Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Music, Middle East and More

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts but if he encourages you to listen to Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back," don't. That song is so awful. He played it for me over the phone and I was afraid to speak after. I thought, "Oh Lord, he must like this hideous song." He asked me what I thought and I said, "She singing's flat." He started laughing. I said, "I'm sorry, I really didn't like the song." Then he told me what he thought of the song and that he'd been playing it for everyone to make them laugh. If he had told me, before he played it, "This song is ridiculous" . . . Well, I would've been laughing. But the whole time that awful song was playing, I was too busy thinking, "He likes this. How am I going to avoid hurting his feelings?" It's an awful song that rips off everything (including Janet Jackson -- especially "Throb") and never amounts to anything. But on top of all the stolen beats, lyrics and "To the bridge, ya'll" moments is the worst vocal. If this is what he thinks sexy is, avoid him in bed. Truly. There is no rise, there is no fall. Just this steady monotone chant. I've never heard a more repressed vocal.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue and the Puppet finds how hard the strings can be yanked.
Reuters reports that Hoshiyar Zebari (Iraq's foreign minister) stated that Iraq will condemn Hizbollah just in time to allow Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki to address the US Congress. Reuters also provides the Puppet's Lament -- noteworthy only due to the laugh factor: "Let us not allow what happened in 1991 to repeat itself, because if it does history will not be merciful to any of us."
"Us"? Pretty strong words for someone who bailed on his own country and wasn't, in fact, in Iraq in 1991. If a struggle wasn't finished in Iraq in 1991 (George H. W. Bush did not march to Baghdad, etc.) maybe the last person to be criticizing should be an Iraqi who was hiding outside of the country? Maybe if it meant so much to him, he should have gone to his country and not expected another country to do the work he was too scared/chicken to do?
If that seems especially harsh, it needs to be noted these thoughts aren't uncommon in Iraq. As the illegal occupation picks one exile after another to be puppet, Iraqis are offended (rightly). If al-Maliki thinks things were left unfinished in 1991, why's he blaming George H. W. Bush -- where was al-Maliki in 1991? Not in Iraq -- he only returned after the US invaded in 2003. He's a funny kind of 'brave,' a funny kind of 'leader,' shouting: "Stand with me! After others clear the way for me!"
There's a reason that various people have loyal followings in Iraq -- they were there before the invasion. They are a part of the country's history. These exiles returning and being appointed to positions of authority do not represent the average Iraqi and that's yet another factor in the hostility towards the puppet government.
al-Maliki was missing his cod-piece but, in front of the US Congress, he demonstrated he could strut and bluster as well as the Bully Boy. How bad was it? So bad Tony Snow has had to declare that "
the president is not a puppeteer in this case." Only in this case?
While that nonsense went on, in the real world, the chaos and the violence continued.
Associated Press notes the death of police officers (also brothers) in Baghdad from a roadside bomb. The AFP identifies one as "Lieutenant Colonerl Khadum Bressam" and notes the death of "one civilian" from a roadside bomb in Baghdad as well as a roadside bomb in Kirkuk that killed one person and left four wounded.
Reuters reports that three police officers were killed in Nahrwan and four others wounded; a wedding was the location for an attack where "Gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed three men with bullets"; and, in Baquba, an attack on a police patrol left with civilian dead, one police officer dead and one police officer wounded. AFP covers the patrol attack in Baquba and also notes that a family that had "gathered their possisions and prepared to flee" were attacked by "gunmen" leaving one family member dead and two others wounded.
AFP reports five corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("tortured and shot").
Also in Baghdad,
Reuters is reporting that seventeen people were kidnapped from an apartment complex in Baghdad ("10 men, five women and two children from different families"). The mass kidnapping comes on a day when "police brigadier Abdulla Hmood, the director of the residency office in Baghdad" was also kidnapped.
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) continues to speak with actual Iraqis. Is it a civil war? The conclusion of the people Cockburn speaks with is that it a civil war with one telling him, "When our so-called leaders go to Washington they always produce a rosy picture of what is happening in Iraq for the Americans, though they know it is a lie."
In England, the
BBC reports that the families of four soldiers who died in Iraq have won their right to a judicial review. The AFP reports that Britain's Court of Appeal means the defendants "have won a key legal battle in their bid to force a full public inquiry into the legality of Britain's decision to go to war." The BBC notes the families' attorney, Phil Shiner, explaining: "The government now have to produce evidence to a full hearing in the Court of Appeal. That evidence needs to establish once and for all whether the decision to invade [Iraq] was lawful." 114 UK troops have died in Iraq. Also today in England, the AFP reports, Tony Blair was delivering a health care speech when he was interupted by a war protestor who wrote across his chest and back: "Impeach Tony Blair."
In the United States,
a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll reports that, among Democrats, 31 percent i.d. the war "as the top problem for the country while 14 percent listed the economy". For all respondents, regardless of party i.d., the AP reports: "The problem mentioned most often by all adults polled was the war -- in Iraq and conflicts in general -- 22 percent." (500 participants, plus/minus 4.5 error of margin.) Breakdown of the data here.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.
Ben Doherty (The Age) reports that "Professor Alexander McFarlane, head of psychiatry at Adelaide University" that "[t]he probability that Private Kovco intentionally committed suicide is very low." Speaking with Eleanor Hall on The World Today (Australia's ABC), Conor Duffy reported: "Eleanor, this psychiatrist, his name is Professor Sandy McFarlane, and he specialises in trauma and the state of mind of troops in war zones. One of the first things he said was to rule out suicide as a possibility. He said that Private Kovco was actively planning for the future in his diary, and there were also two occasions in his diary when he'd mused about suicide. The first one was about a month before his death, when he had a dream where he'd shot himself, and he said he ruled out suicide after that and he didn't like the idea of suicide at all. The other time was after a suicide bomber had attacked some building in the green zone, and he was trying to empathise with the suicide bomber and trying to imagine how he could have done this, and he said that he couldn't at all. And I quote directly from what he said, from what Private Kovco wrote, he said: 'They have a f .. ked up state of mind, the sooner they are exterminated the better'. And he couldn't understand those suicidal actions at all."
Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that McFarlane stated: "In his diary his sense of vigilance had changed when he returned to picket duties at the Australian embassy. He perceived that this was an environment with a significantly lower level of threat. Private Kovco was in a somewhat playful state of mind."
Doherty reports that Jake Kovco's former roommates ("Soldiers 17 and 19") are returning to Australia "to give evidence in the inquiry next week" and that "another of Private Kovco's comrades, known as Soldier 14, who was on duty with Private Kovco on the day he died" to testify to the inquiry in person in Australia. On that development, Conor Duffy reports that the former roomates "will arrive in Sydney on Friday . . . [where] [t]hey're expected to undergo tests to determine if they are the source of the mystery DNA on Private Kovco's pistol."
In peace news,
Cynthia Oi (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) addresses the topic of war resister Ehren Watada, noting: "Lt. Watada became the object of our discontent, the body mass on which to dump the toxic products of unease generated by the relentlessly horrible war." Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada is due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
It is
day 23 of the Troops Home Fast with at least 4,350 people taking part from around the world. The strike is ongoing and people can grab a one-day fast or grab a multiple-day fast while. More information can be found at CODEPINK.

Why was al-Maliki delivering such a misguided speech to the Congress? Maybe he thought he, too, was bringing sexy back? C.I. makes a great point and makes it with humor: Why is al-Maliki running the country? The War Hawks argue that to leave would be to "cut and run" but what is al-Maliki but a story of cutting and running? Things got difficult, he fled the country. He didn't return until the US invaded. [Also check out C.I.'s ""NYT: The big meetup goes bust (Jim Rutenberg reports)."]

On the lastest regarding Jake Kovco, I used the links and was struck by how the press played it (with the exception of the woman who hosts The World Today) as though Kovco fired the gun that killed him. With the presence of additional DNA on the gun and the fact that the two roommates' stories do not match up, I would argue that nothing's yet to be solved. Did he fire the gun (accidentally or on purpose)? I have no idea. But I know that last week Shelley and Judy Kovco were both upset that a witness testified with what they saw as a conclusion (one he wasn't qualified to make). I think the inquiry needs to get it together and the press needs to be less quick to say, "This happened." The rommates are finally going to be compelled to testify. Until they do, I think there needs to be less efforts to say, "This happened." His clothes, Jake Kovco's clothes, were disposed of, the scene was cleaned -- all before the investigation started.

There may be a simple explanation for why someone cleaned up the crime scene and disposed of evidence (the clothes would be evidence). But until they testify at the inquiry, I think the idea that ___ happened goes far from reporting and more towards opinion. I understand to a degree that it is tempting to go with it. Kovco's widow and family do not think he committed suicide. When the most recent expert testifies that he wasn't in a depressed state, that is news. But to me, it's not: "Kovco fired gun by accident." To me, we don't know that he fired the gun.

With all the family has been put through (and the country of Australia) on this, I can understand the urge to trumpet that a witness says he wasn't in a depressed state. But I keep coming back to the fact that he was cleaned up, his clothes were disposed of, the crime scene was cleaned up and the two men in the room at the time of the shooting have conflicting stories.

There may be a reason for that. It may be a very innocent explanation. Were I serving a jury where I heard a case involving a man killed and found out the roommates (or someone) cleaned up the crime scene and that someone else's DNA was on Kovco's gun, I would say, "Oh, it wasn't a sucided. He must have shot himself by accident." I might think the expert had established that Kovco wasn't in a suicidal state. I wouldn't think that I had a better grasp on what actually happened in the room.

"Senate Passes Teen Endangerment Act" (Feminist Wire, Ms. Magazine):
The US Senate passed the Teen Endangerment Act late last night, a bill that would make it a federal crime for any person other than a parent or legal guardian to accompany a minor across state lines to have an abortion.

At last, unwed teens are now safe from grandparents who prey! That was just the most insulting bit of news. There are teens who cannot talk to their parents. (Or parent. There are many single-family homes in this country.) But they can talk to an aunt or a grandparent. Now that person, that family member they trust, can't help them without committing a crime. This really criminalizes family and isn't the GOP supposed to be the Party so darn concerned with the rights of families? Like Bill O'Reilly, they do a better job exposing their own hypocrisy than anyone could do for them.

I find that legislation offensive.

Phylliss Bennis is someone who studies the Middle East and anyone stopping by that's a community member knows that. My point is Bennis whom I think we all know but about the excerpt below. This is an excerpt. It's a long piece. There are many important sections but I'm pulling two segments.

"Washington's Latest Middle East War" (Phyllis Bennis, Common Dreams):
And For the Palestinians
In Gaza, the potential importance of the Hamas-Fatah unity process in the Palestinian Authority, shaped by the June acceptance by all sides of the "Prisoners' Declaration," has largely been diminished. Certainly the unity process remains important. But with one-third of the Palestinian Authority’s cabinet members and many of the Hamas members of the Legislative Council held in Israeli prisons as potential bargaining chips for a future prisoner exchange, and the US-Israeli orchestrated international isolation and sanctions of the PA still in place, the PA itself is barely surviving, hardly able to help its population cope with the ravages of the Israeli assault, and certainly not doing much governing. The Hamas-led government in the occupied territories also faces a political and credibility challenge from the external, Damascus-based leadership of the divided organization, who some believe have been more supportive of Hamas' renewed military activity than the Hamas representatives in the internal government in Gaza and Ramallah.
In the meantime, the link between the Gaza crisis and the still escalating Lebanon/Hezbollah crisis, has brought Palestine back to the center of regional politics, away from its Oslo and post-Oslo identity as a narrower issue limited to the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip alone. In the process of raising the profile and credibility of Hamas as the centerpiece of Palestinian politics, however, this trajectory has largely sidelined the importance and legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO. Hamas has never been a member of the PLO. As Hamas' prestige, both within Palestine and internationally, rises, there is a danger that the PLO could be left behind -- and with it, the representation of those components of the Palestinian nation who do not live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, most importantly the Palestinian refugees and exiles who now number more than 3 million spread around the world.
The Gaza-Lebanon Crisis and the Iraq War
How the new Lebanon crisis (Gaza and the rest of Palestine was of course already in crisis) is affecting the way the US is carrying out of its war in Iraq remains uncertain. But its impact on the wider militarization of the region has already become clear. The US has ratcheted up its provision of both emergency (jet fuel), and regular military equipment (including a batch of replacement "smart" bombs) to Israel. A New York Times article noted that analysts recognize US support for Israel in this war as equivalent to Iran's support of Hezbollah. And the Bush administration just approved just $6 billion worth of new US arms sales to the nervous Saudi government, including Black Hawk helicopters, armored vehicles and other military equipment. The administration justified the sale to Congress claiming that the sale would help strengthen Saudi Arabia’s military and its ability to help the US fight terrorism around the world.
It is also clear that the murderous Israeli assault in Lebanon and Gaza, and their proud endorsement by the US, is ratcheting up even further the already sky-high Iraq-fueled levels of anger towards the US This may lead to another shift in the military situation inside Iraq, with US troops becoming even greater immediate targets. To the degree that sectarian considerations are shaping military outcomes in Iraq, it will not go unnoticed that while all of Lebanon has been made victim of this war, Lebanon's Shi'a and the Shi'a-majority towns and cities of the south, already the poorest of the country, are suffering the most. Also, Hezbollah, now seen regionally as defender of not only Lebanon but Palestine and Arabs in general, is a Shi'a movement. However, the sectarian considerations are likely to remain secondary to the much broader concern that all Lebanese, including Sunni, Christians and all others, and all Gazans, who are overwhelmingly Sunni (as well as West Bank Palestinians, still suffering under occupation and international sanctions), have been made victims by a US-Israeli policy of all-out indiscriminate war against entire peoples.
Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon, whether it becomes a permanent occupation or not, will certainly escalate the crisis further. This is particularly true of Israel's declared intention to establish what Tel Aviv calls a "buffer zone" inside southern Lebanon. Israel has adopted the racist language of the Pentagon in Iraq, describing their goal being to "clean out" Hezbollah strongholds in south Lebanon, and then "hold" them to prevent a return. As Kofi Annan said on July 21, even if Israel "plans to say it’s a 'security zone,' for others it will be an occupation."

World destruction brought to you by the Bully Boy who has paved the way for every other bully and tyrant to act oustide the law and feel good about it.

"Helplessly Hoping: Day 21, Troops Home Fast" (Cindy Sheehan, Common Dreams):
I have been in such a blue funk of depression and worry since Israel's over-reaction---or "over action" in Lebanon in what seems to be insanity escalating out of control. What our media and some world leaders seem to expediently forget is that Israel massacred an entire family on a beach in Lebanon with a rocket and kidnapped two Palestinian citizens before Hezbollah and Hamas kidnapped some Israeli soldiers. Who started the cycle of violence in those countries? Who knows? Who cares! The important question is: who is going to be the courageous one(s) with integrity, wisdom, and compassion that is going to at long last stop the absurdity?
As hard as I may try, I cannot wrap my mind around the fanatical rhetoric coming out of DC and from all over the world and the mindless and seemingly overwhelming support of Israel's right to "defend itself." What Israel is doing in Lebanon by killing hundreds of innocent civilians in a relatively short period of time is like the US defending itself from the tens of thousands of innocent babies, women, and children in Iraq. It is morally reprehensible and just an extension of BushCo's campaign to enrich the voracious war profiteers.
I read yesterday that our State Department
approved a new shipment of bombs and rockets to Israel. With the thousands upon thousands of US made bombs and rockets being dropped on Lebanon by the IDF it makes one wonder if the expiration dates on the bombs were nearing and the war machine needed to sell and ship more bombs so that the CEO's could fill their Hummers, limos, and jets with gas. Naively, I always presumed that the State Department was there to prevent the use of military force, not support it by authorizing more weapons for more efficient killing! Don't we have a War Department for more killing? I feel like I am living in Bizarro World. I have been watching a lot of cable news networks and have heard such one-sided phrases as: "Over 50 civilians killed in Lebanon today, but the real story is in the Israeli city of Nazareth, where two Hezbollah rockets landed." Why is that the real story, Tucker Carlson? It is an immensely tragic story because two harmless children were killed in Nazareth, but how does it trump over 50 civilians being killed in Lebanon? Oh yeah, I forgot! John Bolton said that there is no "moral equivalency" between innocent Arabs being killed and innocent Israelis being killed. It's not immoral for Israel to kill innocent civilians because they are fighting terror with more terror: it's the American Way!

First, I love Stephen Stills' "Helplessly Hoping." It's a song Crosby, Still and Nash recorded. (That's the title of her column.) I love CSN so I have to mention Stills. Now that I've noted that . . . I heard on the radio that Hillary Clinton's Senate opponent had come out making some sensible comments (the radio didn't play it as such) and that Hillary's campaign had denounced the statements. (I'm sorry, I don't live in New York and I don't know his name. I believe he was a guest one weekend on RadioNation with Laura Flanders.) From the beginning, the coverage of the conflict in big media has been less reporting and more choosing sides. I'm thankful for the brave voices who speak out against the one-sided coverage and against the actions taken by the Israeli government. This has been an act of war, in my opinion. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the media try to play it down the middle (that is what they tend to do) but it's been shocking (even considering some of their previous coverage on this area) to realize that the reporting takes a back seat to selecting who is the "good" guy and who is the "bad" guy.