Sunday, November 08, 2015

Truest statement of the week

A dozen student activists from the Atlanta University Center (#AUCShutItDown) last week put their fists up, shouted “Black Lives Matter” and sang songs at a Democratic Party rally for Hillary Clinton, interrupting the candidate’s litany of lies and thoroughly embarrassing Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, former mayor Shirley Franklin and Rep. John Lewis, representing the city’s Black Misleadership Class. Clinton seemed surprised and confused. Hadn’t she neutralized that “Black Lives Matter” crowd? Clinton whined that she’d been meeting with #BLM and planned more talks with them. Members of the crowd shouted, “Hillary, Hillary" and “Let her speak.” Loyal Black Democrats formed a shield in front of the war criminal. Congressman Lewis, who is said to be scheming to have Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge named after himself, put his arms on a protester’s shoulders, urging them to desist, and the group left shortly afterwards. “I am glad the congressman and the mayor have my back," said Clinton.
“Loyal Black Democrats formed a shield in front of the war criminal.”

Of course they have her back. The Democratic Party is the greatest impediment to independent, self-determinationist politics in Black America. Its near-hegemonic presence has prevented the emergence of a Black oppositional movement for two generations – which is why it was possible to impose a mass Black incarceration regime so pervasive that one out of eight prisoners on the planet is an African American. Kasim Reed, Shirley Franklin, John Lewis and their ilk facilitated the establishment of the Mass Black Incarceration State.

-- Glen Ford, "Demand Nothing, Get Nothing: The Movement Needs to Say What It Wants" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

Truest statement of the week II

The top Democrat on the Select Committee is Representative Elijah Cummings from Maryland, who in a moment of selective outrage, exclaimed to rousing applause from the audience, “We’re better than that! We are so much better! We’re a better country! We’re better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a campaign! That’s not what America is all about!” But, apparently, using taxpayer dollars to destroy one country and literally wipe another country off the map – that’s OK, I guess. Because, at the time of the televised hearings, U.S. Embassy in Libya personnel weren’t even in Libya! They’re operating from Malta, after President Obama’s policy to destroy Libya was so effective. How much questioning about that took place in the eleven-hour hearing?
Another question that should have been addressed is, “What is the extent to which US policy in the aftermath of the US war against Libya directly led to the need for US personnel to evacuate the Embassy premises in Tripoli before it was taken over by rampant Libyans with guns?” What was really going on at the CIA compound at the Benghazi Consulate? Why did so many Libyans have so many weapons, including portable shoulder-fired missiles and Toyota trucks? After destroying Libya, the US policy was to use that “success” to roll right into Syria for that country’s destruction according to: Oded Yinon’s Plan, published in the World Zionist Organization’s KivunimJournal, that was a strategy for Israel to pursue in the 1980s; The Institute for Strategic and Political Studies’ “A Clean Break” strategy for Israel to pursue in the 1990s; the Pentagon’s General Ralph Peters “Blood Borders” map, and General Wesley Clark’s revelations about the Pentagon’s plans to overthrow governments in “seven countries in five years.” More than likely, the US Embassy personnel in Benghazi were murdered with the very same weapons that the US had transferred to the Libyans to carry out the serial regime change required by these various strategies that benefit Israel.

-- Cynthia McKinney, "Clinton and the Benghazi Committee: Dancing on a Tightrope" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Oh look, we just got in on a Sunday!  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.

And what did we come up with?

Another truest for Glen Ford. 
Another truest for who we hope will be the Green Party's 2016 presidential candidate.
Iraq -- the topic no one wants to discuss.
Ava and C.I. take on NBC's THE PLAYER and Netflix's MASTER OF NONE.  For the record, I (Jim) love THE PLAYER.
Yes, we make mistakes.  Here's one: IN THE SPIRIT should have been named number one two weeks ago in our piece on feminist films of the 90s.  Our apologies.  (And mine for refusing to listen when C.I. said -- at the time we were writing the piece -- that IN THE SPIRIT was a 90s film.)
Gloria Steinem's been 'leader' for about forty years too long.
Do not waste your money on this book.  It's wretched and boring.

What we listened to while writing. 
Press release from Senator Patty Murray's office.
Press release from the Select House Committee on Benghazi.

Press release from Senator Tammy Baldwin's office. 
Press release from Senator Johnny Isakson's office (he is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee). 
Press release from Senator Tammy Baldwin's office.

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

And that's what we came up with this week.

And managed to avoid posting on a Monday in the process!


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

Editorial: The continued silence

With a number of members of the House of Representatives calling for newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to hold a vote on the current wars on Iraq and Syria, you have to wonder where are those 'leaders' of the not-so-distant past?

Leslie Cagan?

She's presumably getting her mustache and chin whiskers waxed.

Tom Hayden?

The old drunk offered numerous Tweets in October.

Only one referenced war -- specifically it linked to his letter to THE WASHINGTON POST about the Afghanistan War.

That's leadership?

It's more than Dennis Kucinich - the one-time 'peace' candidate -- can offer.

His last Tweet was about the Pope.

It's not that Tweets can't matter.

Some can use their voices wisely.

Iraq, Syria and Libya no longer exist                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

TV: On network failures and binge watching

THE PLAYER isn't our cup of tea but it's failure is still surprising.

And make no mistake, Wesley Snipes' NBC action show is a failure.


That's right, Wesley Snipes.

An African-American actor?

Yes, but apparently that's all so fall 2014 as there's been no significant press interest that an African-American is a lead in an hour long show.


Maybe if Snipes had been willing to whore himself the way Sharon Stone has for Hillary (is it to make up for the affair with Bill -- sorry, the 'rumors' of her affair with Bill?), he'd get attention from THE DAILY BEAST, et al?

Snipes plays Isaiah Johnson ("The Pit Boss").  He's running the bets.


A group of wealthy people bid on the outcome of crimes.

Philip Winchester plays Alex who is the player who will try to stop the crimes with the assistance of Charity Wakefield's Cassandra ("The Dealer").

The cast also includes Richard Roundtree as a judge who's also involved in the intrigue which includes how Alex's ex-wife Ginny was killed or 'killed.'

Roundtree's an actor who first came to fame playing the lead role in SHAFT and its two sequels.

He's considered to be film's first Black action hero and Snipes' own career has been in a variety of action films so there was a hook the press could've pursued but chose not to.

Damon Gupton rounds out the main cast playing  Detective Cal Brown who is trying to figure out exactly what Alex is up to.

With everyone in the press avoiding the show, it must be pretty awful, right?


In terms of action shows, it's miles ahead of AIRWOLF, the rebranded HAWAII 5-O, SLEEPY HOLLOW, BURN NOTICE, DOLLHOUSE and any combination of NCIS.

In fact, it could have been NBC's SCORPION -- if it had been on another network.

What idiot decides to air a new action show opposite CBS' Thursday football line up.

Men and women predisposed to like this show were not going to switch off in the last hour or so of a football game to watch a new show.

It was a boneheaded move on the network's part.

They should have shoved one of their lousy Chicago shows in that time slot and waited until after CBS stopped airing Thursday night football (last Thursday) to debut the show.

THE PLAYER, repeating, is not our type of show.

There aren't a great deal of action shows we enjoy.

But for an action show, it was fast paced and always entertaining.

The long running elements were in place to build a very interesting arc.

But with NBC cancelling the order for 13 episodes (it's now only going to be nine -- of which seven have aired), it's one more show that was never given the chance to find an audience.

Which brings us to binge watching.

As we've noted before, it's nothing new.

Neither is Aziz Ansari's new sitcom MASTER OF NONE.

The sitcom debuted on Netflix Friday, all ten episodes.

It's not a bad show.

But if you've seen Aziz's stand up -- which he's already milked for the book MODERN ROMANCE (which tried to dress up comedy as sociology and let down both fields in the process) -- you've seen this show.

Only the visuals you provided for Aziz's word play was much better than what streams at Netflix.

That a single-camera series could feature such bad camera work and bad lighting is really shocking.

Maybe that's a budget constraint?

We don't know.  We just felt we were seeing raw footage and not an edited and assembled episode of a series.

We'd love to say it got better as it went along but that's not the case and even the scripts grew iffy as the episodes passed.

Aziz is great.

He's funny.

And we hope season two features some strong improvements.

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW was not a smash in season one but the elements for a good show were there.  That's true of MASTER OF NONE.  But a second season of the show really needs to give characters a purpose.

Yes, even supporting characters need to have a drive that's greater than setting up the next joke for the lead actor.

Friday, when we realized we'd be binge watching (something we loathe) again thanks to Netflix, we mentioned it to a producer friend.  He told us he'd just seen Fitz murder Verna.

Of course, he was talking about SCANDAL.

Season two to be precise.

We were surprised he'd never seen the show before.

But he explained he really didn't watch shows the networks were airing anymore.

And he explained why.

Every time he got into a show, the network tended to cancel it.

Binge watching, he explained, was a much safer and satisfying way to discover a show.

As NBC gears up to toss THE PLAYER, someone might want to remind them that the belief that they would always be needed at least as content providers ended when Netflix, Crackle, Hulu and Amazon Prime began making their own TV shows, movies and specials.

The feminist film classic of the 90s

Two weeks ago, we wrote "Feminist Classic Films of the 90s" and we got a ton of e-mails.

A ton.

Loraine was outraged that BOYS ON THE SIDE didn't "get a shout out" but if she'd read Jim's "A note to our readers" that week, she would have seen this, "12 films make our top ten -- and there were more and we almost did honorable mention.  Since I (Jim) am married to Dona I have to note her pick BOYS ON THE SIDE."

It was very difficult to choose the best.


Randi e-mailed that Leslie Dixon wrote a great script for OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE and that Bette Midler and Shelley Long were an amazing comedic team.

"How could you ignore that?"  she wondered.

Though it didn't make the list, we haven't ignored the film.

We do a regular feature here called Film Classics Of The 20th Century and OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE was the film we kicked the series off with.

Others lamented that we ignored THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, HAIRSPRAY ("John Travolta in a dress, playing a woman, is at heart of confronting gender portrayls," insisted Marcy), and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

Whether those films qualify as feminist or not we leave open to others to interpret but we were covering the 90s.  None of the films in the previous paragraph were released during the 90s.

We made a huge mistake in the article, by the way.

While we were compiling our list, Betty suggested a title.

Jim said, "That's from the 80s."

C.I. said, "No, it's not."

Jim said, "Yes, it it."

C.I. sighed and said, "I'm not having this debate."

Guess what?

The film is from the 90s.

It was released in 1990.


In The Spirit
Lureen: I better quit drinking. I've got to go do The Robin Byrd Show in an hour.

Reva: Oh really? Are you an actress?

Marianne: Yeah.

Lureen: You know Karl Percy, don't you? From Albany?

Reva: Oh yeah.

Marianne: Yeah.

Reva: We worked for him.

Lureen: You're kidding. Which movies?

Marianne: The early ones.

Reva: Yeah, the early ones.

Lureen: You mean like Finger Licking Good? 20 Laps?

Mariann: Yeah, that's right.

Lureen: Wow.

Reva: No, I-I wasn't in 20 Laps.

Lureen: Oh.

Reva: I had another part.

Lureen: Oh.

Reva: In a musical.

Lureen: You're kidding!

Marianne: She is.

Lureen: You know, Crystal was so good in Hot Sausages --

Reva: Uh-huh.

Lureen: -- but she just never followed through. She had no ambition.

Marianne: I think that she was very dumb to get mixed up with Chuckle.

Lureen: Yeah, well, Crystal was dumb. And Chuckles is smart. He is real smart. He is too smart. I get scared of guys who are that smart. You know, and he really gets off on showing you just how smart he is -- like a really mean cat with a bird.

As we noted in 2010:

1990's In The Spirit is one of the funniest comedies of its decade. The film, written by Jeannie Berlin and Laurie Jones and directed by Sandra Seacat, stars Marlo Thomas and Elaine May. as Reva and Mariann.

Marianne is married to Roger (Peter Falk) who has lost his job on the West Coast at the start of the film. So as he spirals into depression, Marianne tells him the answer is to move back to NYC where they still have their c-op and he can look for a new job. At a party, Sue (Olympia Dukakis) introduces Marianne to Reva who is an interior decorator, who was married to Sue's late brother Ed and who is heavily into New Age spirituality.

The film is hilarious.

Elaine May and Marlo Thomas hit comedic highs and the entire cast -- Peter Falk, Jeannie Berlin, Melanie Griffith (as Lureen) and Olympia Dukakis are amazing.

Jeannie Berlin and Laurie Jones should write more screenplays and Sandra Seacat should have directed ten more films by now.

Our earlier article resulted in a huge number of e-mails, the bulk of which were saying thanks for one of the films we chose for our list.

But we understand the e-mails complaining that we'd left out an important film.

We happen to agree with that critique but we feel that film was IN THE SPIRIT.

Of all the films in the 90s, none deserves more applause for being a feminist classic than IN THE SPIRIT.

We salute the film and all those who helped bring it to life.

Go away, little Gloria

Why is Gloria Steinem still a leader of the feminist movement, some people ask?

 movement and destroyed an experimental woman's college.  That's not their fault.


More and more, we ask why was she ever a leader to begin with?

In 1972, Gloria battled Betty Friedan for the media's crown of "feminist leader."

And Gloria won.

No surprise there, Gloria was of the press and they tend to circle the wagons.

At the time, Betty was 52 and seen as too old to be the leader of the feminist movement.

At 38, Gloria was no spring chicken but she hadn't hit the big 5-0 which allowed her to pretend she was youthful -- as did her streaked hair and mini-skirts.

Gloria likes to pretend like it was a one-sided battle but it wasn't and both women had their supporters fighting it out as well.

As a leader, Gloria was a repeated failure.

For more on that, people should read Germaine Greer's "McGovern, the big tease" (Harper's October 1972) and Veronica Geng's "Requiem for the women's movement" (Harper's November 1976) and discover how Gloria worked to dismantle support for abortion rights.

Gloria's political activism, like her personal life, has been one long compromise.

The real problem with Gloria is how she refuses to step aside.

At 81, she really can't and shouldn't be the leader of the feminist movement.

She gladly pushed Betty Friedan aside when Betty was only 52.

In a recent interview with COSMO, Gloria demonstrated her two greatest faults:

Oh, we can have a BeyoncĂ© discussion. I was there when BeyoncĂ© did Chimes for Change — you know, it's the biggest concert I've ever seen in my life, for the Violence Against Women Project — she came out and said to this audience of thousands of mostly women, "I know life is hard, but we're together for the next hour or so, and you're safe." And I thought, OK, you had me at hello. We need to build bridges to those folks, not sit and nitpick what they have on. A feminist is just someone who believes men and women are equal beings.

She's a star f**ker.

That's what destroyed Ms. magazine (read Susan Faludi's BACKLASH).

She's always been a star f**ker.

She's also deeply stupid.

Did Beyonce do nice at a Violence Against Women Project concert?

So that forgives her recent "Drunk In Love" which glorified Ike Turner's abuse and terrorism of Tina Turner, compared it being "drunk in love"?

Gloria's a stupid, old woman who needs to shut her damn mouth long enough to learn something.

But what do you learn in the paragraph above?

That star f**ker Gloria's happy to talk about Beyonce.

But actual feminists?

Activists doing the hard work?

Gloria doesn't have time to mention them.

After all, if she acknowledged them -- actually mentioned them -- she might lose her spot in the press as "leader" of the feminist movement.

Dullest book of 2015

Celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli longed for respectability and something more than gossipy page turners.  Beginning in the '00s, his books became lifeless and dull.

BECOMING BEYONCE: THE UNTOLD STORY only continues the pattern.


Rebecca panned the book "a dull, uptight bitch named j. randy" and she was actually being kind.

There's no reason in the world this book should have been written, let alone published.

Fan club newsletters for tween Disney TV stars are harder hitting than the soppy, sloppy prose he churns out.

Doubt us?

It's page 182 before Beyonce gets a hit recording ("No, No, No!" with Destiny's Child).

Beyonce isn't even 18 at that point.

So, yes, that means the author has over-invested into her childhood.

It only gets worse.

Everything she does is wonderful.

Nothing about her is ever questioned.

Making a TV movie for MTV, Taraborrelli insists, "forced" Beyonce "to be open to new points of view -- and sometimes even conflict" which he sees as wonderful while failing to grasp that his passage only speaks to someone with serious problems.

He also glorifies her mother slapping her at a store when Beyonce is singing along to her own song -- piped over the store's speakers -- and smiling at a group of young men who are entranced with her.

This bit of violence, out in the open, should have led to parallels of Beyonce's sister's infamous attack on Jay-Z in an elevator.  But Taraborrelli plays that incident for 'understanding' as well.

There's no drama in the book, there's no life in it.

On page 382, he writes:

Cadillac Records was a triumph; not so her next movie -- and her last, to date -- Obsessed.

And that's it in terms of criticism.

He fails to elaborate on why Obsessed wasn't "a triumph."

You'd never know how bad the reviews were because . . . he never quotes them.

You'd never know Beyonce earned a Razzie nomination for that film (Worst Actress).

Time and again, Taraborrelli makes his exalted comments on how wonderful this or that was without ever actually noting -- let alone quoting -- critical reception.

The sole exception is with the film DREAMGIRLS where he briefly notes that the critics praised Jennifer Hudson and ignored Beyonce or slammed her.  He includes one critic -- who slams Beyonce's acting and praises her singing.

And then, as if to atone for a moment of honesty, he rushes to insist:

Beyonce was gratified to win a Golden Globe, but Jennifer won one too.  When Jennifer was nominated for and then won an Oscar, few people were surprised.

A few people might be surprised by that -- specifically that Beyonce won a Golden Globe.

Because, for the record, she did not.

She was nominated for her acting and for co-writing "Listen" -- but she lost for both.

It's a dull and plodding book.

It's also proof that purveyors of trash page turners should never aspire to be  inspirational.

This edition's playlist


1) Janet Jackson's UNBREAKABLE.




5) Steve Grand's ALL AMERICAN BOY.


7) Cat Power's THE GREATEST.


9) Aimee Mann's THE FORGOTTEN ARM.

10) Cloud Nothings' HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE.

Sen. Murray Meets with VA Inspector General Nominee To Discuss Accountability, Better Care for Veterans

Senator Patty Murray is a former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and remains a senior member of the Committee.  Her office issued the following last week:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, November 3, 2015                                                               (202) 224-2834
Sen. Murray Meets with VA Inspector General Nominee To Discuss Accountability, Better Care for Veterans
Senator Murray meets with Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General nominee, Michael J. Missal
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, met with Michael J. Missal, the nominee for Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Inspector General position is critical to oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Inspector General conducts investigations into allegations of fraud and abuse, reviews management and administration of VA facilities and programs, and conducts evaluations of VA’s activities in order to ensure the integrity of its programs and operations. As someone who has spent her career fighting on behalf of veterans, Senator Murray takes the VA Inspector General position very seriously.
During their meeting, Sen. Murray and Mr. Missal discussed a number of her priorities, including the delivery of mental health services for veterans, a commitment to reducing wait times, and a better way for veterans to get care outside of the VA when necessary.
“Our country makes a promise to care for its veterans long after the war is over, but as we’ve all seen, the VA has failed our men and women far too many times in recent years. That’s why choosing the right watchdog is so critical,” Sen. Murray said. “As the daughter of a World War II veteran and a senior member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I will look to the next VA Inspector General to provide accurate and timely information on how our country can better care for the men and women who’ve served. I appreciate hearing directly from Mr. Missal today, and I look forward to learning more about his plans to move the VA in the right direction as his nomination process continues.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Missal would be the first permanent VA Inspector General since December 2013.
Sen. Murray has spoken on the Senate floor twice on veterans’ issues in recent weeks—to call for an overhaul to the VA Choice Program, and to urge her colleagues to support her bill to help homeless veterans, which passed the Senate and is now awaiting action in the House.
Kerry Arndt
Press Secretary
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

CIA Head: 'Analysts Never Said the Video was a Factor in the Benghazi Attacks'

The House Select Committee on Benghazi (Republican side of the Committee), issued the following:

CIA Head: 'Analysts Never Said the Video was a Factor in the Benghazi Attacks'

October 31, 2015
As the Select Committee’s investigation continues, it has become necessary to clarify the facts and refute the misinformation being spread by those who seek to dismiss and discredit the new evidence revealed in last week’s hearing.

In the course of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony regarding the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, the American people learned that she:

  • Told a member of her family at 11:12 PM ET on the night of the attacks that “an Al Queda-like group” was responsible. She did not reference a video.
  • Told the Egyptian Prime Minister at 3:04 PM ET the day after the attacks that they “had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest. … Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.”

These private statements are obviously quite different from what Secretary Clinton was saying in public at the same time, and what she was not saying – namely, that a terrorist group was involved and the attack had nothing to do with a video:

  • The day after the attacks, at 9:57 AM ET: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.”

To explain the glaring difference between what Secretary Clinton was saying in private and what she was saying in public, some have argued that she was simply going by assessments provided by the CIA that changed over time. But this makes no sense. Consider:

  • In the hours after the attacks, Secretary Clinton’s private statements never changed, and neither did her public statements. In private, she said terrorists were responsible and the film had nothing to do with the attack. In public, she made no mention of terrorists and repeatedly referred to an internet video.
  • Michael Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, wrote in his May 2015 book The Great War of Our Time that while the CIA knew “the demonstration and violence in Cairo were sparked by people upset over a YouTube video,” intelligence “analysts never said the video was a factor in the Benghazi attacks.” (p. 205-206)
  • Morell also writes in his book that CIA analysts “complet[ed] their first full report on what happened” and provided it to “senior policy-makers and to Congress on the morning of September 13.” He continues (bolded text for emphasis):
“The September 13 piece – the first piece to go beyond a simple factual update – said four things. First, that the assault on the TMF [Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi] had been a spontaneous event that evolved from a protest outside the TMF. Second, that the protest and subsequent attack had been motivated by what had happened in Cairo earlier in the day (there was no mention in the piece of the YouTube video defaming the Prophet Muhammad). Third, that there was evidence of extremist involvement in the attack, and by 'extremists' the analysts absolutely meant terrorist involvement, because extremist and terrorist are synonyms to terrorism analysts. Indeed, the piece reported, that people with ties to al Qa'ida had been involved in the attack. The bottom line here is important: the analysts thought Benghazi was terrorism from the beginning. And whether or not the assault evolved from a protest, it was still very much a terrorist attack.” (p. 218-219)

All of this raises several important questions:

  • First, if the CIA and intelligence analysts never even mentioned the YouTube video, why did Secretary Clinton?
  • Second, if the first full intelligence assessment of what happened was not available until September 13, how can it be claimed that this assessment influenced Secretary Clinton’s statements on September 11 and 12? She couldn’t have read it before it was written.
  • Third, if intelligence analysts and Secretary Clinton believed from the beginning that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, why did Secretary Clinton not say so publicly until September 21?
  • Fourth, Secretary Clinton told the Egyptian Prime Minister on September 12 that “It was a planned attack – not a protest,” but when a reporter asked her on September 18 about the Libyan President saying it was a planned attack, she dodged the question, saying, “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.” Why the dodge?

Secretary Clinton continued to associate the video with what happened in Benghazi in public remarks two and three days after the attacks, including at a transfer of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base with family members of the victims present. But that same day, a State Department official at Embassy Tripoli in Libya wrote an email to colleagues in Washington, D.C., stating that “it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence,” and urging them to “be cautious in our local messaging with regard to the inflammatory film trailer” because “the films [sic] not as explosive of an issue here as it appears to be in other countries …. Relatively few [Libyans] have even mentioned the inflammatory video.”

Here is the email in full, which was referenced in the hearing last week and is now being released publicly for the first time, with appropriate redactions:
From: [redacted]
To: [redacted]
Subject: messaging on the attacks in Libya
Date: Friday, September 14, 2012 6:43:39 AM
Colleagues, I mentioned to [redacted] this morning, and want to share with all of you, our view at Embassy Tripoli that we must be cautious in our local messaging with regard to the inflammatory film trailer, adapting it to Libyan conditions. Our monitoring of the Libyan media and conversations with Libyans suggest that the films not as explosive of an issue here as it appears to be in other countries in the region. The overwhelming majority of the FB comments and tweets we’ve received from Libyans since the Ambassador’s death have expressed deep sympathy, sorrow, and regret. They have expressed anger at the attackers, and emphasized that this attack does not represent Libyans or Islam. Relatively few have even mentioned the inflammatory video. So if we post messaging about the video specifically, we may draw unwanted attention to it. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence. It is our opinion that in our messaging, we want to distinguish, not conflate, the events in other countries with this well-planned attack by militant extremists. I have discussed this with [redacted] and he shares PAS’s view.
114th Congress

Baldwin, Blumenthal Call for VA Inspector General Investigation into Security of Veterans’ Personal Information

Tammy Baldwin

Senator Tammy Baldwin (above) is a US Senator from Wisconsin.   Her office issued the following last week.

For Immediate Release
Friday, November 06, 2015
Contact: Baldwin (202) 224 – 6225
               Blumenthal (202) 224-6542
Baldwin, Blumenthal Call for VA Inspector General Investigation into Security of Veterans’ Personal Information  
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, have called for a formal investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) into whether adequate safeguards are in place within the VA to protect veterans’ personal information.  
This request was prompted by an April 2015 incident in which a State employee at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) sent veterans’ personally identifiable information (PII) to an unintended and unauthorized recipient over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ email system. Shortly thereafter, Senator Baldwin’s office reached out to the VA OIG to explore whether there was cause for them to review the incident in Wisconsin. At that time, the VA OIG stated there was no nexus for them to review an incident that appeared to wholly involve a state entity. 
However, in their letter, Senators Baldwin and Blumenthal argue there is indeed a federal nexus given that the WDVA—when transmitting veterans’ information—utilizes VA systems, including software and email servers, which include tools to protect veterans’ PII from unintended disclosure. Despite these safeguards the accidental disclosure in Wisconsin still occurred.
“While this particular incident occurred in Wisconsin, we believe the issue is one of national importance and request that you conduct a system-wide review of the Department’s practice,” the Senators wrote. 
Senators Baldwin and Blumenthal also sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald requesting information from the Secretary on the process by which VA shares information with non-Agency personnel for purposes of assisting veterans with their claims for service-connection of disabilities. In that letter the Senators request information on how PII is safeguarded on the VA’s e-mail system from inappropriate or accidental disclosure from the VA to a third-party, such as a state department of veterans affairs, or from the third-party to another individual.
An online version of this release can be found here.


Isakson Highlights Senate’s Accomplishments for Veterans Ahead of Veterans’ Day Holiday


Senator Johnny Isakson (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following last week:

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Lauren Gaydos, 202-224-9126

Isakson Highlights Senate’s Accomplishments for Veterans Ahead of Veterans’ Day Holiday
Applauds broad, bipartisan support for continuing to work together to help veterans
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today highlighted the committee’s work on behalf of our nation’s veterans in the 114th Congress ahead of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday.
In an open letter to members of the Senate, Isakson noted that while the work Congress has done so far this year “should be viewed as a mere down-payment on what we owe the men and women who have bravely and selflessly served in the military,” Congress has made real, bipartisan progress in serving veterans and reforming the VA.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is without question an agency in crisis, rocked by scandals, plagued by a culture of corruption, and having lost the trust of many who need and rely on VA’s benefits and services,” wrote Isakson. “Although a tremendous amount of work remains to be done – by VA and by Congress – to address the serious and widespread issues at all levels of this agency, I am pleased that we have been able to work together to begin making the changes necessary to ensure that veterans will be well served moving forward.”
See below for the text of the letter, including a full list of the legislation the Senate has passed to serve veterans as well as the oversight activities the committee has done so far this year. Click here for a PDF copy of the signed letter. 
Dear Colleague:
As we approach Veterans Day and reflect on the vast contributions of all who have worn the uniform in defense of our country, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I wish to highlight the progress that we collectively have made this year on their behalf.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is without question an agency in crisis, rocked by scandals, plagued by a culture of corruption, and having lost the trust of many who need and rely on VA’s benefits and services.  Although a tremendous amount of work remains to be done – by VA and by Congress – to address the serious and widespread issues at all levels of this agency, I am pleased that we have been able to work together to begin making the changes necessary to ensure that veterans will be well served moving forward. These strides could not have been taken without your commitment to making our nation’s veterans a top priority:
  • Enactment of numerous laws to improve, reform, and reauthorize programs at VA (Public Laws 114-2, 114-19, 114-25, 114-31, 114-41, 114-58), including:
    • The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, to help address the serious problem of veteran suicide.
    • Numerous provisions to improve the Veterans Choice Program, by allowing more veterans to qualify to receive health care in their community, increasing the pool of non-VA providers eligible for the program, and extending the limitation on the provision of care in the community beyond 60 days to allow veterans to continue treatments that can span many months.
    • The Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015, to allow all veterans to more easily provide documentation of their military service.
    • Provisions to ensure completion of the hospital construction project in Denver, Colorado, in a fiscally responsible manner by ensuring that VA would identify and utilize existing appropriations to complete construction.
    • Provisions to reform VA’s construction program to prevent cost over-runs and mismanagement by mandating that any VA construction project over $100 million will be managed by the Army Corps of Engineers or another non-VA Federal entity.
    • Provisions to provide VA flexibility to reorganize existing funding to avoid a possible VA budget shortfall in certain health care accounts.
    • Provisions to extend authorization for VA to continue to carry out certain current programs, including VA’s caregivers programs, homeless programs, adaptive sporting programs, and vocational benefits for members of the armed forces with severe injuries.
  • Filling vacant leadership positions at VA with permanent leaders:
    • Senate confirmation of Dr. David Shulkin to be the Under Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
    • Senate confirmation of LaVerne Council to be the Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Striving to increase accountability of VA employees at all levels:
    • Committee approval of legislation to expedite removal or demotion of delinquent or underperforming VA employees (S. 1082) and to prevent VA from awarding bonuses to employees found to have committed misconduct (S. 627).
    • A bipartisan call from the Veterans’ Affairs Committee for the Secretary to hold accountable executives involved in a multi-million dollar scheme to abuse VA’s relocation program, leading to the resignation of the Under Secretary for Benefits.
  • Increasing oversight of VA’s activities:
    • Establishment of a policy of conducting regular business meetings with the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs and VA’s leadership team at the VA headquarters to discuss veterans’ healthcare and benefits challenges and potential solutions.
    • Field hearings on rampant mismanagement of the construction of the new Denver VA Medical Center and on problems with the Veterans Choice Program.
    • Oversight hearings on the Veterans Choice Program, VA opioid prescription policy, women veterans, veteran homelessness, toxic exposures, and mental health care.
    • Committee oversight visits to VA facilities in Louisville, Kentucky; Montgomery, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; Tampa, Bay Pines, and Gainesville, Florida; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Anchorage, Alaska.
Although I believe this represents true progress, this should be viewed as a mere down-payment on what we owe the men and women who have bravely and selflessly served in the military.  There is much more that must be done to bring true accountability at VA and to transform it into an organization worthy of those it serves.  I remain steadfast in my commitment to address the systemic problems at VA and look forward to continuing to work with all of my colleagues to reform this agency for those who have served and have sacrificed on behalf of our entire nation. 
Johnny Isakson
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

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