Monday, June 30, 2014

Some thoughts on True Blood

That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Explores A Subculture" from  last night.

And to honor Barack's decision to cruise the gay community, let's note that if Peyton Manning proposed to Channing Tatum and Channing said "yes," he would be Channing Manning. 

And True Blood was honoring Barack's decision with an opening scene last night. 

Yes, Jason and Eric finally made out.

Only it was just Jason's dream.  He woke up sitting in a church pew.

Yes, I am a True Blood fan.  When it ends, this is the last season, I'll drop HBO.

A lot of people hate True Blood these days.  I like it and I actually liked it more last season than ever.  A lot of people seem to feel the show's gotten worse.

I don't know though, it seems like a lot of people don't even really watch and are slamming it because you've got women active in this show.

This isn't like Revolution where women are reduced to nothing.

You've got Anna Paquin starring as Sookie.  And she's been the lead for all the seasons before (six) and is for the final season.  She's a faerie and a telepath.

Ryan Kwanten plays Jason, her brother.  He's in the photo above, the man on the left.

Alexander Skarsgard (in the photo above, he's flashing his hairy arm pit) plays Eric the vampire.

Rutina Wesley wasn't on last night.  She died the week before in the first episode of the season. 

I loved how Ava and C.I. worded it in "TV: The useless huffing and puffing of flaccid men" -- they were trying to avoid spoilers, "It was a week that saw Jack Bauer throw a woman to her death (24), Dr. Karen Kim appear  to take tips from her patient on how to be an escort (Mistresses), the us versus them divide  pushed hard (Big Brother), Cat and Vincent fail in suburbia (Beauty & the Beast), Tara suffer an attack (True Blood) and Tituba declare John Alden a witch (Salem)."

But Tara was attacked and then she died.  You've got a band of crazed vampires (from the Hep V virus of season six -- remember?).  I really liked Tara.  She was a great character and Rutina is a great actress.

But Ryan Kwanten?

He's not a bad actor.

Jason's actually my favorite male character.

Kwanten is Australian but plays Jason with a southern (US) accent.

And it's weird watching him . . .

When Jason and Violet finally have sex (first episode this season), I realized I'd rather see Kwanten's butt -- naked butt.


He always seems to me, the actor, to be sending up Bully Boy Bush.

He looks like a pretty version of George and he's got that kind of accent and also that soft dumbness.

So I didn't want to see Bully Boy Bush's "O" face and preferred it when the camera was recording Jason's sex from behind.

Ryan Kwanten Jason Stackhouse Main
Rutina Wesley Tara Thornton Main
Alexander Skarsgård Eric Northman

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, June 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Parliament is supposed to meet Tuesday and determine the next government, a number of rivals for the post of prime minister appear to be arising, AFP serves up a parlor game, Rod Nordland does a report on Twitter that leads to some criticism, Katie Couric interviews War Criminal Tony Blair, Senator Patty Murray notes US President Barack Obama's nominee for VA Secretary, and much more.

The Feminist Majority Foundation released the following today:

JUNE 30, 2014
J.T. Johnson
(o): 703-522-2214
(c): 202-681-7251

SCOTUS Decides: Corporations Have Religious Liberty; Women Do Not In Choosing Birth Control

Court sides with closely-held corporations as boss of women’s health access
WASHINGTON -- In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. today in a major blow to reproductive rights for women across the nation.
“Today’s decision not only deprives women of comprehensive healthcare, but it sets a terrifying standard in affirming the “personhood” of corporations. In siding with Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court yet again affirms the personhood of corporations, giving closely-held (i.e. limited number of stockholders) corporations so-called religious liberty and taking religious freedom away from their employees at the expense of women’s health,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of religious liberty and women’s rights.”  
A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to affordable birth control and support full coverage of birth control as a preventive service. “The Supreme Court ignored, not only public opinion, but individual rights of women to religious freedom,” Smeal continued.
Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer, challenged the benefit and sought to give religious freedom to corporations rather than give women the right to truly affordable and comprehensive health care. The Supreme Court case is the first for-profit challenge to the law to make it to the highest court. 
●      At least 14% of all women using a contraceptive are doing so to treat painful conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, severe cramps.
●      Studies have shown that the pill reduces the incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
●      As many as 88% of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used some form of contraception.  

The Feminist Majority Foundation has worked diligently for affordable contraceptive access for all women. This decision is a blow to women who work for corporations who claim to have religious views that trump the religious views of their employees. The Affordable Care Act still provides for the vast majority of women who have insurance coverage birth control access without co-pays or deductibles.  

Moving to Iraq, Kitabat observes Nouri al-Maliki's fate is to be determined tomorrow when Parliament holds their first session.  Thug Nouri is completing his second term as prime minister and wants a third term.  His second term has been characterized with bullying, targeting, arresting political rivals, killing their relatives, attacking protesters, killing protesters, refusing to honor promises -- including signed legal contracts, and much more.  So some might say it is Iraq's fate that could be determined tomorrow.

Iraq Times reports on rumors that State of Law has decided to abandon pushing Nouri for a third term and that they've come up with a new nominee for prime minister (supposedly Tareq Najm). National Iraqi News Agency, citing Ahrar bloc MP Hakim al-Zamili, noted the Iraqi National Alliance is supposed to select their nominee for prime minister at a bloc meeting tonight.  Iraq Times maintains the fight for the post of prime minister will be mainly between Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq Najm with Ahmed Chalabi and Faleh al-Fayad dark horses in the race.  NINA quotes Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman declaring "the decision of changing the government and its approach and its faces begins from the National Alliance."  Tareq Najm would be a new name for the international community.  Adel Abdul-Mahdi is not a new face.  Following the December 2005 parliamentary elections, he was named one of Iraq's two vice presidents -- he was the Shi'ite Vice President, Tareq al-Hashemi was the Sunni.  Both served their term until 2010.  In 2010, both were named to a second term.  al-Hashemi left the country when Nouri began targeting him.  Adel Abdul-Mahdi left the government nearly six months before al-Hashemi left the country.  At the start of 2011, a worried Nouri lied to get protesters off the streets of Iraq.  He insisted, if given 100 days, he'd end corruption in Iraq.  At the end of 100 days, he failed to keep his promise (as always).  Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned over the government's inability to address corruption.  He remains a powerful Iraqi politician (one with a world profile -- and Big Oil loves him).  He is a member of Ammar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- one the major Shi'ite political parties.

Hamish MacDonald (ABC News) reports, "Shaping up as the political king-maker in the new parliament is the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim. In an interview with ABC News he said Maliki 'has two obstacles. He must be accepted by both the national Shia Alliance, and by the other minorities'."  Over the weekend, Arab Times noted this on the political situation:

In a stunning political intervention on Friday that could mean the demise of Maliki’s eight-year tenure, powerful Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged political blocs to agree on the next premier, parliament speaker and president before a newly elected legislature meets in Baghdad on Tuesday. Saudi King Abdullah pledged in talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more inclusive Iraqi government to better combat Islamist insurgents, a senior US official said on Saturday. Abdullah’s assurance marked a significant shift from Riyadh’s unwillingness to support a new government unless Maliki, a Shi’ite, steps aside, and reflected growing disquiet about the regional repercussions of ISIL’s rise. “The next 72 hours are very important to come up with an agreement ... to push the political process forward,” said a lawmaker and former government official from the National Alliance, which groups all Shi’ite Muslim parties. The lawmaker, who asked for anonymity due to political sensitivities, said he anticipated internal meetings by various parties and a broader session of the National Alliance including Maliki’s State of Law list to be held through the weekend. Some Sunni Muslim parties were to convene later on Saturday. Iraqi Sunnis accuse Maliki of freezing them out of any power and repressing their community, goading armed tribes to support the insurgency led by the fundamentalist group ISIL. The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region has also said Maliki should bow out. Sistani’s entry into the fray will make it hard for Maliki to stay on as caretaker leader as he has since a parliamentary election in April. 

And on the political merry go round, Hamish MacDonald (ABC News) reports

Perhaps the single most significant public development in this process so far is the meeting of the Shia Alliance on Saturday night, after which the coalition of parties declared itself the biggest single voting bloc in the parliament. This issues a direct challenge to Maliki's State of Law party, which holds 92 seats and is the single largest party in parliament.
The combination of seats belonging to the Shia Alliance may give them a mandate to form the new government and have the power to determine key positions, including the prime minister.

Wow.  That's interesting, isn't it.  The group with the most seats in Parliament after the election.  Let's drop back to Saturday:

Are we forgetting the 'judicial' decision Nouri pulled out of his ass in 2010?
The one he put in his pocket and failed to inform anyone of ahead of the election.  It was his worst case scenario card.  If he didn't win the most seats, he had that decision.
And he used it because he lost in 2010.
The judicial decision said it wasn't about the biggest grouping before the election, it was about the biggest grouping after the election. 

I wrote that Saturday in response to Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) making the ridiculous claim that seats won in the election by Nouri's State of Law gave Nouri first crack because he got the most.  The Constitution didn't say that.  And the Court verdict became the final word.  Once accepted, it's precedent.  It's custom.  That's why, if you didn't like it, you needed to object in real time (which we did here).  But four years later?  The verdict stands.

And, yes, it is damaging to print claims like Bengali did -- print them as fact.  You can call it lying or you can call it whoring.  I don't care.   But Bengali's 'reporting' was damaging.  And I think a strong case can be made that Western reporters in May aided the violence, encouraged.  Unwillingly?  Absolutely.  But when a desperate and hopeless people are repeatedly told by western outlets that they are stuck with Nouri for a third term, it's not a surprise that violence sky rockets.

It can also impact ethics as well.  Iraqi journalists have been very brave and taken extreme risks to report truths.  What message does it send when they see western reporters willfully engage in fabricating and distorting?

Rod Nordland writes for the New York Times.  He offended some Iraqis over the weekend.  This morning, I wrote, "Iraq Times and Kitabat both  note a story we'll touch on that in today's snapshot."  They're writing about Rod.  They're among the many Iraqi outlets that see Rod as news.

Where's the English language coverage?

Rod did a good report.  Sadly, it was on Twitter and not for his news outlet.

Prepping for Gen. Atta's presser, no ?s allowed. Is it the free lunch that brings so many?

75,000 Iraqi dinars, about $60, for the NYT, since there were three of us. 25,000 per journalist. No one seems to be refusing it.
The mystery of Gen Atta's heavily attended presser solved: entire press corps bribed.

Iraqi military bribe master in the press bus after Gen Atta's presser, and the payoff.

For the record we 're returning it. Not a single colleague rejected it, alas. 

Even whores don't sell themselves this cheap in Iraq. 

There's more, but you get the idea.

The first thing to do, my opinion, is applaud Rod Nordland.  I'm only sorry this wasn't a story in the New York Times.  It should have been.

And if someone whores, they whore.  Good for Nordland for calling it out.

But it also left an impression and maybe, grasping that a lot of readers wouldn't have English as their first langauge, Nordland could have expected that some would misunderstand?

Many Iraqi journalists are honest and brave professionals who would not take bribes; my remarks were aimed at those who do.

My apologies to Iraqi journalists who are blameless, which I'm sure is most of them. 

Precision should have been used and greater efforts at clarity because a few dinars here and there is nothing compared to the damage western reporters have done to Iraq.  That's not a slap at Rod Nordland who's done some good reporting -- and I would include the Tweets as good reporting -- but it is noting that it's a lot easier to call out some Iraqi reporters than it is some names with big western outlets.

AFP should be called out for this report.  So should McClatchy which recommended it.  Supposedly, it's a look at the people who possibly might be the next prime minister of Iraq.  Let's note three paragraphs and I bet you can figure out the problem.

Here is a brief overview of the candidates seen as possible replacements for Maliki:

The former Iraqi vice president is a leading figure in the Citizen's bloc, formerly known as the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, a political party seen as close to Iran. The French-speaking economist has long been touted as a potential prime minister. Maliki defeated his bid for the post by just one vote in an internal ballot within a pan-Shiite coalition that won December 2005 elections.

Maliki's predecessor as prime minister remains the head of the National Alliance, the loose pan-Shiite coalition that includes the premier's bloc and rival parties. He was ousted in favour of Maliki in 2006, when Iraq was embroiled in brutal communal bloodletting, because he was seen as too sectarian by minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Maliki's chief of staff maintains a low profile in the news but wields considerable power behind the scenes and hails from the prime minister's Dawa party, the oldest Shiite political party formed in opposition to former dictator Saddam Hussein. 

I'm sorry, is that a report or is it a parlor game?

A report should name the three people described in the last three paragraphs.

The first one is Adel Abdul-Mahdi whom we discussed earlier (Shi'ite Vice President for one full term and a few months of a second term).  The next person is Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  I have no idea who Nouri's chief of staff is.

Nor should I need to.  The 'report' should identify these people by name.

Again, it is a report or is it a parlor game?

I do read French so I went to Prashant Rao's Twitter feed and looked for a Tweet about this article.  There is one

         Retweeted by Prashant Rao

Les possibles candidats à la succession de M.

But the link in the Tweet but it takes you to a page which reads "Page not found."  Now maybe in the original French version, they give names.  But I don't have time to hunt it down.  I called a friend at AFP who steered me to this English language version which does name the candidates. And Tareq Najim, whom we discussed earlier, is Nouri's chief of staff.

War Criminal Tony Blair sat down for an interview with Katie Couric (Yahoo News) in Aspen, Colorado (link is video).

Katie Couric:  Many people are looking at this situation and saying basically: You reap what you sow.  They are blaming you and President Bush for starting this whole mess by invading Iraq back in 2003 even though it was later revealed -- as you have said and noted -- the country didn't have WMDs [Weapons of Mass Destruction].  And, in fact, I was inundated, Mr. Blair, with comments on social media claiming you are a War Criminal.  What's your response to that?

Tony Blair:  These people pursue me everywhere and will carry on saying this. And that's their point of view.  They will say it here or they will say it in the UK.  I'll just point out two things that I think are important.  I don't say this to convince you that the decisions in 2003 were the right decisions but simply to convince you this is a deeper problem than me calling people "appeasers" or they calling me a War Criminal will allow. And let us be very clear about this.  The proximate cause of what just happened in Iraq -- these jihadist fighters coming over the border from Syria.  When we intervened in Iraq, we know how difficult it was. Where we didn't intervene in Syria?  We see how these people rebuild themselves and and come into Iraq.  When we went into Libya, by the way, Libya is a country today that unfortunately, I'm afraid, is exporting its instability and chaos right across the region.  So intervention is tough.  Partial-intervention is tough -- as in Libya.  Non-intervention is tough -- as in Syria.  So instead of going back over the decisions of eleven years ago let's work out what we do right now.

Tony Blair would especially like everyone to look away from 11 years ago -- and not notice the long-suppressed findings of the Iraq Inquiry in the UK.

Back to the interview with War Criminal Blair:

Katie Couric: You called the political situation in Iraq "urgent."  But even some top Shi'ite officials have called for Maliki's ouster. Is he no longer a viable leader?  Should he step down?

Tony Blair: Well he changes or he can't lead Iraq to a viable future, that's clear.  So I think he's prepared to make the change or he's got to let others make the change. But what you cannot have is the situation where this is seen as a Shi'ite Sunni fight

Katie Couric: But do you still have faith in Maliki?

Tony Blair:  Look, I've been very critical over the sectarian nature of the government over the last few years. I mean, I'm hesitant to call for his removal but I-I know from conversations with people inside Iraq that there is a huge desire to get a government that is genuinely united.  And if it had the endorsement of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, it would be -- It would be a government that could govern.  And then the fight becomes -- It would be immediately transformative by the way because it would then become a fight against extremism and not a fight against Sunni or Shi'ite.

And from earlier in the interview:

Tony Blair:  I think that what is -- what would be transformative of the situation would be if the Iraqi government, the prime minister either changes his ways or the government -- then the prime minister is changed because part of the reason why ISIS has been able to move in this way is not because the local Sunni population really wants this vicious, jihadist group on their doorstep but because they're worried that the politics of Iraq have been too sectarian.

While selecting a prime minister is important, should the system work on Tuesday, the Parliament will also be selecting a Speaker of Parliament and a President of Iraq. As the Kurds feel the post of President belongs to them, the Sunnis feel the same with regards to Speaker of Parliament and it's on the Sunni side where all the discussions are taking place. Alsumaria quotes Kurdish MP Najeebeh Najib insisting that the President and Speaker have been determined and that it's only the post of prime minister which remains up for grabs.  However, other press reports indicate there remains a great deal of jockeying for the position of Speaker of Parliament.   All Iraq News notes the Wataniyah bloc is nominating Salem al-Juburi for the Speaker's post while Motahidoin is nomination Osama al-Nujaifi -- al-Nujaifi served as Speaker in the last term which kicked off in November 2010.   NINA notes the push for Salim al-Juburi for the post (and states a source declaring it is a done deal).  Alsumaria reports al-Nujaifi has met with Saleh al-Mutlaq to discuss various political issues ahead of the session to be held Tuesday.  Prashant Rao Tweeted:

Nouri's political coalition is State of Law.  Alsumaria reports State of Law MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki has declared that SoL will not support Osama al-Nujaifi receiving a second term as Speaker.

Let's move over to violence.  National Iraqi News Agency notes Nouri's aerial bombing of Mosul left "at least 40 people" injured and in need of medical treatment, 1 person was shot dead in Shurta Rabaa, the aerial bombing of Baquba lefft 8 people "believed to be of Daash" -- but no one knows -- dead, and 1 corpse was discovered bumped "in the Bayaa area southwest of Baghdad."  All Iraq News notes a mortar attack on a village "of northeastern Baquba" left 1 person dead and two more injured.

As the violence continues, IANS notes India is pulling 600 of their citizens from Iraq this week.  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reports:

The Obama administration said on Monday it has sent yet another complement of US troops to safeguard the embassy, a measure intended to ward off another Benghazi-style assault on American diplomats.
It brings the number of US military personnel flowing into Iraq to 750, up from 100 barely two weeks ago.

The two are related to safety.  On the US move, we noted some time ago that Barack needed to have a conversation with the American people about the Baghdad embassy.  He lacked the maturity to do so.  He had his shot and he blew it.

Let's say something awful happens to embassy staff in Baghdad in the next weeks or months.  Had Barack started the needed conversation, the most likely outcome would have been a plurality (if not majority) of American adults would have said that the embassy should remain.  By not having the conversation, he allowed others the space to do so.  Two prominent Republican senators have been among those leading the conversation.  They started last week.  Their warnings are now on record, they were public warnings and they were televised.  Should something go wrong -- and this is the White House only just now figured out -- Barack gets all the blame.

Again, as we said weeks ago, toss it out to the American public.  Then they own the decision with Barack and then there's no criticism -- since it was a collective decision -- of Barack if we have something go horribly wrong -- hostages, deaths, whatever.

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the current Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Monday, June 30, 2014                                                      (202) 224-2834
Murray Statement on Nomination of Robert “Bob” McDonald as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after President Obama nominated Robert “Bob” McDonald to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I applaud President Obama for his selection of Bob McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs at this most critical time.
“His successful management and leadership track record, combined with his commitment and service to our nation’s men and women in uniform, are essential to address both the immediate and long-term challenges at the VA.
“These are challenges that will not be solved through legislation alone or by simply replacing the Secretary. However, I am hopeful today’s announcement will spark long-overdue change from the top-down in order to ensure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.
“When it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. As I work with my House and Senate colleagues on the conference committee to address some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA, I look forward to hearing from Mr. McDonald on how he plans to fix the Department’s deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.
“We made a promise to our nation’s heroes who answered the call of duty and I am hopeful Mr. McDonald shares that commitment.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office



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