Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thoughts on NBC's Smash

A reader wrote an e-mail that I could have.  I'm not going to identify her.  I didn't laugh at her when Sunny showed me the e-mail.  I could have done the same thing.

The e-mailer wanted to know if I was excited about Smash coming back next month.

Smash won't be back with new episodes until January. 

Again, I could have made the same mistake myself.  It's easy to.  Trying to juggle a million things and don't new episodes usually start in the fall? 

I think one of the reasons it's starting in January instead of the fall is because they're wanting to run the 22 episodes in order with no repeats or breaks.  I think another reason is because of the new show runner who is retooling the series.

(By the way, if NBC does very poorly with new shows, there's talk of Smash coming on before January, just FYI.  Their new comedy block isn't performing as expected -- especially The New Normal which is a bit of a ratings dud.  Rebecca reviews it here and Mike reviews it and The Mindy Project here.)

Earlier this month, Chris Barton (LA Times) reported:

Only a month removed from announcing that the drama starring Debra Messing would offer a mini "Will & Grace" reunion with the addition of Sean Hayes, NBC has announced two more cast members: "Hairspray" star Nikki Blonsky and Jesse L. Martin, who was part of the Tony Award-winning cast of "Rent." notes Bernadette Peters will be back as Ivy's mother for several episodes and that Jennifer Hudson and Sheryl Lee Ralph will be mother-and-daughter on the second season.  I think that's a mistake.

Jennifer Hudson is a great singer and has demonstrated she is a great actress (see the film Dreamgirls).  Sheryl Lee Ralph was in the play Dreamgirls.  Playing the role Beyonce did in the film. 

Point being, if you're bringing on Jennifer, bring on Jennifer Holliday too.

Holliday played Hudson's role in the Broadway musical.   In 1982, she went to number one on the soul chart with "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going."  To have the two Jennifers who both played Effie in Dreamgirls playing mother and daughter really would have been something.

Sheryl Lee is a good actress.  I'm not saying she's not.  But I'm saying if you're working a Dreamgirl angle, the obvious angle is the two Jennifers as mother and daughter.  One Jennifer won an Academy Award for the Dreamgirls role (Hudson), the other won a Tony for it. 

I'll enjoy Sean Hayes appearance provided he has some scenes with Debra Messing.   If they just walk past one another in a  crowd scene, however, I will feel ripped off.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, September 28, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq War veteran Brian Kinsella begins motoring across America to raise awareness of soldier suicide, the Defense Dept releases their latest monthly suicide figures, the State Dept reclassifies a group, the Wall St. Journal does the best Western-English language report on the prison assault in Tikrit, Bradley Manning's attorney calls for charges against Bradley to be dropped, and more.
Iraq War veteran Brian Kinsella is among many who enjoy motorcycles (he rides a Harley Davidson Street Glide).  Today, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he begins a two-week, 5,000 Ride For Life as part of the mission of Stop Soldier Suicide:

During the journey, Kinsella will talk with soldiers, veterans, and senior military leaders at 12 military installations while spreading a word about military suicide prevention and existing civilian sources of aid for US troops.

Click here to see a map of the route at the Stop Solider Suicide website.  Online, you can follow the journey via the Ride For Life Twitter page, the Stop Soldier Suicide Twitter page and via the Stop Soldier Suicide Facebook page as well as the Stop Soldier Suicide blogAlyssa Newcomb (ABC News) reports Brian Kinsella was the platoon leader in 2006 when an 18-year-old soldier in his platoon attempted to take her own life.  He tells Newcomb, "She moved into a male dominated unit, trying to figure out what the hell she was doing to go to war.  We as a command could have done more to make sure this person had better acclimated to our unit."  Julie La Roche (Business Insider) explains:
During the two-week ride, Kinsella will make stops at 12 military installations where he plans to promote SSS's mission, raise awareness about soldier suicide and form partnerships. 
He's also encouraging people to join him on different lengths of the ride to show their support.
"Our desire is for people to join the ride as I pass through towns. It will really show how much people care and support our brave veterans," Kinsella said over coffee last week on September 11th in the Flatiron District. 
The Ride For Life comes as the suicide rate is such that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has rightly termed it a crisis. July 25th, he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. From that day's snapshot:

US House Rep Mike Michaud:  Quick question, and I want to read from a Veterans Service Organization letter that they actually sent to Senator [Jim] Webb just last week.  And just part of it says, "The only branch of the military to show a marked improvement decreasing the number of persons taking their own life is the United States Marines.  They should also be praised for their active leadership from the very top in addressing the problem and implementing the solutions.  The remaining services have yet to be motivated to  take any substanative action. "  Secretary Panetta, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and I've looked the generals in the eye and I've asked them what are they doing personally to help the stigmatized TBI, PTSD?  And the second question is: Do they need any help?  I get the same answer over there as I do over here in DC: 'Everything's okay.  We've got all the resources we need.  We don't need any help.'  But the interesting thing is someone much lesser ranked came up to me, after I asked the general that question, outside and said, "We need a lot more help."  And he suggested  that I talk to the clergy to find out what they are seeing happening.  And I did that trip and every trip since then.  And I'm finding that our service members are not getting the help that they need.  And my question, particularly after looking at this letter that was sent to Senator Webb, it appears the Marines are doing a good job so why is it so different between the Marines, the Army and other branches?  And can you address that?

Secretary Leon Panetta: You know -- Obviously, there's no silver bullet here.  I wish there were to try to deal with suicide prevention.  We-we have a new suicide prevention office that's trying to look at programs  to try to address this terrible epedemic. I  mean, we are looking.  If you look at just the numbers, recent total are you've got about 104  confirmed and 102 pending investigation in 2012.  The total of this is high, almost 206.  That's nearly one a day.  That is an epedemic.  Something is wrong.  Part of this is people are inhibited because they don't want to get the care that they probably need. So that's part of the problem, trying to get the help that's necessary.  Two, to give them access to the kind of care that they need.  But three -- and, again, I stress this because I see this in a number of other areas, dealing with good discipline and good order and, uh, trying to make sure that our troops are responding to the challenges -- it is the leadership in the field.  It's the platoon commander.  It's the platoon sergeant.  It's the company commander. It's the company sergeant.  The ability to look at their people, to see these problems.  To get ahead of it and to be able to ensure that when you spot the problems, you're moving that individual to the kind of-of assistance that they need in order to prevent it.  The Marines stay in close touch with their people.  That's probably one of the reasons that the Marines are doing a good job.  But what we're stressing in the other services is to try to develop that-that training of the command.  So that they two are able to respond to these kinds of challenges. 
Yesterday the Defense Dept released the latest suicide data: "During August, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides:  three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation.  For July, the Army reported 26 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: 13 have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation.  For 2012, there have been 131 potential active-duty suicides:  80 have been confirmed as suicides and 51 remain under investigation.  Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.  During August, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were nine potential suicides (five Army National Guard and four Army Reserve):  none have been confirmed as suicide and nine remain under investigation.  For July, among that same group, the Army reported 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve); four have been confirmed as suicides and eight remain under investigation.  For 2012, there have been 80 potential not on active-duty suicides (49 Army National Guard and 31 Army Reserve):  59 have been confirmed as suicides and 21 remain under investigation.  Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011:  118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation."  The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-273-8255.  (FYI, Cell phones have different lettering than landlines. That's a fact that seems to escape people giving out letters for phone numbers currently.)
Moving from government department to another, today the US State Dept released the following:
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 28, 2012
The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.
Some would be seers have insisted all week that the move was a mistake and that the MEK deserved to be labeled terrorists (in 1997 by the Clinton administration) yet they never found an argument to make on behalf of the Camp Ashraf residents.  If Glen Glen and the other Three Faces of Eve are unhappy with the way things were headed, they should have factored in that there was a legal obligation to the Camp Ashraf residents on the part of the US government and then they should have come up with a suggestion of how to honor that obligation without taking the MEK off the list.  As Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed earlier this year that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." 
Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) observes, "The Iranian government condemned the decision and blamed the group for an incident in which a senior Iranian diplomat in New York for the U.N. General Assembly was assaulted on the street."  CNN notes today that "since 2004 the United States has considered the group, which has lived for more than 25 years at a refugee camp in Iraq, 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So if the Three Faces of Eve had objections to changing the status of the MEK, they should have made time to propose how to address the issues of the Camp Ashraf residents.  It's not as though, for example, hasn't spent years savaging the MEK.  If they had a way to address the legal obligations to Camp Ashraf, they should have proposed it. 
Today was another deadly day in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports  Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ahmed was shot dead south of Kirkuk.  All Iraq News reporting 1 police officer shot dead in Falluja and that a Tikrit car bombing left two people injured.
Yesterday's violence included the assault on the Tirkit prison which left prisoners and guards dead and wounded.  Mohammed Lazim (CNN) notes, "The attackers wore police uniforms and used cars similar to those driven by police, a police source told the National Iraqi News Agency."  BBC offers, "The raid appeared to be well co-ordinated between the gunmen and some of the inmates, the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad reports."  Possibly well coordinated with others?  Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that accusations are flying insisting that the police chief of the province received warnings -- "warnings," three -- ahead of the attack but that the warnings were ignored. The Saudi Gazette adds, "And a traffic police lieutenant colonel who was near the scene of the attack said militants blew up part of the prison fence, and between 30 and 40 inmates were able to escape. A police colonel said a riot broke out in the prison, while witnesses said inmates seized the guards' weapons, and that more than 100 of them escaped and fought security forces in the surrounding area." Not only did a number of prisoners escape but Radio New Zealand and Alsumaria report that they were smart enough to grab their own files and, as a result, there are no records on them.   Apparently Iraq is an oil-rich country that's not worried about going green or paperless since all files are apparently paper.  
Those reporting this morning on the violence were hard pressed to nail down the numbres as various officials gave various figures.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) cited Raed Ibrahim ("health official") for a death toll of 10 prison guards and 2 prisoners with thirty-two injured and cites politician Qutaiba al-Jubouri as the source of 81 prisoners escaping with 36 of them being captured after escape. UPI stated that 14 died in the assault and, citing Salaheddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdallah al-Jabouri said 33 escaped prisoners had been captured.  Tang Danlu (Xinhua) offered 15 dead and forty-five injured and the source is the police who also state 200 prisoners escaped and that 81 remain at large.  Hassan Obeidi (AFP) noted, "A hospital official in Tikrit, the ancesestral home of now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said 13 police were killed and 34 wounded in the violence."  And Duraid Adnan and an unnamed stringer in Tikrit (New York Times) were the only ones this morning to note  the death penalty aspect by quoting Tikrit's head of security, Muhammad Hassan, stating, "They were sentenced to death, so they were ready to do anything to escape." Kuwait's KUNA notes, "The mass breakout started as the security services began transferring 40 convicts on the death roll fromt he jail to a Baghdad jail."

The death penalty aspect is not a minor issue.  It's what fuels support for the attacks on prisons in Iraq.  Ali A. Nabhan and Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reported this afternoon:
Frustration among Iraqi Sunnis with what they regard as the government's sectarian bias has colored parliamentary deliberations over a controversial amnesty law, which if passed could see thousands of prisoners freed for the sake of furthering national reconciliation.
On Thursday, a Shiite parliamentary bloc that had adopted the bill withdrew it from voting after failing to agree on whether those convicted under a terrorism law known as Article Four should be considered for amnesty as advocated by Sunni lawmakers.
[. . .]
Many of those held at the Tikrit prison were on death row and were scheduled for transfer to Baghdad to carry out their sentences, said Mr. [Mishaan al-]Jubouri [, former MP],  and other officials in the province.
Good for the Wall St. Journal for being the only English language publication to address what's going on.  The Iraqi press can and does address it.  By English language outlets refusing to do the same they're encouraging the confusion many Americans encounter when they learn of the armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government today. 
As the numbers make clear, it's not a surprising issue.  The US Census Bureaus says the US population is 311.5 million.  Iraq's population is about one-tenth of that.  (28 to 31 million is the usual estimate -- they haven't had a census since the middle-stages of Saddam Hussein's rule; the CIA estimates its 31.1. million while the World Bank goes for 32.9 million).  So with Iraq being one-tenth of the population, let's now look at the execution rates because both countries ignorantly continue to use the death penalty.

Doug Craig ( reported at the start of this month that there were 27 executions in the US so far this year.  That's 27 too many and you can be sure the number will be much greater by the end of the year.  Iraq, by contrast, has executed at least 96 people so far this year with another 200 scheduled for execution.

With one-tenth of the population the US has, they've already executed over three times as many people this year.  At the end of last month, Human Rights Watch noted of Iraq's executions:

Authorities said that all had been convicted on charges "related to terrorism," but provided little information about what crimes they had committed. Human Rights Watch has previously documented the prevalence of unfair trials and torture in detention, particularly in national security and terrorism-related cases. "There is no doubt that Iraq still has a serious terrorism problem, but it also has a huge problem with torture and unfair trials," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The lack of transparency around these convictions and executions, in a country where confessions that may have been coerced are often the only evidence against a person, makes it crucial for Iraq to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions."

This comes as mass arrests continue -- yesterday there were 78 mass arrests (that does not count recaptured prisoners).  In a country where mass arrests take place daily, where the arrested (some innocent, some guilty) disappear into a system that makes it impossible for most families to find their loved ones, where the judicial system is a joke, where even get a trial make take years, you've created an environment where people can feel sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq's actions.  They can imagine it's them and not the person down the street, especially since the mass arrests have not only taken place for years now in Iraq but they continue.   
Alsumaria reports the spokesperson for the Sadr bloc in Parliament, Mushriq Naji, is pointing out that yesterday's assault and escape is what happens when corruption reigns and the institutions of reform fail and he specifically notes the faliure of the Parliament to pass the amnesty law.  All Iraq News adds that there is a demand to reform state institutions immediately.  The National Alliance line comes from one of their MPs who insists that political parlies helped with the prison break and this is an attempt to provide pressure to pass the amnesty law.  Al Mada notes Ahmed Chalabi is calling for MPs to propose amendments to the amnesty law to address whatever concerns they have.  This is most likely aimed at State of Law since they've been the biggest obstacle to the passage of an amnesty law.

The prison assault was part of yesterday's violence, it was not the only violence.  A number of Iraqi outlets are focusing on the assassination of former Basra Governor (2005 - 2009)  Hussein al-Asadi.  Alsumaria reports that MP Hussein al-Asadi, from Basra, states that the assassination is proof of how weak the security remains in Iraq.   He notes an increase in recent bombings and called on Nouri al-Maliki and the Ministry of the Interior to make changes immediately.  Dar Addustour covers the assassination hereAlsumaria notes the Ministry of the Interior has announced the formation of three committees to examine the assassination.  Prior to that announcement, the Islamic Virtue Party (political party) was calling for an investigation to be startedAll Iraq News notes that MP Hussein al-Asadi is insisting that the fault for the assassination lies with the Barra police. Alsumaria adds that MP Shawn Mohammed Taha is calling for the security leaders in the Iraqi government to be changed.  What he should bbe noting is that Nouri al-Maliki has refused to nominate heads of the security ministries making him the de facto head of the Ministry of the Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security. 

Yesterday, Parliament was in session.  They were to vote on bills regarding a line of credit, infrastructure and amnesty.  Over infrastructure,  members of Iraqiya and the Kurdish Alliance walked out.  Deprived of a quorum, the session ended.  Al Mada notes that State of Law is now accusing Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi of blocking the infrastructure law.  While al-Nujaifi is a member of Iraqiya, he has not taken part in any of their walk-outs, including the first day of the current Parliament back in 2010.  Since he didn't walk out and since he's scheduled the infrastructure bill for a Monday vote, State of Law's latest attempt to uncork the crazy falls flat and then some.  In the meantime, Al Mada notes, Parliament is denying that they have a draft law for compulsory service in the Iraqi military.
Iraq has had two political stalemates since the March 2010 elections.  Immediately after the elections, when Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, Nouri caused the first stalemate by refusing to allow the Constitution to be followed (the results meant that Allawi's group should get named prime minister-designate and be given 30 days to form a Cabinet or someone else would be named prime minister-designate).  Nouri refused to allow the process to take place.  This created an eight month political stalemate.  Nouri was able to create this because he had the backing of the US White House.  In November 2010, the stalemate was finally ended as a result of a contract the US government brokered.  This contract, the Erbil Agreement, found the political blocs agreeing that Nouri could have a second term as prime minister provided he meet certain agreements -- implement Article 140 of the Constitution, create an independent national security council, etc.  Nouri used the agreement to become prime minister and then trashed the agreement  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been publicly calling for the Erbil Agreement to be followed.  This is the beginning of political stalemate II which is ongoing. 
Right now, hopes are pinned on a national conference.  Supposedly, it will be able to resolve the political stalemate that has transitioned into a political crisis.  Al Mada reports that Iraqiya would be represented in the talks by Allawi; however, 'would be.'  The paper notes many are starting to doubt a national conference will actually take place.  Nouri has opposed it from the start, it was first proposed December 21st -- by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
On the topic of Nouri and politics, Joel Wing (AKnews) examines Iraq and Nouri's Dawa political party:
In 2011, the Women's Affairs Ministry attempted to institute a dress code for female public workers. The order came from the Higher National Committee for the Advancement of Iraqi Women who demanded that women working for the government wear "moderate dress" in September 2011. The committee was under the Women's Affairs Minister Ibtihal al-Zaidi of the Dawa Party. One committee member said that the ruling came as a result of public workers not dressing according to Islamic traditions. The Planning and the Higher Education Ministries, which were run by the Sadrists and State of Law respectively read the rules to all their female employees. Other ministries run by other parties did not comply. Again, this was an instance where Dawa members were acting against what they saw as violations of their interpretation of religion. Iraqi public workers wear all types of dress from traditional to Western. Some members of the Women's Affairs Ministry were getting offended by the latter, and attempted to put an end to it. The fact that Iraq has a divided government with different parties controlling different ministries also showed the limited power the Dawa actually had over the matter. Those ministers with Islamist leanings attempted to enforce the ruling, but others who were either non-religious or opposed to Maliki, ignored it. That highlighted the unwillingness of Maliki and Dawa to go beyond those jurisdictions that they had direct control over.
The latest example of Islamist inspired action was far more violent. In 2012, there were reports that anywhere from six to forty emos and gays were murdered in Baghdad. This came after the Interior Ministry posted a statement on its website calling emos Devil worshippers in February. The Ministry then called for a police crackdown, while at the same time claiming that any deaths were being made up by the media. Stories emerged that Shiite militants were handing out lists of people they were going to kill. In March, Human Rights Watch blamed the government for the attacks, which was later substantiated by a BBC investigation. The BBC found that the Interior Ministry statement about emos being Satanists led to a concerted and covert campaign to murder gays and emos in the capital by members of the security forces. While Adnan Asadi is the deputy Interior Minister, he was appointed by Prime Minister Maliki in 2011, who is still the acting Interior Minister. Like the alcohol banning, this appears to be an instance where the premier has used the security forces to go after those he feels are in violation of his image of what an Islamic society should be like. Unlike those earlier events however, this one has led to several deaths, which will go unpunished since they are at the behest of the central government. At the same time, this again shows that Maliki and Dawa have only felt comfortable imposing their views on a limited scale, only going after emos and homosexuals in certain districts of Baghdad, rather than the whole city, other provinces or the entire country.
Via videolink from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange spoke to the United Nations General Assembly.  The Voice of Russia has the video.
Julian Assange:  Today I want to tell you an American story. I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq. The soldier was born in Crescent, Oklahoma, to a Welsh mother and to a U.S. Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at the U.S. military base in Wales. The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prizes at science fairs three years in a row. He believed in the truth, and like all of us, he hated hypocrisy. He believed in liberty and the right for all of us to pursue it and happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States. He believed in Madison, he believed in Jefferson, and he believed in Paine. Like many teenagers, he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country, and he knew he wanted to learn about the world. He entered the U.S. military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst. In late 2009, age 21, he was deployed to Iraq. There, it is alleged, he saw a U.S. military that did not often follow the rule of law and, in fact, engaged in murder and supported political corruption. It is alleged it was there, in Baghdad, in 2010 that he gave to WikiLeaks, he gave to me, and, it is alleged, he gave to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists and the detailed records of over 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring. This young soldier's name is Bradley Manning.

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.  The court-martial was supposed to begin this month has been postponed until after the election . 
On 19 September 2012, the Defense filed its Motion to Dismiss All Charges and Specifications With Prejudice for Lack of a Speedy Trial. PFC Manning has been in pretrial confinement since 29 May 2010. As of the date of the filing of this motion, PFC Manning had been in pretrial confinement for 845 days. To put this amount of time into perspecive, it took only 410 days to construct the Empire State Building.   By the time the Government actually brings PFC Manning to trial in February of 2013 (983 days after he was placed into pretrial confinement), the Empire State Building could have been constructed almost three times over.
On 29 October 2012, the Defense will argue that the military judge should dismiss this case with prejudice due to the Government's abject failure to honor PFC Manning's fundamental speedy trial rights.
During August, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides: three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation.  For July, the Army reported 26 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers:
The Green Party presidential candidate is Jill Stein.  Her campaign notes:
Despite the Democrat and Republican candidates' near silence on the issue, climate change is happening, the impacts are getting more severe, and it's not something we can choose to ignore.

Join us online this Sunday, September 30th at 4pmPST/7pmEST to hear how Jill Stein's Green New Deal would curb climate change and transition the United States to a sustainable economy. 
  • Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein
  • Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, Green Party Candidate for Congress, will moderate the event
  • Bill McKibben, author and climate change expert, will offer scientific, non-partisan background on the issue
Here's how to participate in the event:
  • Click here on Sunday 9/30 at 4pmPST/7pmEST. (Yes, it's that easy!)
  • Host a house party! (Of course, this is optional, but we'd be grateful if you chose to!) Have a little BBQ with neighbors and friends and watch the event together. If you and your guests are impressed with what you learn about the vision of the campaign, collect donations to help that dream become reality!
  • Join the conversation online! Use the hashtag #ClimateTownHall to share your thoughts and questions with us on Twitter. Post comments on our Facebook wall, as well as your own (be sure to tag our page).
Have a question you'd like Jill to answer? You can submit questions both before and during the event in the following ways:
  • Tweet your question using the hashtag #ClimateTownHall
  • Post your question on our Facebook wall. (Please still tag it #ClimateTownHall, so we know it's related to this event.)
  • Share your question with us on Google+ (again, using the hashtag above).
  • Submit your question during the event on LiveStream.
And, here's how to help us demand action now!

This event is just one part of an entire day of action. The Green Party is urging local supporters to organize events (or issue a release) in your community to highlight our demand that the US take action now on climate change. The Green Party of NY has drafted a 
Green Climate Change Model Media Release and Green Climate Change Action Plan you can use for local releases, news conferences, and media events.

The Republicans are climate change deniers, the Democrats are climate change evaders. Contact or visit the Green Party of New York State website for more information.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The sad ones

"Obama uses UN speech to threaten war against Iran" (Bill Van Auken, WSWS):
President Barack Obama postured before the United Nations Tuesday as the champion of peace and democracy, while threatening war against Iran and demanding a crackdown against the wave of anti-US demonstrations that have swept the Middle East.
This, Obama’s fourth address to an opening session of the UN General Assembly since taking office in 2009, was saturated with hypocritical invocations of “American values” and lies about Washington’s actions on the world stage.
The US president delivered an unmistakable threat that the US is preparing to launch yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, with potentially far bloodier consequences than those it has carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” Obama declared. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why… the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Asserting that there is “still time” for the US to force Iran to cede to its demands by means of diplomacy, he added, “that time is not unlimited.”

This happens and people still want to vote for Barack?  Still want to delude themselves that he's their fellow?

He is a War Hawk and that's all he's ever been.

I find it hilarious (see the snapshot) that Veterans For Peace nationally will not call out Barack, even now but they will meet with the homophobic president of Iran.

If you missed it, John V. Walsh reported in September of last year about the hurdles leadership put the membership through and still they refuse to implement the resolution:

This victory of the VFP rank and file who submitted the resolutions did not come easily.  It took three years. The first such resolution was written shortly after Obama took office, on his fourth day ordering Hellfire missiles to strike Pakistan, killing dozens of civilians including three children.  That prompted Tom Santoni of the Central FL VFP chapter to write an impeachment resolution.  It was taken up at the national convention the following August and was supported by the admirable Adam Kokesh who was at a meeting next door of VFP’s sister organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War.  But the VFP leadership, that is the Board, voted against it, thus requiring a two-thirds vote of the membership.
This bit of gate keeping worked, and the resolution failed at the August convention.  Santoni quit in disgust, a big loss to VFP.  The Central Florida chapter tried again in 2010 under the leaderhship of its co-chair Phil Restino.  This time Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan endorsed the resolution, but again it failed.  Finally, this year the Central FL chapter once again submitted the resolution and this time the board did not vote it down! The unstoppable Restino reached out to all 128 VFP chapters urging support and passage.  And spontaneously Jesse Perrier of Boston’s Smedley Butler chapter of VFP arose and gave an impassioned speech that brought down the house and won the day.  The resolution passed.
Now what about the implementation?  The Impeach Bush resolution was pushed aggressively in 2005 running up to the 2006 election when Democrats were running on the promise of impeachment, on which they promptly reneged, most notoriously John Conyers, the poster Congressperson for impeachment.   Mike Ferner, at the time executive director of VFP, made an indignant Bush-bashing speech for impeachment in front of the White House.  You can view it   here  in all its glory.  A hard copy letter with the signature of the VFP president was mailed to each member of the House calling for impeachment.
How about the present resolution?  Mike Ferner opposed it in the floor debate at the August convention. There has been no rally and none is planned – not in front of the White House or anywhere else.  This time a fax of the resolution has been sent to the House members without signature of the President.  Currently the Central FL chapter is trying to send snail mail letters on its own to every House member once it gets the signature of the president.

The VFP refuses to move it forward.  They stroke Obama and generally act like a group of suck ass Eddie Haskells.  I can't believe how craven the leadership has been.

Yet while they refuse to call out Barack, they meet with the President of Iran and fawn over him.  This is so disgusting.  They really need to get their act together, they really, really need to get their act together.

Remember that when there's a Republican in the White House.  That the leadership of the VFP refused to call out the president when he was a Democrat. 

You'd think supposed warriors wouldn't be so chicken s**t about calling out a president but you'd be wrong.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, September 26, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq and the Turkish government make noises, the White House is negotiating with Iraq to send more troops back to the US, and more.
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations with a laundry list of fabulists claims.  One of them was:
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents, and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
Offering realism on this topic is journalist and sociologist Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who was on the ground in the Libya as the government was overthrown by 'rebels' -- some of whom were trained out of Langley in the United States.  Madhi was one of the few unembedded reporters in Libya and one of the few who didn't take US government press releases and put his name to it.  A brave and independent voice,  Mahdi is the author of the Globalisation of NATO.  Last Wednesday, he spoke with Heart of Africa host Kudakwashe Cayenne about Libya, the modern efforts to colonize Africa, and much more, click here to stream that program.  Excerpt.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya:  The war in Libya was an American-led war.  I know the Americans didn't want to make it look like it was an American-led war.  That's why they pushed the French and the British ahead.  But, in reality, they provided most of the muscle, most of the bombs.  Most of the, uh, military might was from them.  They started -- They started the operations along with the French and the British.  But they publicly wanted to make it look like David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of the French Republic, were the ones leading this.  But this wasn't true.  They were just hiding behind them because they knew that the world -- There's a negative opinion of US intervention in countries so they used it as a smokescreen.
Kudakwashe Cayenne:  Okay, Mahdi, why is it important for African to understand who NATO is today?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroya: It's very important to understand who [NATO] is today because they're colonizing the African continent.  Like I mentioned Libya.  That's just one country.  NATO is also involved in Somolia, it's also involved in Sudan.  It's normally involved in both these African countries so we're talking about three African countries so NATO has programs with about one-third of Africa's land areas, more than one-third, is under NATO programs.  NATO and the European Union and the United States want to see a divided Africa.  This is very clear from their policies.  I'm going to mention something called the Mediterranean Dialogue.  The Mediterranean Dialogue is a NATO partnership program, it's an expansion of NATO.  The countries that are part of this are Morocco, Algeria, the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia -- these are the African members.  That are part of it.
Kudakwashe Cayenne: Oh.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Yeah, they're part of it.  And this program is also complimented by a European Union program called the Euro Mediterranean Partnership which Nicolas Sarkozy renamed as the Union for the Mediterranean, okay?  So this is very important to grasp because NATO expansion  has always been aligned with European Union expansion.   All the Eastern European countries that joined NATO also joined the EU after.  And they joined NATO through something called a Partnership for Peace which was made after the end of the Cold War --  it was made towards the end of the Cold War.  So it was made to -- It was made as a way of securing these countries and I have to explain this, this is very important, the Partnership for Peace prevented these Eastern European countries -- and I will get back to Africa, but I need to explain what happened in Eastern Europe.   It prevented these Eastern European countries from pursuing any other security alternative to NATO.  All of these countries used to be part of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.
Kudakwashe Cayenne: Okay.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: But once they joined the Partnership for Peace, they were never -- They didn't become full NATO members and they didn't have the benefits of being part of NATO but they fell under NATO control.  And this is what's important, when they fell under NATO control, they were promised that they could join NATO after certain reforms.  These reforms were security, military and political which effected the economy.  So they were put under this program which meant that they had one foot in the door and one foot out of the door.  They were put under this program because NATO could guarantee their structures could be changed.  They were being restructured and being prepared for NATO but restructuring meant that they were essentially being turned into colonies.  The things they had to do was make public their defense budgets and programs which meant NATO would know exactly what they were doing with their defense and this is a way to keep your eye on them.  At the same time, old military officers were being pushed out and a lot of these old military officers were very patriotic and they would look out for their country's benefit and there was a chance that it might enact a coup d'etat in their country against the new governments that were coming in place.  And this is what's important, the new governments were all supported and funded by the United States and its western allies within NATO and they were putting a lot of criminals in place or people that were treacherous who actually were selling their national assets to the United States and Western Europe, they were letting their countries become colonized.
Heart of Africa, hosted by Kitakyushu Cayenne, is a weekly program featuring music and interviews (Mahdi's interview starts about ten minutes into the program).  You can hear it live at More Light Radio every Wednesday at 2000 hours Central Africa Time.  Tomorrow night, the latest episode is broadcast live and the scheduled guest is Abramo Askew with the topic of the conflict in Syria, unrest in the region, the notorious video out of the US and Muslim reactions.
On Libya for a moment more, September 11, 2012, the US Consulate in Libya was attacked resulting in the deaths of Glen Dotty, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.   Last Thursday's snapshot included:
On that attack, earlier today Kathleen Tennessee of the Laos Angeles Times reported, "The White House is now describing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a 'terrorist attack,' a shift in emphasis after days of describing the lethal assault as a spontaneous eruption of anger over an anti-Islamic film made in California." 
Ruth covered this topic in two post last week, Thursday's  "White House spin dissolves: It was terrorism" and Friday's  "White House spin dissolves: It was terrorism."  The first included NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams' report on the White House announcing it was terrorism:
Brian Williams:  It won't bring back the U.S. Ambassador or the three other Americans who were murdered -- including two former Navy Seals, but tonight: What happened the night they died?  The storming of that U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is being labeled an act of terrorism by the White House.  That was not the initial story and some in government have given conflicting versions for what happened there that night.  We begin tonight with tonight with what it does mean.  Our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell in our D.C. bureau tonight. Andrea, good evening.

Andrea Mitchell:  Good evening, Brian.  And tonight the White House confirmed that the attack was an act of terror -- officials say by al Qaeda  sympathizers.  But big questions remain about when it was planned and why initial reports were wrong?
See Ruth's post for the full transcript and she's also posted the video of the report.  On her Friday post, she noted that while NBC treated this as major news, PBS' NewsHour reduced it to two sentences in the newswrap and didn't even note that the White House had admitted it was a terrorist act.
The NewsHour could fix their omission today.  AP reports today that the White House was pressed on Air Force One about where they stand on the attack since last Thursday saw Jay Carney deliver the announcement, was this also the opinion of President Barack Obama?
Q    Jay, in his interview on the Today Show this morning, the Libyan President said that the attacks on the consulate had nothing to do with the video that sparked all the protests as elsewhere.  He also repeated his claim that they were preplanned, given their sophistication, so given that's in direct contradiction to what the administration says, who's right?
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell you that President Magarief made very heartfelt public statements before his meeting with Secretary Clinton in New York about the brave four Americans who were killed and the firm commitment of Libya to not allow a violent minority to hijack Libya's hopes and dreams. 
Over the course of the past two weeks, this administration has provided as much information as it has been able to.  We made clear that our initial assessment and interim reports were based on information that was available at the time.  Several administration officials, including the NCTC director, have spoken on the record about the information we have.  We have also been clear that there's an ongoing FBI investigation and that we must allow that investigation to take its course.  The Accountability Review Board established by Secretary of State Clinton is also doing a full investigation. 
I can point you again to the statements by the NCTC director about his assessment as the chief counterterrorism official about the information that we had available at the time about how the attack occurred and who was responsible.  And it continues to be the case that we provided information based on what we know -- not based on speculation, but based on what we know -- acknowledging that we are continuing an investigation that will undoubtedly uncover more facts, and as more facts and more details emerge we will, when appropriate, provide them to you.
Q    The fact that he was pretty equivocal statement today that the video --
MR. CARNEY:  The U.S. intelligence upon which we make our assessments has provided very clear public assessments of the information that they have available, that they had initially, that they had available when the NCTC director talked to Congress and spoke publicly.  And that's what -- we make our judgments based on the information that we gather.
Q    One more question on that.  But how often is the President in contact with President Magarief?  I mean, are they talking every day?  Are they sharing this information?  Is there anything that he might be aware of that the President would not be?
MR. CARNEY:  We have significant cooperation with the new Libyan government, but I don't think intelligence sharing occurs at the President-to-President level, necessarily.  President Obama did speak last week with the Libyan leader, the same night that he spoke with President Morsi of Egypt.  But I don't believe they've had a conversation since.
[. . .]
Q    Is there any reason why the President did not -- he was asked point-blank in The View interview, is this a terrorist attack, yes or no?  Is there any reason why he didn't say yes?
MR. CARNEY:  No, there's -- I mean, he answered the question that he was asked, and there's no reason that he chose the words he did beyond trying to provide a full explanation of his views and his assessment that we need to await further information that the investigation will uncover.  But it is certainly the case that it is our view as an administration, the President's view, that it was a terrorist attack. 
Q    Thanks.
The world could use a lot more Mahdi Darius Nazemroayas but instead we've got far too many Steven Strausses.  Steven Strauss grabs his two brain cells and composes a piece for Huffington Post (good for Huff Post for allowing his alternative opinion, and that's not sarcasm) where he argues Archbishop Desmond Tutu is incorrect, that Bully Boy Bush (occupier of the White House from mid January 2001 through mid-January 2009) and Tony Blair (occupier of John Rentaul's heart and bedside diary as well as former prime minister of England) are not war War Criminals.  He wants you to know, "Tragedy resulting from an individual's actions is regrettable, but isn't in and of itself a crime.  Intent, rather than act, makes someone guilty."  There's another point but let's grab that one first.
It doesn't matter whether or not they intended their illegal war to kill over a million Iraqis.  You can even set aside the issue of Abu Ghraib (for England, the UK secret service getting caught in Basra trying to pass as Iraqis while apparently setting off bombs -- one of the most under-reported moments of the war despite the fact that a prison was destroyed in the process).  You can even set aside illegal weapons being used.  The birth defects demonstrate they were used but you can set that aside.
As Kofi Annan, then United Nations Secretary-General, told the BBC in September of 2004, the war was illegal: "The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.  He said the decision to take action in Iraq should ahve been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally."
If you wage an illegal war, you are a War Criminal.  If you shoot someone dead, you are a murderer.  These are basics under the law.  Blair and Bush did not have authority to start the war but did so.  They intended to start the war regardless of legality.  They broke the law, they did so with intent.  They are War Criminals.
Now Steven Strauss wants to bring Tony Blair into it.  He'll argue, "Tutu did!"  Well, Strauss, if you bring the British into it and you start noting body counts (incorrect ones), it's incumbent upon you to include the British toll.  Let's do what he lacked the manners to do, 179 is the number of "British Armed Forces personnel or MOD civilians" who have died in Iraq since March 2003 according to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence.  Again, if you start mentioning Blair and England and you then give death tolls, it's just rude and insensitive not to give the UK losses.  Iraqi losses?  They aren't really counted.  The Lancet Study found over a million.  It used the same estimating process the UN uses.  It was only 'controversial' because people didn't want to face the realities of the war and worked overtime to try and discredit it.  The methodology stands.  By now, it may be up to two million.  He grossly underestimates the death toll while adding two to the US death toll.  The US Defense Dept does not list "over 4,500 of our own service personnel," it's 4488.
Again, he overestimates the US count (unless he's disputing the official DoD count -- in which case he needs to say so) while underestimating the Iraqi death toll -- and, of course, ignores the British death toll.  The word for that is: Tacky.
Of the war in Iraq and the tremendous cost in terms of deaths, the injured and the money, Strauss insists, "This wasn't leadership by criminal masterminds -- it was mismanagement by incompetent buffoons."  So what's your damn point?
Do we remember the attempt a few years back to rob Velasquez and Sons Mufflers For Less in Chicago?  The robber showed up but the employees said they couldn't open the safe and told him only the manager had the combination. What did the robber do (link goes to WGN report, this is a true story)?  He gave them his cell phone number and told them to call him when the manager got there.  The police had the employees call him and tell him the safe was open, when he showed up with his gun, the police arrested him.
Now the judge may have laughed when the robber appeared in court.  He or she may have told the robber, "You are an incompetent buffoon."  But he or she didn't say, "I want you to plead not guilty by reason of stupidity."  Stupidity -- like ignorance of the law -- is not a valid legal defense.  Why Strauss would choose to weigh in all this time later in defense of Blair and Bush begs the question if he also is an "incompetent buffoon"?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued that the war was based on a lie.  That is a valid argument.  People can disagree but they'll find more to back that up -- whether it's this official or that explaining 'that's the reason we settled on.'  The reality is the people were lied to.  In America about "uranium yellow cake from Africa."  About as real as uranium yellow cake from Betty Crocker.   In England, Tony Blair lied about Iraq having chemical weapons at the ready to attack England in 45 minutes.  Intelligence agencies in both countries knew the statements were wrong.  You can be a Strauss and plead stupidity but if you're lying to the public by 'accident' (or 'accident of stupidity') and you're informed you were wrong (and Blair and Bush were), you correct the record.  If you don't, you're a liar.  They lied the world into that illegal war. Tutu is correct that these were lies.  Strauss is  -- you decide.
Staying on stupidity . . . I'd prefer not to ever say a word against Veterans for Peace and Leah Bolger.  But guess what?  Don't send me stupid crap.
Click here, they met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  If we had space, I'd put it here -- the press release -- in full because it is so stupid.  What was the point of the meeting?  Ahmadinejad is homophobic along with everything else.  Stop meeting with homophobes and declaring, "I am most pleased and honored to be in attendance with all of you."  What was the point of the stupid meeting?  This is embarrassing.  I have no problem with Sean Penn doing a fact finding mission in Iraq as he did. (And that would include, while he was in Iraq, meeting with any official including Saddam Hussein.  Iraq was not a free society, someone of Sean's stature would be pressed to meet with the officials.  That's fine.  There was a purpose for the visit and I have no problem with something like that.  Or meeting to attempt to get hostages or POWs released.)   I have no problem with CODEPINK attempting peace with visits to other countries as they have many times.  But I don't see the point of this meeting with the President of Iran other than, "We don't agree with our own government."
That's the point?  That's fine not to agree with your government.  I believe I rip apart the White House in pretty much every snapshot.  (Whereas VFP nationally shuts down criticism and opposition of Barack Obama from their chapters and refuses to hold him accountable.)  But I don't go meet with little tyrants who are known human rights abusers and say, 'Hey, like you, I disagree with the US government.'  I don't try to find common cause with tyrants or say 'we're two of a kind!'  If there was a purpose to this meeting, I'm missing it.  They say the meeting was about "stressing VSP's commitment to doing everything possible tp prevent a U.S. or U.S.-assisted attack on Iran.  VFP hopes to send a delegation to Iran in October."  Great on the delegation.  May it happen, may the VFP form strong alliances with the Iranian people (who I'm sure are good and wonderful people just like elsewhere in the world).  But there's a world of difference between meeting with him and giving him your blessing (which is what that meeting does -- even before the fawning language) and meeting with the Iranian people.  He is part of a corrupt regime that suppresses people.  I support any journalist from any country interviewing him and hope they hold him accountable on human rights and call him out when he makes homophobic remarks -- which he's been doing for so long that millions and millions have seen Andy Samberg's Saturday Night Live "Iran So Far" (featuring Adam Levine).  If those remarks about gay people had been about Black people, would VFP still be embracing him?  I don't think so.  We don't make homophobia unacceptable until we make it clear with our own actions that it's unacceptable. 
Did you think this meet-up meant that if the US starts bombing Iran, Ahmadinejad is going to say, "We could bomb all of the US but let's make sure not to harm Leah and VFP?"  What the hell is that?  There is no purpose served by that meeting.  It's insulting to the Iranians who are fighting for human rights and dignity and to meet with a noted homophobe is insulting to LGBTs around the world and to all of us who despise and will not tolerate homophobia.   Andy took on homophobia with that video -- and did a wonderful job of it -- but how sad that a comedian (a great one) did more to combat homphobia than Veterans for Peace. I don't support war with Iran and will protest it if the US tries to initiate it.  But I also don't go meet with a known tyrant and express how wonderful it is to be in the same room with his Immense Cruelness.  It's a human rights issue, it's a self-respect issue.
Let's move on.  During a week where reports said that the Ministry of Education was refusing to allow men and women on campuses together, let's note a bright spot.  But let's be clear that the reports, which were denied yesterday by the Ministry of Education, were not about co-education in the way you might think.  What the Ministry was proposing -- but backed down on (at least for now) -- was that no female professors could teach at colleges employing male professors -- or deans -- and 'vice versa.'  'Vice versa' because the ones let go would be women.  Most universities in Iraq have more men on staff than they do women.  This was an attempt to cripple women's employment -- women with advanced degrees and training.  And this is what you get when you put thugs in charge, when you court fundamentalists -- as the US government did in Iraq -- to scare the population into submission.  Now for the bright spot.  AFP reports today that 15-year-old Hoda is among the young Iraqi women and girls taking part in the country's first national weightlifting team.  Dropping back to the August 27th snapshot:

Turning to sports, Alsumaria reports that Baghdad is organizing the first official tournament for women in the Iraqi Federation of Weightlifting.  This will allow the athletes to participate in the Arab Championship taking place in Morroco at the end of September.  It should also hopefully lay the groundwork for Iraqi women to compete in the weighlifting of the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
And that's what it's about, the Olympics, the pursuit of national glory on the international stage.  You want to go for the Gold (and Silver and Bronze)? You need to compete in every sport.  Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reported in July, "For the first time in Olympic history, every country will have a woman competing on its team, including longtime holdout Saudi Arabia, the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday.  Brunei and Qatar will also send female athletes to the London Games for the first time."  Iraq sent 5 men and 3 women to compete in the Summer Olympics in London: Dana Hussein, Adnan Taas, Nour Amer, Rana al-Mashadani, Safa Rashed, Muhannad Ahmad, Ahmed Abdel-Karim and Ali Nazim.  Like all participating in the competition, they were outstanding athletes and, for those eight, making it to the Olympics was a victory.  As John Canzano (Oregonian) pointed out, "It wasn't lost on me that many of the sprinters around [Dana] Abdul Razak in the mixed zone didn't grow up in a nation where being able to compete would even be a question.  Also, with Allyson Felix of the U.S. coming through moments later after winning the heat and wearing the finest traack and field gear to go with the best training/nutrition to go with a USA Track and Field handler who escorted her, I wondered about the vast dispartiy in resources available to athletes here."  Iraq should be very proud of their eight Olympians.  And the decision to create the women's weight lifting team and prepare for 2016 right now demonstrates real foresight on the part of Iraq's National Olympic CommitteeAFP reports of the new weightlifting team:
In one corner, Hoda, wearing a worn tracksuit, waits for her turn to lift again.
"I love the sport," she said. "I used to follow the championships on television and I went to a club and registered."
She has since set personal bests of 60 kilogrammes in the snatch, and 72 kilogrammes in the clean and jerk, which she and her teammates hope to build on in the Arab weightlifting championship in the Moroccan capital Rabat.
"I wish to win the gold medal," Hoda said.
 The desire to win -- whether it's in a sport, on the world stage, in the economy, what have you -- can go a long way towards creating space for human rights advances.  (It can also do the opposite -- but right now in Iraq, in this instance, it's worked to open up the society just a little bit and hopefully it will make a difference.) 
 Turning to violence,  Al Rafidayn notes 3 Tunis bombings targeting a convoy of a police chief  Lt Col Salman Kadhim al-Khazraji which left him,  2 bodyguards and 1 civilian dead and left two bodyguards injured while a Yathrib roadside bombing claimed the  lives of 2 police officers.  AFP adds that an attack on an Iskandiriyah checkpoint left 2 soldiers dead and another injured. Press TV notes that 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk and 1 soldier was shot dead in Mosul.  And if you wonder why AFP's monthly count is always so off, they only count 7 dead yesterday.  Iraq Body Count notes 14 were killed yesterday and that 279 for the month through yesterday.

Meanwhile Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for a visitAFP observes, "Ties between Iraq and Turkey have been marred by a flurry of disputes this year, most recently Ankara's refusal to extradite Iraqi Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court."  The invitation comes as Hurriyet notes, "Iraq is now capable of shooting down Turkish jets entering Iraqi airspace to target Kurdish militants, Iraqi Air Force Officer Iskander Witwit recently told the New York Times."  For years now, Turkey has sent warplanes over northern Iraq to bomb suspected PKK camps (Turkey also sends drones over the area -- drones supplied by the US and some coming from the US CIA station on the Turkish border).  This new capability by Iraq's Air Force (or alleged capability -- they have an issue with flying these planes and currently Iraq has sent a small group of pilots to the US for training) has not detered Turkey.  Selcan Hacaoglu (Bloomberg News) reports there's an effort by the Turkish government to continue the bomb raids, "Parliament will reconvene from its summer holiday on Oct. 1 and is expected to give priority to a one-year extension of the mandate for cross-border attacks, which expires on Oct. 17, Arinc told reporters in Ankara late yesterday."  Areeb Hasni (News Tribe) adds, "Turkey's military chief General Necdet Ozel on Wednesday threatened to launch an assault on the main base of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Qandil mountain region of northern Iraq, after series of attacks on military installments inside the country."  Trend News Agency reveals, "Turkey has begun delivering military equipment to the border with Iraq today, the newspaper Yeni Safak reported with references to the Turkish General Staff.  According to the General Staff, Turkey will conduct the operation against militants of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, which will be called 'Fall cleaning'."
 Turning to the topic of oil, Ercan Ersoy and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's government will start making payments to international oil companies working in the northern Kurdish region next week, said Ashti Hawrami, natural resources minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government."  That will do a bit to ease the tensions between Baghdad and Erbil if it happens.  But it won't make everything fine.  Nawzad Mahmoud (Rudaw) reports that Kurds are losing out in the Iraqi Army and when it comes to governmnet jobs.  In addition, Nehro Muhammad (Rudaw) points out that there remains the issue of the US equivalent of $7 million that Baghad owes the KRG's for the Peshmerga budget.  Of course, there is also the disputed, oil-rich Kirkuk. 
Tom Hayden (The Nation) notes Tim Arango's New York Times report from yesterday states, "At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterrorism and help with intelligence."  The report also points out, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions." Tom ignores that.  Tim Arango should have made that his lede and the focus on the report.  If your big claim for re-election is that you pulled (most of) the troops from Iraq, this attempt to renegotiate goes to the fact that you are lying to the American people.  For a critique of Hayden, click here
Michael R. Gordon and Bernard Trainor's new book The Endgame is noted by Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy) who summarizes some of the points in the book:

  • A president unable to engage in effective personal diplomacy at crunch time because he had failed to invest in the hard work of retail diplomacy along the way. This is a problem that extends well past Iraq, as another blockbuster New York Times story makes clear. As an unnamed U.S. diplomat told the NYT: "He's not good with personal relationships; that's not what interests him...But in the Middle East, those relationships are essential. The lack of them deprives D.C. of the ability to influence leadership decisions."
  • A team whose wild over-confidence contributed to the failure to react in a timely manner to an unraveling situation. In one of the most devastating items in the piece, Gordon quotes Vice President Biden: "I'll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA," he added, referring to the Status of Forces Agreement the Obama administration hoped to negotiate."
  • A team paralyzed by infighting and poisonous civil-military relations. Gordon reports that Thomas Donilon, Obama's national security advisor, criticized Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for presenting military advice that ran counter to what the White House wanted to hear.

In addition, Will Inboden (Foreign Policy) weighs in as well:
Last summer I ruminated on President Obama's curious lack of personal connections with any global leaders of note. Peter Feaver's post below on Iraq and this New York Times story both demonstrate how this deficiency continues to hinder the Obama administration's foreign policy. The Times article describes Obama's "failure to build close personal relationships with foreign leaders that can, especially in the Middle East, help the White House to influence decisions made abroad."
Peter's post and the Times article both point to diplomatic mistakes made with Maliki in Iraq and Mubarak in Egypt. Meanwhile, the list continues to grow of President Obama's other missed opportunities, failures, and simmering crises that all could have benefitted from better personal relationships and rapports -- such as with Karzai in Afghanistan, Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, Merkel in Germany, Harper in Canada, Noda in Japan (the Senkaku Islands standoff between Japan and China could get much worse), Singh in India, Zardari in Pakistan, and especially Netanyahu in Israel. Sure, some of these global leaders can be difficult to get along with, but diplomacy has never been easy.