Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Best DVDs of 2010

Ann and Stan, teaming up again to look back on 2010 in DVDs.



1) (tie) "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" -- the two films of 2009 came out on DVD in 2010. These are the bookends, two directors -- Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron -- working at the top of their craft.

mark ruffalo


3) "The Kids Are All Right." Lisa Cholondenko directed and co-wrote this film which has the sort of life that's been missing from the screen since "Flirting With Disaster." Annette Bening and Julianne Moore head up the cast as a happy couple with two teenage children, one of whom wants to meet his biological father which sets off all that follows. And that father? Played by 2010's DVD MVP Mark Ruffalo. Rufalo was one of the few bright spots (Mark Wahlberg was another) in the dreary "Date Night" and he was second only to DiCaprio in "Shutter Island." But it was in this film that he really got to strut his stuff and show how he's quickly become the best actor of his generation. And Bening and Moore are at the top of their game as well.


Salt

4) "Salt." The best action film of the year. Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt -- a CIA agent who may be a Russian mole. And she's got everyone after her. You know she's going to kick butt, the fun is in figuring out just how. Not since Sigourney Weaver have American films had such a believable action heroine.

5) "The Blind Side." A moving film with strong performances and none stronger than Sandra Bullock's. Hopefully, enough time has passed so that we can let her performance speak for itself and not get distracted by the personal obstacles she had to overcome after receiving her Best Actress award at the Academy Awards.


Tetro

6) "Tetro." Fathering one of the country's most talented directors, Sofia Coppola, doesn't appear to have thrown the master, Francis Ford Coppola, into a panic. Instead, he appears reborn with this moody and intense study of two brothers (Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich).

7) "Zombieland." If you're like us, this is one of those films you repeatedly avoided thinking you'd come back to it when there was nothing else left. If that's how you played it, you were, no doubt, as surprised as we were when you finally watched this one and realized it was an instant classic. Woody Harrelson has never been so good onscreen (and that's including his amazing performance in 2007's "The Walker").

8) "Shutter Island" -- starting with the classic film "Goodfellas," Robert DeNero became parsley in Martin Scorsese films -- so much so that his absence for over a decade and a half hasn't even registered. Leonardo DiCaprio has been Scorsese's alter-ego on film and it's given the films new life. "Shutter Island" is spooky and and haunting and unlike anything we normally expect from "Mean Streets" Scorsese proving that, unlike many peers, he hasn't ripened and been reduced to self-parody.

Dear John

9) "Dear John" -- There aren't a lot of good weepy films. There's "Splendor in the Grass," "Dr. Zhivago," "The Way We Were" and, for the most part, just a lot of wanna-bes. So this Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried film wasn't one we were expecting much from, even with Lasse Hallstrom directing. Like all good love stories, you end up wishing the leads weren't so damn noble but that's what makes it so poignant. One of 2010's most underrated films.

10) "Inception." With a story too similar to John Woo's "Paycheck" and a cast whose best scenes feel like they were left on the cutting room floor, the only thing "Inception" has going for it is the look. We still think that's strong enough for it to land at number 10.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, December 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, Kurdistan beefs up security ahead of New Year's Eve, IVAW announces a February event, and more.
December 25th, KRG President Masoud Barzani issued the following statement, "I would like to reiterate the importance of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in Iraq and call on the federal government to make the protection of Christians and religious sites a priority. We will always defend the rights of the Christian community and we repeat that the Kurdistan Region is open to embrace the displaced Christians." It's a fairly clear statement.

And Christmas did take place, was publicly celebrated in the KRG. They beefed up security, there were no known attacks on Iraqi Christians. Nathan Deuel (Daily Beast) reported from Erbil, "It's Christmas morning in northern Iraq, and the parishioners of St. Joseph's Church are emerging from their homes into the bright desert sunlight. With two Iraqi friends, I drive along narrow avenues decorated with twinkling lights and the occasional inflatable Santa. We pass a clutch of men wearing bright sweaters, pressed slacks, and loafters. A trio of women breaks into tight smiles; one is wearing a red skirt with a band of white snowflakes. We round the corner, and we're surprised to see that a shimmering tanker truck is blocking the road to the church. Frowning men in uniform wave their arms. As one of the largest Christian centers of worship in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq, the church is a potential target. We're urged to park down the block. But high security is better than nothing at all."

How is Barzani able to do to that over three provinces and Nouri can't even secure the city of Baghdad? In what world does that make sense?

Janet Ritz (Huffington Post) interviewed Qubad Talabani, the KRG's US representative and the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Excerpt:

In Iraqi Kurdistan, nationalism is the common belief in a distinctly pluralistic society where the Kurds have opened their gates to Iraqi Christians seeking refuge from extremist violence.
"We've had this welcoming policy [to Iraqi Christians];" Mr. Talabani explains; "we've probably settled in Kurdistan 12,000 to 15,000 Christian families and, regrettably, hundreds of thousands have left Iraq altogether. Those who've chosen not to leave Iraq have resettled in Kurdistan."
They've shown the same tolerance toward other religious minorities. Problems, when they do arise, are cultural in nature. Mr. Talabani was candid about the challenges faced by women in their rural regions, with crimes of honor killings and female genital mutilation, on which, he said, Kurdistan, unlike other parts of the Middle East, reports and has begun work to stop. It won't be easy. In the male dominated culture that exists in the rural areas, he points out that it will take religious leaders and village elders to change the practices. There's been some progress in those efforts, including a statement by the Kurdish Islamic authority to condemn the practices, but, as he said, "we can't shy away" from the problem. There's more work to be done.


Long targeted throughout the endless and illegal Iraq War, Iraqi Christians have faced a new wave of persecution which began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Attacks have continued in Baghdad and Mosul forcing many Iraqis to flee. Some have gone to the KRG, others have left the country. J. Lee Grady (Charisma) looks back at the "Top Spiritual Trends of 2010" and notes, "The Open Doors organization says the 'religicide' of Christians in Iraq today is similar to what happened to Iraqi Jews in 1941." Maria Mackay (Christian Today) reports:

Barnabas Fund recently received a letter from an Iraqi archbishop warning that Christians were too afraid to leave their homes. The very real threat of being killed in broad daylight is making it difficult to do the very practical things like shopping and, more importantly, going to work.
The international director of Barnabas Fund, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, said: "It is like living in a prison camp. You could leave the house but you don't know what is going to happen. Because of the targeted attacks, there is a chance that Christians venturing out to work or onto the streets will be attacked or killed. The fear is effectively leaving Christians stranded in their homes."

Sunday AFP reported, "Iraqi Christians who survived the deadly storming of a Baghdad church attended a special Christmas mass on Sunday in France, where they were evacuated following the attack. [. . . Elish] Yako said at least five of the wounded have returned from France to Iraq and six are still in hospital, while others have applied for asylum. France has said it also plans a second evacuation flight for a further 93 Christians." Nick Vinocur (Reuters) reports on the sour grapes of Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (the lack of leadership currently at that organization was never more obvious) and the UNHCR over France taking in victims ofthe October 31st attack. The two go down to the whine cellar and emerge with a chardonnay of green-eyed bitchery. Bitter Becca Heller, IRAP, whines that it's just not fair to everyone that France took in Iraqi Christians. Grow the hell up. A spectacular attack on a house of worship resulted in France offering medical help and asylum. It's not at all surprising, it's not 'discriminatory' towards others. It was spectacular attack like nothing anyone was prepared for or expected. France's offer was not at all different from those reaching out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Little whiny asses need to stop their carping. Instead of whining over what someone else did, maybe the two organizations might try doing something of their own. Because what the world's seeing is the United Nations repeatedly stating that it is not safe to return to Iraq but unble to halt the forced deportations of Iraqi refugees in Europe back to Iraq. And IRAP? The US-based organization has had no impact on US policies. So instead of whining over what the government of France did -- a noble thing to reach out to any community after an attack -- the two organizations might try sobering up, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on a real issue.
Monday Reuters reported a Dujail roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 "Christian woman and wounded her husband." That alone makes Becca Heller and company look like idiots but why stamp a fool with "IDIOT" on the forehead just once when you can do so repeatedly? BBC News reports that Baghdad was slammed with bombings targeting the homes of Iraqi Christians today leaving 2 people dead and fourteen wounded. Michael Christie and Matthew Jones (Reuters) note the number injured has risen to "at least 16" and note "Iraqi Christian leaders say they fear Sunni Islamist al Qaeda wants to drive them out of the country." David Batty (Guardian) offers this perspective, "The grenade and bomb attacks came a week after Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida threatened a wave of violence against Iraq's beleaguered Christian community." Xinhua adds, "The attacks occurred in different parts of Baghdad at night, the first roadside bomb exploded near the house of a Christian in the Ghadeer neighborhood southeast Baghdad, killing two and wounding three, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Al Jazeera notes, "Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Baghdad that the ten explosions took place outside as well as in the yards of Christian homes across Baghdad. She said the attacks were 'not simultaneous but clearly appeared to be coordinated'. The attackers used a combination of grenades and simple homemade bombs. In at least two cases, police arriving on the scene found additional unexploded bombs." Jacques Clement (AFP) reports, "The attacks started at 7:30 pm and continued over two hours in six different parts of the capital as the Christian community still reels from a massacre at a Baghdad cathedral on October 31 in which 44 worshippers and two priests died." BBC News provides this analysis: "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad said the bombs were not big by Baghdad standards, but the message was clear. He says that the Islamic militant group affiliated to al-Qaeda which said it carried out the deadly attacks in October had warned that there would be more to come." John Leland and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) quote Noor Isam stating, "We will love Iraq forever, but we have to leave it immediately to survive. I would ask the government, 'Where is the promised security for Christians'?" Yeah, where is that security? Why is it so difficult for Nouri to deliver on what he promised? Especially when Baghdad's been walled off into sections and checkpoints? (Checkpoints Nouri's considering eliminating.)
In other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack left three people injured and that 1 man was shot dead at his Kirkuk home.
Yesterday, Saman Basharati (Rudaw) reports that 1,000 peshmerga (Kurdish forces) have been sent to the city due to rumors "of a military coup" and "This is the first time since 2003 that a top Kurdish official has acknowledged the threat to Kurdish politicians of a military coup." Today Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reports that security is being beefed up in Kurdistan ahead of New Year's Eve out of concern that attacks may be planned, " It remained an oasis of relative calm while the rest of Iraq descended into sectarian bloodshed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. There are few blast walls protecting buildings from bomb attacks and residents can stay out after dark and frequent restaurants and clubs. It has become a gateway to investing in Iraq, with shopping centres, hotels and a booming real estate sector." Meanwhile the conflicts between Iraq's neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia continue as Iran's state-run outlet Press TV works overtime to encourage a Shi'ite - Arab split. Press TV reports that Fawzi Tarzi, a Moqtada al-Sadr acolate, is isnisting that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in Iraq and quotes the Iraqi National Alliance's Mohammed Hussein stating, "We should seal our borders with Saudi Arabia to hold the flow of terrorism." And Iran's state-run media also serves up Wisam al-Bayati (link has text and video) with the assertion that Saudi Arabia is "snubbing" Iraq's government out of Baghdad because many in it are Shi'ite.
For realities about Iraq, an upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event should provide many:

February 25, 2011

9:30-10:30 am

Busboys & Poets,

Langston room

14th & V st NW

Washington DC

This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past.

What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?

How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?

Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:

Geoff Millard (IVAW)

Hart Viges (IVAW)

Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)

Richard Rowely (Big Noise Films)


Meanwhile two papers weigh in that the US needs to leave Iraq. The editorial board of the Orange County Register argues, "We argued from the beginning, nearly eight years ago, that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and the prolonged U.S. occupation seems to have led to an Iraq that is more shaky than stable and has serious tolerance problems, leading, for example, to most Iraqi Christians fleeing the country. For better and for worse, however, it is time to allow Iraqis to handle these Iraqi problems. The U.S. should continue to withdraw troops on schedule and allow historians of the future to weigh the pluses and minuses of our misadventure in Iraq." The Pensacola News Journal's editorial board opines, "Frankly, we figure the future of Iraq lies in an increasingly authoritarian government that, while mild by Middle East dictatorship standards, will hopefully also be reasonably secular and relatively democratic. Meanwhile, the terrorists will continue to set off bombs, the Shiites and Sunnis will continue to scratch and claw for power, and the Kurds will try to stay out of it under independent governance. For the United States, the best outcome will be if Iraq keeps arm's-length from Iran and succeeds in greatly expanding oil exports, which frankly we believe was the point all along, no matter all the rhetoric we were spoon fed about spreading democracy, etc."

"We want to end the war now!" hollered Barack Obama to the Cult of St. Barack at the many tent revivals during the 2008 Democratic Party primaries. He used double speak and made promises he had no intention of keeping -- as Samantha Power pointed out to the BBC in March of 2008 -- and he's become the War Hawk Supreme and fraudlent in so many ways. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan examines who Barack allows redemption for and whom he refuses it to:
I believe prisons should be rehabilitative and not punitive, but was justice served and did Michael Vick pay his debt to society for his horrendous crimes? Is he redeemed? Of course, what he did was heinous and inhumane and thinking about it fills me with disgust, but our president is not similarly conflicted. On Sunday, from Hawaii, Obama reportedly called Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Eagles and huge donor to Barack Obama and other Democrats to "thank" him for giving Vick a "second chance."
Hmmm -- "Second chances" are almost miraculous for some people and impossible for others. One similar call could take Mumia off of death row, or pardon railroaded defense attorney, Lynne Stewart, or get Pvt. Bradley Manning out of his inhumane imprisonment (this list could fill a book, I am afraid, so I'll stop now).
Also, a study by the Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment, for example, found that up to 60% of ex-cons in New York was still unemployed one year after release. Stats on this are difficult to find, like most statistics on unemployment (which only count those that are receiving unemployment checks, or applying for them), but I am almost 100% sure that 100% of the 60% are not Michael Vicks or fictional, Gordon Gekkos, looking for multi-million dollar salary scores after incarceration. Most certainly, many of these "ex-cons" looking for work didn't commit as heinous of a crime as Vick did, either, but that's something we can only speculate on.
Lastly Jeff Gates (at Dissident Voice) wonders why money continues to be poured into the wars when it could address energy needs:
With the U.S. humbled in Iraq, mired in Afghanistan and in danger of being drawn into Iran, is it time to replace aggression with development and firepower with solar power?
With extremism the new enemy, what's our best defense? What if the U.S. projected its power by defending against the indignities of energy poverty and illiteracy?
Absent a strategy for addressing the roots of human indignity, it's not clear that the war on terrorism can be won. Energy poverty is a war we know how to win.
Parents of children using solar-powered LED lights report how their grades improve when they have light for studying. While that's not enough, it's a good start.
Can the U.S. afford not to embrace a solar defense? If not literacy, what is the best long-term defense against extremism? For $12, a solar-powered LED system can power a desk lamp and a phone charger.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Terry and her men

Up early and planning to hang around the apartment today so I can plan our New Year's Eve Party and clean. Got in a cleaning mode and didn't realize how much time had passed -- also had Will & Grace in the DVD player and got caught up in that. The Von Trapp episode, where they go to a showing of Sound Of Music, Karen throws her flask, the ushers are all looking for them and they have to try to escape. That one always makes me laugh, especially how Grace expects children to look up to her and they're just bored with her.

Tuesday on Fresh Air (NPR), Terry continued her look at her 'best' of the year by featuring three men -- Billy West, Jon Stewart and actor on Parks & Recreations.

Parks & Recreations?

Hey, who's the star of that show?

Oh, right Amy!

When did Terry have the star on?

Never.

Okay, what about Rashida Jones, when did Terry have Rashida on?

Never.

But the Ted Baxter of the show she has time for.

How very telling.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the KRG worries about a military coup, Mosul is slammed with suicide bombers, and more.
Mosul slammed with suicide bombers today. Alsumaria TV reports it was 6 suicide bombers, that they attacked a police station in Mosul, that police managed to shoot dead three of them, that one fled and one detonated taking the life of Shamel Akla (also spelled Shamil Oglaq in some press reports) while the police chief was targeted with a roadside bombings (which he survived). BBC News counts three suicide bombers, says one was killed by police and has the other two entering the police station where they set off their bombs. The BBC's numbers and narrative match with Sinana Salaheddin's AP report. AFP adds that 3 other police officers were killed in the attack and they cite an unnamed police officer calling this the fifth attempt on Oglaq's life. John Leland (New York Times) reports 1 bomber blew himself up outside the station, two charged in and detonated "killing the police commander, Lt. Col. Shamel Ahmed al-Jabori, who was asleep in his quarters, according to the head of the provincial security and defense committee, Abdulrahem al-Shermari. The blast brought down the building, trapping others inside. Local officials said they did not know how many people were killed or wounded." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "Several officers were unaccounted for after the blast and rescue crews were at the scene late Wednesday morning scouring through the wreckage of the building, looking for them." In other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two civilians, an attack on a Baghdad police patrol which left two police officers injured, a Salman Pak sticky bombing which injured a judge, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and injured another person and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting a Sahwa who was left unharmed. John Leland (New York Times) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more injured.

Yesterday, attacks in Mosul claimed 8 lives. Mosul is in Nineveh Province and, from yesterday's snapshot, we'll note this on the political unrest and political connections:

Hamid al-Zubaidi (Iraq Hurr) reports that last night in Mosul, the Presidency of the Conference of Nineveh, calls were made for the removal of the governor of Nineveh Province (Ethel Nujaifi also spelled Atheel al-Najafi). It's been a busy second half of the year for Nujaifi. In August, he was nearly assassinated, in September he condemned a US raid in Mosul and the arrests which followed, dubbing them "politically motivated," October saw further tensions between the Provincial Council and Nujaifi and that Nujaifi was angling for the post of Foreign Minister (Hoshyar Zebari had the post at that time and Zebari holds the post in last week's 'new' announced Cabinet) and, along with many other activities, he also helped delay the census. Last night in Mosul, Nujaifi was accused of overstepping his role and exceeding his powers due to various alleged abuses including the appointment of a mayor whom he allegedly has ties to. His brother is Osama Najafi who is the new Speaker of Parliament. New Sabah reports Osama Najafi is raising the issues of salaries in the Parliament -- Jalal Talabani's and the two vice presidents. As President of Iraq, Talabani's salary "is more than the salary of [US] President Barack Obama." It is agued that laws are needed to address this -- the same argument was made in the previous Parliament. Nujaifi, who surprised many by disclosing his own finances in a Monday Parliament session, is calling for other MPs and Cabinet ministers to do the same.

Meanwhile the national government. The New York Times' editorial board weighs in today with "An Iraqi Government, Finally" that gets taken in by Sam Dagher's 'reporting' the way so many of the rest of us did early yesterday morning. They provide a fleeting overview. They do manage to note there is only one woman in Nouri's Cabinet. That's about it. The editorial could have been written a few months ago. Most outlets (Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, etc.) wrote their 'new government' editorials last week -- when the Cabinet was announced (Tuesday of last week was the Parliament vote). An editorial that's allegedly about a cabinet should note that Nouri's holding three posts in addition to PM and that the three additional posts are part of at least ten posts that were not filled. That's fairly basic and those who turn their assignments in late are really required to offer something outstanding.
On the issue of the still unsettled Cabinet, Alsumaria TV is reporting on ongoing squabbles over one post. They note, "In a statement over Kurds' demands to take over one of the security ministries, National Alliance MP Ali Shallah affirmed that there is no political agreement between Kurds and Al Maliki over allocating the National Security Ministry to Kurdistan Alliance." And they note: "National Alliance MP Nada Al Soudani affirmed that Iraq's security ministries will not be subject to political apportionment. In a statement to Alsumaria, Al Soudani noted that plans to choose security ministers among independent figures might be hindered." That's two members of the National Alliance (Shi'ite bloc) who've felt the need to go on the record today insisting that the Kurds had no automatic hold on the National Security Ministry. Alsabaah reports that the plan is to announce the post next week and quotes a colleague of Nouri's insisting "al-Maliki refused to be pressured on this issue of selecting the Minister of Security." And they remind that Nouri only named 29 posts last week (plus the 3 he named himself to) while there are 42 positions. There are also calls from the National Alliance for the process to be speeded up and for more women to be named with the latter calls being led by the Virtue Party's Kamilp Moussawi who notes that the last Cabinet had 7 women ministers. In addition, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has received a letter from female MPs formally protesting the marginalization of women in the Cabinet. As noted last Wednesday, among the female MPs protesting the inequality is Ala Talabani, Jalal's niece. On the issue of Kurds in Baghdad, Saman Basharati (Rudaw) reports that 1,000 peshmerga (Kurdish forces) have been sent to the city due to rumors "of a military coup" and "This is the first time since 2003 that a top Kurdish official has acknowledged the threat to Kurdish politicians of a military coup." In other unrest, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports on a mood -- move? -- in Basra that continues to argue for the city to become its own region -- not unlike the KRG in the north -- and it would certainly have the oil riches to fund any adventures. It also has a highly important sea port as well as Basra International Airport. There have been two efforts at forcing a vote on the issue and Salaheddin reports a third may emerge now that Nouri has named his (partial) Cabinet finally. The Economist observes, "The biggest worry is over the failure so far to name three 'power ministers' to run interior, defense and national security. Until those posts have been allotted, Mr Maliki will hold them himself. He has already shown a tendency to use the police and army for his own political ends, so the sooner they are dished out the better. In any event, it is vital for Iraq's future that they fall under civilian control and do not become political fiefs."
Yesterday, Sam Dagher dominated the news as only a spinner can do after he filed "Iraq Wants the U.S. Out" which opened:


Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity.
Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.
A majority of Iraqis -- and some Iraqi and U.S. officials -- have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."

And then Dagher quickly moved on to other topics. There's reporting and there's lying. When we wrote yesterday morning, we noted Nouri's pattern and other things that Dagher should have noted in his article. The Wall St. Journal, so thrilled to finally have a scoop (have they had even one since Murdoch took over the paper), quickly released the transcript of Dagher's interview and uh-oh, not quite as definitive as he painted it.

In the third paragraph of the excerpt above, he quotes Nouri stating, "The last American soldier will leave Iraq." And then he jumps to "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed." Let's go to the transcript and I'm going to put what Dagher quoted in italics:
The last American soldier will leave Iraq. Secondly this agreement is sealed and at the time we designated it as sealed and not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country, that's another matter. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration, it is sealed, it expires on Dec. 31

Wow. Journalistic malpractice before our own eyes. What Dagher's established is that no one should ever trust a quote from him again. He cherry picked to spin the story the way he wanted and deliberately left out a very pertinent fact. (Though he doesn't quote him, like a good Rudith Miller, Dagher does bury the possibility of a new SOFA in paragraph thirteen. Alsumaria TV demonstrates how Dagher's distortions are spread across Iraq.)
Nouri's statements are cagey and make more sense today. The SOFA would have to be replaced, we've long noted that. If the US military presence continues in Iraq (and is not fudged as "State Dept mission"), the SOFA would have to be replaced with something. That's how the UN mandate worked as well. Nouri pushes the burden off onto Parliament and with his past history that's meaningless.
But as usual, Juan Cole's an idiot. The cheerleader for the war who then was against it, then saw a turned corner, then didn't know what he was doing, then got testy when Steve Rendall mentioned some of this reality in a CounterSpin interview, thinks that because he has a few groupies who allow him to constantly blog in a revisionary style, the whole world will hail him as a genius. Keep dreaming.
Juan Cole plays idiot (plays?) quoting a State Dept cable on the issue of the occupation and Iraqi opinion of it. So that's an interp of an interp? And we're supposed to believe it? The cable exists I'm not denying it. I'm also not a stupid asshole who thinks information and opinions are freely shared in an occupation. Or that third-hand gossip is necessarily "news." Juan wants you to know that the Parliament could never approve a SOFA, never!!!! Again, Nouri's pattern is to subvert the Parliament. I don't know who's been doing Cole's lectures and testing but maybe he needs to turn his blog over to his TA? Let's assume for a moment that this was an issue that went before Parliament. Cole argues:

There are not 163 votes in parliament for an extension of the US troop presence, and any move in that direction would likely cause al-Maliki's government to fall. Muqtada al-Sadr's followers have 40 seats in parliament and are the leading party in the National Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite fundamentalist parties, who have a total of 70 seats. They would pull out of al-Maliki's government and likely return to militia activity were he to betray their expectations in that way. Al-Maliki's own State of Law coalition, including his Islamic Mission Party (Da`wa) is certainly not going to plump for US troops to remain. It has 89 seats. Those two Shiite religious blocs have 159 seats between them. And, among the Sunni Arabs of the Iraqiya, there would certainly be at least 4 who opposed retaining US troops. Voila, 163. No parliamentary approval.

Third-hand news and lousy crystal visions -- it's as if Juan Cole formed a cheap Fleetwood Mac cover band to do a Rumors tribute.
A number of people -- including guess who -- spent forever claiming the SOFA wouldn't get pushed through in the first place. It did. Probably a good idea not to try to predict what the future holds. But if you're going to, probably a good idea to know a thing or two.
Unlike Juan Cole, we've covered the targeting of Iraqi Christians. We've covered it repeatedly and regularly. That has several times meant drawing a very firm line on a number of topics. One of which is that the supporters in the US who organize rallies are advocating for the US military to remain in Iraq for the near future. (As noted many times before, we don't support that.) Is Juan aware of that? Probably not. He certainly doesn't write as if he is.
Most likely, those Iraqi Christians in the Parliament would vote for the US to stay. The State Dept has long considered the Kurdish bloc a sure thing to vote for the US to stay. Once you note those, it's not too difficult to note other things. Such as the split between Moqtada's bloc and the Iraqi National Alliance whose leader increasingly tilts westward.
And then there's the most important thing of all -- which Juan is too 'pure' (too much of a priss, actually) to note -- money. Palms were greased and then some in November 2008. Palms will be greased again. It is not at all difficult to see a similar vote as that which took place in November 2008: a large number of MPs bailing on the vote. Those who remain left to insist on this extra and that bonus.

Nouri's not popular. The stalemate only made him less so. He was hoping to be feared as iron-fisted Nouri. But the stalemate just reminded everyone of how, in his four-year term as PM, Nouri never could seal the deal. He's a wanna be strong man who lacks the fear factor with the public.
It's not difficult to see him (yet again) throwing his lot in with the US. It's paid very well for him thus far and neither Iran nor the US really seems focused on much more than pushing Iraq back and forth between them like a shiny, rubber ball.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em.
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her
Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

British citizen Danny Fitzsimons' trial began in Baghdad today and he could receive the death penalty. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo before returning to Iraq as a contractor in the fall of 2009. He is accused of being the shooter in an August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi Saleh, was injured. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports Arkan Mahdi Saleh took the stand today and testified, "I was standing at a guard post when I heard some movements behind me. When I turned back to check, I saw Fitzsimons with a pistol in his hand and aiming at me."
Danny's family has explained that he suffers from PTSD and have asked that the trial be moved to England. Eric and Liz Fitzsimons (his father and step-mother) spoke to the BBC (link has video):

Liz Fitzsimons: You see, when he came out of the army because the army had always been his life, it was then at a real crossroads in his life and where some people might be able to cope, unfortunately, Daniel didn't cope well because he did enjoy army life. It was all he ever wanted, he loved it. And you come out and you live Middleton, which is where he ended up, and he couldn't find a path that suited him, he couldn't find a job although he tried very hard. And a testament to Daniel is that he joined a gym and kept himself -- Daniel likes routine. Daniel goes to the gym every day almost, I would suggest, every day, goes jogging he's a very clean young man. You know, he's not sort of gone wayward and just gone to the dogs kind of thing. And he met a girl, like you want your children to do, but then he wanted the normal life and he wanted the money that would go with a normal life. How does he do that when he can't find a job? And unfortunately becoming a security --
Eric Fitzsimons: He went back into doing security.
Liz Fitzimons: -- person in Iraq. [. . .] Oh, awful. Awful. The situation in Iraq isn't good, is it? We all know it's not good. But he would be out in convoys I believe their main job is to escort to --
Eric Fitzsimons: Oil [workers? Second word isn't clear.]
Liz Fitzsimons : Yes but they do escort people to jobs. And they do ride shotgun basically. They ride around --
Eric Fitzsimons: He's told us quite a lot of --
Liz Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Eric Fitsimons: -- tales.
Liz Fitzsimons: He saw some awful things. The person in the cab next to him was blown up.
Eric Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Liz Fitzsimons: Next to him. At the same he had a bullet in his foot.
Eric Fitzsimons: Bullet in his foot, yeah, he's seen all sorts of IEDs you know, sorts of explosions at the side of the road. Loads and loads of them. And seen lots and lots of his friends killed
Amnesty International has issued several statements on Danny, the most recent being in August of this year:
Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
"It's obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're very concerned about this case.
"Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there's a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
"David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning."
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.
"I would like to reiterate the importance of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in Iraq and call on the federal government to make the protection of Christians and religious sites a priority. We will always defend the rights of the Christian community and we repeat that the Kurdistan Region is open to embrace the displaced Christians."
At Support Danny Fitzsimons, his family issued the following statement:
The incident that took place in Iraq is still being investigated, but can be readily accessed online following the links to any major newspaper. The incident took place in the early hours of Sunday 9th August, after a drink fuelled argument led to Danny being set upon and beaten. In response Danny has drawn his sidearm and shot his two colleagues dead. One cannot explain the amount of confusion and grief that has affected all families involved in this incident and even as Danny's brother, my initial thoughts were immediately for the victims and their grief stricken families. However, I consider myself to be a fair man, and I cannot avoid the fact that I believe there is a third victim in this incident; Danny Fitzsimons, and that mercy must be shown to him.
Danny should never have been able to set foot in Iraq, and certainly should not have been given a job working for one of the biggest security firms working in there. Danny left the UK without any of his family knowing, and whilst being wanted by the UK Police force for previous charges. I am unclear as to how Danny managed to leave the country undetected, and very confused as to how he managed to secure a job with a company who are quoted as saying they 'have a strong vetting procedure' for employees.
Not only was Danny a wanted man with an extensive criminal record when he left for Iraq, but he also suffered from severe mental stress including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other personality disorders linked to aggression, dual personality and alcohol problems. This is a soldier who has spent seven months in prison for previous offences, a soldier who 'has killed more people than he can count' both in the army as a very young soldier and as a private security worker, a soldier who has been trained by the armed forces to be an efficient killer and sniper, a soldier who has fought bravely for his country in five different conflicts and wars, and more importantly a soldier who suffers from mental illness and has been given a position of high responsibility, armed with high calibre weaponry, in probably the most hostile and emotionally stressful location on the planet.
Because I am not a psychologist, I cannot comment accurately on some of the stressful and horrific situations Daniel has faced countless times as both a soldier in the army and as a private security worker. However, it is truthful to say that what he has endured as a soldier far exceeds that the average human could. Danny joined the army at the age of sixteen. By eighteen he had been shot at and had had to kill enemy soldiers. At this time he also witnessed gruesome and vile acts of murder and torture of fellow human beings. In one instance Danny came home on leave boasting to myself and the rest of our family of how he had befriended and child and how he had given the child chocolates and helped better his life in a war ravaged city. Later on in the tour Danny discovered the same child, cut into pieces and stuffed in transparent plastic bags in an industrial freezer. To this day Danny suffers with insomnia, alcoholism, and re-occurring nightmares as a result of the trauma he has faced. He has lost countless numbers of friends and frequently has had to perform clean up missions; collecting his friends body parts from incident areas under heavy fire. It is my opinion that there are not adequate policies and procedures in place to assist soldier who have faced traumatic and horrific experiences, and this trend of ex soldiers finding it difficult to conform to civilian life will continue. The statistics are alarming. Prior to going to Iraq, Daniel served time in prison and was truly remorseful for his conviction throughout his sentence and as he has since left. Prison life agreed with Danny. It gave him structure and clear goals. I was in court the day Danny's sentence came to an end and he displayed a positive attitude towards life after prison. It would be reasonable to say that he had a truly different outlook on life and was quick to listen and converse with all around him about his plans for the future. There were signs that Danny would turn things around and would be able to control some of the anguish and pain that he felt. At that point my opinion would have been that Danny could have made a very positive contribution towards society and would continue to make steps towards building a future characterised by honesty and integrity.
As with many former heroes of the armed forces; Danny progress was limited and slipped back into his 'darker side' prior to and whilst in Iraq. This is a side unimaginable to you and me. A side that involves regular episodes of crying at the despair of fallen comrades, and self harm linked to the guilt felt for the child chopped to pieces and stuffed in a freezer. Danny suffers with paranoia and is convinced people are sneaking up on him in public. I cannot believe that Danny was contracted to work out in Iraq, given these clear and very observable remarks on his character.
I do not believe in war, and I certainly do not believe in the death sentence. Danny's solicitor from the UK has travelled out to Iraq already and assures me that the justice system is a far cry from our own. It is likely that Danny will hang in Iraq. It is also possible that Danny will face a sentence in Iraqi jail -- a sentence I am told is as good as the death sentence given the danger posed to him being a British private security worker, by fellow inmates. We are campaigning to bring Danny back home to face a public trial here in the UK. The Iraqi system will not take Danny's mental health into consideration, a factor which is crucial to the outcome of his case. I believe Danny should take responsibility for his actions and would not question any sentence imposed by our system, but I cannot sit back and watch my brother hang in Iraq given the circumstances of the offence. Danny is not well, and should never have been in Iraq in the first place".
Please show your support by 'clicking' yes to our campaign. We are a normal, caring family and are desperately seeking funds to take our campaign forwards. We need money for advertising, educational resources for Danny in Iraq and our legal team. Any donations will be greatly appreciated. In order to make a donation please follow the 'PayPal' link.
Many thanks

The Family.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deluded Gross

Silly Terry Gross thinks she and her bad program had some 'bests' in 2010. Monday she looked back on her bad interview with Keith Richards and her bad interview with Brian May. Yes, both are men.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a US soldier is wounded in a bombing, the Speaker of Parliament discloses his finances and urges others to do the same, Nouri says the SOFA stands (and then adds it stands unless it's replaced with a new SOFA), some Baghdad checkpoints may be pulled, the Nineveh governor faces calls to step down, what of the responsibilities of Progressives For Obama, and more.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio (began airing Monday on WBAI and around the country thorughout the rest of the week), hosts Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner spoke with Nellie Hester Baily, co-founder of the Harlem Tenants Council and co-host of Black Agenda Radio (Progressive Radio) with Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) and the hose of WHCR's Inside Housing. Excerpt.
Nellie Hester Bailey: You are undoubtedly aware of the letter that originated with, I think his name is Paul Halle [John Halle]. He is a professor at Bard College. And this letter was sent out almost a month ago and it called upon basically the Progressive for Obama -- i.e. Bill Fletcher, Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich to look at Obama for what he is and, in fact, called upon them specifically to support the December 15th action Veterans for Peace, that was in Washington, DC, there was a demonstration in front of the White House about 131 people were arrested in that protest. [. . .] And Halle wants to get about 5,000 signators on that letter. He has close to 4,000 now. The response from Tom Hayden has been rather visceral: 'Who are you to talk to me like this?' Bill Fletcher is very upset. Yet they continue in this vein of Progressives for Obama to support his policy and not pull him back because what we need most of all for poor and working people and, in particular, African-Americans is for the blinders to be pulled off so that people can see actually what it is that we are dealing with and that President Barack Obama is no longer sugar coated as "the historic first," "he's our Black president,' 'no matter what he does, we're going to support him' when at the same time, as we see the collapse of the empire -- and I think there is an inevitability in all of that when you look at the unstatainable wars that we are engaged in, when you look at the move to the right domestically with that of the Republican agenda which means more civil rights oppression against the populace here, when you look at the economic demise of so many Americans which is why White America is so upset -- because they're standard of living has declined dramatically, when you look at the recent report, I believe, from the Center for Disease Control that now we have more than a 50% increase in the number of people who are uninsured [PDF format warning, click here]. And when you look at all of these factors and the work force has been reduced, we are expected to work long hours, we are expected to retire later in life. In fact, we are being worked to death and our kids are being sent to war, and, if you are an immigrant and if you want the Dream Act, if you want to become an American citizen, then prove to us that you are willing to die and, if you do die, then we will grant you citizenship. These are the realities, the undeniable realities that we are looking at when we look at and when we embrace the Obama administration. Now, what it is that we can do, we can support the initiatives of Halle, we can put those strattling liberal progressives on the sideline by saying, "You no longer can lull the people, or herd the people like sheep, into this nightmare of compromise which in fact is our demise from the Obama adminsitration. What we can do, and this is a big problem we have in the African-American community because upon his election, one noted activist here in New York City said, 'You know President Obama gave us a wink-and-a-nod. You know, he knows, he knows. And we can expect the best out of him. And Michelle is going to make him do right. And Michelle will do --" I mean, this soap opera scenario and day dreaming which is just incomprehensible and particularly when you look at the left, we're talking about the Marxist left, that there was no class and race analysis about this man's presidency. How can one call themselves and declare themselves a Marxist and you support President Barack Obama? How is that possible? What was the failure of the left? Why was the left so blinded by this 'historic first'? 'First African-American president.' Well we had --
Michael Smith: You had Colin Powell, you had Condoleeza Rice --
Nellie Hester Bailey: We had Colin Powell, we had Condoleeza Rice as the first and we saw what fruit that bore. It was not a good fruit.
Michael Ratner: So why do you think it happened? I mean, I understand. Really your analysis is quite clear, quite sharp and one could even argue that the powers-that-be got Obama in to essentially supress the progressive movement and the African-American community --
Nellie Hester Bailey: Absolutely.
Michael Ratner: -- that would have actually diverted it and it created this whole tension about should we do this or not. But why do you think people missed it so much? Particularly, there are a lot of good people who you know. Your friends who were certainly on the fence if not worse in terms of their thinking this was going to be the great savior.
Nellie Hester Bailey: I-I'm at a loss. I mean, when you look at people whom I love dearly -- Amiri Baraka, I mean how do you explain that?
Michael Ratner: That one's a hard one.
Nellie Hester Bailey: Fletcher? Nnnnnhhh -- he straddled the fence here and there. Nnnnhhh, you know you can, okay. But people like Baraka? Some of the other noted left wingers, a long history, tradition of Marxist analysis -- How is that possible? One of the excuses we heard was, "Well the people are for him, we don't want to display this vanguard elitism." These forces, Progressives for Obama, need to step back and realize their responsibility to building a working class people, multi-racial movement to take on this system that is declining, that is in collapse, it is not sustainable. We see the desperation every single day. And it seems to me that if they cannot wake up at this point, then a large part of the movement that we're trying to build, that Michael talked about, we saw it from the very beginning, that you're talking about, that others are talking about, that we are all going to be doomed not unless conditions force the populace into the streets as we are seeing in Ireland, as we are seeing in England, as we are seeing throughout Europe, as we are seeing in Greece, as we're seeing in France. And if conditions don't drive people into the street, that there comes a point that they can no longer tolerate the assault on their lives and their civil liberties, then we are in fact doomed and I'm not too optimistic. But, as Che said, if you are a revolutionary, then we are full of optimism. So I am optimistic but it is a hard road ahead of us.
Also on this week's broadcast, Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith discussed political prisoner Lynne Stewart. The child of Brooklyn grew up to be the people's attorney -- called that because she took the cases of those targeted and those in need. Sometimes she was the only one who would take the cases. As she declared at an anti-war rally in March 2005, the government was targeting her for "what I have been doing for the last 30 years, organizing and defending people who need to be defended, and nothing to do with the 'T' word." The 'T' word being terrorism. Lynne is an attorney. She is now in prison. Not for breaking a law because guidelines aren't laws and because the Justice Dept cannot pass laws (though they can make guidelines). Lynne's 'crime' was issuing a press release. As Peter Daniels (WSWS) reported in real-time on Lynne's 2005 trial, "The government's case was based on illegal spying on confidential attorney-client communications. The prosecution presented as evidence tape-recorded phone conversations and prison visits. The charge was that Stewart, who had been forced to agree to draconian rules restricting [Sheik Omar] Abdel Rahman's communications with the outside world, had nevertheless relayed messages to the media from the imprisoned cleric. The politicl character of the charges against Stewart was clear from the beginning. Although the heart of the government's case deals with a May 2000 meeting between Stewart and her client at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, nothing was done about this until six months after the September 11 attacks." If you're late to the charges, Elaine Cassel (Find Law) covered the charges and what they meant for the future in this 2002 column. and, in this February 14, 2005 column, she's covering the verdict. In July of this year it was decided her sentence was too 'easy' and she was re-sentenced. Michael S. Smith (at Monthly Review) wrote about the re-sentencing. As Fight Back! News notes, "Stewart is a 71-year old breast cancer survivor who was jailed for her work as a lawyer representing Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the 'Blind Sheikh.' Abdel-Rahman was accused of plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Stewart has a long career as a human rights champion, defending the poor, the oppressed and the unpopular, who rarely get good legal representation or a fair trial." Petra Bartosiewicz (Los Angeles Times) observed last July that "Stewart's plight has larger implications for us all: It is a bellwether of the increasingly stringent secrecy and security measures imposed in federal courts, particularly in terrorism trials -- all part of the systemic erosion of due process that reformers expected would end with the election of Barack Obama, but which has been only further institutionalized. Stewart's case has come to symbolize the increasing difficulty attorneys face in zaelously advocating for politically unpopular clients -- a necessary component of due process in an adversary legal system." Ruth and Mike covered Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith's discussion of the latest Lynne news, she's been moved from New York (where her family is) to Texas. We'll note this letter from Lynne posted at her website:

Dear Folks:

Some nuts and bolts and trivia

1 New Address
Lynne Stewart
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
53504 – 054
Unit 2N
PO Box 27137
Fort Worth TEXAS 76127

2 Visiting is very liberal but first I have to get people on my visiting list Wait til I or the lawyers let you know. The visits are FRI, SAT, SUN AND MON for 4 hours and on weekends 8 to 3. Bring clear plastic change purse with lots of change to buy from the machines. Brief Kiss upon arrival and departure, no touching or holding during visit (!!) On visiting forms it may be required that you knew me before I came to prison. Not a problem for most of you.

3. One hour time difference

4. Commissary Money is always welcome It is how I pay for the phone and for email. Also need it for a lot that prison doesn't supply in terms of food and "sundries" (pens!) A very big list that includes Raisins, Salad Dressing , ankle sox, mozzarella (definitely not from Antonys–more like a white cheddar, Sanitas Corn Chips but no Salsa etc. To add money, you do this by using Western Union and a credit card by phone or you can send a USPO money order or Business or Govt Check. The negotiable instruments (PAPER!) need to be sent to Federal Bureau of Prisons , 53504-054, Lynne Stewart, PO Box 474701, Des Moines Iowa 50947-001 (Payable to Lynne Stewart, 53504-054) They hold the mo or checks for 15 days. Western Union costs $10 but is within 2 hours. If you mail, your return address must be on the envelope. Unnecessarily complicated ? Of course, it's the BOP !)

5. Food is vastly improved. Just had Sunday Brunch real scrambled eggs, PORK sausage, Baked or home fried potatoes, Butter(sweet whipped M'God !!) Grapefruit juice Toast , orange. I will probably regain the weight I lost at MCC! Weighing against that is the fact that to eat we need to walk to another building (about at far as from my house to the F Train) Also included is 3 flights of stairs up and down. May try to get an elevator pass and try NOT to use it.

6. In a room with 4 bunks(small) about two tiers of rooms with same with "atrium" in middle with tv sets and tables and chairs. Estimate about 500 on Unit 2N and there are 4 units. Population Black, Mexicano and other spanish speaking (all of whom iron their underwear, Marta), White, Native Americans (few), no orientals or foreign speaking caucasians–lots are doing long bits, victims of drugs (meth etc) and boyfriends. We wear army style (khaki) pants with pockets tee shirts and dress shirts long sleeved and short sleeved. When one of the women heard that I hadn't ironed in 40 years, they offered to do the shirts for me. (This is typical of the help I get–escorted to meals and every other protection, explanations, supplies, etc. Mostly from white women.) One drawback is not having a bathroom in the room—have to go about 75 yards at all hours of the day and night –clean though.

7 Final Note–the sunsets and sunrises are gorgeous, the place is very open and outdoors there are pecan trees and birds galore (I need books for trees and birds (west) The full moon last night gladdened my heart as I realized it was shining on all of you I hold dear.

Love Struggle

Lynne


Michael Ratner urged that people send letters, send books and Lynne's enjoying the birds in that region and asking for books about birds of the south. Michael S. Smith quoted her telling him, "I'm walking out of here." Both men noted that she sounded hopeful and optimistic. From the crazy that keeps Lynne wrongly behind bars to the crazy that is the Iraq War.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it --
the fool's disease.
-- "Flee On Your Donkey," written by Anne Sexton, from Live Or Die.
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports on an interview he conducted with thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Were Dagher still working for the New York Times, the laughable report would never have been printed. You've had too many reports from too many reporters at that paper about the plans for 2012 for any of the nonsense printed without question to fly.

One example:

A majority of Iraqis -- and some Iraqi and U.S. officials -- have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."


Let's start with World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet being interviewed by Angela Keaton (Antiwar Radio).

Debra Sweet: And don't forget that the war in Iraq is not over. The occupation is as robust as ever. 50,000 -- you know, now they call the troops advisors or trainers -- they're still there with the full compliment of military equipment. They're still an occupying army. And all they've done is militarize some of the people under the control of the State Dept and those are the combat troops. Now, this is kind of incredible, run not by the Defense Dept but now by commanded by Hillary Clinton and the State Dept. This is what passes for an end of the occupation of Iraq: 17 military bases, huge numbers of private contractors that they don't even have to account for and reveal to us.

Debra's describing the widely reported -- and acknowledged -- plan for what happens if US soldiers have to 'leave' Iraq. In that case, they continue to stay but under the cover of the State Dept (and commanded not by Hillary but by the NSA -- which is why NSA has been in Iraq so much in 2010 -- but don't notice that, don't notice that the NSA has issued more statements on Iraq in 2010 -- and often issued from Baghdad -- than has the current US Ambassador to Iraq -- an ambassador who also has NSA ties).

But that's the back up. That's what the US government will do if they can't get an extension. Joe Biden thinks they'll get one, Robert Gates thinks it's probable, those are just some of the executive branch employees on the public record.

Nouri says it's not happening! Well for the Wall St. Journal that probably passes for 'reporting.' Away from it? Most would feel the need to note that Nouri made similar noises in 2006 -- before extending the UN mandate -- and in 2007 -- before extending the UN mandate. Only the Wall St. Journal would ignore pattern. Amy Goodman ignores pattern and fact check today on Democracy Now! as well but does add, "Maliki added that the timetable could be changed if Iraq and the US reach a new Status Of Forces Agreement, which would require parliamentary approval." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) might have wanted to have stuck around for that last sentence before rendering an opinion. UPI also notes, "Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 U.S. soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement similar to the one concluded in 2008."
Meanwhile Fadel al-Nashmi (Niqash) provides a lack-of-character sketch of Nouri which includes: "Al-Naser Duraid, a political analyst, believes that, whereas after 2005, Maliki was keen to break from the legacy of his predecessor, al-Jaafari, which based on sectarianism and an absence of a national project, he has now abandoned this path." Duraid states, "Today, I am not sure if Maliki's behaviour is a tactic or a strategy. But I believe that the way he acted to retain power has shaken people's confidence in him." Looking back at the year, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) notes, "The Iraqi election campaign began with an all-out effort by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the dominant Shia religious parties to prevent the secular Sunni Iraqiya bloc from gaining an appreciable number of seats in the national assembly in the March 7th election. When polling was deemed largely fair by local and foreign monitors, Maliki refused to accept being edged out of the first place by Iraqiya. It took eight months and intervention by Iran and the US to break the deadlock, caused by his drive to stay in office. Maliki succeeded, despite accusations of being a dictator, at the exepense of the credibility of the political system. Violence escalated, and increasing numbers of foreign fighters infiltrated Iraq to join al-Qaeda." Basaer News reports that the Association of Muslim Scholars accuses the Kurds of cooperating with "Zionists" in order to disrupt Iraq and that the Kurdish leaders "no longer represent the Kurdish people" and have abandoned the call for Kurdish rule.
DPA reports attacks in Mosul (a car bombing and an assault on police) have claimed 8 lives. Alsumaria TV reports that a Baquba bombing claimed the life of 1 child and left another person injured, a Baghdad bombing wounded a Foreign Ministry employee and a US patrol in Najaf was targeted with a bombing (no word on whether anyone was harmed -- US or Iraqi). Reuters adds an attack on a Tal Afar Iraqi military checkpoint resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier and another left injured and, dropping back to last night, 1 employee of the Parliament was shot dead in Baghdad. That's 11 dead and three wounded in today's news cycle. In addtion, Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded 1 US soldier.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports Nouri's ordered an examination of the 870 checkpoints in the city of Baghdad to determine whether any of them could be eliminated. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers adds, "I don't know how the authorities are going to specify the importance of the security checkpoints. When I meet with my friends, we almost agree that the security checkpoints do nothing but delaying people and causing traffic jams. Some of my friends who have military experiences believe strongly that 24 hours patrols can do better job than checkpoints. Hameed Jasim, 40 years factory manager served for more than 6 years in the former Iraqi army says 'I feel so worried whenever I reach a checkpoint because I always expect a suicide bombing because I know the insurgents target civilians.' Hameed believes that patrols can do better because they can watch all the roads not only the areas of the checkpoints." Additional checkpoints and Bremer walls was Nouri's 'solution' this month to the targeting of churches in Baghdad. Asia News quotes churchgoers stating, "The churches are like fortresses now and its difficult to pray as we should in them." October 31st kicked off the latest wave of attacks targeting Iraqi Christians as Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked leaving approximately seventy dead and seventy more injured. Following that, Christians in Baghdad and Mosul were regularly targeted leading to a large number fleeing -- some to the Kurdistan Regional Government, some to bordering countries. Catholic Culture reports that the European Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek, declared today that he will "monitor the situation closely".
Hamid al-Zubaidi (Iraq Hurr) reports that last night in Mosul, the Presidency of the Conference of Nineveh, calls were made for the removal of the governor of Nineveh Province (Ethel Nujaifi also spelled Atheel al-Najafi). It's been a busy second half of the year for Nujaifi. In August, he was nearly assassinated, in September he condemned a US raid in Mosul and the arrests which followed, dubbing them "politically motivated," October saw further tensions between the Provincial Council and Nujaifi and that Nujaifi was angling for the post of Foreign Minister (Hoshyar Zebari had the post at that time and Zebari holds the post in last week's 'new' announced Cabinet) and, along with many other activities, he also helped delay the census. Last night in Mosul, Nujaifi was accused of overstepping his role and exceeding his powers due to various alleged abuses including the appointment of a mayor whom he allegedly has ties to. His brother is Osama Najafi who is the new Speaker of Parliament. New Sabah reports Osama Najafi is raising the issues of salaries in the Parliament -- Jalal Talabani's and the two vice presidents. As President of Iraq, Talabani's salary "is more than the salary of [US] President Barack Obama." It is agued that laws are needed to address this -- the same argument was made in the previous Parliament. Nujaifi, who surprised many by disclosing his own finances in a Monday Parliament session, is calling for other MPs and Cabinet ministers to do the same.
Turning to the US, Byron Pitts (CBS News) reports on service members who were stop-lossed that "fewer than half of those eligible have received the funds [. . .] just 69,000 of the 145,000 eligible servicemen and women have filed and received payment." Stop-loss is the backdoor draft. Those thinking their service contracts were ending are informed by the military that, no, they're not. Though no one's explored this aspect in this year's coverage, when the person stop-lossed was not an American citizen, the law was violated. Those who were stop-lossed and were not US citizens at the time should consider seeking legal advice on what their options are if they are now citizens (if they have not become US citizens, they are welcome to consider suing but they should be aware that the most likely response from the government would be deportation).

Since so few have applied for the funds, the deadline has again been extended. The US Army announces:

The deadline for eligible servicemembers, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay has been extended to March 4, 2011, Defense Department officials announced today.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution bill that President Barack Obama signed Dec. 21, providing funding for federal government operations through March 4.
Congress established the retroactive pay to compensate military members who served involuntary extensions or whose retirement was suspended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members and their beneficiaries are required to submit a claim to their respective military service to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in stop-loss status.
The services estimate 145,000 servicemembers, veterans and beneficiaries are eligible. Because most of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in persistent outreach efforts throughout the year.
Efforts, including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue throughout the period of eligibility, Defense Department officials said.

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