Saturday, November 29, 2008

Murder by Death

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

What's with the strobe light? Is Lionel Twain supposed to live in a disco? We're watching Murder By Death. Lionel Twain is a rich old man who invites famous detectives to his estate to solve a murder. It's a comedy written by Neil Simon. Had to check with C.I. for this part, it was written by Neil Simon for the screen and was not an adapation of one of his plays, it's an original screenplay. It's from the 70s and it stars include Peter Falk, Peter Sellers, Eileen Brennan, Maggie Smith, David Niven and more. Lionel is played by the author Truman Capote.

The characters are based on famous mystery characters like Nick & Nora Charles, Miss Marple, Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, etc. It's a pretty funny movie and one I've watched many, many times.

I think the three best performances come from Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan and Maggie Smith. Smith's always funny (like in Sister Act or California Suite). She can be funny all on her own and really is in this movie because David Niven really seems unaware that he's doing scenes with her. Peter Falk and Eileen Brennan make a really great comedy team and they probably make me laugh more often in the movie than any one else.

From the start, with the car running out of gas, they have you laughing. Too be honest, the piercing screaming (Maggie Smith when she sees a rat and the doorbell which is a woman's scream and not a chime) is off-putting to me. It's too high pitched and too loud. It reminds me how I can't watch some sitcoms because all they do is scream and it really is a pain to listen to.

Moving over to politics, here's some truth from Mike Whitney:

The truth is, Obama was shoehorned into the White House because the ruling elite saw that the country was slipping into a consumer-led depression. They needed a bright new face to restore confidence and spark optimism during the tough times ahead. But now that he's been elected, they've surrounded him with the very men who, to great extent, created the present crisis. Lawrence Summers pushed for the repeal of the laws which prevented commercial banks from merging with the Wall Street casinos and he also helped to deregulate derivatives trading which now threatens to bring down the entire financial system if a major player, like Citigroup, goes under.

And with news on Iraq, Tim Cocks reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was written off a year ago as weak and sectarian, but a pact requiring U.S. troops to withdraw has enabled him to emerge as a nationalist strongman.
His critics now complain he is overbearing and authoritarian.
Initially derided by both Sunni Arab and Shi'ite opponents as a U.S. puppet, yet also accused of being manipulated by America's foe Shi'ite Iran, there were mutterings in Washington and Baghdad of replacing Maliki back in 2007.

The puppet gets a bit stronger and he was already a despot. Oh the fun of illegal wars! Imagine how many more victims al-Maliki will be able to target and destroy. Installed by the US and funded by them. He's our killer in Baghdad and we better face that fact.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, November 28, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the so-called 'coalition' continues shrinking, the press pimps spin for the White House, and more.

Yesterday, the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament and some form of the treaty was also released in English (finally) by the White House. While the White House issued a fact-free feel-good from the Bully Boy of the United States and the press, always desperate to fit in, copped a few feels of their own, the reaction was not as universal aclaim in Iraq. Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) reports approximately 9,000 people gathered to protest in Sadr City and another 2,500 in Basra. AP adds, "Al-Sadr's statement calls for "peaceful public protests" and the display of black banners as a sign of mourning. But it doesn't repeat his threat to unleash militia fighters to attack U.S. forces if they don't leave immediately."

The treaty passed but no seems concerned and you have to wonder who in the US administration (or the press) is paying attention. The UN warned this month that violence would most likely increase as a result of Parliamentary elections being (finally) scheduled for next year. Was it really the time to antagonize Iraqis further? Will the treaty be looked at in a year or two the same way Paul L. Bremer's decision to de-Baathify the Iraqi government was? Will it be the failure that people point to and marvel over how the US just had to keep pushing, just had to poke the bear. Was it worth the anger and the ill will? No one wants to debate that or acknowledge it. The press is on their cop-a-feel high. Take
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) who breathlessly pants the vote was "historic". Historic? 149 members of Parliament voted for the treaty. There are 275 members of Parliament. That's barely over half. Historic? Really? The Scotsman explains the treaty better than any domestic outlet: "On Thursday, Iraqi lawmakers approved a pact allowing US forces to stay in Iraq for three more years." The domestic press outlets are too busy parroting the White House to note much reality. AFP explains, "The United States on Thursday hailed the Iraqi parliament's approval of a landmark accord for US troops to leave the country in three years, but a referendum on the deal next year could complicate withdrawal plans for the next US president." Ignore the referendum, ignore that the majority of Iraqis want the US out now, ignore that the backdoor deals that the US crafted to push the treaty through are not unknown in Iraq . . . On that last point, Iran's Press TV reports:

"Washington echelons repeatedly threatened to overthrow the Iraqi government if they continued their opposition to the security deal," said Tehran's interim Friday prayers leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. Iraq's al-Morsad reported on Oct. 10 that US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte had warned that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would be 'ousted' unless he signed the US-proposed security pact. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has also claimed that the Bush administration had threatened to cut off vital services to Baghdad if it further delayed the accord, saying the threats were akin to 'political blackmail'. "It was really shocking for us…Many people are looking to this attitude as a matter of blackmailing," al-Hashimi said on Oct. 26.

Ignore all of that and ignore that all of this is one big pressure cooker. It really is just like when Bremer disbanded the Baath Party and the real-time press rushed to hail that too. Let's drop back to
the April 10 Senate Commitee on Foreign Relations hearing chaired by Joe Biden who noted "We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat? . . . [that the proposed treaty requires the US] 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. . . . Just understand my frustration: We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." Senator Russ Feingold agreed noting, "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation, won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?" But the press, reflecting their 'betters' in the administration, rush to ignore those basic facts. Feingold's question bears repeating, "Are you not concerned at all that the majority of the Iraqi Parliament has called for withdrawal?" Apparently the press isn't concerned but they're not free press, they can't report, they can only reflect the spin coming out of the White House.

None more so than the media crack whore
Alissa J. Rubin who joins with Campbell Robertson (New York Times) to pimp one lie after another and, most notoriously, the lie that the treaty "goes into effect on Januray 1, 2009, when the current United Nations mandate that currently governs American troop operations in the country expires." Put down the crack pipe and step away from the keyboard, Alissa J. The treaty now goes to the presidency council where the three members may approve it or they may shoot it down (only one vote is required to nix the treaty). Translation, at this point, nothing goes into effect on January 1, 2009. Don't get stoned and try to 'report,' Alissa, it only embarrasses yourself, the paper and everyone else. Who, what, when and where, not predicitions passed off as facts. She's far from the only cop-a-feel-pimper, but she is the worst. The Washington Post manages to include (buried deep) the following on the treaty:
". . . the pact also allows the Iraqi government to negotiate with the United States to extend the presence of U.S. troops if conditions on the ground are not stable. The
Los Angeles Times manages to note: "The pact allows for amendments if both sides agree to them. U.S. officials have indicated that they interpret that as permitting an extension, if security conditions in Iraq are deemed too shaky to leave Iraqi forces in charge. 'There is a provision for extension, by agreement of both sides,' one U.S. official said." While the Iraqi Parliament has now approved the treaty, the White House thinks they can get away with circumventing the Constitution and refusing to allow the treaty to go before the US Congress. American Freedom Campaign picks the lack of US Congressional input into the treaty as the abuse of the week:Iraq Parliament to vote on U.S.-Iraq agreement, while Congress has no inputDuring the Bush administration, the power of the executive branch has been greatly expanded. At times, President Bush has treated Congress like an inferior branch of government – and, to be honest, Congress has done very little to demonstrate it minds being treated that way. Case in point: On November 17, the New York Times reported that the U.S. and Iraq had reached an agreement setting the terms of the U.S.'s presence in Iraq after the expiration of the UN mandate on December 31. Although the Bush administration is calling this agreement a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a category of international agreement that does not require congressional approval, it is clear that the agreement goes well beyond a traditional SOFA. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration has no plans to seek congressional approval. What makes this even worse is that under the Iraqi constitution, this kind of agreement must be approved by the Iraqi Parliament. So we are left with a situation in which the Iraqi Parliament is voting on an agreement that will affect the lives of U.S. soldiers, but Congress has no voice at all in the process. And what is Congress doing about this? Very, very little so far…

And while Biden could express frustration April 10th over the treaty and object to it, while Barack Obama could do the same as he was running in the Democratic Party primary for the presidential nomination, while he could show boat and pretend he shared Hillary Clinton's objection to a treaty without Congressional approval (even becoming one of the 13 co-sponsors of the bill she put foward), while Biden and Obama could run in the general election insisting that the treaty must have Congressional approval, that was then. Every time a Barack wins an election, a Barack loses a spine.
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) shares this today: His transition team will now be poring over every word of the document to see what it will mean for those soldiers who may remain in Iraq for up to three years after the expiry of the UN mandate on December 31. Mr Obama, a lawyer, will be anxious to see that American troops remaining in the country do not fall foul of Iraqi or international law.The treaty was yet another 'present' vote for Barack. He couldn't stand up, he couldn't do a damn thing. When you've built your own myth around your so-called judgment and the only thing you have to remotely base that claim on is a 2002 speech, you're paralyzed and that's what Barack's rushing to enshrine: a paralyzed presidency.

Meanwhile further tensions on the horizon as
Reuters reports, "Oil contracts signed by the Kurdish regional government (KRG) with foreign oil companies are not recognised by central government in Baghdad, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani said on Friday."

In other news the so-called coalition of the willing continues shrinking.
CNN reports Japan is ending their air mission in Iraq as 2008 draws to a close. Takashi Hirokawa and Sachiko Sakamaki (Bloomberg News) note that "Japan Air Self-Defense Force will terminate the airlifts, which started in March 2004 and are designed to help reconstruction work". UPI adds that Yasukazu Hamada, Japan's Defense Minister, "said Japan's air self-defense force mission had helped in imporving the Iraqi situation, Kydo news service reported." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) observes, "President Bush's 'coalition of the willing' is set to all but disappear from Iraq by the end of the year, with 13 countries, including South Korea, Japan, Moldova and Tonga preparing to withdraw their few remaining troops. Britian, Australia, Romania, Estonia and El Salvador are the only nations, apart from the US, that plan to remain after a UN mandate authorising their presence expires on December 31."

Some of today's reported violence?

BBC notes 9 dead (plus the bomber for 10) and fifteen wounded in a Musayib mosque bombing. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the mosque death toll rose to 13 ("12 worshipers" plus the bomber) and notes a Baghdad car bombing that claimed the life of the driver and 2 others while leaving fourteen wounded as well as a Diyala Province house bombing that claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with three more injured.

In music news,
I Am Three announces there new digital download available here or here which includes the tracks "Burning Me," "Fell Over," "I Try," "Monkeyphonics," "Nostalgia," "Worth It" and "Strange addiction." In addition, Kat reviews Labelle's Back to Now here. In non-music news check out Gaza Strip: a catastrophic human toll - by Mahmud Hams / Agence France-Presse.

the common ills
mikey likes it

iraqwisam mohammedtimes of londondeborah haynesthe new york timescampbell robertsonalissa j. rubinthe los angeles timesthe washington postamerican freedom campaign
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimyi am three
labellekats korner