Friday, December 30, 2011

3 men, 3 women

Today on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane's first hour guest was Miguel Nicolelis.  The second hour was Robert Massie.  Yesterday's first hour guests were Randy Frost, Darnita Payden and Elspeth Bell.  The second hour was Peggy Orenstein.

Thank you for the kind e-mails on our year in films post:


Did we have an alternate?  We actually did.  If you click on any of the screen snaps in the best in film and then go through them, you'll see that we also had a screen snap of Source Code.

In fact, I'll toss it in here.



photo

movie source code





We were going to make that our honorable mention.

What happened?

When we ranked our films on Sunday and did screen snaps, we didn't do a snap for our second choice.  But as we were writing, we repeatedly bumped our second choice down.  By the time it dropped to five, we knew we'd have to rewrite our commentary on Bridesmaids.

We wanted to love it.  But, after weeks of reflecting on it, we realized Melissa was the movie.  That it was flat in long periods and that Kristin Wiig was appealing only for about half the film.  It should have been so much better.

When we wrote our paragraph on Bridesmaids, we realized that to note an honorable mention for Source Code would lead to e-mails of, "Well why wasn't it number ten?"

Why?

Because it's like The Sixth Sense in that you can enjoy it only once.  There's a trick, a hidden detail, in the film that you learn near the end.  It's similar to the fact that Bruce Willis is among the 'dead people' the little boy sees.  After you know the trick, it's not really a movie you'll watch over and over.

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


Friday, December 30, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, protests take place in Turkey and Iraq over the Turkish military killing 35 Kurds, Nouri's forces attack protesters in Baghdad and seize journalists' equipment, Ayad Allawi reminds everyone of the Erbil Agreement, McClatchy closes its Baghdad Bureau, the political crisis continues, the issue of the families of service members being upset about the media whoring for Barack (the false claim that ALL troops were home for Christmas) finally bubbles up in the media, and more.
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
prashantrao Prashant Rao

Hundreds of people in both Arbil and Sulaimaniyah have protested Turkish air strikes that killed 35. #Iraq #Turkey
The Kurds are considered to be the largest minority in the world without a homeland.  Northern Iraq borders Turkey.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, using drones for 'tracking' and 'surveillance,' the Turkish military then sent air planes to bomb the border northern Iraq and Turkey share to kill members of the PKK.  As Mike noted last night, the Turkish government seems to think it would have been okay if the 35 dead and 20 injured were PKK but they weren't PKK, they were Turkish citizens.  The PKK is a group of Kurds -- one among many -- who fight (physically fight, use violence) for Kurdish equality and dream of a Kurdish homeland.  Many are in the mountains of northern Iraq.  They form in 1984 as a response to decades of oppression in Turkey. 
And the government of Turkey gives little reason for them to stop.  Last week, Kaya Genc (Index On Censorship) reported, "In the latest wave of arrests of those the state claims are linked to the separatist group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), 41 people were detained across Turkey on Monday including many journalists. Initial reports placed the number of media workers arrested at 25, but this number rose in the aftermath of the crackdown. Mustafa Özer, the Agence France-Presse photographer, was among those detained in the operation, which is reported to have taken place in the wee hours of the day. Dicle News Agency's offices in İstanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır, Van, İzmir and Adana were raided and ten staff members were detained, including the agency's news director, editor in chief and various reporters. Five journalists from Turkey's main Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem were among those detained, as well as reporters from Birgün and Vatan newspapers."  Wladimir van Wilgenburg (Rudaw) reports further on the demonization of all things Kurdish, explaining today that a new video game, which is selling briskly (five million in one week alone) is entitled battlefield and allows the player to be a US soldier fighting 'terrorists' -- the 'terrorists' are Kurds and their base, in the game, is the Kurdistan Regional Government (northern Iraq).
Along with protests in Iraq over the killings, there were protests in Turkey as well.  The Irish Examiner explains that "thousands" turned out for the funerals today. Al Jazeera adds:

Coffins were brought in a long convoy of cars and ambulances, sounding their horns as mourners flashed defiant V for victory signs.
"It is impossible to kill them mistakenly. The soldiers were 150 metres away and had a bird's eye view," 20-year-old Mehmet from Ortasu village, near the site of the raid, said, referring to troops who observed the attack.
Mehmet, who also makes his living by smuggling goods from the border, said: "I could have been one of the [victims]."
A young woman whose cousin died in the bombing was in tears.
"This was no mistake. They intentionally killed people, who were trying to earn a crust," she said.

The EuroNews notes Turkish government claims that there will be an investigation and, they swear, no cover up. A protester in Uludere shouted, "Damn you, Erdogan . . . One day you too will know our pain!" The 35 killed were in Turkey. For some reason the Turkish government continues to insist upon stating that they were in northern Iraq. IC quotes the PKK's Bahoz Erdal stating, "This massacre was no accident ... It was organised and planned. We urge the people of Kurdistan... to react after this massacre and seek a settling of accounts through uprisings." Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) notes of the 35 dead "most appeared to be members of an extended family and were under the age of 30."
CNN reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that he regrets the deaths of 35 civilians in a military airstrike in a Kurdish area on the border with Iraq."   BBC News notes Erdogan termed the attack "unfortunate and saddening" and President Abdullah Gul noted "pain" over the murder of the 35.  But, as well as noting that 20 people were also injured in the bombing, Bloomberg News quotes Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc stating, among other things, "Turkey is combating terrorism and in that fight incidents like this may occur." That statement really doesn't make the alleged regret seem genuine.  Christopher Torchia (AP) adds, "For a second day, stone-throwing demonstrators clashed with police who responded with tear gas and water cannons in several cities in the mostly Kurdish southeat. Protesters lobbed rocks at a national ruling party office in Diyarbakir, the region's biggest city, and Firat said 30 people were arrested there."
A protest took place in Baghdad today as well and the government's actions did not speak well.  It did, however, back up an observation Jack Fairweather (Financial Times of London) made today about how "the mechanics of the Iraqi state remain unchanged from the days of Saddam Hussein."   Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) captured the protests in a series of Tweets:
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

demo organized by brother of Bush shoe thrower to celebrate #US withdrawal. 12 people turned up & more than 200 security forces. #Iraq

 
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

demo organized by brother of Bush shoe thrower to celebrate #US withdrawal. 12 people turned up & more than 200 security forces. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

Police Gen. there said gathering was "unauthorized" &kept asking them 2 leave. Hrs later, protesters set #US flag on fire &were beaten up
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

Protesters down to 8 ppl at the end kept asking us not leave, saying our presence stops security forces from detaining them. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

Camera of 1 Iraqi channel confiscated, our cameraman prevented from filming& my cell phone almost confiscated after taking one still. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh

protesters surrounded as we left, 1 telling me now 3 were detained after being beaten up. cant reach them 2 confirm, their phones off. #IRAQ

The continued crackdown on protests in Iraq. Excuse me, the continued crackdown on protests in supposedly 'free' Iraq. Nouri's goons grab cameras (Karadsheh's cell phone) and target reporters attempting to do their jobs, the Iraqis beg the reporters to stay out of fear of what happens when no witnesses are around and then the Iraqis disappear.  That's Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq and the US installed him and kept him in power in 2010 even when the Iraqi people rejected him by voting Iraqiya into first place in the March 2010 elections with Nouri's State of Law trailing in second place.
Remember what followed those elections?  Nouri's tantrums.  And eight months of his digging his heels in -- with US backing -- and refusing to surrender the post of prime minister -- even though his term had expired and even though, per the Iraqi Constitution, Iraqiya would have first shot at building a government.  Nouri refused to obey the Constitution and the US  government applauded that by continuing to back him even when the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim were stating publicly that Nouri could not be the next prime minister.
Political Stalemate I ended in November of 2010 with the Erbil Agreement hammered out in Erbil between the major political blocs (and the US) whereby every one was supposed to make concessions. The Kurds would get to keep Jalal Talabani as president. They thought they would get three vice presidents. Iraqiya won the elections in March 2010 and the political bloc was headed by Ayad Allawi. Nouri wasn't stepping down and the White House was backing Nouri. For Nouri to remain prime minister, Allawi was promised he would head a new, independent council over security issues. He was also promised that the Iraqiya candidates demonized as Ba'athists and forced out of the 2010 elections by Nouri's friends would have their names cleared.

On November 11th, the new Parliament held their first real session. They voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker of Parliament (he was from Iraqiya and that was part of the Erbil Agreement), Jalal was named president and Nouri was named prime minister designate (but we were all informed in the following days that this was 'unofficial' -- once named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days, per the Constitution, to put together a Cabinet and get the Parliament to sign off on each member). But what of the security council? It and other promises were forgotten as Nouri refused to abide by the agreement.
Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya and former prime minister of Iraq, remembers what happened and Tweeted about it this week.
AyadAllawi Ayad Allawi

4the sake of stability,Iraqiya agreed2join the national unity government upon the Erbil power-sharing agreement reached a year ago 1/3
AyadAllawi Ayad Allawi

However,4more than a year now Mr. Maliki has refused to implement this agreement, instead concentrating greater power in his own hands. 2/3
Nobember 25th, Jalal 'officially' named Nouri prime minister-designate. Nouri had created Political Stalemate I by refusing to surrender the prime minister post. He'd done that for eight months. In that time, he should have had some ideas about a Cabinet. But Nouri's problem was he over-promised to get support. So when it was time to name a Cabinet, suddenly the Cabinet had more ministers and deputy ministers than it had previously (from 37 in 2006 to 42 in 2010). And he still couldn't keep his promises to everyone.  December 21, 2010, the Constitution was tossed by the wayside and Nouri was allowed to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister because he'd assembled a kind of Cabinet. He named 31 out of 42 ministers and people pretended that was good enough. He had failed to meet the Constitutional mandate of naming a Cabinet but everyone looked the other way.

He refused to name the security posts: National Security, Interior and Defense. His defenders (including the White House) swore those posts would be named in a matter of weeks. His detractors saw the refusal as part of a pattern of power grabs on Nouri's part and stated he wouldn't fill the posts. This is the start of Political Stalemate II.  And it's where Iraq remains, still in a stalemate and now in a political crisis.  In the latest embarrassment for Nouri al-Maliki, Alsumaria TV reports that State of Law MP Adnan Mayahi, who serves on Parliament's Security and Defense Commission, has declared that the bulk of Iraq's security services have been infiltrated and that a great many working in prisons practice torture.  After a year of refusing to name heads to the Ministery of the Interior, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Defense, you'd think stories like this would lead for widespread calls for Nouri to stop holding those posts and instead fill them.  And Alsumaria TV has now reported more on this story on their English version site:
No Iraqis would be imprisoned for their opinions and thoughts but for violence and terrorism only, Armed Forces General Commander Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki assured, on December 10. There are no limits for human freedom if it doesn't oppose public interest, he added, a source told Alsumaria.
Iraqiya List headed by Iyad Allawi revealed, on December 14, that random arrests are still occuring in all Iraqi regions which contradicts human rights' basics. Our members are holding constant meetings regarding this issue, Iraqiya indicated.
Iraqi Government is not executing most of its international agreements and conventions concerning human, women, children and prisoners' rights, Representative of Secretary General of the United Nations in Iraq Walter Kalin accused in his report on June 3.
In its report issued last February, Amnesty International revealed that there are secret prisons in Iraq where detainees are being tortured for confessions used in their convictions.
Meanwhile it's been one denial after another from Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Ammar Karim (AFP) reports he is denying co-writing "How to Save Iraq From Civil War" (New York Times) with Rafie al-Issawi and Ayad Allawi but instead insists that his name was added to the byline without his knowledge. Why deny co-writing the column? Because some are saying the column was a letter to the White House asking it to intervene in Iraqi matters. Alsumaria TV reports that National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is among those declaring that the column is a plea to the Barack Obama administration to intervene in Iraqi affairs.

In addition, Al Mada reports al-Nujaifi is denying having made a deal with President Jalal Talabani to oust Nouri via a vote of no confidence. Al Rafidayn notes that he declared the meet-up with Talabani was to discuss a national conference to be held shortly to address issues (including the political crisis) and the need to resolve the Tareq al-Hashemi issue via the judiciary. On the first issue, Al Mada notes Talabani says the conference will be held within two weeks and, on thesecond issue, Al Mada adds that the political blocs are currently debating the proposal that al-Hashemi's case be transferred to the Kurdish judiciary.


Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a member of Iraqiya, has been accused by Nouri al-Maliki of being a terrorist. If convicted of that charge, the punishment is life in prison or execution. Tareq al-Hashemi is currently in the KRG and a house guest of President Talabani. al-Hashemi is not the only member of Iraqiya that Nouri has targeted recently. He's also demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his office. Were al-Mutlaq stripped of his office, he would lose immunity and Nouri could sue him for statements Nouri did not like. (Nouri is highly litigious. Along with suing other Iraqi politicians, he likes to sue news outlets such as the Guardian.) The targeting of the two members of Iraqiya comes as rumors swirl that others will be targeted -- including supposed arrest charges for Financial Minister al-Issawi -- and after the November arrests of over 500 alleged "Ba'athists."   In an introduction to a new profile on the Financial Minister, Jack Healy and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) observe:
He may also be the next leader to fall as the country's Shiite prime minister takes aim at perceived rivals and enemies, his fate a litmus test for a country in crisis.
Unlike other Sunni politicians who have drawn fire from the Shiite-led government, Mr. Essawi is known as a conciliatory figure who has built bridges with Kurds, Shiites and Westerners. If the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, takes action against him -- he has already tried to relieve Mr. Essawi of his duties --  it could open deep new divisions in Iraq's already tattered sectarian landscape and send a discouraging signal about whether a post-United States Iraq can forge a truly inclusive and representative government.
Calls for the charges against al-Hashemi to be heard by the KRG judiciary stem from the control over the Iraqi judiciary (Baghdad-based) that Nouri has as evidenced by numerous rulings.  This point is made in a report by an Iraqi journalist for McClatchy Newspapers:
A politician in Maliki's own National Alliance told McClatchy yesterday that Maliki holds "complete" sway over the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court's "interpretation" of the constitution that enabled Maliki to retain his position as PM and form a government after the last elections, although Iraqiya bloc had the highest take. It was also through the Supreme Court that Maliki all but stopped the legislative powers of the parliament by its "interpreting" the constitution to say that legislation can only stem from the executive branch (cabinet and presidency) and that the parliament could only make "suggestions".
The report is called "Iraq At The Crossroads" and hopefully it will run in all McClatchy owned papers because it's an important piece. We're grabbing from it on the courts because that's what I need for this entry but the whole thing is a gripping read. McClatchy's Iraqi journalists have done top-notch work throughout the war. This report (at McClatchy's Inside Iraq) continues that tradition.  And today brings the news, at Inside Iraq, in a heartfelt post, that McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau has now closed.  Sahar Issa, Laith Hammoudi, Jenan Hussein, Mohammed al Dulaimy and others did so much to help the world understand what was taking place on the ground in Iraq. Their spirit and passion for journalism was inpsiring even before you factor in that their reporting took place as Iraq became the war that claimed the most journalist lives and as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders repeatedly documented the attacks taking place within Iraq on journalists and the practice of journalism.
While some risked all to convey the truth, others live to obscure.  Professional victim and apparent hobbyist liar Mayada Al Askari surfaces to flaunt her stupidity at Gulf News.  In a poorly written piece, Mayada wants to yet again snarl about Saddam and attack Iraqiya because her hatred has consumed her and she has nothing left to offer but anger and lies.  (You'd think someone who should be seeing their life as "rescued" would be able to tap into some joy but some people only want to embrace the darkness.)  The piece of trash scribbles a defense of Thug Nouri in which she notes:
Al Hashemi, who is a member of the Al Iraqiya bloc, is accused of backing terrorism, and the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad issued an arrest warrant after a number of his bodyguards confessed to carrying out terrorist acts.
The Al Iraqiya bloc headed by Dr Ayad Allawi mishandled the problem by boycotting the parliament, which may easily lead to additional deterioration in stability and security.
Let's be really clear here, Mayada is nothing but TRASH.  When you've made it your life's purpose over the last years (even before the US invasion) to decry torture and false confessions under Saddam, you damn well don't accept 'confessions' at face value.  That's even before you realize that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly documented that 'confessions' are forced by torture under Nouri al-Maliki.  You're trash because you pretended to give a damn about torture but in fact all you gave a damn about was that torture touched your own tiny circle.  You weren't opposed to torture, you weren't opposed to forced confessions.  If you truly were, you'd be the last person in the world to be insisting that 'confessions' aired on state TV qualified as genuine confessions.  You're just a dirty trash.  And possibly that keeps you far too busy to ever concern yourself with facts, but, as usual, your facts are wrong.
Iraqiya did not walk out on Parliament in response to the arrest warrant for Tareq al-Hashemi. From the Friday, December 16, 2011 snapshot: "In other explosive news, Al Mada reports that Iraqiya has announced it is breaking off talks with the ruling bloc. [. . .] When announcing that talks were over, Al Mada notes Iraqiya stated that they had given up a great deal for the good of Iraq but there was no compromise from another. That's a reference to Nouri's State of Law as well as the coalition he now heads. In giving up the right to prime minister, Iraqiya was promised (and the Erbil Agreement is in writing) that an independent security commission would be created and that Ayad Allawi would head it. That's among the many broken promises Nouri made to keep his claws on the post of prime minister."  That was their announcement on Friday, December 16th. 
Saturday, December 17th, they made good on their announcement.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reported, "The Iraqiya political bloc boycotted parliament today over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's failure to properly share power and the arrests of hundreds of Sunni Iraqiya suppoerters in a crackdown against alleged Ba'ath Party members. [. . .] During a meeting last night the Iraqi block decided to suspend its participation in parliament to protest the prime minister's management of the country."
Sunday, December 18th was the infamous airport moment at Baghdad International where Nouri's goons forced Saleh al-Mutlaq (Deputy Prime Minister), Tareq al-Hashemi and Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi as well as their bodyguards.  Three of al-Hashemi's bodyguards were taken into custody, the rest and the three officials were let go and allowed to reboard the plane.
As documented in the December 19th snapshot, Monday, December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued:
CNN reported this afternoon that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi by the Judicial Commitee with the charge of terrorism.  Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) terms it a "poltical crisis" and states, "The government says this has nothing to do with the US withdrawal, that this has nothing to do with the prime minister consolidating his grip on power.  However, members of al-Iraqiya bloc, which Hashimis is a member of, say 'No, [Maliki] is trying to be a dictator."  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible collision course with the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in the north and participate in the central government but have longstanding disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the Kurds."
No, Iraqiya did not walk out on Parliament after an arrest warrant was issued for Tareq al-Hashemi.  That is a bold face lie. Mayad Al Askari is trash and she's condemned herself to a hell of her own sickness because instead of embracing a new chance offered she wants to baste in the hatred she's carried, stroked and nursed for years and years and years.  She'll die in a hell of her own making.  There is no hope for her.  She will never awaken to the fact that her life could have been different if she'd chosen to embrace the present instead of submerging in a past that is long gone.

Back to al-Nujaifi denials, Alsumaria TV reports he is also denying accusations that his actions are being directed by the United States which, the rumor insists, seeks to overthrow Nouri.

Turning to the topic of Sahwa. They've been called "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are Iraqis (largely Sunni but some Shi'ites as well according to David Petreaus' April 2008 Congressional testimony -- Petraeus is now CIA Director but he was the top commander in Iraq back then). They were put on the US payroll to get them to stop attacking the US military. Al Mada reports that the Baghdad-based government has recorded 1498 Sahwas deaths since 2006nd that another 830 Sahwas have been left wounded. The government also estimates that over 100,000 people became Sahwas since the program's 2006 inception.

Remember all the weeks this month we've repeatedly called out the press lie that ALL US troops have come home from Iraq?  Remember how we've noted that some are being repostured to surrounding areas of Iraq and that some will actually remain in Iraq?  And we've called out the press repeatedly for its painful lie.  We've noted repeatedly that family members of loved ones who are not coming home for Christmas have decried this lie and have mailed this site and Third about how painful it is to hear the lie of "ALL" over and over from one outlet after another (including The NewsHour on PBS which should be able to get the facts right)?  Geoff Ziezulewicz (Stars and Stripes) has an important article today on family members upset that their loved ones are not home for Christmas and he notes, "
It has also been painful to see news articles in the past week touting the fact that all U.S. troops are home from Iraq, Thane said."  That's Andrea Thane whose husband is not yet out of the Middle East.  There was never a reason for the media to WHORE for the administration and put lies over the airwaves to give Barack a happy Christmas poll boost.  But they chose to, they chose to whore for Barack at the expense of reality and we noted repeatedly here and at Third that their WHORING was HURTING military families.  They need to do some self-reflection on the way they MISREPORTED all month long.
We first began hearing from the family of service members on this issue at the end of November and wrote "Editorial: Words have meaning" about this subject and the pain it was causing.  The media chose repeatedly to disregard the truth because they wanted to whore for Barack.  I'm sorry but I thought the media role was to inform the public (of reality), not to lie in order to push up the poll numbers of a politician.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)

Ann and Stan with our annual look at the year's ten best DVDs/Blue-ray/Streaming/Astral Projections. bad teacher 1) "Bad Teacher." The most surprising and entertaining film of 2011. Cameron Diaz turned an iffy-film into reality yet again (see also "There's Something About Mary"). Greedy Elizabeth Halsey is thankfully leaving her teaching job and marrying a rich man until his mother and his accountant nix the pairing. Elizabeth has no choice but to return to 'teaching' (showing films in class). Between getting high and getting drunk, she does have a purpose, a mission, to get $10,000 for a boob job. Larger breasts, she just knows, will provide her with the life she desires. Along the way she encounters and pursues Scott (Justin Timberlake) who can offer money but little else besides dry humping (see above). He's the 'perfect' man, attractive, wealthy, everything she wants. And having him for a dry hump may be her awakening that it's time to rethink her priorities. Before that happens, she'll have to faces charges of stealing the state's appitutude test and a great deal more. Fortunately, she and the script never go soggy. The best film of the year and laugh-out-loud funny.



  the green hornet 2) "Green Hornet." 2011 had a few good DVD releases but if there was one dominant strand it was how played out the turn-the-comic-book-into-a-movie was. The last time a super hero film actually surprised was "Green Hornet." "Green Lantern" had to be the worst film of the year -- super hero or otherwise. An action film with a cerebral storyline is a failure. "Thor" was smart, and a decent popcorn movie, but "Green Lantern" was pretentious. And dull. As was "Captain America" which lost its main thread about half-way in and a photo-finish ending didn't distract from how quickly the film went soggy. "X-Men: First Class" went through the motions without any major lows but it lacked even one giddy high. It was all rote. Breaking the formula was Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet". With a script by Seth Rogen (and Evan Goldberg) and Seth in the title role, the film wasn't afraid to take chances. As a result, it rarely stopped surprising. That included the conflict and comradery between Seth's Britt Reid and Jay Chou's Kato and it includes Cameron Diaz's Lenore Case. And special applause for Diaz who took a supporting role and made it come to life. It reminded us of how much she life she brought to "My Best Friend's Wedding" and how Julia Roberts' refusal, since the 90s ended, to really share the screen with strong actresses (the last time we remember is Joan Cusak in "Runaway Bride," everything else has been cameo women or rivals) goes a long way towards explaining how Julia committed box office suicide repeatedly in the last ten years. In "The Green Hornet," nothing felt forced, nothing felt done to death. It was the only super hero film of 2011 that really gave you hope for the genre.





  movie the help 3) "The Help." The only drama to make our list and a film that ended up 'controversial.' A number of Black and "Black" academics ("Black" would include bi-racial Melissa Harris of the multiple marriages, we'll include her latest last name if the latest marriage lasts more then 5 years) hated the film and found it an insult to Black America. Yet the audiences we first saw the film with were primarily Black and loved the film. We did too. And we thank Betty for taking on the acadmics at her site because we had planned to avoid the film until Betty waded in. Avoid it? There are enough problems in the Black community without splintering over a film. So if we avoided it, we didn't have to weigh in, right? That wasn't fair to the film or to, most importantly, the amazing performances in it including: Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek and Emma Stone. It's not a racist film. It's not a documentary either, nor does it present itself as such. It's a film based on a popular novel that gives Black actresses -- Davis and Spencer especially -- more of a chance to shine than anything in years.






  movie the black power mixtape 4) "The Black Power Mixtape." This film didn't come to us via a loud outcry from Black academics. A reader (Glen) suggested it to us last week. This is a great documentary (and, if you're a Netflix member, you can stream it online currently) that includes many important moments and voices. Some, like Angela Y. Davis, reflect on the past from today and are also a part of the historic past. Some, like Erykah Badu, speak to not just what has been but what could be. A very powerful documentary.




  movie burlesque 5) "Burlesque." Maybe some were expecting "Moulan Rouge"? We were expecting a film that lived up to its own title and "Burlesque" certainly did. Cher and Christina Aguilera headlined a cast that also included Alan Cumming, Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet and Kristen Bell. The film was the typical let's-put-on-a-show adventure that depended on performances to lift it and Cher and Christina provided the needed performances. Near the mid-way point, as she contemplates losing her club, Cher sings "You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me" and it may be one of the film's best moments. A better musical than "Chicago" and other overly praised disasters. ("Chicago" wasted the talents of Catherine Zeta Jones and Queen Latifah while spending a lot of time on a woman whose musical talents were then and remain questionable. It was also a little too concerned with being "respectable" guaranteeing little life would make it to the screen.)




  movie phil ochs there but for fortune 6) "Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune." There are two documentaries that make our list. This one focuses on the late singer-songwriter Phil Ochs. Unlike Ani DiFranco, Phil didn't whore for a president and pretend he was a protest singer. But little fake Ani (who rode to fame as a 'lesbian' and, of course, is now married to a man) has nothing to offer. She can't stand up against the empire so she decided to whore for it. If you're wondering what bravery looks like -- as opposed to Whore Ani's trickery -- view this film. (And it's another you can currently stream online if you're a Netflix member.)



 movie you again 7) "You Again." This comedy features, among others, Kristen Bell. We don't like her. Not on TV, not in movies. But in this film, she stops posing and actually creates some moments. We were truly surprised and actually willing to see a film just for her in the future. We saw this one for Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver. They are the mothers of Bell and Odette Yustman. Those two young women were high school enemies. Bell was a misfit tormented by head cheerleader Yustman. When Yustman gets engaged to James Wolk (great supporting performance, by the way), she becomes a part of Bell's family and JLC advises her to learn to live with it. Easy words until, right before the wedding, it turns out Weaver is Yustman's aunt. JLC was the head cheerleader in high school. Weaver was her best friend who felt JLC left her in the shadows. Generations of issues come to bear in this comedy (including Betty White and Cloris Leachman's) which really seems to exist just so Jamie Lee can remind everyone again how talented a comedian she is. We wish she'd remind us of that every year.




  movie tangled 8) "Tangled." We're not big fans of animated films and after the sad sack "Toy Story 3," nostalgia really doesn't belong as a primary emotion in children's films, were willing to write off the genre. But this musical comedy really surprised us. You may resist, as we did, and tell yourself, "Five minutes and then I'll watch something else." If so, you'll find yourself extending the five minute period repeatedly, all through the end of the film. Rapunzel is the template for the film and Mandy Moore gives voice to her while Zachary Levi brings Flynn Rider to life. This is probably the finest Disney animated film since "Beauty & The Beast." And it's got thrills (you have to love the chameleon), chills and spills, songs and dances, good and evil. Two screen caps don't do it justice but maybe they'll give you a sense of the scope. movie tangled2







movie whitney cummings money shot 9) "Whitney Cummings: Money Shot." This is a comedy club performance by Whitney Cummings (star of NBC's "Whitney") and we again give praise to Betty who sang its praises. It had more laugh, energy and surprises than most scripted comedy films this year.




 10) "Bridesmaids." This is a . . . good film. Okay, anyway. It ranks this high really just because of Melissa McCarthy's comic zeal. Overpraised and endlessly flattered, it's not that funny without Melissa. Maya Rudolph is completely wasted in the role of the nag. The outstanding Rose Byrne goes through the entire film -- as the antagonist, no less -- without generating even one laugh. The character is so limp that it's practically Charlotte on "Sex In The City." Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the film) is sometimes great as Annie but sometimes needed to scream for a better writer. Everything, including the Wilson Phillips concert finale, screams typical "Saturday Night Live" film (see "Tommy Boy" -- among others). Melissa's character really makes little sense in the film overall (bad writing, really bad) but the actress' energy and likability allow the otherwise generic film to hit giddy comic highs when she's around. Sadly she's not around enough and the dull and typical relationship between Wiig's Annie and Chris O'Dowd's Nathan makes the film a plodding nightmare. Every "SNL" film features a name performer from a past time doing a bit of screen magic, in this one, the late Jill Clayburgh steals your heart early on in her first scene but, sadly, the writers never thought to give her another comic moment though she appears throughout the rest of the film. Without Melissa McCarthy, this is just "Coneheads II" or "It's Pat Goes On A Road Trip With Toonces."


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




Thursday, December 29, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants the US to fork over weapons to him quickly, an anonymous State Dept worker ridiculously claims they can protect human rights in Iraq, the State Dept looks like a national idiot in a press briefing today, the Turkish military bombs the border and kills 35, and more.
Well start with Paul Bremer who ran the immediate post-invasion phase of the occupation of Iraq.  It was during this phase that Iraq's military was disbanded.  This was his move and, contrary Colin Powell's attempts to spin (and the attempt of Collie's little media helpers to lie), he did with the approval of the Bush administration.  It is seen by a number of vocal critics as one of the worst decisions of the occupation (British officials repeatedly cited it as a mistake during the Iraq Inquiry's public hearings in London).  The argument goes that by disbanding the military, Bremer left all those people without jobs and income and they were easy pickings for opponents to the occupation who wanted to recruit people for violence.  Guy Raz raised the issue earlier this month on All Things Considered (link is audio and text):
RAZ: As you know, many critics of you and of the war point to the decision to disband the Iraqi military in 2003 as a turning point and something that was directly linked to the rise of the insurgency. What do you make of that? I mean, do you think that was the right decision?
BREMER: Absolutely. And I think it's an incorrect analysis. I've never seen any persuasive evidence that suggests otherwise. The fact of the matter was there was no Iraqi military anywhere in place when I arrived in May about three weeks after the fall of Baghdad. So reconstituting the army would've meant several things. First of all, we would've had to take American troops of whom we already had too few and send them into villages and farms to force Shia conscripts back into an army they hated under Sunni officers who basically brutalized them. So the concept of reconstituting the army had virtually no political (unintelligible).
RAZ: But there was a salary for many people.
BREMER: We paid every single conscript a separation fee. We paid every single officer a pension. It's a little known and little reported fact. We paid those pensions all the way through our time in Iraq and they were continued by the subsequent two Iraqi governments. So the idea that suddenly, there were a bunch of people on the streets with no money is simply flat wrong.
People can make their own decisions on the above and whether or not a one-time pay off replaces a sense of purpose but money wasn't the only issue.  In the Iraq Inquiry, British officials also raised the issue of the ongoing (this was at the end of 2009 and throughout 2010) attacks and demonization of Iraqis as "Ba'athists" and how Bremer set that in motion.  That's not addressed in his remarks to Guy Raz.  Nor did Raz raise that issue -- probably too complex of an issue for an NPR soundbyte.  And the Bremer order?  Raz ignored that it wasn't just the military.  Technocrats, government workers, they were all Ba'athists and that's who the order went after.  Whether they were guilty of anything or not.  It's how Nouri is still able to hiss "Ba'athist" to this day and demonize someone.
In the Wall St. Journal this week, Bremer contributes a piece largely arguing that the US should have kept a military presence in Iraq and he insists:
But the most important reasons for a continued American military presence were always political. Such a presence would demonstrate to Iraq's neighbors -- and especially to Iran -- that America had a lasting interest in containing the Iranian quest for regional hegemony. It would also be a clear sign of American intent to stick with the Iraqis as they work to develop durable political institutions.

The benefits of a continued military presence were illustrated by the political conflagration that flared within 24 hours of our departure. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, issued an arrest warrant for the country's vice president, a Sunni, who then fled to the northern Kurdish area.
We'll come back to the US military issue in a moment, but Brememer seems incapable of taking responsibility for his actions.  We call him out here for what he's done, we do not call him out for the actions of others.  In other words, I was never one of Colin Powell's lowly assistants secretly drooling over the boss and now spending my entire life on MSNBC chat shows explaining how groovy and cool Collie is.  We don't rewrite history here to give Colin Powell a clean slate by making Bremer the sole fall guy.  Part of what Brememer needs to take accountability for is creating the problems
December 15, 2009, the British Ambassador to the US, Jeremy Greenstock, testified to the Iraq Inquiry that not only did Bremer ban all the Ba'athists (the dominant political party prior to the US invasion of Iraq) but he put Ahmed Chalibi in charge of the program which was also seen as a huge mistake.  These actions were not minor.  In 2010, the Justice and Accountability Commission would ban over 500 candidates and do so on the pretext that they were dangerous Ba'athists.
Chair John Chilcot: On the contrary, I was planning to offer you the opportunity
to make your final reflections on this very theme, and you have and thank you,
but are there other comments or observations you would like to offer before
we close?
General Michael Walker: Only ones that I -- to try and be helpful really. I think
the poor old Americans have come in for a lot of criticism, and my personal
belief was that the biggest mistake that was made over Iraq, notwithstanding
the decision that you may have made your own minds up about, but it was the
vice-regal nature of [Paul] Bremer's reign, and I think -- I mean, I don't want to
be personal about this but that particular six months, I think, set the scene for
Iraq in a way that we were never going to recover from.
The Inquiry has repeatedly heard from military and diplomatic witnesses that Paul
Bremer's decision to disband the Ba'ath Party and being de-Ba'athification was harmful
and too sweeping.  were no longer allowed to work for the government.  While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened.  John Sawers now heads England's MI6.  In 2003, he was the UK's Special Representative in Baghdad.  He shared his observations to the Iraq Inquiry in testimony given on December 10th:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions?  Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them.  Can you take us through that story.
John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and they were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy.  At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary.  And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
The US government put exiles in charge and gave them the means to attack for every real and perceived injustice in the last decades.  Of course, any real injustice would have been done in the early 80s since most of the exiles -- Nouri al-Malik among them -- fled to other countries then.  And lived in hate and anger year after year, letting it fester and feed.  Not everyone.  Some people got on with their lives.  But Nouri and Chalabi and so many others had nothing to offer modern day Iraq but hate.  As soon as the US invaded, that's what those exiles brought back to Iraq and what they've been working since the US installed them into power.
And that's what the US government -- under Bush, under Barack -- allowed, encouraged and tried to work to their advantage.  It's there in Bremer's column, it's in Barack's policies as well. 
'If only the US military was still present,' Bremer is arguing, 'what we set in motion and fostered could be handled.'  Handled, managed, not ended.
The US Congress became highly critical of he Iraq War during the Bush administration.  As the American people made calls for the war to be de-funded, Congress began pressing the White House on where the 'progess' was?  Other than spin, where were the claims of progress? So the White House devised a set of Benchmarks that the Congress and Nouri al-Maliki all signed off on in early 2007.  The only one the government cared about was the one about an oil and gas law.  It's the only one the press cared about as well, the US press, if we're going to be honest.  It's not like the press did editorial afte editorial lamenting the failure to bring Ba'athists back into the political process.  (One of the benchmarks was to revert Bremer's de-Ba'athification policy, call it de-de-Ba'athifcation.)  So when a weak measure was proposed but never implemented, the press just focused on the proposal and refused to cover the lack of follow up. 
Senator John McCain argues that Barack's administration purposely tanked the SOFA extension talks.  That's his opinion and he can detail why he feels that way.  That doesn't mean he's correct, only that he's thought it out.  What the record indicates is that Barack's efforts failed.  I don't see why you would jump to the conclusion that this failure was intentional (especially not when the administration continues negotiations).  The pattern is over confidence and hubris on the part of the administration, and as Greek drama and folklore have long demonstrated, hubris is followed by a fall. Such as in the fall of 2009 when Barack thought a toothy smile and some oily Chicago charm mixed with his second-rate celebrity would wow them in Denmark and bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016.  That didn't happen, did it?  There are many other failed negotiations on record to indicate that the most recent failure by the administration was only the latest in a series of failures.
And the US government never believed that the US military would leave any time soon which is why, for example, Chris Hill wasted forever on an oil and draft law at the expense of elections -- Iraq needed help  the elections.  The March 2010 elections were supposed to take place in 2009.  Chris Hill was of no use there.  And when oever 500 candidates were banned in 2010, Hill wasn't leading on addressing that issue nor was the US government.
What the US created in Iraq was the appearance of a new government and the US military propped it up.  As long as there was a strong US military force on the ground in Iraq, the US had a chance of managing it. 
If the US military were to stay nine more years would Iraq be better off?  That's not what the record indicates.  The record indicates that the US government would continue to focus on the oil and gas issue (theft of Iraq's resources) and undermine democracy, prevent it from taking root. 
Look at the State Dept's embarrassing plans.  They're not trained for what they're actually doing.  And they're not doing what they're trained in.  But they're going to focus on the police and training the Iraq police.  And they're not qualified.  That has nothing to do with the tools of democracy that the State Dept supposedly has in their tool kit.  The priority has never been the citizenry.  It's never been about anything except the tools of a despot. 
Nouri cannot be trusted.  Take the issue of Camp Ashraf.  Not only did he twice order attacks on the Camp after giving his word to the US government that he would protect it, he made a deal with the United Nations last week.  The refugees were supposed to be moved to a new location.  Yet even with that in place, there have been non-stop mortar attacks on the Camp.  The Camp Nouri is supposed to protect and that is watched non-stop by Nouri's forces.  Today Reuters reports that the United Nations is trumpeting the fact that the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, spoke to Nouri today and got a promise that the mortar attacks would cease.  Another promise.  From Nouri.  Oh, and Iran's Fars News Agency?  They're quoting Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbaq is stating that there's been no change in the deadline for the MEK refugees to leave Iraq.  That's very interesting.  Not just because the deal with the United Nations was supposed to have changed that deadline but also because the original deadline -- the one the Iraqi goverment now says has not changed -- is this Saturday.
In that context, UPI's report, is all the more troubling: "The United States plans to go ahead with a nearly $11 billion sale of arms and training to Iraq despite concerns about the country's future, officials said."   The Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviewed Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) about Iraq yesterday and we'll again note this section:

[Bernard Gwertzman]: You've been living in Iraq on and off since the war began in 2003. What's the United States' influence there since the departure of the troops?


[Ned Parker]: America has influence. Evidently, it's less, given that [the] troops have left, but America still has much soft power from the sales of weapons to Iraq, the need of Iraqi counterterrorism forces to work with U.S. Special Forces. Then there's the issue of America helping Iraq with investment, getting foreign companies in, and the issue of ending Iraq's Chapter Seven status at the UN, which prevents Iraq from having its full sovereignty because Iraq continues to pay reparations to Kuwait. So there are many ways that the United States can help Iraq. In terms of influence, it's a question of how America uses it and how it leverages it. Even when America had U.S. forces in Iraq, particularly in the last three years, America has been very reluctant to use its influence or clout to the maximum.

Despite all the turmoil Nouri is creating, the US immediately rushes forward to insist that the arms deal is still on. Even though it is one of the few levers they currently have over Nouri al-Maliki.  Over the weekend, Nouri began insisting that the deal go through more quickly.  What's changed since his trip to DC earlier this month?  The political crisis he's created for one.  He's charged Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism, he's asked that Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his office (Deputy Prime Minister) and this follows hundreds of arrests in recent weeks of various Sunni figures.  al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are both Sunni.  They are also members of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the elections.  Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) report that the weapons are alarming to some people:
[. . .] Iraqi politicians and analysts, while acknowledging that the American military withdrawal had left Iraq's borders, and airspace, vulnerable, said there were many reasons for concern.
Despite pronouncements from American and Iraqi officials that the Iraqi military is a nonsectarian force, they said, it had evolved into a hodgepodge of Shiite militias more interested in marginalizing the Sunnis than in protecting the country's sovereignty.  Across the country, they said, Shiite flags -- not Iraq's national flag -- fluttered from tanks and military vehicles, evidence, many said, of the troops' sectarian allegiances.

Instead of using a tool for negotiations, the administration immediately rushes to assure, "Yes, despot, we will be granting you all the weapon power you need for a full-scale blood bath."  In addition, there's the issue of why in the world would the US arm a questionable leader who appears to be demonizing and attacking 20% of his country's population or when three political blocs (Iraqiya, the Sadr bloc and the Kurdish bloc) are all calling for new elections and a withdrawal of confidence in the government.


Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist.

That's not me, that's Joe Biden, before he was vice president, back when he was in the Senate and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, from an April 10, 2008 hearing on Iraq.


What else did he say in that hearing?

That the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." And currently? Iraqiya is not attending Parliament meetings as a result of the abuses of Nouri al-Maliki.

Now the US government already made a huge mistake, the administration of Barack Obama, by refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people as well as the Iraqi Constitution. March 2010, Iraqis showed up at the polls and voted. This followed Nouri demonizing Iraqiya and using the Justice and Accountability Commission to disqualify Iraqiya candidates, Nouri using his control of state media to ensure that no one received better coverage (soft and glossy) than did he himself and his political slate (State of Law).

Despite that and despite predictions that State of Law would win by a landslide, that didn't happen. The Iraqi people voted and their first choice was Iraqiya. That was true even after Nouri stamped his feet and demanded recounts. This was true even after the electoral commission tried to humor him by taking some votes away from Iraqiya.

Iraqiya was the winner. This was not in question, this was not in dispute.

Per the people and per the Constitution, April 2010 should have seen Iraqiya attempting to form a government, one most likely led by the head of Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi.

Instead, Nouri dug his heels in and for 8 months refused to budge.  His term was over and the people had spoken.  They were then choosing a national identity and rejecting sectarianism.  It was a great moment for Iraqis.  But the US refused to celebrate that moment, instead they worked to sabotage it by backing Nouri.
And this despite all they knew about the secret prisons he'd be running since 2006 -- plural, secret prisons, plural -- and they backed him despite knowing he was ordering torture. They backed him despite the February 2009 State Dept cable written by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker which noted he was being seen as the "new Saddam" that he "tends to view everyone and everything with instinctive suspicion." Crocker noted, "The concentration of authority in Maliki's Office of the Commander in Chief (OCINC), the establishment of an elite security force - with its own judges and detention facilities - that reports directly to the PM, the creation of a security force command that short-circuits provincial authority, a willingness in some cases to use strong-arm tactics against political adversaries, and patronage networks to co-opt others all follow a very familiar pattern of Arab world leadership." Here's some foreshadowing from Crocker, "While responsibility for the lack of political consensus is broadly shared among Iraq's leaders from all groups, the PM needs to set the tone. Here, Maliki has shown
that he is either unwilling or unable to take the lead in the give-and-take needed to build broad consensus for the Government's policies among competing power blocs."  And to demonstrate just how much the US government actively refuses to grasp what's at stake, we'll note this from Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor):
A top US military official still on the ground in Iraq, under the auspices of the State Department, discounts such concerns, saying safeguards are in place to prevent such an outcome – and that all military sales include monitoring "to make sure the [Iraqi] government isn't in violation of human rights."

That is laughable.  As reporters have been tortured in Iraq this year, that is laughable. It also, pay attention, calls into question Iraq's supposed 'independence' if the US has that 'power.'  But it was topped in today's State Dept press briefing by Victoria Nuland.
QUESTION: To Iraq -- weapons sales? Has there been discussion in this building with any Iraqi officials about whether or not they're meeting the conditions for these armed sales to go ahead?
MS. NULAND: I can't speak to that. As you know, our main focus has been in trying to encourage the Iraqi political groups to talk to each other and to create a broad national dialogue about the way forward. With regard to the arms sales, these, as you know, are long planned and they're part of the transition process for the Iraqis to manage their own security within their own resources.
QUESTION: Iran?
QUESTION: Just -- wait. How are those efforts going to promote dialogue? It's been a few days that that's been the same message, yet there hasn't seemed to be a palpable effect yet in Iraq. Can you shed some light on how you're going about this and what tangible results that's producing?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Vice President has been active in his personal diplomacy with individual Iraqi leaders. Our Ambassador Jim Jeffrey has seen and talked to all of the major figures in Iraq. We're encouraging a process that a number of them have begun talking about, which is to have a sit down, to have a dialogue among themselves soon after the new year. And we have seen some encouraging public statements by a few of them over the last couple of days indicating they also believe that a national dialogue needs to take place soon after the new year.
QUESTION: Do you think -- okay. Do you think certain actions need to be taken before this -- to really kick-start this dialogue, such as withdrawing charges against rival politicians, things of this nature?
MS. NULAND: I think we're not going to get into the middle of this and dictate one way or the other. It -- clearly the Iraqi political groups need to sit down together and work this through in a manner that is consistent with Iraq's constitution and their commitments to each other.
QUESTION: I understand, but can certain -- for example, just logistically, can politicians -- certain leaders sit down when they're essentially wanted individuals? How does that work?
MS. NULAND: Well, I assume you're talking about one individual who's now the subject of charges. Again, we've said all along that we want to see any judicial process take place within the contest of the Iraqi constitution and meet international judicial standards. We need to get the main groups in Iraq talking to each other again about how they can move forward.
QUESTION: But in this case, you agree with the need for a judicial process to take place? You don't think that is not necessary?
MS. NULAND: Again, we're not the judge and jury here. This is an issue that needs to be settled by Iraqis within Iraqi constitutional processes.
QUESTION: You said you've seen encouraging signs. What are those signs?
MS. NULAND: We've had -- we've seen some Iraqis speak publicly about their desire for national dialogue, and a number of them are also expressing the same hope to us privately that soon after the New Year, they'll be able to sit down and settle this properly.
Comical and so sad.  The US State Dept whoring for a despot.  And pretending that those victimized by the despot calling for talks is a sign of progress.  Nouri, the one who started the crisis, hasn't called for talks.  But pretend not to notice anything that the US government doesn't want you to see, apparently.
Aswat al-Iraq quotes Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani stating that the political crisis is "the most dangerous among other crisis that took place in Iraq since 2003" and expressing his fear that civil war could break out.  James Zogby (Middle East Online) notes a Zogby poll of Iraqis on their various political leaders:
We asked Iraqis to evaluate their leaders and found that most are polarizing figures. Iraqi List coalition Iyad Allawi has the best overall rating of any Iraqi political figure receiving strong support from Sunni Arabs and Kurds. He, however, is not viewed favorably by Shia Arabs. The current Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki, is more polarizing with quite limited support from Sunni Iraqis and Kurds. In fact his numbers across the board are strikingly similar to those received by cleric, Moqtada al Sadr, except that al Sadr does better among Shia, and receives approximately the same ratings as al Maliki among Sunni Arabs and only slightly worse among Kurds.
Pinar Aydinli (Reuters) reports that Huseyin Celik, spokesperson for Turkey's ruling political party, has declared, "It has been determined from initial reports that these people were smugglers, not terrorists.  [. . .] If mistakes were made, if there were flaws and if there were shortcomings in the incident that took place, by no means will these be covered up."  That incident?  A bombing that took place near the border Turkey shares with Iraq.  BBC News (link has text and video) reports on last night's bombing, "An air strike by Turkish warplanes near a Kurdish village close to the border with Iraq has left 35 people dead, officials say. One report said that smugglers had been spotted by unmanned drones and were mistaken for Kurdish rebels." Reuters quotes Uludere Mayor Fehmi Yaman explaining that they have recovered 30 corpses, all smugglers, not PKK, and he declares, "This kind of incident is unacceptable. They were hit from the air." AFP adds, "Local security sources said the dead were among a group smuggling gas and sugar into Turkey from northern Iraq and may have been mistaken for Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels." Uludere is in the Turkish province of Sirnak which borders Iraq.  CNN notes, "The [Turkish] military statement claimed the the strike was in the Sinat-Haftanin area of northern Iraq, where many militant training camps are situated and there are no civilian settlements."  Peter Beaumont (Guardian) reports, "The donkeys had been sent across Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq to ferry vats of smuggled diesel and cigarettes. On Thursday when they came back it was with bodies wrapped in carpets lashed to their sides: the victims of a Turkish air raid that killed up to 35 villagers from this remote region."

The attack demonstrates yet again how drones are not answers and how futile the Turkish government's response to the PKK has been. 35 people are dead, not one of them PKK. All were killed by the Turkish government in what the government insists (and believes) was a worthwhile action.
The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."
27 years of  the Turkish government doing the same thing and getting no change in results. You really think the answer is better hardware? By refusing to grant Kurds full inclusion in Turkey, the government created the PKK. All the bullets and bombs in the world won't kill it. The only way you do away with the PKK is take away the reason they were created by bringing the Kurds in Turkey into the political process and making them citizens with full equality.

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