Saturday, January 7, 2012

3 men, 3 women

The first hour of Friday's Diane Rehm Show featured guests Jeanne Cummings, Jim VandeHei and Jackie Calmes.  The second hour guests were Nadia Bilbassy, Mark Landler and Tom Gjelten.  Here's Iraq from the second hour:


REHM

11:35:19
All right. Let's talk about Iraq where bombs in Baghdad killed dozens of people, Mark. I mean, here, the U.S. finally gets a good part of its troops out and, what, the country goes back to what it was originally?

LANDLER

11:35:40
Well, certainly things really go badly off track. Almost a day after the U.S. withdraws its last soldiers, you've got the Shiite Prime Minister of Iraq going after a Sunni vice president, accusing him of in effect terrorism. He flees to the Kurdish North, you know, a clear breakdown of a fragile power-sharing situation that was organized there. Then you have all kinds of terrorist attacks, two major bombings in Baghdad now that have killed together close to 100 people.

LANDLER

11:36:16
And so fears that exactly what some people predicted, which is that when the U.S. left the country would revert to sectarian violence appeared to have been fulfilled. It's worth noting that there has not been a breakout of the large scale sectarian strife, that clearly these attacks are meant to precipitate. That hasn't happened yet.

LANDLER

11:36:40
And if you talk to some U.S. administration policymakers, they'll continue to sort of cling to the argument that this is going to be ugly and we are going to see these types of attacks. But we shouldn't -- this does not necessarily mean that the country's headed for some sort of a complete disintegration. How long they can keep making that argument is not clear in the face of what we've seen in the last few days.

REHM

11:37:08
Tom.

GJELTEN

11:37:08
Well, the only thing that has changed, and it remains to be seen how significant it is, is the United States is not on the ground there anymore. And that was a mobilizing force, particularly for some of the more radical Shiite militias, Muqtada al-Sadr for example. Now one of those militias, a rival to al-Sadr is now coming to the government. It was virally anti-American. With the Americans gone, their cause has changed.

REHM

11:37:33
Tom Gjelten of NPR. When we come back, it's time to open the phones for your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.  


I found it disappointing but will give Diane credit for doing a better job of balancing the guests this week.

Disappointing?

I like Nicole Kidman.  I wanted to like "The Stepford Wives."

I streamed it this week.  It's a highly offensive film.  It bombed in 2004 and deserved to.

The film is visually ugly despite turning the women into vamps.

Frank Oz must be gay.  And full of self-hatred. That's the only reason he directed this awful film and directed it the way he did.

Paul Rudnick is gay.  And usually a funny writer.

Apparently by 2004, he wasn't.  Or else the script was rewritten.

Ira Levin wrote the novel, it was turned into a hit 1975 film.  It played into fears as women were awakening (the women's liberation movement).  Fears on the part of women who were identifying sexism that men -- as a gender -- were out to destroy them.  Fear on the part of men that they were inept and that taking away "control" over women would destroy their lives.

Faced with lack of control, the men of Stepford replace their wives with robots.  Katherine Ross (lead) and Paula Prentiss (supporting) captured that perfectly in the film.

The remake?

Nicole is a career woman.  And a reality TV champion.  I'm not sure which merits punishment but the film feels she needs punishment.  She has a nervous breakdown, husband Matthew Broderick moves her to Stepford.  She's told she's awful and a nag and she needs to be happy and she's a ball buster and Matthew can't be a man because of her and all of this other crap.

I'll come back to the leads.  Bette Midler has the Paula Prentiss role and she may be the only good thing about the film. She's married to Jon Lovitz who, like Matthew, wants her to focus on taking care of him.

Here's where it gets especially disgusting.  Roger and Jerry are a gay couple.

Jerry is the "husband."  You're tuned into that just not by the fact that Jerry's a conservative Republican but also by the fact that he's a member of the men's lodge where Roger isn't.  (Like other "wives," Roger is invited to the lodge when it's time to replace him with the robot.)

Now that didn't offend me.  What did was that after Roger's replaced, he's not a happy little home maker.  The women robots are.  They exist to serve their man.  Roger, instead, runs for the Senate.

Do you get why that's insulting?  It's implying that gender is destiny.

Okay, now let's get to the other problems with the film.

The nutless Matthew Broaderick.

He needs to stop acting.  If all he has to offer is moments where he reminds you of Ferris Bueller, give it up. And Ferris?  Really a little too Pan to be a sexual creature.

If Mark Ruffalo was telling Nicole Kidman that he couldn't be a man because of her job, it might carry weight.  I'd still think, "Oh, you poor pathetic ass."  But Mark feeling like he wasn't a man?  That's a tragedy.  Matthew feeling like he's not a man?  He's not.  He's an overgrown boy.  He's got no chin, he's got no guts, he's a weak-willed namby pamby.

You also, as a viewer, need to buy into the idea that Nicole would be remotely attracted (for whatever reason -- in the film it's exhaustion) to playing at being a home maker.  And this is underscored when she tells Bette how 'in charge' Matthew was the night before and how they had sex.

Matthew Broaderick is about as manly as Paul Lynde.  (That's not calling him "gay" like Paul Lynde.  Gay men can be very manly.  That's me noting that Matthew is not at all manly.)

If you want to indulge in the caveman sex fantasy -- if -- you're going to want to have a caveman not a pudgy, balding accountant.  Matthew can play the latter, but he's a joke as a man.

Again, Mark Ruffalo, okay, Nicole might be tempted for some hardcore sex.  Same with Gerard Butler.

On top of that, screw the asshole that ever thought you take Nicole Kidman -an Academy Award winning actress and star -- and put her onscreen opposite failed teen actor Matthew Broaderick.

Honestly, how many women's films will he tank before people get the message that American women don't want to f**k him, don't want to kiss him and don't want to pay money to see him on screen?

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




Friday, January 6, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, denial that Barack has responsibility continues, the US is not going to support Tareq al-Hashemi, who got punished for Iraq coverage (and who didn't), and more.
 
Let's start with David Shorr.  He's not interested in honesty, he's not interested in facts.  If you can hold your nose, click on the link and sink into the spin and ignorance.  He doesn't see how Barack Obama "owns" what happens in Iraq.  He doesn't see it because he can't admit the truth.  I haven't read Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan's column, I have no interest in reading it.  I have even less interest in reading Steve Clemons.  I did read Peter Feaver's piece -- awhile back.  (We highlighted it in the December 27th snapshot.)
 
I'm not in the mood to pretend Shorr's an honest broker, so we'll dismiss with him quickly.  Feaver argued that Barack also owns the war (owns it with Bush).  Shorr has a problem with that. We'll let Shorr's own words betray him:
 
Feaver cries foul on the attempt he sees by Obama supporters to give him full credit for anything positive in Iraq and saddle President Bush with everything negative. Well, what is the Obama Administration claiming to have done? President Obama claims credit for extricating American forces from nearly nine years of military involvement there.  By the way, can I pause for a moment to say how absurd it is to talk about a hasty exit after nine years?!?
 
Wow.  Well I'm convinced.  Barack's a saint, a hero and pees rainbows.  In Shorr's  mouth.  The rest of the world, however, may note that Shorr claims the Iraq War lasted nine years.  No, March 2003 is when it officially started.  So let's go with the eight years plus.  (Facts are so hard for con artists.)  So Barack deserves credit because he ended this eight year war?
 
Bush started and Bush ran it for eight years and just last month, Barack ended it.  Thank goodness Barack Obama was sworn in as president in December 2011 or else the US might still be -- What's that?
 
Oh, that's right.  Barack wasn't just sworn in.  He was sworn in back in January of 2009. A few weeks short of three years he pretends he ended the war and occupation (he didn't end it).  But he continued it, despite campaign promises.  And he wanted to continue the US military's strong presence even longer.  The "hasty exit" line?  Again? We just called out Media Matters distorting/lying about this.  But, I guess, when independent thought is beyond your capabilities, all you can do is repeat talking points. 
 
The "hasty exit"  -- as presented by members of Congress -- refers to the fact that in October when Barack ignores the Defense Dept's legal opinion and goes with the State Dept's legal opinion (I don't believe the idiot Shorr is even aware that there were legal opinions) and declares (that phase of) the talks over, that period from the last of October through December, is what they call the hasty exit.  Liars and whores can't make solid arguments so they have to lie.  Barack has not ended the war and occupation.  But let's pretend for a moment that he has.  Was he elected in 2008 with the mandate to follow Bush's actions?  To continue the Iraq War for three more years?  No, he wasn't.  He was voted into office to end the Iraq War.  And during those three years (2009, 2010 and 2011), he repeatedly made one mistake after another.  December 13 on To The Point (KCRW), Warren Oleny spoke with former Iraqi Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi.  Excerpt.
 
Warren Oleny: Is there anything the Obama administration should be doing differently from what it is?
 
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: Well, I mean, that's hard to say because obviously it's influence is somewhat waning.  The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010.  The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done.  Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name.  I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing.  What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffreys in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers.  We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
 
We're opposed to the illegal (and ongoing) Iraq War.  We always have been.  I don't need to distort what someone from the other side says or does to make my argument (see last night's entry).  Let's dispense with David Shorr by noting he hero worshipped Daniel Schorr.  Schorr loved to lie that he was fired from CBS News because of his integrity in ensuring that a Congressional report was printed.  No, he was fired for lying.  He was fired for lying and trying to get someone else in trouble.  As Ava and I noted in "Let's Kill Helen!" (our look at the disgusting trolls attacking Helen Thomas):
 
Oh my goodness, Helen's anti-war! Strip her of her American citizenship! Truly, that must be a huge offense to Alicia since she likens it to anti-semitism. Can you get more stupid than Alicia Shepard?
Others may not be able to, but she surely can. And did. No reporter for CBS would get away with that, Alicia wanted to insist. And she follows that up by telling Aimee that age can't be to blame because "Dan Schorr" is 91 and he works for NPR.
He does, she's right.
But he doesn't work for CBS, does he?
Nor can he.
Yeah, we'll go there.
Daniel Schorr was fired from CBS. He and his supporters (who funded a year long travel circuit for Danny after his firing) insisted he was fired for doing his job. That is and was a lie. Daniel Schorr was not fired for being a defender of freedom.
Most people are aware of the Church Committee which investigated governmental abuses. The Pike Committee came immediately after, doing the same sort of work, and they wrote a report. They then decided not to issue it. Schorr, in his capacity as a CBS reporter, had a copy of the report. CBS was weighing whether or not to report on the now killed report. Schorr has often (not always) maintained that a decision was made to kill the report and that's why he acted. That's not true. Either he's lying or he was out of the loop. CBS was still deciding. Schorr took the report to The Village Voice which published it.
That could have been the end of it for CBS News because they retained their copy (Schorr had photocopied it and given the photocopies to the weekly). There was an internal investigation at CBS to determine whether or not someone at CBS leaked the report to The Village Voice. Had Schorr kept his mouth shut, the investigation would have been as half-assed as every other internal investigation CBS News conducts. But Schorr couldn't keep his mouth shut.
This is why he was fired, this is why he will never work for CBS again. When asked, as all who had access to the report were, if he had given it to anyone, Schorr didn't stick to "no comment" or a lie that he didn't do anything.
No, instead Schorr chose to finger Lesley Stahl. Schorr told the investigators that The Village Voice published the report (which they knew) and Lesley was dating Aaron Latham (who worked for The Voice) so it was most likely that Lesley Stahl handed over the report to the weekly.
Schorr was not fired for leaking the report. He was fired for lying and for trying to blame someone he knew was innocent.
Think for just a moment what could have happened if Schorr had gotten away with that: Lesley Stahl's career would have been over -- at least at CBS though probably no other network would touch her if they feared she'd take their stories elsewhere.
Aaron Latham (a notable journalist in his own right) would have been outraged that Lesley lost her job because she was dating him. Knowing Aaron, he would have made it his life's purpose to find out who falsely accused Lesley and prove that liar wrong. If he'd been successful, it might have been a messy media moment and then life would have continued. If not? Most likely, Lesley would try to move on from it and Aaron would want to remain in the role of protector/enforcer. Meaning it wouldn't have just effected her professional life, which was bad enough, if would have changed her entire life. Lesley and Aaron married years ago and have had one of the few enduring marriages in the journalistic community. Lesley could have lost everything as a result of Daniel Schorr's lies. He was prepared to destroy someone professionally and personally.

In June 2010, while he was still alive, Ava and I were telling the truth about the dishonest and corrupt Daniel Schorr.  A month later, he died and there was David Shorr holding him up as a model. That says everything you need to know about the dishonest and uninformed David Shorr.  We're done with David Shorr.
 
In the real world, Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) observes, "And as we noted here last month, the American war crime in Iraq just keeps rolling on. This week saw yet another spate of mass slaughter in yet another series of bombings in the virulent sectarian warfare which was spawned, set loose, empowered and fomented by the invaders, who very deliberately -- with malice aforethought -- divided their new 'Iraqi' government along strict sectarian lines, arming and paying death squads and militias on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide to rip each other -- and Iraqi society -- to pieces. The mass murder this week is a direct result and a direct responsibility of the Americans who instigated, carried out, supported -- and praise -- the 'extraordinary achievement' of this endless atrocity. 'Nine years in the making,' yes -- and still going strong!"  From the right-wing, we'll note Sheldon Richman (Reason -- link is text and audio):
 
Obama will campaign on how he ended the war -- which began not in 2003 but in 1991; the U.S. government tormented the Iraqi people for 20 years! -- and conservatives will attack him for it. Both sides will conveniently forget that (1) the U.S. government was obligated to leave on Dec. 31, 2011, under an agreement signed by Bush, and (2) Obama tried his damnedest to get the Iraqi leaders to ask the U.S. military to stay. (Contrary to claims, not all troops have left.)
And let's be clear: An exit from Iraq hardly constitutes an exit from the Middle East. The troops moved down the road to Kuwait, "repostured" for future use.
Meanwhile, sabers are being rattled in the direction of Iran and Syria, where covert warfare is already being waged.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
 
 
The Iraq War has entered a new phase.  As people mark the end of the last phase with various stats and numbers, it might be time to note that a few people paid a price for getting it right.  Chris Hedges is the author of many books including Death of the Liberal Class which we picked at Third as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years (2001 to 2011).  The community voted it the number two book of 2010, see "2010 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and the number two book of 2011, see  "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)."  His most recent book is a collection of his columns,
 
Host:  When were you with the New York Times?
 
Chris Hedges:  1990 to 2005.
 
Host:  And why did you leave?
Chris Hedges: Well we had a little dispute oversomething called the Iraq War. And I'd spent a lot of my life, not only, of course in the Middle East, but in Iraq.  I understood like most Arabists that the arguments used to justify the invasion-occupation of Iraq were non-reality based.  They weren't -- This is not a political discussion.  It's the idea that we would be greeted as liberators and there wouldn't be an insurgency, that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and emanate outwards across the Middle East, that -- remember? -- the oil would pay for the reconstruction.  I mean these were just spun by people who had no idea what they were talking about.  But to get up and say that, despite the wealth of experience that I had within the region and within Iraq itself became deeply polarizing.  And I gave a commencement address -- I'd been saying it, but it came to sort of a head when I gave a commencement address at Rockford College [text of speech, video of speech with a link to other parts of speech on the right) where I was booed off o the stage, had my microphone cut, people stood up and started shouting things against me.  At one point, they stood up and sang "God Bless America."  I was actually escorted off the platform before the rewarding of diplomas since they didn't want any sort of fracas by close contact with students.  And this got picked up by Fox and sort-of trash talk media -- which looped it, hour after hour.  And the New York Times responded by giving me a formal written reprimand.  Now we were Guild, at the Times, which means we were unionized and the process is you give the employee a written reprimand and the next time they're fired.  So I faced a difficult choice which is that I would have to in essence muzzle myself in service of my career. But, you know, on a fundemantal level, I was very close to my dad.  He was a great minister and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement  -- his brother who was gay -- and he was very outspoken in support of gay rights.  You know I realized that point to do so would be to betray my father.  And I wasn't going to do that so I left the paper.
 
It's interesting. You could go on TV and -- reporter or columnist for the New York Times -- advocate for the war -- as many did, before it started and after it started -- and you would not get a written reprimand.  But speak out against the war and suddenly there was a big problem.  That goes to the huge problems with the US press.  If you repeat the government's lies -- even if you know they're lies -- as reality and truth, you don't get into trouble.  Even whent he lies are exposed, even when it's known, for example, that you helped the Reagan administration with Iran-Contra although you were a TV journalist.  You're not punished.  But if you question the government, if you criticize it, you have an "opinion."  And you may have violated your outlet's code.  This despite the fact that skepticism is supposed to be the hallmark of journalism. 
 
 
Many were punished for opposing the Iraq War -- Henry Noor (San Francisco Chronicle) and Phil Donahue (MSNBC) are two more.  But the only one who was punished from the other side is scapegoat Judith Miller.  The New York Times let her go because (a) her image and (b) their own embarrassment.  Her reports don't stand up.  Was Judith also an editor?  Was she the publisher?  Why was she the only one at the paper who was let go?  Judith didn't host Meet The Press on NBC or any of the Sunday chat shows that sold the illegal war (often with Miller as a guest).  None of those people were fired from their jobs.  Judith was a guest on Oprah's daytime talk show when Oprah wanted to sell the upcoming illegal war and Oprah even snapped on TV at an audience member who dared to questions the dubious claims presented as fact.  Oprah lost nothing.
 
Judith Miller's reporting doesn't stand up.  She was wrong.  She was a lousy reporter.  If you ignore that she commandeered a US military unit while she was in Iraq and used them to go find WMD (they found nothing), you could call her a liar.  (Clearly she was tricked or allowed herself to be tricke by the sources she was too cozy with.)
 
But Judith Miller didn't work at the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times or any other newspaper.  And Judith Miller hosted no MSNBC, CNN or Fox News program.  And Judith Miller anchored no broadcast network's evening news.  And Judith Miller didn't host PBS' Washington Week or The NewsHour.  So why was she the only one -- out of all those fools, liars and worse?
 
Because, as a woman, she was a lightening rod in a way that a man can never be. (Bash the bitch is the American pastime, as Ava and I noted.)  And so a lot of men (and less prominent women) kept their heads down and played dumb, just glad to have Judith Miller punished for all of their journalistic sins.
 
 
On national, state and local levels around the country, people were fired for being skeptical and/or against the impending war.  And the only one fired who cheerleaded the war was Judith Miller?  Imagine how different today would be if those cheerleading war -- and not the Dixie Chicks -- had been the ones to lose their media access, had been the ones dropped by various media outlets.  But opposing war was controversial.  Blindly going along wasn't.  Because it's never a crime in US journalism to parrot and applaud the US government -- especially the White House.
 
 
(And I'm not calling for the censorship of the War Hawks or anyone else -- let opinions compete in the public square.  But I am attempting to underscore that they had access to the media and amplification while those who were skeptical or flat out against the Iraq War were shut out by the media.)
 
 
After yesterday's string of bombings across Iraq, today would have to be (comparatively) more peaceful. This being Iraq, that doesn't mean the violence stopped. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "At least three explosions struck Friday near Baghdad's Green Zone, where a parade to make Iraq's Army Day was taking place, according to witnesses."  Reuters notes that there was also a Baghdad mortar attack which left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left seven people injured, a third Baghdad roadsie bombing claimed 1 life and left five more people injured and a Balad Ruz roadside bombing claimed 1 life. That's 3 dead and twenty injured.  Of yesterday's violence, Dan Morse (Washington Post) observes, "At least 72 people were killed Thursday in a series of attacks on Shiites in Iraq, marking the deadliest day since U.S. troops withdrew last month and raising new worries about the country's sharp sectarian divisions."
The political crisis continues in Iraq.  At 8:00 pm EST last night, the White House issued the following:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release
January 05, 2012
Readout of the Vice President's Call with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
In the context of close U.S.-Turkish consultation on matters of mutual interest, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed regional issues, including political developments in Iraq, by telephone today. Following up on their conversation during the Vice President's trip to Turkey in December, the two leaders agreed on the need to advance security, support the rule of law and encourage democracy in the region. They agreed that our two governments would remain in regular contact on these issues.
 
Hurriyet Daily News adds that "Erdogan warned efforts expended so far to protect Iraq's territorial intergrity and stability would become meaningless if Iraq drifted away from democratic culture."  Nouri al-Maliki's attempt at seizing further power has resulted in his swearing out a warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Former CIA Director (2006 - 2009) Michael V. Hayden offered this summary at CNN of Iraq post Status Of Forces Agreement:
 
 
With that agreement unextended and now expired, al-Maliki appears to be acting out the darkest shadows of his own past. Over the last months, he has reneged on a power-sharing agreement with Sunnis in several key ministries, arrested hundreds of suspected Baathists (read Sunni oppositionists) and -- as the last American troops were leaving Iraq and fresh from an audience in the Oval Office -- he has now ordered the arrest of his own Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, for alleged "terrorism."
Along with all of this, al Qaeda in Iraq greeted the U.S. withdrawal with a series of deadly bombings against largely Shiite targets. Al Qaeda was always expected to take advantage of the "seam" created by the handoff of counterterrorism operations from American to Iraqi control, but now even a badly weakened al Qaeda can exploit the sense of Sunni vulnerability that al-Maliki's actions have created.
The situation may yet be salvaged. America is not without tools. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey cut short his holiday home leave to return to Iraq and, as he has in the past, he will no doubt use his considerable skills in an attempt to defuse the situation. But the ambassador will have fewer tools at his disposal.
But is James Jeffrey able to address all the issues?  No.  And he wouldn't if he could.  The US government has repeatedly went for the 'big' issue.  Which, under Bush since 2006 or Barack since he was sworn in, has always translated as: Protect Nouri and his position.  That's why Barack was able to ignore the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community even with the US Congress calling it out.  That's why Barack was able to ignore Nouri attacking protesters during the so-called "Arab Spring."  February 25th, Nouri's forces were attaking protesters and journalists.  This continued week after week.  Human Rights Watch covered this repeatedly.  Here's Human Rights Watch from June 2nd:
 
On May 28, soldiers in four Humvees and two other unmarked vehicles approached the offices of the human rights group Where Are My Rights in Baghdad's Bab al Mu'adham neighborhood, as members met with fellow protest organizers from the February 25 Group. Members of both groups told Human Rights Watch that soldiers raided the building with guns drawn, took away 13 activists in handcuffs and blindfolds, and confiscated mobile phones, computers and documents.

One detained activist who was released on May 29 told Human Rights Watch that during the raid a commanding officer introduced himself as "from Brigade 43"of the army's 11th Division and said another officer was "from Baghdad Operation Command."

"They did not show any arrest warrants and did not tell us why we were being arrested," this activist said:
A female activist complained and asked to see warrants, and they told her to "shut up and get in the car." They blindfolded and handcuffed us, and while they were doing this, they asked, "Why are you having these meetings? Do you really think you can bring down the government?" And they asked who was supporting us.
The activist said that the army took the people it arrested to a detention facility at Division 11 headquarters, where they were interrogated both as a group and individually. "Once we were there, they hit us with their hands in the face, neck, chest, and arms while we were still blindfolded," the activist said. "They kicked us everywhere they could reach. They did not use batons on me, and they talked to each other about not leaving marks or bruises on us."
The released activist and several members of both organizations said security forces are still holding nine of the activists and have released four without any charges. "I asked what crimes we had committed, and asked again about arrest warrants," said the released activist. "They never answered either question."
 
But that was never anything Barack condemned.  Nouri becomes prime minister in 2006.  Was there a year in there -- 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 -- when Nouri wasn't getting exposed for running another secret prison?  And they tortured in those prisons.  And yet when Nouri's slate came in second in the 2010 elections -- when Iraqis chose Iraqiya for first place and when that meant, per the Constitution, that Iraqiya had first crack at forming a government -- the White House refused to stand up for the will of the Iraqi people or for the Iraq Constitution or for democracy.  They backed thug Nouri.
 
So Iraqiya would have to be very foolish to think that this is the time that the US finally breaks with Nouri and comes to the rescue of Tareq al-Hashemi, let alone the Iraqi people.  And commentators are noting that James Jeffrey isn't doing a damn thing to help al-Hashemi.  Northsum32 (All Voices) writes:
 
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said: "There is a serious effort by the Iraqi judiciary to have a free and fair and just investigation," "It seems a lot of care is being taken at this point to maintain judicial independence and to have a very broad investigation." These remarks give support to Maliki in his attempt to discredit Hashemi and portray him as a terrorist.
 
John Glaser (Antiwar.com) observes, "The U.S. ambassador to Iraq has expressed approval of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's quest to detain Iraq's vice president on terrorism charges, despite almost everyone else recognizing it as part of a troubling pattern of consolidating dictatorial power."  Again, Iraqiya would have to be very stupid at this late date to think the US government was going to help al-Hashemi when they have repeatedly backed Nouri over and over.  Despite the fact that Nouri's a thug.  Despite the fact that I can list five prominent members of the administration who have described him as that.  Despite the fact that I can name more Democratic Senators who describe him as a thug than I can name Democratic Senators who don't.
 
 
Al Rafidayn reports al-Hashemi has opened an office in the KRG. In a statement, al-Hashemi noted that his new office was in Sulaymaniyah and that it was temporary. He also called for a stop to the raids and harassment on his home and offices in Baghdad as well as the homes of his staff. Two women who work for him were recently detained with no explanation provided to them. On al-Hashemi, Al Mada reports that Parliament has rejected a request to supervise the investigation of al-Hashemi noting that such an action is beyond the scope of their legal duties. The paper also notes that rumors that he will be going to Jordan have been denied by Jordanian officials. Rakan al-Majali, government spokesperson, states no request from al-Hashemi has been received.

Again, Nouri's political slate is State of Law. al-Hashemi is currently a house guest of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. Earlier this week, the Kurdish Alliance staged a walkout (Tuesday) during a session of Parliament to register their offense over State of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi calling Talabani (who is Kurdish) a "terrorist.' Al Mada reports that al-Asadi delivered a formal apology and has stated he will travel to Sulaimaniyah to apologize to Talabani in person.
Talabani has called for a national conference among the political blocs to address the political crisis. Alsumaria TV reports on "observers" believing Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc not attending (this was announced over the holiday weekend) could cause a problem and some think the objection is part of a larger issue with claims that the National Alliance wants the list of invitees narrowed while Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance want the conference to be open to various political actors. Alsumaria also notes that Talabani met with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi in Sulaimaniya and Talabani and Allawi remain committed to a national conference to "dismantle" the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq covers another meet-up:
Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani discussed with Higher Islamic Council leading member Adel Abdul Mehdi ways to deal with the present crisis in the country and the necessity to all parties' agreement on a national projects and the implementation of previous agreements.
Barzani, in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq, stressed the importance of abiding by the real partnership.
The statement added that both sides stressed that all political parties should agree on a national project, implement previous agreements and solve the present crisis to create a state of stability in the country.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi was the Shi'ite Vice President of Iraq in Nouri's first term. In the second term, he was one of two Vice Presidents originally (himself and Tareq al-Hashemi) and then there were three vice presidents. He turned in his resignation at the end of May and Talabani accepted it formally in June. (Since then, Iraq has only had two vice presidents.) Mahdi has long wanted to be prime minister. He has had the support in that from various international oil corporations. Like most rulers in Iraq (excepting the KRG), Mahdi is an exile. He left Iraq in 1969.

When he stepped down as vice president, he did so with a letter lamenting government excess. The letter and the move was seen by some insiders as Mahdi setting himself up for a potential challenge to Nouri.
We need to wrap up.  We've got two things.  Partner Hub will be hosting a live online discussion with Angelina Jolie Thursday (January 12) starting at 8:00 pm EST (7:00 pm Central, 5:00 pm PST).  Angelina is an Academy Award winning actress and, of course, now a film director with her upcoming In The Land of Blood and Honey.  She also wrote the screenplay.  What impressed me (I saw at the end of last month) the most was just how strong Angelina's visual storytelling is.  She's a gifted director right out of the box.  Many sites will be taking part in the discussion (we won't -- it was a nice invitation but Thursday next week is a hard one and Friday's a nightmare in terms of my schedule).  We wil, however, gladly note any sites that are taking part.  As noted here before when I've felt the need to defend Angelina from some stupid attack (usually when some reporter -- Leila Fadel, I'm thinking of you especially), I've known Angelina since she was a little girl.  (I am much older than Angelina.  I was not a little girl, I was an adult.)  She's directed an amazing movie and she's got the visual gift a director needs, it's there in transitions from scene to scene, it's their in telling moments.  She should be really proud of herself and proud of her film.  And the last word goes to the Feminist Majority Foundation as they address the change in the FBI's legal definition of rape:
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 6, 2012
Contact: Francesca Tarant, 703.522.2214, ftarant@feminist.org
Annie Shields, 310.556.2500, ashields@msmagazine.com
 
 
Feminist Majority Foundation Celebrates FBI Approval of New Rape Definition - FBI Director's Action Follows Extensive Campaign By Women's Rights Supporters

"Updating the FBI Uniform Crime Report definition of rape is a big win for women," said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation. "We appreciate the support for this change from the Obama Administration, led by Vice President Joe Biden and by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and Hon. Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice, as well as the FBI." The White House today announced that FBI Director Robert Mueller has approved the change recommended by several committees of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service.

"With a modern, broader definition, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will finally show the true breadth of this violence that affects so many women's lives. Women's groups will work to ensure that this more accurate and complete data will lead to increased resources to combat and reduce the incidence of rape," continued Smeal.

The "Rape is Rape" campaign, a massive grassroots feminist activism effort launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, generated over 160,000 emails to the FBI and the Department of Justice urging this change. For over a decade the Pennsylvania-based Women's Law Project (WLP) had pursued the change. "Ultimately, accurate data is a fundamental starting point to improving police response to sex crimes and improved practice should lead to increased victim confidence in police and reporting," said Carol E. Tracy, WLP Executive Director.

The old definition, adopted over 80 years ago, had been extensively criticized for leading to widespread underreporting of rape. Defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," it excluded rapes involving forced anal sex and/or oral sex, rape with an object (even if serious injuries resulted) and rapes of men, and was interpreted by many police jurisdictions to exclude rapes where the victim was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or otherwise unable to give consent. The old rape definition excluded many rapes against women and all against men.

The new definition, as it appears on the FBI website, is: "Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

"This is a major policy change and will dramatically impact the way rape is tracked and reported nationwide," said Kim Gandy, Vice President and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It is a great day for women and law enforcement because the police can more accurately know what is going on as far as the crime of rape in their communities," observed Margaret Moore, Director of the National Center for Women and Policing of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Available for interview on the change in definition, its significance and the campaign leading up to it are Feminist Majority Foundation President/Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal, FMF Vice President and General Counsel Kim Gandy, Executive Editor of Ms. Katherine Spillar, Women's Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy and Margaret Moore, director of the National Center for Women and Policing, a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
 

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