Sunday, June 30, 2013

Truest statement of the week

The President and his family are spending a week in sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa on the itinerary. The focus of the trip, if you believe the White House, is trade, an arena in which the United States has been eclipsed by China since 2009. China, by some measurements, now does nearly twice as much business with Africa as the U.S., and the gap is growing. It is now commonly accepted that the Chinese offer far better terms of trade and investment than the Americans, that they create more jobs for Africans, and their investments leave behind infrastructure that can enrich their African trading partners in the long haul.
No one expects Obama to offer anything on this trip that will reverse America’s declining share of the African market. That’s because the U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism, which is another matter, entirely. The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.

So, while the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians and other economic powerhouses play by the rules of give and take, the U.S. tightens its military grip on the continent through its ever-expanding military command, AFRICOM. 

-- Glen Ford, "The Obamas Do America" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

As violence continues to rage across “liberated” Iraq under America’s puppet “Prime Minister” Nuri al-Maliki, a fair amount of it at his instigation as his troops round up and shoot demonstrators (President Jalal Talabani, who had a heart attack early in the year has vanished without trace, Vice President Tarik al-Hashimi has fled to Turkey in fear of his life) one incident arguably of note, has gone unnoticed in the Western media.
On Friday June 21st the Ba’ath Party, in a statement, said that “Party Members” had killed one of Saddam Hussein’s executioners alleging it was the balaclava masked man who placed the noose around his neck and led him to the trap door, in a videoed and multi-mobile recorded death and aftermath of further horror, ushering in the US-UK’s “New Iraq.”

-- Felicity Arbuthnot (Dissident Voice and Global Research).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

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

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

Second up, we never had a true note last week.

If you missed Mike's "A new week," he explained that it hit the wall.  And then some.

Were we a band making an album, the easiest way to explain last week was Ava and C.I. walked out.  Elaine and Mike moved to Hawaii and that was among the things people were dealing with and I made the mistake of saying/demanding Ava and C.I. write an article about that.  I was told exactly where to go, told they had written their media piece and were not going to be emotionally exploited, and that they were done with the edition.

That left holes.  The editorial that we asked for suggestions on?  It'll go with our summer read edition which we had planned for this week but then realized we needed to do a real edition this week instead -- "real" as in usual, not meant as an insult to fiction or short stories.

So that's what we did.

And what did we come up with?

A veteran of truests.
And we believe a newcomer for the honor.
Iraq.  If we'd told you that after 'withdrawal' troops would go back into Iraq and no one would care, if we'd told you that in 2006, would you have believed us?
Ava and C.I. explore FAIR.  Had they more time, they would have noted the new FAIR TV -- a less than five minute segment that they note Peter Hart excells at but one that requires more charisma than the other CounterSpin hosts can pull off.
Reader Gilda e-mailed to ask what topics hadn't we roundtabled on?  That got us to thinking and is why we did this roundtable.
We just haven't been interested in comics of late and this article goes to why.

This is a piece on movie trailers which used to seem like such a treat but have become an endurance test.
The return of our popular feature.
Iraq piece.
C.I. brought this up and we all said, "Truest!"  But C.I. said, "It was June 20th."  We still wanted to use it.
Joan Wile's inviting you. 
Repost from Workers World.
This speech incorporates biography (Kerry's own life) and acknowledges that those 'serving' are not just the military.  We really enjoyed this speech.

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

As for the band?  We're back in the studio, for now.


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

Editorial: The important words

The Plan for Day 101

Last week, some words were spoken that should have made headlines in the US press.

We have a mil-to-mil relationship with the Lebanese armed forces now.  I've had since I -- since I commanded CENTCOM, actually, about four or five years ago.  And we've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability.  But this -- when you say would we send the United States Army or the United States military into Lebanon, I'm talking about teams of trainers, and I'm talking about accelerating foreign military sales for equipment for them.  This is -- this is about building their capability, not ours.

Those are the words of General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs, and he made that statement in public, at a Defense Department press conference.  You can read the remarks in the DoD transcript,.

You'll have trouble reading them in a piece written by your favorite newspaper.  You'll have trouble reading them in The Nation.  You won't hear the information from Democracy Now! or pretty much anyone.

CounterSpin could argue that they don't cover news, they critique the way news is conveyed.

Fair enough, but in Wednesday's snapshot, the AP was criticized for the way it badly reported the news of Dempsey's remarks.

So, yes, they could have covered it.

Anyone could have.  Everyone should have.

Barack Obama secretly sent another unit of Special Ops into Iraq last fall.

When they got the new treaty they needed at the end of 2012, they were open about it.  From the April 30th snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

None of that was hidden and probably the administration realized at that point that there was no need to hide it.  Talk about it openly because the US media just didn't care to report on Iraq anymore.

Nothing censors better than journalistic apathy.

Which is why most Americans don't know that the administration is now talking openly about the US troops they plan to send back into Iraq.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan For Day 101."

Media: Time to put a watchdog down?

FAIR.  What an interesting term for a watchdog.  Of course, when FAIR uses "fair," they're not referring to the definition of fair, they're hyping Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.  FAIR is a website, it's a 12 page or so bi-monthly 'magazine' (if you find In Style too dense, academic and intimidating, pick up Extra!) and it's a weekly half-hour radio program entitled CounterSpin.

In the Bully Boy Bush years, FAIR -- in all its splendors -- served a purpose. That doesn't mean it was perfect.  In October 2006, for example, as FAIR was celebrating its 20th anniversary, this site was pointing out that instead of just pointing fingers at NPR and PBS for their lack of equality when it came to the gender make up of the guests, maybe CounterSpin could also attempt to book an equal number of male and female guests.  The response to that article from FAIR may have been the first realization that those who dish it out can't take it.

FAIR served a purpose under Bully Boy Bush largely because it called out power.  It cut corners sometimes and was on shaky ground -- and non-existent ground -- from time to time, but you could -- and we did -- forgive it a lot because it held power accountable.

For example, the fawning over Bush? Like at the January 2005 inauguration?  There was FAIR calling that nonsense out, there was CounterSpin holding up to ridicule these adults writing pieces in newspapers that read like clippings from 16 and Tiger Beat.

More than a fact checking, what FAIR best offered was a sense of perspective.

In 2007, FAIR still served a purpose.  Largely that was due to Peter Hart who was apparently the last major voice of the organization (Hart, Janine Jackson and Steve Rendall co-host CounterSpin and write for Extra! and the online site) with ethics.  Hart wrote the hardest hitting piece on Barack Obama from FAIR -- the hardest to this day.  By 2008, FAIR was determined to impact the Democractic Party primary -- and, no, that's really not a watchdog function.

But each week, the website and especially the radio show, was all about real racism and sometimes what FAIR saw as racism (or pretended they saw it as racism).  So every week was about poor Barack and rally around him.  And sexism was ignored.  Sexism was all over the media and CounterSpin ignored it.  Week after week.  Month after month.

January, February, March and April, they were silent.  Out of fear that noting the sexism could galvanize support for Hillary.  Then, in their final weekly episode for May, they finally 'discovered' sexism.  As we noted in real time, it took a 'political analysis discussion' on CNN in which a male talking head called Hillary a "bitch," for CounterSpin to note sexism.  And they gave it a whopping sentence! Before rushing off to racism.  They couldn't even spare the time to tell you the name of the pundit who called her a "bitch" on air or the program he was on.  To them, that was 'fair,' over 20 episodes noting racism and 'racism' at length and one of the over 20 noting sexism in one sentence.

And that's why we were done with FAIR.

It had little to offer in 2008 and, when the inauguration of Barack Obama took place in January 2009, the decrying of this ceremony and the press salivating over it was gone.  FAIR was no longer a check on power.  As it took its tired act into the Champagne Room, we bid them adieu and remained in the reality based world.

 Strangers With Candy (directed by Paul Dinello, screenplay by Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris) kicks off with Jerri Blank released from prison and headed home wondering, "Can we change?"

We like to think so.

So after Peter Hart had written a series of strong pieces in the last months, we were willing to take another look and see if FAIR had rediscovered its purpose?

On the last episode of CounterSpin, we'll give Janine Jackson credit for disclosing before starting an interview.  Yes, that is a basic but we're not being snarky.  In the last years, such disclosures have failed to take place on various programs.  So we'll give Janine credit for doing what she did -- which is something everyone should be doing, though few do.  After her interview with Kimberle Crenshaw, Peter Hart followed it with an interview that echoed the former glory of FAIR as he and Tyson Slocum addressed administration claims versus realities.

And its those moments that argue in FAIR's favor. 

But those weren't the only moments, sadly.

Each episode of CounterSpin starts with a snarky put down of recent press.   Peter Hart handled his section rather well.  Steve Rendall was less fortunate.

Steve Rendall:  Not long ago, a massive scandal dominated newspapers and cable news.  The IRS was denying and or delaying tax exempt status to right-wing leaning tea party groups. The question was just how Nixonian the Obama administration had become?  But then the story changed.  There's still plenty of evidence of inappropriate testing or targeting of political groups seeking non-profit status but according to the latest from the IRS the tests were not just applied to conservative groups.  As The New York Times reported on June 25th, the IRS was also scrutinizing groups with names including words like "progressive" and "occupy."  And groups dealing in issues like medical marijuana and The Times noted that "occupy territory advocacy seems subject to the most scrutiny of all."  In an understatement, The Times remarked, "The new IRS documents raise questions about how the controversy has been portrayed."  Yeah, a little bit. This is a far cry of the partisan portrayal of the scandal as the government harassing political opponents.  Never mind that there was no evidence of a White House role in the policy, conservative pundits went to town.  In The Wall Street Journal,  Peggy Noonan wrote that the policy's "purpose obviously was to overwhelm and intimidate  to kill the opposition, question by question, and audit by audit. It is not even remotely possible that all of this an accident, a mistake."  Bill O'Reilly suggested a conspiracy by citing non-existent White House visits by the IRS chief. When the story broke it was treated as part of the White House scandal trifecta and now, well, it's barely a story at all.

It seemed to last forever and to fail FAIR repeatedly.

Not long ago, a massive scandal dominated newspapers and cable news.  The IRS was denying and or delaying tax exempt status to right-wing leaning tea party groups.

Was that the scandal?

See, we didn't follow the reporting that closely because we were busy doing our own reporting.  We were attending the Congressional hearings and we were writing about the Inspector General report.

What was FAIR doing?

The question was just how Nixonian the Obama administration had become? 

Not from the IRS scandal.  The question was because you had three scandals brewing -- Benghazi, the IRS and the assault on the press.

But then the story changed.  There's still plenty of evidence of inappropriate testing or targeting of political groups seeking non-profit status but according to the latest from the IRS the tests were not just applied to conservative groups. 

Now we're the ones confused, not Steve Rendall.

As The New York Times reported on June 25th, the IRS was also scrutinizing groups with names including words like "progressive" and "occupy."  And groups dealing in issues like medical marijuana and The Times noted that "occupy territory advocacy seems subject to the most scrutiny of all." 

Wait, this is news to him?  That the left was also targeted?  Where has Rendall been?

For example, the May 17th House Ways and Means Committee hearing led to the following community reporting:   "Iraq snapshot," "IRS: 'Not corrupt, just incompetent'," "Guacamole and the IRS (Ava)," Wally in "Big lie revealed at House Ways and Means hearing," Kat in "The other Steve Miller appears before Congress," Marcia in "No accountability for the IRS scandal" and "Report on Congress."

The guacamole and the IRS report on that hearing, for example, opens with:

Today was the hearing about the targeting of groups by the IRS.  Danny DumbF**K Schechter is an idiot because he doesn't realize that this is political groups -- including Democratic organizations -- and churches and book clubs (and they were asked "what was in the books that they read" -- US House Rep Pat Tiberi) and volunteer organizations.

How did you miss that if you followed the hearing?

And that's over a month before Rendall's blessed New York Times article.

In an understatement, The Times remarked, "The new IRS documents raise questions about how the controversy has been portrayed."  Yeah, a little bit.

Oh, that's Rendall's point.  The reporting was wrong.  Reporters -- filing on cable and in newspapers -- failed to address what the hearings were revealing.  Okay . . .

This is a far cry of the partisan portrayal of the scandal as the government harassing political opponents. 

Wait a second.  Is this no longer FAIR?  What's this partisan nonsense?  Are they criticizing reporters or not?

Never mind that there was no evidence of a White House role in the policy, conservative pundits went to town. 

Pundits went to town did they?  Wow, that's a shocker.  Imagine that, pundits -- aka gas bags -- went to town.  Who could have guessed?

In The Wall Street Journal,  Peggy Noonan wrote that the policy's "purpose obviously was to overwhelm and intimidate  to kill the opposition, question by question, and audit by audit. It is not even remotely possible that all of this an accident, a mistake."  Bill O'Reilly suggested a conspiracy by citing non-existent White House visits by the IRS chief.

We never covered the White House 'visits' because we were aware from the start that the documents in question weren't sign-in records.  But we weren't surprised others didn't grasp that.  We ignored it as nonsense when it was being trumpeted as news and we ignored it as nonsense after.

We think Peter Hart explained it best, June 6th.  And we think that said it all so why, over 20 days later, is Rendall badly restating it?

More to the point, what is this mixing of apples and oranges?

Is the topic that the press got it wrong in reporting or is the topic  two right-wing gas bags FAIR hates?

When the story broke it was treated as part of the White House scandal trifecta and now, well, it's barely a story at all.

And what's Rendall's point?

In all that time, he never had one.  He was over here and over there.  And at the end what is he trying to say?  Is that last sentence a criticism of the news cycle or what?

Clearly, the spying scandal overtook every other scandal.  Not because of the revelations NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  That would be great if we could explore those revelations.  In fact, the failure of the press to explore those revelations is the sort of topic CounterSpin should be exploring.  As Barack and others in the administration began making (baseless) threats, the spying story -- or the pursuit -- became everything.  Barack's ridiculous threats and words were the white Bronco in this 'chase' story.  When CounterSpin's ready to tackle that, it'll be ready to yet again provide a public service but, until then, it's just spinning its wheels.

Movie roundtable

Jim: It's summer and the summer blockbusters are out.  That's our topic for this roundtable.  Warning, there will be some spoilers.  Our e-mail address is Participating our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't):  Betty, you wrote  "Super Bomb: Man of Steel is awful" a little while ago and followed that up Monday with "Browsers and the bomb that is Man of Steel" -- why are you calling the film a bomb?

Betty: Superman Returns was judged a bomb as a result of it not having legs.  Man of Steel doesn't have legs either.  It had a great opening.  But it's already dead and it couldn't even make it with two solid weeks of ticket sales.  It'll see a bump for this weekend but it's dead.

Jim: You also loathed the movie.

Betty: I did.  It was heartless, it had no point to it and it was charm free.  One of the worst movies of the summer.

Jim: Alright.  Friday saw two anticipated films open, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx starring in the action flick White House Down and Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy starring in the comedy The Heat.  Marcia, you saw White House Down, your thoughts?

Marcia: It's a popcorn movie.  It will hold your attention.  The best stunts and action are in the last forty minutes.  The best action may be when there's a long car chase on the White House lawn.

Jim: The premise of the film?

Marcia:  Jamie Foxx is the President of the United States.  Channing Tatum is security for the Speaker of the House.  Channing wants to become part of the Secret Service.  He gets an interview via a woman who wants him to go to at least second with her.  He also gets a White House pass for his daughter.  This is why they're in the White House when it's under attack.

Jim: Cedric, you saw it?

Cedric: Ann and I went to matinees Saturday of both films.  We took our son who slept the whole time.

Jim: He's a newborn, not even two months old, just FYI.

Cedric: Right.  It's a great action movie.  Channing Tatum's great in it.

Jim: I sense a reservation?

Cedric: Jamie Foxx wasn't that good.  He lacked magnetism and authority and I think Vanessa Williams came off stronger in Eraser than he does in this film.

Ann: And the child.

Jim: The child?

Ann: Channing Tatum, who is great in it the film, has a daughter.  Spoiler alert's already been noted stop reading now.  So at one point, Jamie turns himself into the bad guys -- supposedly to save Channing's daughter.  But then he's going to let James Woods shoot the daughter and tells the daughter that if he does what Woods wants then millions will die.  Then we've got the little girl preparing to be shot in the head and telling Jamie that it's okay. He looks weak.  He can't protect a child.  And Vanessa Williams was a lot more a part of the action in Eraser.  I was expecting Marcia to give a one-sentence review: "White House Down?  Try Driving Miss Jamie!"

Marcia: I should have said that. I would have if I'd have thought of it.  But, Cedric's point, yeah, Jamie doesn't really have the acting chops for this role.

Cedric: And you can argue that's especially the case when you're up against James Woods.  I think he was fantastic in the film.  But Channing held his own.  And he came off like a man. This is the second film where Jamie Foxx's manhood's been in question.  We didn't need to see his junk exhibited for the thrill of vengeful Whites in Django.  That film was deeply racist. Here, he was cast in the Bill Pullman role.  And that's not a role that provides much to do.

Stan: I want to praise an actor who was really good in it that hasn't been mentioned yet.  Lance Reddick was great.  I would argue he should get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Mike: I'd agree with that.

Jim: He has a secondary role as a military head.

Stan: Right and for the film to work, there has to be some surprises.  He is strong enough in the role to make you wonder if he's in on the terrorist attack.  Spoiler: He's not.  But he does make you wonder as he knocks heads with everyone and if he wasn't misleading you, you'd figure the movie out immediately.

Mike: I'd agree with that.  He brings an intensity to the role.  Most of us -- including Stan and me -- know Reddick from his role on Fringe as Broyles.

Betty: And it's a strong cast.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is really good in an underwritten role.

Jim: Alright.  C.I., I'm going to you for a critical overview?

C.I.: Channing Tatum's natural movie star appeal carries the film.  Disclosure, I know Channing.  The film is often too precious for words.  It starts off slow because they need to give a 'cute' to Jamie Foxx's character.  So he's headed home but wants the helicopters to deviate from the route to zip close to landmarks in DC.  Is there any point to it?  Not at all.  They trot it out at the end as well.  The president is not the lead character.  This is a case of an actor needing a 'moment' in a script.  It's wasted and makes the film drag.  Channing's wife in the film was miscast and we could have done without her because we've already had enough backstory at this point.  You could lop 15 minutes off the start without the film losing anything.  When the action does finally get started, it moves along quickly enough.  Even so, I would cut the scenes in Paris of panicking First Lady.  We don't need them, they slow everything down -- it's just two scenes -- and we've already got dialogue establishing the First Lady is in Paris.  We don't need to see her.  She's not part of the action at the White House.  Jaime Foxx tries too hard to be likeable to the point that he's failed to provide the stature a president is supposed to have.  Channing Tatum carries the film on his shoulders.  A tighter edit would have made this the action film of the summer.  Jaime Foxx emerges from the film having made another questionable decision and even more in need of an audience pleaser that finds him playing a functioning adult.  Channing emerges unscathed and earns the credit for the film's success.

Jim: Okay, we're now turning to The Heat.  Isaiah, overview?

Isaiah: Sandra Bullock's a special agent with the FBI.  There's a drug lord that they have a name for but no idea what he looks like or details on him other than he's in Boston.  If she can nail this case, her supervisor's ready to overlook her problems interacting with her peers and give her a promotion she's earned.  So off she heads to Boston where she learns that a police officer is working a related case, Melissa McCarthy.  While Bullock's character is prim and by the book, McCarthy's is loud and off-the-book.  The Heat is in the tradition of 48 Hours and other buddy cop comedies.

Jim: Trina, you found it hilarious?

Trina: I couldn't stop laughing.  Melissa and Sandra, as Betty noted in "The Heat," make a great team.  Actors are always being teamed up, Midnight Run, for example, found the always hilarious Charles Grodin teamed up with a very disappointing Robert De Niro.  It did not work.  They did not gell.  So the natural way that Sandra and Melissa work together is really something to behold.  A great deal of the time, I'm aware, I was howling at reactions from the actresses and not necessarily the lines themselves.  But that's because the chemistry really makes this film.  It's funny, it's hilarious, but that's largely from the actresses.

Jim: Kat?

Kat: Spoilers are allowed so stop reading.  When Melissa blames Sandra for what happens to her brother and ends the partnership and both women are off the case, Sandra's walking through the Boston FBI headquarters where a new team to find the drug lord has been assembled and as she passes she sees that they are making fun of Melissa.  She stops and tells them all off.  It's funny and it's touching and it's one of the moments that makes the film.  You believe it and that goes to Trina's point, they have real chemistry, Sandra and Melissa.  You believe that these two different people really do bond.

Jim: Wally, the nature of the humor?

Wally: It's easy to just think it's foul mouthed humor.  Melissa's character swears -- like most of us do -- and Sandra doesn't swear until the end of the film.  But there are a lot of humor twists and turns and the comedy derives more from human nature than anything else.  This probably is the funniest film of 2013 so far.  Not just of the summer, but of the year.  Like Betty, I'm glad to see Sandra doing a comedy again. 

Jim:  Betty's "The Heat."

Wally: Right.  Like Betty points out there, a lot of actresses win a Best Actress Oscar and you're left wishing they hadn't.  They go into this whole First Lady of Film mode that makes you wince whenever you hear the names, for instance, Julia Roberts or Susan Sarandon.  So it's great that Sandra's breaking that pattern.  I'm sure she'll do many dramas but she's not going to sneer at comedies that make us erupt in laughter.

Jess: And we need comedies.  My parents saw the film and they wanted me to make a point when I told them we'd be talking about it here.  My mother's a pro bono attorney, my father's an activist who works to overturn the death penalty.  They do serious work.  If they go to the movies, they're not looking for Merchant Ivory.  They're looking to laugh.  So, as kids, my sister and I were dragged to every Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin comedy there was, for example.  And that's great and I love their movies to this day.  But the point is, laughter is important and, like Betty pointed out, a performer in Bullock's league who wins the Academy Award usually turns their back on the fans and does so quickly.  My parents loved The Heat.

Jim:  Elaine?

Elaine: I agree with Jess' parents 100%.  With the stress of working on something you care about, when you go to the movies, you're looking to be entertained.  Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make for a great comedy team and I'll note that one of the things that they excel in is physical comedy.  For example, when they're attempting to bug the phone of a drug dealer, they go to a club and it's hilarious watching them attempt to work their way into the dealer's circle and when Sandra says she wants to sit on his lap, you'll be howling.  Or when Sandra's stabbed in the leg and trying to breathe through the pain and then Melissa stabs her in the leg, you'll be howling.  It's a very funny movie. 

Jim: Ava?

Ava: This is a tight film with no extra.  Please do not leave when the film is over.  There's a great scene coming and I think they waited until after the end for it out of fear that it might make the film too long.  This bonus scene revolves around a cat.  So be sure to wait for it.  Despite the claims of Bridesmaids changing everything, the film changed nothing.  Every couple of years, we get a chance to see women team up.  That's been true since 9 to 5.  Bridesmaids did not lead to a plethora of comedies with women in the lead.  In the 80s, Bette Midler began a run of comedies and Goldie Hawn has a filmography of comedies.  The Heat has more in common with those, or a Diane Keaton comedy, than it does with Bridesmaids.  It's a funny film that had the theater I was in erupting in laughter over and over.  As soon as you think the laugh's over, another one hits you.  For example, at the morgue, Sandra makes a tongue in cheek pun that gets loud laughter and then Melissa follows with a zinger that extends the laughter.  They really are a great team. 

Jim: Alright.  Now it's not even July, there are other would-be blockbusters in store.  Ruth, Dona and Ty are going to talk to us about them.  First off, a film comes out this Wednesday.  Ruth?

Ruth: The Lone Ranger.  This has already been the basis for a film that bombed in 1981 starring Klinton Spilsbury.   Westerns haven't done well in recent years and comedy westerns have struggled even more so.  This one stars Johnny Depp which should be good except he is playing the sidekick Tonto.  Lone Ranger?  He is played by Armie Hammer who's never carried a film before and came closest in Mirror Mirror when he was the third lead.  The trailer should be making us anticipate the film but instead seems to be breeding, based on online discussions, aversion.  There's not one sweeping moment, one great thrill, that the trailer indicates or makes you eager to see.  Will it bomb?  I have no idea.  But I think the idea that it is going to be a big hit or a satisfying film -- I do not see it happening.

Ty: A film that has much more interest is The Girl Most Likely which opens July 19th and finds Kristen Wiig in her first leading role follow up to Bridesmaids.  The film has a strong cast which includes Annette Bening, Matt Dillon and Natasha Lyonne. 

Dona: The other film that is interesting is The Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman back as the lead character is enough to interest most.  But the trailer's made it even more buzz worthy noting that Famke Janssen has a brief appearance as Jean Grey.  Wolverine's the natural super hero, he doesn't need all the gimmicks so many of the Marvel and DC super heroes do.  Like many, this is the film I am longing to see.  It comes out July 24th.

Jim: Okay, this is a rush transcript and our look at summer film.

When they drain all the life out of comics

Readers like William have been e-mailing in the last months asking about comic features, pointing out we used to report on comics.  BDW e-mailed to state they never would have discovered the great Bomb Queen comics without our reporting.

So what gives?

The following gives?

comic 2

comic 1

comic 4


Star Trek has always had comics. In fact, after NBC cancelled the live action show, a cartoon version was made which ran on NBC Saturday mornings in 1973 and 1974.

But what's really stood out to us of late about comics is the lack of ideas.

Star Trek, Star Wars, Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Green Arrow remade as the TV's Arrow,  Django Unchained . . .

We're hoping to dig deeper, to smaller titles, shortly.  Because the big lines have turned an art from into an assembly line.

Too many trailers (and we're not talking double wide)

 That's the trailer for the upcoming film The Family which opens September 13th.  The comedy finds Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer  and their kids leaving the mob for witness relocation which creates problems for their handler Tommy Lee Jones.

For our movie roundtable today, we all made a point to see The Heat and White House Down.  The Family trailer played before each film and was a huge hit, garnering laughter and applause for lines (and for Pfeiffer grabbing flammables in the supermarket).

That's a good thing and the trailer did just what its supposed to do, create excitement about the film.

But while a trailer featuring De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones will be remembered, others won't.

Which brings us to the problem.

Before The Heat, we had to endure trailers and more trailers.   Some had four, some had eight, but six was the average.

Along with The Family, there was a trailer for Grown Ups 2, About Time, The Wolverine, We're The Millers and Runner Runner.

Grown Ups 2 is a film for every guy who wished he had his head up his buddy's ass but was too in the closet to ask.  The Adam Sandler film traffics in guys who likes guys but allows enough "ew!"s to make everyone okay with the four men being forced to strip down (by other men) and jump into a body of water with one landing on top of the other.  We're not done.  They also get to go to a car wash and have scantily clad cheerleaders bump and grind on and in their car.  Sound sexy?  They're male cheerleaders.  At some point, Adam Sandler's probably going to need to admit that the joke isn't about gay people but about seemingly straight people who can't come out of the closet.

About Time.  Most of us couldn't even remember what this was?  Then C.I. said, "It's the British comedy about the young man who, like his father, can go back in time."  Oh, yeah.  See, that's what we mean about too many trailers meaning some won't be remembered.

Grown Ups 2 is awful, so you don't forget it.  But a pleasing trailer featuring people we don't know quickly gets lost in the shuffle.

The Wolverine grabbed us all with Famke Janssen's appearance in the trailer.  Though Jean Grey is on for but a few seconds in the film, it was smart to stress that in the trailer because it reminds us all of why we care about Wolverine to begin with.  There are a lot of strong battles and some great stunts.  But the most memorable moment are those few seconds between Janssen and Hugh Jackman.  Next time, how about Wolverine and Phoenix film?

Few trailers grabbed the audiences.  As we already noted, The Family was an exception.  Wolverine was as well, you could see everyone stop hunching and sit up when Janssen and James were on screen.  Surprisingly, another one that did well was We're The Millers.  A man hires a stripper to play his wife and two young adults to play his kids so he can go down to Mexico in an RV as a family and make it back through customs smuggling a ton of pot.

What takes this a big beyond a Cheech and Chong bong hit are the two leads, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis.  Audiences howled at this trailer.

By contrast, Runner, Runner had people talking through the trailer, making snide remarks at the screen and flat out booing.  This film stars Justin Timberlake and he's just not seen as very convincing -- with that squeaky voice -- as a man.  In the film, he's playing a college student and the sad fact there is that he's also not very convincing as a boy.  At 32, he's way too old for the role but when you can't convincingly project masculinity on screen, you're forced into the sort of juvenile roles Joshua Jackson tossed aside as the 90s were ending.  Ben Affleck plays the adult who corrupts our innocent Miss Justin. If it feels like 800 movies you've already sat through twenty times before, there's a reason for that and the reason goes to why Leo DiCaprio is producing the film but not starring in it despite that having been the original plan.

Woah, woah, woah! You say, "The Heat is a comedy and they may not have liked any thriller."  That's true -- even if calling something as obvious as Runner, Runner a thriller stretches the term to the point of snapping.

But, like The Family, Runner, Runner was also a preview before White House Down.  If the attacks on Justin Timberlake's non-existent onscreen manhood were harsh from The Heat audiences, you should have heard what the audiences made up of more men than women had to say about Justin as they waited to watch White House Down.

White House Down forced some of us to sit through 10 trailers but the average was seven.

One trailer was for a sequel and it gripped the audience.

No, not the Thor 2 trailer which bombed.  Insidious: Chapter 2.  The original film was a surprise, sleeper hit.  Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne buy a new home and find that it effects their son.  Barbara Hershey, as Wilson's mother, shows up with help and the truth that Wilson went through something similar as a boy.   The primary cast is back and the trailer was greeted with screams, laughs and applause.

Thor: The Dark World probably would have gone over better with less Loki.  The tragically ridiculous character had become a joke by the end of The Avengers -- right around the time the Hulk pummeled him.  He's now about as threatening as Sir Hiss in Disney's Robin Hood.  A better trailer would have focused on Thor and Jane and how she's now in jeopardy in his world.

It wasn't the worst trailer.  That would be 2 Guns.  This Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington film surely has some point.  The actors wouldn't have signed up otherwise.  But the trailer casts the film as a dumb  and incoherent mess, as though this is The Big Hit II.

We call that the worst trailer because we believe that Washington and Wahlberg on screen have to be worth watching and that the trailer's screwed that up.

Some might argue that Elysium was the worst trailer.  We disagree because it's selling the film that was made.  And that film's biggest obstacle?  Asking audiences to identify with the downtrodden in an escapist film.  These are the hardy rogues of The Matrix, these are people who are bad off and represented by Matt Damon.  And as we enter the darkened and chilled theaters to escape the heat in August are we really wanting to identify as the downtrodden?  Matt's got no hair.  That's what we're supposed to identify with?  We're poor and and we have nothing and we don't even get to be the sexy poor?  The better off are led by Jodie Foster who appears to have based her performance on Sharon Stone's villainous Laurel Hedare in the bomb that was 2004's Catwoman.

And then there is Captain Phillips.  Tom Hanks has been called the Jimmy Stewart of today.  Jimmy Stewart first found film success in the forties and Hanks in the eighties.  Watching the trailer for this film where Hanks plays a captain whose modern-day ship is taken over by pirates, we were also reminded that Stewart's best performances and finest films were in the 40s and fifties.  Like Stewart, Hanks has worn out his welcome with thirteen years now of bad performances in bad films which overshadow his work in the 80s and 90s.

The makers of Captain Phillips should be thrilled that their bad trailer was shown with so many others.  All anyone will remember is that Tom Hanks has a new film coming out -- if they even remember that.  But as our own reaction to About Time (which looks like a charming film) demonstrates, all these trailers don't allow many to be remembered.  And we are being kind.  We saw other 'trailers' as well before the lights dimmed.  We saw the ad for Comedy Central's Drunk History, for example, and other TV attractions.  The pre-trailer trailers, in fact, served to lower the expectations for the actual film trailers.

From The TESR Test Kitchen

With Paula Deen leaving the Food Network, all the work load can't be piled upon Rachel Ray.  Fear not, The TESR Test Kitchen is here.

For years, Trina has been pushing rice cookers at her site. Reader Shawna wrote to tell us she'd found the perfect rice cooker but, there was a catch, it was at Wal-Mart -- "and I know how you hate Wal-Mart."

We're not into glorifying Wal-Mart but we don't hate it.  Over the years, we've noted that, in some areas, a Wal-Mart is all that they have.  We've also noted that, in those areas, they tend to be open 24 hours a day.

The product in question is the Prepsolutions Microwave Rice Cooker Set.

rice cooker

Traditional rice cooker machines are plugged into the wall socket.  They don't burn but they can stick which was Shawna's biggest problem.  Either she added oil or butter and, for her, ended up with gummy rice or she didn't add anything and had to scrape the bottom of the machine.

The microwave means that isn't a problem -- for Shawna or for us in our test kitchen.

It's also small enough that you can pack it and carry it on the road.  Trina noted that you can actually use the same cooker to steam some vegetables in to serve with the rice.

The kit or set is all plastic and it includes the cooker with lid, a measuring cup and a spoon.

We tried it with simple white rice and there was no problem.  We tend to eat brown rice so we were more concerned how it would do with that but it also had no problem there.  In addition, Trina suggested we try out some boxed rice sets like Rice a Roni and see how that works.  We cooked the Rice a Roni Long Grain and Wild Rice with no problem and we also had no problem with the Rice Pilaf.

So we strongly recommend this product and stress, again, that for those on the road, this is perfect, it's easy to pack, takes up little space and you can pop it into your hotel room microwave with no problems.

Tweet of the Week?

If you want to follow Iraq in the US media, lots of luck.

As The Common Ills noted Saturday night, you could read about Senator John McCain visiting Iraq Saturday in the Iraqi media or at McCain's Twitter feed.

You could find that information publicly, you just couldn't find the US press reporting on it.

Are we still confused about how badly the American press misinforms on Iraq?

Needed Radio Moment

A number of radio shows exist and, if you're lucky enough, you can hear a great majority of it.

Even so, it's easy to miss a lot of important moments.


Jim Lafferty (above) hosts KPFK's The Lawyers Guild (most Thursdays from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm PST).  June 20th, he delivered a commentary which included:

Will the people be quiet when government spies are found working inside of anti-war groups, trying, as they did in the seventies, to discredit and disrupt the work of such groups?  Will the people be quite when, as the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act allows, the military begins picking up and holding indefinitely without charges those like myself and so many guests on this show who frequently take to the streets to protest repressive governmental policies?  One is reminded today of that frog in the tub of water slowly getting hotter and hotter and who is thereby lulled into not jumping out in time to save its life.  No, we do not yet live in a complete police state.  But a police state, like all forms of repression, does not generally descend upon a nation and its people in one fell swoop.  Rather, it tends to descend gradually.  And, at first, only those who are wide awake or most victimized by it notice it at all.  But gradually, and quicker than suspected, if most people are asleep, if most accept its coming as 'a small price to pay for safety,' the repression will grow until it has become complete.  And, of course, by then, though all must be aware of it, the question that must be asked is this: If so few were troubled enough to raise their voice against it to a pollster when it first reader its ugly head, how many will be willing to fight it when it may already may be too late and the price for fighting it seen as too dangerous?

Last week found radio offering a lot of soggy and not a great deal of import or value.  The Lawyers Guild did not air last Thursday and its absence was sorely felt.

Spend the 4th in Strawberry Fields

Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She and others will be taking part in a peace celebration Thursday the 4th of July:


Norman Siegel, the eminent civil liberties attorney, got a  unique idea 44 years ago.  He decided that on July 4 he would go and sit quietly and read the Constitution and reflect on the principles underlying our Democracy.  He felt it was the most appropriate way to celebrate the holiday.

And, he did so for the next 36 years.  Wherever he was, he would find a perch somewhere in a quiet spot and read and reflect alone on the Constitution.

Seven years ago, he decided to make it a public event.  With the assistance of New York City's peace grannies -- the Raging Grannies, Grandmothers Against the War, and the Granny Peace Brigade -- he began his annual Reading of the Constitution in Strawberry Fields.

This year will mark the seventh Annual Reading in the lovely Central Park oasis created as a tribute to John Lennon by his widow Yoko Ono.  At noon on Thursday, July 4, Siegel and his many supporters will once again gather in Strawberry Fields to read aloud parts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the entire Declaration of Independence and discuss their principles in terms of recent decisions by the Supreme Court as well as revelations of increased U.S. Government surveillance practices.

The Reading has become a tradition for July 4 in New York City along with Nathan's hot dog eating contest and Macy's fireworks and is not to be missed by people concerned with how our government is adhering to the tenets of the great documents.

There will be guest commentators and entertainment by the Raging Grannies.

Everyone is welcome to attend at noon on July 4 in Strawberry Fields, entered at CPW and West 72nd Street.  Follow the path for a block at the STRAWBERRY FIELDS sign. 

joan wile

Solidarity with Manning and Snowden (Workers World)

Repost from Workers World:

Solidarity with Manning, Snowden

By on June 27, 2013 » Add the first comment.
Berlin. Photo: Uwe Hiksch
Berlin. Photo: Uwe Hiksch

Progressives and anti-imperialists in Berlin, Germany, demonstrated while U.S. President Barack Obama was visiting there June 17, carrying a big banner: “Against war, repression and racism.” The following is an excerpt from a statement read to the audience:

“On the occasion of President Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin, our demonstration protesting U.S. government policies approved the following declaration of solidarity with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and all whistleblowers:

“Manning and Snowden took on enormous personal risks to inform world public opinion of the abuse of power and the crimes of the U.S. government. They brought to light what the U.S. government had sought to keep secret and cover up. We would like to express to them our deepest gratitude and our full solidarity.”

Articles copyright 1995-2013 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

John Kerry addresses the US diplomatic staff in Kuwait

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been on a tour of the Middle East and Asia.  The former senator spoke with US diplomatic staff in Kuwait last week.

Secretary Kerry Meets With Staff of Embassy Kuwait City

We thought it was an important speech and we're reposting the part that should have been reported on.

I was a young kid in the Foreign Service. I was 11 years old when my dad went off into the Foreign Service, and to make myself quite old, it was back in the 1950s not too long after World War II. We went to Berlin and I remember huge parts of the city totally bombed out and I’d ride my bicycle all around the city. It was a great adventure for me. And I learned enough German to still be able to go order a meal and know what I’m doing and when I’m getting into trouble, but – so it’s a lot of fun if you’re your age. How old are you? There you are; you’re exactly the age I was when I started. So you can be Secretary of State in about 50 years, how’s that? (Laughter.) You ready for that? Not yet, but you will be.

I learned what it was like to pack up the bags, to leave your friends, to go to another country, to be confronted with a culture that was just totally different and things that are different and food and habits and all those kinds of things. And for a while, I scratched my head and I said, “What’s all this about?” Now I look back on it and I am so grateful to my parents for having given me that experience. I’m so grateful for having been introduced at an early age to other people and to learn something about the way those other folks look at the world.

We don’t always do that as well as we should, any of us in places. And sometimes it’s just not taught. We don’t know how to do it, or we don’t think about it, or we think the way we do something in one country or another is the way it is everywhere, but it isn’t, as we’ve learned. And it’s so important to understand where other people are coming from, why they think the way they think, why they believe what they believe. And we can learn enormous amounts from everybody. So for all of you who represent those 23 nationalities that are helping us, we say thank you, because we learn from you, but we also say thank you because you are sort of adopting us and you’re helping us to carry our message about our country, our hopes, our aspirations for people, for the world. You’re helping us to carry that message to people here in Kuwait and anybody who happens to come through here.

And no matter what section you’re in, whether you’re in consular or whether you’re in economic or you’re working as a civil servant or Foreign Service or whatever it is you’re doing, every one of you is an ambassador for our country. You carry a message. You may be the only contact that some people ever have with the United States, or you may be the first contact that they have. And as a result, the impression that you leave and the sense of America that you give is a very, very important impression. It’s an important message. So I want to thank you for that.

I also know that this happens to be a pretty good place for families. The Ambassador was bragging on sort of the good elements of serving here with respect to families, but I also know that there are restraints. And in 1983, for some of you who were here working back then, there was a terrorist attack. And of course, during the period of Saddam Hussein, we all know there was the occupation. So there have been times of great conflict and great tension and strife and even danger. So I want to thank you. It’s really important to have you here.

This relationship with Kuwait is a very, very important one. I just had a long meeting with the Amir, with His Highness, and we talked a lot about the region and Syria, the difficulties, Middle East peace process, Egypt, all the things that are happening. But remember something: All those things that are happening represent people’s hopes and aspirations for change. Tahrir Square was not a religiously inspired event. It wasn’t an extremist-inspired event. It was young people who, using their cell phones and texting and Googling and Facetiming and whatever they did, communicated to each other and talked about their hopes for the future. They wanted jobs, they wanted opportunity, they wanted respect, they wanted education, they wanted all of those kinds of things. It wasn’t till later during the election process that the sort of religious components and other organized components began to come into it.

Same thing in Tunisia, as a young fruit vendor who was completely frustrated with corruption and with the lack of economic opportunity and the fact that some police officer was restricting him from selling his fruit and he was so frustrated that he saw fit to take his own life in front of the police station, and that ignited this sense of protest. It’s playing out in many, many, many places. We’ve seen demonstrations in Turkey that don’t just have to do with the square. We’ve seen demonstrations in Brazil that aren’t about soccer games.

These are people everywhere who are looking for governance that meets their needs. I do like to think that in the United States of America, we have a special sense of that responsibility and a special opportunity with the freedom of our government, the freedom of our press, and the freedom of anybody to go out and say what they want and not get thrown in jail for it and do what they want, running for office, or anything else, that that’s a model worth fighting for and carrying to the rest of the world. So you’re all doing that. Not a bad deal to have a job where you can get up in the morning and feel good about what you’re doing and know that you’re making a difference in the world. A lot of people don’t get that privilege.

So I thank you again on behalf of our country, on behalf of the President, and personally as the Secretary of State who has the privilege of leading this great Department that is so involved in trying to make this planet we live on a better place to live. I’m grateful to you and I thank you. For those of you who will celebrate Ramadan soon, Ramadan Kareem. I wish you well. And I hope for everybody that the days ahead bring you everything that you need and want. Thank you for your service. God bless. (Applause.)


 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.

"Now we know where Barack draws the line" -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

 "Iraq snapshot," "Elijah Cummings -- bald face embarrassment," "Managing the IRS' real estate portfolio? (Wally)" and "Was the witness able to understand" -- C.I., Ava, Wally and Kat report on the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.  (C.I. also covers a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.) 

"Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari's presentation to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

"The vast decline of ESPN," "666 Park Avenue," "Mistresses," "ABC comedies" and "Under The Dome" -- Mike, Betty, Ruth, Stan and Marcia cover TV. 

"Today we're all equal," "Grab bag," "Tears of joy," "Simply historic," "Anita Bryant can't stop screaming" and "THIS JUST IN! MAJOR VERDICT FROM THE COURT!"  -- Betty, Ann, Ruth, Marcia, Cedric and Wally weigh in on the historic vote.

"Tomato Sandwich in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers an easy recipe.

"She betrayed Trayvon's memory," "The sexism of The Root and other Black America problems" and "Again on the Hood Rat" and "I'll say it" -- Betty, Ann and Marcia weigh in on the court proceedings.

"My DVD gripe," "The Heat," and "That Darn Cat" -- Stan and Betty cover movies. 

"look who's attacking ed snowden now" -- it's Vanity Fair, if you can believe it.

"Barack's Joe McCarthy moment" -- Ruth's important post.

"Ignored problems do not go away" -- Kat breaks down the basics.

"Clare Daly, a real politician for the people" -- Mike notes an Irish politician speaking out.

"my blogging tantrum" and "Responding to a best friend" -- Rebecca and Elaine.

"A wonderful day" -- Elaine on the basics.

"Levine offers some truth, Baldwin some questions" -- Mike surveys the week.

"The drip, drip of Barry O" and "THIS JUST IN! THE STAINS ON HIS PRESIDENCY!"  -- Cedric and Wally continue to cover the spectacle.

"as isaiah says, the world today just nuts" -- Rebecca offers agreement.

"Why I fear for the future of the left" -- Ruth has some concerns.

"World of music" -- Kat says give it up to music.

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