Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Sound of Music

Thursday night, NBC broadcast a live production of The Sound of Music starring singer Carrie Underwood.

I thought it was solid and that Underwood did a strong job.

I've read a few reviews and many seem to feel she sang the score wonderfully but her acting was lacking.

I think she did a great job singing but I don't think she was awful as an actress.

Like many singers, her singing stands out because it is her hallmark.

But I found her natural and not stiff.

It was a difference performance from Julie Andrews.  Julie's performance is different from Mary Martin's original Broadway performance.

I don't judge Carrie Underwood by the work others did in the part, I judge by whether she's believable and if she achieves something of her own.

She put her mark on the role.

She should be thrilled with what she did, NBC should be as well.

Carol Channing once, rightly in my opinion, argued that Dolly Levi (the musical Hello Dolly) should be like Hamlet and played by a large number of actresses.  I think the same should be true of Maria in The Sound of Music.

18.6 million people watched the event live.  (Not me, I Tivo-ed. I do a group session on Thursday nights.)

So hopefully that will encourage NBC to attempt something similar next December (if not sooner).

Carrie should see those ratings as her applause.  I think she did a wonderful job.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 6, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, bombs and shootings in the capital (while the western press dozes), protests throughout Iraq just two weeks short of the one-year-mark but the western press can't cover it, another reporter killed in Iraq, we note Jane Arraf's time at CNN (not a pretty picture for journalism), the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, and more.

What the western media refused to cover today?


  • Tikrit.

    الغائب على الشيخ في ساحة اعتصام . .


    الموحدة في مدينة . .


    الموحدة في ساحة العزة والكرامة بمدينة في محافظة . .

    Iraqi Spring MC continues to do their job.  Western outlets can't say the same.

    Today's protests are part of a series of continuous protests which have been ongoing since December 21st.  They are soon to hit the one year mark.  National Iraqi News Agency quotes Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating, "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction."

    Instead of coverage from western outlets and 'reporters,'  we get crap like this:

  • would you say Kirk that the protests in Anbar have now been practically decimated? No longer effective or worrisome?
  • They were weakening for months, but Mutahidun's decision to abandon them just recognizes & accelerates this decline.
  • They hit a peak in late April/early May, but lost momentum some time ago.

  • Thanks, Kirk, for the ignorance.

    Sowell's never grasped the protests, misrepresented them to the clueless Joel Wing (who didn't correct him because he's so stupid himself -- and Joel, don't e-mail me, I don't want to hear from you or your foul mouth, go back your insane friend again -- the one who claimed the whole world was after him, back that lunatic some more). Sowell can't note the rape and torture of women in detention centers and prisons.

    But, check the archives, when those reports first emerged and before the protest broke out on December 21st, we noted they would lead to protests, that it is the sort of thing that provides urgency and meaning to opposition.  It was, it did.  And it was completely non-surprising -- except to the press.

    Maybe it's past time that courses on revolution, resistance and rebellion weren't elective poli sci classes at US colleges (as they were when I took them) but required ones and that they were downgraded from graduate course work to undergraduate?

    NINA notes an Anah sticky bombing left police Colonel Faris Karbouli injured, and a Dor suicide bomber took his own life and that of 5 police officers with eleven more people injured.  All Iraq News adds that Mohammed Jasim, employee with the Ministry of Industry, was shot dead in Baghdad, 2 Baghdad bombings left 1 person dead and fifteen injured, a Salman Bek bombing left two members of an Iraqi soldier's family injured, and a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left three more injured.

    If you're not getting how little Iraq is covered by western media, try to find those incidents of violence reported -- especially in western, English language media.  Did AP or Reuters even file from Iraq today?

    AFP reports Kawa Ahmed Germyani is the latest journalist to be killed in Iraq.  Last night, the editor or Rayal magazine and a reporter with Awene newspaper was shot dead "in front of his mother at his home in the town of Kalar."  Reporters Without Borders issued a statement which includes:

    “We are appalled by Germyani’s murder and offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and colleagues,” Reporters Without Borders said.
    “A professional journalist who covered corruption and nepotism in Iraqi Kurdistan, Germyani knew he was in danger and had told the region’s authorities about the threats he had received. His murder could have been avoided if they had taken the necessary measures to protect him.
    “We are worried about the very dangerous climate for journalists both in Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq, and about the impunity enjoyed by their attackers and killers. We urge the regional and national authorities to take the appropriate measures so that journalists can work without fearing for their safety or their lives.”
    Reporters Without Borders added: “Both the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad should be conducting thorough investigations into the murders of journalists and the groups that target them.”
    According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Germyani had been threatened for years in connection with his revelations about corruption within Kurdish institutions and had initiated several judicial proceedings against those responsible these threats.

    Coincidentally, many Kurdish journalists and civil society representatives had gathered in Sulaymaniyah two days before his murder to press the regional and national authorities to adopt laws guaranteeing media freedom, as well as effective measures to protect journalists and combat impunity for those responsible for violence against them.

    Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman Tweeted the following:

  • I strongly condemn the killing of Kawa Germeyani who was shot dead in Kelar, more should be done to protect journalists in

  • On Tweets, we'll note this one but we've got a lot more to fit in.

  • Let's turn to politics.


           As part of an invitation to all Iraqi citizens to update their data in the voter registration centers (VRCs) and the great attention given by the religious leaders and the Iraqi leadership, his eminence Mr. Muqtada al Sader had visited on 12 November the VRC no. 1643 in Najaf province to make sure of the accuracy of his data in the voter lists.

            Mr. al Sader praised role of the IHEC in establishing rules of the democratic system in Iraq.

           In his turn, the Director General of Najaf electoral Office, Mr. Saad al Abdali called on all citizens to review the VRCs to update their data to ensure to cast their ballots in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled on 30 April 2014. 

    Moqtada al-Sadr is a cleric and movement leader.  The Independent High Electoral Commission issued the above on December 3rd.  Voter updating/registration was supposed to end December 5th.  The IHEC has extended it to December 10th and states there will not be another extension. Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place April 30th.   Rudaw reports:

    In what appears to be an attempt to win allies in next year’s parliamentary elections, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has helped Fayli Kurds in Baghdad set up a new political group. 
     According to Ali Fayli, a community leader in Baghdad, the new group -- called the Peace Organization for Fayli Kurds -- is expected to run in next April’s legislative elections. Fayli told Rudaw that Haydar Isa Ali, a Fayli political figure, is to head the new organization, which has already registered with the Election Commission. 
    The Iraqi capital is home to nearly a million Fayli Kurds, who are Kurdish by ethnicity but Shiites by faith. Most Kurds are Sunnis. 
     Maliki, who is also Shiite, has often attended Fayli cultural and religious events. Meanwhile, the Kurdish parties in the north, who have offices in Baghdad, have also tried to win favor with the Faylis.

    All Iraq News reports on the statements by Kurdistani Alliance MP Hameed Bafi:

    In a press statement received by AIN, he said "Personally, I think that the government failed in providing the services and sustaining security in Iraq and there is no chance to Maliki to get a third term as the Prime Minister of Iraq."
    "Despite the sympathy of the Iraqi people towards Iran during the current time and due to the sanctions that it faces from the international community, the Iraqis want the decision to be theirs and not made by foreign sides," he added, noting that "Maliki headed to Iran to get its support for the nomination for a third term as the PM after his failure in convincing the USA to get its support for the same issue."

    As so much silence surrounds what takes place in Iraq -- so much western media silence -- let's move to the topic of reporting.   Saturday, Aswat al-Iraq reported:

    Press Freedoms Observatory reported that the Iraqi police are "pressing" journalists to "sign written pledges not to practice their field work", as well as detaining them for hours in Najaf and Missan cities. 
     Baghdadiya correspondent in Najaf Rasha al-Abidi said to the Observatory that she "suffered reactions by the people when covering the latest floods in the city". 
     She added that one of police officers demanded her to sign a written pledge not to work in journalism "for good" in order to release her, but she refused till some personalities interfered for her release, while her camera was kept with the security force.

    These are Nouri's forces and this is what they're doing to journalists -- on Nouri's orders.

    Nouri doesn't want reality conveyed.  He wants to shut down the press -- especially now as he's seeking a third term.

    And instead of joining the Iraqi press in a fight for truth, the world press leaves them alone, leaves them stranded.

    And at a time like this, you'll see people reveal their true natures -- not meaning to, but they just can't help themselves -- Freud noted the criminal's compulsion to confess and it must be something similar for 'journalists' who don't report.   US 'journalist' in Iraq Jane Arraf re-Tweets the following from her former boss (at CNN) Eason Jordan.

    1. In 1990, televised live worldwide 's release from prison... long before other TV news nets existed.

    Oh, you big brave men -- I mean Eason and Jane.  Eason and Iraq?  I believe he's best known for what CNN didn't broadcast.  If you're new to that topic, check out his self-justifying and minimizing column for the New York Times "The News We Kept To Ourselves."  It was published April 11, 2003 -- after the start of the Iraq War and revealed that for "the last dozen years," CNN hadn't really 'reported' from Iraq.  Out of fear, you understand.  And if they learned Saddam Hussein or his sons planned to assassinate someone -- they kept it to themselves.  Except to warn the monarchy in Jordan.

    For that, they broke their stay silent rule for.  Of course, the monarchy has its own security and its own intelligence agency so they greeted CNN's 'tip' as what it really was -- an attempt by a press outlet to suck up.

    Eason was over Jane's 'reporting' -- isn't it time she got honest herself?

    When Eason's column was published, Margaret Wente (Canada's Globe and Mail) offered a response which included:

    Last week, I learned there was a children's prison in Baghdad where they locked up the kids of parents deemed disloyal to the regime.
    I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. As more and more information emerges about Saddam Hussein's Iraq, we're learning how awful it really was. Still, I was stunned. What kind of regime locks up and tortures children?
    [. . .]
    Some of the major media knew, too. In a stunning piece called The News We Kept to Ourselves, published last Friday in The New York Times, CNN news chief Eason Jordan reveals that the network never did come clean on everything it knew about Iraq. It never told its viewers that local CNN employees were abducted and tortured. It never passed along what Mr. Jordan learned on some of the 13 trips he made to Baghdad to schmooze with the regime in exchange for reporters' visas. On one trip, Saddam's son Uday told him he planned to kill his two brothers-in-law (he did). On other trips, Iraqi officials told Mr. Jordan Saddam was a maniac who had to be removed.
    "I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me," he confessed. But he says CNN had to keep quiet in order to protect its employees.

    The way others see it, CNN had to keep quiet in order to protect its access. In their view, CNN soft-pedalled the horrors of the regime so it could keep broadcasting from Iraq. In this, it was not alone. That's the usual quid pro quo for reporting on dictators, and Iraq was unusually vigilant in the way it kept tabs on the media. Every foreign journalist was tended by an official minder; if the regime didn't like their stories, they were kicked out.

    Jane Arraf certainly internalized that policy (she was CNN's Baghdad bureau chief under Eason Jordan)  -- which explains why she writes nothing critical of Nouri today and why she ignores the violence in Iraq, and the journalists who are killed in Iraq.  She's the happy musings 'journalist' based in Iraq.  Former CNN journalist Peter Collins responded to Eason Jordan's 2003 column with one of his own entitled "Corruption at CNN" (Washington Times) and here he talks about CNN's efforts to 'get' a sit-down interview with Saddam Hussein:

    I took part in meetings between the CNN executives and various officials purported to be close to Saddam. We met with his personal translator; with a foreign affairs adviser; with Information Minister Latif Jassim; and with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
    In each of these meetings, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan made their pitch: Saddam Hussein would have an hour's time on CNN's worldwide network; there would be no interruptions, no commercials. I was astonished. From both the tone and the content of these conversations, it seemed to me that CNN was virtually groveling for the interview.
    The day after one such meeting, I was on the roof of the Ministry of Information, preparing for my first "live shot" on CNN. A producer came up and handed me a sheet of paper with handwritten notes. "Tom Johnson wants you to read this on camera," he said. I glanced at the paper. It was an item-by-item summary of points made by Information Minister Latif Jassim in an interview that morning with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan.
    The list was so long that there was no time during the live shot to provide context. I read the information minister's points verbatim. Moments later, I was downstairs in the newsroom on the first floor of the Information Ministry. Mr. Johnson approached, having seen my performance on a TV monitor. "You were a bit flat there, Peter," he said. Again, I was astonished. The president of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda.

    As Jane stays silent on one thing after another in her 'reports' for Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor, grasp that the above passed for 'ethics' when she was at CNN.

    Iraq Times notes the passing of Nelson Mandela, how 1961 saw Nelson Mandela organize the armed revolution against apartheid and how he was arrested in 1963 and, while in prison for the next 27 years, managed to lead the revolution.  Released from prison in 1990 (due to international outcry and support), Nelson Mandela would win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and be elected President of South Africa in 1995.  Singer, songwriter, dancer, fashion icon Jody Watley notes Mandela here.  Kim Petersen (Dissident Voice) remembers Mandela here and offers praise for Mandela for standing up for the Palestinian people and criticism for him embracing the Canadian government which practices -- to this day -- its own form of apartheid with tegards to Turtle Island's Indigenous people.  Palestine pops up in many left pieces.  We'll note Ireland in a bit because Mandela felt a natural affinity with the people and the country due to its own similar struggles.  (South Africa and Ireland were both the victims of colonialism.)  Jonathan Cook (CounterPunch) shares his disappointment of Mandela during his post-prison life.  Marcia critiqued NPR's reducing Nelson Mandela to a supporting player  "Maybe if NPR wasn't so White . . .," and, in "The Disneyfication of a proud Black leader,"  Betty took on the trend of the US media to reduce Nelson Mandela's power and strength:

    I'm real sick of seeing this proud Black leader Disneyfied.
    I'm sick of it and it saddens me.
    Nelson Mandela was an epic, he changed the world.
    They want to turn him into Jiminy Crickett.

    Russia Today reminds that Mandela was an outspoken opponent of the illegal war on Iraq:

    Prior to the US invasion of Iraq, Mandela slammed the actions of the US at a speech made at the International Women’s Forum in Johannesburg, declaring that former President George W. Bush’s primary motive was ‘oil’, while adding that Bush was undermining the UN.
    “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings,” Mandela said. 
    Mandela did not hold back from making hard-hitting statements against the US, and repeatedly spoke out against the prospect of the country invading Iraq. As the US prepared its mass-action in 2002, Mandela told Newsweek:
    “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace.”

    Independent journalist Rania Khalek Tweets:


    In 2003, Jarrett Murphy (CBS News) reported:

    Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the world's most respected elder statesmen, let the Bush administration have it right between the eyes, reports CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton.
    "It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations," Mandela told the International Women's Forum.
    Mandela said he would support action against Iraq only if it is ordered by the U.N. He urged the people of the United States to join massive protests against Mr. Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the U.N. Security Council, to oppose him.
    "What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."

    Those remarks were made in Johannesburg, South Africa at the International Women's Forum.  CNN reported:

     The Bush administration is threatening military action if Iraq does not account for weapons of mass destruction and fully cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.
    Receiving applause for his comments, Mandela said Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are "undermining" past work of the United Nations.
    "They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man?" said Mandela, referring to Kofi Annan, who is from Ghana. 

    He did not speak out only once and he did not stop speaking out once the illegal war started.  Ireland's NUI Galway conferred an honorary doctorate on Mandela and, at the June 20, 2003 ceremony, he again spoke out against the Iraq War.   Lorna Siggins (Irish Times)  quotes Mandela concluding, "All of us must have the courage to stand up and condemn what is wrong, and I am grateful that you have allowed an old man, who is more than 100 years old, to come and address you."  Louise Hogan (Irish Independent) and the Irish Mirror note Mandela's warm relationship with Ireland.  The president of the National University of Ireland Galway, Dr. Jim Browne, issued a statement on Mandela's passing which includes:

    Nelson Mandela was - and will remain -one of the most highly respected statesmen in history.  His capacity to endure political persecution and imprisonment and, most remarkably, to move beyond personal injustice to become the embodiment of reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa has made him a lasting and powerful global symbol of goodness and integrity.

    Last night, Tavis Smiley devoted his program (The Tavis Smiley Show, PBS)  to Mandela's life and meaning. speaking with singer and activist Harry Belafonte, journalist Larry King, and US House Rep Maxine Waters.  Click here for the video and/or transcript.  Excerpts.

    Tavis: It’s one thing to work alongside Dr. King as you did so courageously, but with regard to Mandela, for 27 years, certainly, he was behind bars. What do you recall most principally about working alongside one of the stalwart leaders of this movement to end apartheid when he himself for most of that time was behind bars?

    Belafonte: It was a very touching and a very exciting and rewarding experience. Often, I went to visit a man by the name of Oliver Tambo – who had been selected by the leadership of the ANC to lead the ANC during Mandela’s incarceration. So for all intents and purpose, Oliver Tambo was the head of the ANC, was the one that was given the power and the authority to give instructions to the rest of us who were in the service of that cause.
    So that I often heard Mandela’s voice very clearly through the things that Oliver Tambo was doing. It became apparent that we were getting closer and closer to the time when Mandela would be, in all probability, freed.
    Many of us looked on that with a great sense of hope that that would be the case. But I never thought I’d live long enough to see Mandela released from prison. When he was released, I was then instructed by the ANC and by Oliver Tambo to help them prepare for Madiba’s first visit to the United States.
    In that capacity I was able to not only correspond with Winnie Mandela and with Nelson himself through mail, but to also set up the kind of environment that would be most rewarding for his visit to the United States.

    He came here and I was charged with the responsibility of meeting all the demands that were made upon us for Madiba’s visit here.


    Tavis: I’ve said many times the very first rally I ever went to, very first protest rally, was on Wilshire and La Cienega, at the embassy, when Maxine Waters was leading this fight to bring down apartheid in the California legislature.

    Waters: That’s right.

    Tavis: Remind the nation, the audience tonight, of what was happening in America then and how hard it was – we see Mandela as a hero now, but we were so on the late freight in this country on divesture.
    Waters: That’s right, that’s right. We were late because don’t forget that our country and our public policy didn’t take us to the concerns of Africa, and they didn’t have a voice.
    So the white South Africans were in charge (unintelligible) before De Klerk, they were the spokespersons that our country would listen to. So just as we watch our country not understand some of the indigenous leadership and the opposition leadership to dictatorships and other things over the years, this is true with South Africa.
    It was only after the ANC became very bold, and as you know, they labeled them communists and terrorists and all of that. We got bold and we joined the ANC from here to say that no, this is the liberation movement. But it was hard. Racism prevailed here in the United States.

    Tavis: Larry, I will never forget as long as I live the night – speaking of communism – the night that Nelson Mandela was being interviewed in the town hall by Ted Koppel, and I had never seen Koppel get the business.
    I love Ted Koppel, but Mandela gave him the business that night, and told Koppel, “You do not tell me who my friends are.”

    Waters: “My friends are.”

    Tavis: You don’t tell us -

    King: I never saw that.

    Tavis: Oh, man, it was a moment.

    Those are just two excerpts, there's much more including the final remarks which are Tavis' reflections on Mandela and his meaning.

    Kitabat notes that the people of the world and the media have followed his illness and now his death because he was a source of pride, victory and love.  The news outlet wonders where Iraq's Nelson Mandela is?

    Thursday, December 05, 2013

    The sell outs

    I hate POLITICO but C.I. slid this over to me thinking I might find it interesting:

    1. Don’t be a shill for the Democratic party
    If progressive radio really wants to get on the map, its hosts would do well to remember that one of the reasons the liberal talk radio network Air America flopped was that they “forgot they were in the radio business, not in the get my candidate elected business,” said Al Peterson, publisher and editor of talk radio trade NTS MediaOnline Today.
    “They failed because they failed to understand they were in the radio business — not the politics business,” he added.

    Agreed.  It's why MSNBC is a failure and why, when a Democrat occupies the White House, the circulation of The Nation and The Progressive plummet.

    The magazines stop being about ethics and what we need to do and instead being mouth pieces for the Democratic Party and lying to us to trick us.

    So they can say, "Look over here, DNC! We are players!  We have tricked our readership for you!"

    They're too busy selling out their readers to stand up for them.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, December 4, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri is hit with tidal waves of bad news, Nouri's State of Law suffers a high profile defection, his trip to Iran is called out, polls suggest State of Law is in third place, in the US continued revelations of illegal spying, and more.

    Stephen McDonnell (Australia's ABC News) reports that US Vice President Joe Biden was in China today talking about trust, "Candour generates trust.  Trust is the basis on which real change, constructive change, is made."  It was really the wrong day for US officials to be preaching 'trust,' on the day when major revelations about NSA spying broke.   It could have been worse possibly.  For example, Biden could have been making those remarks in Cuba November 24th -- when Pravda reported:

    The Agency for International Development (USAID) revealed the existence of a subversive program of six million dollars against Cuba. This information was known due to an error when using an unprotected line to send documents to U.S. diplomats in Havana. The plan was part of the semi-clandestine ploy to overthrow the communist government.
    The material reveals that the entity launched last July the initiative SOL-OAA-13-00110 and at least 20 NGOs requested funding for the program which was to train dissidents in Cuba in the next three years, with a fund of $6 million. The goal was to provide opportunities for the opponents of the revolution traveling abroad , where they would acquire technical skills in a "number of areas considered important for the development of democracy and civil society" in Cuba,  in clear subversion of the political order.

    At the US State Dept Press briefing today, spokesperson Marie Harf was jabbering away about the "critical leadership role" played by the US government.

    QUESTION: Marie, do you have a response to the Pew Research poll that was released yesterday which found that for the first time since the polls started, a majority of Americans say that the U.S. plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than ever before?

    MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen that poll. I’m happy to take a look at the numbers and see if I have anything additional to say on it. I think we’ve been very clear that -- in our policies all around the world that the U.S. plays a critical leadership role, and whether it’s economically, diplomatically, and a host of areas. And that’s why you see the Secretary traveling so much around the world to promote our interests and our values and talk about this all the time with different world leaders. So I would, I think, take issue with the notion, but I’m happy to look at the numbers and see if I have more analysis for you of it.

    Poor Harf, she's always got at least one foot in her mouth.  The the illegal spying?  This evening Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani (Washington Post) filed a major report:

    The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

    The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.

    The Washington Post has an illustrated walk through or flow chart on how this is taking place.  Dana Liebelson (Mother Jones) goes through the Post's report and identifies five revelations including, "This is the big one -- 'A central feature of each of these tools is that they do not rely on knowing a particulat target in advance, or even suspecting one.  They operate on the full universe of data in the NSA's [repository] which stores trillions of metadata records, of which a large but unknown fraction include locations,' wrote the Post.  An intelligence lawyer said the data collection is not covered by the Fourth Amendment, which outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures."

    The ACLU issued the following statement today:

    December 4, 2013
    NEW YORK – The NSA is tracking the locations of a huge number of cell phones around the world, according to an article published today by The Washington Post. The report, based on documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, says the agency is analyzing the movements of many millions of cell phones worldwide, including those belonging to Americans travelling abroad. Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, had this reaction:
    “It is staggering that a location-tracking program on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government. The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships. The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike. The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people.”
    More information on NSA spying is at:

    Michael Winter (USA Today) notes, "The NSA said it does not intentionally target Americans' whereabouts but gets location data 'incidentally,' which the agency has declared lawful and aimed at foreign intelligence targets."  Oh, well then, that takes care of it because the NSA would never lie.  Oops, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress.  Fred Kaplan (Slate) observed in June:

    Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.” As we all now know, he was lying.

    We also now know that Clapper knew he was lying.

    Not only did Clapper lie but the White House sent the message that it was okay for Clapper to lie.  President Barack Obama sent this message by refusing to call for Clapper's immediate resignation.  Under Barack Obama, it is acceptable to lie to the Congress and the American people.  When an administration has no ethics, it's one scandal after another (thereby summing up 2013).  The lying never ends.  And it's not limited to the White House.  As Ali Watkins (McClatchy Newspaper) reminds, Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke about this spying in October but the NSA said she was wrong and Feinstein then avoided the press and had a statement issued about her being mistaken in her statements.

    Monday, Kevin Gosztola (FireDogLake) reported:

    A sheet of talking points for employees of the National Security Agency and Central Security Services, was sent out ahead of Thanksgiving to help guide conversations with family and friends during the holiday season.
    Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page document that was sent out on November 22. It was clearly put together for rebutting statements about the NSA from news stories on documents disclosed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and it encouraged employees to “share the following points with family members and close friends.”

    The “talking points” sheet suggests that employees make five key points: (1) NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation”; (2) NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy; (3) NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world; (4) The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish; (5) NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers. (No emphasis added. Underlines appear in the document.)

    Creating an official series of talking points which are secretly distributed to government employees?  That's dangerously close to a form of propaganda that's illegal in the United States -- the sort of propaganda which legally prevents The Voice of America from broadcasting over US radio airwaves.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) observes, "The NSA defends this program, arguing (as it always does) that there's nothing wrong with doing what it's doing. Billions of people living around the globe might disagree."  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) rebuts the talking points here.

    The Guardian's a British newspaper and today's revelations are being covered by the world press.  Hayley Dixon (Telegraph of London) notes:

     The latest leaks come as Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister, called for an inquiry into state surveillance.
    Mr Baker defended the Guardian's publication of secret information.

    When asked by the New Statesman whether he would like to see an inquiry into the allegations, he said: "Yes. In my view, it's perfectly reasonable for the Guardian to raise questions about the balance between the state and the individual to take account of the fact that technology has moved on a huge amount and the law was drafted when we didn't have the means of communication we do now – Skype and everything else – and the capacity of the security services, or the Americans, to engage in trawling for stuff." 

    Australia's The Age carries the Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani report.  The Philippine Star runs Kimberly Dozier's AP report.  The Press Trust of India covers the latest revelations here.  Germany's Deutsche Welle covers it here.  Iran's Press TV covers it here.

    One country whose media isn't yet covering the story is Iraq.  They have plenty to cover already with campaign season taking place and a major defection from Nouri's political coalition.

    State of Law is the coalition Nouri created.  Today it's the coalition with a high profile defection.  Iraq Times notes that State of Law's leader in Parliament, Izzat al-Shahbandar, is the topic of speculation with rumors flying that he had resigned from State of Law.  Alsumaria then reported that they could confirm the resignation via multiple sources.  Hours later, All Iraq News noted Izzat al-Shahbander had publicly announced his resignation and declared, "The SLC [State of Law Coalition] turned into a sectarian coalition."  All Iraq News also noted that al-Shahbander met with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday.  Kitabat quotes him stating that Nouri's positions and actions do not reflect his own beliefs and he cites Nouri's refusal to work with political opponents or to respect the ongoing sit-ins.

    This is a major blow to Nouri.  It's a loss at a time when Nouri's personal prestige was already on the decline.  It's a loss that al-Shahbander and Moqtada can spin as 'the building of a new Iraq.'  The two were at odds for some time.  In fact, in 2011, the Sadr bloc was accusing al-Shahbander (and other State of Law MPs -- but they specifically named al-Shahbander) of procuring women for Nouri in the Green Zone. Now that can be put behind them, is the message, and the unity and good of Iraq can instead be embraced.

    This is a very damaging political move for Nouri.  He's an all around failure.  His big photo-op at the White House didn't lead to praise in Iraq -- a number of outlets ran photos of a visibly bored Barack turned away from Nouri who sat there looking pathetic.  The private rebuke from the European Union (over the attacks on human rights in Iraq) became public in the media.

    There's also the perception that Nouri is bleeding supporters.  I do not interpret the 2013 provincial elections that way but the western press does.  To lose the head of your bloc in Parliament on top of that?  With elections just month away?

    Alsumaria reports on polls that show State of Law to be in third place among the voters.   Iraq Times reports former Minister of Finance Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi states his Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution is winning the polls, followed by the Sadr bloc and then third-placed Nouri.  He also rejects the notion that anyone should serve more than two terms as prime minister and the insisting (by Dawa) that if Nouri's not prime minister the prime minister must still be a member of the Dawa Party.

    It's not a good week for Nouri.

    Iraqiya won the 2010 elections which meant Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi should have been named prime minister.  That did not happen.  But today Allawi Tweets a message (with video) calling on Iraqis to participate in the elections and ensure that the elections are free and fair.

    يجب على كلٍ منا أن يؤدي دوره ويعطي للآخر وهذا من خلال قرار الشعب العراقي الكريم في انتخابات حرة نزيهة. نرفق لكم...

    Allawi did not become prime minister because the White House voided the election results.  They did this by brokering a contract (The Erbil Agreement) that gave Nouri a second term he did not win.  The political blocs signed off on the contract, under heavy US pressure, for two reasons: (a) it was now November, 8 months after the elections and Nouri's refusal to step down had brought the governmnet to a standstill for 8 months and (b) in exchange for a second term, Nouri agreed to do certain things (such as implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constituion).  Nouri never lived up to his contractual promises.

    Yesterday, Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) reported that few Iraqis have bothered to update their records for voting:

    The low number of voters who showed up to update their records in preparation for the legislative elections in April 2014 is worrisome and raises questions about the will for change. The figures leaked from the Electoral Commission indicate that fewer than 500,000 people updated their records days before the expiration of the statutory period.
    Even though leaders such as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr called on voters to update their records, this failed to raise the participation rates to numbers significant enough to make an impact.
    This raises concerns of political leaders such as Ethel Nujaifi, the governor of Mosul, who said that only 4% of Mosul’s Arabs showed up to update their records.

    It's a bit difficult to get excited about voting when the US government keeps overturning your votes.  First, in 2006, Bully Boy Bush rejected the Iraqi Parliament's choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jafaari) and insisted on installing Nouri al-Maliki then, in 2010, Barack Obama insisted Nouri get a second term the Iraqi voters vetoed.  Why exactly are they supposed to be eager to vote?

    They keep voting and the US government keeps overturning their votes.

    Barack Obama seriously harmed Iraq's chances to become a democracy when he refused to honor the Iraqi's people voice and instead dismissed the votes to back Nouri.

    Now Nouri wants a third term.

    Today, he went to Iran.  MP Amir al-Kinani tells All Iraq News, "Maliki's visit to Iran is to ensure his nomination as the PM of Iraq for the third term and not, as stated, about congratulating the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, for his nomination as the President of Iran because he was not elected recently.  Maliki's political attempts are to get the third post as the PM post where he had gone to USA before for the same purpose."  Fars News Agency reports on Nouri's visit, "During the news conference in the Iranian capital today, Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki reiterated the necessity for increasing exchange of visits between the two countries’ businessmen and trade officials in a bid to further consolidate Iran-Iraq economic ties."  Iraq Times reports MP Zala Naftiji, who serves on Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, has denounced the visit noting that they were only informed of it this week and informed of it by the media, not Nouri's office.  All Iraq News quotes Moqtada al-Sadr describing the government as "weak and unable to protect itself."

    In more bad news for Nouri, Jaclyn Jaeger (Compliance Week) reports, "Spain, Libya, and Iraq are just a few countries who fared worst than last year in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. Spain slipped from 30th place in 2012 to 40th this year out of 177 countries around the world where perceptions about corruption were measured. Libya fell 12 places from 160 in 2012 to 172 in 2013; Iraq also from 169th place in 2012 to 171 in 2013."

    National Iraqi News Agency reports that former police chief Colonel Abdullah al-Jabouri was shot dead in Shirqat, a Mosul bombing left three police officers injured, a Hadeetha bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, "the director of the psychiatric department of Yarmouk hospital" was shot while "near Omi-Ttobool mosque" today (the doctor was either injured or killed -- it's not clear which), a Mosul grenade attack left two people injured, an attack on a police chekpoint in al-Hamidhiyah left 3 police officers dead and four more injured, a Falluja attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers with two more left injured, a Mosul shooting left 1 man dead and his brother injured, 2 people were shot dead in Ramadi, a Qaim roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and four more injured, a Muqdadiyah roadside bombing left four people injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing left four people injured, a Yathrib sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left two more people injured, the federal police shot dead 1 suspect "southwest of Bahgdad," and a Kirkuk bombing and shootings left 5 people dead and sixty more injured.

    From Monday's snapshot:

    Let's stay with political news out of Iraq.  All Iraq News reports today that arrest warrants have been issued against two members of Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc -- MP Jawad al-Shihaili and Baha al-Araji.  al-Araji is charged with "damaging general properties" and al-Shihaili is charged with "stealing state's revenues."  These warrants come only after Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports MPs are accusing Nouri al-Maliki of misuse of state resources on his recent trip to Basra -- including, Moqtada's bloc pointed out, Nouri offering up land plots.  MPs see the visit as typical Nouri trying to bribe for votes but the difference this time is that a law's been passed to make this illegal.

    Tuesday, NINA reported:

    A member of the Parliamentary Committee on Integrity, MP for the Ahrar bloc Jawad al-Shayli accused the Dawa Party behind the arrest warrant issued against him.
    He said, at a news conference in the House of Representatives today that the judiciary issued an arrest warrant against him and MP Jawad Hasnawi and a memorandum of bringing against the head’sbloc Bahaa al-Araji , accusing the Dawa Party of being behind it , with the aim of political targeting, comparing the work of the Dawa Party, now with Baath Party.
    He added : "The warrant relating to charges in accordance with Article 316 of embezzlement of state funds , which means the money of the medical treatment, which he took from the House of Representatives ."
    He said : "The MP, of the State of law, Khalid al-Attiyah took four times this expense ," wondering : "Why did not issue an arrest warrant against Al-Attiyah, and many MPs of state of law ," adding : "The aim of these warrants is political targeting ."

    Dar Addustour reports today that a judiciary source states the call for the arrests came personally from Nouri.

    Meanwhile members of the European Parliament issued the following statement today:

    On Wednesday, Dec. 4, senior members from various political groups within the European Parliament condemned the continuation of gross human rights violations in Iran under the Rouhani presidency. They also warned against offering any concessions to the mullahs in return for their hollow gestures on the nuclear dispute, and called for immediate action by the EU, US and the UN to release seven Iranian dissidents taken hostage by the Government of Iraq, and to guarantee the safety and security of the members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iraq.
    These MEPs were taking part in a major conference at the European Parliament that was organized by Friends of a Free Iran (FoFI). Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of Iranian Resistance, took a leading role in the conference. Rita Süssmuth, former President of the German Bundestag, was another prominent guest. Rajavi pointed out that "if the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is a prelude to the complete implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, it can be considered the beginning of a trend that upsets the regime's internal and external balance.
    There is widespread pressure from the Iranian people to end the mullahs' demented and insane nuclear program. Nothing short of the full and complete dismantling of the regime's nuclear program is acceptable."
    According to the MEPs, Tehran had no choice but to accept a setback, due to international sanctions and its fear of another mass uprising similar to that of 2009.  But in return, unacceptable concessions were made, especially by the EU and US, including allowing enrichment, doing without the Additional Protocol, and allowing Iran to refuse snap inspections. All of this leaves the key to bomb-making in the mullahs' hands. The MEPs warned if the international community does not head for full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, including a total halt to uranium enrichment and acceptance of the Additional Protocol, the regime will once again covertly advance their bomb-making activities.

    "In the nuclear talks in Geneva it was all about smiles, handshakes and diplomacy," said Jim Huggins, a member of the Parliament's Bureau from Ireland. "But at the end of the day we are dealing with a corrupt regime. It is all about cosmetic concessions for Iran only to have the sanctions lifted."
    The participants called on the P5+1, especially the US and European countries and Baroness Ashton, to stop making concessions to Tehran on the nuclear issue and to demand complete implementation of Security Council resolutions, full cessation of uranium enrichment, halting of plutonium production projects, and acceptance of the Additional Protocol and snap inspections of suspicious sites.
    According to the European Parliamentarians, almost six months after the election of Hassan Rouhani,  human rights condition have deteriorated, the number of recorded executions has already reached 400, the export of terrorism and fundamentalism has intensified and the Iranian regime's meddling in Syria has increased dramatically.
    MEPs were vociferously critical of the policies of the West regarding the massacre of Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, in Iraq. On September 1, the forces of the Government of Iraq, at the behest of the Iranian regime, raided Ashraf and executed 52 defenceless residents, members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), as well as taking seven hostage, including six women.
    The participants called for an impartial investigation into the massacre and underscored that the EU, especially Baroness Ashton's silence and inaction towards this great crime against humanity is totally unacceptable. They stressed that the EU, US, UN and especially the UN Security Council should force the Iraqi government to live up to its responsibilities and free the seven hostages, while also removing obstructions against providing urgent provisions for the security of Camp Liberty.

    Straun Stevenson, President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq who had just come back from a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan warned, "It is time for Baroness Ashton, John Kerry and Ban Ki-moon to face up to the reality, end the appeasement and demand the release of the seven hostages Maliki is holding. They must call for an independent, internal investigation and hold Maliki accountable for the September 1 massacre and the other atrocities in camps Ashraf and Liberty."
    Alejo Vidal Quadras, a Vice President of the Parliament added "Lady Ashton still remains silent in the face of the crime against humanity in Camp Ashraf, which is still ongoing... Lady Ashton must call for the release of the hostages and I tell you that EP relations with Iraq will be damaged severely should Iraq not comply."
    According to the participants, the US government could and can impel Iraq to free the hostages and provide security for Liberty. If they did so, there would be no need for the ongoing hunger strike by hundreds of Iranians the world over. But, three months after the September 1 attack, even the slightest security measures in Liberty are being opposed by the Iraqi government.

    The MEPs pointed out that Maliki is visiting Iran to gain support for his third term as prime minister, something that is opposed by all Iraqi political factions. He counts on Tehran, and in exchange Tehran asks for the complete massacre of the PMOI in Camp Liberty. The conference was also told that there are suspicions that Maliki will use his visit to Tehran to arrange for the seven Ashrafi hostages to be secretly deported to Iran, where they will face certain torture and execution.