Friday, January 06, 2012

The book won't tell the half of it

So Jodi Kantor's new book on the Obamas is being leaked to the press.  The White House is in a tizzy.  They should calm down already.

Kantor's only telling 1/8 of what she learned.

As you know if you read C.I.'s "White House Letters" in Polly's Brew, the White House is highly dysfunctional.  She was telling you about Robert Gibbs and Valerie Jarrett's arguments (plural -- the book portrays it as only one).  She was telling you about the cursing and the division and taking sides that was going on.  (C.I. knew most of the staffers and she knows cabinet secretaries -- Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, etc. --  Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel and many, many more.) 

It's cute to read the excerpts and picture the White House freaking out over this minor book.

Especially when you consider the realities.  Like Michelle Obama and David Axelrod's increasingly intense dislike of one another.  (C.I. has even gone semi-public with that, noting it very briefly on November 3rd in this entry.)

Since one of Gibbs and Jarrett's fights is now on record in a book, I'll note that Michelle did describe living in the White House as "hell."  Gibbs was furious about Jarrett's critique because he'd busted his ass and gotten the press to move away from it (both in terms of 'it's true!' and in terms of finding something else to talk about) when he knew it was true and so did a lot of the press.  He'd managed to bury reality.  He was very pissed that he wasn't getting credit for it.

I wonder if Kantor's book will note Michelle's non-stop complaint?

She's been stating she was "bored" for two and a half years now.  In part, that's because she sees everything as work, even social events.  I'm not denying they are work for her (or anyone in that position) but what I'm saying is, she doesn't see those as fun.

She's still largely frozen out of the DC social scene (her mother's more popular in DC than she is) in part because of her own actions. 

So she's miserable unless she's able to bring some friends in for a visit.

I will read the book, I'll buy it when it comes out Tuesday, but if these are the sections being leaked, the White House has nothing to worry about.  It's not like Jodi's reporting on staffers asking if Barack's stoned?
(He's thought not to be.  He's just not very bright and comes off that way when there's no teleprompter to feed him words.)  Of that Michelle's staff has a semi-joking pool about when Michelle and Barack will get divorced (after the White House) because they're convinced they will be the first First Couple to get a divorce.

If that and similar shared secrets were in the book, you better believe the press would be emphasizing them.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, January 6, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, denial that Barack has responsibility continues, the US is not going to support Tareq al-Hashemi, who got punished for Iraq coverage (and who didn't), and more.
Let's start with David Shorr.  He's not interested in honesty, he's not interested in facts.  If you can hold your nose, click on the link and sink into the spin and ignorance.  He doesn't see how Barack Obama "owns" what happens in Iraq.  He doesn't see it because he can't admit the truth.  I haven't read Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan's column, I have no interest in reading it.  I have even less interest in reading Steve Clemons.  I did read Peter Feaver's piece -- awhile back.  (We highlighted it in the December 27th snapshot.)
I'm not in the mood to pretend Shorr's an honest broker, so we'll dismiss with him quickly.  Feaver argued that Barack also owns the war (owns it with Bush).  Shorr has a problem with that. We'll let Shorr's own words betray him:
Feaver cries foul on the attempt he sees by Obama supporters to give him full credit for anything positive in Iraq and saddle President Bush with everything negative. Well, what is the Obama Administration claiming to have done? President Obama claims credit for extricating American forces from nearly nine years of military involvement there.  By the way, can I pause for a moment to say how absurd it is to talk about a hasty exit after nine years?!?
Wow.  Well I'm convinced.  Barack's a saint, a hero and pees rainbows.  In Shorr's  mouth.  The rest of the world, however, may note that Shorr claims the Iraq War lasted nine years.  No, March 2003 is when it officially started.  So let's go with the eight years plus.  (Facts are so hard for con artists.)  So Barack deserves credit because he ended this eight year war?
Bush started and Bush ran it for eight years and just last month, Barack ended it.  Thank goodness Barack Obama was sworn in as president in December 2011 or else the US might still be -- What's that?
Oh, that's right.  Barack wasn't just sworn in.  He was sworn in back in January of 2009. A few weeks short of three years he pretends he ended the war and occupation (he didn't end it).  But he continued it, despite campaign promises.  And he wanted to continue the US military's strong presence even longer.  The "hasty exit" line?  Again? We just called out Media Matters distorting/lying about this.  But, I guess, when independent thought is beyond your capabilities, all you can do is repeat talking points. 
The "hasty exit"  -- as presented by members of Congress -- refers to the fact that in October when Barack ignores the Defense Dept's legal opinion and goes with the State Dept's legal opinion (I don't believe the idiot Shorr is even aware that there were legal opinions) and declares (that phase of) the talks over, that period from the last of October through December, is what they call the hasty exit.  Liars and whores can't make solid arguments so they have to lie.  Barack has not ended the war and occupation.  But let's pretend for a moment that he has.  Was he elected in 2008 with the mandate to follow Bush's actions?  To continue the Iraq War for three more years?  No, he wasn't.  He was voted into office to end the Iraq War.  And during those three years (2009, 2010 and 2011), he repeatedly made one mistake after another.  December 13 on To The Point (KCRW), Warren Oleny spoke with former Iraqi Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi.  Excerpt.
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.
We're opposed to the illegal (and ongoing) Iraq War.  We always have been.  I don't need to distort what someone from the other side says or does to make my argument (see last night's entry).  Let's dispense with David Shorr by noting he hero worshipped Daniel Schorr.  Schorr loved to lie that he was fired from CBS News because of his integrity in ensuring that a Congressional report was printed.  No, he was fired for lying.  He was fired for lying and trying to get someone else in trouble.  As Ava and I noted in "Let's Kill Helen!" (our look at the disgusting trolls attacking Helen Thomas):
Oh my goodness, Helen's anti-war! Strip her of her American citizenship! Truly, that must be a huge offense to Alicia since she likens it to anti-semitism. Can you get more stupid than Alicia Shepard?
Others may not be able to, but she surely can. And did. No reporter for CBS would get away with that, Alicia wanted to insist. And she follows that up by telling Aimee that age can't be to blame because "Dan Schorr" is 91 and he works for NPR.
He does, she's right.
But he doesn't work for CBS, does he?
Nor can he.
Yeah, we'll go there.
Daniel Schorr was fired from CBS. He and his supporters (who funded a year long travel circuit for Danny after his firing) insisted he was fired for doing his job. That is and was a lie. Daniel Schorr was not fired for being a defender of freedom.
Most people are aware of the Church Committee which investigated governmental abuses. The Pike Committee came immediately after, doing the same sort of work, and they wrote a report. They then decided not to issue it. Schorr, in his capacity as a CBS reporter, had a copy of the report. CBS was weighing whether or not to report on the now killed report. Schorr has often (not always) maintained that a decision was made to kill the report and that's why he acted. That's not true. Either he's lying or he was out of the loop. CBS was still deciding. Schorr took the report to The Village Voice which published it.
That could have been the end of it for CBS News because they retained their copy (Schorr had photocopied it and given the photocopies to the weekly). There was an internal investigation at CBS to determine whether or not someone at CBS leaked the report to The Village Voice. Had Schorr kept his mouth shut, the investigation would have been as half-assed as every other internal investigation CBS News conducts. But Schorr couldn't keep his mouth shut.
This is why he was fired, this is why he will never work for CBS again. When asked, as all who had access to the report were, if he had given it to anyone, Schorr didn't stick to "no comment" or a lie that he didn't do anything.
No, instead Schorr chose to finger Lesley Stahl. Schorr told the investigators that The Village Voice published the report (which they knew) and Lesley was dating Aaron Latham (who worked for The Voice) so it was most likely that Lesley Stahl handed over the report to the weekly.
Schorr was not fired for leaking the report. He was fired for lying and for trying to blame someone he knew was innocent.
Think for just a moment what could have happened if Schorr had gotten away with that: Lesley Stahl's career would have been over -- at least at CBS though probably no other network would touch her if they feared she'd take their stories elsewhere.
Aaron Latham (a notable journalist in his own right) would have been outraged that Lesley lost her job because she was dating him. Knowing Aaron, he would have made it his life's purpose to find out who falsely accused Lesley and prove that liar wrong. If he'd been successful, it might have been a messy media moment and then life would have continued. If not? Most likely, Lesley would try to move on from it and Aaron would want to remain in the role of protector/enforcer. Meaning it wouldn't have just effected her professional life, which was bad enough, if would have changed her entire life. Lesley and Aaron married years ago and have had one of the few enduring marriages in the journalistic community. Lesley could have lost everything as a result of Daniel Schorr's lies. He was prepared to destroy someone professionally and personally.

In June 2010, while he was still alive, Ava and I were telling the truth about the dishonest and corrupt Daniel Schorr.  A month later, he died and there was David Shorr holding him up as a model. That says everything you need to know about the dishonest and uninformed David Shorr.  We're done with David Shorr.
In the real world, Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) observes, "And as we noted here last month, the American war crime in Iraq just keeps rolling on. This week saw yet another spate of mass slaughter in yet another series of bombings in the virulent sectarian warfare which was spawned, set loose, empowered and fomented by the invaders, who very deliberately -- with malice aforethought -- divided their new 'Iraqi' government along strict sectarian lines, arming and paying death squads and militias on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide to rip each other -- and Iraqi society -- to pieces. The mass murder this week is a direct result and a direct responsibility of the Americans who instigated, carried out, supported -- and praise -- the 'extraordinary achievement' of this endless atrocity. 'Nine years in the making,' yes -- and still going strong!"  From the right-wing, we'll note Sheldon Richman (Reason -- link is text and audio):
Obama will campaign on how he ended the war -- which began not in 2003 but in 1991; the U.S. government tormented the Iraqi people for 20 years! -- and conservatives will attack him for it. Both sides will conveniently forget that (1) the U.S. government was obligated to leave on Dec. 31, 2011, under an agreement signed by Bush, and (2) Obama tried his damnedest to get the Iraqi leaders to ask the U.S. military to stay. (Contrary to claims, not all troops have left.)
And let's be clear: An exit from Iraq hardly constitutes an exit from the Middle East. The troops moved down the road to Kuwait, "repostured" for future use.
Meanwhile, sabers are being rattled in the direction of Iran and Syria, where covert warfare is already being waged.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Iraq War has entered a new phase.  As people mark the end of the last phase with various stats and numbers, it might be time to note that a few people paid a price for getting it right.  Chris Hedges is the author of many books including Death of the Liberal Class which we picked at Third as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years (2001 to 2011).  The community voted it the number two book of 2010, see "2010 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and the number two book of 2011, see  "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)."  His most recent book is a collection of his columns,
Host:  When were you with the New York Times?
Chris Hedges:  1990 to 2005.
Host:  And why did you leave?
Chris Hedges: Well we had a little dispute oversomething called the Iraq War. And I'd spent a lot of my life, not only, of course in the Middle East, but in Iraq.  I understood like most Arabists that the arguments used to justify the invasion-occupation of Iraq were non-reality based.  They weren't -- This is not a political discussion.  It's the idea that we would be greeted as liberators and there wouldn't be an insurgency, that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and emanate outwards across the Middle East, that -- remember? -- the oil would pay for the reconstruction.  I mean these were just spun by people who had no idea what they were talking about.  But to get up and say that, despite the wealth of experience that I had within the region and within Iraq itself became deeply polarizing.  And I gave a commencement address -- I'd been saying it, but it came to sort of a head when I gave a commencement address at Rockford College [text of speech, video of speech with a link to other parts of speech on the right) where I was booed off o the stage, had my microphone cut, people stood up and started shouting things against me.  At one point, they stood up and sang "God Bless America."  I was actually escorted off the platform before the rewarding of diplomas since they didn't want any sort of fracas by close contact with students.  And this got picked up by Fox and sort-of trash talk media -- which looped it, hour after hour.  And the New York Times responded by giving me a formal written reprimand.  Now we were Guild, at the Times, which means we were unionized and the process is you give the employee a written reprimand and the next time they're fired.  So I faced a difficult choice which is that I would have to in essence muzzle myself in service of my career. But, you know, on a fundemantal level, I was very close to my dad.  He was a great minister and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement  -- his brother who was gay -- and he was very outspoken in support of gay rights.  You know I realized that point to do so would be to betray my father.  And I wasn't going to do that so I left the paper.
It's interesting. You could go on TV and -- reporter or columnist for the New York Times -- advocate for the war -- as many did, before it started and after it started -- and you would not get a written reprimand.  But speak out against the war and suddenly there was a big problem.  That goes to the huge problems with the US press.  If you repeat the government's lies -- even if you know they're lies -- as reality and truth, you don't get into trouble.  Even whent he lies are exposed, even when it's known, for example, that you helped the Reagan administration with Iran-Contra although you were a TV journalist.  You're not punished.  But if you question the government, if you criticize it, you have an "opinion."  And you may have violated your outlet's code.  This despite the fact that skepticism is supposed to be the hallmark of journalism. 
Many were punished for opposing the Iraq War -- Henry Noor (San Francisco Chronicle) and Phil Donahue (MSNBC) are two more.  But the only one who was punished from the other side is scapegoat Judith Miller.  The New York Times let her go because (a) her image and (b) their own embarrassment.  Her reports don't stand up.  Was Judith also an editor?  Was she the publisher?  Why was she the only one at the paper who was let go?  Judith didn't host Meet The Press on NBC or any of the Sunday chat shows that sold the illegal war (often with Miller as a guest).  None of those people were fired from their jobs.  Judith was a guest on Oprah's daytime talk show when Oprah wanted to sell the upcoming illegal war and Oprah even snapped on TV at an audience member who dared to questions the dubious claims presented as fact.  Oprah lost nothing.
Judith Miller's reporting doesn't stand up.  She was wrong.  She was a lousy reporter.  If you ignore that she commandeered a US military unit while she was in Iraq and used them to go find WMD (they found nothing), you could call her a liar.  (Clearly she was tricked or allowed herself to be tricke by the sources she was too cozy with.)
But Judith Miller didn't work at the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times or any other newspaper.  And Judith Miller hosted no MSNBC, CNN or Fox News program.  And Judith Miller anchored no broadcast network's evening news.  And Judith Miller didn't host PBS' Washington Week or The NewsHour.  So why was she the only one -- out of all those fools, liars and worse?
Because, as a woman, she was a lightening rod in a way that a man can never be. (Bash the bitch is the American pastime, as Ava and I noted.)  And so a lot of men (and less prominent women) kept their heads down and played dumb, just glad to have Judith Miller punished for all of their journalistic sins.
On national, state and local levels around the country, people were fired for being skeptical and/or against the impending war.  And the only one fired who cheerleaded the war was Judith Miller?  Imagine how different today would be if those cheerleading war -- and not the Dixie Chicks -- had been the ones to lose their media access, had been the ones dropped by various media outlets.  But opposing war was controversial.  Blindly going along wasn't.  Because it's never a crime in US journalism to parrot and applaud the US government -- especially the White House.
(And I'm not calling for the censorship of the War Hawks or anyone else -- let opinions compete in the public square.  But I am attempting to underscore that they had access to the media and amplification while those who were skeptical or flat out against the Iraq War were shut out by the media.)
After yesterday's string of bombings across Iraq, today would have to be (comparatively) more peaceful. This being Iraq, that doesn't mean the violence stopped. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "At least three explosions struck Friday near Baghdad's Green Zone, where a parade to make Iraq's Army Day was taking place, according to witnesses."  Reuters notes that there was also a Baghdad mortar attack which left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left seven people injured, a third Baghdad roadsie bombing claimed 1 life and left five more people injured and a Balad Ruz roadside bombing claimed 1 life. That's 3 dead and twenty injured.  Of yesterday's violence, Dan Morse (Washington Post) observes, "At least 72 people were killed Thursday in a series of attacks on Shiites in Iraq, marking the deadliest day since U.S. troops withdrew last month and raising new worries about the country's sharp sectarian divisions."
The political crisis continues in Iraq.  At 8:00 pm EST last night, the White House issued the following:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release
January 05, 2012
Readout of the Vice President's Call with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
In the context of close U.S.-Turkish consultation on matters of mutual interest, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed regional issues, including political developments in Iraq, by telephone today. Following up on their conversation during the Vice President's trip to Turkey in December, the two leaders agreed on the need to advance security, support the rule of law and encourage democracy in the region. They agreed that our two governments would remain in regular contact on these issues.
Hurriyet Daily News adds that "Erdogan warned efforts expended so far to protect Iraq's territorial intergrity and stability would become meaningless if Iraq drifted away from democratic culture."  Nouri al-Maliki's attempt at seizing further power has resulted in his swearing out a warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Former CIA Director (2006 - 2009) Michael V. Hayden offered this summary at CNN of Iraq post Status Of Forces Agreement:
With that agreement unextended and now expired, al-Maliki appears to be acting out the darkest shadows of his own past. Over the last months, he has reneged on a power-sharing agreement with Sunnis in several key ministries, arrested hundreds of suspected Baathists (read Sunni oppositionists) and -- as the last American troops were leaving Iraq and fresh from an audience in the Oval Office -- he has now ordered the arrest of his own Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, for alleged "terrorism."
Along with all of this, al Qaeda in Iraq greeted the U.S. withdrawal with a series of deadly bombings against largely Shiite targets. Al Qaeda was always expected to take advantage of the "seam" created by the handoff of counterterrorism operations from American to Iraqi control, but now even a badly weakened al Qaeda can exploit the sense of Sunni vulnerability that al-Maliki's actions have created.
The situation may yet be salvaged. America is not without tools. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey cut short his holiday home leave to return to Iraq and, as he has in the past, he will no doubt use his considerable skills in an attempt to defuse the situation. But the ambassador will have fewer tools at his disposal.
But is James Jeffrey able to address all the issues?  No.  And he wouldn't if he could.  The US government has repeatedly went for the 'big' issue.  Which, under Bush since 2006 or Barack since he was sworn in, has always translated as: Protect Nouri and his position.  That's why Barack was able to ignore the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community even with the US Congress calling it out.  That's why Barack was able to ignore Nouri attacking protesters during the so-called "Arab Spring."  February 25th, Nouri's forces were attaking protesters and journalists.  This continued week after week.  Human Rights Watch covered this repeatedly.  Here's Human Rights Watch from June 2nd:
On May 28, soldiers in four Humvees and two other unmarked vehicles approached the offices of the human rights group Where Are My Rights in Baghdad's Bab al Mu'adham neighborhood, as members met with fellow protest organizers from the February 25 Group. Members of both groups told Human Rights Watch that soldiers raided the building with guns drawn, took away 13 activists in handcuffs and blindfolds, and confiscated mobile phones, computers and documents.

One detained activist who was released on May 29 told Human Rights Watch that during the raid a commanding officer introduced himself as "from Brigade 43"of the army's 11th Division and said another officer was "from Baghdad Operation Command."

"They did not show any arrest warrants and did not tell us why we were being arrested," this activist said:
A female activist complained and asked to see warrants, and they told her to "shut up and get in the car." They blindfolded and handcuffed us, and while they were doing this, they asked, "Why are you having these meetings? Do you really think you can bring down the government?" And they asked who was supporting us.
The activist said that the army took the people it arrested to a detention facility at Division 11 headquarters, where they were interrogated both as a group and individually. "Once we were there, they hit us with their hands in the face, neck, chest, and arms while we were still blindfolded," the activist said. "They kicked us everywhere they could reach. They did not use batons on me, and they talked to each other about not leaving marks or bruises on us."
The released activist and several members of both organizations said security forces are still holding nine of the activists and have released four without any charges. "I asked what crimes we had committed, and asked again about arrest warrants," said the released activist. "They never answered either question."
But that was never anything Barack condemned.  Nouri becomes prime minister in 2006.  Was there a year in there -- 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 -- when Nouri wasn't getting exposed for running another secret prison?  And they tortured in those prisons.  And yet when Nouri's slate came in second in the 2010 elections -- when Iraqis chose Iraqiya for first place and when that meant, per the Constitution, that Iraqiya had first crack at forming a government -- the White House refused to stand up for the will of the Iraqi people or for the Iraq Constitution or for democracy.  They backed thug Nouri.
So Iraqiya would have to be very foolish to think that this is the time that the US finally breaks with Nouri and comes to the rescue of Tareq al-Hashemi, let alone the Iraqi people.  And commentators are noting that James Jeffrey isn't doing a damn thing to help al-Hashemi.  Northsum32 (All Voices) writes:
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said: "There is a serious effort by the Iraqi judiciary to have a free and fair and just investigation," "It seems a lot of care is being taken at this point to maintain judicial independence and to have a very broad investigation." These remarks give support to Maliki in his attempt to discredit Hashemi and portray him as a terrorist.
John Glaser ( observes, "The U.S. ambassador to Iraq has expressed approval of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's quest to detain Iraq's vice president on terrorism charges, despite almost everyone else recognizing it as part of a troubling pattern of consolidating dictatorial power."  Again, Iraqiya would have to be very stupid at this late date to think the US government was going to help al-Hashemi when they have repeatedly backed Nouri over and over.  Despite the fact that Nouri's a thug.  Despite the fact that I can list five prominent members of the administration who have described him as that.  Despite the fact that I can name more Democratic Senators who describe him as a thug than I can name Democratic Senators who don't.
Al Rafidayn reports al-Hashemi has opened an office in the KRG. In a statement, al-Hashemi noted that his new office was in Sulaymaniyah and that it was temporary. He also called for a stop to the raids and harassment on his home and offices in Baghdad as well as the homes of his staff. Two women who work for him were recently detained with no explanation provided to them. On al-Hashemi, Al Mada reports that Parliament has rejected a request to supervise the investigation of al-Hashemi noting that such an action is beyond the scope of their legal duties. The paper also notes that rumors that he will be going to Jordan have been denied by Jordanian officials. Rakan al-Majali, government spokesperson, states no request from al-Hashemi has been received.

Again, Nouri's political slate is State of Law. al-Hashemi is currently a house guest of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. Earlier this week, the Kurdish Alliance staged a walkout (Tuesday) during a session of Parliament to register their offense over State of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi calling Talabani (who is Kurdish) a "terrorist.' Al Mada reports that al-Asadi delivered a formal apology and has stated he will travel to Sulaimaniyah to apologize to Talabani in person.
Talabani has called for a national conference among the political blocs to address the political crisis. Alsumaria TV reports on "observers" believing Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc not attending (this was announced over the holiday weekend) could cause a problem and some think the objection is part of a larger issue with claims that the National Alliance wants the list of invitees narrowed while Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance want the conference to be open to various political actors. Alsumaria also notes that Talabani met with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi in Sulaimaniya and Talabani and Allawi remain committed to a national conference to "dismantle" the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq covers another meet-up:
Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani discussed with Higher Islamic Council leading member Adel Abdul Mehdi ways to deal with the present crisis in the country and the necessity to all parties' agreement on a national projects and the implementation of previous agreements.
Barzani, in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq, stressed the importance of abiding by the real partnership.
The statement added that both sides stressed that all political parties should agree on a national project, implement previous agreements and solve the present crisis to create a state of stability in the country.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi was the Shi'ite Vice President of Iraq in Nouri's first term. In the second term, he was one of two Vice Presidents originally (himself and Tareq al-Hashemi) and then there were three vice presidents. He turned in his resignation at the end of May and Talabani accepted it formally in June. (Since then, Iraq has only had two vice presidents.) Mahdi has long wanted to be prime minister. He has had the support in that from various international oil corporations. Like most rulers in Iraq (excepting the KRG), Mahdi is an exile. He left Iraq in 1969.

When he stepped down as vice president, he did so with a letter lamenting government excess. The letter and the move was seen by some insiders as Mahdi setting himself up for a potential challenge to Nouri.
We need to wrap up.  We've got two things.  Partner Hub will be hosting a live online discussion with Angelina Jolie Thursday (January 12) starting at 8:00 pm EST (7:00 pm Central, 5:00 pm PST).  Angelina is an Academy Award winning actress and, of course, now a film director with her upcoming In The Land of Blood and Honey.  She also wrote the screenplay.  What impressed me (I saw at the end of last month) the most was just how strong Angelina's visual storytelling is.  She's a gifted director right out of the box.  Many sites will be taking part in the discussion (we won't -- it was a nice invitation but Thursday next week is a hard one and Friday's a nightmare in terms of my schedule).  We wil, however, gladly note any sites that are taking part.  As noted here before when I've felt the need to defend Angelina from some stupid attack (usually when some reporter -- Leila Fadel, I'm thinking of you especially), I've known Angelina since she was a little girl.  (I am much older than Angelina.  I was not a little girl, I was an adult.)  She's directed an amazing movie and she's got the visual gift a director needs, it's there in transitions from scene to scene, it's their in telling moments.  She should be really proud of herself and proud of her film.  And the last word goes to the Feminist Majority Foundation as they address the change in the FBI's legal definition of rape:
Wednesday, January 6, 2012
Contact: Francesca Tarant, 703.522.2214,
Annie Shields, 310.556.2500,
Feminist Majority Foundation Celebrates FBI Approval of New Rape Definition - FBI Director's Action Follows Extensive Campaign By Women's Rights Supporters

"Updating the FBI Uniform Crime Report definition of rape is a big win for women," said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation. "We appreciate the support for this change from the Obama Administration, led by Vice President Joe Biden and by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and Hon. Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice, as well as the FBI." The White House today announced that FBI Director Robert Mueller has approved the change recommended by several committees of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service.

"With a modern, broader definition, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will finally show the true breadth of this violence that affects so many women's lives. Women's groups will work to ensure that this more accurate and complete data will lead to increased resources to combat and reduce the incidence of rape," continued Smeal.

The "Rape is Rape" campaign, a massive grassroots feminist activism effort launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, generated over 160,000 emails to the FBI and the Department of Justice urging this change. For over a decade the Pennsylvania-based Women's Law Project (WLP) had pursued the change. "Ultimately, accurate data is a fundamental starting point to improving police response to sex crimes and improved practice should lead to increased victim confidence in police and reporting," said Carol E. Tracy, WLP Executive Director.

The old definition, adopted over 80 years ago, had been extensively criticized for leading to widespread underreporting of rape. Defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," it excluded rapes involving forced anal sex and/or oral sex, rape with an object (even if serious injuries resulted) and rapes of men, and was interpreted by many police jurisdictions to exclude rapes where the victim was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or otherwise unable to give consent. The old rape definition excluded many rapes against women and all against men.

The new definition, as it appears on the FBI website, is: "Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

"This is a major policy change and will dramatically impact the way rape is tracked and reported nationwide," said Kim Gandy, Vice President and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It is a great day for women and law enforcement because the police can more accurately know what is going on as far as the crime of rape in their communities," observed Margaret Moore, Director of the National Center for Women and Policing of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Available for interview on the change in definition, its significance and the campaign leading up to it are Feminist Majority Foundation President/Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal, FMF Vice President and General Counsel Kim Gandy, Executive Editor of Ms. Katherine Spillar, Women's Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy and Margaret Moore, director of the National Center for Women and Policing, a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Libya and more

J. David Goodman (New York Times) reports, "After deadly clashes between rival fighters in Tripoli this week, Libya’s transitional government expressed growing concern that the country could descend into civil war if its militias were not brought under control. "

That's a surprise . . . if you weren't paying attention.  The CIA-backed 'rebels' never had popularity on the ground in Libya. Many were based out of Virginia.

This was a plot to get Libyan oil.  It was about empire and nothing less.

On empire, last night in Iowa?

I can understand people being upset that Ron Paul didn't come in first.  I wish he had come in first in the GOP caucus.  However, it wasn't that long ago that he wasn't a 'serious' candidate according to the media.  He got over 20% of the votes.  He came in third.  First place (Romney) got something like 25% of the votes.

This was a very strong performance by Ron Paul.  He can have more strong performances and stronger ones too.

"TV: The Toxic Drips Of Tiny Penises" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
If you think NPR makes up for the sexist nature of Terry's all male posse by offering balance elsewhere, you are wrong. Remember that's the radio network that was pimping sexist stereotypes in September. And as we noted then:
It's on NPR where Terry Gross brings on TV and film critics. All men. But it's not just Terry, now is it? Over the summer, Morning Edition decided it was time to review Oprah's new channel. If you thought a woman would be assigned that task, you forgot how sexist NPR is.
That's how you got a commentary from a man which included, "This may be the most harrowing assignment I have ever tackled for NPR: spending a day watching Oprah Winfrey's new cable channel. [. . .] I consider myself a confident guy, but it's a little scary to enter a world where my concerns are among the least considered in the universe. OWN is aimed directly at women. It's a world of swimsuit dos and don'ts, lunch with the girls and makeovers."
In the 1970s that would have been considered patronizing and sexist and that's before we get to the man's knuckle dragging efforts in his cooking remarks.

He was back, the Oprah 'critic,' Eric Deggans, on Morning Edition Friday
. Like an Esquire "Women We Love" peep show feature from earlier deacdes, he opened with, "Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?" It never got better.

Why is it that NPR can't feature women providing TV criticism? Two leading papers (The New York Times and The Washington Post) feature females providing strong critiques of TV. But NPR can't find one woman to make a regular? Whatever happened to their supposed diversity mandate?

Part of the reason TV sucked so long in the first half of the '00s was the Water Cooler Set. The power they had they squandered and abused. As a result, networks listen to them less and less. Having wasted far too much money on bad, non-entertaining shows that the Water Cooler Set swore were wonderful (if you wanted to do a disseration on all the sources they plagiarized), the networks has learned that the Water Cooler Set doesn't reflect the viewers. Once upon a time, they were supposed to be a line of defense. They were supposed to argue for better TV and to rail against bad TV. In the '00s, a bunch of bald White men (and people of color and White women who enable them) took over and they've been jerking one another off ever since. No one wanted to see that, no one needed.

I love that piece.

If you love or hate the new look of this site, it was an accident.  Sunny was playing with the template (with permission) and it did not create a backup of it as promised.

So it wiped out all of my links.  If you know something I left off, feel free to e-mail me and we'll work on getting it back in.  The switch wasn't planned.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, January 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack pretends he cares about oversight and accountability and the uniformed American press doesn't know what's going on (as usual) or which four oversight positions are, as of today, empty, Nouri's breaking the Iraqi Constitution again but no one's supposed to notice, and more.
Nouri al-Maliki has an affinity for breaking the Constitution.  Repeatedly.  Recently, he's broken Article 19's Fifth Clause.
The accused is innocent until proven guilty in a fair legal trial.  The accused may not be tried on the same crime for a second time after acquittal unless new evidence is produced.
Nouri's statements and those of other members of State of Law regarding Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi have not presumed innocence.  No trial has taken place but Nouri and his associates have repeatedly and publicly pronounced al-Hashemi guilty.
Today Nouri manages to break the Constitution again.  Khalid Al Ansary and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report that he placed "all eight government ministers from the Sunni Muslim-backed al-Iraqiya alliance on leave" according to his spokesperon Ali al-Musawi.  Where in the country's constitution does that power exist?
Oh, right, it doesn't.  Those eight ministers were confirmed in their posts by Parliament (in other words they're not 'acting' anything, they are the ministers, per the Constitution). His only power after a minister is confirmed by Parliament?  Outlined in Article 75:
The Prime Minister is the direct executive authority responsible for the general policy of the State and the commander in chief of the armed forces.  He directs the Council of Ministers, and presides over its meetings and has the right to dismiss the Ministers on the consent of the Council of Representatives.
He is not allowed to strip a minister of their post without the consent of Parliament.  Iraqiya has been boycotting the Cabinet and Parliament -- this started last month over the failure of Nouri to live up to the Erbil Agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate following the March 2010 elections.  If Nouri now wants the ministers dismissed -- for any reason -- he needs to go to Parliament.
He has no right to put them on "leave."  There is nothing in the Constitution that gives him this right.  Per the Constitution, a Minister can only be stripped of their post (which would include their duties) if the Parliament agrees to it.  The Parliament still hasn't set a date on hearing Nouri's demand from last month (December 17th) that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.  They certainly haven't agreed to strip eight ministers of their post.  Reider Visser (Gulf Analysis) on al-Mutlaq:
In another sign of Maliki's inability to proceed with a bolder course in parliament, no vote of no confidence in vice premier Salih al-Mutlak, also of the Iraqiyya party, was held. The true test, however, will come later in the month with an expected national conference to deal with the latest political unrest. It is noteworthy that Maliki has used the past few weeks to speak out vocally against several power-sharing clauses of the shadowy Arbil framework that led to the creation of his second government in December 2010. This continued a trend seen throughout 2011, when Maliki increasingly sought to evade any discussion of the exact contents of that agreement.
It would be nice if reporters covering Iraq would learn the Constitution.  Then, for example, they might be able to note when something was being done illegally.  And, yes, if something's done that's not permitted the Constitution, a journalist can note that in their report.  It's not opinion, it's the law.
So Bloomberg's report is worthless as is Prashant Rao's report for AFP which opens, "Iraq's premier backed off threats to fire ministers boycotting cabinet, instead naming temporary replacements Wednesday, as the UN voiced concern over a row that has stoked sectarian tensions." 
Sidebar, while we're on the Constitution.  If someone asks you when Iraq holds elections next, the answer is not, 'The last ones were in March 2010 so four years from that.'  The approprirate answer is that with each election -- provincial or parliament (and excepting KRG's provincial elections which are run smoothly) -- Iraq has taken longer and longer to hold elections.  That's (A).  (B) March has nothing to do with the next elections.  The thing to determine is when was the first Parliament session?  In the late spring of 2010 or in November?  Arguments can be made for either.  But, per the Constitution, you go by the first session of Parliament.  Article 54: "First: The electoral term of Council of Representatives shall be limited to four calendar years, starting with its first session and ending with the conclusion of the fourth year."   Again, it will be interesting to see -- if early elections do not take place -- which session of Parliament will be considered the "first" session.  From there, you count back 45 days.  Article 54: "Second: The new Council of Representatives shall be elected 45 days before the conclusion of the previous electoral term."
What Nouri's doing with the Cabinet isn't covered by the Constitution.
He is not solely responsible for the Cabinet.  He can not pick someone to be a minister and have them be a real minister without Parliament confirming them.  He can not strip anyone of their title without Parliament approving. 
What Nouri has done is illegal and unconstitutional.  Reporters who can't make that point, really have nothing to say.
With no eye to the comic possibilities, President Jalal Talabani issued a statement today, Aswat al-Iraq reports, noting that the government is committed to the supremacy of law. Aswat al-Iraq notes State of Law MP Ali al-Shalah, criticizing Paul Bremer (and possibly Bremer's call for Iraq to become a federation), states that "when Bremer left Iraq, the security situation was on the brink of disaster and the country not unified, but today the situation is different."  The country is unified?  It's like reading The Onion.
Let's move over to the US quickly.  Today, Time magazine notes, US President Barack Obama had a lot to say about his recess apointment of Richard Cordray (of course it was a man, wasn't it?)  as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  And Barack's remarks included:
The only reason Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don't agree with the law setting up the consumer watchdog. They want to weaken it. Well that makes no sense at all. Does anyone think the reason we got in such a financial mess was because of too much oversight? Of course not. We shouldn't be weakening oversight and accountability.
So we need oversight and accountability?  That's important to Barack, is it?
Why is it December 7th sticks in my head right now?  Oh, right.  The US House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee held a hearing that day.  Who gave testimony?  Oh, that's right, appearing before Congress were the Defense Department's Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell, the State Department's Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, US AID's Acting Inspector General Michael Carroll, the acting Inspector General for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.
And if, January 17th, the House wanted to hear from these witnesses about what was going on right now, who could give knowledgable testimony? 
Only Bowen.  He's the only one who would still be in the position listed by his name above.  From that Decemember hearing, let's note the Chair.
Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz: Before recognizing Ranking Member [John] Tierney, I'd like to note that the Defense Dept, State Dept, USAID and SIGAR will not have IGs in January. In May of this year, I wrote the President asking him to move without delay to appoint replacements. That letter was signed by Senators [Joe] Lieberman, [Susan] Collins, [Claire] McCaskill and [Rob] Portman, as well as [House Oversight Committee] Chairman [Darrell] Issa and Ranking Member [Elijah] Cummings and Ranking Member Tierney. I'd like to place a copy of this record into the record. Without objection, so ordered. To my knowledge, the President has yet to nominate any of these replacements, nor has he responded to this letter. I find that totally unacceptable. This is a massive, massive effort. It's going to take some leadership from the White House. These jobs cannot and will not be done if the president fails to make these appointments. Upon taking office, President Obama promised that his administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." You cannot achieve transparency without inspectors general. Again, I urge President Obama and the Senate to nominate and confirm inspectors general to fill these vacancies and without delay

So today, Barack insists oversight and accountability are important -- laughable when the State Department has repeatedly avoided breaking down their basic budgets with Stuart Bowen.  But let's pretend Barack's serious.  Why is he not filling those position?  Billions of dollars have been lost in war spending and he's pretending he cares about accountability and oversight while letting those positions go vacant?  In that December hearing, US House Rep Raul Labrador observed, "Yet this panel is representing the IG offices principally responsible for overseeing tax payer money in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as of January 4th of next year, four of the five offices will not have an IG."
Do you know what today is? 
January 4th.
Will the lazy ass American press ever do their job?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Reply hazy, try again."
[For more on that hearing, see "Iraq snapshot," "Assault on transparency (Ava)" and "Obama refuses to name nominees."]
Meanwhile, still in the US, Media Matters self-presents as a watchdog.  But instead of watching out, it offers snark.  Snark that doesn't even make sense.  Snark that wastes time and actually helps War Hawks.
So Media Matters has sent something to the public e-mail account.  'What does it say?' I asked.  I had to find a laptop because it's nothing but a video -- and a clip at that -- not a video of them speaking themselves, just something they captured. 
The first question is obvious:  Is that how Barack looked in the Iowa address?  If so, there is something wrong with his make up.  [Click here for AP video, it is how he looked.  Note the eye lids for his actual skin color and then check out the ridiculous foundation they've painted on him.  He looks like a clown, an orange clown] 
The title of their post is "The Premature Evacuation Of Iraq Is So Rapid, We Basically Have Left That Country In Total Chaos."  And, at the very end of the dumb clip, someone on Fox News says that. 
Judging by the comments readers are leaving, we're supposed to chuckle at how stupid Fox News is.  The stupidity is on the part of those leaving comments like this one "If Brian thinks nearly 10 years of occupation is premature evacuation his girlfriend must get bored."  That doesn't even make sense.  Not even on the joke level.  "His girlfriend must be sore!"  That's a stupid remark that does finish out the idiot theme the comment was trying to maintain.  (Though "premature evacuation," pay attention, would more likely be the basis for a spastic colon joke.) 
In fairness to the readers, why should they show logic when Media Matters apparently didn't.
I don't watch Fox News, I have no idea the name of the man speaking, nor do I need to know who it was.  But what I do know is that the White House spent 2011 trying to extend the Status Of Forces Agreement and willing to go with a new agreement if need be.  And then in October, they were told Nouri would give immunity but that the Parliament wouldn't.  (In December, the Parliament offered "limited immunity" -- the talks continue.)  In October, with no immunity, the White House announced they were removing US troops.  That is most likely the point being made in the Fox News clip.  (Most likely?  Despite starting with Barack and boring us all with his orange face, the clip ends with that one line from the Fox News guy.  If he said more, it's not in the clip.)
If Media Matters can't follow the argument being made, then they really are stupid.  What's worse though is that they're probably not stupid, they're probably trying to play people for fools by mis-presenting the argument.
The November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was only one hearing where this was addressed and, hate to break it to the Media Matters geniuses, elected Democrats publicly voiced concerns about the administration's move as well.  This was especially true in the House.
And those concerns should be addressed, not snarked about.  Christmas Eve, Kenneth M. Pollack (Brookings Institution) observed,  "Make no mistake about it: the current crisis, manufactured by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for reasons that only he knows for sure, is of seminal importance for Iraq. Right now, it seems far more likely to end badly rather than well. And if it ends badly, it could easily usher in renewed civil war, a highly unstable dictatorship, or even a Somali-like failed state. Not only would this be a humiliation for the Obama administration -- which justified the withdrawal of American troops by insisting that Iraq was well on the way to democratizing and did not need an ongoing U.S. peacekeeping presence -- it would be a major threat to American vital interests in the Persian Gulf region." These are serious issues and, apparently, far beyond anything Media Matters can handle because they just want to snark. 
So maybe they should do everyone a favor and just not tackle Iraq?  If they can't present a coherent, factual argument regarding Iraq, maybe they should find other topics? 
Repeating: When you distort the facts, you don't anyone any favors.  Ten years from now, War Hawks will be able to point to the Media Matters item as proof of how their side, their position was distorted.  This garbage from Media Matters breeds backlashes.  It's a real shame that what was supposed to be a site of integrity that provided fact checking from the left has instead descended into cheap distortions.  But then Media Matters isn't about peace or antiwar, it's just another cheap whore for Barack. 
Reality via James Cogan (WSWS): "The Obama administration and the US military agreed to remove all combat troops, as stipulated in the Status of Forces agreement reached in 2008, only after they failed to bully the Iraqi regime into allowing thousands of troops to remain under a blanket exemption from prosecution under Iraqi law."
Back to Iraq where Talabani met with the UN Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler and Kobler's office later issued the following statement:
Baghdad, 4 January 2012- The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Martin Kobler, met today in Sulymaniya the President of the Republic of Iraq, H.E. Jalal Talabani. He also met in Erbil yesterday with the President of the Kurdistan Region, H.E. Masoud Barzani; the Speaker of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's Parliament, Mr. Kamal Kirkouki; and the Minister of Interior, Mr. Karim Sinjari.
The SRSG discussed in all his meetings the latest political developments in Iraq including the recent political tensions. He expressed concern about the current political stalemate in the country. He urged Iraqi political parties and leaders to work together in the spirit of partnership towards finding a common ground to resolve their differences on the basis of the Constitution through meaningful dialogue and compromise as stated by the UN Secretary-General in a statement issued yesterday, 3 January 2012. 
He assured all his interlocutors of the readiness of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to support Iraqi leaders' efforts to promote confidence and trust among the parties at this important juncture in the history of Iraq.
In addition to Kobler meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzanai, US Senator Joe Lieberman met with Barzani on Tuesday where the two "discussed the ongoing political crisis on the one hand and the differences between State of Law [Nouri's political slate] and Iraqiya [Ayad Allawi's slate] on the other hand."  Monday, Robert Grenier analyzed Iraq's political crisis at Al Jazeera:

Yes, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has always shown autocratic tendencies, unsurprisingly given the traditional political role models with which Iraqis are working. And yes, he has long over-centralised security power in his own hands, maintaining personal control over the Interior, Defence and National Security Ministries and making the Baghdad Operations Command directly answerable to his personal office. But this, too, is not entirely unexpected, given the tenuousness of Iraqi internal security.
And finally, yes, Abu Isra has been transparently uncomfortable in sharing any authority with the Iraqiyya bloc, the largest vote-getter in the last elections, and has essentially reneged on many of the elaborate power-sharing arrangements reached in the so-called Irbil accords, which facilitated formation of his government. But again, here too, Maliki has not been entirely outside his rights. He did, after all, form the most viable parliamentary coalition, giving him the right to form a government, and the vague provisions for an extraordinary National Security Council to be chaired by his chief political rival, and to which key domestic and national security policies were to be referred, were simply never realistic.
Now, however, only days after the final withdrawal of American troops, it is clear that al-Maliki has finally gone too far. His recent actions have served to strip the veneer of legitimacy from his past policies, and have revealed those past actions as the precursors to a naked power-grab. Beginning with the sudden and summary arrest of some 615 alleged Baathists, including many of Maliki's political enemies and conducted while the final push to evacuate the last of the US troops was conveniently underway, the Iraqi prime minister has gone on to press politically-motivated terrorism charges against Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Islamist and a prominent member of Iraqiyya. At the same time, the Shia Maliki has moved to orchestrate a parliamentary no-confidence vote to oust Sunni deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, another prominent member of Iraqiyya, ostensibly over a personal slight. Other political opponents have awakened to find tanks around their homes.
While the political crisis continues,  the editorial board of the Toledo Blade notes, "Iraq will get fighter jets, tanks, and a wide range of other weapons. With the final withdrawal of U.S. forces last month, Iraq is on the verge of armed conflict between its majority Shiites and minority Sunnis. Its armed forces are little more than pickup squads of Shiite militias, ready to go after Sunnis and possibly each other." And the UN News Center notes:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concern about continuing political tensions in Iraq, urging all parties in the Middle East country "to work to resolve their differences peacefully through meaningful dialogue and compromise."
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General said the ongoing issues could contribute to insecurity in the country, which has been hit by a series of recent bomb attacks.
"It is essential that pending political issues are resolved in a way that respects the constitution and its provisions for the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary," the statement noted.

As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) reports that the national conference President Jalal Talabani has been advocating for seems unlikely according to the latest indicators. However, State of Law MP Abbas al-Bayati tells Aswat al-Iraq that the conference should take place near the middle of January.  Meanwhile yesterday there were reports about Iraqiya continuing their boycott of Parliament; however, Dar Addustour reports that the Kurdish Alliance walked out yesterday in portest of State of Law's Hussein al-Assadi's assertion that Talabani (president of Iraq and a Kurd) is a "terrorist." Kurdish MP Mohsen Saadoun called for a formal apology as Parliament convened and what followed was a loud disagreement with the Kurdish Alliance then walking out. Parliament stopped the session until the Kurds returned at which point they resumed the reading of nine bills. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes:

A meeting between leaders of Iraq' main political parties ended on Wednesday, without any result, following al-Iraqiya Bloc's demand to discuss the case of Iraq's Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy, wanted for charges related to terrorism, according to a source close to the meeting.
"The meeting that began at 10:00 AM local time has ended without any result, due to al-Iraqiya Bloc's demand to discuss the case of Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy, within the schedule of the meeting," the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
In Iraq today, AGI reports a 6-year-old girl is dead from a series of Baquba bombings which left eight more people dead. AFP notes there were five bombs which went off "at short intervals." While AGI and AFP report the girl was a 6-year-old, Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports the girl was nine. Reuters ups the wounded count to twelve (also states the girl was 6-years-old) and notes a Samarra grenade attack has killed 1 police officer (three more injured), a Baquba bombing claimed the life of 1 young boy (two more injured),  and, dropping back to last night, notes 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad and 2 Iraqi soldiers shot dead in Mosul. AP reports two children were killed in the Baquba bombings. In addition, AP notes that an Abu Ghraib home invasion resulted in 2 deaths (husband and wife).
Quickly, January 17 was picked for the House example above because that's when the House goes back into session (the Senate does on the 23rd).  A number are asking in e-mails if hearings start this week.  No.  Although the US Congress did start back up this time last year, they've pushed it back to the middle of January for the 112th Congress.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

NPR 'reporters' laugh on air about candidates?

Kathleen Masterson is an NPR 'reporter' with a public radio station in Iowa.  She was featured on All Things Considered.  I am listening to their extended coverage tonight for one and only one reason: to hear how Ron Paul does.  (I hope he wins.)

While I could vote for Ron Paul without any reservations, I wouldn't vote for Michele Bachmann.

My distaste for her, however, does not lead me to find it cute when not one but two people laughed at her in the coverage.  First was a man -- who at least was supposed to be offering opinions -- he was on with the Weekly Standard guest at the last part of the 8 o'clock hour (EST).

I would love to know why the host, Robert Seigel, did not ask the man why he as laughing at Bachmann or why she, the only woman in the race, was the only one he laughed at?

I would really like to know why, when Robert was getting the report from Kathleen Masterson and asked her how Bachmann was doing, Masterson felt the need to giggle about how poorly Bachmann was doing.  (She was on at the last part of the 9:00 hour -- again, EST.)

Kids, I'm a Democrat.  I can't vote for Barack.  (I voted for Nader in 2008.)

I am hugely against the wars and hugely in favor of the Constitution which is why I can support Ron Paul without hestiation.

So grasp that I'm not some conservative getting talking points from some website or campaign.

I found what was TWICE done to Michele Bachmann on air to be grossly offensive.

NPR needs to explain why it was okay to giggle about Michele Bachmann's performance and how that qualified as quality journalism.  (Mara Liasson.  I've heard a million and one nasty things about her over the years from various left-wing sites.  This was my first time hearing her extended on live radio.  I found no fault with her and wondered whether she'd improved or if I'd been misled by Panhandle Media.)

I listened to NPR's live coverage -- and skipped cable -- specifically because I thought it would provide journalistic coverage and maintain basic standards.  When it came to Michele Bachmann coverage, that was not the case.  They need to explain why.  (Be sure to read Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The Toxic Drips Of Tiny Penises" from Sunday.  I'll highlight it tomorrow.  But it takes on media sexism.)

I hope you have already read the year-end coverage, but if not, The Common Ills year-end coverage included C.I.'s "2011: The Year of the Slow Reveal," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2011," Martha and Shirley's "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2011 in music." In addition, community coverage of 2011 also included Ann's "2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)" & Stan's "2011 in films (Ann and Stan)", Cedric's "Barack finally gets something right!" & Wally's "BARACK BEST 2011 MOVE!," Rebecca's "best of fall tv 2011" and Trina's "New Year's Parties."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, January 3, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Jalal Talabani is called a "terrorist" by State of Law, Moqtada al-Sadr reportedly will not attend a national conference, the Iranian government expresses displeasure over the MEK, and more.
"Recently the media has been filled with announcements that the war in Iraq has finally ended.  But in a war fought not only by enlisted foot soldiers, but also largely by corporations, mercenaries, and drones, what constitutes an end?" asks Iraq War Veterans Against the War's Joyce Wagner:

Although it is an important and significant milestone, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq does not necessarily signify an end to occupation.  The US footprint is still heavy in the form of corporate contractors who employ indentured servants (under the euphemism "third country nationals") and mercenaries without oversight, accountability, or transparency.
The Iraqi resistance movement is preparing for what it calls, "the second face of the occupation."  According to a statement released by Uday al-Zaidi, this includes structures imposed by the US such as the sectarian government and its divisive constitution.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, families have been destroyed, displaced, and forced into refugee status all over the world.  We support self-determination for the people of Iraq, and continue to work toward our goal of making reparation with the people who have been so deeply affected by this war and its aftermath.
[. . .]
Meanwhile, over 4,000 American service members have been killed, and many more are living with physical disabilities and invisible wounds, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, and Major Depressive Disorder.  Troops are living with undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries, many of which go undetected for months or even years.  Instead of being treated when they return, many service members receive orders to deploy to Afghanistan, even though a part of them remains at war in Iraq.  If this nation wants to honor its veterans, we need them to honor our right to heal.
And, of course, some who might be thought to be returning will remain to guard the embassy and train on weapons and, in addition, many have instead been repostured (Pentagon's term) into surrounding countries with the plan that they can dart back into Iraq should the White House determine that this is needed.  Ted Koppel established that fact with a report last month on Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC):
Ted Koppel: This is the man who might actually have to deal with that nightmare, Lt Gen Robert Caslan. General, how are you going to get 1320 people out of there? I mean if you've 24 hours notice that something like this was going to happen, you're telling me the Iraqi government would evacuate immediately? Would get them all out of there?

Lt Gen Robert Caslan: I would argue that we do have, in theater, whether it's in Kuwait or elsewhere in theater, that we fall under the central command, Centcom, and I feel confident that Centcom has the necessary assets to take whatever measures they need to to counter that attack.
In Iraq currently, Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that some Sunnis are exiting mixed neighborhoods out of fear.  Why?  The political crisis has frightened them.  It started with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordering questionable arrests of Sunnis -- over 500 of them.  He insisted they were "terrorists" and "Ba'athists."  More recently, after a trip to DC and photo ops with Barack Obama, Nouri began going after Iraqi politicians. Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi went to the KRG on business and, the day after he arrived, Nouri al-Maliki has an arrest warrant sworn out on him. Nouri accuses him of being a terrorist.  He currently remains in the KRG, a house guest of President Jalal Talabani. Along with targeting the vice president, Nouri is demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his duties. Nouri heads the political slate State of Law which came in second in the 2010 elections. Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, came in first. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are both members of Iraqiya.  The editorial board of the Louisville Courier Journal (via the Leaf Chronicle) covers the political crisis:

For starters, the timing supports fears that Mr. al-Maliki is moving to purge the government of meaningful Sunni participation. In addition to seeking Mr. al-Hashemi's arrest, Mr. al-Maliki asked the parliament for a no-confidence vote against another prominent Sunni leader, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a deputy prime minister. Mr. al-Maliki also threatened to exclude Iraqiya, the main Sunni party, from participation in the unity government.
Meanwhile, hundreds of former members of the Baath Party, through which Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq as leader of the Sunni minority, have been arrested in recent weeks, and Sunni officials' compounds in Baghdad have been surrounded by Mr. al-Maliki's security forces.
All in all, the situation reeks of Shiite vengeance against Sunnis and strongly suggests that Mr. al-Maliki intends to become a new Iraqi dictator.
And that possibility, Nouri as the new dictator, may be why the Speaker of Parliment spoke out this week.  Al Mada reports Osama al-Nujaifi has called for the Iraqi military to promote national unity and not suppress the people, noting that human rights abuses by the military are threatening the country. He also called on the military to stay out of political disputes. Dar Addustour adds that he declared public freedoms to be among the most important accomplishments in the transformation of Iraq to a democracy. He decried the use of violence against Iraqis and the arbitrary arrests. AFP quotes al-Nujaifi stating, "We find that human rights in Iraq have suffered massive violations. Human rights have not been achieved amid the deteriorating of the political process in Iraq. It is clear the development of the nation is based on how much human rights are respected. Losing these rights is destroying democracy." Adam Schrek (AP) observes, "The televised comments by Osama al-Nujaifi, one of the country's top Sunni officials, are yet another salvo in a growing political crisis sparked when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government issued an arrest warrant for the country's top Sunni politician last month."  Asli Aydintasbas (Newsweek) interviews Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and quotes him stating:

The U.S. left my country with challenges beyond our capacity to solve. Maliki cannot be part of a solution. We [Sunnis] cannot reach a reconciliation with Maliki anymore. Anyone else could replace him within the Shiite national alliance. But it has to be someone who believes in rule of law, the future of [Iraqi] institutions
Another member of Iraqiay that Nouri has been targeting is Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi whom Jack Healy and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) profiled Saturday and noted that Nouri had tried to get the Cabinet to toss him out but the Cabinet had refused. al-Esawi told the New York Times, "Maliki now wants just to get rid of his partners, to build a dictatorship. He wants to consolidate power more and more. Someone else should be prime minister." The day after the comments ran, there was an attempt on al-Essawi's life.  Press TV reported he was the target of a roadside bombing Sunday which left "three of Essawi's bodyguards, two officers and one soldier" wounded. Dan Morse (Washington Post) reports Essawi is calling for an investigation and Morse writes, "Essawi is widely regarded in Iraq as a moderate official.  But it's no longer just Iraqiya that Nouri's State of Law is going after.  Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Al-Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoon al-Damalouji expressed her astonishment and denunciation of the "irresponsible" statement made by the State of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi against President Jalal Talabani.
In a statement issued by her office, received by Aswat al-Iraq, she added that "Al-Iraqiya Bloc considers these statements a new unilateral rule and attacking the partnership in decision making".
She added that "the attack against al-Iraqiya Bloc will cover all other political blocs, which warns in severe deterioration in the political situation and demolishing the Iraqi state".
Damalouji pointed out that Asadi accused President Talabani with "terrorism" for hosting his deputy Tariq al-Hashimi till a just trial is made.
Asked about Talabani being called a terrorist by State of Law, US State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland declared in today's press briefing, "Well, we don't think name calling is the right solution here."  Way to stake out a brave position there.
It needs to be noted that Nouri al-Maliki has sued and threatened to sue others for less and yet he has not condemned the statement by a member of his bloc, he's let it linger out there, the charge that Jalal Talabani is a terrorist.  Next time Nouri kicks his feet and screams in public, remember that.  Or remember that it was Saturday when he was claiming people needed to be civil.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been calling for a national conference among the political blocs. (And presumably speaking for the two dominant Kurdish parties when he did so.) Iraqiya states that they would attend if Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim did. Over the weekend, MP Jawad Jubouri (a member of the Sadr bloc) stated that Moqtada would not attend the conference. Yesterday Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported that the National Alliance has two conditions for attending: (1) the conference must take place in Baghdad and (2) the issue of charges and criminal investigations will not be on the agenda. Aswat al-Iraq added that Iraqiya says it will end its boycott of Parliament and the cabinet (according to Kurdish MP Ashwaq al-Jaf) if Tareq al-Hashemi's case is transferred to Kirkuk.  Alsumaria TV reports on the issue of transferring al-Hashemi's case to Kirkuk, "Higher Judicial Council of Iraq denied, on Tuesday, having approved to transfer Iraqi Vice-President Tarek Al Hashemi's case to Kirkuk. Hashemi's case will remain in Baghdad, Higher Judicial Council announced noting that it will be examined by a judicial body of nine judges."  As the crisis continues, Victoria Nuland declared today, " Well, Ambassador [James] Jeffrey has been in and out of Iraq throughout this period. As you know, he's been talking to all of the major Iraqi leaders. The Vice President [Joe Biden] as well made some key phone calls in the days before and after Christmas, trying to encourage Iraqis to come together and have a conversation about the issues that divide them, and we remain closely monitoring that situation. But there do seem to be a great number more important voices inside Iraq making the same points, that they need to find a forum, sit down together, and work it through."
Today Parliament was supposed to convene.  Reuters reports Iraqiya maintained their boycott (al-Nujaifi was present as has been the tradition when Iraqiya boycotts or walks out -- that was the established pattern in November 2010).  In additition, Reuters notes all eight Iraqiya cabinet ministers boycotted yesterday's Cabinet meeting.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports (at Inside Iraqon a visit to an MP's office and concludes, "Even after eight years of what so called FREEDOM and even after three elections, Iraqis are still loyal to sect and race more than being loyal to Iraq and it seems that we will need more time to change the sick mentality of race and sect and move to the mentality of the country."
Jim Loney (Reuters) takes a look at various factors that may be political risks for Iraq, "The political crisis and the Exxon pact could push disputes between Baghdad and the Kurds to new heights, increasing anxiety in Iraq's disputed territories, already a potential faultline for conflict without U.S. troops to act as a buffer." Today Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) runs down possible outcomes of the crisis including:

Maliki could also face opposition within his own bloc, where some factions appeared to be using the crisis to push for a new prime minister or to negotiate for posts or other benefits.
Maliki's move against Hashemi and his demand that parliament dump Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, another Sunni leader, sparked Iraq's worst political crisis in a year.
The Shia leader has presented Iraqiya with a challenge to sideline Hashemi, one of its senior leaders, or lose its sway in government. Iraqiya may ultimately have to decide whether it stays together or splinters, and cracks have already appeared.

Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, a second roadside bombing injured three police officers and one bystander, the Muqdadiya home of a Sahwa was attacked "killing him and wounding his wife," a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one peshmerga, an attack on Mosul checkpoint left two police officers and one bystander injured and another Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier.

Meanwhile AFP reports the Iraq Body Count says approximately 162,000 Iraqis were killed in the war. You can read IBC's report in full here. A Lancet study found over a million dead several years ago and Iraq Body Count has come under criticism for undercounting the dead. It is also true that, unlike Reuters, AP, et al, they actually keep track of reported deaths and don't just blindly repeat the 'official' figures from the Iraqi government (figures that have been wrong month after month -- the government undercounts the dead). Worst reaction to the results thus far? Eric Engleman (Bloomberg News) uses it to insist that "more than 114,000 civilians have died" -- they just can't handle big numbers, they will always undercount the dead.
Iran's Fars News Agency reports today, "The Iranian foreign ministry called for the rapid expulsion of the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from neighboring Iraq, and called on the European countries which support the terrorist group to shelter its members. [. . .] Since the beginning of 2011, the Baghdad government has repeatedly assured Iranian officials and people that it is determd to expel the MKO from Iraq by the end of 2011."  While Iran continues to insist the Camp Ashraf residents must be evicted, Manisha Mistry (UK's St Albans & Harpenden Review) reports, "The Bishop of St Albans has added his name to an appeal to the United Nations and other world bodies to protect 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq."
So what are we talking about?  Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8th of this year Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri had announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year.  With the date looming, December 25th the United Nations reached an agreement with Iraq on Camp Ashraf.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted:
Today, the United Nations and the Government of Iraq signed an important agreement on the temporary relocation and eventual resettlement of the more than 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq. We commend the Government of Iraq for its work with United Nations Special Representative Ambassador Martin Kobler, and welcome this important step toward a humane resolution to the ongoing situation at Ashraf. The UN effort has our full support.
The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding represents significant progress on this issue and outlines steps necessary to achieve a peaceful and viable solution for the residents of Ashraf, including their temporary relocation to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport. At this new location, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will be able to conduct refugee status determinations for the residents of Ashraf -- a necessary first step toward resettlement to third countries.
We are encouraged by the Iraqi government's willingness to commit to this plan, and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities, especially the elements of the MOU that provide for the safety and security of Ashraf's residents. We welcome the agreement by the Government of Iraq to allow the United Nations to station monitors at this new location around the clock and to observe the move from Ashraf to this new location. In addition, officials from U.S. Embassy Baghdad will visit regularly and frequently. We also welcome the Iraqi government's willingness to delay the final closure of Camp Ashraf to give this plan time for implementation.
To be successful, this resettlement must also have the full support of the Camp's residents, and we urge them to work with the UN to implement this relocation. All those who want to see the people at Camp Ashraf safe and secure should work together to see that the agreed upon plan is carried out.
"I was pleased to hear that the Government of Iraq and the United Nations have signed yesterday night a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the rules applying to the transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf to a transit location, in order for UNHCR to proceed to the verification of their status and to facilitate their repatriation or resettlement. The EU fully supports this agreement and wishes to commend the good will and constructive spirit shown by all parties involved.
I would like to praise more particularly the Special representative of the UN Secretary General Martin Kobler for his persistent efforts to arrive at this promising result. I thank also the Government of Iraq for having showed the necessary flexibility, including with the timing. We count on it to ensure that this process takes place in an orderly way, avoiding violence or coercion. The safety of the Camp residents is under its responsibility and we count on it to discourage any provocation against them as from now.
I hope that the residents of Camp Ashraf will be prepared to respect the terms of this Memorandum and I encourage them and their leadership to cooperate fully in its implementation.
They should be reassured by the terms of the MOU and the commitment of UNAMI and the United States to ensure a robust monitoring. Thanks to this, the entire International Community will be able to follow closely the whole process and the EU intends to bring its support to this whole arrangement.
UNHCR will soon be able to proceed to the interviews of Camp Ashraf residents and the verification of their status. This will greatly facilitate their repatriation to the home countries of those wishing to do so voluntarily and the resettlement of others in third countries.
The EU is prepared to help UNHCR in the fulfilment of this task and will continue to follow very closely the implementation of this agreement."
Of that agreement, British MP David Amess (Huffington Post UK) states, "Reaching this point took lots of flexibility by the Iranian opposition leader and great efforts by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU High Representative Baroness Ashton, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. These leaders have put their own credibility on the line, so it can be hoped that they will follow through."  Supposedly last week saw 200 to 500 residents relocated to the former US Camp Liberty base.  What did happen last week was repeat rocket attacks on Camp Ashraf.  KUNA reported Friday, "The United States on Friday said it had begun monitoring and refugee processing of 3,200 Iranian dissidents residing in Iraq's Camp Ashraf after a rocket attack struck the camp."
We'll close with this from Terry O'Neill's Huffington Post piece:
As the president of NOW, I hear from a lot of women (and men). Many of them are outraged right now, and they're asking the same question: Can this be real -- is the White House actually caving in to the radical right on birth control?
At this moment, the answer appears to be Yes.
Earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pulled rank on the FDA, overruling the agency's carefully considered decision to eliminate the discriminatory age restriction on a safe and effective form of emergency contraception. Despite the unprecedented nature of this move, President Obama backed up the secretary, adding: "As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine."
Women are all too familiar with the paternalistic call for "common sense" when it comes to female bodies. We're sick and tired of the implication that women aren't capable of exercising common sense over our reproductive lives. And let's be honest: Is a government agency really best suited to define common sense for, say, a 12-year-old who's just been raped by a family member?
The thought of a tween girl having unprotected sex and then purchasing and consuming a medication to prevent pregnancy makes many people uncomfortable. No matter how well-meaning their concern might be, it is absolutely beside the point. If that young woman doesn't want to become pregnant, that's her business. Personal opinions about birth control and societal preconceptions about young women's sexuality have no part in this private medical decision.