Saturday, March 30, 2013

When the uninformed review

I can't stop laughing at Louis Proyect.  He's forever uninformed so it's always hilarious when he tries to review a film.  Currently, he's trying to review Robert Redford's The Company You Keep.  The biggest laugh comes here:

Everybody has heard of the Weathermen but who the hell would spend $13 to go see a movie about RATF militants, even if bankable stars like Susan Sarandon and Robert Redford played them?

Susan Sarandon is bankable?

Since when?

Her leading lady status evaporated almost immediately after it emerged.

In 1986, she did Witches of Eastwick (and bitched and moaned that Cher stole her role).  It was the only eighties film she did that made over 60 million.  Her second biggest hit was the $50 million Bull Durham.  That passed for successful when successful was defined as carrying a film to the $100 million mark.

In the 90s, Susan Sarandon co-starred in Thelma & Louise which wasn't huge ($45 million) but did make an impact and leave a legacy.  Otherwise?

She was in 17 films in the 90s.  I'll leave out The Player because she's doing a cameo (she's a journalist in a film within a film).  I'll leave out The Celluloid Closet because it's a documentary and I don't believe she's come out yet -- not even as bi-sexual.  James and the Giant Peach was animated so I'll leave that out as well.  So we're left with 14 films.  The Client made $91 million and Step-mom (co-starring Julia Roberts whom Sarandon partied with after the wedding that never was to Kiefer Sutherland) made $92 million.  And those were 'hits' for Susan.  Only two films came close to the 100 million mark. 

And that was her best decade.

In the '00s, she begins doing her supporting and bit parts.

Casting her as the Evil Queen in 2007's Enchanted gave her the biggest hit of her career ($127 million). 

That's the only film she's been in that has crossed the 100 million dollars mark.

The only film.  And she's not the lead.

Three of her films in the 00s failed to even make one million dollars.

Susan Sarandon isn't bankable.  She was briefly considered it in the early 90s.  Lorenzo's Oil, Safe Passage, Light Sleeper and other films quickly resulted in her leading lady card being pulled.

Susan Sarandon isn't bankable, she never was.  She's also not a star.  What is she?  A later incarnation of Karen Black.  An actress with some talent who briefly was considered as a potential star but quickly revealed she wasn't.

Well, a weaker Karen Black.  Unlike Sarandon, Karen actually could bring in some ticket buyers at her

I haven't seen The Company You Keep yet.  I did see a preview for it at Oz and people booed when Susan Sarandon was onscreen.  She's not a 'beloved' entertainer.  She's not a legend.  She's not box office.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, Salah al-Mutlaq learns what it is to be hated, we examine another area where the Iraq War had influence, and more.

Kitabat notes that protests took place in six provinces today -- with Saleh al-Mutlaq being called out throughout which well get to.  Kitabat notes that Falluja protesters say they are in it for the long haul, until the suffering Iraqi people ends.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The protester's spokesman in Anbar, Sheikh Saeed Allafi highly praised the stand taken by Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrists movement towards demonstrators and protesters in a number of governorates of Iraq, denouncing in the same time what he called the opportunistic pragmatic attitudes by deputy PM, Saleh al-Mutlaq.
Lafi added in a statement to NINA: "Muqtada al-Sadr, chose to stand with the masses when he deduced that the government arbitrary robs the rights of the masses.
He said: "The protesters of Anbar condemn the shameful attitude of Mutlaq, who stripped from the Iraqiya Slate and went to support Maliki government at the expense of the oppressed people.

Al-Shorfa notes:

Protesters in Baghdad, Diyala, Salaheddine, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninawa asked the Iraqi government to meet 13 demands they said were legitimate and constitutional.
"We hope this Friday will be the start of the end for the peaceful popular movement, by way of the government's response to our demands," said Sheikh Qusay Eddine al-Zein, spokesman for Anbar demonstrators.
"The demonstrators will not leave until the last demand has been met," he told Al-Shorfa. "Not as a favour from the government but as an enshrined right that must be restored to us under the new democratic system in Iraq."
"The government began discussing the demands and announced it would meet four of them," said Sheikh Abdullah al-Samarrae, Friday preacher in Samarra, Salaheddine province. "That is a good sign, but all demands must be met."

Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweets:

  1. 's beautiful, brief protest art. 'I can see you' young artist tells politicians. His mural taken down tonight

Iraqi Spring MC has video of the Baghdad protests and other cities for protests include Samarra, Baiji, Kirkuk, Falluja, Muqdadiyah, and Tamiyah.  The last one is where Nouri sent his forces in to do searches and arrests.  In addition, Nouri's forces instituted a crackdown preventing anyone from entering or leaving TamiyahRaids also took place in Baiji. At Baghdad's Abu Hanifa, Nouri's forces surrounded the mosque and prevented worshipers from entering and at least one person was beat up by Nouri's forcesDar Addustour reports on the Ramadi and Falluja protests noting that the protesters feel betrayed by certain politicians such as Saleh al-Mutlaq and that they have declared that only protesters from a province can speak for the protesters of that province.  In Falluja, Sheikh Hussein Obeid said that the government's refusal to meet the protesters demands are provoking a crisis.

One topic of the protests was Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  Also getting attention was Mohammed Tamimi (Minster of Education) and Ahmed Karbouli (Minister of Industry) who joined al-Mutlaq at the Wednesday Cabinet meeting presuming to speak for the protesters -- they don't speak for the protesters and the protesters don't approve of what was said.  Iraqi Spring MC shows a huge poster carried with Saleh al-Mutlaq's face on it, a big red X across his face and the proclamation that he is a traitor to the Iraqi people.  Alsumaria has a photo of his face being carried on posters.    He was denounced in Babylonian for his "false assertions."  He was denounced at the Baiji protest as someone looking to increase their own stature by pretending to speak for the protesters.

NINA notes that Iraiqya is blaming the al-Mutlaq split on Hayder al-Mulla.  In Samarra, Iraqi Spring MC documents, a banner was raised at the sit-in noting the cry of "No on federalism, no on sectarianism, no on divisions. Yes to the glory and dignity of Iraq."

All Iraq News notes a Kirkuk car bombing today has "resulted in killing and injuring a number of citizens,"And at first, it appeared that was it.  Then it all started pouring in.  All Iraq News reports 5 Baghdad bombings which have claimed 14 lives and left twenty-five injured.  Alsumaria notes a Muqdadiya bombing has left 9 dead and ten injured and, on that Kirkuk bombing, they count 2 dead and thirty-five injured.  In addition, police shot dead 1 suspect in Mosul, and a Baquba bombing left three police members injured.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

Car bombs kill 18 at Shiite mosques in Iraq, 3 others dead in separate shootings - 's wrap:

And AFP notes that the Kirkuk bombing death toll grew to 4 with seventy-two injured while 2 teachers were shot dead in Kut and the press received the usual treatment: "Security forces elsewhere in the capital threatened to detain AFP journalists for attempting to film and take photographs of the aftermath of the bombings."   On the topic of violence, Jane Arraf Tweets:

Sistani rep Muhsin al-Battat seriously wounded in car bombing of Shia mosque after delivering Friday sermon.

Very bad development - Sistani rep, voice of moderation in , critically wounded by car bomb after giving Friday sermon in .

Remember this:
With very few exceptions, an important event in Iraq went unnoticed in the U.S. media this month. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a force that included helicopters to western Iraq to arrest Rafi al-Issawi, the former finance minister and a leading Sunni Arab opposition member. Al-Issawi, who was protected by armed members of the Abu Risha clan, one of post-2003 Iraq’s most powerful Sunni tribes, escaped capture.
This action came on the heels of al-Maliki’s telephone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry and took Washington by surprise. Had a confrontation ensued, the results would have been calamitous. It could even have provided the spark for the beginning of a civil war. Still, al-Maliki’s actions represent another nail in the coffin for a unified Iraq. Al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, had previously accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a leading Sunni political figure, of terrorism, forcing him to flee Iraq in 2011. Al-Hashimi was subsequently tried in absentia and sentenced to death.
Al-Maliki’s policies have significantly raised tensions in the Sunni regions of Iraq. There are demonstrations in many of the Sunni provinces that seek to emulate those of the Arab Spring. They are one reason al-Maliki has targeted al-Issawi. He wants to contain the dissent before it spreads.

It's from Professor Henri J. Barkey's "Iraq's great divider: Prime Minister Maliki's actions may lead to the country's breakup, as the U.S. stands idly by" (Los Angeles Times).  We noted it this week when the Los Angeles Times published it, we noted it became huge on Arabic social media (also it was reported on by the Iraqi Times) and now Stars and Stripes is carrying the column.  It's an important column.  I wonder if Barkey had any idea of the reach it would have when he wrote it?

The costs of the illegal war have been many.  Reason  notes the 4 to 6 trillion dollar tab."  Yesterday we noted, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report,  "The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers between $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher [Linda J. Bilmes]."  That's where that cost was coming from.  Those costs did not all take place in 2003 -- the veterans who were wounded were wounded throughout the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  So it's kind of strange that some want to look at other costs but only look at 2003.  It's also kind of strange the terms they use.   Chris Hedges (TruthDig) had a great column this week with a factual error and Tom Cleveland (All Voices) may have realized it and tried to pad it out by taking "TV news" and adding "broadcast journalism" to it.  But while the reality is that Phil Donahue shouldn't have been pulled from MSNBC -- his was the highest rated program, a fact that no one seems to note, he was beating Chris Matthews in the ratings when he was pulled -- the reality is also that he wasn't doing TV news -- nor is Matthews or any of the talk show hosts on MSNBC or any other channel.  Talk shows are not news.  They can sometimes qualify as public affairs programming but they are not news.

I can remember watching Today on NBC, for example, Monday, January 12, 2004.  It's an entertainment show that features news.  And a breathless report did a live report that Matt Lauer swallowed because eh is so disgusting and such a piece of s**t and that's why so many of us are so thrilled to see his downfall take place in public (hey, Matt, at least you got in some good golfing with George H.W. Bush, right?). So there was Matty Lauer open mouthed in shock at the 'news' being reported.  Ron Suskind's book (which the reporter was waiving on air) The Price of Loyalty would be released the next day and it was all these fantastic charges by former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and it included documents that the White House said O'Neill was in trouble for taking and they were talking criminal charges and . . . .

And I was dialing on my cell phone to friends at Today asking WTF was going on.  How the hell did that piece of crap presented as reporting make the air?  I too had an advanced copy and, unlike the NBC 'reporter,' I had actually read the book.  But you didn't need to read the whole book, I pointed out on the phone repeatedly, to know that O'Neill asked permission to take the files when he left the White House -- that's in Ron Suskind's opening introduction.

The next day, January 13, 2004, Katie Couric did a mop up segment where they addressed the fact that, yes, O'Neill did have permission to take those files.  There would be no prosecution and he had broken no laws.  She did it with another reporter. No one mentioned the previous report.  Katie is gone from Today by her own choice, the reporter who did the mop up is at another network because NBC didn't give a damn about facts repeatedly.  Matt Lauer's only being brought down today because he's no longer pretty to look at and the reporter who did the false report, the bag boy for the White House who waived a book on air that he didn't read the first pages of (the introduction)?

That was David Gregory.  And for being a whore and not a journalist, he was eventually promoted to host of Meet The Press -- where he scares away viewers with that creepy forehead that screams for either botox or bangs.

So spare me your Chevy to levy drive about the day TV news supposedly died.  Worth noting, on the topic of Ron Suskind, that the well researched, by the facts journalist published another look at another administration, this one was Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.  It was a different administration but the tactics that White House used to discredit Suskind's books were incredibly similar and it's very sad that the American tax dollar is repeatedly misused by administrations to brainstorm how to attack US citizens who say things the White House disagrees with.

That 2011 treatment?  Much more important to a story about the death of journalism than Phil Donahue's firing.  Donahue's firing was well noted in real time and it continues to be.  It's not hidden history.  What was done to Ron Suskind -- by Republican and by Democratic administrations?  Much less well known and representative of the problem in journalism.  We were going to be the media.

That was the promise in 2003.  I didn't understand it.  I was speaking all over the country, starting in February 2003, against the Iraq War.  As I traveled city to city, campus to campus, young America was outraged by the Iraq War but adement that something good would come from this crime: The creation of a new media.  Blogs and websites and serv-lists and micro-radio and web radio and all these other terms I had no idea about.   (This site started in November 2004 and I didn't know what I was doing then anymore than I do today.)

And for a brief moment, that did look possible.  But there was no real desire to build a media and you can see that looking back today.  I think the people I met were sincere, I just think they were lied to, tricked and duped by so many.  Take Air America.  That was the biggest con job in the world, in all of its incarnations which began in 2004.  In terms of being opposed to the Iraq War, the hosts Laura Flanders, Janeane Garofalo, Sam Seder, Mike Malloy, Lizz Winstead (only if Chuck D were on Unfiltered that day, with War Hawk Rachel Maddow who repeatedly stated on air that the US couldn't leave Iraq, Lizz was silent), Marc Maron and Randi Rhodes were.  That may seem like a lot but there were a lot of hours to fill.  And, again, if Chuck D wasn't around, Rachel was pimping her learn-to-love the war b.s.  She repeatedly cited Colin Powell's 'Pottery Barn rule' (if you break it, you buy it -- Pottery Barn has no such rule) and insisted that the US remain in Iraq.  She refused to allow anti-war veterans to come on her show.  (By contrast, Janeane and Sam were happy to interview those currently serving, who'd been deployed to Iraq and were saying that the US needed to withdraw.)

Air America Radio talked about the need to build a new media.  It was just talk to cover the fact that they only existed to get Democrats elected (I'm referring now to the money backing the effort and not the on airs).  So the ratings challenged, money destroying 'network' finally went under as soon as a Democrat was elected to the White House.

But it never needed to be that way.  The so-called history of Air America Radio is largely a lie.  By the summer of 2004, Air America Radio had enough listeners to be a hit, enough to make a healthy profit.  It had listeners all over the country and was breaking records. 

If you're skeptical of this, that's because you've been lied to and misled.  The focus was on land-locked radio stations, physical ones.  That's not where their audience was.  Their audience was in streaming.  Real Player, for example, had never had any demand like it before.  They had to change their streaming procedures and rules for Air America.  This could have been built on, this was the model.  But they weren't interested in a new media.  Again, Real Player had never seen anything like it before.  Streaming in the millions and not for a minute or two but for hours -- it was averaging that over 50% of Air America Radio listeners were listening for six continuous hours.

Air American Radio was a flop and that's because they wanted to be old media.  That's because they whored as well and not just in terms of the Democratic Party.  I can tell all the tales because I know the bulk of the players.  Sam Seder, for example?  Cowed easily.  The first time?  On air, he was repeatedly attacking Adam Nagourney's bad journalism.  A New York Times reader once wished that Nagourney was dead and Drama Queen Nagrouney tried to inflate it into a death threat -- destroying the poor man's life in the process.  So Seder couldn't have picked a worse target.  Nags whined like the little priss he is and got the advertising department to call Air America Radio and threaten to pull the New York Times ads (which were then running once an hour) if Seder didn't shut up.  Seder not only shut up, he immediately deleted his comedy blog Ad Nags.

The one truly independent program Air America had was The Laura Flanders Show.  In part because Laura had decades of experience and was a popular on air in the Bay Area and in part because she broadcast (live) Saturday and Sunday evenings (three hours each night), she was left alone and built up a huge following.  She could and did bring on war resisters.  She could and did loudly decry the illegal war.  Only Janeane matched Laura for eloquence when it came to speaking out against the Iraq War and for devotion to covering that topic.  And that meant that Janeane and Laura called out Democrats as a result.  On Janeane's show, there was Sam Seder to act as rescuer and point out some good quality to the elected officials who was a War Hawk.  There was no such person on Laura's show. 

So how could the curb her?  They needed to partner her, you understand, it will be good for all involved. So began Radio Nation with Laura Flanders.  It started off okay.  But Laura was fighting for everyone of those programs.  I'm not fond of Laura Flanders anymore because she's been a stooge for Barack so don't think this is me doing a favor for someone I like. This is about reality and recognition to those who tried.  Laura fought like crazy to make shows that matter.  Not only was she fighting Air America, she was also fighting The Nation magazine.  And as her show as stripped of hours, The Nation began insisting more and more that since they were 'sponsoring' the show, the guests should include Nation journalists.  Soon that's all it included. Each week was about the pseudo-issues being churned out by that week's bad print edition. Laura created Grit TV for a reason.  I wish it were worth watching, I wish she had the guts and courage she once did to decry what is going on today.  Maybe she can't because of all she went through at Air America?  Maybe the scars are too deep.  But while she was on Air America Radio, she fought to get coverage that mattered, she fought to keep the Iraq War a topic of discussion even though Air America was issuing statements (once Lionel and others were added, orders were no longer needed, the hosts were determined to comply with mere suggestions) that Iraq not be covered (because the Democratic Party had walked away from it).  To her last show on Air America Radio, Laura fought like crazy to make it matter.

And Air America Radio could have mattered.  I was at the meeting in August 2004 where the suits discussed whether to go forward with trying to buy radio stations and syndicate or rather they build on the unheard of web presence.  I was being asked to invest.  I didn't.  If they had built around the web, I would have because that seemed new whereas the plans presented about purchasing radio stations and syndication reminded me of the problems a friend had with her workout studios.  I stated at that meeting that I would invest if it pursued the online model only.  I pointed out the problems that they already had with stations -- including knocking out a Black radio station which the local community greatly (and rightly) resented.  Across the nation, they were going to grab stations (low-rated, yes, but they did have listeners) and try to penetrate new markets as a new entity while pissing off segments of the audience by taking over these existing stations?  I didn't see it as a win and I didn't see that the network could carry off purchasing those stations, let alone running them.

'So that's what happens when a corporation tries to be of the people,' you say.  'It's bound to end in disaster.' 

Maybe, but what didn't end in disaster.  The Iraq War made Pacifica Radio a national presence.  It was something to see.  And on air, they covered Iraq.  They didn't do an Iraq show, that was too much work.  But if it was in the news that day, they did mention it.  Brian Edwards-Tiekert, to his credit, did try to build enthusiasm for an Iraq War program.  When that failed, he tried to talk stations into carrying War News Radio -- which some saw as an effort to kill local voices but was actually an effort to get Pacifica to focus on the wars -- which is why Pacifica is supposed to be around.  But the Iraq War was a cash cow to Pacifica.

They didn't get Air America Radio numbers -- no one had ever gotten those numbers before and probably won't again - but they did see huge increases in streaming.  KPFA being the most news based of the Pacifica stations benefited the most.  WBAI, not able to grasp what a schedule is or that dead men should maybe go off the air after they did and not still be hosting a weekly series, saw starts and spurts.  In terms of streaming, their hits were Law and Disorder Radio, Taking Aim with Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone, Wake Up Call with Deepa Fernandes and Behind The News With Doug Henwood.  Of those four programs, only Law and Disorder remains (and has greatly increased its syndication around the country).  Wake Up Call remains with a new host who seems to think a party atmosphere is needed.  Deepa now works for KPCC.  Doug Henwood's WBAI show was dumped by WBAI but KPFA saw the value in it (they were repeating it already) and it was such a hit on Saturdays that it's now got prime afternoon time during the week (Thursdays at noon).  Mya and Ralph are no longer on WBAI.  I like Ralph and Mya but they're off because they were greedy.  They were being offered another slot and it wasn't good enough for them.  Since the bulk of their listeners came from archives and not from live radio, the time slot shouldn't have mattered, they would have still had the show and its internet presence would have remained but a pride factor entered in and that's their own damn fault.  All of Pacifica, but especially WBAI hosts, should be made very aware that they do not own any of the airwaves or any segment on the schedule.  The failure to do that has been the biggest downfall for Pacifica and it's why so few of the shows matter today.  In addition, they waste a fortune on Mitch Jeserich's bad program when that money could be spent on programming that matters and not yet another public affairs program.  That features the same guests you hear on all the other Pacifica stations.

But while Iraq was covered, they made money.  KPFA had pledges from all over.  Not token ones, either.  They had people from other states pledging and doing so with the monthly pledge on the credit card.  They were rolling in dough and that was because of the Iraq War.  Yet they refused to create a program for it and when the Democratic Party officials lost interest in the war, so did KPFA and others.  And they lost listeners and they lost donations and it still hasn't hit them.  They still get on air and mention Iraq in pitches for money.  They have to do their beg-a-thons even more frequently these days.  It's because they failed the listener.  The Iraq War gave them a chance to prove they were something different from the mainstream.  Forget that they all whored for Barack in 2008 -- and I mean during the primaries, not just in the general election. They ran off listeners by ignoring Iraq.  Even to this day, when KPFA broadcasts rare Iraq coverage -- take the great radio documentary that Nora Barrows-Friedman just did and  Flashpoints broadcast entitled Iraqi Frequencies: 10 Years of Occupation and Resistance.  If you missed it, you can currently click here and stream. It is also posted at Project Censored for streaming but that's a KPFA stream as well.  Nora made the documentary with Shakomako and they've posted it at their website. But even to this day, when they do rare Iraq coverage, it helps the station.  Nora's documentary helped the station so much that they damn well should be re-establishing her as full time employee -- full time paid employee.  I don't know if she's aware of the huge positive response KPFA has received over that documentary. 

And if they'd continued to cover Iraq, things could have mattered.  Working from a Justice Department press release, Sandra Lupien broke the news of War Crimes that the US was willing to prosecute.  We're talking about Steven D. Green who was convicted  May 7, 2009 for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21, 2009, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead he was sentenced to life in prison.   From the July 3, 2006 snapshot:

Sandra Lupien noted on today on KPFA's The Morning Show, the military had put the age of the female at 20 years-old when they announced their investigation last week (Friday). Reuters reports that the mayor of Mahmudiya declared today that the woman "was no more than 16 years old when she was killed along with her parents and young sister". Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, "the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death" while, if convicted on the charge of rape, "the maximum statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison."

Sandra Lupien always found things that others missed and when no one -- not even the major dailies -- were aware of the arrest, KPFA listeners knew about it.  That's why they donated. That's why people out of state streamed and donated.  KPFA had a national presence and listeners from around the country who were willing to donate for that kind of coverage.  And they threw it away.  Did so knowingly.  There was a slaughter in Iraq one day which was only noted on the newsbreak and Aimee Allison groaned that she was "so sick of hearing about Iraq." It was a mini-rant which was partly recorded in the studio (she wasn't on air during her rant) and part of the reason why, when she was fired, no one gave a damn.  (It hadn't helped that she'd taken to the airwaves to call for book burning -- specifically she wanted copies of The New Yorker burned because they ran an image ridiculing The Prophet Barack.  That kind of nonsense will never build good will in the Bay Area where we don't take to supporting book burning for any reason -- certainly not to whore for a politician.)  

So corporate new media failed, public media failed.  But what of this new media? 

As great magazines like Clamor closed shop, the left model wasn't apparently going to be print.  But there was Independent Media Center.  Remember that?  It had seed money and it would depend upon contributions from locals.  It was all over the world.  In the US, it was hundreds of sites with most states having multiple Indy Media Center sites. 


The circus is falling down on its knees
The big top is crumbling down
It's raining in Baltimore fifty miles east
Where you should be, no one's around
I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I need a big love
I need a phone call

-- "Raining in Baltimore," written by Adam Duritz, first appears on Counting Crows' August and Everything

It's raining in Baltimore, Baltimore Indymedia announced it was shutting down February 25, 2012.  Binghamton IMC was one that regularly updated.  Visit today and find "The Binghamton IMC site is gone, RIP."  San Franciso Indymedia is no more (its rival Indybay remains active).  Arizona IMC, Kansas City IMC Madison Indymedia, . . . so many gone.  Indymedia US pretends it's still around but would the top story on your page be from September 26, 2012 if you were really still around?  Seattle Indymedia was the first (1999) and it's no longer around.  Not everyone ceased publication.  California is represented by, among others, Santa Cruz Indymedia, Los Angeles Indymedia, In addition, Atlanta Indymedia, Chicago Indymedia, Boston Indymedia and Colorado Indymedia are still around.

That should have been huge, IMC.  It had the least overhead.  It did face attacks from the Justice Dept, true.  But most destructive, if you talk to Indymedia vets, was the Cult of St. Barack.  I disagree.  The most destructive aspect was catering to the Cult of St. Barack.  No one forced you to cater.  But once you did, your readers -- or drive-bys -- knew you could be bullied into submission so they then controlled what you covered and what you didn't.  You traded influence for likability failing to grasp that influence is the only thing that matters.  Or, for that matter, that the people who say they'll love you when you write just what they tell you forget to inform you that they won't respect you and they won't read you.  You sealed your own fates.  In the process, you ran off your real audience -- a group of independent thinkers from across the political spectrum who didn't see anything 'independent' about an outlet becoming suck-up to teacher each day.  The brown nosing is what killed IMC.  The sites that survived tended to be willing to fight for what they believed in.  San Francisco offers the best example. San Francisco Indymedia was an embarrassment.  It was nothing but a megaphone for the Democratic Party.  Indybay was independent.  The two fought like crazy and there was bad blood.  Both claimed to represent the Bay Area.  In the end, San Francisco Indymedia was the one to go under.  Colorado IMC was incredibly independent and that's why it thrives today.  But so many of the outlets became nothing but cheerleaders.  They'd cheerlead politicians and they cheerlead TV personalities.  They offered no critique that was worth reading.  They were rehashing talking points about 2003 and 2004 and the GOP is evil and blah blah blah.  It didn't reflect the changed landscape.  It was artificial and fake.

And so it died.  Indymedia can't applaud, for example, the Libyan War and expect to have an audience.  It goes against everything IMC was created for. 

IMC had a huge audience when it was able to provide Iraq commentary and some coverage.  Those outlets that continued to be about justice flourished.  The bulk went under as they twisted themselves into pretzels to justify one sell-out after another by the now-in-charge Democrats.  There are answers here for future generations and for media activists.  But notice how this topic has been ignored.  Notice how the deaths of IMCs all over the country have taken place with no comment from the same outlets that used to promote them.

The Iraq War is illegal.  It has also been a non-stop teachable moment demonstrating what we refuse to look at as a people, what we refuse to examine, what we will put up with and what we will gladly ignore.  All the people wasting time trying to pinpoint the so-called death of TV news or news or whatever miss the reality that a vibrant healthy media has been one of the biggest casualties of the Iraq War -- and that took place after 2003.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Smash airs on NBC.  Right now it's on Tuesday nights.

The latest episode?

Debra Messing's Julia continues to be the best thing about the show.  That's not from the writing.  As I watched Julia talk to a man from 15 years prior and rolled my eyes over the dialogue (he was supposed to direct her play but she dumped him for the Lincoln Center and "Mike Nichols!" -- I think she said Mike Nichols twice), I realized that the writers were yet again trying to pair her up.

Julia started season one with a husband and an ex-lover Michael.  Before the season ended, she tried to have both.  It did not end well.  This year, they gave her a hunky play doctor and they had chemistry.  Now they're giving her this guy.

None of it ever makes sense.  None of it is ever well written.

But she makes it work.  Debra Messing deserves the Emmy for this role.  She also deserves a better show, a much better show.  NBC better start tailoring one around her talents.

(I don't think Smash will see season three.)

Tom brought his boyfriend into Bombshell.  Now that he's the director, he can do that.

Only Julia seemed bothered by the notion.

Then Tom had to fire him (listening to Julia) because the scene he created for him to sing wasn't essential to the show.

Excuse me, but last season Tom's boyfriend was a dancer.  He wasn't an actor in Bombshell.  My understanding was he left early this season to be a dancer in a road company production.  So my point here is that he didn't need to be a singer to have a part.  He could have been a dancer.  He could have kept a job.

The thing ended badly and the boyfriend made a comment that said to me, "He's talking about their relationship."  But Tom didn't catch it.

Tom's annoying.  Now we have Ivy back as Marilyn.  She can't act the part.  If it were Anna Nicole Smith, she could handle that.  She's not Marilyn and she never will be.  When Tom starts getting fussy and effusive with his compliments of her, it just drives home how bad she is as Marilyn.

Bernadette Peters will be back (maybe next week?) as Ivy's mother.  They're going to cast her as Marilyn's mother to try to get publicity.  Eileen came up with the plan, Tom signed off.  No one's bothered to give Ivy a head's up.  (You know her mother will just show up without calling so look for Ivy to be shocked.)

Derek, Jimmy, Karen is a better story.  We even got to see Derek scared which we've never seen before.  Or Derek admitting he was wrong (at least not admitting he was wrong when he wasn't trying to hit on someone).

Ana was my problem here.

The actress can sing.

She could be successful on Broadway or with a recording career or both.

But the role cast was diva.  Jimmy was furious that Derek wanted to use some Glee actress and Karen was pushing Ana to go for it even though Derek had already stated Ana didn't have what was needed.

She sang "If I Were A Boy" very well (maybe too well for Beyonce's blatant rip off of Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend").  Great voice.  But it's not a diva song.  It's a soft song for the most part.  They also didn't give her any choreography.  She hops up on the bar and walks around on it.  At one point, she hits the levers for the beer.

That was it.

Yet, we're not only supposed to believe this proves she can play the Diva in the musical (they call it "the Diva") but we're also supposed to believe that Derek sees it now?

It was as if she opened with a ballad -- as if she opened a concert with a ballad.  A no-no.  An energy killer.

If they were going to go with that song -- and they should not have -- then they needed to give her some real choreography so she could strut.  Presumably The Diva will strut.  Instead, they gave her a soft little song and nothing to do.

The episode ended with Karen opening her apartment door (and Ana's since they live together) thinking Derek's there only to see Jimmy and the two begin kissing and stripping.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 
Wednesday, March 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Tareq al-Hashemi voices thoughts on where things are headed for Iraq, protesters meet with politicians from Iraqiya to discuss demands, Iraq resumes executions, Lt Dan Choi prepares for tomorrow's DC trial, and more.

Today Anonymous Tweeted:

He fought for us now let's fight for him.

Anonymous is right.  Dan Choi fought for equality.  Now the Justice Dept, the administration, wants to trash him.  He fought for equality and they're dragging him into court tomorrow.  Peace activist Cindy Sheehan notes, "Dan Choi served his country and stood up for something bigger when he got home -- and they still prosecute him for making a difference.  This is insane."  So what's he going on trial for?  Protesting.  You'd think this was Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq the way the White House is trying to treat a protester.

Adam vs the Man is a show hosted by Iraq War veteran Adam KokeshLast week, Adam spoke with Dan.  Dan was opposed -- as were most people -- to the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell which allowed gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they hid who they were or lied about who they were.  From the broadcast.

Dan Choi:  Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a violation of the Constitution, I thought.   But it prevented me from telling the truth about who I was even though the West Point honor code said, "You will not lie or tolerate those who do."  And I never really thought that it was a lying issue, I never really thought that it was an honor or integrity issue because I said, "This is the rule, this is what I signed up for, I knew that was part of the contract."  And it wasn't until I fell in love for the very first time -- I was 26-years-old.  And I never had a girlfriend.  Never had a boyfriend.  Never expressed love.  Never felt that somebody else was that important to me, that would be more important to me than myself.  And when I did fall in love, and I had come back from Iraq, that's when I realized that it really was lying.  When you have to lie about the person that supports you no matter what, when you put them in the closet, it then became an intensely selfish thing, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  And I know a lot of soldiers are out there, and I used to think the same way, that it's a very noble thing to suffer.  That's a very common soldier-military mentality.  And then I realized because you're forcing someone else to go into nonexistence for your own career, or for your own status or paycheck or rank, that's not anything that I signed up for.  I never got promised that I would be a one-star general, four-star general. That's not what service was about.  So I looked down the barrel of possibly of giving up everything in order to live a life of real truth.  And it was because of love that I found out what the honor code really meant.  In many ways that's sad --

Adam Kokesh: (Laughing) That's not how the Army planned it, Dan!

Dan Choi:  I sort of went off the -- off the plan.   But sometimes in your life and in your journey, you realize that your training is not just what's comfortable, it's not what everybody else is doing.  That's when your training really does come into play, when you're in the middle of combat, that's one kind of bravery.  But then going home to my parents after having falling in love and wanting to come out to them -- I had come out to my cousin, I had come out to my sister, I had come out to some of my friends in the Army.  But I was afraid of coming out to my dad, coming out to my mom.  And I thought it was like going into combat without the body armor. 

Peter G. Tatchell (Huffington Post UK) explains:

This Thursday, 28 March, at 9am in the US District Court, Washington DC, gay Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, Arabic linguist, West Point graduate and Iraq war veteran, stands trial for his past protests against the since repealed anti-gay military policy 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' (DADT).
[. . .]
In 2010, to protest against his dismissal, and against President Obama's failure to repeal DADT, Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence three times. These protests help force the issue of DADT up the political agenda at a time when the Oval Office and Congress were dragging their heels on repeal.
Choi explained why he resorted to direct action methods: "We knew that presidential leadership was critical to civil rights and military service. Our Commander In Chief finally led only after we used the same tactics of Alice Paul, the Suffragettes, African American civil rights protestors, and many other identity groups that have won their equality through sacrifice."
Three years after Choi's handcuffing protests, the US Federal Attorney's Office refuses to dismiss the charges against him. The prosecution is being pursued by Assistant US Attorney, Angela S. George.

Tomorrow, before the trial goes into session, there will be a pre-trial rally on the steps of the courthouse with speakers like Peter Tatchell, the NAACP's Ben Jealous, Evelyn Thomas, Robin Tyler and Rev Jesse Jackson.

Moving over to Iraq, AFP reports that Iraq executed 18 people this month.   November 29th, speaking to the United Nations Security Council, Martin Kobler noted the vast number of executions that had taken place in 2012. 

Martin Kobler:  To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq.  53 of them since July.  The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian.  I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions. 

Kolber is the Special Envoy to Iraq for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Today KUNA notes, "EU High Representative Catherine Ashton [. . .] expressed concern over recent reports of a number of executions in Iraq."  Elena Ralli (New Europe) quotes Ashton stating:

I deeply regret that the authorities have chosen to re-start executions now, when the Iraqi government had committed to re-examining the cases of prisoners and detainees. Iraq is aware of the EU's unequivocal position against the death penalty. The EU strongly believes that capital punishment violates the most fundamental of human rights. The EU appreciates the seriousness of the crimes for which those sentenced to death have been convicted. The EU however does not believe death penalty will act as a deterrent.

Ashton is only one of many who've expressed concerns recently.   At the end of last year, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme's Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui declared, "Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on 'confessions' obtained under torture.  Instead of carrying out executions, the Iraqi authorities should prioritize fixing its deeply flawed criminal justice system."  Also last year, Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork pointed out, "The Iraqi authorities' insistence on carrying out this outrageous string of executions, while unwilling to reveal all but the barest of information, underlines the opaque and troubling nature of Iraq's justice system.  Rather than executing people, Iraq should focus on reforming its security and judicial systems to protect its citizens from increasing human rights violations."  Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) recently outlined the process to obtaining one 'confession' in Iraq:

One Iraqi woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her nephew was first detained when he was just 18. Held under the infamous Article Four which gives the government the ability to arrest anyone "suspected" of terrorism, he was charged with terrorism. She told, in detail, of how her nephew was treated:

"They beat him with metal pipes, used harsh curse words and swore against his sect and his Allah (because he is Sunni) and why God was not helping him, and that they would bring up the prisoners' mothers and sisters to rape them," she explained to Al Jazeera.  "Then they used electricity to burn different places of his body. They took all his cloths off in winter and left them naked out in the yard to freeze."

Her nephew, who was released after four years imprisonment after the Iraqi appeals court deemed him innocent, was then arrested 10 days after his release, again under Article 4. This law gives the government of Prime Minister Maliki broad license to detain Iraqis. Article four and other laws provide the government the ability to impose the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also for offenses such as damage to public property.
While her nephew was free, he informed his aunt of how he and other detainees were tortured.

"They made some other inmates stand barefoot during Iraq's summer on burning concrete pavement to have sunburn, and without drinking water until they fainted. They took some of them, broke so many of their bones, mutilated their faces with a knife and threw them back in the cell to let the others know that this is what will happen to them."

She said her nephew was tortured daily, as he wouldn't confess to a crime he says he didn't commit. He wouldn't give names of his co-conspirators, as there were none, she said.
"Finally, after the death of many of his inmates under torture, he agreed to sign up a false confession written by the interrogators, even though he had witnesses who have seen him in another place the day that crime has happened," she added.

The forced 'confessions,' the torture to produce them, has gone on in Iraq repeatedly. Amnesty International's just released  [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses"  explains how the 'confessions' are then used:

The Ministry of Human Rights has gone some way towards acknowledging this reality, observing that detainees are "subjected in some instances to torture and ill-treatment in order to coerce them to confess or to obtain information."  Once they have "confessed" in this way, detainees are generally taken under guard to appear before an investigating judge, often under threat of further torture or other ill-treatment if they refuse to confirm their confession or complain of mistreatment.  In some cases, detainees are reported to have been threatened or assaulted by their guards in the presence of the investigating judge to force them to confess.  Investigating judges are supposed to ensure that any incriminatory statements have been freely given, without coercion or duress, yet cases continue to be reported where they appear to have preferred to "look the other way" and accept self- incriminating statements from detainees without question despite their allegations or other evidence of abuse.  This, when it occurs, may have profoundly damaging consequences for the detainee.  For example, the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad [case number 1479 of 2012, Branch 2] ruled on 3 December 2012 that it would accept as evidence a confession made in pre-trial detention by a defendant although that defendant "denied any relation with the accusation brought against him and stated that his previous confession in front of the investigating judge was not true as it had been obtained by pressure and coercion that he was subjected to by the investigator".  The court said it found the confession acceptable because it was "elaborate and detailed" [mufassal wa daqiq], then convicted the defendant under the Anti-Terrorism Law and sentenced him to life imprisonment.  As experienced Iraqi criminal lawyers have attested to Amnesty International, courts place great weight on "confessions" recorded by investigating judges and tend to accept them even though defendants withdraw and repudiate them at trial.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi lives outside of Iraq after his bodyguards were tortured -- one to death -- for 'confessions.'  Nouri has dubbed him a terrorist and used the laughable 'justice' system to convict Tareq -- judges in Baghdad held a press conference to announce Tareq's guilt -- February 16, 2012 -- months before the trial started, before any evidence was presented.  With one of the judges not just declaring Tareq guilty at the press conference but also saying Tareq had tried to kill him, you knew that once the trial began, a conclusion of guilty had already been obtained by Nouri.

Misbah al-Ali (Daily Star) interviews al-Hashemi today:
Q: Where does your case stand now regarding the death sentence issued by Maliki? Are you acting alone?
A: Maliki has issued five death sentences against me, and 24 similar sentences against my bodyguards. All are innocent, under the current judicial system Iraq, and that is what the latest reports of Amnesty International, human rights organizations and the international press have proved.
The Islamic Arab world stands by me. I am positive that God will not leave me, nor leave tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis behind bars, awaiting verdicts with no legal representation, as is required by international law. What happened to me is part of the religious cleansing of Sunnis in Iraq.
I am the sixth Sunni politician to be politically targeted, followed by Finance Minister Rafeh al-Issawi ... and there are more to come. It seems there is no place for Sunnis in new Iraq under the Safavid regime, but we will not be silent and will not surrender. Our revolting millions are the proof of that.

Moving on to other Iraqi politicians,  All Iraq News reports that Iraqiya MP Qays al-Shather has declared that the Parliament needs to focus on laws that will help the people, 'The General Amnesty law is an important law that must be among the priorities of the parliament.  There are other laws that directly concern the citizen's daily lives like the Justice and Accountability Commission law."  Parliament's hoping to meet shortly.  Tuesday, despite the attraction of a State of Law MP starting yet another fight in Parliament, they didn't have enough present to meet a quorum.  Tuesday did see a meeting of the Cabinet.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports on the Cabinet meeting:

The meeting on Tuesday [March 26] of Iraq’s council of ministers was particularly significant, as Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq announced that the council had agreed to all of the demands raised by demonstrators in the provinces of Anbar, Mosul, Saladin and Diyala. Most of these demands have to do with amending arrest procedures, secret informants, amnesty for prisoners, the release of female detainees, de-Baathification and preparing for direct negotiations with a delegation representing the protesters.
Mutlaq announced that “the council of ministers decided to abolish the secret informant [post] and the law on seizing the funds [of Baath members], and to extend special amnesty to release prisoners arrested under this law.” Despite the Iraqiya List’s decision to boycott the cabinet’s sessions, Mutlaq was accompanied by three ministers from the list, which has 88 seats in Parliament.
He explained that “it was agreed that the five-part committee would continue its work, in order to thoroughly address the accountability and justice law and general amnesty law over three days.”
Mutlaq, who considered such decisions important in resolving the crisis, sent the opposition Sunni parties an explicit message to negotiate with the government by saying, “I call on all those who have ulterior motives that affect Iraq’s unity and security to abandon them. I call on them to return to the lap of the homeland, and work with us to change the bitter reality we live in into a better reality [that ensures] people’s happiness and welfare.”
In conjunction with Mutlaq’s announcement, things went back to normal between the Sadrist movement (which holds 40 parliamentary seats) and Maliki, after the latter agreed on Sadr’s conditions for the return of his six ministers [to the Cabinet].
Bahaa al-Araji, a leader of the movement, summarized these conditions in a press conference yesterday. They include: “The formation of a committee to review the security issue in the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar, implementing the demonstrators’ legitimate demands in these provinces, adopting the rules of procedure for the council of ministers, bringing about national cohesion and finding solutions to national problems.”

Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman tells NINA that representatives of the protesters met today with with politicians at the home of Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani with "Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, and the outgoing Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, and the leaders of the demonstrations in 6 provinces in addition to Anbar."  All Iraq News notes that the move has earned praise from the Sunni Endowment.

Violence continues in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency notes 1 man was shot dead outside his Baquba home, a Tikrit car bombing left seven people injured, a Mosul bombing left 2 soldiers dead and one injured, and a Hilla car bombing left 3 police officers dead and fourteen injured All Iraq News reports a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Baghdad bombing outside a restaurant resulted in 1 death and seven people injured, a Mussayib bombing which claimed 3 lives and left fourteen injured, 1 corpse discovered in Shebala village (near Tikrit) with signs of torture, and Rakan Saeed al-Jobouri, Deputy Governor of Kirkuk, survived an attempted assassination by bombingAlsumaria adds that three surveillance cameras in Falluja were destroyed in bombings. Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 356 violent deaths for the month of March thus far.

So it's no great surprise that the UAE has issued a warning.  Bahrain News Agency reports, "The United Arab Emirates urged its citizens to avoid travel at the present time to Iraq for the purpose of game hunting in view of political and security situation in Iraq."

Yesterday, Iraq beat Syria in a football match.  (Click here for Prashant Rao's AFP report.)  Alsumaria reports Nouri has declared today he is serious about building up Iraqi sports.  In other words, some athletes played an outstanding game and now its time for politicians to leech on in an attempt to steal some glory for themselves.  (The leeching is not confined to Iraq, you see it in every country of the world.)   Will it distract from Nouri's many failures?  Probably not.

Nor will it erase the fact that Anbar and Nineveh are not being allowed to vote.  A variety of excuses have been offered for Nouri's decision.  It is not popular.  The United Nations and the United States have called it out.  NINA notes today that Sahwa leader Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha is calling for the decision to be rescinded. Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) explores some of the groups objecting to Nouri's decision on Anbar and Nineveh:

Neither political elites nor Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, who is well known for his unflappable conservative stance, were convinced by the explanations for postponing the elections. Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr affirmed that the postponement was carried out for political reasons, not because of security concerns.
Several days ago, protesters in Anbar formed a committee to negotiate on their behalf. The committee is led by Ahmad Bou Risha, the leader of the Sahwa movement, Ali Hatem, chieftain of the Dulaim tribes, and Ahmad al-Alwani, a member of parliament from the Iraqi List party. This initiative was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who considered it to be a positive leap forward.
Regardless of the results of negotiations with the government, reversing the decision to postpone elections in Anbar and Nineveh will serve as a solid ground on which the foundation of these negotiations can be laid.


These are provincial elections and they're supposed to take place April 20th.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reported earlier this month on the basics this campaign go around:

Geographically Iraq is now divided into its different majority sects, with Shiite Muslim majorities dominating in some areas and Sunni Muslims dominating in others. In the areas where there is a Shiite Muslim majority, the Shiite Muslim political parties will be competing against one another. In areas where there is not, they have formed alliances so that they can stand together to compete against Sunni Muslim parties. And the Sunni Muslim dominated political parties are doing the same, in reverse.

The official map of political alliances shows that Shiite Muslim parties will compete against one another in the nine Shiite Muslim-majority provinces of Wasit, Karbala, Babel, Missan, Qadisiya, Najaf, Dhi Qar, Muthana and Basra.

Meanwhile Sunni Muslim parties will compete against one another in the Sunni Muslim-majority provinces of Anbar, Mosul, Diyala and Salahaddin. The capital city, Baghdad, which is home to a wider mixture of sects, religions and even ethnicities, remains a more difficult prospect for both sides.

In the Shiite Muslim-dominated provinces there is fierce competition between three Shiite Muslim political groups: the State of Law coalition led by the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist bloc, which is led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Each of these three large groups has chosen to compete against the others in Shiite Muslim-dominated areas. They have also formed alliances with smaller Shiite Muslim groups inside those areas. And usually these alliances have been formed in terms that favour the larger blocs.

The State of Law bloc – whose mainstay is the Dawa party led by Iraq’s current Prime Minister al-Maliki – claims that it is popular enough to win on its own in Shiite Muslim dominated areas. It doesn’t need to form any kind of alliance and the party faithful tout the results of the 2009 provincial elections as proof. In 2009, the State of Law was able to send governors to five capital cities: Baghdad, Wasit, Diwaniya (the capital of Qadisiya), Karbala and Basra.

Nouri doesn't need anyone else?  He thought that when he started State of Law as well.  And then came the March 2010 parliamentary elections when he and State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.

Yesterday, we noted this from Henri J. Barkey's Los Angeles Times column:

With very few exceptions, an important event in Iraq went unnoticed in the U.S. media this month. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki sent a force that included helicopters to western Iraq to arrest Rafi Issawi, the former finance minister and a leading Sunni Arab opposition member. Issawi, who was protected by armed members of the Abu Risha clan, one of post-2003 Iraq's most powerful Sunni tribes, escaped capture.

The column is huge today in Arabic social media  -- that paragraph from it -- and even Iraq Times is reporting on it.  It did not garner a great deal of attention in real time -- and no attention from the US media.  From the March 12th snapshot:

In possibly related news, the Minister of Finance was targeted today.  Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya is calling for Nouri's government to explain exactly what happened today in Anbar Province when Nouri's forces went for Rafie al-Issawi.  Were they attempting to kill him or were they hoping to kidnap him?  Some may say al-Issawi resigned; however, Nouri refused to accept that resignation and stated al-Issawi could not resign until Nouri's investigation into him was complete.  al-Issawi is a Sunni and a member of Iraqiya.  It appears that this identity is why he was targeted today.

The Iraqi football players' win isn't likely to erase that memory either.

And in more bad news for Nouri, Alsumaria reports that MP Sabah al-Saadi declared today that he is calling for lead justice on the Federal Court, Nouri's crony Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, to be charged with crimes against humanity.  al-Mahmoud was pulled from the bench then put back on by Nouri.  Critics argues that as long as al-Mahmoud sits on the bench, the judiciary will bend to Nouri.

For decades Turkish forces and the PKK have been in conflict.    Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  Currently, the two sides are embracing a ceasefire after  nearly 500 people were killed just last year in the ongoing conflict with over a thousand more left injured.  Hopefully, it will hold.  Sunday, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani issued the following statement:

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region, Iraq ( - In a statement released today, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani welcomed a message by the imprisoned PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan in which he calls for a ceasefire and the pursuit of democratic and political means to address the Kurdish question in Turkey.
“We not only support and welcome this call by Mr Ocalan, we believe that this is the right course of action and a vindication of our long-standing policy that the Kurdish question is a political issue and that this question cannot be resolved through armed or military means,” said the statement by President Barzani.
“The success of the peace process requires the commitment of all sides to perseverance and patience. The peace process must be viewed by all sides with strategic importance and not merely as a political tactic. We call on all sides to take practical steps towards the peaceful and political resolution of the Kurdish question.”
The statement by the President concluded by saying that as in the past, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is ready to play any role to ensure this peace process succeeds and a political resolution of the Kurdish question in Turkey is found.

In addition to support from the KRG President, Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports the KRG Prime Minister went to Turkey and voiced his support, "Nechirvan Barzani, premier of Iraqi Regional Government of Kurds, voiced support to the 'peace process' on Kurdish issue in Turkey. Having talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and pro- Kurdish politicians during his two-day visit to Turkey, Barzani expressed readiness to give support to the process."  Xuequan reported yesterday, "Turkish President Abdullah Gul stressed Tuesday that the disarmament of the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, is of vital importance for the peace of his country.  At a press conference held with visiting Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Gul underlined that the disarmament on part of the PKK is crucial for brotherhood, peace and tranquility in Turkey."  Today Hurriyet speaks with the PKK's Zubeyir Aydar:

After years of nothing but armed clashes, now there is an accelerated dialogue process. Do you think a return is possible in this process?

All our efforts are toward preventing a return. For that reason, we are acting this sensitively. We wish that both sides, both the government and us, reach a point of no return. We have no concerns on our side. We want to solve this problem. Our concern is the government.

The government also has concerns. They say that once the arms are laid down, a solution will come. What is your concern?

While a solution is mentioned, will the Kurds’ own identity, culture, language and road to politics be open? We are asking that.

F. Stephen Larrabee (Foreign Affairs) runs down some possibilities on the ceasefire:

Of course, peace is still far from a done deal. Several issues could derail an accord. For one, the question of amnesty could pose difficulties. Many Kurdish groups -- and Ocalan himself -- insist that PKK fighters must be granted amnesty as part of any agreement. However, much of the Turkish population considers the PKK fighters terrorists and strongly opposes letting them walk.
In addition, Ocalan might want peace and he might have great sway within the Turkish PKK, but the organization is no longer his baby. It has become a transnational movement with networks and operations across the region. Not all of them are under his control. Even if Ocalan can persuade large segments of the PKK to support a peace agreement, some hardcore nationalist groups might still be unwilling to lay down their arms. After all, many PKK commanders see no future for themselves outside of the armed struggle.

Umut Uras (Al Jazeera) earlier examined the possibilities:

The process’ framework, which was leaked to Turkish media and not denied by the Turkish government, sets out four steps: Truce; approval of a judicial reform package that will release thousands of imprisoned Kurds and the withdrawal of PKK members beyond Turkey's borders; democratisation talks; and finally disarmament.

Orhan Miroglu, a writer and former Kurdish politician, believes some of the armed PKK members without criminal records will simply go back to their villages, pointing out that this often happens in practice anyways. “They are just questioned and released,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Apart from people at the [PKK’s] leadership level, Turkish authorities do not have criminal records of all of the 3,500 PKK members who are inside Turkey today. They do not know in what actions they have taken part,” Miroglu noted. “Security is the main concern for Ocalan and [the] PKK, as some 400 members of the group were killed during the 1999 withdrawal.” 

Hurriyet reports Turkey's government is expecting the PKK to "complete their withdrawal from Turkish soil before the end of summer, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said on March 27.  The entire process, which is aimed at ending the three-decade old violence between security forces and the PKK, is being conducted in line with a specific calendar, Ergin said yesterday, underlining that the calendar was known by related parties of the process. "

 mustafa habib