Saturday, December 17, 2011


The NBC sitcom Whitney is now airing on Wednesday nights after Up All Night.  In January, UAN moves to Thursday and Chelsea Handler's new sitcom debuts, paired with Whitney.  Whitney Cummings is the star and creator of the show, she's a stand up comic in real life.  I would recommend you go to the show's Hulu page and stream the "Up All Night" episode.  Handler guest stars as Whitney's therapist. 

Betty, Ann and Marcia cover the show at their sites such as when Whitney and Alex adopted a dog: "Whitney," "4 men, 2 women" and "Whitney."

"Holiday Shopping Season Brings Sexist Stereotypes To The Toy Aisle" (Elissa Heller, Say It Sister, NOW):

My glowing memories of childhood playtime are filled with Playmobil villages strewn across my basement floor and of pretending to be space explorers with friends, flying my swingset to distant galaxies. My dream job has always been to work at the toy and game store near my house -- I wanted to get lost in the aisles of brightly colored boxes inviting me become an expert jewelry-maker or fight a pirate battle. So when The Washington Post published a holiday gift guide in the Kidspost a few weeks ago, I snuck a peek ["Best toys for the holiday season, as picked by local kids," November 17]. To my utter disappointment, two of the sections stated in bold print: JUST FOR BOYS and JUST FOR GIRLS. I might expect this kind of gender essentialism from toy corporations like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us, but my beloved Washington Post? How could they do such a thing?
Apparently, making clay beads and pipe cleaner animals is "just for girls," and playing with marble ramps and fancy tops is "just for boys." The Post redeemed themselves minutely in my eyes by publishing a letter to the editor with the same views as myself. Still, I have questions for this journalist. Did she decide which toys were appropriate for which gender, or did the children pick them? Were the testers forbidden from trying out the toys assigned to the other gender? It's unfair that the Beyblades Triple Battle Set, which one (male) tester called "the best toy ever," is considered a boys only toy.
I decided to investigate Wal-Mart's marketing of toys to girls and boys this holiday season to see how the country's largest toy seller handles this issue. Interestingly, Wal-Mart breaks some stereotypical gender divides. Most of the toys in their 100 Hottest Gifts for Girls list are arts and crafts, baby dolls, and other pink items, but included as well are Nerf guns shaped like real firearms and rugged bikes in shades of bright green and red, like the Huffy Green Machine 20X (although the full description of this item calls it a "20 inch boys' extreme machine"). The Hottest Gifts for Boys list includes kitchen play sets, jewelry making kits, and a dollhouse.

That's the opening to the NOW piece.  Make a point to read it.  Talk about it at work or with friends and family.

If you're around children on Christmas Day, you might also want to think about the gifts they received and see how often we fall into stereotypes ourselves?

Earlier this week, I praised C.I.'s "Demonized or ignored, the 21st century American woman." There's another reason to note it now.  First, from C.I.'s piece:

The highest ranking officer punished for Abu Ghraib was Janis Karpinski. The highest ranking officer punished was a woman. But Karpinski's story regarding Abu Ghraib has been consistent (that military intelligence was in charge of the area where the abuse took place). And while Karpinski was demoted, others higher up got off scott free. BBC News reported in March 2005:

The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown.
The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act.
The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez.
The ACLU says the measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.

Sanchez wasn't demoted. And he's really not been effected by his part in the abuse at all. He's currently running for the US Senate out of Texas. And on the Democratic Party ticket. He's a War Criminal but he gets a pass and the male-male obsessed Iraq Veterans Against the War has even taken to vouching for the bastard. Praising his (non-sincere) call for a "truth commission" -- this from the man who, when the ACLU released the documents with his signature, responded by insisting the ACLU was "a bunch of sensationalist liars, I mean lawyers, that will distort any and all information that they get to draw attention to their positions." An attack he's so proud of that he included it on page 431 of the book he 'wrote' with Donald T. Phillips Wiser In Battle.

He's a War Criminal who should be behind bars. But he's a man so he gets to run for the US Senate -- on the Democratic Party ticket, no less -- and he gets pig boys in IVAW to sing his praises. The same IVAW that supposedly gives a damn about Iraqis. You can't dispute a 2003 memo with his signature on it. But, hey, he's a man, and it's rally round the penis time yet again.

POLITICO reports this morning that Sanchez has dropped out of the race:

Sanchez is now emblazoned as the DSCC's biggest recruitment flop of the cycle.
Even if he were to had mounted a credible bid, it would've likely ended in a defeat.
But for Sanchez to leave the party without a candidate with likely a bit more than a month from the filing deadline is an insult to injury.

Hurray.  We shouldn't be putting War Criminals in Congress -- bad enough that we've put them in the White House for two administrations in a row.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, December 16, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing begins, Nouri's hold on Iraq seems ever more fragile, Tom Hayden publishes political porn, and more.
A gleeful and pompous Geraldo Rivera (Fox News) announces he's back in Iraq.  I don't think he's been so giddy since he did the 20/20 segment that was supposed to be an interview with John Travolta (then promoting Staying Alive) that Geraldo turned into a workout session.  If viewers can be thankful for little else, Geraldo has thus far kept his shirt on.  So lightheaded and deranged, he forgets to note his previous visit to Iraq.  March 31, 2003, CNN reported, "The U.S. military said Monday that Fox News Channel Correspondent Geraldo Rivera was being expelled from Iraq for divulging details of a future military operation, though later in the day a Central Command spokesman said he was not sure whether the newsman would be forced out."  The following day, Chris Plante (CNN) would report, "Fox News Channel executives and the Pentagon reached a deal Monday in which correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who raised the military's ire when he reported operational details, will leave Iraq voluntarily rather than be expelled, Pentagon officials told CNN. [. . .] In the live broadcast, Rivera told his photographer to aim the camera at the sand in front of him. Rivera then outlined a map of Iraq, and showed the relative location of Baghdad and his location with the 101st Airborne. He then showed where the 101st would be going next." Peter Arnett did a journalistic courtesy and gave an interview to Iraqi television on March 31st.  Fox News personalities immediately began demonizing him on air non-stop.  By April 1st, NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic had all dumped Arnett.  Though Arnett gave out no information that could have endangered anyone, Rivera did.  He still works for Fox News despite violating a US military policy he agreed to when he entered the embed program. Geraldo was also a war cheerleader.  They don't get punished.  They don't have to admit they were wrong.  They're allowed to lie and then lie about lying.  That's how it works -- and not just at Fox News (or right wing outlets -- this is the mainstream, it's the left, it's everywhere, there's very little integrity in the press).
But on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, Diane and her guests -- Nadia Bilbassy (MBC TV), Robin Harding (Financial Times of London) and David Ignatius (Washington Post) offered some reality on Iraq.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius, the war in Iraq is finally over. In your view, what has been accomplished?
David Ignatius: Well that's really the hardest question to answer for Americans and Iraqis with this week's visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  You had to say, in terms of specific commitments going forward, very little.  We have an Iraqi democracy but it's headed by someone who's widely regarded as no paragon of democracy.  He hasn't succeeded really in reaching out to other Iraqis.  I'm struck, Diane, this week, a war that began famously with shock and awe, as we termed our spectacular bombardment of Iraq, ended with the muted, somber sense of how difficult this proved to be, how many mistakes the United States made. And, in the terms of measurable outcomes, how little the US got out of it, at the loss of nearly 4,500 US soldiers, 1000,000 -- at least -- Iraqis killed. So it's a painful story but we would have to say most of all for Iraqis.
Diane Rehm: 32,000 US troops wounded, more than $800 billion spent.
I'm not interested in silly spin.  The president's campaign?  He' is the one over it.  He decides, he says yes or he says no.  You can't claim that he is downplaying it but his campaign -- this entity over which he has no control -- isn't.  Don't create this false wall that doesn't exist.   Barack's campaign is Barack.  I'll further point out that Barack did three days of press on this and that's just this week.  So stop pretending that he tried to keep it low key.  Stop pretending?
Tom Hayden's pretended to be human for years now.  Apparently having pickled his mind with booze, he seems to think he can continue to lie and get away with it.  Forgetting his huge, massive failure in the LA mayoral election, the Los Angeles Times runs tired Tom's sad little brew of fantasy which include:
It was a brave stance to take for an ambitious politician at a time when American support for war with Iraq was building. He went on to become the first president to campaign on a promise to end an ongoing American war, and the peace movement helped put him into office.
He's referring to Barack's stupid 2002 speech which did not oppose going to war with Iraq, it opposed rushing to war.  Barack didn't say no to war, he said the case wasn't yet made.  He would spend the next years -- check the New York Times archives especially in 2004 and WHORE Tom knows this -- changing his stance.  But in 2002, he wasn't running for national office, not even the Senate.  And there's no way in hell his state legislature district would have supported him unless he took some stance -- no matter how tiny -- against the drums of war.  Also, the peace movement helped put him into office?  No, the Cult of St. Barack did.  A lot of dirty whores like Tom Hayden who never made an honest buck and, in fact, would be depending on charity today were it not for the ridiculous and unmanly move of demanding millions to end a marriage.  Greedy little whore, that's Tom-Tom.

In the years leading up to the 2008 election, there were at least 10 national antiwar demonstrations that drew more than 100,000 participants each. The movement helped Rep. Barbara Lee to rise from a lone war opponent in Congress to the leader of a bloc of as many as 200 representatives calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Those combined forces -- the peace movement and lawmakers who opposed continuing the Iraq war -- created a political climate that enabled Obama to end the Iraq war over the objections of many in the Pentagon and most of his Republican presidential rivals.
What a trashy whore.  Tom's not going to be welcomed into the DNC.  He has no real money left (not to throw around on donations which is all the DNC would want from a low life like Tom to begin with).  Whores tend to spend other people's money a bit too quickly.  So he'll always be on the low rung he's lived since his divorce.  But he seems to believe that if he just lies long enough, the DNC will embrace him.  Seriously?
After Barack repeatedly -- in 2007 and 2008 -- ridiculed "Tom Hayden Democrats" -- publicly ridiculed them, the little whore Tom thinks he's ever going to rise even one tiny step up the ladder?  Please.
Reality, as everyone knows, Barack was planning to keep thousands of US troops in Iraq.  Iraq wouldn't grant immunity from the Parliament.  (Nouri was prepared to grant it himself.) So what happened then?  They followed the deal the Bush administration negotiated in November 2008.  Tom's praising George W. Bush.  You kind of get the feeling that for a few more of the millions Jane earned while Tom relaxed on his ass and cheated, for just a few more, he'd blow George W. Bush in downtown LA at high noon.  And swallow with a smile.
Another reality?  Negotiatons never ended.  This week Osama al-Nujaifi publicly declared that the Parliament was prepared to give "partial immunity."  A step up from the stance in October of no immunity.  That's what negotiations do, they see each side stake out a position and then see if they can move closer to one another's position as talks continue.  Nouri has stated -- and Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee he felt it would happen -- that they can pick up the issue of "trainers" in the new year. 
Want some reality from the press that few offered this week?  David S. Cloud and David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The Obama administration had adopted its own version of the Bush administration claim that the conflict was worth the cost because it helped free Iraq from Hussein."  We'll pick back up with The Diane Rehm Show when Nadia gets honest or closer to it.  If she's only now aware of the 4.5 million internal and external Iraqi refugees which have been in the news since 2006, that doesn't say very much for her information base level (her intelligence level is brutally low but we'll address that on Sunday).
Nadia Bilbassy: In research I've been doing for the last week about the war, I came across something really striking. I mean, looking at -- looking at -- just to give you an example -- I found that, for example, 2 million people are internally displaced inside Iraq.  Two and a half million refugees are outside the country in neighboring countries like Syria and like Jordan.  Twenty-three precent of Iraq is under -- live under poverty line, that's $2 a day.  This is a rich country that's sitting on the second largest oil resource in the world. They have -- 34,000 doctors left the country and forty-percent is the unemployment level.  So, in a way, yes, they got a democracy in terms of the process of voting but this government, as David said, where the strong man like Prime Minister Maliki still holds the ministry of national security and defense, unable to bring somebody into the country -- into the government.
Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) looks at Nouri and Barack's meet-up from a number of angles including what took place in Iraq while the bulk of the press kept their eyes on DC:
As Al-Maliki visited Washington on Monday and Tuesday, seven people died in shootings and explosions in Iraq itself, seen by many Iraqis as having been motivated by sectarian considerations.
On Tuesday, two bombs set off a blaze at an oil pipeline in Basra, Iraq's main oil refinery in the south of the country.
Even more troubling than the security weaknesses has been the erosion of the fragile political process established under the US occupation, which has been eroding since the formation of the current governing coalition in Iraq.
Many Iraqis believe that Al-Maliki is pursuing his own sectarian agenda that focuses on consolidating Shia power and monopolising control of the state and security forces under his Daawa Party.
Al-Maliki's failure to preserve a multi-ethnic political accommodation in Iraq has increasingly pushed the country's Sunni minority population to demand semi-autonomous status.
Let's discuss the provincesnd the semi-autonomous issue.  Iraq is a country composed of 18 provinces. Three are semi-autonomous (Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah) and they form the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The other 15, at present, are under the control of the Baghdad-based government. Thursday, October 27th, Salahuddin Province's council voted to go semi-autonomous. Monday, Diyala Province's council passed a decision for the province to become semi-autonomous. Xinhua explains: Iraqi constitution says 'one or more governorates (provinces) shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods: First: a request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region. Second: a request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region."

Al Mada notes that 30 residents of Diyala Province staged a protest which quickly turned into a sit-in. The protesters were registering their objection to the decision for Diyala Province to move to semi-autonomy. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) notes that protests took place in Baquba yesterday for the third day in a row -- with "hundreds" participating. Alsumaria TV adds, "Sadr movement stated, on Thursday, that Diyala Region's declaration was advanced in a provocative and challenging way. Head of Diyala Province is spurring discord between the province's different components, the movement accused while asserting that the Iraqi Central Government is responsible for demands to establish federal regions." Bryar Mohammed (Zawya) adds, "Baghdad is trying to bully Diyala Province out of trying to become an autonomous region, AKnews has learnt. Suhad Hayli from the Iraqiya List party says he expects the Iraqi government will use force to quash the autonomy demands of the Province to the north east of Baghdad, bordering Iran. Diyala Provincial Council's demand for regional autonomy was announced two days ago, almost two months after another Sunni dominated province Salahaddin called for the same." On Salahuddin Province, the Kurdish Globe notes the events leading up to the October vote:

The provincial council of Salahadin last October unanimously supported making the province an autonomous region after the dismissal of faculty members from the University of Tikrit and mass arrests in Salahaddin province. Last October, the Baghdad Ministry of Higher Education dismissed 140 faculty members from the University of Tikrit in Salahaddin Province. The ministry pointed out that "it was simply following the parliamentary directive on "de-Baathification." Later, Iraqi security forces started an operation in the central and southern provinces, arresting former members of the Baath Party and accusing them of plotting a coup against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of this year.
The arrest came after Maliki received information from former Libyan interim leader Mahmoud Jibril, whose rebel forces obtained documents indicating that former Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi tried to support an attempt by Baath members to overthrow the Iraqi government.

That's one problem Nouri faces.  There are many more.  Many, many more.
Monday, November 28th, a car bomb was detonated near Parliament -- apparently  targeting Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and members of Parliament. Nouri al-Maliki was no where near the building (he was out of the country) and not scheduled to appear in the building that week; however, his spokesperson and then Nouri himself began insisting that the bombing was an attack on him. Al Mada reports that Parliament's investigation committee noted yesterday that it was a suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the driver, that none of the four people who've been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement work for the Parliament and that early signs are a group of people (men and women) based in Baghdad and Anbar Province were behind the bombing.

In other explosive news, Al Mada reports that Iraqiya has announced it is breaking off talks with the ruling bloc. Iraqiya is the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections. The results of the March 7th elections, even after Nouri al-Maliki bitterly contested them and stamped his feet until a few post-election votes were tossed his way, were that Iraqiya still came in first and Nouri's political slate State of Law still came in second. Iraqis do not elect their prime minister, the Parliament does. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, should have had first crack at forming a government. First crack? You become prime minister-designate and then have thirty days to name a Cabinet (nominate people for positions and have Parliament vote in favor of them). If you can't accomplish that in 30 days, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is supposed to be named.

Political Stalemate I ended in November of 2010 with the Erbil Agreement hammered out in Erbil between the major political blocs (and the US) whereby every one was supposed to make concessions. The Kurds would get to keep Jalal Talabani as president. They thought they would get three vice presidents. Iraqiya won the elections in March 2010 and the political bloc was headed by Ayad Allawi. Nouri wasn't stepping down and the White House was backing Nouri. For Nouri to remain prime minister, Allawi was promised he would head a new, independent council over security issues. He was also promised that the Iraqiya candidates demonized as Ba'athists and forced out of the 2010 elections by Nouri's friends would have their names cleared.

On November 11th, the new Parliament held their first real session. They voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker of Parliament (he was from Iraqiya and that was part of the Erbil Agreement), Jalal was named president and Nouri was named prime minister designate (but we were all informed in the following days that this was 'unofficial' -- once named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days, per the Constitution, to put together a Cabinet and get the Parliament to sign off on each member). But what of the security council? What of clearing the names of the falsely accused?

That would come, State of Law insisted, in time.

Allawi and a number of Iraqiya members walked out. They should have refused to participate from that day forward. Instead, they foolishly believed promises (from both State of Law and the White House). Nobember 25th, Jalal 'officially' named Nouri prime minister-designate.

Nouri had created Political Stalemate I by refusing to surrender the prime minister post. He'd done that for eight months. In that time, he should have had some ideas about a Cabinet. But Nouri's problem was he over-promised to get support. So when it was time to name a Cabinet, suddenly the Cabinet had more ministers and deputy ministers than it had previously (from 37 in 2006 to 42 in 2010). And he still couldn't keep his promises to everyone.

December 22nd, the Constitution was tossed by the wayside and Nouri was allowed to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister because he'd assembled a kind of Cabinet. He named 31 out of 42 ministers and people pretended that was good enough. He had failed to meet the Constitutional mandate of naming a Cabinet but everyone looked the other way.

He refused to name the security posts: National Security, Interior and Defense. His defenders (including the White House) swore those posts would be named in a matter of weeks. His detractors saw the refusal as part of a pattern of power grabs on Nouri's part and stated he wouldn't fill the posts. This is the start of Political Stalemate II.
Six days from now, it will be a year since Nouri was wrongly (per the Constitution, per the vote) named prime minister.  And Iraq still has no Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior or Minister of National Security.

When announcing that talks were over, Al Mada notes Iraqiya stated that they had given up a great deal for the good of Iraq but there was no compromise from another. That's a reference to Nouri's State of Law as well as the coalition he now heads. In giving up the right to prime minister, Iraqiya was promised (and the Erbil Agreement is in writing) that an independent security commission would be created and that Ayad Allawi would head it. That's among the many broken promises Nouri made to keep his claws on the post of prime minister.
Tuesday on KCRW's To the Point, Warren Oleny addressed Iraq with many guests.  We'll note part of his conversation with Feisal Amin Rasoul Istrabadi -- the part where the realities of Political Stalemate II are addressed.
Warren Oleny: Feisal Istrabadi is a dual Iraqi- U.S. citizen.  He was Iraq's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations.  He drafted the country's interim constitution.  He is now Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East at Indiana University.  Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being on our program.
Ambassador Feisal Amin Rasoul Istrabadi: My pleasure to be with you again.
Warren Oleny: Why did you sever yourself from the current government of Iraq?  You're no longer the ambassador and you're here at Indiana University.
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: I am.  Well Indiana University happens to be my alma mata anyway.  But, at the time, in 2007, I left at the height of the sectarian violence in Iraq.  And I simply felt [clears throat], excuse me, I simply felt that the government and many entities in the government were complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and other places throughout the country and I felt no longer able to speak on behalf of that government so I left.
Warren Oleny:  Are you concerned that that sort of thing will continue now that American troops are gone?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: I very much am concerned as your previous guests also were discussing.  The current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a number of moves which indicate that he intends to continue to act against particularly the Sunnis of Iraq.  And this, of course, is likely to lead to further deterioration in the country and most likely lead to further violence.  It's a very, very worrisome sign to me.
. . .
[Clip of Barack Obama speaking on Monday, specifically this, "Mr. Prime Minister, you've said that Iraqis seek democracy, 'a state of citizens and not sects.'  So we're partnering to strengthen the institutions upon which Iraq's democracy depends  -- free elections, a vibrant press, a strong civil society, professional police and law enforcement that uphold the rule of law, an independent judiciary that delivers justice fairly, and transparent institutions that serve all Iraqis." but click here for full remarks.]
Warren Oleny: Feisal Istrabadi, how close is Iraq to achieving the kinds of thing that we just heard the president describe?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi:  If this is a check list of what Iraq needs to do to establish the rule of law and Constitutional democracy, Iraq is failing on each of those items.  Let me start with, being a lawyer, what's nearest and dearest to my heart, the judiciary. The judiciary has become a rubber stamp for the government.  Constitutional cases -- a number of Constitutional cases have been decided by the Iraqi judiciary, in each case, given Maliki precisely what he wants.  He has maintained control over the Interior Ministry which controls the -- he is acting Interior Minister, in fact -- which controls the-uh-the-uh internal security structure.  He is, Nouri al-Maliki is, acting Defense Minister which controls the army.  And he is also acting Minister of State Security.  So he has the entire state security infrastructure, he has direct control over the entire state security infrastructure which, if you'll recall, is the way that Saddam Hussein rose to power in the 1970s -- precisely by controlling the state security infrastructure. We are repeating the same lessons of Iraq's past unfortunately.  Each of these criteria, ticked off by President Obama, is a cause for deep concern for anybody concerned about democracy and the rule of law in Iraq.
Warren Oleny: Is there anything the Obama administration should be doing differently from what it is?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: Well, I mean, that's hard to say because obviously it's influence is somewhat waning.  The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010.  The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done.  Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name.  I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing.  What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffreys in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers.  We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.

Al Sabaah reports
that Allawi met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday and that they discussed various topics including oil-rich, disputed Kirkuk.

Jalal is an increasingly unpopular figure in the KRG -- which is why Massoud Barzani's competing political party continues to have greater support and why the new emerging Goran party continues to grow. Jalal's popularity won't be helped by the news that Dar Addustour reports: There's been no reduction in his salary or in the salaries of the vice presidencies. Not only that, the promised (in February) bill was never voted on by the Parliament.

In January and early February, scattered protests began to alarm Nouri al-Maliki. The protesters wanted improved basic services (potable water, dependable electricity, etc.), jobs and for the government to stop "disappearing" people. The protesters were also noting the vast corruption in Iraq and how an election had been held but the president, vice presidents and prime minister remained the exact same people who held the posts before the election.

Facing this discontent as discontent raged throughout the region (most prominently in Egypt), Nouri attended to head off the protests (and Moqtada al-Sadr rushed in to help Nouri) by promising a number of things. He would solve the corruption in 100 days -- just give him 100 days, Moqtada insisted -- and, right now, Nouri would promise reductions in government salaries, including his own. His salary was never reduced nor was Jalal's.

More broken promises from Nouri (and Iraq's First Lady Moqtada al-Sadr).

Polling brings more bad news for Nouri. Al Sabaah reports on a poll of Iraqis in which 70% say that they do not have access to all items the ration cards are supposed to provide. That's bad enough but it gets worse. All of Nouri's February promises of improvement? The people aren't seeing it. 80% of Iraqis say that there's been no efforts to repair the sewage systems in the areas that they live in, 68% state that there's no improvement in the water. Meanwhile Al Mada reports on a poll by the Arab Center for Studies which found that most in the MidEast region feel Iraq will be the next country hit by the "Arab spring."

This is not good news for Nouri who rightly feared in February that the Iraqi people were more than just disappointed in him. On the issue of the "disappeared" -- arresting peole and disappearing them so that families have no idea if their loved ones are even alive, that's not been addressed and Nouri's latest crackdown on "Ba'athists" (he sses them everywhere) only reminded Iraqis of the lack of improvement.
Reuters notes two police officers were injured in a Falluja shooting, that the Baghdad "convoy" of Baghdad security spokesperson Qassim al-Moussawi was attacked and one bystander was left injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one student, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one Iraqi military officer and a Mosul home invasion left 1 police officer dead.
In the US, Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing began today at Fort Meade, Maryland.  Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.

Today, Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) reports, Coombs requested that Lt Col Paul Almanza step down as presiding officer in the hearing due to the fact that, in addition to the military, Almanza also works for the Justice Dept which has an ongoing WikiLeaks investigation.  Almanza refused to recuse himself. Scott Shane (New York Times) adds, "Mr. Coombs appealed the recusal decision to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and asked the court to halt the hearing until it could rule. A decision on a possible postponement could come as early as Saturday, when testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m."  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers' Miami Herald) offers, "Making his first court appearance, Manning sat unemotionally behind the defense table wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a combat patch from the 10th Mountain Division on his Army uniform. He stared ahead, not glancing at the row of supporters sitting behind him and his defense team, which includes two military lawyers. After 19 months in military custody at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he appeared thin but healthy."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You've got a lot of nerve

First, praise: Amazing piece by C.I. this morning, "Demonized or ignored, the 21st century American woman." Simply amazing.

That's all the praise I'm serving up because I'm now going to take on an ass.

I don't like whores.

John MacArthur, whose worked so very hard at turning Harper's magazine into a hallmark of sexism, has a column where the little whiney ass wants to end with, "Are there any adults left in the Democratic Party?"

Kiss my ass, you chicken s**t bitch.

The premise of his column is that Barack Obama is a total failure.

He is. But damned if I wasn't saying that, damned if C.I. wasn't saying that, damned if we weren't saying it when it mattered.

For those who don't know, Johnny Bitch was whoring.

The most important to A Bitch Named John was to destroy Hillary Clinton's campaign. He didn't give a damn about checking out Barack or calling for fairness or anything.

He was a disgusting piece of trash. Let me also note, I'm damn tired of this dual voting. If he's going to vote in France's elections, he shouldn't vote in the US elections. You shouldn't be able to go back and forth on this. Naomi Klein's another one of those -- voting in Canada and then rushing to the US to vote here.

But the piece of trash wanted to get rid of Hillary and worked overtime to do so. (I am not a Hillary fanatic or a Clinton-ista. Check my archives. By the time it was a two -- or three person race -- Hillary was the best candidate in the Democratic field.) (In part because the other two were so awful but also because the campaign reawakened a sense in Hillary of what mattered. She was also a fighter, which we sure could have used.)

Now you may say, "Elaine, sour grapes over the fact that John MacArthur wants to sneak in and act like he didn't whore for Barack?"


I know John. His whoring has never surprised me. (Remember last night when I was explaining C.I. and I can disagree and it's not the end of our friendship? Until the summer of 2008, C.I. wouldn't have said a bad word about John. She never attacked me for my feelings towards him. But today, she can't stand him either.)

But that should be self-whoring.

His whoring for others whores really does surprise me.

He writes, "As evidence of a failed Obama presidency accumulates, criticism of his administration is mounting from liberal Democrats who have too much moral authority to be ignored."

His two examples?

Whore Bill Moyers and Whore Barbara Ehrenreich.

Bill Moyers, as Ava and C.I. repeatedly documented, whored non-stop for Barack. It was 'historic' he would say over and over during the primaries -- Barack was. A woman doing what Hillary did -- which was get the most votes -- he never cared.

Ava and C.I. also documented the way the whore revealed that he wasn't a journalist and what especially led to his most recent round of problems with PBS.

New Hampshire.

Cheating Bill wanted to laugh about Hillary's "moisty moment." Then he told the viewers he wanted them to see it.

He didn't play it. He played the attack response from the Obama campaign that Jesse Jackson Jr. did.

Bill Moyers is cheap trash and always has been. It's doubtful right now he could even get a show covering religion on PBS. He broke every rule -- and he knows he did and so does PBS -- in 2008 to whore like a cheap little hooker.

Some of Ava and C.I.'s coverage of Moyers.

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  • As for Barbara Ehrenreich, the woman is nuts and a damn liar.

    She's been nuts forever. She's a closet case and an ugly, ugly woman.

    With chin hair, by the way.

    THE WIT AND WISDOM OF PROGRESSIVE “ELITES:” Do you enjoy being played for fools? If so, let us give you a few more reasons to appreciate Barbara Ehrenreich. Last week, Ehrenreich warned you about Hillary Clinton’s “ever-shifting hairstyles” (and distant affiliation with Hitler) in a deeply unfortunate piece at The Huffington Post. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/21/08.)

    In our view, progressive, liberal and Democratic Party interests have long been harmed by the hapless ways of liberal and progressive “intellectual leaders.” Ehrenreich’s piece helped show us again: Until our movement is cleaned of certain corrosive elements, liberal and progressive interests will be at a disadvantage in our electoral politics.

    Back to that unfortunate, but revealing, piece at The Huffington Post:

    In her piece, Ehrenreich was helpfully letting readers know that Clinton is a right-wing tool—that she’s been drawn “into the sinister heart of the international right.” Her evidence for such a remarkable statement? For starters, Clinton attends the Senate Prayer Breakfast, thereby allying herself with Hitler—and then, there’s all the right-wing legislation which the solon has pimped. In the following passage (we’ll quote at some length), Ehrenreich turns readers into a play-toy. In substantial part, this is how Democrats lose elections—and conservative interests prosper:

    EHRENREICH (3/19/08): Clinton fell in with the Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen.

    This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, the Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

    Furthermore, the Family takes credit for some of Clinton's rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing "religious freedom" in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.

    What drew Clinton into the sinister heart of the international right? Maybe it was just a phase in her tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names...

    It should be appalling to see someone like Ehrenreich typing that crap about Clinton’s hair-styles—but, as we will see below, Ehrenreich has been pushing political porn of this familiar type for a very long time. And sadly, Ehrenreich wasn’t kidding when she said that Clinton has been drawn into “the sinister heart of the international right.” The example she gave? That troubling “law guaranteeing ‘religious freedom’ in the workplace.”

    Let’s understand the extent to which “progressive intellectual leaders” are willing to play you for fools.

    The (proposed) law at issue is fairly complex. But let’s keep things fairly simple:

    The (proposed) law to which Ehrenreich refers is the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA). Variants of the bill have been presented in Congress for years; it may be a bit of a Potemkin measure, repeatedly offered as a way of pandering to certain groups. But the WRFA is a bipartisan bill, with somewhat unusual blends of sponsors and opponents. In 2005, for example, the bill was introduced in the Senate by Rick Santorum—and by John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts. (In 2004, Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.) In the House, the bill was introduced by Rick Souder, the Indiana Republican—and by Carolyn McCarthy and Anthony Weiner, two Democrats from New York.

    Has Clinton been drawn “into the sinister heart of the international right?” If so, Kerry (and McCarthy) seem to be there too—a point Ehrenreich absent-mindedly forgot to mention in her unfortunate rant. For the record, Kerry has introduced some variant of this bill every year since 1999, after two of his constituents got fired for refusing to work on Christmas Day. Ehrenreich omitted that too.

    Our question: Will liberals and progressives (and Democrats) ever tell “intellectual leaders” like Ehrenreich that they can’t play the game in this manner?

    She's been kicked to the curb by the Real Media but whores like Johnny will always try to bring political closet-case Babsie in from the cold.

    I agree with C.I.'s suggesting in 2008: Democratic primaries are for Democrats. Those endorsing who are not Democrats need to come out of their political closets. Republicans did, those who supported Barack. Communists and Socialists hid in closets. (That includes Matthew Rothschild who only came out in 2009.)

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, December 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a rally takes place in Falluja, new information on contractor violence in Iraq emerges, Moqtada's not pleased with Nouri's trip to the US, Joe Biden makes a statement he shouldn't have, and more.
    The reposturing of the US military (DoD's term) means that many US troops have left Iraq though some will remain in Iraq after January 1st and some will remain in the surrounding areas. That tens of thousands have left resulted in celebration today . . . in Iraq. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports, "Thousands of Iraqis rallied Wednesday in the central city of Fallujah, once the epicenter of anti-U.S. insurgency, celebrating the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The demonstrators set U.S. and Israeli flags on fire and raised Iraqi flags along with banners saying 'the people want occupation be removed,' and Fallujah is the flame of resistance and symbol of liberation'." No, that's not how it was in Germany at the end of WWII. But then, at the end of WWII, the US government didn't have to pay local leaders to guarantee that US troops could depart safely as they've had to do with tribal sheikhs in Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq also covers the protests, "The demonstration had witnessed reading of poems and verses, commemorating the victims who fell due to American attacks, whilst some of the demonstrators raised the previous Iraqi flag, with 3 stars and burnt American and Israeli flags, along with raising placards expressing their rejoice for the American withdrawal from Iraq, including 'Falluja, the Spark of Resistance and Address of Liberation'." Press TV notes, "Burning US and Israeli flags and carrying photos of Fallujah residents killed by US forces after the 2003 US-led invasion, the demonstrators on Wednesday described resistance against American invaders key to their country's freedom. The demonstration was dubbed the first annual 'festival to celebrate the role of the resistance'." Al Jazeera adds, "Widespread fighting in Fallujah against the occupation begun in 2003, after a controversial event known as the 'pupil's' uprising. The US military had turned a primary school into their city headquarters in April 2003. When 200 demonstrators gathered outside asking for the school to be reopened, US forces opened fire, killing at least 13 civilians and injuring dozens."
    Along with protesters in Iraq today, the country also a visit from a US official. Dar Addustour reports US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Baghdad today on "an unannounced visit" -- all this time later, US officials still have to sneak into Iraq. But 'with honor!' Barack would insist, 'with honor!' Al Rafidayn notes he is expected to attend a ceremony in Baghdad Thursday. Simon Tisdall (Guardian) observes, "The idea that the Iraq war is over is attractive but deeply misleading." Erik Slavin (Stars and Stripes) explains, that military hardware Iraq is ordering from the US will include trainers, "Following years of training and reorganizing the Iraqi army, a mix of 157 servicemembers and Defense Department civilians working for the State Department's Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq will oversee what they hope will be the next big step: the modernization of three Iraqi army divisions by Dec. 31, 2014. [. . .] The training the contractors will provide is included in the prices of acquiring the various weapons systems.
    Those systems include 18 F-16 fighter jets; 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks; 24 self-propelled Howitzers; 120 towed Howitzers; six C-130J cargo planes; 15 T-6A fighter training jets; and 12 patrol boats." Additional US personnel that will remain in Iraq were discussed by Fareed Zakaria and Joe Johns on Fareed Zakaria GPS (CNN):
    Joe Johns: Not to be too cynical, several thousand U.S. nonmilitary personnel and contractors will end up on the ground after the military leave. Are those people there for Iraq or are they there for the United States?
    Fareed Zakaria: Well, it's a little bit of both. They are, in a sense, disguising the drawdown so it is not a drawdown quite to zero. We have some paramilitary forces, some who are protecting the embassy, embassy personnel, USAID people. There's going to be a fairly healthy contingent, I'm sure, of CIA people. There'll be people from the DEA. You add that together and the United States will have a certain kind of offensive presence in Iraq. It's entirely justified. The U.S. consulate in Basra is minutes from the Iranian border. What were to happen if some Iranian thugs were to cross the border and try to launch an attack on the U.S. consulate in Basra? Well, you've got to be able to protect yourself. The U.S. is appropriately taking precautions so they don't end up in some situation that looks like the Iran hostage crisis all over again.
    On the topic of contractors/mercenaries, earlier this week Suzanne Kelly Simons (CNN and author of Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War) reported that ACADEMI was the latest name change for the private mercenary company once known as Blackwater. AFP quotes the company's president and chief executive Ted Wright stating, "We are going to become the best at governance." And should that prove impossible, they can always change their name next to Happy Meals. Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing) notes, "Four years after their initial Freedom of Information Act request, Gawker has received and published 4,500 pages' worth of detail on the way that mercenaries from Blackwater and other defense contractors conducted themselves in Iraq. Their basic procedure appears to have been to shoot any car that attempted to pass or tailgate any of the convoys they guarded, especially if the driver was a 'military aged male'." Richard Hall (Independent) reports:
    Thousands of field reports filed by private security contractors operating in Iraq have been made available to the public for the first time.
    The documents reveal details of nearly 200 shootings by contractors working in the country for companies hired by the US government between 2005 and 2007.
    On Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video) today, Andrea spoke with Stephen Hadley (from the Bully Boy Bush administration) about Joe Biden's assertion that the White House would never have gone along with a request for 20,000 US troops from Nouri al-Maliki.
    Andrea Mitchell: There were reports, plenty of reports, that the military wanted at least 20,000 and that we did as well and tried to negotiate that and couldn't with the Maliki government in Iraq. What is your take on this?

    Stephen Hadley: Well I think Vice President Biden's quote makes it quite clear that they were not -- the administration was not interested in having 10 - 20,000 troops there. That's a decision they made. I think others, including myself, I would have made a different decision. But I think we have to look going forward, I think it's great that Prime Minister Maliki was here. I think it's good that they're focusing on the Strategic Framework Agreement which is a framework [negotiated by the Bush Administration] for an ongoing relationship between Iraq and the United States with political, economic and security dimensions. And I hope they are exploiting that agreement in laying out a framework for a relationship going forward that includes a vehicle for helping to continue training Iraqi security forces and help them incorporate into their force structure the new hardware that they're doing and help them the counter -- counter-terrorism operations they need to do so Iran cannot destabilize the position in Iraq.
    Andrea Mitchell: On that point, our new collegaue Ted Koppel, on
    Rock Center [with Brian Williams, NBC Monday night], showed just how exposed our new consulate is in Basra and how much security is being built in and, as you know very well, we have 17,000 American civilians, contractors, diplomats, CIA and other personnel still at our Embassy and outposts in Iraq. How vulnerable are we and how much can we rely on the Maliki government to withstand Iranian influence?
    Stephen Hadley: The Iraqis have made it clear that they are Iraqis first and Shia second. And we always felt in the end that Iraqi nationalism will trump Shi'a-ism. I think that is true. And I think Maliki showed that in 2008 when he went south [Basra] and took on an Iranian-backed militia [Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militia] that he is an Iraqi first. That is very important. But look we never tried to do what we're doing in Iraq now through a stricly State Department mission. And that's another reason many people think if we left 10 to 20,000 American troops there, it would make it easier to ensure security so that our State Department people can do what they need to do in this situation going forward, to help strengthen ties between the United States and Iraq.
    First, Andrea noted published reports on the numbers of US troops that were tossed around. She's correct but I'll note that we can establish 16,000 via Congressional testimony (because some will say, "Those are unsourced reports! Anonymous sources!" and they'll be right in some cases). So Congressional testimony, this exchange is between Senator John McCain and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.
    Senator John McCain: Since you brought up regrettably, General Dempsey, 2003 and 2004. The fact is that you did not support the surge and said that it would fail. Secretary Panetta was part of the Iraq Study Group which recommended withdrawal from Iraq and opposed the surge. And so we're all responsible for the judgments that we make and obviously that effects the crediblity of the judgments that we make now on Iraq. I regret that you had to bring that up, General Dempsey. The fact is that there were some of us who were over there in those years you talked about, in fact, maybe even had other members of their family there and saw that it was failing and that we needed to have the surge and the surge succeeded. And the fact is that we could have given sovereign immunity as we have in other countries to keep our troops there and give them the immunity that they needed. We have other agreements with other countries that guarantee sovereign immunity. The fact is, that every military leader recommended that we have residual forces at minimum of 10,000 and usually around 20,000. That was the recommendations made before this committee by General [Ray] Odierno, recommendations made by General [David] Petraeus, recommendations made by even lower ranking military who had spent, as you mentioned a great amount of time there and did not want to see that service and sacrifice all wasted away because of our inability and lack of desire to reach an agreement with Iraqis. As I said in my opening statement, Iraqis are largely responsible as well. But the fact is that when Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham and I were there the Iraqis were ready to deal. And what was the administration's response? They didn't have a number last May as to our residual force in Iraq. So as things happen in that country, things fell apart. Now can you tell the Committee, General Dempsey, if there was any military commander who recommended that we completely withdraw from Iraq?
    General Martin Dempsey: Uh, no, Senator. None of us recommended that we completely withdraw from Iraq.
    Senator John McCain: When did we come up with the number of uh troops that we wanted to remain in Iraq? Do you know when that final decision was made as to exact numbers that we wanted?
    General Martin Dempsey: Uh, it to my knowledge the process started in Augustof [20]10 and, as you know, there was a series of possibilities or options that started at about 16,000 and ended up with about 10[000] and then migrated to 3[000] and then we ended up with [cross talk] --
    That's from the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee -- covered in the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," November 16th "Iraq snapshot," November 17th "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)," Kat's "Who wanted what?" and Third's "Gen Dempsey talks '10 enduring' US bases in Iraq" -- and the excerpt above is from the November 15th snapshot.
    Now on Hadley's remarks, I'm not comfortable "And we always felt in the end that Iraqi nationalism will trump Shi'a-ism." I don't think (I could be wrong, I often am) a majority of Americans would find that reassuring considering the Bush administration's track record on predictions when it comes to Iraq. We should also note that his observations re: Iraq and Shi'ites (that a national identity will trump Shi'ite identity) aren't born out by other observers. Richard Engel (NBC News -- link is text and videos) shares many observations in his report today and they include:
    When I looked closely, I noticed three words were engraved on the cups: Allah, Mohammed and Ali. Including the name Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law, has only one meaning. Ali is the patron of all Shiites. These were Shiite cups. Even the tea at the tourism authority was being served in Shiite cups.
    The tourism official is like most government officials in Baghdad these days. He's a religious Shiite from one of the many Shiite political parties. He served our TV crew sweet tea in small hourglass shaped cups.
    There are people who want a national identity. But, talk to political experts, they tended to support Iraqiya in the 2010 elections, the political slate which came in first, the one the US government helped prevent from becoming the rulers to keep Nouri al-Maliki on as prime minister. In addition to them, many of the youth protesters in Iraq strongly favor a national identity. A national identity could win out. But saying that it has is incorrect and saying that it will is a prediction and not a fact. It should also be noted that 2 of the 15 provinces Baghdad controls are attempting to become semi-autonomous and, no, that's not a good indicator that a national identity it 'trump'ing in Iraq.
    Other than that, Hadley's underscoring (lightly*) that a stupid thing was done last night on MSNBC when Joe Biden declared that they would have turned down a request for 20,000. (A) It flies in the face of previously reported claims. (B) It fuels points made in that Senate Armed Services Committee by Senators McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. (C) If things go bad in Iraq -- especially if US hostages or US deaths take place after January 1st, Joe just gave video for his critics to play constantly.
    Iraq has repeatedly refused to flow with the never-ending waves of Operation Happy Talk. That's from this administration and the previous one. No 'turned corner' ever stayed turned if, in fact, one was reached. And Joe knows that. It was a stupid remark for him to make. I know Joe, he's a great person but I cannot believe that he made that remark. It would have been bad enough in print but to give the GOP video for campaign ads?
    Can you imagine the ads if Iraq doesn't live up to the Happy Talk (and it never has before)? Let's say there are two hostages or two brutal deaths -- and most likely it would be Moqtada's militias -- picture something like the killing of Blackwater contractors in Falluja in 2004. And they've got photos of something like that to run Joe's comments over? It won't be pretty.
    [*Hadley also lightly but very clearly stated that Barack should have given the order for the US drone -- now in the possession of the Iranian government -- to have been detonated so that it would not have ended up in the possession of the Iranian government. His argument is that technology is now at risk. That's probably what most people will take away from Andrea Mitchell's discussion with him.]
    While we're on the topic of statements Joe shouldn't have made, we'll note this from Patrick Cockburn's "Wars without victory equal an America without influence" (Independent):

    This is misleading spin, carefully orchestrated to allow Mr Obama to move into the presidential election year boasting that he has ended an unpopular war without suffering a defeat. We already had a foretaste of this a couple of weeks ago, when Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad to laud US achievements.
    Over the years, Iraqis have become used to heavily guarded foreign dignitaries arriving secretly in Baghdad to claim great progress on all fronts before scurrying home again. But even by these lowly standards, Mr Biden's performance sounded comically inept. "It was the usual Biden menu of gaffe, humour and pomposity delivered with unmistakable self-confidence and no particular regard for the facts on the ground," writes the Iraq expert Reidar Visser. Mr Biden even tried to win the hearts of Iraqis by referring to the US achievement in building hospitals in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea, a city he apparently believes is located somewhere in Iraq.
    Republican candidates in the presidential election have been denigrated and discredited by gaffes like this. It is a measure of Mr Biden's reputation for overlong, tedious speeches that the US media did not notice his ignorance of Middle East geography. Dr Visser points out that "when Biden says 'we were able to turn lemons into lemonade', refers to 'a political culture based on free elections and the rule of law', and even highlights 'Iraq's emerging, inclusive political culture ... as the ultimate guarantor of stability', he is simply making things up." Sadly, Iraq is a much divided wreck of a country.

    Nouri al-Maliki continued his visit to the US. Al Sabaah reports that immunity for US troops was raised to Nouri by Barack and Nouri, according to an unnamed Iraqi who is part of the delegation visiting the US, refused to make any promises. Having just gotten 18 more F-16s approved this week, Nouri is now angling for drones as well. Dar Addustour notes that Nouri and Barack laid reefs at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and that Moqtada al-Sadr is criticizing the visit and the talks on immunity.

    In a longer story focusing just on Moqtada's criticism, Dar Addustour notes that Moqtada and his bloc are stating that the US is attempting to weaken Iraq as well as the Arab and Islamic world and that economic agreements are being dangled in an attempt to trick the Iraqi politicians. Iraq continuing to be under Chapter VII at the UN is raised and the Sadr bloc states that this is proof that the US is not sincere. The continued occupation via the US Embassy is called out as well. But the trip to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier especially results in a tongue lashing at Nouri, "Maliki's visit to that tomb of the dead Americans in Washington is an insult to the blood the dead of Iraq. It would have shown more respect for Maliki to visit the cemetery in Najaf."

    Still on Moqtada, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Shiite Sadrist Trend leader called not to interfere in Syrian events, pointing that it is a country with sovereignty and dignity. Muqtada al-Sadr expressed his concern of the foreign intervention and internationalization of this case. On the other hand, a Sadrist MP denied news of sending militias to Syria to suppress the protests there, describing these accusations as aimed against the political process in Iraq."

    Tensions abound in Iraq. Al Sabaah reports on issue raised in Parliament this week including Turkey's building another damn on a river thta flows through Dohuk Province (part of the Kurdistan Regional Government) which has damaged the water resources and Turkey's non-response to complaints led for calls to take this issue to the international courts. Jim Michaels (USA Today) explores Iraqi concerns and observes, "An inability to finalize a government 22 months after elections has raised concerns about the sincerity of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to form a coalition representing all Iraqis." Still on tensions, Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition, link has audio and text) reports that when the US turned over a base in disputed and oil-rich Kirkuk, the Iraqi military and the Peshmerga both attempted to claim it leading to six-hour standoff which included drawing guns on one another.

    Kelly McEvers: The standoff is an illustration of the larger problem in Kirkuk. Kurds want to regain control of a city they say was once theirs. Arabs don't want to let go of a city that they settled in at the encouragement of Saddam. Turkmen, Christians, and other ethnic groups are caught somewhere in the middle. In a market in the center of Kirkuk, most people are afraid to talk about the departure of the Americans, and who could help the Kurds and Arabs resolve their differences now that U.S. troops are leaving. One young Arab, named Mustafa, says his family was offered about $17,000 as part of a government program to move Arabs out of Kirkuk. But that wasn't enough.
    Kirkuk was a site of violence today. Reuters notes 1 Kurdish security official was wounded in a Kirkuk shooting, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one person, 1 Iraqi soldier was injured in an attack on a Mosul military checkpoint, a Mosul roadside bombing injured a woman, a police colonel was injured in a Baghdad shooting, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people and 2 Tal Afar car bombings claimed "at least" 3 lives and left thirty-five people injured.

    Kael Alford (MSNBC) has a photo series up from her return to Iraq over the summe and in the text of her essay, she notes:

    When I returned this summer, the violence had diminished but was once again climbing. On the morning of my arrival in Baghdad, a loud explosion shook me awake. At first I thought it was a nightmare, but a characteristic second explosion a few minutes later confirmed I wasn't dreaming. The target was a Turkish restaurant across the street from the compound where I was staying. No motive was known, and luckily no one was injured at that early hour. A week later, even the shattered glass of the nearby windows had been replaced and life returned to normal.

    Also offering a photo essay on Iraqis is Shannon Stapelton (Reuters). Stephen Farrell and the New York Times' Baghdad Bureau survey a variety of Iraqis about their thoughts as the US military is repostured.

    Nour Kasim, 30, Housewife
    1. It is not the right time for America to leave Iraq with such internal conflicts and the security situation so unstable and unsafe. We need more time to stabilize security and to be ready for any external confrontation. I don't think Iraq is ready to do this alone.
    2. I don't know exactly the American goals, but I believe that they achieved them, otherwise they wouldn't decide to leave. I don't have any problem with America, Saddam or any ruling party because I don't get myself involved in politics. I hope Iraq will be liberated, but we have to be able to protect our country first.
    In the US, only one anti-war candidate is declared so far: Ron Paul. He's running for the GOP's presidential nomination. Yesterday, On Point with Tom Ashbrook (WBUR -- link is audio) spent the hour exploring his campaign.