Thursday, November 15, 2012

3 men, 2 women (and Whitney returns)

Today on NPR's Tell Me More, Keli Goff, Andrea Seabrook, Katherine Boo, Steve Repak and Raymond Santana. 


Last night, Whitney returned with all new episodes (you can stream at the link).  The NBC sitcom kicked off season two without Neal who has left the show.  I didn't mind Lily's fiancee becoming gay.  I thought a gay character was needed.  But the actor went back to 30 Rock where they've used him in maybe two scenes.  Last time I saw Jack's office, there was a guy sitting at Neal's desk and if you looked close you could see it wasn't even him.

(On 30 Rock, he plays Jack's assistant.)

I really loved Lily and Neal as a couple.  :(


I don't care for Whitney's mom so I didn't enjoy her being on.  I never like her being on.  I can take Peter Gallagher as the father if he's on by himself without her (which should be easy since Whitney's parents are divorced).  There was a really funny moment when the mother was on. 


Mom:  Look at you and your kitchen.  it reminds me of when you used to stick your head in your Easy Bake Oven.


Whitney:  Mom, it wasn't an Easy Bake Oven.  It was an empty Jack Daniels  box with a flash light taped inside.

That still makes me laugh.  Whitney's lines.  And Whitney Cummings remains the main reason to watch but the entire cast is great.  It was a funny episode too.

But I did miss Neil.


And bringing on the mother is a problem, seriously.  That character does not click.  Otherwise, this was a very solid opening and it was very funny.  Especially a fight that Lily and Roxanne had.




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


Thursday, November 15, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's State of Law continues spreading rumors, Nouri's State of Law continues not to grasp what a constitution is (let alone what it says),  Moqtada sums up what Nouri's attempts to end  the ration card system really meant, and more.
 
 
Let's start with Benghazi because, like Elaine, I'm getting real damn tired of Our Liar Of The Left.  Today OLOFL calls out CNN's Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, ABC's Jake Tapper, PBS' Kwame Holman and others.  Could they all be wrong?
 
Certainly.  Anyone can be wrong.  I'm wrong all the time.  That's part of life. 
 
I'm also not concerned with 'tone' -- with one exception -- because you should call people out in your own voice and not someone elses, we need more voices hitting more notes not a choir of tenors all hitting the same damn note.  My exception?  OLOFL's sexism is well known and  I did notice that Erin Burnett gets a special kind of attack different from the men. 
 
Today OLOTL accuses the journalists of many things including "cherry picking."  He's the one who's cherry picking.  Susan Rice went on television six days after the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.  She went on multiple programs.   Journalists have to condense.  That is not the same thing as "cherry picking."  They're dealing with the totality of Susan Rice's presentation.
 
Some try to argue she's the messenger.  Yes, I believe she was confirmed to be that.  I believe that's what an ambassador does.  But the American people don't give a damn if she was just the messenger or not.  She went on television and spoke about Benghazi.  She was flat out wrong.  Now if  anyone wants to argue that Susan Rice is incompetent, he might get some takers.  But to argue that she couldn't help it and blah blah blah?  No.  That ship sailed a long time ago.  She was going on every network Sunday morning.
 
CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, ABC's This Week, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday -- am I missing one?  All links go to transcripts -- Fox News was smart enough to put their video and transcript together.   She presented the same bad talking points over and over.  Five live interviews that morning? She should have known her facts before she gave the first one, she should have known her facts and been up to date before the first interview (which dismisses the claim that Saturday evening a new view emerged and poor Susan Rice woke up Sunday morning, took out her curlers and stepped in front of the camera).  She used "spontaneous" in every interview (Somerby attacks Anderson for noting "spontaneous").  Susan Rice was the messenger because the State Dept wasn't going to lie.  Susan Rice shouldn't have been on TV.  It should have been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or someone else at the State Dept,  Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, etc.  Susan Rice?  Please.  The US Ambassador to the United Nations?
 
That was above her head.  If she's stupid enough to think she can ace it, then she's stupid enough to earn the blame for her idiotic statements which -- even in the official White House timeline -- are now out of date and wrong.
 
I've done press junkets.  As I go from interview to interview, I have someone telling me if any information has changed and I'm revising my remarks to include that -- and that's the entertainment industry.  Susan Rice should have known the information that came in on Saturday before she spoke on Sunday.  If no one bothered to inform her, that's also on her because she should have demanded it when she agreed to do the programs, "I need to know every update that comes in between now and when I step on camera."
 
Is that hard? Well so is life.  And if you're going to go on TV to speak about an attack that claimed the lives of 4 Americans (Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens) and speak on behalf of the US government, your job is to be prepared.
 
She wasn't or she lied.  She was incompetent or she lied. 
 
Actually, she may have been incompetent and a liar. 
 
I see this as a lie, ". . . what we understand to be the assessment at present" (Face The Nation, similar words used on other programs).  That's a lie.  That's, according to the White House, the assessment early Saturday afternoon as she got a briefing.  It wasn't Saturday evening's assessment.  It certainly wasn't Sunday morning's assessment.
 
Again, if you're going on TV to do live interviews and you are representing the US government, you need the most current information.  She didn't do the work required.  Maybe she wasn't smart enough to know what work was required?  Maybe her personal time Saturday and Sunday was more important to her?  I have no idea.  But she went on TV Sunday morning and gave out-of-date information according to the White House's version of events.
 
She should have cared a little less about protecting the White House and a little more about serving the American people.  Barack Obama is not paying her, the American people are.  She works for the American people and she takes an oath to the Constitution, not to a office, not to a person.
 
She wants to be Secretary of State and Barack wants her to as well.  If nominated, she'll be jumping over Senator John Kerry which should raise eyebrows considering her awful record in the last four years in terms of public diplomacy.  And that's the only record she has.  Yet she's going to be put in charge of the US State Dept which is in charge of Iraq?  This liar or incompetent or both is going to be put over the billions of dollars the US is still pouring into Iraq?  America needs someone trustworthy in that position.  Susan Rice is a joke to many American people.  She's not up to the job and she comes in as a joke.  This is how Barack Obama wants to waste his time post-election? 
 
I thought the second term was going to be about getting things done.  I thought this was the term Barack was going to get to work.  So choosing between a qualified nominee (John Kerry) who is an automatic approved by the Senate nominee and between the unqualified Susan Rice who already has senators opposed to her, Barack's going to waste America's time with Susan Rice?  (Because he's a senator, John Kerry's an automatic confirmation.  That's how it goes historically.  The Senate rushes to confirm its current and former colleagues.)  So America's going to have to suffer through weeks of drama because Barack can't stop fixating on Susan Rice?  And let's be clear that, if Rice had any integrity, she'd look at the situation herself, realize what a liability she is and announce she was not interested in the post. 
 
The phrase the White House and its employees need to learn is "for the good of the country." 
 
 
It's a phrase many leaders and officials should use.  Take Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad-based government which, according to Alsumaria News, had to issue an announcement today that they are not holding any Saudi royals nor planning to execute them.  The message came via Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari who also stated that the Suadi prisoners don't necessarily give their real names when arrested in Iraq.  How they are then able to determine that no Saudi princes are in custody (the rumor circulating had been that Iraq was gearing up to execute a Saudi prince) is not addressed.  Of course, Nouri's screwed up the country so bad that it's not just rumors about foreigners but about Iraqis.  Dar Addustour reports that someone with the Supreme Judicial Council is stating this week that the judiciary has issued arrest warranges for two Iraqiya members of Parliament: Khalid al-Alwani and Adnan al-Janabi.  Both rumors speak to the distrust Nouri has sewn.  Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors would seem terrible had Nouri not engaged in the lengthy verbal attack on Turkey for most of 2012.  Nouri's relations with political rivals is always shaky but more so with members of Iraqiya whom Nouri has repeatedly targeted. 
 
Iraq, after all, is the only country currently with a sitting vice president who's been convicted of terrorism.  Nouri swore an arrest warrant on Tareq al-Hashemi.  Nouri's kangaroo court convicted Tareq.  Not a surprise.  February 16th, a press conference was held and Baghdad judges explained Tareq was guilty of terrorism and one judge declared that Tareq had tried to kill him.  But, thing is,  the trial didn't even start until May.  Months before the trial started, the judiciary declared him guilty in a press conference.  That tells you the level of 'justice' in Iraq.  Even before you factor in the torture confessions, the abduction of Tareq's office staff, the refusal to allow him to call witnesses and so much more.
 
Though the verdict isn't taken seriously outside of Iraq (and Iran), al-Hashemi was convicted of terrorism and he remains Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi because he's never been removed from office.  Even now, Nouri doesn't have the votes required in the Parliament to remove him from office. The editorial board of the Saudi Gazette notes today:
 
Unfortunately Maliki robbed his government of much Sunni support when he decided to prosecute leading Sunni politician and vice-president Tariq Al-Hashemi for running death squads.
Hashemi fled, perhaps significantly first to Kurdish Iraq and then abroad.
The Sunni leader has since been tried in his absence and sentenced to death.
 
In Iraq, the political crisis has not ended.  The March 2010 elections were followed by Political Stalemate I as Nouri stomped his feet because Iraqiya beat his own State of Law meaning someone from Iraqiya should be prime minister-designate.  But Nouri had the White House on his side.  So after eigh months of nothing happening, the political blocs signed off on the US-negotiated contract entitled the Erbil Agreement.  Nouri used it to grab his second term and then refused to honor the contract.  Since the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  This is Political Stalemate II which Nouri turned into a political crisis when he began targeting Sunnis and/or members of Iraqiya. 
 
 All Iraq News reports Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement yesterday where he explained that the effort to cancel the ration cards was an effort to control the markets, that it was not about addressing corruption and that it was the start of an attempt to rig the upcoming elections.  That's a very strong statement from Moqtada and part of the efforts to draw a line between him and Nouri and to set him up to be the next prime minister.  It's the sort of leadership Jalal Talabani fails to exhibit repeatedly.   Background on the food-rations card system, from Monday's snapshot:

Last Tuesday, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored. The program has been in place since 1991 meaning that it is all over half of Iraqis know (Iraq has a very young population, the median age has now risen to 21). It allowed Iraqis to get basic staples such as flour sugar, rice, etc. As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically. It was also an idiotic political move to make. In April, provinicial elections will be held. Nouri's already in campaign mode and this very unpopular move did not help him there. The smartest thing politically would have been to go into a full retreat on the proposal and announce that you had heard the people, to flatter them and make it appear you listened. 
Saturday, there was a moment when it looked like Nouri might grasp that. All Iraq News reportedAlsumaria reported Dawa announced that they had nothing to do with the decision and they're also tried to insist at the same time that it wasn't Nouri's decision. Kurdistan Alliance MP Sharif Soliman told All Iraq News that those responsible for the decision are trying to make up excuses and push the blame elsewhere. The Kurdistan Alliance's Mohsen Saadoun told Alsumaria that Nouri is responsible for this decision. the Cabinet of Ministers will hold an emergency meeting on the issue. Nouri's political slate is State of Law, his political party is Dawa. How unpopular is the move to cancel the food-ration program?
Today Alsumaria reports that the food program is not getting the axe. Instead, the people will be able to decide if they would like to remain on the existing system or receive cash. When you tell people they can remain on the ration card system or they can get cash, when you tell that to people in a bad economy with many bills, they will be tempted to go for the cash. The ration card is the better system. But there are bills owed that have to be paid and there is the hope in people that things have to get better. So they will tell themselves that they can make it right now with the cash and that, in a few months or a year, fate will provide and things will be better. In the meantime, they've been moved off the progam and the prices -- as Sistani, politicans and the people have noted -- will sky rocket. So the money will be of little use to them then.

Al Mada reports that a poll found 69.5% of Iraqis surveyed felt that cancellation of the ration cards would negatively effect their families' standard of living and 81% opposed doing away with the ration cards.  Hassan Latif al-Zubaidi (Niqash) reports:

Various reports from as far back as 2004 have concluded that scrapping the ration card system would lead to lower living standards in Iraq in general.  There are a large number of food-insecure individuals in Iraq -- early estimates range from between 11 and 16 percent of the population -- and analysts have suggested that that number could double or even triple should the ration card system be scrapped.
So for the time being, the Iraqi government, haveing rescinded its earlier decision to get rid of the system altogether, has decided that citizens may now have a choice -- choose the ration card which allegedly supplies around ICD12,000 worth of goods or a cash payout of IQD15,000 per month. 
Of course there are no guarantees that the cash will be used by the needy to buy the food they need and there's obviously still plenty of room for social welfare fraud and for corruption.  Only one thing seems certain when it comes to the ration card: with elections coming up in Iraq soon -- they're planned for early 2013 -- it also seems highly unlikely there will be any further major "improvements" made to the ration card system in the near future.
Shaeen Mufti (Rudaw) quotes MP SHorsh Haji who serves on Iraq's Economic Committee in Parliament, "Making decisions one day and revising them the next proves that the government is without a plan and doesn't know what is best for the people."
 
 
Following the idiotic decision to cancel the program, Nouri made other questionable decisions.  For example, taking an axe to a contract with another country.  October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. Then something happened 30 days later and the status of the deal became in question. Was it all just buyer's remorse over a big-ticket item? Saturday, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) reported:

Iraq's prime minister has canceled a recently signed arms deal with Russia after "suspicions over corruption" surfaced, his spokesman told CNN on Saturday.
Under the $4.2 billion deal forged last month, Russia would deliver attack helicopters and mobile air-defense systems to Iraq.
 

Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reported that there are senior Iraqi government officials who are involved with a brother of Russian President Vladimir Putin. All Iraq News noted there are calls for Nouri to step forward and clear his name. Al Rafidayn added Nouri spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi announced that the deal is off. New contracts may be needed, he said, because weapons are, but the deal is off. AP hedged the bets  going with language about the deal being "reconsidered" and in "turnaround." Reuters spent the day providing constant updates and in their third one they noted, "In a confusing exchange, the announcement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office was immediately contradicted by the acting defence minister who denied the corruption charges and said the Russian arms deals were still valid." RIA Novosti reminded, "At the time the deal was announced in October, the Russian press had hailed it as the country's largest since 2006. Under the contract, Moscow is to supply 30 Mil Mi-28NE night/all-weather capable attack helicopters, and 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defense systems."
 
On Monday,  Al Mada reported today that Iraqiya is demanding Nouri provide a report to Parliament explaining the details of the weapons deal with Russia.  Alsumaria reports today that Nouri is insisting that these "defensive" weapons are needed to protect Iraq.  Also today, All Iraq News reports State of Law MP Abudl Salam al-Maliki has accused Abdul Aziz Narowi, Iraq's Ambassador to Russia, of working with the Russian Defense Minister in the interest of the KRG and not Baghdad.  There's a full-on push to salvage Nouri's image after the mess that the $4.2 billion deal between Russia and Iraq has become.  They might need to worry also about how the crumbling deal appears in Russia.  Kitabat reports that the Russian government is outraged over the accusations being made which include that Russian President Vladimir Putin took bribes and kickbacks.
 
 
 
 
Alsumaria also reports that Basra Province has purchased 10 trained dogs for the Basra Police Command.  The dogs have been trained to sniff out bombs.  This may remind many of all the money Nouri wasted on bomb detecting 'techonlogy' -- a wand that the US military ridiculed and that the British government ended up outlawing.  You hold the expensive stick and run in place behind a car and it's 'activated.'  But it doesn't do anything.  It was a con job.  Instead of demanding a refund, Nouri chose to eat the costs in an attempt to salvage his own reputation. 
 
The Baghdad Trade Fair just concluded and it wasn't a boost for Nouri's image either.  AFP reports:



Excessive red tape, rampant corruption, an unreliable judicial system and still-inadequate security, as well as a poorly trained workforce and a state-dominated economy all continue to plague Iraq, which completed its biggest trade fair in 20 years last week to much domestic acclaim.
The various difficulties of doing business in Iraq cast doubt on efforts to raise $1-trillion in investment income over the coming decade that officials say is needed to rebuild its battered economy.
 
Maybe Nouri thought he'd get a ribbon just for showing up?  The last week of March, Nouri oversaw the Arab League Summitt in Baghdad.  It was a bust, but damned if the press didn't try to play it as a success.  From the March 30th snapshot:
 
 
 
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) wants you to know that, as Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star, that we're all winners.   Probably Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin were closer to the truth with, "We're all dreamers, we're all whores" ("This Town," first appears on  the Go-Gos' Beauty and the Beat). Journalists are supposed to be critical thinkers not advance men for the company. The Arab League Summit was only a success if we're all toddlers and everyone gets a trophy for showing up.  Or if you're stupid enough to think something's true just because a two-bit thug like Nouri al-Maliki says it is.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.
[. . .]
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.

That's reality and AFP reported reality on the Baghdad Trade Fair.
 
Nouri's a disaster and yet he wants a third term as prime minister.  The parliamentary elections planned for 2014 are supposed to determine that.   Members of Parliament are elected, the bloc with the most seats is supposed to get first crack at forming a govenrment so the president names someone from that bloc to be prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a complete Cabinet or someone else is named prime minister-designate.

The 2014 election is supposed to determine that.  Supposed to.  Iraq's had parliamentary elections twice now -- 2005 and 2010.  In both instances, the United States government determined the outcome.  First, the Bush administration installed Nouri in 2006 (Ibrahim al-Jafaari was the choice of Parliament).  Second, the Barack administration gave second place Nouri a second term in 2010 via an extra-Constitutional contract known as the Erbil Agreement.

If the White House plans to again pick the Iraqi prime minister in 2014, could they let Iraq know now before money's spent printing ballots and adding security to the various polling places?

Al Mada notes the efforts to pass a bill that would limit the prime minister post to two terms only.   Some reports have said there are 150 backers in Parliament, some say 130.  A simple majority is needed.  That's half-plus-one of the MPs (there are 325 members of Parliament).   So that's already very close to the target number.  Press TV adds: "Maliki's supporters also say that they will try to split support for the term limit campaign by adjusting the law to include other posts such as Kurdistan Regional Government president and parliament speaker."

I am sure that they did that say that.  I don't doubt Press TV's accuracy.  Mainly because the members of State of Law repeatedly demonstrate stupidity.


It might help State of Law to read the Iraqi Constitution at some point.  Familiarizing themselves with something they swear an oath to would be a good idea and it would also help them look a little less stupid in public.  The first clause of Article 117 would probably be most helpful to State of Law at this point along with the first and second clauses of Article 121.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Baghdad-based government the right to declare anything about the KRG president or prime minister.  

State of Law MP Sami al-Askari has been talking trash about political rivals for the last  few days.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

Yesterday,  Alsumaria reported that State of Law MP Sami al-Askari is calling Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi a failure and he told Alsumaria that the Kurds are playing up the Sunni - Shi'ite divide.  Today Kurdistan Alliance MP and leader Muhsin al-Sadoun tells Alsumaria that al-Askari's remarks are not helpful and that the suffering that has taken place has been under Nouri al-Maliki's leadership as people have increasingly lost confidence in the government's ability to provide as a result of the vast corruption and the failure to provide security.   al-Askari hasn't stopped trashing politicians.  Al Rafidayn reports he went on Alsumaria television tonight and trashed Iraqiya's Osama al-Nujaifi who is the Speaker of Parliament.  He stated that al-Nujaifi is indebted to the Kurds who pushed for him to be Speaker of Parliament, implying that he does their bidding.  Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  After Nouri refused to honor the Constitution and give up the post of prime minister and Jalal was bound and determined to remain prime minister, that only left one post for the political bloc that got the most votes.  Iraqiya was always going to get the spot and al-Askari knows that, he's just attempting to inflame tensions with his bitchy nature.

It's so bad that finally, today, President Jalal Talabani speaks.  Alsumaria reports Jalal said he could no longer remain silent in light of all the accusations al-Askari has been making.  Talabani states that whether al-Askari meant to or not, the statements drive a wedge and break the bonds between the political blocs.
Al Mada reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc doesn't expect the crisis to end anytime soon and feels that even the meetings President Jalal Talabani has been holding are not going to be enough to resolve the crisis.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Fawzi Akram Tarzi is stating that the only way to resolve the crisis is to create a supreme body tasked with that goal.  Al Mada informs that Jalal himself says that they need to respect the Constitution and to honor signed agreements (which most likely means the Erbil Agreement).  All Iraq News notes that the Kurdistan Democratic Party is saying the fact that Talabani has remained at his home in Sulaimaniya and not traveling around Iraq.  Sheikh Aziz Shair is predicting that the issue will not be resolved naturally and will instead continue until 2014 when parliamentary elections are again held.
 
 
 
 

Finally, Alsumaria reports that an armed attack in Sulaymaniyah Province left one person dead and another injured, a Diyala Province roadside bombing left two people injured and 18 people were arrested for 'terrorism' today as mass arrests continued.
 
 

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