Monday, December 10, 2018

Truest statement of the week

George HW Bush was a one term president who committed committed the usual quota of domestic and foreign atrocities. He put the bloodthirsty Dick Cheney, who’d been Gerald Ford’s chief of staff in charge at the Pentagon, and named Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. He invaded Panama, where US forces commanded by Colin Powell obliterated an entire black neighborhood killing tens of thousands of civilians to prevent inconvenient protests against the occupation. Jimmy Carter had negotiated US bases in Saudi Arabia, and Bush filled them with hundreds of thousands of troops, artillery, armor and aircraft for a planned invasion of Iraq.
Millions of Iraqis have died since the Bush invasion, millions more have become refugees. Hardly a week has passed from then till now the the US hasn’t bombed some place in that unhappy country. One of Bush’s last acts as a lame duck president in December 1992 was to land a contingent of US Marines in Somalia to keep that country from forming a unified government that might not be to Uncle Sam’s liking. A quarter century later US forces are still in Somalia, backing this or that warlord faction, or the Somali central government whose reach most days doesn’t extend past the capital’s suburbs, sometimes with Rwandan or Ugandan proxies, sometimes with US paid mercenaries, complimented with US special ops forces and drones.
Domestically, George HW Bush brought NAFTA to Congress two or three times but could not get the Congress to pass it. That would fall to his Democrat successor Bill Clinton, who whipped enough Democratic votes to make the bipartisan guys at Brown Brothers Harriman happy.

We’ll probably never know whether Bush was some kind of actual CIA officer. In Russia at least, Vladimir Putin’s career as an intelligence officer is common knowledge. They do things differently over there, not necessarily better or worse, just different.

-- Bruce A. Dixon, "If There's A Hell Below, That's Where He'll Go: The BAR Obituary on George H.W. Bush" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

Truest statement of the week II

The suggestion of a supposedly vast contrast between George H. W. Bush and Trump is an exercise in self-deception. What the bourgeoisie mourns in the transition from George H. W. Bush to Trump is the dramatic decline in the world position of American capitalism, from the illusions of the “unipolar moment,” the “new world order” and even “the end of history” that followed the dissolution of the USSR, to the grim reality of the United States as a declining world hegemon facing challenges from new rivals like China and allies turned potential threats like Germany.
The true measure of the decay of the American ruling elite is not the transition from Bush to Trump, but the contrast between the brilliant family dynasty of the first decades after the American Revolution—President John Adams; son John Quincy Adams, also a president; grandson Charles Francis Adams, a diplomat under Lincoln; great-grandson Henry Adams, novelist, historian and essayist—and the dreadful Bush dynasty. The Adamses were a product of the rise of American democracy, while the Bushes epitomize its utter corruption and decay.

-- Patrick Martin, "The state funeral for George H. W. Bush and the ritual of oligarchy" (WSWS).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Still Sunday here on the West Coast.

Let's 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, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
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?

Bruce A. Dixon gets another truest.
As does Patrick Martin.
We need critical thinking,  now more than ever.  If there's a theme for this edition, that's it.
Critical thinking stops fakery, Ava and C.I. make that clear.
Critical thinking is lost on Kathy Griffin.
Michelle Pfeiffer!  Another one better than Meryl.  We're clearly going to have to revist with another ten actresses better than Meryl.
It's a game.
Margaret Kimberley offers it.
Roberta Flack's new song.
Continued look at the community's book coverage.

What we listened to while writing.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: The how of the continuing Iraq War

Some people get it.

Some don't.

Which may be why the Iraq War continues.

It was easy to call out Bully Boy Bush as a liar and a War Criminal but so many came forward to vouch for Barack Obama and it's hard for a lot of people to speak out, never having been trained or encouraged in critical thinking, they only know how to repeat what they read and are told.

And that's why the Iraq War will turn 16 years next March with no end in sight.

TV: Fakes and fake news

Fakes have been around forever.  Fake news has been around as long as news has.

Fake news has popped up frequently in the US and, for us, its most infamous streak was in the lead up to the (still ongoing) Iraq War.  Lies started the war and the lies weren't just from the White House, the lies also came from the media.  As Dr. Irene Gendzier has observed:

Weapons of mass deception depend on ignorance of past policy, including relations of power and profit embedded in its contemporary expression. They rely on the education to conformist thinking to justify a distancing from the consequences of policy, a sense of immunity from their human meaning and social and political impact. The fate of "others" is thus sealed, but not settled. The mainstream media and academia have played major roles in such training, manipulating information rather than promoting critical thinking in an environment in which corporate control of the media has increased at the expense of independent journalism, as the works of Ben Badigkian, Noam Chomsky, and Robert W. McChesney have demonstrated.

We'll get back to fake news later but let's deal with other types of fake.


One of the most outlandish notions in recent months revolving around TV entertainment has to be that Debra Messing deserves an Emmy (it would be her second) for her work on the episode "Grace's Secret" which aired last month.  An Emmy?

Maybe for acting opposite Robert Klein.  He's one of the worst actors and his presence on WILL & GRACE has been problematic.  (Blame it on Debra, he played her father on THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA -- he was awful there too.)  So for sharing scenes with him, maybe she deserves an Emmy.

For her acting?  Not really.  There's not much in the script (written by Suzanne Martin).  The script's really embarrassing.  In season ten, we are finally learning that, as a teenager, Grace was the victim of an assault by a friend of her father's -- we are finally learning that and, apparently, so is Grace because, for nine years, there has been no foreshadowing and no impact.  There are many situations Grace has been involved in over the last seasons that, as a victim of assault, no longer makes sense.  It was bad writing in terms of a new plot, yes.  Equally true, it was bad writing of an episode.

There was no showy moment.  There were also no big laughs.  It was Debra Messing doing pedistrian drama.

Debra can really tick us off with her real life stupidity.  But we're talking about her acting here and Debra can do drama.  She can do it quite well.  We prefer her in comedic roles, but she can handle drama.  But there was no drama in the scene.

And the writing was so pathetic.  Grace has a grudge against her father.  He always praises his friend.  The one who assaulted her is always praised by her father.  When you're in your twenties, maybe that's acceptable.  By the time you are, like Grace, in your fifties, you either tell your father what his friend did or grasp that he deserves a pass since he doesn't know.

It made no sense.  The entire episode.  It was a tacked on moment to try to appear 'meaningful.'  If Debra Messing deserves a nomination this season, it's not for that dull performance in that poorly written episode.  Her physical comedy in last week's "Anchor Away" was much more worthy of applause.  Frequent guest Minnie Driver was back as Lorraine Finster and now she was a stripper.  Grace wanted something from her and Lorraine would only consider it if Grace stripped.  Heavily pulled in by her Spanx, Grace lectured the men that this was what a real woman looked like and her bad back made pole work impossible.  It was hilarious.  Those moments, those comedic ones, are why Debra should be nominated.  Other than that?  If you're looking for less comedic bits, her interaction with the young daughter of Grace's latest boyfriend last month was solid.

But that's not getting social media attention because social media's not about praising strong work, it's about chasing trends and creating hashtags.  So the worst episode of WILL & GRACE so far this season is applauded when it offers no real humor but it does touch on assault.  In the 90s, the episode would have been rebuked for what it truly was "a very special episode of BLOSSOM," as Matthew Perry's Chandler would have dubbed it on FRIENDS.

Fakery in the entertainment world also includes DUMPLIN' -- no, we're not slamming the film itself.  Jennifer Aniston and everyone else in the film deliver.  Anne Fletcher's direction really brings the young adult novel alive.  What we're speaking of, however, is NETFLIX.

DUMPLIN's isn't going to save NETFLIX.  Nor will Sandra Bullock's BIRD BOX.  We've already seen that Chris Pine's penis -- cute though it may be -- couldn't save NETFLIX with OUTLAW KING.  NETFLIX does need to build up a strong inventory of its own films since it charges subscribers a monthly fee (and since it will soon lose DISNEY films and never really made an effort to replace what they lost when they broke with STARZ).

But its focus right now needs to be on series television.  Now?  They've angered a lot of people with cancellations -- SENSE8 fans, DAREDEVIL, IRON FIST and LUKE CAGE fans, etc.  What do they have to offer?

At one time, HOUSE OF CARDS could have been a draw.  But the way NETFLIX handled the Kevin Spacey issue ensured that HOC is not a draw.  We're not just referring to the hideous last season without Spacey.  But firing Spacey for no reason (his behavior on the set of HOC was not the issue apparently -- certainly not if Robin Wright, his co-star, never knew of anything as she maintains) destroyed HOC.

Spacey, who has still not been charged with any crime, let alone tried in a court of law, played the lead role in HOC and it wasn't a priest or a superhero or MLK.  "Flawed"?  That doesn't begin to cover it.  Frank knowingly and intentionally murdered Zoe Barnes and Peter Russo.  He was a dark character.  And HOUSE OF CARDS wasn't a Saturday morning kids show.  So why did he get fired?

NETFLIX elected to voice -- via their actions -- shame of the show and Kevin Spacey.  They devalued the series all by themselves.

Which means they only have one multi-season accomplishment no longer in production to draw viewers -- ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.  That's their inventory.

Last week, a friend said that GRACE AND FRANKIE would probably be cancelled next by NETFLIX.  The show's fifth season will be posted to the site in January and possibly NETFLIX will cancel the program.  But that would be a mistake.  Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda have both received Emmy nods for the show -- Lily has been nominated for every season of the show thus far -- so it's a critical hit and a fan favorite.  GRACE AND FRANKIE or OZARKS getting the axe and NETFLIX is going to see a real backlash because it's building.

That's why they need to get serious about their TV production which appears to have been sliding since 2016.  They need a inventory that's strong and will attract subscribers.  And DISNEY's upcoming streaming service should really wake NETFLIX up because who's to say that they won't lose some of their shows -- the NBC ones, for example -- if another network or studio decides to start their own streaming service?

NETFLIX forever seems to be playing catch up.  Which brings us to fake news: Channing Dungey.  Last week, a new round of rumors circulated that the failed president of the ABC Entertainment Group would be joining NETFLIX.

We spoke to three execs at NETFLIX, asking, "What's going on?  You really want Channing?"

"Yeah, right after we hire Fred Silverman," laughed one, explaining how absurd it would be for NETFLIX to hire her.

The rumors are coming from Channing herself.  NETFLIX is laughing at her.  One of her minions in the press wrote, last week, that Channing was sought by NETFLIX because she has such good relationships with talent.  No, she doesn't.  And the only talent she had relationships with -- and the relationships soured -- are both already signed to NETFLIX -- Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris.  "Why," another exec asked, "would we want to hire her when we already have a business relationship with those two?"

We pointed out to them that they needed to strengthen the TV inventory.  Two of the three reminded us that we'd previously advised that they needed to build the movie inventory.  We agreed we had said that, when they knew what they were doing with their series but those days are gone.  "Well," said one, "if we wanted to improve our series we certainly wouldn't hire [Channing] because she pretty much destroyed ABC this fall."

Yes, she did.

And not just by firing Roseanne Barr -- though that was bad.  If there was one headline readers saw repeatedly in the last months, it was THE CONNERS hits series low -- over and over (most recently here).  In addition, ABC had no breakout show on its fall schedule.  And their popular shows saw huge erosion -- GREY'S ANATOMY lost 10.5% of viewers compared to last season while MODERN FAMILY lost 9,5% of its viewers -- and neither show was in a new time slot or airing on a new day.  THE GOOD DOCTOR, ABC's breakout last year, lost 29.4% of its viewers this fall.  This is the record that led to Channing being fired and it's the record that makes it unlikely anyone's rushing to snap her up.  As for NETFLIX, as one of the execs pointed out to us, "Who's being fired?  There's no empty position at present, all the important ones are filled.  Is she going to intern?  Because there's no spot for her here."

Fake news last week also included Kevin Hart.  Stan pointed out that Kevin's not really box office.  But in the corporate media, only Michael Phillips (CHICAGO TRIBUNE) seemed to grasp that, "The Oscars never should’ve gone after Kevin Hart. Homophobia aside, he’s a medium-grade talent. There’s enough medium-grade talents on that stage every year as it is."  Other things missed?  It wasn't just Tweets.  It was jokes told onstage and it was films.  But the homophobia was offensive for the reason Marcia outlined in "Kevin Kline needs to stop talking out of his ass."

Kevin Kline showed up for no reason to whine that gay 'jokes' were all over the place ten years ago and people were being too sensitive.  Kevin Kline is an obtuse idiot.  As Marcia explained, this was violence against children.  That's what Kevin was doing, encouraging violence against children -- if the children were suspected of being gay.  Does Kevin Kline, like Kevin Hart, not get how many children are already bullied and beaten because they are suspected of being gay or because they come out as gay?

Mel Gibson has made some homophobic remarks over the years.  As bad as Mel has been, he has not advocated violence against gay people -- adults or non-adults.  But there was Kevin Hart explaining that, with children, you beat the s**t out of them if you think they're gay.

And this was supposed to be the host of the night honoring excellence in film?

And that's before you get into the fact that Kevin Hart beat his first wife.  Is that how we honor #MeToo?  Letting a spousal abuser host the show?

It's as appalling as last week's DEMOCRACY NOW!  We generally avoid Amy Goodman's hideous program -- her efforts promoting the war on Libya should have told everyone exactly what she was.  But John R. MacArthur was going to be on and we used to like him.  (Used to?  Pay people what they're owed and what they're worth.  Also no one running a left publication should throw tantrums if their own employees want to unionize.)  He was going to be discussing Iraq.

Not the Iraq of today.  Amy Goodman lost interest in Iraq as a news topic around the time the Democrats won both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms.  No, Rick was going to speak of the Gulf War and Poppy Bush.

From Thursday's show:

AMY GOODMAN: Three months after Nayirah testified, President George H.W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq. But it turned out Nayirah’s claims weren’t true. No human rights group or news outlet could confirm what she said. It also turned out Nayirah was not just any Kuwaiti teenager. She was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Saud Nasser al-Sabah. She had been coached by the public relations firm Hill &  Knowlton, which was working for the Kuwaiti government. We’re joined now by the journalist who first revealed Nayirah’s identity, Rick MacArthur, the president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine, the author of the book Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War. I mean, so, you know, as we said, this is a turning point. You have this teenager, this girl, saying she witnessed this, that Iraqi soldiers came into Kuwait and ripped babies out of Kuwaiti incubators. But she was only referred to as Nayirah at the time of the testimony; it wasn’t Nayirah al-Sabah, so you would know that she’s the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, who also testified in that hearing?

JOHN R. MacARTHUR: Correct. That’s all part of the propaganda plan, is to maintain her anonymity to protect her and her family against reprisals in Kuwait. That was the cover story. But, of course, nobody bothered to try to find out who she really was. They just bought the story hook, line and sinker, even though at the time there were a couple of human rights investigators who were becoming suspicious.

How awful that Nayirah's identity was concealed!!!!  We agree it was awful.  But we agreed with that consistently.  By way of contrast, on Friday's show, Amy Goodman was all about concealing who her guest actually was.  Here are some of the statements she offered describing her guest:

*We speak to Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur-American activist based in Washington, D.C. After she spoke out against China’s repression of the Uyghurs earlier this year, her aunt and sister disappeared and have not been heard from since.

*We’re joined right now by Rushan Abbas. She’s a Uyghur-American activist based in Washington, D.C. After she spoke out against China’s repression of the Uyghurs earlier this year, her aunt and sister disappeared and have not been heard from since. Her recent piece for The Washington Post is headlined “My aunt and sister in China have vanished. Are they being punished for my activism?”

*Rushan Abbas is a Uyghur-American activist based in Washington, D.C.

*Rushan Abbas, we want to thank you for being with us, Uyghur-American activist based in Washington, D.C.

That really didn't cover it -- as Ben Norton repeatedly noted.

  1. In her interview, Rushan Abbas cited "reports" on Uyghurs from the US government's anti-China propaganda arm Radio Free Asia, which she worked for (although DN did not disclose that). Here's the NYT describing the history of the CIA's Radio Free Asia back in 1977:

  2. ./ failed to disclose that their guest Rushan Abbas also worked for the US government-funded anti-China propaganda outlet Radio Free Asia, which even the NY Times described as part of a "Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the CIA"

Strange that even when Abbas praised RADIO FREE ASIA, Amy didn't think to disclose that Abbas spent years working there.  Or that when RADIO FREE ASIA was praised, Amy didn't think to alert her audience to the fact that RFA is a DC-funded propaganda outlet.

It wasn't just RAF, Amy scrubbed more.

*I mean, your history is extremely interesting. You actually translated for the U.S. government at Guantánamo, where a number of Uyghurs were held, then quit that job to represent the Uyghurs, and those that were released from Guantánamo to Bermuda, you worked with them to help them adjust.

*You worked for the government, then quit, when you were at Guantánamo.

Guantanamo.  She was at the torture center.  Worked there for some time.  Part of the 'interrogations' -- and we know what that entailed.

But Amy was 'too busy' to probe that or to even underscore it for her audience.

To be fair to Amy Goodman, this is not the first time she's scrubbed clean a guest advocating for the Uyghurs.  From July of 2009, this is how she let her audience know about

*For more, we’re joined by Nury Turkel, a Uyghur American attorney. He is the co-founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project and past president of the Uyghur American Association. He joins us from Washington, DC.

*Nury Turkel, I want to thank you for being with us, Uyghur American attorney, co-founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, past president of the Uyghur American Association, speaking to us from Washington, DC.

What's that association?

Amy doesn't explain it.  Ben Norton did last week.

The Uyghur American Association, which is frequently cited in the media as a supposedly "impartial" source (and whose office is just 3 blocks away from the White House), is funded by the US government's National Endowment for Democracy

Fake news.  It's all Amy Goodman can offer.

Land of snap decisions
Land of short attention spans
Nothing is savored
Long enough to really understand
In every culture in decline
The watchful ones among the slaves
Know all that is genuine will be
Scorned and conned and cast away

-- "Dog Eat Dog," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her DOG EAT DOG

All that is genuine will be scorned and conned and cast away?  We can't think of a better way to describe the last months of TV -- entertainment or 'news.'

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