Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Daily Show and Chuck

Hump day, hump day. And I'm just going to talk TV for this post.

Okay, this is from Larry Siems' ""Not Well for Anyone"" (ACLU):

Instead, Yoo, and the conversation, quickly retreated onto his turf, a mixture of musings on the vast elasticity of presidential powers and a fact-discredited narrative that “we had amazingly captured the number three guy in al-Qaeda, which is an amazing coup” and “the guy was resistant to interrogation.” Stewart, who at the outset conceded the argument on legal questions, saying he found the constitutional questions “gobblety-gook,” never challenged that narrative, and never brought the conversation back down to that early, startlingly human level.

The fact is, “not well for anyone” is the way torture and abuse always ends. Admitting that this is how it has ended in America’s post-9/11 experiments with torture is a huge step, and Stewart should’ve just let Yoo, who leaned forward to say this, actually take it.

I'm not sure about the above. Yeah, Jon Stewart could have asked. And I wish he had. But are we forgetting he's a comedian? Ava and C.I. like Jon (and know him) but they'll call him out (and praise him) probably twice a year. And they always try to focus on the humor. They try to avoid calling him out for his 'journalism' because he's not a journalist, he's a comedian on Comedy Central. And if you ask them, they'll point to the Crossfire episode where he called out Tucker and the Democrat (Dems acted like he was just calling out Tucker -- he was calling out both) and how Tucker was saying he gave John Kerry an easy interview and blah, blah, blah and Jon responds, "My lead in is puppets. I'm a comedian."

So I understand the point that Siems is making and I'm not saying he's wrong to make it. But I'm saying for me, I am aware that The Daily Show is comedy.

And I think one of the most damaging things to our political understanding is the people who don't get that. There are people my age who watch the show religiously (not a problem), laugh like crazy (ditto) and believe Jon's reporting. They don't get that he's doing humor. They think he's a news outlet that makes it funny like the way Flintstones vitamins are sweet to get kids to chew them. (I've told the story about my day of eating Flintstones vitamins, right? I grabbed them -- they taste like candy -- and hustled out to the backyard when I was four with the bottle, hid out in the dog's dog house and just downed the whole bottle one at a time. :D)

By the way, read Ava and C.I.'s "Who's in charge? (Ava and C.I.)" for more on Jon Stewart.

Now let's talk NBC's Chuck. Monday's episode?

It should have been one of the Sunday episodes. It was so much better. But coming after those two awful episodes, it only pointed out the problems with the show.

Chuck, Sarah and what's his name (the Baldwin guy) had a mission. And Devon wants to be part of it. And gets to. Chuck's brother-in-law, the doctor, gets to be part of it.

Ellie? She's an idiot. She doesn't figure out what's going on even when she's present at the big party where everyone's trying to kill the Fidel or Hugo Chavez like character. She has no clue.
I like Ellie. And I like the actress playing her. My beef is with the writers.

So we had non-stop males all over the place and Sarah was the only woman. At one point, they're doing surgery on the Hugo. And Devon wants to know how Chuck and Sarah are getting out of the room since two of Hugo's guards -- heavily armed -- are stationed at the door. Chuck says Sarah'll take care of it and she does, taking both men out all by herself leading Devon to a "Woooahhh" moment.

You know what? His realizing that women aren't just damsels in distress might have qualified for something if women did anything on the show. Instead, Sarah's a token.

And now? We're supposed to think, at the end of the episode, in a last minute development, that Devon's dead. No, he's kidnapped. If they were killing him, the killing would have taken place onscreen and been set up.

So next week is all about Devon again.

I'm so soured on him. I'm so soured on all the guys except Chuck and Casey (Casey's the Baldwin guy). If the show had any guts, when Sarah asked Chuck to run off with her (one of Sunday's two episodes), he would have done it. He would have done it and this year would have been Sarah and Chuck on the run, trying to get their lives back. Sarah's only in the CIA because of her father (he's a criminal). And when Chuck didn't have the guts to go off with Sarah he seemed like the biggest putz in the world.

I don't think he can recover from that.

Now they're relationship is back to no relationship and Chuck's sad. Who the hell cares? He had his shot with Sarah and he blew it. He wouldn't go on the road with her. Wouldn't go on the run with her.

He needs to stop whining.

Last year the show started bad. This year it started even worse. And three episodes have aired (two on Sunday and one today) and I haven't seen Anna once. Anna's fierce and strong and when they offer nothing but a sausage fest, they need strong women.

I'll catch next Monday's episode. Probably Tuesday morning. I like to watch when I'm on the treadmill. But I don't know how much longer I'll put up with the show. When Sarah asked him to run off with her, he should have. When he doesn't do that, he's got no right to whine. (And if you didn't see the Sunday episodes, he didn't think, "I can't leave my sister!" The reason he said no was he thought he was going to be a super spy. That was more important to him than Sarah. (He was so bad as a spy that the CIA dumped him. Episode two was about him getting back in their good graces.) So it's like, "Shut up, Chuck." Who cares that he's mooning over Sarah. He could have been with her and he blew her off.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry hears some hearsay as well as some actual testimony, Barack wants more war money, demands are made in England for Gordon Brown to testify, while another prime minister (in the Netherlands) admits that the Iraq War did not have legal backing, and more.
Starting in London with the Iraq Inquiry. For any who missed yesterday's hearing and to give credit to an outlet for covering the events, we'll note this from yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59):'s
John Hamilton: Prime Minister Tony Blair told then-president George W. Bush in 2002 that Britain would back military action if diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein failed. That's according to testimony today by Blair's former communications chief as he appeared before a public inquiry into the Iraq War in London. Alastair Campbell said there never was a precipitant rush to war despite the close ties between Blair and Bush; however, Campbell said that Blair wrote personally to Bush to offer his support for military action if Saddam did not accede to the United Nations demands on disarmament before the March 2003 invasion. Here he describes the content of secret letters from Blair to the former president pledging British support for an invasion as early as 2002.

Alastair Campbell: We share the analysis. We share the concern. We're absolutely with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is -- face up to his obligations and Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically, it has to be done mila-militarily. Britain will be there. That will definitely be the tenor of his communications to the president.

John Hamilton: Campbell is a former journalist who was one of Blair's closest advisers from 1994 to 2003. He insisted today that Blair tried all along to disarm Saddam by diplomatic means. His testimony conflicted with widespread reports that a British intelligence dossier on Iraq's pre-war capabilities to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction was "sexed up" on Campbell's orders to make Saddam Hussein appear to be more of a threat to national security. Those reports were reinforced this week when the British Guardian newspaper reported that those who drafted the dossier were immediately asked to compare British claims against a 2002 speech to the United Nations by then-president George W. Bush. In that speech, the former president claimed Iraq would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. The next day, the [British] dossier's timeline was halved to claimed Iraq could get the bomb within a year. Campbell today dismissed such reports.

Alastair Campbell: But at no point did anybody from the prime minister down say to anybody within intelligence services, 'Look, you've got to sort of tailor it to fit this argument.' I defend every single word of the dossier I defend every single part of the process.

John Hamilton: The five-person Iraq Inquiry also known as the Chilcot Inquiry was called by current Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the run up to the 2003 invasion. Critics point out that witness are not sworn to testify under oath. And others have criticized the panel's members for their lack of prosecutorial skills.
Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) observes of Capmbell's testimony, "The Godfather of Spin bobbed and weaved his way through a five-hour long grilling without once displaying a hint of humility or a glimmer of self-doubt." Tom Newton Dunn (The Sun) zooms in on this detail, "Mr Campbell revealed Gordon Brown was in Tony Blair's 'inner circle' when the decision was made to go to war. The revelation is an embarrassment to the then-Chancellor who has long tried to distance himself." Before we get to today's hearing, we're going to stay with Gordon Brown and today's news. Brown came under pressure today regarding the Iraq Inquiry. Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) reports, "Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, used Prime Minister's Questions to demand that the Prime Minister face questions from Sir John Chilcot's inquiry team in the coming weeks." Porter quotes Clegg stating, "Given everything that has come to light in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, will you now do the decent thing and volunteer to give evidence to the inquiry before people decide how to vote? When the decisions were taken to launch this illegal war, you weren't only in the room - you were the one who signed the cheques. People are entitled to know, before they decide how to vote in a general election, what your role was in this Government's most disastrous decision. What have you got to hide?" The Guardian of England has a web poll on the issue currently and, as this is dictated, the non-scientific results are 15% say that Brown shouldn't testify before the election and 85% say, "Yes. Voters hvae a right to know his responsibility." Tim Castle (Reuters) reports that Gordon Brown danced around the issue today declaring, "I have nothing to hide on this matter, I am happy to give eivdence." But that's not saying, "Fine, I'll do it." Helene Mulhooland (Guardian) adds, "Brown was also asked if he had any regrets regarding the war, and said he had already put on the record that he felt that the reconstruction of the country had been mismanaged. But he said he stood by all the decisions he was involved in during the run-up to the invasion in 2003."

Following today's Prime Minister's Questions, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is writing to Gordon Brown, urging him to indicate to the Chilcot Inquiry that he would prefer to appear before it ahead of the election.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Gordon,
I am writing to urge you to indicate immediately to Sir John Chilcot that it is your
strong preference to go before the Iraq Inquiry ahead of the General Election.
Follwoing developments yesterday at Alastair Campbell's hearing, your personal
role in decisions that led to the war in Iraq has now come under the spotlight. The
notion that you hearing should take place after the election in order that the Inquiry
remains outside of party politics therefore no longer holds. On the contrary, the
sense that you have been granted special treatment because of your position as
Prime Minister will only serve to undermine the perceived independence of the
As I said to you across the floor of the Commons today, people have a right
to know the truth about the part you played in this war before they cast their
verdict on your Government's record. I urge you to confirm publicly that should Sir
John Chilcot invite you to give evidence to the Inquiry ahead of the election you
will agree to do so.
Nick Clegg
Along with Brown's testimony, there is great interest around Tony Blair's testimony (Blair is scheduled to testify later this month). Catherine Mayer (Time magazine) notes:

Blair's star turn is expected to be so heavily subscribed that the inquiry has launched a public ballot for seats. A key question will be at what point the British government gave pledges to Washington about taking part in military action. The inquiry panel's questions to Campbell revealed for the first time the existence of private letters in 2002 from Blair to U.S. President George W. Bush. The "tenor" of these letters, said Campbell, was "We are going to be with you making sure that Saddam Hussein faces up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there."
The Daily Mirror offers, "A little humility might have been appropriate when considering the dire situation Iraq is now in but perhaps we're expecting too much." Campbell has no humility. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger notes that Campbell insists he ignored the morning papers in which case he might wish to know that BBC News offers a press roundup of coverage (with links). Meanwhile Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) notes Campbell's taken to blog to toss out the Bible to hide behind. The Guardian's Nicholas Watt also caught Campbell's self-dramatizing posts:
OK, that language is a bit over the top. But those are the exact words Campbell once used in public to dismiss a Guardian piece I had written.
Now Tony Blair's former communications director is denouncing the media in general for its coverage of his appearance before the Iraq inquiry yesterday. He has taken exception to the way the press highlighted a series of notes Blair wrote to George Bush in the run-up to the war in 2003.
Campbell's post is rather amazing for its inability to grasp reality and for little tidbits that say so much. An example of the latter, Campbell spent last night seeing The Misanthrope. But possibly Campbell's really not familiar with Moliere and missed those points. (In his post, he's obssessed with Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis.)
Today the Inquiry heard from Nemat Shafik and Andrew Turnbull (link goes to video and transcript options). Turnbull was Tony Blair's Cabinet Secretary (September 2002 to 2005).
Chair John Chilcot: I think we are coming to the end of this session. We have learned from this session a number of lessons and you may have others to suggest and certainly some last reflections.
Andrew Turnbull: Well, I have got one in particular. That is -- the perception in the British public is, we said he had weapons of mass destruction and we went to war in order to find them and disarm them, and we didn't find them. Thererfore, the 179 people [British troops] who died, many more injured, their sacrfice is in vain. That's a very kind of popular view. What I find extraordinary is that -- how little knowledge there is of what the answer to this story is, and I hope that this Inquiry will devote some time to explaining what we now know about what actually happened, the two main sources being the Iraq Survey Group and the debriefing of Saddam Hussein. If I said to people, "Who is George Piro?", I don't think one in 60 million would know -- do you know who George Piro is? George Piro is the FBI agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein over a perid of five months. So there is a sense that we do know the answer, and --
We stop there. We're not interested in garbage and it's a damn shame the Inquiry let him yammer on. Saddam Hussein was crossed or felt crossed by the George H.W. Bush administration (when H.W. Bush was president). He's captured by US forces after the illegal war has started. You think he's going to tell the truth? He's got a good guess he's going to be dying (he was executed). You think he's not going to taunt his interrogators?
While the Inquiry does not swear anyone in (or make them affirm to tell the truth), witnesses need to offer testimony on what they observed. Turnbull was not present for the interrogation. He's referring to an American FBI agent's observations. Bring that FBI agent forward if you want to hear what the FBI heard from Saddam. But don't let witnesses continue this crap. There was a passage last week, of testimony, that was so tempting to use because it would be perfect for the snapshot and back up several assertions we've long made. It never made it in the snapshot because the witness 'testifying' wasn't present for what he was describing. The committee doesn't need to be composed of attorneys to grasp that you don't rely on hearsay evidence.
They need to put their foot down on this because it's happening more and more as the Inquiry goes on and you better believe those who are coming in know it. Turnbull knew it. He knew he could go on (and on and on -- from where we cut him off he speaks for another page and six more lines before being interrupted). He offered nothing of value. What he didn't witness, he didn't witness. Early in his testimony, he told Chilcot, "I thought Alastair Campbell's description of Clare Short as untrustworthy was very poor. I didn't agree with that." Fine. That's his observation. He's making that call based on what he saw. He did not see Saddam Hussein interrogated and he doesn't need to be pinning his hopes that the illegal war was 'good' onto testimony he can't back up because he didn't witness it.
Andrew Turnbull: I think there were two problems. One was the US. The other is we made -- along with that -- when we allocated, we made some incorrect assumptions. There was a belief that we would succeed in persuading -- since we had persuaded the US to go the UN route on the confrontation of Saddam Hussein, they would buy into the UN route for the post-crisis. I think Bush -- when Bush said the UN will have a vital role (inaudible), he was fobbing us off, and he meant the UN agencies would have a vital role, but he was absolutely resistant. So we took false comfort from that. We took false comfort from the fact that there are papers which say, "This is a well-educated socity" and there were words around in the papers which say "with a functioning, public -- relatively functioning public sector". It turned out that it partly collapsed of its own accord and then Bremer destroyed what was left. We had underestimated the discord that would arise. In a sense, we were preparing, but we didn't -- there were lots of things we didn't forsee and it was getting the -- an arrangment with US apparatus that was the thing that was realy difficult. [. . .] No, what we did not get were large numbers of internal displaced people and we did not get hunger, and I have come to the view that the UN, when they said they were feeding 60 per cent of the population, they were boasting. Valerie Amos went to Basra in June/early Jule and reported that the markets were simply flowing with produce. So I don't think we were looking at a much, much worse scenario on those two fronts. What we did not anticipate was the collapse of civil order, and you could say this comes back to the fact that the one assumption that was absolutely correct in this whol thing was that Saddam Hussein could be toppled very quickly with a surprisingly small number of people, but the number of people required to topple him in three weeks was far les than the number required to occupy what was left. That was a major strategic miscalculation, not principally of our doing.
Turnbull stated that if they'd gone with another war option, the British could have utilized "warships and airships" but far less boots on the ground.
Andrew Turnbull: Whether people really understood that significance, I don't know. Maybe they did, but they understimated just how difficult it was going to be, and one of the reasons we underestimated it was, in my view, that the emigre groups had the ear of the people that mattered in the Pentago who said, once you have decapitated the Saddam regime, it will not be difficult to create a functioning Iraqi society. We were overconfident in that and didn't forsee -- this whole idea -- we didn't forsee that we would be in the midst of an extreme security problem. We didn't foresee that the Iranians would meddle as much as they meddled. It goes back almost to that point, but I think we seriously failed to see what was the real problem. The real problem was security and we probably spent too much time on humanitarian -- the movement of people, refugee camps, safe havens and the food supply issues, and we didn't catch this other issue that, if we didn't establish security, nothing else counted for anything.
This is in contrast to Shafik's earlier testimony and Chilcot pointed that out to Turnbull before noting that Shafik wasn't there (and Turnbull was) so obviously on some level John Chilcott does grasp that people need to be testifying to what they witnessed. I was not impressed with Shafik's testimony and we're not emphasizing it. Iraq Inquiry Blogger weighs in on Turnbull's testimony:
In the event it was a fascinating session. He attacked Alastair Campbell for describing Clare Short as untrustworthy ("very poor"), criticised Blair for allowing the 'culture of challenge' to ebb from Cabinet life and introduced the new (to me) phrase "granny's footsteps" to describe the troubling way the September dossier was pieced together by No 10 and the spooks.
How was Middle East security ever going to be improved, he asked, by taking out Saddam Hussein and leaving Iran with a neighbour newly run by 15 million Shia?
Perhaps most moving were his remarks about the late Robin Cook. A number of commentators have said the former Foreign Secretary wasn't always the easiest of people to get on with; I interviewed him once and was left with the distinct impression that mine were by some considerable degree by far the stupidest questions he'd ever been asked (then again maybe they were).
But Turnbull's description of the "quite remarkable" man was highly affectionate. Alone in a Cabinet that had bought the case for war, Cook was the only person who wasn't convinced about WMD or the failure of containment "and I'm sorry he isn't around to take the credit for that".
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) focuses on the legal opinion given the Cabinet before the start of the illegal war:
Lord Turnbull, the cabinet secretary at the time, who gave the inquiry unprecedented insights into how the Blair government took the country to war in 2003, said there were significant differences between the final legal opinion Lord Goldsmith presented to the cabinet, and an earlier version he gave privately to Tony Blair.
"It was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced 10 days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed," he said.
Blair has argued that the short statement Goldsmith subsequently gave the cabinet on the eve of the invasion was a "fair summary" of the attorney general's latest legal advice. However, it is now known that the only official legal opinion Goldsmith drew up was the one dated 7 March, which contained serious caveats about the lawfulness of an invasion.
David Brown (Times of London) adds, "Lord Turnbull said that the final legal opinion presented to the Cabinet 'was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced ten days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed'." For Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry) the most telling moment of the hearing was that Turnbull became yet another who had faith in Blair early on but now didn't know what to make (he told the Inquiry he was confused by Tony Blair's recent claims that he would have invaded Iraq whether or not he thought it had WMD) and, "The trouble for Blair is that if the cabinet secretary didn't know what the true aim of his policy was, the evidence of all of the officials further away from him who have sworn that the objective of the policy was disarmament becomes worthless."
Back to yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59) for other governmental bodies and the Iraq War:
John Hamilton: Also today an official Dutch investigation into the Iraq War concluded that the Hague government supported the war without legal backing, it did not fully inform Parliament about its plans. The committee's scathing report -- whose release was broadcast live on state television -- said the US led invasion probably targeted regime change in Iraq but military intervention for this reason was not supported by international law and the Dutch government was aware of that case.
And Tony Blair may be involved with this one as well. First, Dutch News reports a bitter split/argument "between the Labour party and the prime minister" with Parliament demanding Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkeneede issue some sort of a statement on the new findings. Afua Hirsch (Guardian) pronounces them to be "damning findings" and explains the inquiry had a mysterious document that is being kept secret: "The document – allegedly a letter from Tony Blair asking for the support of the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende – was handed over in a breach of diplomatic protocol and on the basis that it was for Balkenende's eyes only, an inquiry official told the Guardian." Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) adds of the report:

It stated: "The United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq from the 1990s did not give a mandate to the US-British military intervention in 2003."
Mr Balkenende joined the "coalition of the willing" because he said Saddam Hussein had repeatedly flouted UN resolutions. Dutch MPs opposed the move.
The report said the Dutch government did not adequately inform parliament in 2002 and 2003 about a US request for support for the invasion.
Willibrord Davids, the committee chairman, said: "It could have been much more complete. Information from intelligence and security services was handed out selectively."
And Radio Netherlands reports the Dutch Prime Minister has written a letter to Parliament in which he "admitted that a better mandate in international law was required to begin a war against Iraq in 2003."
In Iraq, Nouri's up to something but who knows what? On yesterday's crackdown, we'll again turn to Pacifica Evening News (broacast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59).

Mark Mericle: Iraq's military seized a large cache of explosives and arrested suspected insurgents allegedly planning to target government ministries today in a crackdown across the capital that brought parts of the city to a standstill. The security measures demonstrated the ever present fear that insurgents will carry out more bombings like the ones against government buildings in past months that killed hundreds ahead of the March elections. The government's announcement that it had arrested 25 suspects and seized 400 kilograms of military grade explosives also set off bitter accusations from some Sunni politicians that the government had exaggerated the incident to burnish its security credentials. The deputy head of Parliament Security and Defense Committee said the insurgnents were explanning to target goverment ministries although he did not have details on which ones. There was now to independently verify the reports.

On the crackdown and claims, Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraqi state TV immediately began announcing there was no military coup taking place in an attempt to calm the residents and that state TV then began broadcasting claims of an allegedly foiled plot. They report:

Whether the alleged plot has been fully thwarted is open to question, however.
The quantities of explosives uncovered would barely equal that of one of the recent bombs. The government did not specify whether the security forces had found the bombs purported to be circulating.
But the panic showed how jittery the city is as the elections approach. Though most roads were reopened by midmorning, schools were closed and some neighborhoods were sealed off into the evening. By nightfall, streets that would normally be bustling with traffic were almost deserted.
"People are feeling very nervous about the security situation and also about the political situation, which is getting more complicated every day," said Nabil Salim, a political scientist at Baghdad University.
Real violence continues in Iraq.
Xinhua reports "a roadside bomb went off near a U.S. military patrol near the city of Khalis". Press TV adds a bomber in Saqlawiya (Anbar Province) took his/her own life not far from a police station and killed 7 other people as well. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Anbar bombing left six people wounded and that a Baghdad roadside bombing injured 2 people. Mohammed Hussein and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report that the bomber used a vehicle ("water truck") and that it "was allowed to enter the compound because it was believed to be part of rebuilding efforts there, the authorities said."
Xinhua reports 1 person has been shot dead (a second wounded) in Baquba today while an Iraqi soldier was wounded in a Sa'diyah shooting. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on a Kirkuk Sahwa checkpoint in which 1 Sahwa was injured.
Yesterday Alsumaria TV reported that 1 Iraqi Christian -- 50-year-old Hikamt Elias -- was shot dead in Mosul yesterday. Tom McGregor (Dallas Blog) puts the latest assault on Iraqi Christians into persepctive noting the other assaults in the region (he gives the murdered the age of 75 and notes the name is Hikmat Sleiman):.
At the New York Times' At War Blog, two Iraqi correspondents for the paper share their thoughts on the region. In Anbar, the correspondent sees violence returning but hopes for improvements this year and has hopes for the elections scheduled for March. In Tikrit, the correspondent sees continued corruption, lack of basic services "and chaos" and a split between the people with some missing "the past under the rule of Saddam Hussein". On the subject of the intended elections, Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analsyis) weighs in on the efforts to ban a number of politicians (including the popular Salih al-Mutlak) and political parties:
Much of the lack of clarity relates to the essentially transitional character of the Iraqi de-Baathification process. The old de-Baathification committee, created on the basis of ideas from Paul Bremer and headed since 2004 by Ali Faysal al-Lami -- a Shiite political operator with particularly close ties to Iran -- is supposed to be replaced by a new "justice and accountability board" pursuant to the "justice and accountability act" passed in early 2008. However, Iraqi parliamentarians have been wrangling about who should sit on the new board, with a government proposal for a Maliki ally (Walid al-Hilli) to take over its leadership so far having been rejected in parliament, partly due to internal Shiite opposition. In the meanwhile, Lami, apparently in dialogue with the "justice and accountability committee" of the Iraqi parliament, continues to wield considerable influence in issues relating to de-Baathification.
It is Lami and the committee that appear to be the driving force behind the latest proposal to exclude Mutlak. It may be useful, therefore, to have a brief look at the political affiliations of these individuals. Lami has ties to Ahmad Chalabi, the Sadrist breakaway faction Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (involved in the Qays al-Khazaali case and the abductions and murder of British hostages), and Iran. As for the parliamentary committee, it is headed by a Sadrist, with a Badr member as number two. The other members are from the PUK, Daawa and yet another Sadrist who together form the majority (hence, the "Watani" alliance is stronger on the committee than Daawa as far as the Shiites are concerned). Additionally, there is a minority of two secularists on the committee, plus Rashid al-Azzawi who represents Tawafuq (and who on some issues may well find common ground with the Shiite Islamists rather than with the secularists).
The main problem with the proposal to exclude Mutlak is of course its abrupt, ad hoc nature, and the fact that it emerges in the middle of a period of transition for the de-Baathification bureaucracy. Firstly, why has not this been dealt with earlier? The fact is that Mutlak and his party have been an important part of Iraqi democracy for four years, and that they have played a key role on numerous occasions in furthering the democratic process -- for example when they along with other opposition parties demanded a timeline for local elections when the provincial powers law was adopted in February 2008. Mutlak has also been crucial in keeping the issue of Kirkuk on the agenda as a question of national concern, and was talking about "putting Iraq first" when this kind of approach was very unfashionable back in 2006 (of course, in a very predictable way, the Western mainstream media is still today obsessed with him as a "Sunni"). Thus, the very sudden singling out of him as a potential neo-Baathist (ostensibly on the basis of "new documents" that, of course, have not been made public) smacks of a highly politicised decision that can only weaken the public trust in the democratic process. With the exception of some Sadrists (especially locally in Amara), it took more than two weeks before the other Shiite Islamists began reacting in an audible fashion to the Iranian occupation of al-Fakka, and one cannot help wonder whether this latest move may reflect a certain panic over the way this issue has played into the hands of nationalists like Mutlak. Conversely, Mutlak's bloc, Iraqiyya, has once more highlighted its non-sectarian, Iraqi nationalist orientation by promptly and strongly rejecting slander by Saudi clerics against the (Shiite) Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
In the United States, Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes another broken promise from President Barack Obama:

The administration came in promising not only to curb the drastic rise in military spending since 2001 but also to account for war spending transparently and on budget. Shortly after taking office, the White House requested $537 billion for the Pentagon as well as $128 billion for the wars in 2010, but stated in its budget documents that war funding is expected to go down to $50 billion for each year afterwards.
Well, so much for that. In addition to another $33 billion the administration will ask for in 2010 money to pay for the Afghanistan surge, the White House is seeking $159 billion for war operations in the 2011 budget request, according to this AP story. So the Obama team was only off by about $110 billion.What's more, the total $708 billion Pentagon request for 2011 would give about $549 billion for regular military operations, the largest total in history. Although to be fair, that's only about a 2 percent increase, which roughly matches the rate of inflation.
Also in the US, Tavis Smiley has cancelled his long running, yearly State Of The Black Union conference. Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) weighs in on that decision:
Tavis can't stack the panels to exclude or silence the critics. How can he tell Cornel West, for example to stay home or stay quiet? He knows his panelists, he knows his audience, and he knows his politics. Even if no panelist dropped more than one of these points, the effect on Democrats and on the White House of any two or three of them, of public black criticism aired on TV in front of millions of African Americans would be catastrophic. The solid black support the Obama administration enjoys depends on excluding, marginalizing, and hiding any viewpoints to the left of corporate mainstream Democrats. As long as the only opponents of the president allowed access to the mic are Republicans, Obamites can demand that African Americans continue to circle the wagons around the president no matter how much he ignores the actual wishes of what is supposedly his core constituency.
A 2010 State of the Black Union would be an uncontrollable source of public, highly visible leftward pressure aligned with longstanding and deeply held political stands in the black America upon the Obama administration, something corporate media are intent on preventing. And nobody personifies corporate media more than the C-SPAN, the public voice of the cable TV industry, whose biggest player, Comcast is now poised to merge with NBC.
Tavis mumbles every now and then about speaking truth to power. But the last time he expressed even a mild disagreement with Barack Obama he was hounded off the Tom Joyner Morning show as a "hater" and forced to apologize. Speaking truth to power has its costs, and Tavis may be reluctant to pony up. It's like Tavis said. Ten years ago, when he started SOBU, we didn't have a black president.
I know Tavis and I like him. But I'm adding what I'm adding because the above isn't quite true. He wasn't just "hounded" for his remarks. He was targeted by Barack Obama's self-appointed Ambassador to Youth who had earlier worked successful astroturf campaigns to get James Carville and Ugh (I hate Paul) removed from CNN (accusing them of being Hillary supporters -- no one worried about Donna Brazile -- but no one ever has, she's led a very pathetic and lonely life) and worked the successful attack campaign on Gloria Steinem which included the professor penning columns that ran under student bylines. We don't praise Lie Face here and we never will. When students began ratting her out, it was over for Lie Face. She not only led the astroturf campaign against Tavis, she got to go on PBS and bring up the campaign against Tavis while not only not revealing her hidden part in it but also 'forgetting' to note that she wrote "Who died and made Tavis King?" -- the only real online post attacking Tavis. The Dixie Chicks were targeted by an astroturf campaign that got them forced off the air. The same sort of campaign was worked from the 'left' to go after Tavis. Other than that, Bruce Dixon's opinions are fine but I will not be silent while Missy Harris Lacewell thinks she can escape the blame for what she did. All that whoring and it really didn't get her anything other than the 'power' of posting online at The Nation. There's a term for a whore who can't even make a living wage but that's for another day.