Friday, December 12, 2008

Aimee Mann, Alexander Cockburn

"Live Saturday: Aimee Mann's Christmas Concert" (NPR):
WXPN, December 12, 2008 - Aimee Mann doesn't seem like the type to gravitate toward Christmas music — there's nothing Bing Crosby or Mannheim Steamroller about her. Yet for the third year in a row, she's about to perform material from her beautiful 2006 holiday album, One More Drifter in the Snow, and more at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Penn. Hear the complete concert, webcast live by WXPN this Saturday, Dec. 13, starting at 8 p.m. ET. Nellie McKay and Grant-Lee Phillips will join Mann onstage for special duets.

That is tomorrow. Aimee Mann is a one of a kind talent and how often do we get live specials? We really don't. We get a parade of celebrities. Rosie tried to offer that at Thanksgiving. Aimee Mann is setting a mood, creating a special. If you can stream online, you should make a point to catch the special tomorrow.

Aimee Mann's responsible for many incredible songs starting with "Voices Carry" and, if the country's lucky, not ending for many, many years to come. I'm not sure on solo albums, probably The Forgotten Arm is my favorite (I love the songs "Going Through The Motions," "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart" and "Video"). Of her albums with the band 'Til Tuesday, my clear favorite is Welcome Home.

"Will She Just Fall Down" is a great song as is "David Denies" (I love the swelling chorus) and "Coming Up Close" is wonderful. I can remember listening to that album on cassette tape over and over. (C.I. gifted me with the CD one year so I do have a copy of it and still listen.) But "Have Mercy" and "Angles Never Call" were my two favorites. From the latter:

She smoked a cigarette
It only blurred my vision
I couldn't help but staying
With my first impression
I'm wondering with every breath
What caused my fall from grace
I guess I beat myself to death
Against her lovely face.

I will be listening to the special -- which will be Christmas music, just FYI.

"Hail to Chicago, Beacon of American Values" (Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch):
America is going back to basics. When the stock market plummeted on Black Monday, September 29, the only share to rise was Campbells Soup and now, amid the funereal gloom of a rotten Christmas selling season the nation’s spirits are being rallied by the five-star political corruption scandal in Chicago centered on Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now at last the city can crawl out from under the odorless uplift of Obamian “hope” and swagger back into the fragrant, smoke-filled rooms of municipal graft, with Blagojevich’s voice booming on the FBI phone taps as he hawked Obama’s vacant senate seat for cash and ripely cursed those failing to “pay to play”.
It’s scarcely 72 hours since the FBI seized Blagojevich in his jogging clothes and already the scandal’s storyline has metastasized at pell mell speed, weaving its way through such characters as Blagojevich’s spirited wife Patti, herself worth a full episode in the upcoming tv series as the Lady MacBeth of the whole affair. Overshadowed by her dad, Dick Mell (invariably described as the powerful alderman), and her politically ambitious sister, Patti was swept off her feet by Blago’s talents as an Elvis impersonator. It was Patti who colorfully exhorted her spouse to exact a (very modest) price from the now bankrupt Chicago Tribune which was pleading for financial assistance in connection with the sale of the Cubs and the ballpark in which they play. Patti wanted a pesky editorial writer fired and I seem to remember, from the complaint, that the Trib’s men said they could do that. Why not? A state-sponsored bailout vs. a mangy pundit? No contest. Heave him over the side!

I thought I would check out Alexander Cockburn's latest and see if it was any better than the last column of his I read? I actually think this one is worse. I think "Lady MacBeth" is as overdone by all columnists as "It's not rocket science" is overdone by Thomas Friedman.

It's easy, it's trite. It speaks of a lazy impulse. I read the rest of the article looking for some reason Lady MacBeth was utilized. There was none. He did not offer a MacBeth motif.

It's columns like that which make it very easy for me not to miss Cockburn's work.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 12, 2008. The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death), a US outlet reports on the remarks by al-Maliki's spokesperson (that the US military may be needed in Iraq for at least 10 more years), Donald Rumsfeld and many others are implicated in the Senate Armed Services Committe report, and more.

Starting with Alsumaria's "
Iraq: US Forces could be needed for 10 years:"

In the first statements that point out to Iraq's need for US Forces in the country since the declaration of the US-Iraqi security pact, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said Iraq will need US troop presence to help build up its military forces past the newly agreed three-year deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.Al Dabbagh, representing Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki in Washington, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years stressing that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and US governments in 2011 since the security pact has not tackled this issue. He added that until that time, the number of troops needed and the level of cooperation and support required would be clearer. Al Dabbagh statements came at a time when the International Security Council is getting ready to adopt during a meeting scheduled next week a resolution to end multinational forces mission in Iraq upon the request of Baghdad. Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Hamed Al Bayati affirmed in a statement to the Kuwaiti News Agency (Kuna) that Iraq has sent a similar letter to the Security Council Chief. He added that the letter has been distributed to members and will be official early next week. Al Bayati affirmed that Al Maliki has noted in a letter to the Security Council that the extension of multinational forces mission has been done for the last time and while their mission will end late this month.

Yesterday's snapshot noted David Morgan and Anthony Boadle's (Reuters) report and they noted that "Dabbagh's comments appeared to be the first to address the potential need for a residual U.S. presence since the pact was announced." (This topic was covered at length here.) Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) becomes the first reporter at a US outlet to report on it, noting today:

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki last month sold the Iraqi people on a security pact with the U.S. that he called a "withdrawal agreement" to end the presence of American forces in his country by the beginning of 2012.
His top government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, undercut that claim this week, however, when he said in Washington that the U.S. might be needed in Iraq for another 10 years, a statement that reverberated with political leaders in Baghdad, renewing criticism of the deal.

On the treaty,
American Freedom Campaign:
The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a
resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by
clicking on the following link
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
Steve Fox Campaign Director American Freedom Campaign Action Fund

Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) cover yesterday's report from the Senate Armed Services Committee on which "accuses [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and underminded U.S. security. The report, released by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCian (R-Ariz.), contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military." The 19 page report [warning, PDF format] is entitled "Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry Into The Treatment Of Detainees In U.S. Custody." In a statement released by his office, Levin notes:

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody compromised our moral authority and damaged both our ability to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism and to win the support of people around the world for that effort. In May 2004, just after the pictures from Abu Ghraib became public, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that the abuses depicted were simply the result of a few "bad apples" and that those responsible for abuse would be held accountable. More than seven months later, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked about accountability for detainee abuses, Gonzales said "we care very much about finding out what happened and holding people accountable." Neither of those two statements was true.
Department of Defense investigations into detainee abuse failed to adequately assign accountability to those senior military and civilian officials who authorized abusive interrogation techniques.
As we began to dig into what happened, the influence of SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape) resistance training techniques on our interrogation policies and practices became more and more obvious and became the focus of our investigation. SERE training is intended to be used to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. In SERE school, our troops who are at risk of capture are exposed -- in a controlled environment with great protections and caution -- to techniques adapated from abusive tactics used against American soldiers by enemies such as the Communist Chinese during the Korean War. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard. These techniques were designed to give our students a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody. As one JPRA instructor explained, SERE training is "based on illegal exploitation (under the rules listed in teh 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) of prisoners over the last 50 years."
So, how did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress position, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them.

How? The report makes clear, in the section entitled "Presidential Order Opens the Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques," how:

On February 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention. The President's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. While the President's order stated that, as "a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions," the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e. legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.
In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel's Office had already solicted information on detainee "exploitation" from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

What follows is multiple meetings with then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice being brought in, with her requesting then-CIA Director George Tenet provide briefings to the NSC and for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to "personally . . . review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Council." Rice "also said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA's program." In other words, the bulk of the administration in 2002 was involved. The Dept of Justice issued two legal opinions August 1, 2002:

One opinion, commonly known as the first Bybee memo, was addressed to Judge Gonzales and provided OLC [Office of Legal Counsel]'s opinion on standards of conduct in interrogation required under the federal torture statute. That memo concluded:

[F]or an act to constitute torture as defined in [the federal torture statue], it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under [the federal torture statue], it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

[ . . .]

The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as the Second Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics. While the full list of techiniques remains classified, a publicly released CIA document indicates that waterboarding was among those analyzed and approved. CIA Director General Michael Hayden stated in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 5, 2008 that waterboarding was used by the CIA. And Steven Bradury, the current Assistant Attorney General of the OLC, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2008 that the CIA's use of waterboarding was "adapted from the SERE training program."
Before drafting the opinions, Mr. Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the OLC, had met with Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the opinions. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Yoo refused to say whether or not he ever discussed or received information about SERE techniques as the memos were being drafted. When asked whether he had discussed SERE techniques with Judge Gonzales, Mr. Addington, Mr. Yoo, Mr. Rizzo or other senior administration lawyers, DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes testified that he "did discuss SERE techniques with other people in the administration." NSC Legal Advisor John Bellinger said that "some of the legal analyses of proposed interrogation techniques that were prepared by the Department of Justice. . . did refer to the psychological effects of resistance training."
In fact, Jay Bybee the Assistant Attorney General who signed the two OLC legal opinions said that he saw an assessment of the psychological effects of military resistance training in July 2002 in meetings in his office with John Yoo and two other OLC attorneys. Judge Bybee said that he used that assessment to inform the August 1, 2002 OLC legal opinion that has yet to be publicly released. Judge Bybee also recalled discussing detainne interrogations in a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo in late July 2002, prior to signing the OLC opinions. Mr. Bellinger, the NSC Legal Advisor, siad that "the NSC's Principals reviewed CIA's proposed program on several occasions in 2002 and 2003" and that he "expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations."

As Carl Levin has pointed out the myth is of a "few bad apples" at the bottom being responsible for torture used in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not correct. Equally true is that the report does not pin all blame on Donald Rumsfeld. There are "many bad apples" at the top and all need to share in the blame and in the shame.

By November 2002, alarms were being sounded by the Air Force ("serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques"), the DoD's Criminal Investigation Task Force stated some techniques could leave US military personnel open "to punitive articles of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," the Army's International and Operational Law Division objected (noting some of the techniques "crosses the line of 'humane' treatment"), the Navy asked for further "legal and policy review," and the Marine Corps wanted "a more thorough legal and policy review" (and expressed concerns about violations of federal laws). All of this was ignored even when the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. Jane Dalton and her staff brought these issues to the Defense Dept (specifically the General Counsel's Office).

The report notes that Donald Rumsfeld received a recommendation from DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes that 15 of the 18 techniques be approved (November 27, 2002) and this recommendation "indicated that he [Haynes] had discussed the issue with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and General [Richard] Myers and that he believed they concurred in his recommendations." Rumsfeld signed off on the recomendations (December 2, 2002) adding, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Alarms continued to be sounded and nothing was done (Rice states she held regular meetings to express concerns).

The report notes, "From Afghanistan, the techniques made their way to Iraq. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG), at the beginning of the Iraq war, special mission unit forces in Iraq 'used a January 2003 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which had been developed for operations in Afghanistan'." Col Steven Kleinman's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committtee (September 2008) addresses abuses he personally saw. September 14, 2003 finds Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez providing the authorization for "stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs in interrogations." He withdrew that authority on October 12, 2003 but confusion (intended by Sanchez or not) remained as to what was and was not now authorized.

The report finds the problems went well beyond Rumsfeld. Conclusion One notes the White House's decision to toss aside Common Article 3 and Conclusion Two notes those particiapting in the process: "Members of the President's Cabinet and other senior officials . . National Security Council Principals". Conclusion 19 pertains specifically to Iraq so we'll note it in full:

The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their cloths, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistant and at GITMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treament for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.

On Wendesday,
Senator Russ Feingold issued a call to the president-elect on "Concrete Steps" needed for the Rule of Law to be restored. In terms of the topics noted above, these recommendations from Feingold are worth noting:

The new administration should express its unqualified commitment to enforcing the ban against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and should establish as a matter of policy a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment. I have supported efforts in Congress to make the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that standard. The new administration should revoke all existing orders and legal opinions authorizing cruel interrogations, including Executive Order 13440 and any relevant opinions of the OLC.The new administration should commit to providing timely notification of and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for any and all detainees held in U.S. custody anywhere in the world.The new administration should close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, as you have pledged to do. Closing Guantanamo raises a number of complex questions, many of which were addressed in the hearing submissions. I hope those submissions can serve as a resource to your administration in addressing these difficult issues. As you tackle the Guantanamo problem, however, I urge you not to establish an entirely new preventive detention regime based on concerns about a very small number of difficult cases.The new administration should reject the flawed military commission trial system being used at Guantanamo Bay.The new administration should develop effective means of enforcing the ban against rendering individuals to countries where they have a credible fear of being tortured.

The Senate Armed Service Committee was not the only governmental body issuing a report yesterday. The Office of Inspector General at the Dept of Defense released a report yesterday.
Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports, "The Pentagon's inspector general said yesterday that the Defense Department's public affairs office may have 'inappropriately' merged public affairs and propaganda operations in 2007 and 2008 when it contracted out $1 million in work for a strategic communication plan for use by the military in collaboration with the State Department." And around 11:00 AM EST, the man who insulted Stephanie Tubbs Jones back in 2005 (longterm community members know whom I mean -- remember the Ohio 2004 vote didn't matter to him) rewrote Walter's article for a website. No link to that trash.

It's Friday. Violence is rarely reported. Yesterday's bombing at Abdalla Kabab resulted in 57 deaths and over 120 wounded. We'll note some of this morning's reporting on that.
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The Abdullah restaurant was the kind of place Iraqis took their families on special occasions. It was the kind of place high-ranking officials in the northern city of Kirkuk chose for power lunches, where they dug in to plates on tables covered with white cloths as water burbled from a decorative fountain." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) adds, "Hundreds of families were inside the Abdullah restaurant, an area landmark, celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, police and hospital officials said. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in six months." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The room was a shambles. On the flood was mass of tortured humanity -- those that lived. Prams and pacifiers; ribbons and toys. Purses thrown open with make up and perfume bottles strewn everywhere. I can see them with my mind's eye. They look much like what my daughter carries in her purse. . . . My daughter, your daughter . . . anyone's daughter." Nico Hines (Times of London) offers, "The explosion may have been targeted at a group of Arab elders and Kurdish political officials who were holding discussions over lunch aimed at easing long-standing ethnic tensions in the northern Iraqi region." Timothy Williams (New York Times) quotes Abdalla Kabab's supervisor Shirzad Mowfak Zangana explaining, "All of a sudden we heard a very loud explosion. Two of the walls collapsed, and then the next thing I remember is that I felt blood covering my face. People were screaming. Children were crying. Smoke filled all three dining rooms." Williams also attempts to connect it to larger issues regarding Kirkuk. Youssif Bassil and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) do that much better -- for starters they note Kirkuk is disputed territory -- and they sketch out the current struggle taking place as follows: "The Kurds have been flexing their muscles lately by building up their substantial oil industry without conferring with the central government. They also want to incorporate towns with significant Kurdish populations outside the region into their sphere -- particularly the city of Kirkuk. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has pushed back, criticizing some of the Kurdistan go-it-alone business efforts and criticizing the deployment of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces in towns under the control of the federal government."

Today the
British Military announced: "It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway." This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, "No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved." Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178 (ICCC currently is at 177 as I dictate this, it will be at 178 when they note this death).

In other news, independent journalist
David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) came out in September and his latest labor article explores (at New America Media) explores this week's win for Chicago workers:

When the day finally comes that Raul Flores loses his job, he will face a bitter search for another one. "I've got a family to support, so I've got to do whatever it takes," he says. "It's going to be hard. The economic situation is not good, but I can't just wait for something to happen to me." That puts Flores in the same boat as millions of other U.S. workers. Last month alone 533,000 workers lost their jobs, the highest figure in 34 years. A week ago, the heads of the big three auto companies were in Washington DC, pleading for loans to keep their companies afloat. As a price, lawmakers and pundits told them they had to become "leaner and meaner," and in response, General Motors announced it would close nine plants and put tens of thousands of workers in the street. Ford and Chrysler described a similar job-elimination strategy. What makes Flores special? He didn't just accept the elimination of his job. Instead, he sat in at the Chicago plant where he worked for six days, together with 240 other union members at Republic Windows and Doors. Republic workers were not demanding the reopening of their closed factory. They've been fighting for severance and benefits to help them survive the unemployment they know awaits them. Yet their occupation can't help but raise deeper questions about the right of workers to their jobs. Can a return to the militant tactics of direct action, that produced the greatest gains in union membership, wages and job security in U.S. history, overturn "the inescapable logic of the marketplace"? Can employers, and the banks that hold their credit lines, be forced to keep plants open?

Public broadcasting notes. One of America's most gifted contemporary singer-songwriter,
Aimee Mann, has a Christmas concert on NPR tomorrow. Live from the Kewsick Theater in Pennsylvania, Aimee's concert will be webcast by WXPN beginning Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST. This concert is part of a series of Christmas performances by Aimme that will next find her in Alexandria, VA (December 15 and 16), NYC (December 17 and 18th) and Tarrytown, NY (December 19th). Can't make it to those concerts? One more reason to catch Saturday's webcast. For Saturday's concert, her guests will be Nellie McKay and Grant-Lee Phillips. (In a year of sheep, Nellie McKay stood up for peace and did so proudly and publicly. Very few can make that claim, let alone claim to have her courage.) Aimee first came to national attention as a member of the band 'Til Tuesday whose songs and singing ("Voices Carry," "J for Jules," "No One Is Watching You Now," "Welcome Home," etc.) registered strongly and immediately. On her own she's produced hits like "That's Just What You Are" while still trying to fit into the corporate label scheme before going off on her own and producing amazing work (and earning an Oscar nomination for "Save Me"). Her latest album is @#%&*! Smilers. Kat's reviewed her latest CD as well as The Forgotten Arm. And NPR's previous Aimee Mann coverage includes "Aimee Mann: Heartache And Hope" and "Aimee Mann: Bittersweet Holidays" (here for NPR's archive of Aimee stories).

NOW on PBS visits Kiribati as it examines the issue of displacement as a result of global warming. Washington Week also begins airing tonight on some PBS stations (others tend to air it as a Sunday morning chat & chew) and joining Gwen will be Pete Williams (NBC News), Christi Parsons (Chicago Tribune), David E. Sanger (New York Times) and John Maggs (National Journal). On broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, 60 Minutes:Barney FrankLesley Stahl talks to Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), whose position as House Financial Services Committee Chairman puts him right in the middle of the huge and controversial government bailouts, first for the financial industry and now for Detroit's automakers. Watch Video
Where's The Bottom?The mortgage mess that touched off the financial meltdown is far from over, with a second wave of expected defaults on the way that could deepen the bottom of this recession. Scott Pelley reports.
Coach CarrollByron Pitts profiles USC college football coach Pete Carroll, who, in addition to his success in making the Trojans a football dynasty, is making positive contributions toward decreasing gang violence in Los Angeles. Watch Video
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

alsumariadavid morgananthony boadle
mcclatchy newspapersadam ashton
sahar issa
the washington postwalter pincuskaren deyoungjoby warwick
sudarsan raghavan
the los angeles times
tina susmanthe new york timestimothy williams
david bacon
aimee mannnprzoltan grossman60 minutescbs newswashington weeknow on pbspbs

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


"Javier Ponce, Poet and Defence Minister, Takes On the CIA in Ecuador" (Jose Steinsleger, Znet):
The new Defence Minister of Ecuador proves the saying that military matters are too sensitive to leave them exclusively in military hands. Why not a poet? But now Javier Ponce must write his greatest poem: dealing with the CIA agents in Ecuador.
According to a report published by a Quito newspaper, Army Intelligence receives between $16 and $18 million annually from the CIA for "information exchange". In the past, the poet-minister declared that the national police was "practically financed and controlled by the North American embassy in this capital".
About the bombing of the FARC camp, the minister added that the CIA and some military commanders fully knew what would happen that day and hid the information "to mislead the political establishment".
The distinguished Ecuadorian, Benjamín Carrión (1897-1979) wrote: "If we cannot, neither should be a political, economic, diplomatic and even less - much more than even less -military power, we can be a great cultural power, because our history authorises and encourages us to do so". Proposal which, I'm sure, Javier Ponce has engraved on his forehead.

The above is worth reading. What I am going to offer? No.

I couldn't get a connection and am so used to doing wireless now and not wanting to go get on the computer (PC). I can tell you everyone's talking about US House Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. and no one believes that he's not as guilty as the governor.

This really could be the beginning of the end for Barack. He and the governor were very, very close and, of course, Jesse Jr. thought he and Barack were very close. If Jesse Jr. is arrested and charged, I would see him dropping a dime in a minute.

I think the whole thing is poetic. Barack's home state governor accused of attempting some form of payment to appoint someone to replace Barack. It's all about greed and what was Barack's campaign run on but greed?

He refused public financing. Broke the pledge on that. He took in overseas donation and has no way to prove that the donations came from US citizens. He allowed individuals to repeatedly break the legal donation limit. The greed that built him could break him and, in fact, it should.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 10, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the plight of Iraqi Christians is the focus of a US tour, the head of a Baghdad division embarrasses themselves in expression and appearance, Great Britian may leave Iraq, and more.

Starting in the US where
Gregg Krupa (Detroit News) explains Cardinal Mar Emmanuel III Delly ("patriarch of Bablyon") is on a three week visit to the US and met yesterday "with members of the largest Chaldean community outside of Iraq, here in Metro Detroit." Krupa reminds, "Christian clerics have been murdered in Iraq, amid the continuing civil strife and social discord under the American-led occupation and attempts by Muslim extremists to root them out of their homes. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country during the five years and nine months of war. Some have settled temporarily in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and the United States and in Europe. International migration officials say that an increasing number has turned up in Lebanon, another country in the Middle East with a significant Christian population." AP notes the visit is to raise attention for the issues effecting Iraqi Christians including the safety crisis and Catholic Culture explains he expressed his puzzlement "as to why they [foreign military forces in Iraq] have not done more to bring about peace and security." Wayne Peal (Mirror) quotes Dave Nona, who attended a Tuesday ceremony by the Cardinal, on the issue of Iraqi Christians migrating to the US, "I would say it was about 12,000 because of homeland security. We're hoping that some 15,000 - 18,000 will be allowed to enter next year." Krupa reports that Tuesday speech noted, "All Iraqis were better off before the American-led invasion and occupation, he said, citing recent statements by President Bush and former adminsitration officials 'who admit that mistakes have been made'." Meanwhile Christian Newswire reports that "former Governor David Beasley, who has worked on numerous humanitarian projects in the Middle East since leaving politics, claimed the United States had failed in its responsibility to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee religious persecution in Iraq. The official position of Secretary Condoleezza Rice is that there is no religious persecution of Christians in Iraq." Catholic Leader notes that Chaldean Auxilary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad Patriarchate shared with Vatican Radio last week that less than 800 of the 2,500 Christian families who fled Mosul in October due to attacks have returned. In other persecution news, NPR's Corey Flintoff (Morning Edition) reported last week from Basra on the racism there, "Although they have lived in Iraq for more than 1,000 years, the black Basrawis say they are still discriminated against because of the color of their skin . . . Long relegated to menial jobs or work as musicians and dancers, some of them have recently formed a group to advance their civil rights." Dropping back to religious news, Jenan Hussein and Adam Ashton (McClatchy News) report that the barbaric sacrifice of lambs continues in Iraq and will we hear any of the uproar from those screaming their heads off recently over the fact that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin hunted, the same crowd lying that she was shooting wolves from helicopters? The barbaraci practice of sacrificing animals continues and not a peep. And it needs to be noted that the sacrifice take place anytime the US and Iraq stages a public event. If they're dedicating a new building or they're doing some other big announcement, an animal's being slaughtered. Translation, the US military has endorsed animal sacrifices throughout the occupation of Iraq. It's interesting that the US military is expected to participate in those ceremonies (and if a sacrifice takes place before or after, it is part of the ceremonies) but were they to do the same in the US, they'd be arrested. It's also interesting when you consider that the US military is not supposed to promote religion but many are being asked to stand through these ceremonies which is participation. Equally true is that animal sacrifices goes against the personal religious beliefs of some serving in the US military. Just as the US should never go along with appeasing any host country by not allowing female service members to drive a vehicle, they should never go along with an animal sacrifice and should make it very clear that if one is done, it is done 24 hours before or 24 hours after any joint US-Iraq ceremony so as not to give the impression that the US condones or encourages animal sacrifices.

Turning to the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. For over two weeks now, US outlets have filed story after story about the 'mighty' al-Maliki. He's unstoppable, they gushed. He's on the rise. He's the future, Moqtada al-Sadr's the past. No one can touch him. Blah, blah, blah. None of it was news and none of it reflected reality. But the long ass-kiss may finally be ending. While the never-ending smooch was ongoing, the simmering tensions between al-Maliki and the Kurdish Regional Government was largely ignored (Rubin and others at NYT did cover it). Today
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the puppet's "coalition of support is fraying" due to the conflict with the Kurds but "[w]hile the growing Kurdish-Shiite rift may be the biggest threat yet to Maliki's tenure, what may ensure his survival are fears of the political battle that would follow his ouster and wreck many of the gains in Iraq's young democracy."

Yesterday's snapshot noted Reuters journalist Ibrahim Jassam who is wrongly being held by the US military despite the Iraqi court system ordering that Ibrahim be freed. Ibrahim is one of many reporters suffering in the 'free' Iraq. Last Wednesday's snapshot noted the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq's "Human Rights Report" [PDF format warning, click here]. The report was the latest (thirteenth) and noted the attacks on the press especially in the Kurdish region where journalists spoke of being "arrested, harassed and ill-treated by KRG police. . . . Local journalist associations have condemned the conduct of the KRG authorities while other journalists were also prevented from covering the military operations." And the snapshot included:

. . . last month saw another journalist targeted in the Kurdistan region. Adel Hussein is the journalist and he's been convicted to six months of prison for the 'crime' of "writing an article about homosexuality".
Reporters Without Border notes: "Sexual practices are part of the individual freedoms that a democratic states is supposed to promote and protect. Furthermore, Hussein did not defend homosexuality. He limited himself to describing a form of behavior from a scientific viewpoint. . . . We are astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under the criminal code. What was the point of adoptiong -- and then liberalising -- a press code in Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still be tried under more repressive laws?" The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for the immediate release of Adel -- "a doctor and a freelance journalist with the independent weekly Hawlati". CPJ's Robert Mahoney (Dept Director) states, "A judge of all people should know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. This is the second time in a month that a court in Iraqi Kurdistan has sent a journalist to prison in violation of the new press law. We call on the authorities to ensure that the new legislation is widely promulgated and enforced, and we urge the appeal court to overturn this conviction and free Adel Hussein immediately." The other reporter referred to was Shwan Dawdi whose conviction was overturned by the court of appeal. Yahya Barzanji (AP) quotes the Kurdistan Journalist Union's Zirak Kamal stating, "We will appeal this unjust verdict and we hope that Kurdistan officials intervene and solve the problem." BBC explains the Kurdish government is attempting to say that Adel "violated a public decenty law" by reporting.

In a new development,
The Committee to Protect Journalists announces that Adel was pardoned Sunday by KRG President Massoud Barzani and quotes CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney stating, "We are relieved that President Barzani intervened to right this injustice. We call on the authorities to ensure that the new legislation is enforced and that Adel Hussein is the last journalist to be sent to prison in Iraqi Kurdistan because of his work." Reporters Without Borders notes:Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday's release of physician and freelance journalist Adel Hussein from prison in Erbil (330 km north of Baghdad) under a pardon granted by the president of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan at the start of every religious festival.Hussein had been in prison since 24 November, when he was found guilty of offending public decency under article 403 of the criminal code for writing an article about homosexuality for the independent Kurdish-language weekly Hawlati.

Turning to the topic of Blackwater -- Monday 5 mercenaries turned themselves into US federal authorities for charges stemming from the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad,
Tina Susman and Usam Redha (Los Angeles Times) guage Iraqi opinion on the development. A veteran of Iraq's military, Ali, tells the reporters, "It means no one is above the law, even if he's an element of foreign forces. It also means the victims will get justice." An unnamed police officer states, "Because they killed 17 innocent people, of course they should be arrested." It's very rare that Iraqis are quoted or their opinions reported on.

Take McClatchy's Leila Fadel being interviewed by Paul Jay for the Real News Network in what is supposedly a nine minute interview about Iraqi suspicion of the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Yet at 2:37 in, she's still not talking about Iraqis. And she's wasted everyone's time with what appears to be a defense of McClatchy's AWFUL coverage from Baghdad of the treaty. She's yammering on and on endlessly about the Arabic version of the agreement ('which we translated into English") and who gives a damn, Leila? What do we care about? Well, how about you explain how Adam Ashton, in Iraq for McClatchy, couldn't (for McClatchy) write the truth about the treaty; however, Ashton works for The Modesto Bee and one Saturday, while still in Iraq, he could (for The Modesto Bee) write the realities that McClatchy wouldn't allow? How about you trying explaining that?

In what plays like yet another attempt to excuse the AWFUL reporting by McClatchy coming out of Baghdad, Leila begins referring to the "way that Maliki has sold the agreement to the population and has talked about it is as the end of the American occupation, he has won a date" -- uh, Fadel, he doesn't control the US press and the US press went with that -- including the Baghdad division of McClatchy that you head -- so how about taking a little damn responsibility or is that too difficult?

And, since you're now in DC and since the White House posted an English language version of the agreement (on Thanksgiving, as soon as the Iraqi Paliament voted it into effect -- as they said they would), why don't you address what that says?

And since you haven't read the White House version -- availabe for three weeks now -- maybe you ought to lose the attitude evident at 3:32 regarding Iraqis? (How "a lot of them haven't read" the Arabic version or done so well enough "to have an opinion.") In fact, if the average Iraqi that hasn't read the agreement in full doesn't have the right to an opinion in your opinion, then maybe you just should just close yourself off until you MAKE the time to read the White House version, published at the White House's website. You are, after all, a reporter and what's required and expected of you is a great deal more than what's required and expected of civilians whose country is occupied and under attack and who live in fear and do not have US passports that allow them to breeze in and out of Iraq at will? And, by the way, the Iraqis that "don't believe" in all the hog wash you have sold via McClatchy? They're right. They're right not only because it's a one-year treaty that either side can cancel in 2010 or 2011 -- which means you embarrass yourself in public when you bore us all with what's going to happen in 2011. But you don't need to know about that cancellation clause -- a clause Fadel 'forgot' to note when discussing the Arabic version for over 2 minutes (though that clause is also in the Arabic version). You only need to know that no US Embassy in any country is not protected by the US military. You only need to grasp that a larger embassy would require a larger US military force to protect it. You only need to realize that as long as the US Embassy remains in Baghdad, US forces will be on the ground in Iraq. That's reality. Here's some more -- don't show up for an inteview looking like a Los Molcajetes waitress serving chips and salsa. And for any little whiner at McClatchy who feels that's .just so harsh, let me be really clear: What McClatchy and others have done with regards to the treaty OUT DOES what Judith Miller did. Judith Miller (wrongly and laughably) believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. She should have shown skepticism, she shouldn't have been a stenographer. (And she was one of many.) But this illegal war continues because 'reporters' lie. LYING about the treaty, lying to Iraqis and Americans to lull them into a false belief that the war is winding down is nothing but an attempt to reduce pressure on the governments of both countries. You are servicing the adminstration, you are not servicing the people. And with all the lies that led to the illegal war having been exposed as lies, to provide new cover is outrageous and goes far beyond (my opinion) anything Miller could have hoped to do. In 2004 and 2005, we were regularly noting that if the Judith Millers got the US over there, the Dexter Filkins kept the US over there and they did so by lying in print regularly.

From Iraq, McClatchy rouses themselves enough to note little bits of violence . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded five people today while another roadside bombing detonated in Mosul.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.

Yesterday the Defense Dept's inspector general released a report [
PDF format warning, click here]. Mike Mount (CNN) reports that the study shows, "The U.S. Marine Corps kenw of the threat posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war, yet did nothing to buy protective vehicles for troops . . . Additionally, Marine leaders in 2005 decided to buy up-armored, or reinforced, Humvees instead of Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vheicles to shield troops in Iraq from mines and other explosives -- a decision that could have cost lives, according to the report obtained Tuesday by CNN." Washington Post's Derek Kravitz explained last night, "After the inspector general's report became public, the Pentagon announced late today that it would order up between 2,800 to 10,000 of the vehicles, called MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles, for the Army and Marine Corps.":

Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) reports that Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister, will allegedly declare in early 2009 that British forces will withdraw from Iraq. This comes as the BBC reports Conservatives in the British Parliament are calling for a public investigation of the "origins and conduct" of the illegal war.

In US political news,
Paul Street (ZNet) observes that president-elect Barack Obama's War Hawk nature was always evident (and Street called it out in real time and is the author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics):

The Times was wrong to suggest a significant change in Obama's concept of "reality" in regard to Iraq. Those willing to look seriously beneath the "antiwar" campaign imagery his marketers crafted for liberal and progressive voters can easily determine that there is no fundamental discontinuity. Obama voted to fund the illegal occupation without conditions in 2005 and 2006. He worked to support pro-war over antiwar Democrats in the 2006 congressional primaries. He distanced himself from U.S. Congressman Jack Murtha's (D-PA) early and courageous call for withdrawal from Iraq in 2005. He lectured progressives on the alleged need to not be seen as "working against the president" on Iraq (after the Democrats' 2006 congressional victories) and on how Democrats shouldn't "play chicken with the troops" (a preposterous conservative smear) by calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He voted against a troop withdrawal proposal by Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold in June 2006, arguing that setting a firm date for retreat would "hamstring" diplomats and military commanders. .In the fall of 2006, Obama told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that "The American people have been extraordinarily resolved [in support of the Iraq occupation]...They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah." This was a remarkable comment in light of the two massive assaults (notorious across the Middle East and Muslim world) the Pentagon launched (indiscriminately slaughtering civilians in large numbers) on that Iraqi city in April and November of 2004.Obama's heralded "antiwar speech" of October 2002 (given when he was still a state senator) opposed the planned invasion of Iraq on pragmatic, not principled grounds. It criticized the imminent invasion as a strategic mistake (a "dumb war"), neglecting to mention its criminal and immoral nature, its petro-imperial motivations, and the large number of Iraqis it would kill and maim.Consistent with those omissions, Obama has never criticized the ethics or legality of Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.). He has always refused to significantly note Iraqi casualties (including more than 1 million civilian dead) and he denies the broader Holocaust the U.S, has imposed on Iraq. He told CNN's Candy Crowely last July that the United States should not apologize to anyone for any of its foreign policies under Bush and he has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. invaded the Iraq with "the best of intentions" (democracy- and freedom-promotion). He even told Wisconsin autoworkers last February that that the U.S. must "stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together."Obama's 2002 "antiwar speech" came down from his Web site in 2003 because he decided to run for the U.S. Senate that year. He was nowhere to be seen around downtown Chicago when two nights of massive demonstrations took place there against Bush's invasion in March of 2003. And during the 2004 Democratic Convention, where he made the Keynote Address that made him an overnight celebrity (a "BaRockstar"), Obama told the New York Times that he might have voted (like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and John Edwards) to authorize Bush to invade Iraq if he had been in the U.S Senate and had access to the same "intelligence" as other U.S. Senators in the fall of 2002.Obama's spokespersons have been consistently mushy and deceptive about his Iraq withdrawal plans, making it clear to serious investigators that Obama will continue the occupation indefinitely. He told FOX News thug Bill O'Reilly this summer that "the Surge" had "succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations" and he has refused to sign on to legislation seeking to ban private "security" contractors like Blackwater from Iraq and Afghanistan.

nprcorey flintoff
adel husseinreporters without bordersthe committee to protect journaliststhomas hardingtelegraph of london
paul street
the los angeles timestina susmanusama redhathe new york timesdavid leonhardtcnnmike mountthe washington postderek kravitz
jenan hussein
mcclatchy newspapers
adam ashton

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Independent media, Maureen Dowd captured

"Fight For Obama?" (Revolution):
This experience really hit me hard and made me think deeper about what is behind the whole Obama thing. Before I had been sort of looking at it like “Well, he’s just one of those bourgeois politicians,” and “Your hopes are going to get dashed if you think he’s going to do anything but serve this system.” He is a bourgeois politician, and he is going to serve this system. But what’s scarier is that by getting people to view him as something other than that, he’ll get them to serve this system. So when I hear people say “wait and see,” or “give Obama a chance,” or the stranger “He may be the biggest snake of them all, but he got so many people to believe in change again, and that has to be good!” I don’t just think, like Lenin said, that they are the “foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit” because they can’t see the interests of a ruling class behind Obama’s catchphrases. They are that. But I also think about how that affects the millions of Pablos in this country. They have no love for, and no interest in going along with, this system which offers them no meaningful future. But with this Obama frenzy, the message is being sent: Living and fighting for this empire is now a real option for getting some kind of life. We don’t need this, like the statement says “Stop thinking like Americans! Start thinking about what humanity needs!” The revolution offers the only real change that would be good and liberating for humanity, and that’s the message we need to send and a future really worth living and fighting for.

The real independent media led the way on calling out Judith Miller and did so in 2002. (Regularly in 2002, her 'reporting' had been called out before.) No, not Amy Goodman, actual independent media. That would include outlets like Revolution. So when I read the above (from a letter to Revolution), I think real independent media can again lead the way. Can and will.

While The Nation, The Progressive, Democracy Now!, et al spend the next months fluffing and spinning hard, you need to be figuring out what outlets you can depend upon. The real independent media will be calling out president-elect. They will be doing so clearly and, unlike Katrina vanden Heuvel's faux 'independent media,' they won't frame a critique around Hillary Clinton or any other cabinet member. They will take the responsibility for Barack's mistakes, misdeeds and failures right to Barack.

I was hoping to find something on Odetta's passing but could not. Due to deadlines, it may be that pieces will start showing up next week. However, someone passed away before Odetta and this woman's death -- as Kat noted at the time -- even resulted in statements (plural) from the US State Dept.

"Ode to Miriam Makeba, beloved Mama Africa" (Larry Hale, Workers World):
“I picked up the soil from this unknown grave

and blew it up to the wind as if
to make reference one day
and I said
sing loud
sing loud
sing to the people.”
–From “When You Come Back”by Vusi Mahlasela
Vusi Mahlasela, a great singer who himself was banned from his homeland, wrote this song for the many exiles and imprisoned South African freedom fighters and artists.

Miriam Makeba, who died on Nov. 10, was one of the many. She was banned for 30 years, from 1960 to 1990. The name “Mama Africa” was bestowed upon Makeba because she was the first person to make African music heard and known internationally.
This is an ode to Miriam Makeba and her still resounding voice. Though her physical form is gone forever, her visage will remain, not only in the hearts and minds of those closest to her, but also in the minds of the millions who have heard her voice, those who have yet to do so and the millions for whom she sang.
Makeba was born in Johannesburg in 1939 and began singing professionally in the early 1950s. She sang with a number of groups—such as the Cuban Brothers, the Manhattans, the all-female Skylarks, and with Hugh Masekela in the musical “King Kong,” about a boxer.
She was introduced to the international stage through Lionel Rogosin’s film “Come Back Africa,” a dramatic documentary that displayed the racist apartheid system.
Makeba’s passport was revoked while she traveled with this film and presented it to an international audience.
In a Skylark song called “Miriam’s Goodbye to Africa,” a speaker intones, “Today we say goodbye to Africa’s queen of soul, Miriam Makeba. Good luck Miriam and please do come back to us soon.” Makeba replies, “Goodbye mother/ goodbye father/ and to you my little baby/ goodbye/ until we meet again/ farewell dear friends/ I am leaving/ may the good lord be with you all/ though I’m leaving/ my heart remains with you.”
The song, meant as a tribute, has become a haunting lament.
Neither Makeba nor the members of her group could know that she would be gone for 30 years, that she would never again see her mother or be able to attend her funeral, and never see Sophiatown as she remembered it, for it would be bulldozed to the ground and replaced by a suburb for whites only.
Many events would pass which no one could foresee. But the conditions in South Africa were dictated by a racist system that was formally instituted in 1948 by then-Minister of Native Affairs Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd—who later became prime minister and described apartheid as “a policy of good neighborliness.”
Umkhonto we Sizwe was the armed wing of the African National Congress. Vuyisile Mini, an Umkhonto activist and singer who was murdered by a hangman’s noose, would write a song taunting Verwoerd titled, “Pasopa nansi ’ndondemnyama we Verwoerd” (Look out, Verwoerd, here are the Black people). It would become a popular liberation song throughout the struggle to free South Africa from apartheid and white rule. Makeba later recorded a version of it.
Nelson Mandela said in his autobiography, alluding to himself, that a person is known by her or his response to conditions. Miriam Makeba, then, is known as a voice for freedom.
Each breath she took, like the terse exhalations in the song “Amampondo”—about Mpondo warriors, part of the Xhosa-speaking people, preparing for battle—was inspiration to the South African people, as theirs were to her.
While Makeba could not be in her homeland, she could sing the words of struggle for audiences who may not have otherwise been able to glean the conditions imposed upon the masses of Black people in South Africa by a European colonizer.
Sifiso Ntuli, an exiled activist, says in the film “Amandla”: “Song can communicate to people who otherwise would not have understood where we are coming from.”
Makeba’s voice was soaring and powerful and could evoke feelings of joy and celebration, such as “Pata Pata,” and pride, anger or sorrow. Whether she was singing in English or Xhosa, singing “Soweto Blues,” about the massacre of students protesting classroom instruction in Afrikaans, or “Khawuleza,” a song about what children shout to their mothers when the authorities are coming, she could communicate the conditions and the emotions of the oppressed.
Makeba would miss her mother’s funeral and those of her uncles killed in the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Her daughter died at eight years old, after being reunited with Makeba and not able to return home. She would face scrutiny and surveillance and exile in another land while married to Kwame Ture, yet her resolve did not temper or wane.
Makeba continued to be a voice for the South African people and renowned worldwide. Her spirit will exist in song and deed and her voice shall become a voice for new generations and new struggles for a better world.
Long Live Mama Africa!
Hales saw and heard Miriam Makeba in Cuba in December 2006, when she came out of retirement to perform in celebrations organized for the 80th birthday of Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011

Email: ww@workers.orgSubscribe wwnews-subscribe@workersworld.netSupport independent news

Again, I will check for tributes for Odetta (continue to check for them). While we're on the issue of arts and entertainment (and also pulling in the New York Times) . . .

"Dowd to Fey: And when they met, it was murder (Ava and C.I.) " (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Dowd lives to peer into other's minds (the Clintons most infamously), so let's edge close to her own insanity:

Sarah Palin's debut left conservative men salivating -- "Babies, guns, Jesus: hot damn!" Rush Limbaugh thundered--and left Fey little choice. There had not been such a unanimous national casting decision since Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind.

Dowd appears to be saying -- a sure sign of an awful writer is that, when discussing their work, you have to say they "appear to be be saying" -- that Fey was drafted into playing Palin by "unanimous national casting". Certainly that was true of the Water Cooler Set.
We'll allow that point but then Dowd decides to sport her stupidity the way Tina does her bosom: "There had not been such a unanimous national casting decision since Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind."
Clark Gable was one of many actors the public wanted for the role. To imply he was the "unanimous choice" ignores the strong support for many other actors including Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn (both of whom were pursued for the part by producer David Selznick, Flynn repeatedly). Afterwards, many (including Bette Davis) would say Gable was the only choice to play the role but that was (as Davis noted) in retrospect.
Someone needs to explain to Maureen that just because she can type it doesn't make it true.
Imagine all the 'political' writing the country could have been spared if Maureen had grasped that years ago?

I think Ava and C.I. perfectly captured the problems with Maureen Dowd's 'writing.'

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 9, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Blackwater remains in the news, IOM sounds alarms regarding migrants, the US military refuses to release a journalist, so many of Barack's buddies are in trouble, and more.

Starting with Blackwater. Yesterday five mercenaries for Blackwater Worldwide surrendered themselves to authorities as a result of grand jury indictments for the September 17, 2007 slaughter that resulted in at least 17 Iraqis being killed in Baghdad.
CBS and AP (link has text and video) ask Iraqis for their reactions to the news. Mohammed Latif states, "I think it is a move in the right direction to make the security company employees realize that they are no longer above the law and they should stop behaving like cowboys on the streets of Baghdad." Rasim Hussein offers, "This indictment is not enough because there are still dozens of criminal security company employees on the loose in Iraq." Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) also reports on Iraqi reaction to the news and quotes Hosham Abdel Kader stating, "It's about time they pay for their crimes. I recoil, I freeze when I see those mercenaries on the street." US Attorney General Jeffrey Taylor declared yesterday that "we are duty-bound to hold them accountable, as no one is above the law, even when our country is engaged in war." The Dallas Morning News uses that statement to editorialize, "Iraqis have waited far too long to hear these words from the U.S. government. Nevertheless, Iraqi government should cautions its people not to have high expectations. Security contractors at the time of the shooting fell under no clear legal authority. Since they were operating on foreign territory, U.S. law did not necessarily apply to them." The San Francisco Chronicle notes, "The incident became a flash point in many different ways. It proved to be a fantastic recruiting tool for insurgents. It enraged the Iraqi government, which lobbied unsuccessfully for the right to try the guards in Iraq. . . . And here in the United States, the case sparked discussion of why the war depended so much on private firms in the first place. One guard - perhaps sensing the scope of the reaction to the incident - already has pleaded guilty to killing at least one Iraqi, in exchange for a reduced sentence. The other five are facing 35 counts and at least 30 years."

Mike Doyle (McClatchy Newspapers) explores the primary (evolving) law that would apply and notes, "The Blackwater contract was with the State Department. The five indicted Blackwater guards were part of a Tactical Response Team called Raven 23; the killings in question occurred when Raven 23 responded to the detonation of an improvised explosive device near another Blackwater team guarding, apparently, a State Department employee. Who was this employee, and what was his or her function? Would protecting, say, an agricultural attache amount to 'supporting the mission' of the Pentagon?" Pamela Manson (Salt Lake Tribune) reports that the attorneys for the five are publicly maintaining that there is no case and that all "will be cleared." Dan Slater (Wall St. Journal) argues a recent case holds the key to the fate of the five, "Remember Jose Luis Nazario? He was the former Marine who was charged, under the MEJA, with voluntary manslaughter for allegedly killing unarmed Iraqis. In August, a jury in Riverside, Calif., acquitted Nazario. As today's WSJ report about Blackwater notes, prosecutors in the Nazario case faced jury skepticism. After the not-guilty verdict, jurors hugged Nazario and said they didn't feel they 'had any business' judging combat conduct." A great deal will ride on the testimony of Jeremy P. Ridgeway who copped a plea bargain. Ginger Thompson and James Risen (New York Times) report he "described how he and the other guards used automatic rifles and grenade launchers to fire on cars, houses, a traffic officer and a girls' school." Ridgeway, Josh Meyer (Los Angeles Times) notes, was "the turret gunner in the last vehicle had a panoramic view, has provided invormation that strongly indictes the shootings were unprovoked, authroities said." At the International Herald Tribune, Ginger Thompson explains, "Ridgeway said in the court documents unsealed Monday that the episode in Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, started when the guards opened fire on a white Kia sedan 'that posed no threat to the convoy'."

How does photo-journalist Ibrahim Jassam pose any threat? Answer: He doesn't. But he's imprisoned by the US military in Iraq. The
December 1st snapshot noted that the the Central Criminal Court of Iraq ruled Ibrahim must be freed. But Reuters reports this morning that the US military is refusing to release Ibrahim and stating they will continue holidng "him into 2009".US Major Neal Fisher is quoted stating that the court order means when Ibrahim is released, "he will be able to out-process without having to go through the courts as other detainees in his threat classification will have to do." Fisher sees no conflict in that and his earlier statement to Reuters that, "Though we appreciate the decision of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in the Jassam case, their decision does not negate the intelligence information that currently lists him as a threat to Iraq security and stability." Golly Major Neil, if the US has 'evidence' and 'reason' to hold Ibrahim then surely it would be 'dangerous' to out-process him automatically at some point in 2009, right? All these oodles and oodles of info would need to be turned over to an Iraqi court, right? That is the argument for not releasing him after all: 'The Iraqi court doesn't know what we know.'But if you make that argument (and mean it), you don't turn around and say, 'When we're done with him, we'll follow the court's order and release him quicker than other prisoners who will still need to go before a court.' You can't have it both ways. Either the US knows information justifying Ibrahim being held or it doesn't. If it does, then surely such information would not just need to be turned over to an Iraqi court, it would also require a new trial. The fact that Major Neal doesn't see it that way goes to how weak the US case against Ibrahim is. David Schlesing (News Editor-in-Chief at Reuters) is quoted stating, "I am disappointed he has not been released in accordance with the court order."

Turning to the issue of Iraqi women, we'll start with women in general. Women's eNews runs a really bad article that they make even worse by attempting to put one over on their readers. Nadira Artyk's "
Muslim Feminists Confront a World of Obstacles" has a dateline of 12-9-08 and it avoids ever noting dates for the conference. That conference took place in October. It ran from October 24 through October 27. Click here for better coverage from the BBC. Instead of rushing to post it, Women's eNews should have taken a moment to think, "Hmmm? Who is ignored in this article?" Or are they unaware that Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban was at the conference? Seems like Nadira -- two months after the conference -- should have included something on that, right? Shaaban spoke on the conference's opening day and considering her position with regards to Iraqi refugees fleeing to Syria and considering the employment (I'm referring to prostitution) that so many female refugees have to resort to, one would think there was something of a little more value than the grand standing moments of Nadira's friends. Isabel S. Murray (Dartmouth Free Press) reported on the same conference (in October, she reported) and stated the Qur'an forbids polygamy. A good time to note that polygamy remains an issue in Iraq. This from MADRE:

We demand the repeal of polygamous marriages and all other discriminatory laws against women in Kurdistan. On October 27, 2008, legislation allowing polygamous marriages was passed in a parliamentary session in Erbil, the capital city of Kurdistan. This legislation is part of a constitutional draft proposing to replace the old family status law, in use since 1958. It was changed partially, under Saddam Hussein, to subjugate women's rights further. After the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003, a new constitution was written and passed in Iraq. This constitution was solely based on Islamic Sharia Law and openly stated its support for gender apartheid against women. We clearly see that the proposed constitution for the Kurdish region is no better than the Iraqi one. In fact, it is just a smaller version. The current family status law was reactionary enough -- being purely based on discrimination against women and their treatment in society as second class citizens--but now the Kurdish Regional Government wants to change it further, and not for the better.Women in Kurdistan have been subjected to all kinds of violence and discrimination throughout their history. Under Saddam's regime, they endured all kinds of hardship, torture and abuse. They have fared no better under the current Kurdish rule. "Honour killings", female genital mutilation, forced marriages, bullying women to commit suicide and the denial of civil and individual rights have been the main characteristics for almost the past two decades. The approval of this current legislation will assist in the oppression of women and lead to a huge increase in violence against women. This is a historical mistake. We hold the Kurdish parliament and its government responsible for the violations of women's rights in this region, due to these discriminatory laws. Therefore, we call upon every concerned organisation and individual to support us in this campaign to repeal this law. We also call for unconditional equal rights, freedom and equality for women in Kurdistan to be enshrined in law. Yours Truly, - Yanar Mohammed: President of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, Iraq - Houzan Mahmoud: Representative of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, UK - Vivian Stromberg: MADRE, USA - Maria Hagberg: President of Network Against Honour Crimes, Sweden - Rega Svensson: Head of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, Sweden - Joe Tougas: Journalist, Human Rights Activist, USA - Jennifer Kemp: Women's Rights Activist, USA - Maryam Namazie: Spokesperson for Equal Rights Now, Iran - Joanne Payton: International Campaign against Honour Killings - Thomas Unterrainer: Nottingham - Sam Azad: Socialist campaigner - Ingrid Ternert: Representative of the Peace Movement, Germany - Ruth Appleton: Co-ordinator Santé Refugee Mental Health Access Project - Anna-Lisa: Sweden - Aase Fosshaug: Sweden

But why listen to MADRE, they are concerned with human rights and the Women's eNews' story explains to us just how 'passe' human rights is. (Human rights is passe -- and a subthread of the conference, so is feminism -- which also gets left out of the article.) MADRE sent out the above in November.
Via Afif Sarhan (IslamOnline):

From 1994 to 2005, when Kurdistan was divided, polygamy was banned in areas ruled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) but allowed in areas run by the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Since the two administrations united in 2005, the issue took center stage with the provincial parliament issuing laws covering the whole region.

In July,
Amanj Khalil (Isis International) noted the struggles Kurdish women have had in even being heard:

"Why are religious clerics even on the committee?" asked Chlura Hardi, head of the independent Khatuzeen women's centre in Erbil, which advocates for women's rights. She said the committee "has no right to impose religion on the draft law. We have been working to separate religion from the state, but now they want us to make a commitment to religion."

Meanwhile the International Organization for Migration is calling for increased protection of migrants. To recap, we'll note the
New York Times on Sunday, "In another development, McClatchy Newspapers reported last week that about 1,000 South Asian men hired by a subcontractor for the American military had been held for months in slavelike conditions near the Baghdad International Airport. The men had paid middlemen to obtain jobs in Iraq with a Kuwait-based subcontractor to KBR that provides services to the military, McClatchy said." That's the basics of the situation and, while Adam Ashton did report on this story for McClatchy, the Times of London's Deborah Haynes has owned this story. Today she reports on the IOM's call for greater protection and speaks with IOM's Chief of the Iraq mission Rafiq Tschannen who tells her, "I am very much worried because we have been highlighting this problem for some time." Haynes also provides more photos of the migrants. IOM notes:

An IOM assessment last week of a group of Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepalese and Sri Lankan migrants camped out near roadsides close to the airport, found nearly 60 men in a desperate situation. Some of the migrants had no shelter at all, covering themselves with whatever they could find lying around. Others were living in tents or containers but all were without running water or electricity. Food was being provided on an ad hoc basis by the US military and Iraqis living nearby. "We are very worried about these men who need humanitarian help. Winter is fast approaching and they cannot be left to stay out in the open like this without proper facilities," says IOM's Chief of Mission for Iraq, Rafiq Tschannen.
All the migrants had borrowed money or sold off land, businesses or homes to pay up to USD 3,000 to middlemen to work in Iraq that would pay much greater salaries then they could ever hope to earn at home.
Upon arrival, however, there were no jobs and for some of them, their passports were also taken away by the recruiters. Although some in the group have found other work by themselves, mainly as cleaners or doing other service labour, most of the men have now been in Iraq for four months without a job or income.
There is a possibility that there may be more migrants in a similar plight at this site alone that IOM is unaware of, while a reported 1,000 migrants from various nationalities, predominantly South Asian and contracted by a catering company, are being kept in three warehouses in a secured area around the airport without their passports.
During the assessment at the roadside camp last week, some of the migrants begged IOM to help them return home while others felt that they couldn't go back until they could pay off the debts they had incurred to get to Iraq. Their lack of papers puts them in a very difficult and vulnerable situation.
Some Nepalese migrants have managed to go home either through assistance from family back home or by borrowing money from fellow Nepalese migrants with jobs in Iraq, thereby increasing their debts.
IOM will soon be providing voluntary return and reintegration assistance to eight Nepalese migrants. However, the Organization is urgently seeking funds to help another 11 migrants and potentially hundreds more.

Violence continues and
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers one person was wounded in a Baghdad mortar attack yesterday and one during a "controlled detonation" bombing in Baghdad. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing left one woman wounded and a Mosul grenade attack injured a police officer.

Turning to US politics, the
Illinois Green Party issues a statement on the arrest of Barack-pal and Governor Rod Blagojevich:

We in the Illinois Green Party are deeply troubled by the arrest ofGovernor Rod Blagojevich and his chief-of-staff John Harris. TheGovernor is charged with attempting to personally profit from hispower to appoint a person to the U.S. Senate. While we recognize thatthe accused are innocent until proven guilty, we must also admit thatwe are not surprised by these allegations. We have seen a longpattern of pay-to-play from Blagojevich, and indeed, a long pattern ofpay-to-play throughout Illinois politics for years. The long sordidhistory of corruption in Illinois must finally come to an end.
The Green Party has always stood for accountability, transparency, andclean government through clean elections. We reject all corporatecampaign contributions, advocate for public financing, and have longpushed for at least caps on individual contributions, so that ourelections will no longer be pay-to-play.
We call on the Illinois General Assembly to hold an emergency session to:
1) Develop legislation to give the people of Illinois the ability torecall their public officials;
2) Consider the impeachment of Governor Blagojevich;
3) Amend Illinois statute to provide for an open process for fillingthis and future U.S. Senate seats, preferably through a specialelection, as the process for filling the current vacancy has beenirrevocably tainted;
4) Reform the campaign finance system, banning all corporate campaigncontributions, and installing caps on individual contributions;
5) Further reform the campaign finance system to eliminatepay-for-play, by barring or severely limiting contributions frompolitical appointees, and mandating that political committees returndonations made from individuals subsequently appointed to publicoffice, boards, or commissions.
These are the first steps which need to be taken to help instillintegrity, transparency, and accountability to our state government.
Phil Huckelberry Chair, Illinois Green Party

Another Barack friend is in the news. Homphobic Jeremiah Wright is back and he's making it harder for the pathetics who defended his crap earlier this year to muster a defense for him.
Andrew Herrmann (Chicago Sun-Times) reports Wright delivered a 'sermon' at Trinity where he called Elizabeth Hasselbeck a "dumb broad". Wags are already dubbing Wright's latest crap The Sermon From The Chip On His Shouler. The 'great intellect' of Wright that had Bill Moyers raving was on full display in Sunday's rant -- Joseph (Cannonfire) notes that Wright called out the US for bombing the Japanese "67 years to the day" Sunday -- and points out Sunday was December 7th. (Pearl Harbor, Idiot Wright, when the Japanese bombed the US.)

Staying in World of St. Bambi, the man who assembles Barack's pretty words is making news. (
PUMAPac and The Confluence are covering this story extensively.) Jon Favreau -- the punk, not the actor-writer-director -- posed for a photo with a Hillary carboard cut-out where he leered and grabbed the breast area while Jon's friend or male lover pretended to kiss Hillary and pour beer down her throat. It's an offensive image and one they elected to make public via FACEBOOK. Equally true is the photo wasn't just snapped (nor is this the only one of the two friends or lovers from the 'photo shoot'). Your first clue that a lot went on during this photo is the amused faces of those behind the two friends/lovers who are highly amused for people who can't even see what's going on. Riverdaughter lists reasons why Jon Favreau needs to go now:

Because Favreau is now the face of the Obama administration. Everytime Obama opens his mouth, we will see Favreau and his frat boy drinking buddies acting like young macho thugs. He is writing the words for the President of the United States. Obama's credibility is already compromised with us. Every time Obama pulls out the hopey-changey shtick from now on, we're going to know that it came from the mouth of Jon Favreau.
Because it means that Obama has no real understanding of the kind of discrimination and behavior that women are subjected to in public, at work or in the family.
Because Hillary Clinton is not the only one disrespected by it. Jon might as well be groping all of our breasts.
Because the longer it sits out there, the more it looks like Obama is insensitive to the disrespect shown towards women. We already know this but we think it is time for Obama to get with the program and shows us that he gets it and will not tolerate male adolescent fantasies of degrading powerful women.
Because dismissing groups like
The New Agenda as a bunch of female whiners sends a strong message that women's priorities are inconsequential to Obama.
Because Obama stole the primary with hooligan idiots like Favreau and we want these idiots punished.

the new york timesginger thompsonjames risen
the los angeles timesjosh meyer
ibrahim jassam
deborah haynes
mcclatchy newspapers