason.  They don't get listened to.  For over a year they engaged in peaceful protests and Nouri blew off their demands and had his forces attack them.  If the Sunnis tomorrow said they wanted to split off, I don't think anyone would doubt this was coming from the Sunni population.  That said, the Sunnis don't tend to get listened to and I can't imagine they'd be allowed to break off.  I'd hope that they'd have the same access that everyone else has; however, as long as Nouri's prime minister, that just isn't going to happen. 

Trina: I would agree with Ty and Rebecca -- sorry, with Ty and Ruth -- on that.  And we should point out that Iraq's borders were created for them nearly 100 years ago by colonial rule. Those rejecting the borders may have a valid reason.  If I could continue for a second on this topic, a friend asked me about this issue last month.  She had heard, on a radio program, that Iraqis wanted to split the country up into three semi-autonomous or autonomous areas.  However, the program had also told her that the Shi'ites in Iraq wanted to break off so that they could merge with Iran.  I told her that I doubted that very seriously.  In fact, that would probably put Iranian officials and Iraqi Shi'ite officials at odds.  They already continue their ongoing border dispute, for instance.  I was wondering if anyone else was hearing that aspect -- that Shi'ites in Iraq wanted to merge with Iran.

Wally: Nope.  And I agree with your logic on that, Trina.  There are disputes between the two Shi'ite groupings.  And Iraqi Shi'ites?  I don't see it happening.  I don't see them going to the effort to become their own region -- if they did -- only to then say, "Let's merge with Iran."

Jim: Trina, do you know the radio host that made the claim?

Trina: My friend gave the name but I didn't hear the program myself so I'd prefer not to name him.  He's a Libertarian -- not Scott Horton.

Cedric: I don't know who Trina's referring to but I do know that I hear more Iraq coverage on the radio these days and that a lot of the people I hear talking clearly do not know what they are talking about and do not appear to have even registered Iraq since December 2011.

Dona: Of course, that doesn't stop them from weighing in.

Cedric: No, it doesn't.  It never does.  

Marcia: And it never has.

Kat:  But I think our position here has always been, as Ruth expressed earlier, if the Iraqi people want this, that's what it is and what should be.  It can't be imposed from outside.  That was our position when this site started and it remains our position.  If the Iraqis decide to split their own country into three separate governments, that's fine.  But the US or anyone else imposing that on them is wrong.

Jim: Alright then.  Erich e-mails to ask why Stan didn't do a Friday movie review?

Stan: We have been in vacation mode and doing light blogging.  I recommend people see the film Lucy and I will review it; however, it's not an easy one to do.  This will require a spoiler alert so I've been waiting on it for that reason as well.  And, by the way, I'll be on light blogging this week as well because I'm doing a third week in California. 

Jim: Carlos e-mails, "Could you ask the Extant bloggers why they ignored Halle's show last week?"

Ann: Betty, Marcia and I blog about Halle Berry's Extant.  We try to blog the day after.  However, Betty wondered if we blogged about it the night before the new episode airs if that would build more excitement.  So we're blogging about last week's episode on Tuesday night.  The next night, the new episode will air.  It's just an experiment. 

Jim: Okay, I'm interrupting before Marcia speaks because a reader had a question for her and Rebecca.  Gail e-mailed asking if Marcia and Rebecca would be doing a summer read this summer?

Marcia: Yes.  We already read the book.  We thought about doing it on vacation -- last two weeks -- but weren't willing to dig that deep.  I'm thinking about staying another week but, even if we're on vacation one more week, if Rebecca wanted to do it, I think we could swing it.

Rebecca:  We probably could, I agree.  

Jim: And hopefully will but we need to cut this off now.  This is a rush transcript.  

We want it on BluRay

In The Spirit

Laser discs, DVDs, BluRays, et al.

It was supposed to mean so much for home entertainment.  Add in streaming and suddenly all must be right and true in the world.

Only it's not.

Many films -- good and great -- have not been issued as streams or BluRays or in any format. in the last five years.

Some did make it to VHS so you do have a shot at getting someone to do a transfer of the videotape to the

1) In The Spirit

2) Nasty Habits

3) Robert Altman's H.E.A.L.T.H.

4) Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie.

5) Robert Altman's Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Those are only five films in need of a genuine release.


Amazon did offer streaming of In The Spirit (if you were smart, you purchased it then because it's not available now).  The Elaine May and Marlo Thomas comedy classic was a theatrical film.  The stream Amazon offered was a stream edited for basic cable TV -- swear words removed.

A remastered version of the five films above would be wonderful but we'd settle just for the theatrical versions.

If you don't know the five, you're being cheated.

Sandy Dennis is in two of the films.

In the Watergate satire (Nasty Habits) set in a convent, Sandy Dennis gives a gloriously loopy performance whereas she gives a more layered performance in the Robert Altman tragicom which finds her as a desperate character who has passed her child off as the son of James Dean.

Altman uses mirrors to expand a single set, to play with time frames and to create a sense of haunting.  Come Back To The Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is an acting marvel (Sandy, Cher, Karen Black, Kathy Bates, etc.) but it's also a film that bends and alters the constraints of narrative.

Dona's Info Corner

"Rounding up Lucy"

I'm an expert on nothing but five e-mails last week asked about blogs, basic advice.  And I thought, "Hey, I could make this a feature."  So this is basically what I wrote in the five e-mails.

How often should I publish?

As often as you want.  But you should have some sort of regular time -- especially in the beginning.  That's because you can be forgotten so easily.

Even today, I find great blogs and websites and I'll check back a day or two later and there's nothing up that I haven't read.  So I'll think, "They're weekly.  Cool, I'll drop by next week."  I go back a week later and nothing.  At this point, I'm close to forgetting you.  Not out of hatred or anger but due to the fact that I have stopped checking and you've slipped my mind.

Don't make promises you can't keep.

We all do.  But try not to.  Even more than his rank sexism, I found Bob Somerby's constant promises off putting.  He was (and still is) forever promising that he would do this or that in his next post -- or next week, he'll explore what Rachel Maddow said -- and he never did.  And he never did.

It gets very annoying.

You will forget things.  We all do.

And that's fine.

But if you're promising one thing after another and making no effort to keep those promises, you are going to tick people off.

And while you can tick people off with opinions and some will actually return (even hoping to be ticked off), you tick people off with broken promises and they just tend to split on you.

We're doing comics this edition.  We're honestly tired of it in some ways.  It's easier to do if we're all together in the same spot.  And that's why we're making sure to do it this week.  Readers want the comic round up.

Be true to you.

That led right into "Be True To You."  But that means don't be a Katha Pollitt.  Don't slam Sarah Palin at The Nation while, at the same time, telling your Journolist friends something different.

Don't whore.

But while not whoring, grasp that there is a relationship other than, "I write, you read."

The comics?

We've done it.

It can be time consuming.

We're honestly tired of it.

But readers enjoy this feature so we will try to drop it in from time to time.

E-mails aren't your blog or site.

Feedback is important, annoying, gratifying and so much more.

But if the feedback becomes all, you're not putting out any new content.

As your number of readers grow, you'll find less time for personal replies to every incoming e-mail.  That's part of the trade off.

Make your own rules.

As you continue posting online, you'll quickly discover there are many roads to take to get to a certain point.  Some will work for you, some will leave you waiting hours at a red light.  Always trust your gut on which direction you should go.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rounding up Lucy."

This edition's playlist

1) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

2)  Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black.

3) Pulp's This is Hardcore.

4) Diana Ross' Swept Away.

5) Nina Simone's Here Comes The Sun.

6) Sade's Lovers Rock.

7) Maps' Vicissitude.

8) Carly Simon's Another Passenger.

9) Manic Street Preachers' Design For Life.

10) Cat Power's The Greatest.

Little Glass Houses

Did you hear about google-eyes?

The actress took the time last week to slam Woody Allen.  She said he ripped his family apart.

That's interesting.

She's not exactly kept a family together.

And you heard about her drug store right?

She and her steady dropped off a roll of film back in the 90s.

Photos of her children.

The drug store refused to develop the roll.

Told her she was actually lucky because they weren't calling the authorities.

Those topless shots of her daughter?

Her underage daughter?

They'd qualify as kiddie porn.

They weren't calling the authorities.

But they weren't going to develop the film.

Tell us again, pop-eyed actress, how awful Woody Allen is.

But first, explain to everyone about those pictures of your daughter.

VIDEO: Murray to VA Nominee: “You are faced with a truly monumental task.”


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:

VIDEO: Murray to VA Nominee: “You are faced with a truly monumental task.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 22, 2014                                                         (202) 224-2834
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee attended a committee hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the hearing, Murray delivered remarks and questioned McDonald on how he would improve trust and transparency at the VA, and how he would provide oversight of VA facilities in Washington state.
WATCH Murray’s Opening Remarks and Questions
Transcript of Murray questioning McDonald on VA facilities in Washington state:
MURRAY: “You know I’ve talked with prior VA leaders about concerns with some of the facilities in my home state of Washington.  The VA’s Access Audit flagged many of those facilities for some further investigation, and the most recent wait time and quality data that VA released shows shortcomings at Washington medical facilities. And I have raised in particular some concerns about what’s happening with the Spokane Medical Center, including whether staffing and budget shortfalls are hurting health care for veterans. If you’re confirmed… how are you going to provide oversight of these facilities and make sure that the resources are getting to the places where it’s needed?”
MCDONALD: “I think that’s part of the forecasting and projecting that I was talking about in conjunction with the strategic plan. What I heard from Secretary Gibson last week during his testimony was that the VA had not done a bottoms-up forecast before and that he was having some trouble getting that done. We’ve got to do a better job of that. We’ve got to be very open and transparent with all of you, and all of our constituencies as to what we’re forecasting, and then we have to put the systems in place that can make sure our veterans are getting the appropriate care. We’ve got to be able to have the doctors, the nurses, the clinicians, on the ground to be able to do that. I think digital technology will also play a role because it will help us…VA is known for a very good electronic medical record, and if we can get a scheduling system that is equally world class – and there’s no reason we can’t – I think we’ll be able to use that to better care for the veterans.”
Full text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.
“Just last week, we heard about the current state of VA health care and the Department’s efforts to address its numerous and diverse challenges.
“I’d like to take this moment to thank Acting Secretary Gibson for stepping up during this crisis and for taking immediate action to increase transparency around wait times, plan an external audit of VHA’s scheduling practices, and begin the procurement of a modern scheduling system.
“As Acting Secretary, he also identified $17.6 billion in critical funding needs to help increase veterans access to care, including10,000 more medical providers and support staff, improved IT systems, and additional clinic space for patients to receive care.
“The actions that he laid out before this Committee are important first steps.
“But even with some of these policy changes and additional funding, it will take time to see improvement and veterans will still be waiting far too long for care.
“And the Department’s ability to carry out its mission will remain hampered as long as a number of key leadership vacancies go unfilled.
“Even while we work to bring down wait times and improve accountability, there are still many other serious challenges VA must address: Twenty-two veterans still take their own lives each day. Thousands of veterans are alone, coping with their sexual assault. And while the Department has made commendable progress, it will be an uphill battle as we work to eliminate veterans homelessness and the claims backlog.
“The next Secretary will have to grapple with these, and many more issues, all on day one.
“Mr. McDonald, thank you for accepting this call to serve your fellow veterans
“You are faced with a truly monumental task.
“If confirmed, you will be responsible for the Department’s $163 billion budget, its 310,00 employees, and most importantly – the care of over 9 million veterans.
“The next Secretary must build a VA that can meet the needs of veterans today, while planning for the needs of millions of veterans in the decades to come.
“And in doing so, the next Secretary must overcome and transform a corrosive culture, unworthy of the Department’s dedicated and talented medical providers, who only want to help veterans.
“The next Secretary must also reform the poor management and communication structures that currently exist at all levels of VHA.
“Mr. McDonald, when we met in my office two weeks ago, you told me you were one of the veterans lost in the system during your transition from the military to civilian life. 
“I trust you understand what a critical moment this is for VA and why we must finally fix many of these systemic and cultural challenges.
“So I look forward to hearing your plans for addressing these, and many other, problems that will be discussed today, and how you will finally strengthen the VA for generations to come.
“Because our men and women in uniform need -- and have earned – a VA that provides high quality benefits and services, when and where they need them.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

Concert is a rare opportunity to see Tom Robinson live

This is from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Concert is a rare opportunity to see Tom Robinson live

This is a rare opportunity to see Tom Robinson play live. Tom began recording music with his band Cafe Society in the early 1970s.

But most of us will be familiar with the Tom Robinson Band’s (TRB) angry and political music.

Its lyrics railed against the fascist National Front, police murder and oppression. TRB’s 1978 and ’79 albums Power in the Darkness and TRB2 had powerful tracks, including Better Decide Which Side You’re On, Blue Murder and Glad To Be Gay.

TRB played the first Anti Nazi League/Rock Against Racism festival alongside The Clash in Victoria Park in 1978. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Tom continued to record interesting music.

He’s retained the political edge, recently writing a song for the Justice Alliance.

Tom hasn’t toured regularly since 2002—this performance is not to be missed.

Tom Robinson, Friday 1 August. The Jazz Cafe, Camden, London NW1 7PG. and

Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”


Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  His office issued the following last week:

Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Hatch, and colleagues, thank you for allowing me to submit this statement for the record of today’s hearing on international taxation.

As you know, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted a series of investigations, spanning more than a decade, into offshore tax avoidance and tax evasion.  In recent years, the IRS has cracked down on some individual offshore tax cheats who use tax shelters and secret foreign bank accounts to evade paying their U.S. taxes in violation of U.S. law.  And, this month, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act took effect, which will further strengthen U.S. tax enforcement.
But, today, many of the biggest tax giveaways aren’t to taxpayers who are breaking the law.  Instead, many taxpayers – especially large, often highly profitable multinational corporations,  are using a number of tax loopholes that may or may not be legal, but are unjustified because of lack of economic purpose and whose purpose is pure and simple tax avoidance.  The Cut Unjustified Tax (CUT) Loopholes Act (S.268), which I and Senator Whitehouse introduced last year, would shut down a number of the most longstanding and egregious loopholes, and I urge you to consider including its provisions in any tax reform legislation you advance.

While the CUT Loopholes Act targets a number of loopholes, I’d like to discuss one particular tax loophole that has recently gained traction among large multinational corporations seeking to avoid U.S. taxes.  Tax inversions, where a U.S. company moves its tax address to a low-tax jurisdiction through a merger with a smaller foreign competitor, have become the latest tool for CEOs seeking to dodge Uncle Sam.  These transactions have allowed U.S. corporations to reduce their tax rates by up to 12 percentage points by claiming, for tax purposes, that they have moved away from the United States.

Yet, a company’s executives, officers, and management all remain in the United States, benefiting from our country’s marketplace, laws, resources, infrastructure, and workforce, while declining to provide their share of financial support for the very qualities that help them succeed.

Unlike many tax loopholes our Subcommittee has investigated, the tax inversion loophole is being exploited in plain sight.  Daily, there are front page media reports describing one new inversion transaction after another.  Sadly, iconic American companies like Walgreens, Medtronic, and Pfizer have already taken steps to give up their American corporate citizenship in order to lower their tax bills.  And the problem is growing.  Just last week, two more American companies, both closely tied to Abbott Laboratories -- an American company since 1888 -- sought to move their tax addresses overseas in two separate transactions.

These companies aren’t moving because there are better business opportunities in foreign countries.  Their move is a pure and simple tax dodge.  Executives don’t move, and the company headquarters isn’t moved.  What’s more, inverted corporations continue to claim U.S. research and development tax credits, receive intellectual property protections in U.S. courts, and benefit from the safety and security provided by our nation’s military.

Tax inversions aren’t a driver of job creation in the United States.  In fact, one need only look to California, where an American drug maker has been forced to lay off 1,500 employees in a bid to fight off a hostile takeover from an inverted corporation that has been swallowing up U.S. companies due to the advantages of the inverted corporation’s tax structure.

In other cases, inverted companies may claim to be creating jobs because they gain access to more capital.  Although many small businesses have struggled to access capital as our economy recovers, for most profitable multinationals, capital is available from other sources that don’t use a tax inversion.  Interest rates are at all-time lows, and banks are more ready to lend than any time in recent years.  The equity markets are booming, with a growing market for public offerings.  And multinationals have $2 trillion offshore that they could tap into if they wanted to invest and create new jobs.
Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that tax inversions are a major problem that must be addressed.  I urge you to take action to put a stop to tax inversions, and I urge you to do so now.  While most recognize that tax reform should take place, we can’t afford to wait for a comprehensive tax reform effort to fix the problem of tax inversions.  If we wait, billions of dollars in badly needed revenue will disappear, growing the deficit, hurting our security, leaving our roads in disrepair, shortchanging education, and other priorities.  Worse yet, while those billions of dollars in tax revenue disappear, the corporate freeloaders multiply – taking advantage of America’s greatness while refusing to pay their fair share.

Two months ago, I, along with 22 of my colleagues, introduced the Stop Corporate Inversions Act (S.2360).  This bill would establish a two year moratorium on tax inversions.  That two year moratorium would stop what nearly all agree is an abuse of our tax system, and provide Senators with two years to debate a permanent solution as part of a comprehensive tax reform effort.  All ideas to bring the archaic U.S. tax system into the 21st Century can be debated during that two year period.  The issue is whether in the meantime we should let the inversions flow.  I believe we shouldn’t.

If we don’t act, we are forcing the corporations that don’t use the inversion tax gimmick to compete against the corporations that do.  We will create economic pressures on our patriotic corporations to change their tax addresses.  As one after another U.S. corporation moves overseas through a tax inversion, more U.S. competitors will face financial pressure to do the same, in order to stay on a level playing field.  It isn’t fair to the U.S. taxpayers who foot the bill, and it isn’t fair to the U.S. corporations who want to do the right thing.

In 2002, the Finance Committee showed that it could work on a bipartisan basis to stop a similar tax inversion loophole.  At that time, the then-Chairman and Ranking Member, Senators Baucus and Grassley, told companies that they would put a stop to corporate inversions, and drew a line in the sand, warning that tax inversions taking place after a specific date would be retroactively subjected to tax as a domestic U.S. corporation.

It took time, but Senators Baucus and Grassley achieved their goal.  And, more importantly, they stopped a wave of corporate inversions that threatened to decimate our country’s tax base.

Now a loophole has emerged which jeopardizes the effectiveness of our anti-inversion law.  We must act speedily to close that loophole.  Chairman Wyden has made clear that he intends to make any closure of the loophole in the tax inversion law retroactive to May 8, 2014.  I support making any legislation retroactive to that date, and 22 other Senators supporting my bill, S.2360, do also.  U.S. corporations should understand that if they pursue a tax inversion after May 8, 2014, they do so at their own risk.

We cannot afford to wait for tax reform to address the issue of tax inversions.  Urgent action is needed now, and I urge you to take action as soon as possible to end this abusive tax loophole.
I look forward to working with you to both stop tax inversions and to improve our international tax system.

Microsoft announces massive layoffs (Chris Fry)

This is from Workers World:

Microsoft announces massive layoffs

By on July 26, 2014

Microsoft founder Bill Gates established the Gates Foundation, a supposedly “nonprofit” enterprise that describes its mission this way online:

“We live in a globally connected, information saturated world. To thrive, our students need to learn in and out of school, in person and online, together and independently. Students need learning experiences that meet them where they are, engage them deeply, let them progress at a pace that meets their individual needs, and helps them master the skills for today and tomorrow.” (

Not mentioned is that many companies linked to this enterprise reap huge profits selling exams, textbooks and other educational materials to schools. Also not mentioned is that jobs in high technology are increasingly hard to find.

Microsoft acquired Finland-based, high-tech Nokia Corp. last April. Finland boasts the best-rated education system in the world. Finnish students rate at the top of the list in categories of reading, math and science, according to the Huffington Post in 2012.

Despite all that, with a highly trained, superbly educated global workforce, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced on July 17 that 18,000 of its workers are going to be laid off, nearly 15 percent of its total work force. Operations in Oulu, Finland, as well as in San Diego; Dongguan and Beijing, China; and Komaron, Hungary, will be shedding workers immediately and over the next six months. Layoffs will also happen at Microsoft’s home city of Redmond, Wash.

These layoffs involve both software devel­opers and hardware production workers.

Two-thirds of the workers Microsoft is laying off have been employed by its newly acquired subsidiary, Nokia, a manufacturer of mobile phones. Many are cheaper, and less profitable, than the newer “smartphones,” hand-held devices that add computer capabilities to a mobile phone. At this point, the market for low-end mobiles is glutted, while Androids and iPhones are still finding plenty of buyers, especially in the wealthier countries.

In Marxist terms, there is “overproduction” of these phones and so Microsoft is doing what capitalists do: walking away from the workers whose exploitation has provided them with profits that they will now invest elsewhere to make even more money.

Microsoft is trying to get a larger share of the high-end, more profitable market with its own Windows smartphones. One such phone is the Nokia Lumia. But whether any of the workers laid off from Nokia’s other divisions will be rehired to produce the Windows Phone is dubious.

In his book, “Capitalism at a Dead End: Job Destruction, Overproduction and Crisis in the High-Tech Era,” Fred Goldstein quotes Martin Ford, owner of a software company on page 84: “While today jobs that require low and moderately skilled workers are being computerized, tomorrow it will be jobs performed by highly skilled and educated workers. Indeed, this is already happening among information technology professionals, where jobs that once required college degrees are simply vanishing into the computer network.”

On page 86, Goldstein quotes Karl Marx from the “Communist Manifesto”: “Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”

On the same page, Goldstein describes “the menacing and uncontrolled development of the profit system, described by Marx 160 years ago, in a deliberate race by the capitalists, large and small, to beat each other out by shedding workers.”

What do the massive Microsoft layoffs tell to the millions of students and graduates saddled with huge education debt while they remain unemployed or working at starvation wage jobs?

What does it tell to the millions of oppressed Black and Latino/a youth facing huge obstacles even to obtain a quality education, much less a decent-paying job?

It tells them, and all the rest of us, that the computer technology revolution continues to unfold, and now is the time for a social revolution, one that will harness that technology to meet the needs of the world’s population, not to fill the coffers of the vulture corporations and banks that destroy our livelihoods and rob our children of their future.

For more on Fred Goldstein’s book go to:

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

Wolf: Genocide Taking Place In Iraq

US House Rep Frank Wolf's office issued the following last week:

     Jul 22, 2014

Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long regarded as one of the leading human rights champions in Congress, today said genocide is taking place in Iraq.

Speaking on the House floor, Wolf said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.

For months, Wolf has been trying shine a bright light on what has been taking place in Iraq, as thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee the lands they have inhabited for more than 2,000 years.  Not until ISIS last Thursday told the few remaining Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed did the world focus on what has been unfolding.

Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, the international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
“It says ‘genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
“Last Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  – more commonly referred to as ISIS – gave the few remaining Christians in Mosul until Saturday to leave or be killed.
“This from yesterday New York Times: ‘Some went on foot, their car having been confiscated; others rode bicycles or motor scooters; few were able to take anything of value, as militants seized their money and jewelry.  Some – just a few, and because they were not healthy enough to flee – submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed.’
“ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.
“I want to submit for the Record the complete article from The New York Times and an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal for history to see what is happening.
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.   The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.  A remarkable spiritual revival as told in the book of Jonah occurred in Nineveh.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den
“Monday’s New York Times piece also quotes a Muslim woman at a prayer service at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday whispering to a Christian woman sitting in the pew next to her:  ‘You are the true original people here, we are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’
“On June 16, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.
“Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern about what has unfolded in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, noting that these communities, since the beginning of Christianity, have ‘co-existed there alongside their fellow citizens, making a significant contribution to the good of society.   Today they are persecuted.  Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.’
“The United Nations released a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon that, in part, said:  ‘The Secretary-General reiterates that any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.’
“Where is the Obama Administration?
“In June, 55 Members of Congress – Republican and Democrats – urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.
“I want to read the last line from our letter:
‘Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.’
“It is happening.  They are almost all gone – just as we predicted. 
“The Obama Administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority.
“It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge.
“It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community.  
“It needs to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
“The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“The time to act is now.“ 


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.

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

"He got busted" and "THIS JUST IN! BUSTED!" -- Baracka of the wandering eye.

 "White House Correspondents Dinner" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

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