Sunday, December 01, 2013

Truest statement of the week

The debacle of the rollout of is bound up with the pro-corporate character of the entire Obamacare scheme. With every tortured turn, the failure of the web site has underscored the fact that the ACA has nothing in common with providing “affordable,” “near-universal” health care for ordinary Americans. Rather, it is aimed at rationing and cutting care while boosting the profits of private insurers and the entire health care industry.

-- Kate Randall, "Obamacare debacle intensifies" (WSWS).

Truest statement of the week II

Jeremy Scahill has yet to explain his own behavior, but columnist Neil Clark, writing for Russia Today, blames “liberal hawks and neo-cons” for silencing the nun because: 

 Mother Agnes’ testimony reveals that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is a sham -- that in Syria, the western countries and their regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are on the same side as the extremist Islamic terror groups that we are told are our greatest enemies.

--- William Boardman, "Syrian Nun Seen as Threat to War Resistance" (Dissident Voice).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Yet another Sunday.

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

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

And  what did we come up with?

Kate Randall gets a truest. 
As does William Boardman.
Everyone should be asking this question.  Mike and Elaine, Jess, Ava, C.I. and me (Jim) worked on this editorial.

Ava and C.I. review the holiday weekend. 

Ava, C.I. and Isaiah discuss the Ted Rall banning. 
The Iraq piece Mike, Elaine, Ava, C.I., Jess and I worked on.

Mike, Wally, Elaine, Cedric, Stan, Marcia, Rebecca, Ann, Ty, Jess, Ava, Dona, C.I. and I worked on this.  Abbott and Costello becomes the latest in our film classics of the 20th century review.

Trina, Mike, Elaine, Ava, C.I., Jess and I worked on this one.
Rebecca, Ruth and Betty raised this as a topic and the final draft was by Mike, Elaine, Ava, C.I. and me.

Senator Murray press release.
Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker.
Repost from Workers World.
Mike and the gang worked on this.

This edition was really steered by Ava, C.I. and Jess.  I joined them in the last two or so hours.  We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

That's what we've got to share this week.


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

Editorial: Why is this not news?

  • That's Falluja's Friday demonstration.  Only one city in Iraq holding a demonstration -- part of the ongoing protests that kicked off December 21st.

    It's been almost a year and the protesters haven't given up.

    How are their actions not news?

     They've continued to protest despite multiple attacks on them by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces, the worst being the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    They're demands are basic: public services that work (sewage systems that don't mean floods every time it rains, for example), jobs, the end of raping and torturing women in prisons and detention centers, the release of all prisoners who are innocent (uncharged) an end to the persecution of the Sunni population, etc.

    But they're demands are ignored repeatedly.

    Nouri makes a few words pretending he's going to meet the demands and the foreign press (non-Iraqis) end up insisting he met their demands.

    He never has.

    Monday, Nickolav Mladenov, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, addressed the United Nations Security Council.

    Nickolay Mladenov:  Protests continued in Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Diayala governorates in the form of unified Friday prayers.  Compared to the past reporting period, the protests assumed a lower profile, owning in part to increased attention to the protesters' demands by newly elected local administrations. Indeed, the Anbar Governorate Council elected Sabah Karhout, a member of the Arab Iraqiya party, as its chair, and Ahmed Khalif al-Dulaimi, a member of the Muttahidoun party, as Governor.  In Ninewa, the Governorate Council re-elected Atheel al-Nujaifi, a known supporter of the protestors and brother of the Speake of the Council of Representatives [Osama al-Nujaifi], as Governor.  On 5 October dialogue between the Government and the protestors resumed following a meeting between the Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] and the Governor of Anbar, who was nominated by the demonstrators to represent their interests.  While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands.  

    This month, the protests hit the one year mark.  The protesters have been attacked, arrested and murdered.

    And where is the press?

    And where is the outrage?

    Speaking to Patrick Cockburn (Independent) last week, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr shared his thoughts on Nouri and the protests:

    Mr Sadr is particularly critical of the government’s handling of the Sunni minority, which lost power in 2003, implying they had been marginalised and their demands ignored. He thinks that the Iraqi government lost its chance to conciliate Sunni protesters in Iraq who started demonstrating last December, asking for greater civil rights and an end to persecution.
    “My personal opinion is that it is too late now to address these [Sunni] demands when the government, which is seen as a Shia government by the demonstrators, failed to meet their demands,” he said. Asked how ordinary Shia, who make up the great majority of the thousand people a month being killed by al-Qa’ida bombs, should react, Mr Sadr said: “They should understand that they are not being attacked by Sunnis. They are being attacked by extremists, they are being attacked by external powers.”

    December 21st, the protests will have hit the one year mark -- that's twenty days away.

    When exactly does the foreign press plan to pay attention?

    TV: A lot of stuffing, a lot of bluffing, not much entertainment

    What a week for TV it was.  You could say it kicked off with a stunt and ended with a slump.  And somewhere in between was the reality of the never-ending slow death of the industry in all of its forms.


    Family Guy decided to 'kill' Brian off.  He's not gone.  Maya Rudolph will play a woman he falls for in an episode later this season.  The death is a stunt. Part of the shock and outrage stems from the fact that it was a throwaway.  On The Simpsons, when Maude Flanders died, that was the episode.

    Here, viewers were (falsely) told Brian was dead and instead of focusing on that, it was time to get a new dog, Vinny (voiced poorly by Tony Sirico) who was about as needed as Poochie -- only when The Simpsons introduced Poochie, viewers were in on the joke.

    When the audience realizes it was punked, it will be interesting to see how they take it because they are taking it very seriously right now, expressing outrage, threatening Fox that they will stop watching, signing petitions.

    Will they just feel foolish when Brian re-emerges on the show or will they also feel angry?

    And if they do feel anger, will they take it out on the show?

    If they do, Seth MacFarlane picked the wrong time to tick off his fan base.  The Cleveland Show got the axe.  American Dad! rode to a giddy high with the friendship-rivalry of Hayley and Roger but then walked completely away from that story line and has become boring and yet another cartoon like every other Seth cartoon:  Talking animal/alien teams up with boyish male.

    It's tired, it's boring and America's yawning.

    That explains both the ratings and the fact that Fox has cancelled the show.  (TBS will air at least fifteen new episodes after it leaves Fox.)

    Seth has destroyed his own shows.  They lack storylines -- instead repeatedly ripping off movies (including Tootsie and Crimes & Misdemeanors).  It's because, more and more, the episodes aren't based on recognizable life or real experiences.  Instead, the writers offer their copy of a film.

    When you plant the same crop in the same field over and over, you strip the soil of the nutrients.  After awhile, nothing will grow there.

    We fear Seth is approaching that point.

    Fox execs told us they (a) now regretted axing King of the Hill (one said, "We thought Seth was the future but now we realize he does the same exact show over and over and we've stupidly paid for it."), (b) were looking for more Bob's Burgers type shows that pleased the audience because they had real storylines and (c) they were feeling "iffy" on Seth's Bordertime (new animated series to debut next fall on Fox).

    "We're lucky," one exec said.  "We didn't give him a Michael J. Fox."

    That's in reference to NBC's lowest rated sitcom The Michael J. Fox Show -- the show NBC would love to take off the air already but can't because they gave Fox a full season commitment for the show.  By contrast, Fox has only guaranteed 13 episodes for the show.

    And this is the time he wants to piss off fans of Family Guy?

    His career has never been shakier and he needs goodwill because he's following up his directing of the hit film Ted with his directing and acting in A Million Ways To Die.  When the film comes out in May, will the Family Guy stunt have tarnished Seth's fading glow?

    Faded glow, faded glory.

    Garth Brooks, one-time country recording artist, walked away from it in 2001.  In the last years, he's returned to concerts.

    CBS got him for a live concert on Friday night.  There was little in terms of visuals as Garth performed on a Las Vegas stage.  For about 20 seconds, at the start, there were some nice shots of the city from a helicopter, then we were backstage with Garth beckoning us to "Come here."

    Clad in ratty jeans, a jersey pull over and a baseball cap, we thought he was going to tell us we needed a new engine or that our tires were out of alignment.  Instead, he rushed on stage ("Boom!") -- in that outfit.

    It was all very casual.  If you didn't grasp that he wasn't going to put any real effort into the TV broadcast, you missed that he didn't even bother to learn new phrases (he was stuck in the nineties, for example repeatedly exclaiming, "That's what I'm talking about!").

    He tossed out a song (for two minutes) then went to pacing the stage (nervously) and telling his life story in a manner that honestly reminded us of an informercial.  We kept waiting for him to pitch a juicer.

    He never did.

    He didn't do much singing either.  When he did perform a song, it was done in three minutes in most cases.

    He spent about five minutes waxing over his sexual attraction to James Taylor.

    Who knew Garth was into cadavers?

    The sexual attraction was so great that he would go on to claim "Sweet Baby James" had to be vague because that was lyrics in the sixties.  The album track was released, on the album, in 1970.  Sort of spoils Garth's musical 'analysis' of the sixties and seventies.

    Watching the special, we kept waiting for him to shut up.

    He nervously paced around the stage, as though he were wired on drugs, and telling stories over and over.

    An eight minute segment, for example, found boring stories and, in the segment's final two minutes, Garth strummed his guitar and sang the first 13 lines to Don McLean's "American Pie," got the audience to start singing the chorus and CBS went to commercial.

    Did anyone plan this?

    Was there any rehearsal?

    Maybe of his non-stop mockery of Elton John.  He should have spent more time on his bit about The Graduate.  Most men see Anne Bancroft sleeping with Dustin Hoffman as a wish fulfilled -- the action was used to sell the movie.  But for Garth, her character "devoured" Hoffman's character.  How scared of sex is Garth Brooks?

    This was a lousy special.  And we're all for live programming.

    Every now and then you got Garth on stage with his guitar and maybe the audience took up the song when Garth had tired himself out with a verse or two.

    The real point appeared to be that Garth wanted money but didn't want to do a concert.

    As awful as the special was, there was something even more awful.

    Garth won the night for CBS.

    People skipped Barbra Walters interviewing US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

    This was supposed to be 'event TV.'

    The beleaguered politician, his support cratering, was going to reflect.

    ABC promoted the interview by noting Barack was already thinking about life after the White House, where to live, staying in DC for an additional two years so that the youngest daughter could finish high school with her friends, and more.

    When you're planning your escape route in the first year of your newly elected term?

    It really is over.

    And maybe that's what the ratings demonstrated as well as people chose Garth over Barack by a clear majority?

    Other low points?  The endless, never-ending repeats.

    Are specials really special if they're forever trotted out?

    CBS aired Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special from 1964 yet again (to record ratings) while Democracy Now! went with Yip Harburg the Red Nosed Songwriter.  This 'holiday classic' is one Goodman's been broadcasting since 1996.  We don't know which is worse, CBS' inability to create new animated holiday specials or Amy Goodman -- getting millions from Pacifica Radio -- airing 17 year old broadcasts instead of pre-taping a new episode ahead of time.

    As we were saying earlier, when you plant the same crop in the same field over and over, you strip the soil of the nutrients.

    It's a shame so many are so willing to chew on the bones of the past instead of addressing the present.

    The entire  week wasn't a slump.

    CBS' Hostages, for example, aired a new episode on Monday and it only added to the complexities and drama.  The same night last week in which Brian was 'killed,' The Simpsons aired "The Kid Is All Right"  Eva Longoria guest-voiced Isabel Guiterrez, a new friend of Lisa's who challenges Lisa's perceptions and beliefs when Lisa learns her great new friend is a Republican.  Though Eva Longoria embarrassed herself in interviews (she declared playing a Republican was a huge step for her -- who knew acting was so beyond her reach?), she did a great job on the show.

    As Den of Geek noted, "This is shaping up to be a classic season on The Simpsons."  It is and wasn't it about time that someone told Bart the meaning of his catch phrase "Ay Caramba!"

    Lisa:  I just can't believe someone like you would be a Republican. I mean, isn't your last name Gutierez?

    Isabel:  What exactly are you saying?

    Lisa:  I'm just saying that people of your heritage, which could be any one of many heritages. I'm not pigeon-holing. Is it a Catholic thing?

    Open-minded Lisa, so serious about being fair, is baffled and falls back on stereotypes.

    The girls run for the same office but put friendship ahead of everything.

    A lot of Americans -- especially talk show hosts posing as journalists -- seem to be working overtime to divide the country.

    Leave it to The Simpsons to try to calm down the waters when others work to pitch the country into a blood feud.  We all have to live together.  If a cartoon can grasp that, maybe others can.

    Ted Rall and Comics: A Discussion

    Ava: This holiday weekend, The Daily Kos 'celebrated' by banning Ted Rall.  This is part of a pattern of banning leftists -- as opposed to Democratic Party operatives and whores who are always welcome at the site of Henry Hyde's one-time boy-genius. You may remember that Chris Floyd was earlier banned by Daily Kos. Like many sites today, Kos is one that screams 'racist' while being racist.  This is a small roundtable made up of C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;  Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and, me The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava.  For those who don't know, Isaiah does the comics at The Common Ills.  He's been doing them since 2005.   Isaiah, you take on Barack Obama the same as you did Bully Boy Bush.  What's the difference, if any, in the hate e-mails?

    Isaiah: When I started doing the comics for The Common Ills, Bully Boy Bush was already at less than 50% approval rating.  That didn't prevent the occasional angry e-mails. With Barack?  I've gotten very ugly and very mean e-mails.  Sometimes, a few weeks later, they'll write again and say, "Oops! Didn't know you were Black!"

    Ava: They write back after they find that out because?

    Isaiah: Sorry.  The e-mails, that always come in objecting to a Barack cartoon, they call me racist.  Then some of them learn later that I'm African-American and they write back an "Oops! Didn't know you were Black!"  Anything I draw with Barack results in cries of 'racism' from some people.  For instance, I draw Barack in a dress and get, "You racist! You'd never do that to a White president!"  Uh, try learning something before you scream 'racist.'  I did a comic about Bully Boy Bush being a hooker, had him in fishnet stockings and a skirt --

    Isaiah (Con't): -- I did a whole series where Bully Boy Bush wore wedding dresses.  It kicked off with him meeting daughter Jenna's fiancee --

    Isaiah (Con't):  -- and many comics later it concluded with Big Babs Bush, Bully Momma, discovering him playing dress up -- and drooling over Blackwater's Eric Prince -- at which point Big Babs put an end to it.


    Ava:  And other political figures?  What's the reaction been?

    Isaiah: In 2007, I began covering the primary contenders and got more criticism from Mick Huckabee supporters than anyone else on the Republican side.  I only did one but I got e-mails in the hundreds the first month it went up.  And they continued and continue.


    Ava: And the ones on John McCain?

    Isaiah: Never got a complaint.  The same, by the way, with Hillary Clinton.  In fact, I did one in 2007 with blood dripping from the mouths of Hillary, John Edwards and Barack Obama.


    Isaiah (Con't): I got complaints -- tons -- from Barack groupies.  I got about 20, maybe 30, on behalf of John Edwards -- from people he may or may not have slept with.  There wasn't one complaint about Hillary.

    Ava: What do you attribute that to?

    Isaiah: I would argue her supporters were aware of politics and political cartoons and didn't see them as life or death.  This attitude may have prevented them from calling out MSNBC for all the attacks they launched on Hillary.

    Ava: Okay, I'm handing off to C.I. and I'll take notes while she speaks with you.

    Isaiah: Alright.

    C.I.: The Ted Rall comic that's causing the uproar is this.

    C.I. (Con't): Your general take on this?  It was termed "racist" by The Daily Kos.

    Isaiah: Am I missing something?  Is the charge of racism something to do about Afghanistan or  the leader of Afghanistan?  I'm not seeing anything.

    C.I.:  Rall was told he rendered Barack "ape-like."

    Isaiah: Oh dear God.  To look at that drawing?  My first thought would be, "He rendered Barack Homer Simpson-like."  I used to be a Ted Rall fan.  I don't have time to follow him now.  I work, I've got comics to do for the newsletters and for The Common Ills.  And Tom Tomorrow, among others, was so disappointing, that I really started ignoring other comics.  The upper lip is probably what has people upset, right?  I don't know that it's ape-like, again, I saw it as Homer Simpson-like.  I'd also need to see other comics --

    C.I.: I know look at this one.  It's Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

    Isaiah:  Thank you, that's the perfect cartoon for this.  You'll notice he does that space above the upper lip on Carter and Bill Clinton.  There's no racism in the comic that got him banned.  Just looking at this comic, you grasp that what they are insisting is 'racism' is actually how Ted Rall tends to draw most men regardless of race.

    C.I.:  You're sometimes attacked in e-mails for Barack's skin tone in your comics.  Talk about that for a second.

    Isaiah: I've drawn a number of Black people -- Barack's bi-racial, he's not Black.  Sorry, I'm Black.  Melissa Harris Lacewell, you may remember, went around screaming, 'as a Black woman,' that Barack was Black not bi-racial.  Turns out Melissa has a White mommy she hid -- so very Imitation of Life.  So Melissa can sit her bi-racial ass down.  I'm Black.  Barack's bi-racial. He's also light skinned.  So I use taupe to color his skin when I remember to -- there are at least two times I've forgotten. [here and here]

    the lemon on the lot


    Isaiah (Con't):  Condi Rice I used brown, others I use dark brown.  I find it interesting that some get upset that I have given Barack a skin tone -- some because they don't feel he should have one.  Others because they feel I should be making his skin darker.

    C.I.: A cartoonist isn't necessarily doing a portrait, if you know what I mean.

    Isaiah: That's true.  You do a stylized version.  Some do a caricature.  Others don't worry about whether it looks like the person or not.  As a general rule, I give him huge ears and a pointed chin.  He has a spot on the left side of his face.  For many years, I ignored that.  Sometimes I include it now, if it's an extreme close up on his face.

    your server barack

    C.I.: Isaiah, you've shared a story in the newsletters, it's one common to many community members.  Where did you encounter racism online?

    Isaiah: In 2003, I left comments at The Daily Kos.  I think Betty's summed it up best.  As long as you preached the DNC line and attacked Republicans for racism, you were welcome.  But if you noted the racism among Democrats, you were attacked.  Don't you dare call out the refusal to let Jesse Jackson hold a rally in Florida demanding a recount in 2000.  When you do something like that, all the sudden it's dogpile on the Black man or the Black woman.  Betty's noted of that site and others that if you just go along, they love you but if you try to raise real issues of race, they attack you.  There's something very sad and telling about this basically all White community that wants to scream racism.

    C.I.: Building on that, Salon sure loves to scream racism.  I'm sorry, they employ how many people of color? Alex Pareene is African-American?  Joan Walsh? Steve Kornacki? Irin Carmon?  Editor David Daley is African-American? Anna North is African-American?  They're White.  Daniel D'Addario is White.  Is he really helping the world, are any of them?  He wrote a piece slamming Justin Timberlake -- someone no one in this community would defend -- and calling out what he saw as racism -- I don't know, I have a busy life so I don't watch the American Music Awards.  But if Daniel's really concerned about racism maybe the place to focus is not what some singer said or did but instead on Salon who's happy to speak for Black America, just not willing to employ them or give them a seat at the microphone.

    Isaiah: That's a really good point. Whether it's Kos or Salon or The Progressive or Amy Goodman or any of the people supposedly concerned with racism, you notice that Black America is pretty much whited out by them.  They're happy to scream racism at others but their own hiring practices scream of discrimination.

    C.I.: Ava and I raised the Salon issue in a TV commentary awhile back but it got left on the cutting room floor.  And I'm tossing back to Ava now.

    Ava: Salon is very racist.  I've been repeatedly offended, as a Latina, by Joan Walsh's nonsense and called her out for that.  It must be nice to be Anglo White Salon deciding that others are racists while your own hiring practices are racist.  Closing thoughts from you Isaiah on the attack on Ted Rall?  Do you agree it's an attack, I'm sorry?

    Isaiah: Yes, I agree one hundred percent.  Ted Rall didn't draw a racist comic.  They're using that false charge to bully him and to avoid the issues the comic raises -- that Barack makes promises he doesn't keep.  I included Michelle Obama in some early comics.  She's not an attractive woman.  I find it very whorish that she's been billed as beautiful.  She's not. And that's even if you set aside the smaller right eye.  Just her facial shape causes her problems. She's not beautiful.  Neither is Madonna.  On a good day, both can be seen as well groomed.  I found if I drew her realistically, I got hate mail.  With one exception.  There was a comic where Barack looked stylish and cool and no one seemed to care that I had drawn Michelle on a bad day.

    Lowering the Brand

    Isaiah (Con't): But anticipating this, I ended up going with Michelle's anger as her trademark and began drawing her green as the She-Hulk.

    Happy Birthday, Barack

    Isaiah (Con't): That stopped the complaints about Michelle.  And I think it's really telling that my drawing Michelle as a green Hulk is the only thing that ended the b.s. e-mails.  Have people been too sensitive?  No.  Because the ones making the charges, leading the charges, usually don't even believe it.  It's a bunch of White people screaming "racism!" in an attempt to silence and prevent criticism of Barack -- or even prevent him from being treated the way every other president has been treated.  The Cult of St. Barack is all about babying Barack.

    Ava: Thank you.  This has been a rush transcript.  We're all outraged by the false attack on Ted Rall and wanted to do some feature addressing it.  The two comics of Rall's in this article are presented here to show what he drew and how he draws.  He retains all rights to his comics.  The same is true of Isaiah's comics  Our e-mail address is

    How many more journalists have to die in Nouri's Iraq?

    alaa idwar

    Last week, Alaa Idwar (above) became the latest journalist to be killed in Iraq.  Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has issued a release on Alaa Idwar.

    The JFO noted that they hold military and security forces responsible for not providing security -- not providing security as journalists have faced increasing threats and violence in Mosul for the last two months.  They explained that armed forces -- who do not provide their identities -- have also prevented journalists from doing their jobs, interfering with the reporters efforts to report what is taking place.  They called for the federal government to conduct an investigation and to do so quickly.

    Of  Alaa Idhar's murder, they noted his death follows the murder of other journalists in Mosul.  He was shot three times -- once in the head, once in the stomach and once in the chest.  He wasn't far from his home when the attack took place. Alaa was 41-years-old and had begun his TV journalism career in 1999.  In later years, he added photography and frequently free lanced including for Al Jazeera.   The JFO noted that security forces found a "liquidation list" containing forty-four names, all of them journalists.

    Human Rights Watch observed:

    The killings in Mosul have made October and November the deadliest two-month period this year for journalists. Iraqi authorities have released no information about the results of any pending investigations into the killings, nor announced any arrests. The killings follow years of targeted violence against journalists in Iraq. Since the start of protests in Iraq in February 2011 over widespread corruption and lack of services, journalists have faced escalating attacks and threats, including from members of the government’s security forces. According to the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, 48 journalists in Mosul have been killed in violence since 2003.

    In the latest killing, on November 24 unidentified assailants using automatic weapons shot and killed Alaa Edward Butros, a Christian journalist for al-Rashid television news service, as he sat in a coffee shop in the al-Majmua al-Thaqafeyya area north of Mosul. Gunmen shot and killed three other journalists in Mosul in October. Gunmen also killed two spokespersons for the Ninewa governor, Atheel Nujaifi, one in July and the other in October. Both had previously worked as journalists.

    The al-Mada Press news agency, citing a source in the Ninewa police department, reported that security forces had “opened an investigation to find out more details about the assassination and who did it.” So far neither security forces nor the media have provided a reason for the killing. Christians in Mosul are frequently the target of attacks by armed insurgent groups like al-Qaeda.

    Ninewa security forces made similar statements after the assassinations of the three other journalists in October, based on Mosul residents’ accounts to Human Rights Watch and local news reports. On October 5, gunmen shot Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, a television reporter working with al-Sharqiyya news service, and his cameraman, Mohammed al-Ghanem, in Mosul’s central al-Sarjakhaneh market when they were reporting on the neighborhood’s preparations for an upcoming religious holiday.

    On October 24, gunmen using a silencer shot Bashar Abdulqader Najm al-Nouaymi, a cameraman working with al-Mosuliya news agency, in Mosul’s Nabi Shayth neighborhood.

    On October 8, gunmen killed Saad Zaghloul, a spokesman for the Ninewa governor, in front of his home in Mosul’s al-Qadissiya neighborhood. In July, gunmen killed Nujaifi’s spokesman at the time, Qahtan Sami, then laid his corpse on the street while army officers looked on, accordingto a local news report.

    Nujaifi told local media that local security forces know the names of members of “a group that specializes in assassinations,” but that he believes the forces have deliberately not taken any action to investigate or prevent the assassinations. A local journalist told Human Rights Watch that according to information a government source provided him, security forces have a list of 44 journalists that armed groups in the area have targeted for assassinations.

    Film Classics of the 20th Century

    So far in this series, we've looked at That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

    movie montage

    The comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello started out in vaudeville, moved on to radio, film and television.  In 1933's Flying Down to Rio, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were teamed for the first time and they stole the show -- even though they were the supporting act.  Supporting act Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis stole 1949's My Friend Irma out from the leads.  Like those successful teams, Abbott and Costello were supposed to be an element of 1940's One Night in the Tropics but walked off with the film.

    The comedy team would make 36 films -- One Night in the Tropics through Dance With Me Henry.  One of their films that qualifies as 20th century classic is 1942's Who Done It?


    Mervyn (Costello) and Chick (Abbott) are soda jerks ("We just took this job yesterday") who aspire to be radio writers.  They work right next to the radio network GBC, it's why they took the soda jerk jobs, in the hopes that they'd be able to sell their material to GBC employees that stop by.


    They explain that to Juliet Collins who's the secretary to the big wig running GBC, Colonel J.R. Andrews (Thomas Gomez).  Abbott explains to Costello that Juliet's their best shot at breaking into the business so "you've got to make a play for her."

    Costello: Chick, she ain't pretty.

    Abbott: Oh, what's that got to do with it?

    Costello: It's got a lot to do with it.

    Abbot: You're crazy.

    Costello: Oh, I've seen better heads on malted milks.

    Fortunately, Juliet can give as good as she gets such as when Costello declares he's her Romeo and she shoots back, "I like my Romeos king size."

    Even more fortunately, she's played by Mary Wickes.  Wickes made her mark in many films -- three with Bette Davis (The Man Who Came To Dinner, June Bride and Now, Voyager), White Christmas, The Music Man, The Trouble With Angels (and the sequel Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows), The Spirit Is Willing, Postcards From The Edge, Sister Act (and the sequel Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit), Winona Ryder's Little Women.

    Here, she leads the strongest supporting cast Abbott and Costello had in a film -- a cast which includes stand out performances by William Bendix (Detective Brannigan) and William Gargan (Lt. Moran) as cops after Abbott and Costello and Walter Tetley as an elevator operator who repeatedly tricks and torments Costello (asking him, for example, if he has change and then trading him two dimes for a nickle).


    Along with Wilkes and other strong supporting players, the film zips along in part because everything doesn't come to a standstill for a musical number -- as is sometimes the case in their other films.

    The boys show up for a broadcast of the nightly serial Murder At Midnight.  During the live broadcast, Colonel Andrews is killed.  Abbott convinces Costello that if they can solve the murder, they can get on the air.

    At one point, as they're investigating, it's noted the Colonel died when "10,000 volts went through his body." And Costello asks, "I beg your pardon?"  The reply is, "He got 10,000 volts."  This leads to a word play exchange on watts/what and volts/votes.

    Bud Costello: That's enough to elect anybody.  He should be president.

    Lou Abbott:  Nah, not that kind.

    Bud Costello:  What kind?

    Lou Abbott:  Volts.

    Bud Costello:  That's what I said.  He got 10,000.

    Lou Abbott:  You know what volts are?

    Bud Costello:  They're what?

    Lou Abbott:  That's right.

    Bud Costello:  What'd I say?

    Lou Abbott:  Volts are watts.

    Bud Costello: Go ahead and tell me.

    Lou Abbott:  You just said it.

    Bud Costello:  I just asked you to tell me what I said, what'd I say?

    Lou Abbott:  Volts are watts.

    Bud Costello:  Votes are what?  

    Lou Abbott:  Yes.

    Bud Costello:  I'm asking you, what's volts?

    Lou Abbott:  That's right.

    Bud Costello: Don't try to twist me.  Now what are you talking about a dialect?

    Lou Abbott:  Watts, watts, watts!

    Bud Costello:  What, what, what, what?

    Lou Abbott:  Volts.

    Bud Costello:  What's votes?

    Lou Abbott:  That's right.

    Bud Costellow:  Well go ahead and tell me.

    Lou Abbott: Well, that's it.

    Bud Costello:  What are the votes?

    Lou Abbott:  That's right.

    Bud Costello:  I'm asking you.

    Lou Abbott:  Watts are volts.

    Bud Costello:  What?

    Lou Abbott:  That's right. 

    Bud Costello:  Next thing you know you'll be telling me, "What's on second base!"

    That's actually one of two jokes noting the duo's famous Who's On First? routine.


    Abbott explains the cops want them for posing as cops and the murderer wants them because they have the evidence (a glove).  And finding out who the murderer is will involve Costello joining an acrobatic team (and crashing through the stage floor), bickering with a telephone operator, taking to the roof of the radio building and more.



    It's a funny film, a very funny film, and great to see one of the screen's finest comedic duos doing slapstick, verbal routines and one liners with flair and ease.  Stanley Roberts, Edmund Joseph and John Grant wrote the script.  Erle C. Kenton, who'd just directed Abbott and Costello in Pardon My Sarong, directed this follow up.

    From The TESR Test Kitchen

    Manhattan Clam Chowder?  As Joni Mitchell put it ("Big Yellow Taxi"), "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone."

    One minute it was in cans and on the shelves of supermarkets everywhere.  Then it was gone.  Replaced by Cream of Potato or 'zesty' variations on tomato soup.

    We blame Will & Grace.

    Specifically, the season three episode "Girl Trouble" written by Alex Herschlag.

    Natasha Lyonne  plays an aspiring interior designer named Gillian who wants to learn from Grace (Debra Messing).

    Gillian: Hey, uh, do you mind if I just hang around and watch you work? I mean, I'd love to get a sense of what your process is. 

    Grace: Oh. Sure. Okay.

    Grace starts to do a sketch, then stops as she remembers something.

    Grace: Oh!

    She picks up her phone and dials.

    Grace.  Hello.  Is Mr. Sanderson there, please? 

    Gillian: You sure you don't want to be alone?

    Grace:  No.  It's okay.  You can listen.  Mr. Sanderson?  Grace Adler. Hi.  Tell me, what's your soup today?  Manhattan or New England?  Ewww. 

    Grace hangs up the phone.

    Grace: It was Manhattan.

    Gillian: Ewww.

    And honestly, don't most people, like Gillian, agree with Grace's take on it?

    Given the choice between New England Clam Chowder (creamy based) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (tomato based), don't most prefer New England?


    Campbell's Soups makes both chowders.  They do it in condensed and in chunky.  But we've never seen the chunky version of their Manhattan Clam Chowder and, until this week, when we learned some Super Targets were carrying it, we didn't even know the instant was still around.

    We put the condensed versions through The TESR Test Kitchen.

    With New England, you dump the contents of the can into a pan (or, if you're microwaving, a bowl) and then add a can of milk.  The taste is so-so.  You really need to pepper it up. With all the cans of non-condensed New England Clam Chowder (including Campbell's chunky version) around, we're not really sure why someone would make this their first choice.  It might be good to have as a back up.  But it lacks so much in taste and in texture.

    You cook the condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder the same way except you add a can of water.

    This soup has a zest spice to it.

    While both have potatoes and clams as ingredients, Manhattan has carrots, celery, red peppers and green peppers, among other ingredients.

    The green peppers are the most abundant in the four cans we sampled for this article.  They tend to be bigger than all but the red peppers so that may be why they're easier to notice.  They're little squares, tiny ones.  The carrots and the celery are more like flakes.

    While you'll most readily notice the green peppers in your spoon, it's the combination of the green peppers, red peppers, celery and carrots give the soup it's kick.

    Conclusion?  Come back to store shelves everywhere, Campbell's Manhattan Clam Chowder, we misjudged you and we sorely miss you.

    When ugly bumps and marries


    It's never pretty and apparently it's also a comb-free moment.


    And the only ones amused are the bride and groom.


    Having eyes only for one another, they're unaware how they come off to those around them.


    Maybe the drinking doesn't help?


    Again, maybe the drinking doesn't help?

    Cass, of course, is pro-military tribunals and anti-free speech, having co-written a paper in 2008 suggesting the government spy on and infiltrate groups Cass finds scary (like those people involved in the 9-11 Truth Movement).

    Samantha Power is A Problem From Hell, the princess of The Drone War, the man behind Barack and so much more.


    Photos from the Flickr set "The Marriage of Samantha Power & Cass Sunstein," taken by Bettina Neuefeind,  NoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved:

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    Murray to Tour JBLM Sexual Assault Response Center


    Senator Patty Murray (above) is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following:

    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, November 27th, 2013                                       (202) 224-2834

    MONDAY EVENTS: Murray to Tour JBLM Sexual Assault Response Center, Keynote Ceremony for Military Grads of Microsoft Training Program
    12:30, JBLM: Murray will tour sexual assault response center
    2:00, Saint Martin’s University: Murray will keynote graduation ceremony for military graduates of Microsoft IT training program

    (Washington, D.C.) – On Monday, December 2nd, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will be in Tacoma and Lacey, WA for two events. 

    First, at 12:30 PM PT, Senator Murray will visit the newly opened sexual assault response center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The center is a first-for-the-military facility that brings together law enforcement, medical support and victims’ advocates in a single space. 

    Second, at 2:00 PM PT, Senator Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.  The 22 graduates, currently active duty service members from JBLM, will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers at Microsoft or Launch Consulting.  The Microsoft Academy was inspired by Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act.”

    To RSVP for either event, contact the Murray Press Office ( or the JBLM Public Affairs Office (253-967-0152)

    Event 1:

    WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                    Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, Deputy Commanding General, I Corps
            Col. Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Commander, Joint Base Lewis McChord
            Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, JBLM Sexual Assault Response Team Director

    WHAT:        Senator Murray will tour JBLM’s new, first-for-the-military sexual assault response center, which brings together law enforcement, medical support, and victims’ advocates in a single space.
    WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
            12:30 PM PT
    WHERE:     Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Resource Center
            Bldg 2027
                         Joint Base Lewis McChord,
                                       Dupont Gate, I-5 Exit 119
                                       Escort required – please RSVP in advance              
    Event 2:

    WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                       JBLM-based service members graduating from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy
                         Col. Charles Hodges, Jr., Base Commander, JBLM
                         Dr. Roy Heynderickx, President, Saint Martin’s University
                         Officials from Microsoft, Launch Consulting

    WHAT:        Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University
    WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
            2:00 PM PT
    WHERE:     Saint Martin’s University
                         Norman Worthington Conference Center
                         Lacey, WA

    Sean Coit
    Press Secretary
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

    Who knew about Northern Ireland death squad killings? (Simon Basketter, Socialist Worker)

    Repost from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

    Those at the top knew about British army's Northern Ireland death squad killings

    Simon Basketter looks at part of the history of British army terror tactics in Northern Ireland and what BBC’s Panorama didn’t tell us about death squads.

    A secret army “terror” unit set up in the early 1970s was given licence to operate a shoot-to-kill policy.

    Soldiers from the Military Reaction Force (MRF) undercover unit carried out a series of drive-by shootings where people were killed and injured.

    “We were in a position to go after IRA and kill them when we found them,” a former MRF soldier told the

    BBC’s Panorama.

    The unit’s existence is well known, but the BBC got some  of its members to speak on camera last week.

    The soldiers are unrepentant.

    Comprised of 40 men, the secret unit carried out patrols of west Belfast between 1971 and 1973.

    They would drive by barricades—which were set up in West Belfast to keep out the British army and Loyalist mobs—and open fire.

    According to the official history, the conflict in Northern Ireland was about two warring tribes—the Catholics and Protestants, who had to be kept apart for their own sake by British soldiers.


    But in reality the British occupation of Northern Ireland was brutal, repressive and murderous.

    In 1972, the British Army took overall responsibility for security in Northern Ireland.

    In a document prepared by Army General Staff in October 1971, under the heading, Tougher Military Measures and Their Implications, the following suggestion was included.

    “More aggressive tactics against gunmen such as the formation of Q squads in special areas, to mystify, mislead and destroy the terrorists.

    “The IRA has the initiative and is causing disruption out of all proportion to the relatively small numbers engaged.

    “This is not to credit the IRA with any unusual skill; it is the normal pattern of urban guerrilla activity when the guerrillas are not opposed by a ruthless and authoritarian governmental machine.”

    On May 12, 1972 the MRF killed Patrick McVeigh and injured four others at a west Belfast barricade.
    Patrick’s daughter Patricia said, “I’m astonished, astounded, angry, that the forces that were supposed to be protecting us had actually killed my father and injured four other men.”

    Six weeks later another drive-by shooting at the Glen Road bus terminus left four men injured.

    In another shooting, 18 year old Daniel Rooney was killed and his friend Brendan Brennan wounded.

    As Socialist Worker reported in 2007, former Loyalists have claimed that the MRF also trained Loyalist paramilitaries.

    Politicians at the highest levels knew about the death squads. The Tory Home secretary Willie Whitelaw was told about them at their launch.

    And a secret briefing paper was put together for Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in 1974 which outlined the history of the death squads—so he could deny their existence to the Irish government.

    Any operational records for the MRF have been destroyed.

    Brutal philosophy of British terror unit commander

    In 1971 British army brigadier Frank Kitson proposed establishing “counter gangs” to defeat the rapidly developing “insurgency” in Northern Ireland.

    The philosophy was simple and brutal—terrorise Catholics. Kitson had served in several colonial campaigns for the British Empire. These convinced him that conventional warfare was on the way out.

    He is credited with introducing the technique into Kenya during the Mau Mau war.

    Kitson was posted to Northern Ireland as commander of 39 Brigade in Belfast in 1970.

    Counter-insurgency methods were introduced including psychological warfare and the use of black propaganda.

    The “black propaganda” team was part of creating the cover up of Bloody Sunday, when British troops murdered 14 civilians in Derry in 1972.

    But beyond murdering people they were often ineffective. The Four Square Laundry was a bogus service operated by MRF in order to carry out surveillance.

    Clothes were taken to Army HQ at Lisburn to be forensically tested for explosive residues.

    The IRA shot a plainclothes soldier driving a van for the Four Square Laundry and two other spies hidden in the roof.

    The same day Gemini Massage Parlour, another MRF operation was also attacked by the IRA.

    Rather than winding up the death squads the army responded by professionalising them.

    From the late 1970s onwards, both Labour and Tory governments backed the Force Research Unit (FRU) which supplied names, addresses and photographs of targets to paramilitaries.

    During this time the FRU worked alongside the Special Branch of Northern Ireland’s police force. In the 1980s, the FRU was led by Colonel Gordon Kerr.

    Later, he headed British intelligence in Iraq. The unit is now called the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.

    As well as deploying in the Middle East and Somalia it provided the “intelligence” behind the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes.

    ‘You shot the wrong f**kers’

    Gerry and John Conway were walking to the Falls Road to catch a bus when a car pulled up in front of them in April 1972.

    Three men jumped from the car and fired automatic pistols at them. One of the men pursued them, firing as he went, and succeeded in wounding both of them.

    According to one Military Reaction Force officer, “We ran after them and the patrol commander gave the order ‘bullets’. I scored several hits myself—both men were severely wounded.

    “We radioed for a uniformed patrol. When it turned up, their commander said to ours, ‘You stupid bastards, you’ve shot the wrong f**kers’.”

    MRF soldiers shot at one another 

    An hour-long gun battle took place in the Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast.

    When it ended, one soldier lay dead, Robert Cutting of the Royal Marines, while a second was seriously injured.

    Both sides in the gun battle were soldiers—one side in uniform and the other in civilian clothes from the MRF.

    Getting away with murder?

    John Larkin QC, the Attorney General in Northern Ireland, has called for an end to “prosecutions, inquests and other inquiries” into deaths before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
    This would prevent any investigation into the death squads.

    Observer reports fraud in Honduras election (Workers World)

    Repost from Workers World:

    Observer reports fraud in Honduras election

    By on November 26, 2013

    Tegucigalpa, Honduras,  Nov. 25 — The Honduran people remain in a state of organized “tense calm” a day after the country’s Supreme Electoral Council (TSE) declared ruling National Party leader Juan Orlando Hernández the winner in the polls, supposedly defeating Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Hondurans had turned out in record numbers to vote for Castro de Zelaya, and Libre has denounced the TSE for committing fraud in the elections, and is organizing its base, made up of all sectors of Honduran working-class society.

    The national committee of the Libre party is scheduled to meet in the  morning of Nov. 26, and the party asked its supporters to gather in front of the meeting in a massive show of support.

    Some Libre members and supporters, along with international delegates from Chicago-based La Voz de los de Abajo and other groups, already held a demonstration today. They were protesting the decision of some international election observers who claimed that the elections were “clean and fair” and that the National Party had won. For the most part, however, the highly organized masses are following the instructions of the Libre party’s leadership and waiting until Nov. 26 to protest.

    In solidarity with the people of Honduras, delegates from around the world arrived in Honduras in recent days to help monitor the situation before, during and after the elections. The groups included a delegation of some 160 people from La Voz de los de Abajo, the International Action Center, and a group of lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer human rights activists from the U.S., along with others.

    Widespread vote tampering and fraud

    The IAC delegation monitored polling places in Siguatepeque, Taulabé, Otoro and Comayagua, in central Honduras, and received a number of reports of vote tampering and fraud. In Siguatepeque, the local news reported that election tabulation results for its polling places had been found in a local home, already filled out and signed before the election had even begun.

    Many people arrived at their polling places to find that although they had registered to vote and possessed the proper identification, their names were not on the registration lists, so they could not vote. Others were listed as deceased, while some noted the names of people who had been dead for years, with imposters
    voting in their places.

    One Libre party member in Siguatepeque was told she was registered to vote in Puerto Cortez, some 100 kilometers to the north — an area she had never been to in her life. The IAC delegation was also able to intervene in a situation in Tualabé, in which an elderly person in a wheelchair was being denied access to vote.

    The delegation also heard reports of more serious violations throughout the country, as in Copán, where armed people went into a polling place and forced people wearing Libre T-shirts to leave the voting lines. In the department of Francisco Morazán, two Libre members were killed on the morning of the elections. In Otoro, the Libre candidate for mayor, Jesus Ruiz Maldonado, was followed by a white Ford with no license plates in the days before the election.

    National Party tries to bribe voters

    One woman described how, in a clear attempt to bribe Honduras’ poor population, the government in Otero recently offered a cash assistance voucher to citizens, but then announced that the vouchers could not be used until the Tuesday after the elections. Voters were then told that they would only be valid if the National Party won.

    The TSE has refused to recognize certified votes from voting places in the more rural areas of the country — areas with more Libre supporters. One IAC delegate went with an election official to deliver the ballots to a TSE office, only to find it had been closed prematurely.

    Like the U.S., Honduras has historically had a system in which the presidency is passed between two parties — the Liberal Party and the National Party — often with the handover bringing little meaningful change. When Liberal Party President Mel Zelaya began working to improve the lives of Honduras’ working poor and challenging the hegemony of multinational corporations and U.S. imperialism in the region, he was overthrown in a U.S.-sponsored coup in 2009.

    The coup, however, birthed a militant and massive resistance movement in Honduras, organized under the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP). By running Castro de Zelaya as president under the newly formed Libre party, the resistance movement hopes to fundamentally disrupt the inequality, militarism and poverty now rampant in Honduran society.

    All the parties involved in the election, excluding the National Party, initially condemned the TSE’s fraudulent count. (Four of them had significant votes in the published results.) As of now, with the exception of one other new party, they have lined up behind the National Party candidate in declaring Hernández the victor.

    Dowell is a member of the IAC delegation, which also met with campesinos occupying lands, LGTBQ activists, and family members of prisoners killed in a prison fire in 2012. Look for more articles by this delegation in future issues.

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