Sunday, May 10, 2015

Truest statement of the week

Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.

-- Bruce Dixon, "Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

The White House’s solution was to silence the Seals. On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private. ‘The Seals were not happy,’ the retired official said. But most of them kept quiet, as did Admiral William McRaven, who was then in charge of JSOC. ‘McRaven was apoplectic. He knew he was f**ked by the White House, but he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Seal, and not then a political operator, and he knew there’s no glory in blowing the whistle on the president. When Obama went public with bin Laden’s death, everyone had to scramble around for a new story that made sense, and the planners were stuck holding the bag.’

-- Seymour Hersh, "The Killing of Osama bin Laden" (The London Review of Books).

A note to our readers

Hey --

First, 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.

What did we come up with?

Bruce Dixon scores another one.
Sy Hersh gets his first one for 2015.
How they work overtime to ignore the War Crimes.
Ava and C.I. take on Netflix, David Letterman and much more while explaining how Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda pull it off in Grace and Frankie.
Short feature.  Look what's captured Barack's attention!
Stan teams up with Ava and C.I. to go over some of the more idiotic TV moments of last week.

Short feature.
We won't be kind in 2016.
The state of Iraq. 
Hillary tells us how it starts but we're more concerned with how it ends.

And we did. 
Press release from Senator Barbara Boxer's office. 
Important press release and C.I. says she wishes she had just titled it "Burn Pits" when it went up at The Common Ills Saturday.
Repost from UK Socialist Worker.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: Barack's Thug Haider

Did you catch this?

: Shiite militias crimes killed all Sunni detainees in prison Khalis in yesterday

The abuses of the Shi'ite militias -- the War Crimes -- are impossible to ignore.

Unless you're Haider al-Abadi.

Or the White House that installed him as prime minister.

The White House ignores the War Crimes of the militias, the human rights abuses -- or what Barack's special envoy John Allen so delicately termed "excesses" when he appeared before Congress.

 They're crimes.

And they're crimes against humanity.

So why is the White House continuing to back Haider al-Abadi?

Why are they refusing to demand he implement real reform and do so immediately or lose US funding?

11 months ago, Barack Obama declared Iraq required a "political solution."

In all the time since, nothing has been done to work towards that.

TV: Jane and Lily Debut while Dave Bows Out

Stevie Nicks observed in "No Questions Asked," that "it's hard to be civil and it's real hard to be nice."  It's like she summed up the motto of truth tellers and possibly TV critics in that couplet.

Last week was the week programming choices begged that questions be asked.

Take Grace and Frankie which debuted on Netflix.

With very little fan fair.

Oh, series stars  Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin  worked the press, promoting the series.

Netflix just didn't do their part.

Friday morning, the series started streaming at Netflix, to promote it at The Common Ills, we made a point to visit the website.

The large, sliding and multi-screen at the top of the page (taken off Sunday) featured . . . Harold & Maude among other things.

We love Harold & Maude.

And the film was written by Colin Higgins who co-wrote 9 to 5 with Patricia Resnick and who directed 9 to 5.  That was the huge box office smash, remember, which starred Jane and Lily (as well as Dolly Parton).

Harold & Maude was directed by Hal Ashby who also directed Coming Home -- the film Jane won her second Best Actress Academy Award for.

All of these connections could have and should have made it easy to make one of the sliding images Grace and Frankie.

They did that when Daredevil began streaming.

But the day Grace and Frankie debuts, users have to search for the show, which was what we had to do to obtain the image.

By Friday evening, Netflix included it in "New Arrivals."  Not in the front of "New Arrivals" -- where the film Noah, for example was -- but if you scrolled through "New Arrivals," you could find it.

Netflix has 13 new episodes to promote and . . . chose not to.

Netflix has never, ever been so clumsy with new episodes of a TV show.

So it's hard to believe it was an accident and looks more like Netflix chose to bury the series -- the one that Jane and Lily spent all week on the major networks promoting, all week speaking to various print outlets, etc.

The sitcom is at its most pointed when it shows how older women are ignored by a youth obsessed patriarchy and who knew Netflix was part of that problem?

Our problem was Jane.

Jane gave a full bodied performance in the film Monster-In-Law in 2006.

She followed that with acting success in Peace, Love and Misunderstanding and ...And If We All Lived Together (both in 2012) and on Broadway in 33 Variations.  These were strong and full bodied performances that any actor would be proud of.

Along with those highs, there were also serious lows like Georgia Rule where she delivered a wooden and clenched performance that recalled some of the most ridiculous performances by Katharine Hepburn at the end of her career.  Then she appeared in Aaron Sorkin's latest bit of misogyny entitled The Newsroom and she delivered monologues -- talky, long winded monologues -- in a self-righteous manner that, if Sorkin possessed any insight, wouldn't have made her look like a self-righteous prig.

Soapboxes don't make for drama.

It's a point Jane grasped when running IPC films (later Fonda Films) and producing films like Coming Home, The China Syndrome, 9 to 5, Rollover and The Dollmaker.

But it's a point she completely missed as she mistook a clenched fist, an unyielding hectoring for drama.

To be clear, there are women -- and men -- like that.  And Jane's played them very well before but this wasn't her playing such a character.  This was what she and Sorkin mistook for intelligent and involved.  Jane's Leona Lansing had about as much depth and layers as Jack Webb's Joe Friday.

The Hepburns ended their film glory sadly.

Katharine was one ridiculous disgrace after another culminating with her weird moments in Warren Beatty's Love Affair. People have been kind but the reality is that Hepburn trashed her legacy repeatedly in the last decades of her career.

Audrey Hepburn was cast in an unplayable role in her final film (1989's Always) but her charm and dignity kept it from being an embarrassment.

Instead, it was just a bad role.  (And her previous film, Peter Bogdanovich's They All Laughed found her in excellent form.  So Always was just one bad film at the end of her career and not part of a decline the way Katharine's body of work was.)

Which goes to another problem -- there aren't a lot of strong roles for women after a certain age.

So the good news for Fonda fans is that Grace is a great role for her and that she succeeds in it.

No, she excels in the role.

Where the sitcom falters is it's not what people were hoping for.

Last fall, Jane began referring to it as something other than a sitcom.

People didn't like that.

For good reason.

Before there was Bridesmaids, there was 9 to 5.

In fact, that comedy even predates Thelma & Louise.

While the three women weren't allowed to kill the boss -- Fox thought that would be too much -- the film did go places that films starring women didn't get to go before.

You would not have a Thelma & Louise,  Bridesmaids, The Heat, etc. without 9 to 5 which ruled the box office.

So the notion that the hilarious Lily is reteaming with Jane and in something less than laugh out loud funny didn't make people happy.

The first episode won't either.

The only comic gold in the first episode is Lily.

More than anything else, the show needed a studio audience.

If it had one, Sam Waterston wouldn't be mincing.

The immediate reaction from the studio audience would have forced Waterston to reconfigure his character.

Did no one have the guts to tell the actor to stop it?

Did no one have the guts to tell him that he was portraying an offensive stereotype?

He's all popped-eyes, raised eyebrows and high pitched voice.

That's how he plays his gay character (Lily Tomlin's ex-husband).

It's insulting.

Martin Sheen, by contrast, doesn't feel he needs to reconfigure his voice or pop his eyes.

Watching Waterston mince it up, you're not only offended, you're also asking yourself, "Wait?  No one knew he was gay?"

Because that is the premise, that Grace and Frankie have no idea their husbands are gay or having been having a 20 year affair.

Martin succeeds as the awkward Robert who knows he loves his partner Sol and wants a big wedding to make up for all their years of hiding.

Also succeeding are cast members Baron Vaughn (Frankie's adopted son Bud), Ethan Embry (Frankie's adopted son Coyote), June Diane Raphael (Grace's daughter Brianna) and Geoff Stults (Grace's son-in-law Mitch).  Brooklyn Decker struggles in the role of Mallory (Mitch's wife, Grace's daughter) but that appears to be a writing issue.  When the soap opera elements of her role (Coyote is in love with her and, at some in the past, she was pregnant by him) are dropped, such as when she's helping Bud and Coyote plan a bachelor party for their fathers, she holds her own.

But the hinted at backstory between Mallory and Coyote is killing Decker's performance.

Season two better stop teasing and get specific on what the issue there is.

Lily Tomlin comes into her own immediately.

In the very first episode, she's hilarious.

And she only gets better as the series continues.

That's Lily working at her best, layering and deepening as she continues a portrayal.  It's why, for example, it is always a joy to see her in a performance of The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe.  She's never fixed in the role, she's always exploring, always expanding.

And when she's given a chance to do that on TV (such as when she played Kay on Murphy Brown), she is something akin to a revolutionary actor, she's Brando, she's Stanley, she's all the greats and so much more including Monroe -- believe it or not.

Frankie is not Lily's first sexual character.  Ernestine, for example, is all sexual tension, that's why she coiled so tightly.  But Frankie is a very sensual character and Lily inhabits her and reveals an aspect she really hasn't explored previously in her career.

Tate Taylor directs the first episode which features possibly the best visual of the series.  An overhead shot of Lily and Jane walking on the beach.  Lily's rooted in her character's earth mother sensuality.

But Jane?

Her halting steps -- due to the sand and her knee replacement -- make her look like some animated Barbie doll walking across the beach.

And Grace is a wind up doll.

At that point, that's really all she is.

Fueled by anger and who knows what, she's made it through life.

But she hasn't lived.

And it's Grace's moments of realization -- and sometimes terror -- over that fact that draw you to the character.

This could have so easily been overplayed.

Fonda could have gone overboard and 'critics' who know little of acting would have eaten it up.

But she trusts her talent enough not to go overboard or overly broad and Grace ends up a complex character and one who is very funny.

It takes Fonda some time to find her own opposite comedic genius Lily.

But while Fonda is known as a dramatic actress, she's also had a string of success in comedy and as she roots around in her character, she finds her comedic footing.

By episode six, the series is delivering laugh out loud moments consistently.

We noted Lily's sexuality, we should note Ethan Embry.

Ethan really fills out a pair of pants.

Not just in the seat.

We sought out feedback as we streamed the episodes and friends who are straight women and gay men repeatedly noted the crotch of Ethan's pants.

They also noted that now that he's losing his hair, he's getting sexier.

Maybe that will give you another reason to check out the show.

(He looks awful in episode 11 which flashes back several years to a time when he still had a full head of hair -- the wig is ridiculous.)

But whatever reason you latch on to, make a point to watch.

This is a very strong show.  This is a rewarding show.

The writing has been slammed by some in The Water Cooler Set.

We actually praise writing with one exception.

Lily's Frankie gets upset when Brianna uses the word "bitch."  She's okay with the c-word.  But Frankie does not want "bitch" used.

The problem there is that in other episodes (including the first one), Frankie is using "bitch."  She calls a woman a "bitch" when the woman doesn't respond appropriately to Frankie's question if Ben & Jerry do more together than make ice cream.

Now maybe that moment with Brianna was supposed to be a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do moment?

Could be.

But with that exception noted, everything else builds.

If, like us, you're so tired of sitcoms where something's major one moment and then forgotten forever, you'll appreciate that the writers take great care to let events have impact.

We should also note that there are some outstanding musical choices throughout -- including songs by Aimee Mann, Joss Stone and Cat Power.

Watching Grace and Frankie, you realize how much is missing from so many sitcoms.

Monday night, other questions were raised.

That's when CBS did a 90 minute special/tribute to the career of David Letterman.

If it was supposed to make us miss him when he retires next week, it failed to do so.

Ray Romano hosted.


Because Ray doesn't have any other jobs right now.

He offered a curious look at Letterman.

It was one that overlooked Mary Tyler Moore who gave David his first real network exposure when he was cast in her variety show Mary.

Moore, in fact, would have made a much better host.

It's doubtful that Mary would have, as Romano did, wrongly declared that David tapes his show in the same studio where the world met the Beatles.

Mary, we know, would have realized that the Beatles were already known in England and Germany -- in fact all of Europe -- before they made their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Only an uneducated idiot like Ray Romano would mistake an American debut for a world debut of a British band.

The special made liberal use of clips from Letterman's CBS late night program as well as from the NBC one that preceded it.

Cher was shown saying she thought David was "an asshole."  And, unlike when it was aired on NBC in the 80s, this time it wasn't bleeped.

Sadly, that was probably it for women.

They continued to appear in clips but not for anything of value.

A lot of music clips of no value.  Sonny & Cher broke up in the 70s as a couple and then as a musical act.  But they did one more performance together, on Dave's show.  They performed "I Got You Babe" one last time.  But that moment didn't make the special.

So much didn't.

Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner were seen -- but not heard -- performing songs -- about 15 seconds for each woman.

Maybe if either woman had flashed their tits, they would have had more time?

Drew Barrymore infamously did that and, of course, that made the clips.

We like Drew and that's part of her free spirit nature.

But watching all the clips surrounding that, where Dave oogled Janet Jackson's breasts or this woman's legs, or made sexual remarks, it was obvious that Dave is not going to be missed at all.

He came off as trashy, sexist and a bit of a lech.

With Bill Murray, Tom Hanks and a multitude of men, he could have conversations.  With women?  It was always sexual.

The not-so-special special failed to really note the best of Letterman.  Maybe that's because doing so would have pointed out the obvious: NBC was when Letterman was at his best.

"Dumb Ads," the monkey cam and all the other wonderful bits -- many with Chris Elliot -- were ignored to instead emphasize the unfunny CBS bits.

But the worst moment of all may have been pretending professional airhead Julia Roberts -- so dumb she didn't even read the scripts when she had her own production company -- was a series regular.

Julia came on to promote films.

She wasn't a regular and she sounds especially stupid (and drugged out) in the appearances prior to her long dry out.  (Had she continued acting immediately after Hook with other films, she probably would have died of a drug overdose before the 90s came to an end.)

And we don't normally note that or the sex rumors of same-sex relationships -- including with the Oscar winner, shhh -- but we don't normally have to deal with Julia.

Or lies.

Or Julia lies.

There was a female regular.

She boosted David's ratings.

Her appearances on his program were must-see TV.

She once serenaded him with Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

We're talking about Sandra Bernhard.

Long before Cher called Dave "an asshole," Sandra was giving it to Dave the way he always gave it to women.

Or are we supposed to forget that he mocked Nastassja Kinski so badly that she fled the set in tears -- and Dave and John Candy then spent the remained of the show mocking her for that as well?

Cher spoke to the truth, Dave was and is "an asshole."

And the special only reminded you of that while working so hard to deny it.

There was Dave, for example, using a wounded veteran to insist that the man closes all debate on the questions regarding war.

Dave likes to pretend he admired Johnny Carson but if he truly did admire the work Carson did he'd be aware that while Carson was conservative he was also respectful to those against war.  In fact, he had many words of praise regarding Jane Fonda's activism.

 But there was Dave, the man who used his program to glorify Rudy G "America's Mayor" and to sell war on Afghanistan and Iraq insisting that someone wounded in one of those wars meant that no questions could be asked.

Again, Dave was always "an asshole."

Which is why when the illegal Iraq War was finally questioned seriously on late night TV, it was The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that featured Bright Eyes performing "When The President Talks To God" and David Letterman.

Stevie's right "it's hard to be civil and it's real hard to be nice" when you're telling the truth.  But no one said being a critic was supposed to be easy.  After all, if you can't take the heat, join The Water Cooler Set in serving up p.r. copy as 'criticism.'


The Crotch Watcher In Chief


Uh, eyes are way up here, Barack.

TV Mis-steps (Stan, Ava and C.I.)


Last week saw  a great deal of ignorance when it came to TV.

Here are a few of the more notable highlights.

ABC renewed the chronically low rated American Crime -- a show that attempts to deal with race by casting White leads and making African-Americans killers -- and we thought Fox News already had that market covered.

The bet two of us (Ava and C.I.) have with an ABC exec keeps getting better.  When Scandal returned from its winter finale with a January 29th episode that reached 10.48 million viewers, ABC saw the show's ratings growing but Ava and C.I. begged to differ.  Turning Olivia into a victim, they argued, would turn viewers off and lead to lower ratings.

The exec scoffed.

But, funny thing, the next week saw the ratings fall, as did the next week and they've continued to slip.  Last Thursday, with the second to the last episode of the season, only 7.44 million viewers tuned in.

And here's the kicker we've all been silent on: Next season, it will be even worse.

Scandal easily gets a million viewers who watch just because the show is considered 'hot.'  Now that it's not, now that it's struggling in the ratings, they can probably kiss more viewers goodbye next fall.

As all three of Shonda Rhimes' shows struggle in the ratings (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder), ABC made the idiotic move to give her a fourth show.

The Associated Press gets a mention on the list for this 'report' on Shonda's new show:

The network says it has agreed to make "The Catch," a new series by Rhimes about a fraud investigator who is about to be defrauded herself by her fiance. The drama will star Mirelle Enos, who played Sarah Linden in the ABC series "The Killing."

Mirelle Enos did star in The Killing, however, the show aired on AMC, not ABC (and, in its final season, the series aired/streamed exclusively on Netflix).

NBC earns a mention for cancelling nearly every show they debuted in fall 2014 and spring 2015.

This fall, they think the answer to their prayers is a new version of Heroes -- you know, the show they cancelled in 2010 pissing off millions of viewers?

Maybe five years from now, they can reboot the just-cancelled State of Affairs so viewers will finally know what happened to Charlie and Nick when the missiles hit?

And maybe someone can explain to the weather boys and girls that they're not: doctors, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers or crossing guards.

So when you interrupt programming with reports of thunder storms or hail or whatever and insist "we're trying to keep you safe," no, you aren't.

If the local news was trying to keep its viewers safe, it would be covering all the municipal corruption -- instead of covering that up.

It's all a sham

As Jane Fonda's Gloria says in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, "Maybe it's just the whole world is like central casting. They got it all rigged before you ever show up."

Case in point, Pete Souza's photograph from Barack Obama's appearance on David Letterman's show last week.


Note the cue cards.

The horror that is Jill Stein

In 2012, Jill Stein ran a ridiculous campaign for president on the Green Party ticket.

She refused to call out Democratic Party candidate (and presidential incumbent) Barack Obama and, as the Greens have done far too many times, acted as though she was the kid sister of the Democratic Party, the Skipper to Barack's Barbie.

Now she wants another shot.


Does she deserve another shot?

The day after the 2012 election, Ava and C.I. published their classic "Let The Fun Begin" analysis of the campaigns and the election results.  From that essay:

Jill Stein.

As feminists, we wondered six weeks ago, what do we do?

Roseanne had already imploded.  (Cindy Sheehan has a story to tell and then some.)  She couldn't and wouldn't campaign, she apparently wouldn't pay workers she hired for her campaign, she was an embarrassment.

And so was Jill Stein.

As feminists, do we call it as it is?

We debated that for three days.  Jill wasn't going to win the presidency.  In fact, it was obvious she was running off the limited votes she did have a shot at.

But did we tell the truth on that?  Did we call her out?

We crossed the line on gender with the decision -- a feminist one (not "the" feminist one) -- that she was running for public office and therefore had to be treated the same as anyone else would even if, in the closing weeks, we were going to tear her apart.

But . . .

Having dealt with the feminist issue, we still had the issue of third parties.

Was it really fair to beat up on a third party candidate?

Adding to the problems, one of us (Ava) is involved with a lifelong Green (Jess), has a child by him, has made a home with him.

And Jess was very clear that Jill Stein was "a f**king idiot but the Greens need to be on ballots."  And they were.  Texas, for example.  We heard from Billie who early voted for Jill Stein.  She was so excited because Jill Stein was on the ballot.  She didn't have to write her in.  Right there on the Texas ballot was the Green Party.

What do we do?

In the end, we decided, "We don't promote her.  We don't mention her.  That's true here, that's true at Third."

So we bit our tongues.

As she ran a stupid campaign.  As she made a fool of herself and the Green Party.  (Granted, it's a party that loves to make a fool of itself.)

She -- and others -- did a debate with Larry King.  A debate that did not include all.  A new hurdle was invented.

Green Party members, you know what a hurdle is, right?  It's what keeps your candidate out of the so-called presidential debates every four years.  Why the hell would you take part in a debate that did not invite everyone who made it onto a state's ballot as a presidential candidate?

Because hypocrisy is a charge you live to embrace?

Maybe so.

Supposedly the Green Party is opposed to war.

So when Tim Arango reported the White House was negotiating with Nouri to send more troops back into Iraq, Jill Stein should have led on that.

But she's a politician which is just a whore without the desire to please a customer.

So Jill ignored it.

She ignored a lot.

Six weeks ago, in fact, after Barack cratered in the first debate, she and her campaign began going after Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.


You're a Green.  You're on the left.  The high profile left vote getter just imploded on national TV.  It's the perfect time for you to pick up some of his voters.

But you refuse to try.  You rush to go after Romney and Ryan instead.

Why is that?

Because you are not a real party.

Because you will forever be the little sister of the Democratic Party.

Because every four years, you start off with promise and end up revealing just how craven and disgusting you are.

If we are offering commentary four years from now, please note, being a Green will not save you.  Being third party will not save you.

We will call you out in real time.

They will.

And we will.

Jill Stein not only ran a useless campaign in 2012, she was also part of the 'shadow campaign' of the last years which was going to hold the administration accountable but was always too timid to call out Saint Barack.

America deserves far better than Jill Stein.

Tweet of the week

  1. It has come to a point in Iraq that disliking Iran's meddling,or Suleimani's portraits in Iraqi territory automatically makes you pro-ISIS.

Okay, but how does it end?



Please say, "Not in a blood bath."

We heard it the first time

  • People liked new ....Blair was obviously toxic after Iraq But the baby was let out with the bath water

  • That Tweet went up 17 minutes ago.

    This went up Friday, at The Common Ills:

    The results were not pretty.

    But they should have been expected.

    Over two years ago -- I know the Milliband brothers -- we were noting here that Labour had to step away from Blair if they wanted control of the Parliament.

    And they did that.

    They took steps.

    And their own internal polling demonstrated that was the way to go.

    Then they started importing crap from Chicago and telling themselves these guys (and they were all men) knew what they were doing, why, look at the 2008 success that they made for Barack!

    They didn't know a damn thing.

    And Ed has no excuse of "I put my trust in them!"

    The minute they started insisting Tony Blair was an asset that needed to be used for the campaign, was the minute Ed and company should have sent them packing.

    From high polling numbers as they rebuked Blair to low polling numbers as they played footsie with War Criminal Tony.

    It's all on them.  They were idiots who believed idiots.

    (And that's just in terms of the campaigning.  That's before you get to New Labour's hideous lack of messages that addressed the needs of the people.)

    So they got cozy with Tony and they lost.

    Let it be a lesson.  Tony Blair is a War Criminal and he is toxic.

    Boxer, Ernst Introduce Legislation to Arm the Kurds in Support of Fight Against ISIS


    That's Senator Barbara Boxer with legendary activist Dolores Huerta.  Senator Boxer and Iraq War veteran Senator Joni Ernst have introduced a bill and Boxer's office announced:

     Tuesday, May 5th 2015

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to provide for a temporary, emergency authorization of defense articles, defense services, and related training directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Other cosponsors include Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The bill would allow the U.S. to provide direct assistance to the KRG, a critical partner in the fight against ISIS. The companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and has broad bipartisan support across the ideological spectrum.

    The legislation provides temporary, emergency authority for the President to provide weapons and training directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The three-year authorization seeks to reduce delays in arming Peshmerga forces to fight ISIS, while in consultation with the Iraqi government.

    “ISIS is deadly and determined, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces – our critical partner in the fight against ISIS – need U.S. weapons as quickly as possible. This three-year authorization would bolster efforts against ISIS which is critical to maintaining a unified and stable Iraq, and imperative to our national security interests. We simply cannot afford to have future delays at this critical moment in the battle,”Senator Ernst said.

    “The Iraqi Kurds have been a steadfast and capable partner of the United States, and this bill will help ensure they have the support they need in the fight against ISIL,” Senator Boxer said.

    “The United States should empower Iraqi Kurds by providing them with what they need to protect their region from the threat posed by radical Islamic extremists,” Senator Johnson said.

    “Defeating ISIS requires active participation from our allies in the region. I support sending arms to the Kurdish fighters who are providing the vital boots on the ground. This Administration claims they need the legal authority to arm the Kurds. This bill removes any doubt that they have the authority and the renewed encouragement of Congress to provide our Kurdish allies the support they need to continue their fight against ISIS and radical Islam,” 

    Senator Paul said. 

    “The Kurds are some of our closest partners in the Middle East. The Peshmerga are on the front lines of the battle against ISIL and we need to do all we can to ensure they succeed,” Senator Rubio said. 

    Since the First Gulf War, the Iraqi Kurds and their Peshmerga forces have played a vital role in supporting U.S. interests and a free Iraq despite limited means of doing so.  Approximately one million displaced Iraqis and Syrians have taken refuge in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

    Currently by law, the U.S. must provide support to the Iraqi Kurds through the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

    Specifically, the Ernst-Boxer bill would:
    • Provide a three-year authorization for the U.S. to provide weapons directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS.
    • State it is the policy of the United States to provide direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government to combat ISIS.
    • Preserve the President’s ability to notify the Iraqi government before weapons, equipment, defense services, or related training is provided to Iraqi Kurdish forces.

    Ensure accountability by requiring a report to Congress on U.S. weapons provided to the Iraqi government which have ended up in the hands of Iranian controlled/supported Shia militias.

    Burn Pits


    US House Rep Elizabeth Esty's office issued the following:

    May 8, 2015
    Press Release
    WATERBURY, CT – Today, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) met with veterans at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury to discuss the consequences of exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits are areas on military bases where waste, such as human waste, batteries, and other garbage, is incinerated and toxic fumes are released into the atmosphere. Esty was inspired to introduce legislation, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, H.R. 2237, after veterans in her district contacted her office to inform her of the negative health consequences they suffered.

    “While much attention is rightly paid to the visible wounds of war, our veterans also suffer from numerous less visible conditions that result from exposure to the environmental hazards found in war zones,” said Congresswoman Esty. “I’ve heard from veterans in central and northwest Connecticut who suffer from or who know fellow service members who suffer from respiratory and gastrointestinal issues that were likely caused by exposure to burn pits. This is exactly why I introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act to expand care to those exposed to burn pits. Our veterans deserve real attention and quality care for the full range of health conditions from their service to our country.”

    “Burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation,” said James Rizzio, president of NVCC’s Veterans’ Club. “I was around burn pits a lot and it can lead to very serious medical issues later in life. Getting this legislation passed is the right thing to do.”

    Rizzio spent six years in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq from 2009 to 2010.

    Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances including the smoke produced from the burning of waste on military bases. Items such as plastics, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, metal containers, tires, and batteries are thrown into open pits, sometimes doused with jet fuel, and set ablaze. Smoke from these open-air burn pits can waft throughout the entire base and even into living areas. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits can include cancer, neurological and reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity.

    The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions related to exposure to burn pits.

    Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for veterans who are suffering from conditions related to exposure to burn pits.
    Full text of Esty’s bill, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act can be found here.

    Labour's betrayals let Tories back in

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

    Labour's betrayals let Tories back in

    by Charlie Kimber
    Published Fri 8 May 2015
    Issue No. 2452

    Counting votes in Lambeth, south London
    Counting votes in Lambeth, south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

    The election result is a disaster. It’s a disaster for the NHS, for workers’ rights, for people on benefits, for disabled people and for the battle against climate change.

    The Tories will feel they can unleash even sharper austerity, and loot even more from working people to hand over to the super-rich. They will intensify their scapegoating of migrants and Muslims.

    They will seek to hand still greater powers to the police and be more ready to wage war abroad as well as at home. We need to understand why the Tories are still in Downing Street, despite all their assaults on workers.

    Labour lost because it was too right wing, not because it was too left wing. Look at Scotland. There 
    Labour has been the biggest party since 1959. But it was all but eradicated in political earthquake that ran through the country.

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) went from six seats to 56 seats. This wholly unprecedented shift happened because the SNP was able to portray itself as to the left of Labour. Its leaders spoke out against austerity, Trident nuclear missiles, war and much else.

    Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander acknowledged, "Scotland has voted to oppose the Tories, but hasn't trusted Labour to do so."

    Scottish Labour united with the Tories to save the Union during the referendum. It then bizarrely chose a right wing leader, then humiliated him when he felt constrained to speak out against cuts. Now it has paid the price.


    Ed MIliband saw his poll ratings rise when he offered some hope of change—an end to the non-dom status that enables billionaires to avoid tax, a higher tax rate for those grabbing over £150,000 a year and a mansion tax.

    But the glimmers of progress and class politics were battered aside by the clunking fist of financial “iron discipline”, “not a penny more” of borrowing, and “cuts in the deficit every year”.

    It’s not surprising that people were not inspired by a programme of more attacks on public services, more wage curbs, more jobs lost and a squeeze on health and education.

    Labour’s leaders blamed migrants for falling living standards. Ludicrously, they ended up attacking Cameron for “unfunded promises” to spend more on the NHS.

    Miliband and his circle have betrayed people by their pallid and right wing campaign. It will be a disaster if the supporters of Tony Blair and others now seek to drive the party even further rightwards.

    Some of the best Labour results were in the seats held by the small number of the party’s left wingers. John McDonnell saw his majority rise by 5,000 as he won 60 percent of the vote in Hayes and Harlington.

    Among a somber set of results, it was wonderful see Nigel Farage of the racist Ukip party defeated. He failed because Stand Up to Ukip and others campaigned against him.

    But the threat has not gone away. Ukip grabbed nearly 4 million votes and came second in 118 parliamentary seats. We will need to keep up the arguments against Ukip and the wider racism and Islamophobia that it thrives on.

    Candidates to the left of Labour were generally squeezed by the pressure to vote Labour to keep out the Tories and Ukip. In many areas the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) ran lively campaigns, and were well-received. But it’s hard to turn that into votes.

    However, Dave Nellist won 1,769 votes in Coventry, Jenny Sutton took 1,324 in Tottenham and Glyn Robbins secured 969 in Bethnal Green and Bow.


    In Belfast West, Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit came second with a tremendous 6,798—almost 20 percent of the vote.

    Left Unity’s results were similar to TUSC’s and the election reinforces the need for the left to get it s act together—to campaign together, to organise together and to fight elections together.

    The Tories will not have an easy time. They will now seek to impose massive additional austerity with a small majority in parliament. They will have to hold a referendum on European

    Union membership that will divide their own party.

    They preside over a slowing economy with further troubles ahead. They have no legitimacy in Scotland.

    Struggles and political explosions will break out—just as they did after the Tories took office in 1992 and in 2010.

    We need to fan every flame of resistance—from strikes to housing campaigns, to the People’s Assembly demonstration on 20 June, to the battles against racism, to the mobilisations over climate change.  We need to challenge the Labour and trade union leaders who have led us to this disaster.
    Now the trade union leaders who held back strikes and told people to put their faith in Labour have to be pressured to start fighting. And if they won’t we will have to do it ourselves. We cannot allow austerity to rule unchecked.

    We need to understand what happened at this election, to agitate and organise, and to argue stronger for a socialist alternative to capitalism.


    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.

    "When the US is threatened, Barack will do somethin..." -- most requested highlight by readers of this site.

    "Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Brave and Manl..." -- Isaiah on the foppish Jon Stewart.

    "Jane and Lily are Grace and Frankie," "Give thanks for Lily Tomlin," "The Following," "They killed State of Affairs," "New Girl or The Mindy Project?," "state of affairs," "The Flash," "Why does anyone watch NBC?," "Jessica Lange," "What ABC's keeping, what they're trashing," "Arrow can't do suspense," "community (grifting)," "Another season for Nashville," "The Originals," "revenge (take 2)," "The Mindy Project," "The Simpsons," "revenge - courtney love looks awful!," "2 Broke Girls," "The Good Wife," "Bye-bye Bri," and "Jada goes out like that?" -- Betty, Mike, Ruth Ann, Rebecca, Stan, Elaine and Kat cover TV.

    "The Grand Bargain" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

    "The crass and fake Tom Hayden" and "michael ratner stabs palestinians in the back" -- Ruth and Rebecca on the disgusting. 

    "Cranky wants to shake it" and "THIS JUST IN! CRANKY WANTS TO TWERK!" -- that jerk can Twerk.

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