Saturday, December 27, 2008


Friday finally. :D The weekend.

Okay, during the primary, I supported Hillary Clinton. In some ways it was an easy decision and in some ways it was a hard one. I really wanted John Edwards to step up but he never did. He was so weak. And, of course, after we learned that he wasn't just weak, he was a two-bit liar, an amublance chasing, skirt chaser who would risk the 2008 election by running for the party's nomination even though he'd had an affair with another woman (and is probably the father of the woman's child). So I saw an e-mail from Hillary Clinton in my inbox and thought I should highlight. I thought it would mention Barack -- whom I loathe -- but figured for one more time this year, I'd highlight one of the e-mails that gets sent out to everyone who registered at her campaign site. This doesn't mention Barack. Yea! And it's a very nice e-mail:

I couldn't let this holiday season pass by without taking the time to thank you for all the wonderful support you've given me. I've received so many kind messages in the last few weeks, and I can't tell you how much your friendship means to me.As I celebrate the holidays with my family, I'll be thinking about all our wonderful memories from the past year. I hope you'll take the time to remember all the things we accomplished together and all the lives we touched.

I know that I am forever changed because of the journey you and I shared. It goes without saying that we have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Even in the midst of great challenges here at home and around the world, we know change is coming and there is reason to have hope for a brighter future.

Thank you so much for everything, and I hope you have a very happy holiday season!



Saturday finally. :D Sorry. I just had nothing else to write. Elaine was the same way. We both finally said, "Forget it, we'll write tomorrow." At least now I've had some sleep. Not sure I have anything else to write about. :D

I know what I can write about. We did "Must grab download: DeShannon's Laurel Canyon" for Third and I'm listening to Jackie DeShannon's Laurel Canyon right now. I really love this album and the sound quality for the digital download is really great. Right now "Holly Would" is on and you really have to hear the drums on this. (I've got ear buds in my ears so I can blast without giving Elaine a headache this early in the morning.) And listen to the way the background vocals work with her vocals on "You Really Got A Hold On Me."

I think "Come And Stay With Me" is my favorite song on the album but it's hard to pick just one. "Yes, I'll be as true as true can be, if you come and stay with me." I really like the guitar work here and also the piano when it comes in and sort of follows the guitar. It's a really good arrangement and she sings the song really well. She wrote this one for Marianne Faithful to sing, I think. But it's hard to pick a favorite. For the first week, "L.A." was probably my favorite song. It rolls out like a fast car and has this really strong beat.

I don't even know if we're doing a digital feature this week at Third. It's not supposed to be a weekly thing but it's worked out that way. This weekend is supposed to be a year-in-review. I'll be glad when that's over only because I know some of the other features being planned and they're waiting for this week to be done before they can start.

C.I. and Ava pitched the editorial to us Thursday night on the phone. Everyone's in agreement so that's going to be the editorial. It's not a year-in-review type piece and I'm excited about that.

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

Friday, December 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a prison break takes place in Ramadi, Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas in select areas within the country and as exiles, Barack prepares to trash the Constitution, and more.

In the day's big news,
Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Prisoners in a western Iraqi jail staged an armed revolt Friday morning that lasted for at least two hours. Ten police men and six prisoners were killed in the battle that ensued. Three Al Qaida in Iraq prisoners escaped and are on the loose, Iraqi police said." Some reports lower the death toll to thirteen (from sixteen). The BBC dubs it a "shoot-out" and then adds "Ramadi police have imposed a curfew across the city following the incident. Police are searching through houses in the city for the escaped militants." Kimi Yoshino (Los Angles Times) reports that there were four escapees but one "turned himself in without incident". Al Jazeera notes "police were going from house to house with photos of the fugitives on Friday morning." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "The jailbreak comes as U.S. officials are shutting down their detention facilities across the country and as U.S. troops are sharply reducing their presence in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni territory that was the cradle of the insurgency. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar." NPR (text only currently) notes that the US handed over responsibilites for the prison, al-Forsan, to the Iraqis last September and that today's events "could call into question the timetable for relinquishing U.S. control over the country." That is also when security tasks/control of Al Anbar were handed over to the Iraqis (from the US).

In diplomacy news, Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi visited Turkey last Saturday. al-Hashemi just concluded a visit to Syria.
UAE Daily News notes that "he met with Preisdent Bashar al-Assad, Vice President Faruq al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid" and emphasized "the security agreement between Iraq and the US in addition to the conditions of Iraqi refugees in Syria." Xinhau also reported that al-Hashemi conveyed his thanks for the hosting of Iraqi refugees and added, "The Syrian government says that there are about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria now, down from a number of 1.5 million two years ago." Meanwhile al-Maliki just finished a visit to Turkey. It did not go well. He breezed in dismissing concern over the PKK and mouthing remarks about bi-lateral trade and how there were so many issues that Iraq and Turkey had to address, important issues. As Carole King sings in "Chalice Borealis" (which she wrote with Rick Sorensen), "Didn't turn out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" So when the news shortly after he arrives is that the PKK in northern Iraq has just killed three Turkish soldiers with seventeen more injured, it demanded a statement and he had nothing to offer but mealy mouth words. Repeating, he came into Turkey dismissing the need to address the PKK (despite Iraq's president and vice president both visiting Turkey in the last seven days to address the issue of the PKK and other issues)and, when the news broke of the dead and wounded soldiers, he fell back on soundbytes he's been using since 2007. It was not a diplomatic success. But Turkey was only one stop on his tour of diplomacy. Or was supposed to be. Dalya Hassan and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) inform that the planned trip to Iran has been cancelled and no one is sure why that is: "The cancellation prompted speculation among Iraqi officials that Maliki changed his plans for a possible visit to Baghdad by President-elect Barack Obama, or because of the tumult in parliament that followed the resignation this week of its abrasive and sometimes strident speaker. Others suggested that Maliki was simply required to be in Baghdad ahead of the implementation of a new agreement that, starting Jan. 1, regulates the once almost unquestioned authority of the U.S. military here." Hurriyet reports, "Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the central Iraqi government was not a party to the issue of disarmament of the terrorist PKK organization. His remarks came in response to questions if he discussed a concrete plan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to combat the PKK during their bilateral meeting Wednesday." However, as Iran's Press TV points out, when Talabani visited a few days ago, he stated "that both the government in Baghdad adn the autonomous Kurdish administration were determined to end the presence of the PKK in the north." And China's Xinhua notes today, "Commenting on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statement and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Turkey, [Turkish] Gen. [Metin] Gurak said that 'we hope that Iraqi authorities could contribute to the fight against the PKK." Deciphering: The General references what Talabani said on his recent vist but is just noting al-Maliki's say-nothing visit. Balita-dot-ph observes that Iraqi is considering puchasing "50 train sets from Turkey" and that, "In the upcoming days, Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian transportation ministers would convene either in Istanbul or Baghdad in order to discuss new joint projects".

Meanwhile, possibly because it was Christmas, Iraqi Christians were actually in the news.
Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) did an online "update" (text only) where they report on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (see the December 19th snapshot): "The USCIRF said non-Muslim religions in Iraq, particularly ChaldoAssyrian and other Christian groups, Sabean Mandaen: a small religious sect tied to John the Baptist, and Yazidi: a relgion with influences from Islam and Christianity, are experiencing targeted violence and have had to relocate to other parts of Iraq or other countries." Missy Ryan (Reuters) reported on Iraqi Christians celebrating in Baghdad and quoted Amira Daoud who "was relieved that the number of bombings and attacks has slowed over the past year. Yet she takes a practical approach to her daily life: 'Of course, there's still kidnapping. Everyone says to themselves that this could be their day. So we take precautions." Today Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports on Iraqi Christians in Mosul and notes that those who have returned (a small number) cite the Chaldean's Church's Rev Basman George Fatouhi and three nuns, including Sister Autour Yousif, who had remained behind in Mosul "working against the tide to keep their faith alive. Durign the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city. On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it." Kimi Yoshino and Ali Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Issa Zakariya, a Chrisian in Mosul, stating, "Years ago, we were spending Christmas congratulating our friends and relatives in Mosul, but today everything has changed. But despite all that, the flavor of Christmas still exists and the dream of Santa still exists in the hearts of the children. I just hope peace and safety come back to Iraq." Meanwhile Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reports on Iraqi Christians who've fled the country for their own safety, "At the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in this working-class Christian suburb east of Beirut, Rev. Joseph Malkoum preaches to an Iraqi congregation that expands every Sunday, swelled by the ranks of Christians fleeing Iraq. In recent weeks, he has noticed an increase in the number of new faces crowded into the pews as a surge in violence directed against Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fuels a fresh wave of refugees."

Mosul is covered in
Alissa J. Rubin's analysis (New York Times) of current conditions in Iraq where she notes the rumors that some of the violence aimed at Iraqi Christians is coming from Kurds with the hope of pushing them to support the Kurdish Regional Government extending beyond its current boundaries. Rubin explores how al-Maliki is seen to be consolidating his power and doing so at the expense of others. She explores his "controversial" program of putting tribal councils on his personal payroll. For those paying attention in April, this is what Joe Biden was publicly warning against. Rubin notes that, despite the amnesty for Sunnis, the bulk remain imprisoned, she offers that along with talks of coups in Iraq, there is talk of holding a no-confidence vote to replace him: "But unless there is a consensus about a successor, the government could drift for months as it did after the elections in 2005, when there were several months of discussions about who would become prime minister, and in 2006, when the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was removed." She explains all of this drama and intrigue takes place as provincial elections approach. They are currently scheduled for January 31st. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported earlier on the provincial elections and noted that they would "give natioanl parties a local toehold to advance their agendas. That's why posters of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki blanket Baghdad's streets even though he isn't running for office next month. The banners are meant to build support for his Dawa Party."
In other Iraqi political news,
UPI reports, "Communist parties in Iraq are resuming their campaign after several years by embracing youthful energy in the run-up to provincial elections, Sot al-Iraq said Friday. The Communist platform of unity and equality among the various social classes is impossible under the crisis caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Their solidariy, however, differs from other parties as they do not differentiate or support any one plaform over the other. The Communist Party emerged out of the southern Wasit province to embrace a dream of equality, hoping the bloodshed of its martyrs would usher in a new hope for tomorrow, the news service said."

Along with the prison break, Iraq saw other violence today . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad home bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded (all family members), a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six people wounded (four are police officers), a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, with two more and two military officers wounded (total of four people wounded) and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Falluja roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 "children and their mother." Reuters states the Baghdad home bombing death was the father and that the two injured were the man's sons.

CNN reports 1 truck driver was shot dead in Falluja by the Iraqi police and his "truck was rigged with explosives."

Yesterday, the
US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died of wounds as a result of an indirect fire attack near Mosul, Iraq Dec. 25." ICCC's count for the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 4217. Eight deaths since last Friday (the deaths began on Saturday) and little interest on the part of the media.

Turning to the US political scene, earlier this month
ETAN called out talk of Dennis Blair being appointed Director of National Intelligence by president-elect Barack Obama:

"President-elect Barack Obama's rumored selection of Admiral Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence is unacceptable," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today."During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN."His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit assistance.""It is unfathomable that Obama would consider appointing someone to such a prominent position who has shown so little concern for human rights in the past. Can we expect someone who has sought to undermine efforts to link human rights to military assistance to be a champion of reform? We don't think this is the kind of change people are expecting," said Miller.In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militias carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' To Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit.
Barack has long cozied up to those responsible for and encouraging of that slaughter in East Timor. ETAN's full release can be read
here or here. Tom Burghardt (Dissident Voice) sounds the alarms on Blair as well and the section that may most stand out is this:

Obama's choice for ODNI is well-placed to continue the mercenary "tradition" of intelligence outsourcing and what one can only describe as the corporatization of government. According to the Journal, some of the "tougher intelligence issues" the incoming Obama administration seeks to resolve "is weighing whether to propose the creation of a domestic intelligence agency," modeled after Britain's MI5.

Marjorie Cohn, Naomi Wolf and all the others who embarrassed themselves by public slobbering over Barack Obama and insisting he would 'save' the Constitution, when do you plan to get your lazy asses and call the above out? Now the Gitmo attorneys made fools out of themselves as well but they've already been publicly punked and no longer rush to assure how dreamy Barack is. But let's see some of these 'brave voices' for the Constitution step up to the damn plate. They could be counted on to DELUDE themselves and schill for Barack. Can they now try standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America or is that too damn hard? Bill Clinton could not -- at any time during his eight years in office -- have gotten away witha d omestic intelligence agency (currently against the law) but Barack might be able to because so many 'leaders' are chicken s**t when it comes to calling him out. So come on Marj, you could distort reality to attack Hillary and advance Barack. Let's see you address the Constitution, big girl, let's see you protect it. Naomi, you made an utter fool out of yourself. Your racism in Fire With Fire was nothing compared to what you did in 2008. So if you're not zonked out on drugs or 'love,' how about you step up to the damn plate and call out this attack on the Consitution?
And those are only two of the many public fools -- idiots who damn well should have known better but felt running a fan club was more important than protecting the Constitution and our civil liberties.

iraqmcclatchy newspapersjamal najileila fadel
mohammed al dulaimythe new york timessam dagherkimi yoshinoali hameedthe chicago tribuneliz sly
alissa j. rubinthe washington postdalya hassanaziz alwan
ernesto londonohurriyet
etandennis blair

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pardons and Christmas

Thursday, Christmas. Hope everyone had a good day and that those who celebrate today had friends and family around (actually, I hope everyone had friends and family around today whether they celebrated or not).

Okay, let's leap in with a section from CNN's "Questions linger after Bush withdraws pardon:"

According to a senior administration official, the White House learned new information about Toussie's case Tuesday night -- hours after the pardon was announced.
Specifically, the White House learned, according to the official, "additional information about the nature of fraud [Toussie] carried out." The White House also learned that Toussie's father had made numerous contributions to leading GOP politicians.
In 2008, Toussie's father donated almost $40,000 to Arizona Sen. John McCain, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor.
White House press secretary Dana Perino issued a statement Wednesday saying that "based on information that has subsequently come to light," Bush had told the
Justice Department's pardon attorney not to act on the pardon extended to Toussie.
Instead, Perino said, "The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made."

That's about Isaac Toussie and I'm going to go against the grain here with my opinion: Toussie should be pardoned. How come?

Because it was announced.

The way a pardon works, if a governor or president offers one, another governor or president can't overturn it. Once a pardon's done, it's done.

I think Bully Boy sets a bad precedent with his, "I'm pardoning you. . . . No, I changed my mind." Imagine it was a governor, for example. And imagine Bill Smith is on death row. Six hours before Bill's to be executed, the governor issues a pardon. Bill's able to breathe. His family is thrilled. And two hours later, the governor withdraws his pardon.

I'm sorry Bully Boy and company didn't do the work they should have. (Big surprise there, huh?) But once they announced the pardon, that was it. I don't care that the paperwork still had to be done. The announcement was made. That should have been the end of it.

It's Bully Boy's mistake. And once it was announced, oops, too damn bad. It's announced. It should have stood.

Meanwhile, if you celebrated today and didn't have such a hot Christmas, take comfort in the fact that this didn't happen:

In a bizarre Christmas Eve rampage in a Los Angeles suburb, a 45-year-old man in a Santa Claus outfit opened fire on a gathering of his in-laws and then methodically set their house ablaze, killing at least six people and injuring several others, the authorities said on Thursday.

That's from Anahad O'Connor's "Man in Santa suit kills at least 6 at holiday party."

Now I'm just going to make a few Christmas points.

My grandfather (mother's father) always complains about how commerical Christmas is and he's right. And he complains about how quickly the stores rush to declare Christmas upon us (often before Thanksgiving has taken place) and he's right there as well. However, another thing I noticed. The networks declare Christmas over the afternoon of the 25th. The parades and sports are over by then and it's time for them to put their usual garbage on. We were around the TV tonight and mainly stuffed and just planning to watch whatever. We thought maybe there would be a music special or a movie (even that awful It's a Wonderful Life) on. We found Howie Mandel. We found regular TV shows. We found nothing to do with Christmas. It, according to the networks, ended this afternoon.

So not only do they rush us towards it, when it actually arrives, they're quickly done with it.

(We ended up watching Love and Death with Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. On videotape.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Christmas Eve! :D

Rebecca and I were trying to figure out what to write about? We decided to write about our favorite gift.

I'm going to go with something embarrassing. A Barney doll.

I was a kid. Barney was the purple dinosaur who sang songs and danced. He had things like "I love you, you love me" type songs sung to the tune of "This Old Man."

I was apparently thrilled to death to get Barney for Christmas. I've seen the photos. I loved my Barney. I didn't remember any of that. When I was about 16, I was helping clean the attic and we came across the purple doll and I was laughing at it like "What the heck is this?" I was laughing less when I found out it was my toy.

It was a big toy for me. I carried it around forever. It had lost its original eyes and had new ones sewn on.

I like that gift because it was fun to hear about it when I was 16 and go through all the pictures (which are more than just the Christmas day pictures) of me with Barney.

Barney was like my friend or something. And it was just a good weird to hear about all of that. And still is. It's like a secret that you're kind of in on. :D

It just amazes me that something could have meant so much to me and I have no recollection of it, no memory, no nothing.

So I'll pick Barney as my favorite gift.

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Nouri al-Maliki makes a visit, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Three Multi-National Division -- Center Soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident in southern Iraq Dec. 24." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4216. The total for the month thus far is 9. As of last Friday, the press was gearing for their 'astoundingly low number of deaths in December' pieces to run at the start of January. While 9 is still low (although, cautionary note, the month is not over yet) it is not the 2 that, until December 20th, the count remained at for the entire month.

Tomorrow many people around the world will celebrate Christmas.
Joe Sterling (CNN) notes the difficulties facing Iraqi Christians. He quotes Chaldean Federation of America's Joseph Kassab stating, "We are heading for a demise. It's getting to the point where it might be an ethnic cleansing in the future." Sterling also speaks with US House Rep Anna Eshoo who is "of Assyrian and Armenian ancestry" stating, "I think the [Iraqi[ Christians are caught in the middle of a horrible situation" and uses the term "religious cleansing" to describe what's been taking place in Iraq as the number of Christians have "fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000 more recently, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom." The report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom was noted in the December 19th snapshot and we'll highlight this section of the commission's report:

Nineveh governorate, however, especially in and around Mosul, remains one of the most dangerous and unstable parts of Iraq. Insurgent and extremist activity continues to be a significant problem there, and control of the ethnically and religiously mixed area is disputed between the KRG and the central Iraqi government. While violence overall in Iraq decreased in 2007 and 2008, the Mosul area remains what U.S. and Iraqi officials call the insurgents' and extremists' last urban stronghold, with continuing high levels of violence.D Increased security operations by U.S. and Iraqi forces have led to some decrease in the violence in and around Mosul, but the area remains very dangerous, as evidenced by the October attacks on Christian residents, which killed at least 14 Christians and spurred the flight of 13,000 from Mosul to surrounding areas. According to the September 2008 U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress, "[d]uring the past few years, Mosul has been a strategic stronghold for [al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)], which also needs Mosul for its facilitation of foreign fighters. The current sustained security posture, however, continues to keep AQI off balance and unable to effectively receive support from internal or external sources, though AQI remains lethal and dangerous."D According to the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, from April 1 to July 1, 2008, there were 1,041 reported attacks in Nineveh governorate and from July 1 to September 30, 2008, there were 924 attacks, still a significant number.

This situation has been exacerbated by Arab-Kurdish tensions over control of Mosul and other disputed areas in Nineveh governorate. The dispute stems from Kurdish claims and efforts to annex territories-including parts of the governorates of Kirkuk (Tamim), Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Waset-into the KRG, on the basis of the belief that these areas historically belong to Kurdistan. During the Saddam Hussein era, Kurds and other non-Arabs were expelled from these areas under his policy of "Arabization." Since 2003, Kurdish peshmerga and political parties have moved into these territories, effectively establishing de facto control over many of the contested areas. Key to integrating the contested areas into Kurdistan is Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which calls for a census and referendum in the territories to determine their control. In this context, military or financial efforts undertaken by either Kurdish officials or Arab officials (whether in Baghdad or local) is seen by the other group as an effort to expand control over the disputed areas, leading to political disputes and deadlock.

Angus McDowall (Telegraph of London) reported earlier this week that some Iraqi Christians from Mosul had fled to the monastery Mar Matti. "Their homes raided, their priests attacked and their relatives murdered, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have become the latest victims of violence in the city, once the most cosmopolitan in Iraq." Jalal Mansour was quoted stating, "First they came against the Kurds, then against the Yazidis and now they have come for the Christians. My uncle, an old man, was killed just because of his faith." And Andrew Pierce (Telegraph of London) reports, "Rt Rev Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, accused Britain and America of 'religious illiteracy' about the fallout from the Allied occupation. He said it was 'tragic' that two western powers with a strong Christian tradition had contributed to the eclipse of one of the longest surviving churches in the world. The war in Iraq, he said, had led to the brutal persecution of Christians." Meanwhile AKI speaks with Iraqi MP Younadim Kana who is "the leader of the Iraqi Christians Parliamentary group 'al-Raifidein'" and states, "This year we will be able to go to church on Christmas eve without fear. From a security point of view, we live -- without a doubt -- in an improved security situation compared to previous years, when we witnessed violence and attacks against various sectors of Iraqi society." Provincial elections are currently scheduled for January 31st. UPI reports that Iraq's Christian community is running for seats in the elections in Baghdad, Ninawa and Basra while adding, "Minority Christian groups have a sizable population in the northern regions of Iraq, though elecitons there are postponed because of territorial disputes."

In diplomacy news, Nouri al-Maliki has followed the lead of Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who visited Turkey Saturday and Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, who visited Turkey yesterday.
AP reports that he met with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan today. The meeting did not build on what had come in the two visits prior. Hurriyet notes that "the Iraqi leader makes no mention of how the PKK problem that casts a shadow on bilateral relations could be resolved." It's an issue not only because the PKK -- labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, the US and many others -- continues to have clashes with the Turkish military but also because al-Hashemik and Talabani commented on the issue -- in fact, Talabani's willingness to raise the issue of the PKK was especially well received because he is a Kurd and the PKK has set up in the northern region -- the Kurdish region -- of Iraq. al-Maliki's refusal to address the topic would be alarming to many in Turkey on its own but coming after Talabani appeared open to discussions on the issue and strong in his stance that the northern region of Iraq will not be a safe haven for people to launch attacks on Turkey from, al-Maliki again looks weak and ineffective and does so on the international stage. And on the day when Turkey loses three soliders. Selcuk Gokoluk and Michael Roddy (Reuters) report that three members of the Turkish military were attacked by the PKK on the border between northern Iraq and Turkey. This comes as Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report that the Sunni Accordance Front has lost 1/25 of its members in the Parliament today due to a walk out and Khalaf al-Ilayan (Iraqi National Dialogue Council) declared, "Due to the Accordance Front's failure to achieve its mission and the Islamic Party's unilateral actions, we declare ... the Accordance Front has been dissolved." As new alliances are formed in the near future, it could effect al-Maliki's standing and, in fact, whether or not he remains prime minister.

As the year winds down,
Zaineb Naji (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) notes, "Hassan Baghdadi, a reporter for Ishtar satellite channel, said whatever happens to Mr. Zeidi, his actions made him the biggest news story of 2008. 'In Iraq, this story was the most important event of the year, bigger than the world financial crisis or anything else,' he said." John Ross (CounterPunch) observes:

Curiously, while Iraqis of all denominations rallied to the reporter's defense, the Baghdad press pack was unimpressed by al-Zaidi's shoe scoop. Indeed, one Iraqi journalist wrestled the al-Baghdadia correspondent to the floor while Maliki's goons beat on him, breaking his hand and fracturing two of his ribs. The Prime Minister, who apparently fancies himself a press critic, condemned the shoe toss as a "savage act which is unrelated to journalism in any way." Others in the Iraqi journalism community dissed al-Zaidi's performance as "unprofessional."
Even al-Jazeera, the powerful Qatar-based TV titan, was unusually standoffish in its reportage of the celebrated incident, which the powerful Arab network seemed to suggest, reflected poorly on the integrity of "responsible" Arab media. The New York Times, a paragon of corporate journalism, looked down its nose at the great shoe fling with its usual snottiness, disdaining Muntadhar al-Zaidi's credentials as a bona fide journalist and dismissing his activism as folkloric. Reporter Timothy Williams expressed surprise that the war in Iraq was "still unpopular."

And as the year winds down, Nouri al-Maliki's supposed to be overseeing greater Iraqi control of security. However, not unlike the myth of his 'leadership' in the February assault on Basra, al-Maliki's not really done the job.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that the US' top commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, explains that the Iraqi committees that are supposed to be overseeing the new security responsibilities are still not in place. Parker also quotes the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman who states, "Even if all the committees are in place, Iraqi politics could change any agreement or all of these procedures with no warning. If you have one really drastic incident that catalyzes Iraqi politics, suddenly all of these agreements could lead to a new set of Iraqi demands." Andrea Stone (USA Today) quotes Odierno explaining that, "We're still working our way through" on how US service members will be classified -- which will be called "combat" soldiers and which won't and how they'll determine on and off duty. Stone reminds the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement makes the meanings very improtant. We'll come back to that but on the topic of readyness, Elizabeth Palmer (CBS News) assesses Iraqi readyness and finds: "It's not yet perfect. Some of the Iraqi gunmen look ill-equipped next to their American counterparts." Palmer goes on to find hope in a mission where Iraqis brief the US. Back to the treaty and its 'meaning,' Alan Chvotkin ("who works on behalf of contractors") tells AP's Mike Baker: "The immunity question --- the largest question being talked about -- is not addressed in the ... agreement. The implication is there is none, but there's some hedging on that question. As of right now, there's still some ambiguity. And smart people disagree about it."

Today a hearing was set to start in Iraq and it two of the men who allegedly killed Margaret Hassan in 2004 were to stand trial. As
David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) reported, Hassan's family members are accusing "British diplomats of refusing to help them to confront alleged members of the Iraqi gang that kidnapped her." Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi goes on trial tomorrow with another man and Hassan's family have requested that a representative from England's Embassy be at the trial in attendance but they have been informed the Embassy considers it "too dangerous". The Belfast Telegraph carries a statement from Hassan's siblings Deidre, Geraldine, Kathryn and Michael Fitzsimons:

Since Margaret's death we have spent the last four years trying to find her remains. We have sought justice and truth, and have never given up. We want to bring her home and give her a Christian burial with the respect she deserves. This was a promise made to her by her husband (Tahseen Ali Hassan), and together with our family, he has never given up hope of fulfiling that promise.[. . .] One of these men was trying to blackmail the British Government and our family in exchange for the return of Margaret's remains. He demanded money from us, and a safe haven from the British Government in the UK for his family. [. . .] We have begged them to send an Embassy official to the trial to represent our sister Margaret. They feel unable to do so because of the security situation. We do not understand this. [. . .] Mr Brown said just this week that the British Government has achieved all its goals and the security situation in Iraq is much improved.

To date, only one person has been convicted in connection with the kidnapping and slaughter of Margaret Hassan. In June 2006,
Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported on the sentencing of Mustafa Muhammad Salman al-Jibouri who "held Ms. Hassan's purse after she was abducted, though he said he did not know whose it was at first." Meanwhile Jimmy Leach (Independent of London) reviews the top ten articles for his papers this year and notes: "Robert Fisk's piece on The tragic last moments of Margaret Hassan caused more disquiet, not least to Mr Fisk who knew Margaret Hassan. It is a truly harrowing piece, and there was some discussion about whether it should be run, but it is a remarkable insight into a horrifying situation." Click here to read Robert Fisk' column.

In the little reported violence today . . .

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six police officers wounded while another left two people left wounded.

Meanwhile in the US, president-elect Barack Obama continues to see criticism over his decision to embrace homophobia.
Kevin Gosztola (World Can't Wait) offers:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?

One would never have thought that we were electing Don Corleone to the presidency in November, but more and more individuals from the left seem to be rationalizing Obama with logic that one might find in the storyline of a Mario Puzo story.

Huffington Post had pieces of writing that clearly acquiesced to the decision Obama made.

Lee Stranahan encouraged people to "embrace what you have in common with Rick Warren."

"Like my comrades, I think Warren is dead wrong on same sex marriage. But the reality is that at the end of 2008, a majority of voters in California agreed with him. A majority of Americans agree with Warren about same sex marriage and many more states have made marriage equality unconstitutional than have ratified it…

" … If you are mad about Rick Warren, I'm not attacking you. I understand your anger and I'm not saying it's not justified. But it's all right to let your anger go, too. It doesn't mean surrender; it doesn't mean giving up the struggle for equality.

"It means doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means winning, right now - because the fight against hate starts whenever you want it, in your own heart. You can win a battle right now by not hating."

The editorial is loaded from beginning to end with wishful thinking.

So what if a "majority" agree with Pastor Warren's hateful positions toward the LGBT community? What about it being necessary to take a moral position that does not promote hatred of the LGBT community or blame members of the LGBT community for divisions over what marriage is and isn't in this country?

And, why should we be in favor of legitimizing Pastor Warren?

It's one thing for Pastor Warren to invite Obama. He might get more people to join his congregation, which means more book sales and more money for his religious ventures in American capitalism. But, Obama's invitation signals that his election meant Americans wanted people like Pastor Warren to be involved in Obama's presidency.

Allowing Pastor Warren to be up there legitimizes words and judgment like this:

"The issue to me, I'm not opposed to that as much as I'm opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I'm opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

This Rick Santorum-gay-marriage-is-going-to-lead-to-man-on-dog-sex kind of thinking is primitive and ignorant and deserves no place in American society. It deserves no place in American politics.

The national
Green Party issues the following statement this week:

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party activists challenged gay voters and advocates of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights to protest President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation."Unless we make our anger known now, Mr. Obama will continue to betray gay people," said Starlene Rankin, co-chair of the party's Lavender Green Caucus ( "Barack Obama's claim to be a 'fierce advocate for equality' is not credible when he chooses a pastor notorious for his ill-informed and slanderous opinions about homosexuality and vigorous support for Proposition 8." "The invitation signals that Mr. Obama may repeat the Clinton approach to gay rights. President Clinton, taking gay votes for granted, signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act into law and authorized the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military policy. We've had generations of gay rights advocates and other progressives insisting that we need to elect Democrats, then we'll push them towards pro-gay agenda. Instead, gay people have remained second-class citizens in the Democratic Party and told to hush up when they're politically inconvenient. For those tired of bipartisan retreats from promises of human rights and justice, the Green Party remains the party of real change in America," added Ms. Rankin. The Green Party's national platform asserts that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans deserve all the rights, including marriage and the ability to raise a family, that all other Americans enjoy ( Greens strongly opposed Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. Mr. Obama has said he opposed the passage of Propositon 8, but he also opposes full same-sex marriage rights, a position inconsistent with support for full and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Pastor Warren's public statements have revealed profound ignorance and bigotry on sexuality and on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in particular. Promoting passage of Proposition 8 in California, he has said that "in the hierarchy of evil... homosexuality is not the worst sin," an admission that he believes gay people are evil because they are gay. He has said that allowing same-sex marriage is like allowing "a brother and sister be together and call that marriage" and added that he is "opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage," comparing same-sex marriage and homosexuality to incestuous relationships and pedophilia, which are crimes. Pastor Warren has also said that homosexuality is "not the natural way.... Certain body parts are meant to fit together," but has not called for the invalidation of heterosexual marriages in which the spouses have engaged in sex outside of vaginal sexual intercourse. Greens noted that Barack Obama's choice of Rev. Warren for the inaugural prayer coincides with a declaration introduced by 66 countries in the UN calling for universal decriminalization of homosexuality ( The US is the only major western nation that has refused to sign on, even though a Supreme Court decision has invalidated US laws against sodomy. "Will the new Obama Administration maintain Bush policy and decline to have the US sign the declaration against criminalization of gay people?" asked Tim Casebolt, secretary of the Lavender Green Caucus. "Barack Obama has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense. Mr. Gates is not only likely to continue the Bush Administration's military aggression around the world, but also the targeting of gay members of the armed forces for investigation, harassment, and discharge. The Obama Cabinet appointments have disappointed anyone who sincerely hoped for genuine change in 2009," Mr. Casebolt added.

joe sterling
angus mcdowall
ned parker
the los angeles timessaif hameed
julian e. barnesmike bakerandrea stonewaleed ibrahimaseel kamimissy ryanjimmy leach
robert fisk
david brownfrancis elliottbelfast telegraphsabrina tavernisethe new york times
cbs news
elizabeth palmer
john ross

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Richard Wright and other dirty things

Tuesday. Two days left until Christmas. 2008 really flew by, didn't it? And now we have 2009 right around the corner just waiting to bring more illegal war and destruction as a result of the latest idiot to occupy the White House.

Speaking of Barack, Richard Cohen (Washington Post) explains why his sister isn't planning a party for Barack's inauguration anymore:

She is -- or was -- a committed Obama supporter. On the weekend before the presidential election, my sister and my mother drove from the Boston area, where they both live, to Obama's New Hampshire headquarters in Manchester. There my mother made 76 phone calls for Obama, which is not bad for someone who is 96, and gives you an idea of the level of commitment to Obama in certain precincts of my family.
I should say right off that my mother feels less strongly about Warren than my sister does. But I should add immediately that my sister feels very strongly, indeed. She's been in a relationship with another woman, the quite wonderful Nancy, for 19 years, and she resents the fact that Warren has likened same-sex marriage to incest, pederasty and polygamy.

If you missed it, the usual Barack lackeys are out trying to tell you Rick Warren is no big deal. That includes the ugly in every way including on the inside Melissa Etheridge who offered one excuse after another for Barack's homophobia during the primaries. Melissa Etheridige needs to accept the fact that she is not the voice of Gay America. For one thing, she's too damn old. For another, she's a celebrity so of course Rick Warren cozies up to her. Gay bashers rushed to shake Liberace's hand back in the day as well, I'm sure.

Cedric's "Pope Melissa and other stupidities" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! STUPIDITY ON ALL SIDES!" addresses the tired, old Melissa Ehteridge and her idiotic statements. I really am sick of her. I know she had her one hit (her only hit) when my parents were young. She's just old, boring and embarrassing. It's time for her to give it up. No one buys her CDs anymore. (First clue, you brag "I sold 48,000 my first week!") No one gives a damn what she says or does. Whatever was left of her pathetic reputation just went up in flames. I hope it's worth it to her to be the Wayne Newton of the faux left.

And Rick Warren and his church remains the same homophobes. This is from Queerty:

Cole writes us:
"I wanted to make sure you were aware that the Q & A addressing homosexuality on the Saddleback Church Web site has not been permanently removed, but rather repurposed for clarity. I know your readers have noticed the change.
Attached is the audio response from Saddleback Associate Pastor Tom Holladay regarding the question, “What Does the Bible Say About homosexuality – is it a sin?” that will be posted later this morning on the site.
Wanted to make sure you were aware of this. Thanks!"
Oh, no-- thank you. We're more than happy to let people know that Saddleback still considers homosexuality a sin and that it won't allow gays and lesbians to join their church.

My father says Melissa Etheridge is now the new John Gavin. I have no idea what that means and didn't have time yet to call him back. Elaine says she thinks he means that Etheridge is now an entertainer who became a political hack like John Gavin did.

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

Tuesday, Dwecember 23, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi Parliament reaches an agreement but El Salvador decides to withdraw anyway, Margaret Hassan was mourned in 2004 but it largely forgotten today, KBR's problems never go away, and more.

"She stands in the empty room, a deplorable, terrible, pitiful sight. Is it Margaret Hassan? Her family believe so, even though she is blindfolded. I'm not sure if videos like this should ever be seen -- or perhaps the word is endured -- but they are part of the dark history of Iraq, and staff of the Arab Al Jazeera satellite channel have grown used to watching some truly atrocious acts on their screens,"
wrote Robert Fisk (Independent of London) last August. He recounts the videotapes that emerged in November 2004, following Hassan's October 19th kidnapping in Baghdad, her call for then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to pull British troops out of Iraq. Fisk:

Then comes the last tape. She is standing in that bare room in a white blouse,a blindfold over her face, her head slightly bowed and a man approaches herfrom behind holding a pistol. He points it at her head and places whatappears to be an apple over the muzzle -- a primitive form of silencer? Andthen squeezes the trigger. There is a click, an apparent misfire, and theman retreats to the right of the screen and then reappears. Margaret Hassandoesn't move although she must have heard the click. The man is wearing agrubby grey and black checked shirt and ill-fitting, baggy trousers, a scarfconcealing his face.
This time the gun fires and the woman utters a tiny sound, a kind of cry,almost a squeal of shock, and falls backwards onto the floor. The cameralingers on her. She has fallen onto a plastic sheet. And she just liesthere. There is no visible blood, nor wound. It is over. Should suchterrible things be seen? Margaret's immensely brave Iraqi husband told me Ihad his permission to watch this, but still I feel guilty. I think it wasonly here, watching her death on a screen next to Al Jazeera's studios morethan three years later, that I realized Margaret Hassan was dead.
It was Margaret who took leukaemia medicines donated by readers of TheIndependent to the child cancer victims of Iraq back in 1998 after wediscovered that hundreds of infants were dying in those areas where Westernforces used depleted uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf War. She was aproverbial tower of strength, and it was she -- and she alone -- who managedto persuade Saddam Hussein's bureaucrats to let us bring the medicine intoIraq. The United Nations sanctions authorities had been our first hurdle,Saddam Hussein our second. It is all history. Like Margaret, all thechildren died.

David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) reports that Hassan's family members are accusing "British diplomats of refusing to help them to confront alleged members of the Iraqi gang that kidnapped her." Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi goes on trial tomorrow with another man and Hassan's family have requested that a representative from England's Embassy be at the trial in attendance but they have been informed the Embassy considers it "too dangerous". In November of 2004, Jack Straw, then-British Foreign Secretary, declared that "it is repugnant to commit such a crime against a woman who has spent most of her life working for the good of the people of Iraq." Straw is now the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and Secretary of State for Justice and, apparently, the Ministry of Justice has no interest in justice and Straw no longer feels as he once did?

When she was kidnapped,
PBS' NewsHour addressed it (text, audio, video) via a discussion between Ray Suarez and the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran:

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Margaret Hassan is just an incredible woman who literally has devoted the plus ten years of her life of helping the Iraqi people out. I first met her almost two years ago in my first trip to Iraq in the fall of 2002, and I wanted to find out what was really happening with Iraqi civilians living under the U.N. economic sanctions that were placed on the country.
Margaret was one of a very few number of international aid workers operating in there and she had been heading up the CARE office in Iraq for more than a decade. Prior to that, she had been teaching English for the British Council in Iraq, a position that made her very well known among educated Iraqis and even before that actually had a brief career reading the English news on Iraqi TV, so a very prominent person and a woman who really had devoted her life to helping the situation of ordinary Iraqis both before the war who were suffering under economic sanctions and after the war in the very sort of chaotic climate that was there helping out and directing projects involving water, sanitation and health care.
RAY SUAREZ: So there's that background you cite 30 years on the ground in Iraq. She remained in Baghdad when the invasion was under way. She even traveled to Britain to speak against the war and speak to the members of the British parliament to advise them against joining the invasion. Didn't these things make her an unlikely kidnap target?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Certainly. I mean she's the last possible person you might imagine being at risk for kidnapping because she was... she had very clear views about the military invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and really was somebody who was out in an apolitical way helping the people of Iraq. But this demonstrates yet again there really is no litmus test here for the sorts of work foreigners do in Iraq in the eyes of the insurgents; a number of foreign aid workers now have been kidnapped. Two Italian aid workers were taken, subsequently released, thankfully. But headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross was bombed last year.
Nothing is sacrosanct to the insurgents these days and even a woman like Margaret Hassan, although she holds Iraqi nationality being of British origin and holding British citizenship is seen as a prominent and legitimate target for the insurgents in Iraq.

All the programs covered Margaret Hassan. Former United Nations Assistant Secretary General
Denis Halliday, for example, spoke of her to Democracy Now! November 17, 2004:

I worked with her in 1997 and 1998 in Iraq in Baghdad. I lived there. That's where she and her family lived. She ran a small CARE International program, some $7 million worth per annum and she produced hands-on results, clinics, health facilities, water systems which the poor of Baghdad and other cities needed desperately. I was there overseeing a $4 billion program and prohibited from doing the same sort of hands-on work by Washington and the London and Washington regimes. So I have nothing but respect for her work and for her commitment and her gentle nature, although underlined with steel. She's a quality that she delivered. She made things happen.

In December of 2004, Westiminster Cathedral was the site for a requim for Margraet Hassan that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor presided over and during which he called her a martyr: "
I use the word advisedly, because the word martyr means witness. Margaret witnessed, in both her life and her death, to the act of loving." November 18, 2004, France's then-President Jacques Chirac hled a press conference in the UK and opened with, "Before I begin, I would like us to think of Margaret Hassan, and I should like to express the depth of horror that what she experienced inspires in us, and, of course, give our fullest sympathy and solidarity to our British friends in this horrifiic business." And four years later, whent he family asks that an Embassy staffer attend Wednesday's hearing, they're rebuffed and ignored.

And does the British government do anything for the five hostages held since May 2007?
Ian Johnston (Independent of Longon) reports on "Peter Moore, a computer expert, an his four bodyguards, who are known only by their first names -- Jason, Alan, Jason and Alec" and quotes Alan's wife stating, "My son is three so he has not seen his dad since just before his second birthday. He is now three-and-a-half and he has told people his daddy is coming home for Christmas, so that is quite sad." Steve Bird (Times of London) explains, "Up to 40 men posing as policeman abducted the group and demanded the release of prisoners in American detention. The kidnapped men, one of whom was rumored to have committed suicide, have not been fully identified for security reasons."

England and other countries did get some news out of the Iraqi Parliament today.
CNN reports that the "resolution that will allow non-U.S. foreign troops to remain in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires" December 31st was approved. AFP adds, "A vast majority of the 223 MPs in attendance voted to approve the resolution, a parliamentary source told AFP, but the exact breakdown was not immediately available." Al Jazeera points out that the passage will provide legal authority for troops from the United Kingdom, El Salvador, Estonia, Romania and Australia to remain in Iraq through the end of July 2009. Matt Brown (Australia's ABC) says the "agreements will expire at the end of June" Despite the passage, AFP is reporting that Elias Antonio Sacca, president of el Salvador, announced today, "Considering the lack of a United Nations resolution, the government of El Salvadaor decided to end our presence in Iraq." The Salvadorian embassy in DC knew nothing about the issue -- apparently they're too busy to even follow the press conferences of their own president. But Estela Henriquez (La Prensa Grafica, in Spanish) backs up AFP reports and states that Sacca declared El Salvador's (military) work in Iraq was finished on Decemeber 31st. Rosa Maria Pastran and Yensy Ortiz (El, also in Spanish) also note the press conference, the fact that El Salvado was the last Latin American country that maintained a military presence in Iraq and that the announcement came as the Iraqi Parliament voted to allow some countries ("including El Salvador") to stay. Meanwhile AP observes that the vote came thirty minutes after another development in Parliament: the resignation of Speark Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Sam Dahger and Graham Bowley (New York Times) report that al-Mashhadani -- who made remarks appearing to resign last Wednesday -- tossed out the option of resigning again today "and lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to approve it." AFP and Lebanon's Daily Star quote al-Mashhadani stating, "What happened in the last session was a slip of the tongue, and what I wanted to say was in the interests of the people. But the anger I felt, God did not give me the power to control myself. My excuse to you is I spent 35 hard years of my life moving from one prison to another. If I have hurt your please excuse me. I apologize for my shortcomings."
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds, "Mashhadani, a deeply religious Sunni Muslim Arab who belongs to Ahal al-Iraq, a small party within the Sunni bloc in parliament, has alienated and enraged colleagues -- including fellow Sunnis -- since he became speaker in April 2006. His long-winded speeches often delayed passage of key legislation."

In diplomatic news, Iraq's Sunni vice president,
Tariq al-Hashemi visited Turkey Saturday. Today Hurriyet reports Iraq's president, Jalal Talanbai, has made remarks Turkey sees as wecloming: "The main aim for me, Barzani (the leader of Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq) and other politicians is persuading those in the mountains to lay down arms and engage in political dialogue." "Those in the mountains" refers to the PKK which is labeled a terrorist organization by many -- including the US, the European Union and Turkey -- and has a base in northern Iraq from which they launch attacks on Turkey and Turkey launches attacks on northern Iraq. Nour al-Maliki is scheduled to visit Turkey tomorrow.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the lives of "Lietenant Colonel Ismail Faisal, his wife, his deputy Major Arkan and two other policemen".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a liquor store owner was kidnapped in Kirkuk Monday night.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Krikuk. Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mussayab and, last night, 1 in Kifl.

Moving to the US,
Sunday's Weekend Edition (NPR) featured a report by Terry Gildea on the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas that focused on those who provide care to wounded veterans: "The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left lasting scars on the young men and women recovering at military hospitals across the country. Many of them injured by roadside bombs were burned beyond recognition. The medical staff who dress their wounds and help ease their agonizing pain also fight a daily emotional battle." One care giver, Lt. Col. Maria Serio-Melvin, is also preparing for her husband's deployment to Iraq before the end of this year. But not all wounds come from individauls. Corporations? Dropping back to the December 4th snapshot:

Yesterday, KBR was in the news for imprisoning workers in Iraq and now Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN) report KBR is being sued by 16 members of Indiana's National Gaurd who served in Iraq and maintain that KBR knew a water treatment plant (which the soliders were assigned to) exposed them to dangerous chemicals such as the carcinogenic sodium dichromate. David Ivanovich (Houston Chronicle) explains, "In their suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, Ind., the plaintiffs contend KBR knowingly allowed them to be exposed to sodium dichromate, a chemical used as an anti-corrosive but containing the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. The alleged exposure occurred while the guardsmen were providing security for KBR workers at the Qarmat Ali water plant in southern Iraq." Rajini Vaidyanathan (BBC) elaborates, "The soldiers say that they and other civilian contractors there were repeatedly told there was no danger, and that when they reported health problems such as nose-bleeds to their bosses, they were told they were simply 'allergic to the sand'. The court papers claim that these symptoms were the early side-effects of the chemical, and that some who served on the site went on to suffer severe breathing problems and nasal tumours." Meanwhile Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) noted at the start of the week, "Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has asked that the co-chairs of the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Oversight Committee begin a review of environmental toxins - including those coming from burn pits -- at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . In November, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., asked Gen. David Petraeus for an investigation into whether troops are being exposed to harmful fumes from burn pits."

Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- link has text and video) reported on the case and noted that James Gentry has lung cancer and is at least one of two Indiana National Guard members to develop lung cancer after serving in Iraq, guarding KBR's water plant.

Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger
months before the soldiers were ever informed.
Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of
the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state
"that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure," including bloddy
noses and rashes.
Gentry says it wasn't until the last day of August in 2003 -- after four long months
at the facility -- that he was told the plant was contaminated.

The facility KBR was working at was Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant in Basra. In PDF format, CBS provides the
Defense Health Board report they obtained a copy of which appears to pat KBR on the back. US Senator Evan Bayh told CBS, "Look, I think the burden of proof at this point is on the company. To come forward and very forthrightly explain what happened, why we should trust them, and why the health and well-being of our soldiers should continue to be in their hands." September 15th, Bayh proposed "legislation to create an Agent Orange-style registry for U.S. military personnel exposed to hazardous chemicals while serving in the line of duty. The Bayh proposal would guarantee access to follow-up medical evaluations and priority status at Veterans Administration (VA) medical facilities for service members who have been exposed to occupational and evenironmental hazards while deployed." Bayh again called today for a medical registry:

The Bayh legislation would establish a registry that aggressively tracks soldiers exposed to industrial toxins during wartime service, guaranteeing them access to priority status care at VA facilities. It would also authorize a scientific review of the evidence linking exposure to adverse health effects. There have been at least seven reported cases of possible exposure at contaminated industrial sites, including Qarmat Ali.
"Our government has a responsibility to remove needless obstacles to care for soldiers exposed to potentially lethal quantities of toxic chemicals in service of their country," Senator Bayh said. "We should be guided by our government's response to Agent Orange in Vietnam, when we changed our VA claims system so veterans placed at risk did not bear the burden of proof if health conditions developed later in life."

Turning to US politics, the
Center for Constitutional Rights issues the following press release:

The Center for Constitutional Rights is outraged at President Obama's choice of the right wing Rev. Rick Warren to lead the convocation at his inauguration. This is "change" we can neither believe in nor support. Many of us have been looking forward to this inauguration as we have no other in the past, with great hope that the new administration will restore our Constitution and its place in a nation of laws. We understand, too, that the new president is working to reach across the aisle and make people of different beliefs welcome at his table.
But the choice of Rev. Warren is a callous slap in the face to all progressives and people fo conscience who cherish the equality of women and their right to a safe and legal abortion. Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. It is a constitutional right. Women fought and died for it. A man who so vocally opposes such a hard won and important a constitutional right has no place at this inaugaration.
The choice of Rev. Warren is a slap in the face to all progrssives and people of conscience who cherish the equality of men and women in the LGBT community. His vocal support for the shameful California Proposition 8 pushes from the table those who have fought long and ahrd to be able to love and be loved without the interference of hate mongers. A man like Rick Warren who envisions a society where some classes of people are entitled to fundamental rights while others are not based solely on whom and how they love has no place at this inauguration.
We understand that there will be compromises and decisions we won't agree with in the coming years, and we will be right there challenging them. But to begin it all in this way, is a terrible signal to send to the people who worked day and night to elect President Obama. He should withdraw his invitation. At the very least, he should ask someone else to officiate as well, someone with decency and eloquence who can balance the presence of Rev. Warren. If the president is at a loss for ideas, allow us to suggest two women who could ably fit the bill: Kahtleen Jeffords Schori, an African American Epsicopal Bishop who supports the ordination of gay ministers, and Susana Heschel, a feminist theologian and daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Jewish leader who worked hand in hand with Martin Luther King.

In other news the American Sociological Association's periodical
Contexts features an essay by independent journalist David Bacon -- whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) -- entiled "Living Under the Trees" which focuses on "the experiences and conditions of indigenous farm worker communities." That's the description of the Living Under the Trees photo exhibit that won huge praise in San Diego, Sonoma and elsewhere throughout this year. In September Alicia Doyle (Ventura County Star) noted:

A reporter and documentary photographer for 18 years, he covers issues of labor, immigration and international politics and travels frequently to Mexico, the Philippines, Europe and Iraq. He also hosts a weekly radio show on labor, immigration and the global economy on Berkeley's
KPFA-FM and is a frequent guest on KQED-TV's "This Week in Northern California."
His exhibit at the Santa Paula Family Resource Center -- consisting of 36 photographs and six text narrative panels -- explores the challenges these communities face while also celebrating the culture and community spirit that sustains them.
"This exhibit tries to show a certain reality that essentially indigenous immigrants are making important contributions in a lot of areas," Bacon said.
Chronicling the conditions of farmworker communities in California, the exhibit conveys the vibrant cultures of music, dance, food and traditional health practices that help these communities survive under very difficult circumstances, Bacon said.

robert fisk
david brownfrancis elliott
the washington post
rajiv chandrasekaran
the center for constitutional rights
david bacon
scott bronsteinabbie boudreaucnn
cbs news
armen keteyian
the new york timessam dagher
mcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudi

Monday, December 22, 2008

Isaiah, Simon Assaf, Third

Monday, Monday. And Christmas week. So if you celebrate and do so with presents, you better be close to done shopping. It's 3 days until Christmas. I went to a department store Friday night (with Dad to help him pick out some presents) and the thing that surprised me was it was busy the way it would be mid-week during a normal week. For a Friday, there was hardly anyone in there. For a Friday -- the last Friday -- before Christmas, I just couldn't believe it. But that's the economy.

To get us in better spirits, here's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess Brat Campaigns"

Princess Brat Campaigns

And to let you know that US workers aren't the only ones screwed over every day, this is Simon Assaf's "Dubai: free market monument wavers:"

It was dubbed the sparkling jewel of the Persian Gulf – and held up as proof of the wonders of the free market.
When the credit crisis broke in September, Dubai’s rulers, leading economists and the financial press gloated about how the Gulf kingdom would buck the trend.
A £13 million mega-party was held to celebrate the completion of £1 billion Atlantis resort complex – with a fireworks display that “could be seen from space”.
Celebrities, the global rich and investors flocked to see this oasis of calm under the rule of “visionary” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
British investors, in particular, were sold the idea that they could buy into the “Dubai dream” – and young prostitutes, mainly from Iran, Iraq and Eastern Europe, were shipped in to tend to their needs.
Anything and everything was possible, if you had the money – until the real world came crashing in. Two days after the party, Dubai admitted it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, one of the seven kingdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), lent the kingdom $80 billion – more than the value of Dubai’s entire economy in 2006 – to see off a potential financial meltdown.
It was a rude awakening to the Gulf state that sought to make itself the playground of the rich – with skyscrapers, luxury villas dotted on man-made island oases, and £42,000 a night hotel suites (breakfast excluded).
The financial news agency Bloomberg reported that the classified ads section of local newspapers “read like an obituary for a real-estate market”.
Real estate prices are expected to collapse by 40 percent, pulling down investors who fuelled the property boom by “flipping” – buying and then reselling properties that are yet to be built.
Sheikh Mohammed jumped in to guarantee bank deposits and in effect nationalised the two main home mortgage lenders, which had run out of money.
Mortgage companies that used to offer 90 percent loans on homes have stopped lending altogether, while others have scaled back.
Many of the state-run construction firms borrowed huge sums – driven by speculation, easy mortgages and cheap credit. These companies now owe the equivalent of the emirate’s entire economy.
Emaar Properties, which is building the tallest skyscraper in the world, has seen its share price plummet by more than 80 percent.
Nakheel, the state-owned developer of three palm-shaped islands in the Persian Gulf, announced that it is scaling back its $30 billion in projects.
Oil wealth, speculators’ dollars and dirty money fuelled this boom, but jobs are now disappearing. Construction companies are laying off workers and slashing wages.
These cuts are set to have a dramatic impact on the region – the Lebanese government, for example, fears that some 30,000 Lebanese families will be heading home as work dries up.
Similar stories are emerging from Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
The Dubai dream created nightmares for many. The region is rich in oil yet the vast majority of people live in searing poverty and deprivation.
This monument to free market capitalism always came at a price.
Over one million workers, the majority drawn from South Asia, toiled in the cruel summer heat to complete the construction projects.
The average monthly salary in the UAE is £1,340, but these migrant workers earned just £63 – half of which was deducted for food and the cost of a work visa.
These workers live in vast shanty slums on the edge of the gleaming cities. Banned from joining unions or going on strike, they have been at the mercy of the construction firms controlled by the government.
They are the first to suffer the impact of the economic downturn. Thousands are said to be leaving, many without receiving their final pay cheque.
But on many occasions they have been on strike, occupied construction sites and clashed with riot police.
They caused panic in the ruling circles when they marched down the glittering Sheikh Zayed street in Dubai City in March 2007.
Yet the global rich still see Dubai as a refuge to escape the impact of the financial crisis, and any rise in taxes.
Despite the property crash new money, mainly from Iran and Iraq, is said to moving in.
Today Dubai’s incomplete towers, those vast empty monuments to conspicuous wealth, remain a testament to the madness of the free market.
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Okay, let's talk Third. Starting out with who helped on this edition along with Dallas:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

Now I'll talk about what we offered.

Truest statement of the week -- Ava, Jess and C.I. proposed this and said there could be more than one truests but we agreed this was the best choice of the week (and I did try arguing for some truests from C.I. but I was shot down -- by C.I.). The video's posted on this as well.

A note to our readers -- Ava, Jess and C.I. quickly break down the edition. I'll be adding some more things here that they didn't have time for. This was a very quick edition, in part because they wanted us to get some sleep and in part because they had planned everything pretty well so it just zipped along quickly.

Editorial: The Pathetic and Shameful UPFJ -- This was the planned editorial and planned before the edition started which is probably why it worked so well. And it was the best editorial considering today's news on Barack's word games to let him pretend he's doing a withdrawal from Iraq.

TV: Twins Anne Slowey and Gwen Ifill -- Ava and C.I.'s great, great commentary. We moved so quick on the other features that I wasn't sure how they'd read and I was really interested in what Ava and C.I. were writing because -- as Jim always points out -- if they knock it out of the park, readers will forgive us for anything else in the edition. But Jim was off this weekend (so was Dona) and I ask about it and get told that it's not going to be read. Jess explains that they think every thing will move quicker. So I read this Sunday night and it's really great. Elaine and I were both laughing.

Roundtable -- Ty was supposed to be off this weekend and a lot of people were planning to. Ty participated in this roundtable. Stan, Cedric and Wally participated in the roundtable and the other features (except for the ones Ava and C.I. wrote themselves). How come? Betty wanted an issue addressed so anumber of people planning to take time off agreed to work some or for the whole edition.

The Ultimate Tina Turner Collection -- Betty and C.I. have been working on making their own Tina Turner download collection so that's where the idea for this came from. (And this is the piece Jim mentioned in his note two Sundays ago.) I really like this one.

An indictment of the 'New' Iraq goes unnoticed -- This ended up so strong that we all knew if the planned editorial didn't work, we could plug this in as our editorial. This is one of those times when it just seemed like everything we wanted to say fell in step.

DVD release of The Women (Ava and C.I.) -- All but Jess, Ava and C.I. were already done when this was written. We'd been told to go enjoy Sunday. Jess told me on the phone today that he mentioned a reader wrote about wanting a DVD feature and how we'd done one last year. (When we talked about The Shooter and some other really good movies.) Ava and C.I. dashed this off quickly. If I had read this before Elaine and I were picking out movies yesterday, we would have tried it.

Hmmm . . . -- Short feature! Dona wasn't participating but we all heeded her instructions. :D

The Princess Brat Chronicles -- Caroline Kennedy, Miss Entitled.

Carolyn Maloney works her ass off for New Yorkers -- This is some press releases issued by US House Rep Carolyn Maloney which covers work she did last week that the press wasn't interested in because they don't want Maloney for the US Senate. They're rather have Spoiled Brat Caroline.

Andrew Cuomo works his ass off for New Yorkers -- And same thing with Cuomo who is the state's AG. It's a real shame the press is in the tank for Caroline Ugly Hair.

Highlights -- Kat, Ruth, Betty, Cedric, Rebecca, Stan, Marcia, Wally, Elaine and I worked on this.

And that's it for me. Elaine's saying she's ready to turn in. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, December 22, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, the New York Times reveals the word-games that Barack Obama hopes will pass for 'withdrawal,' Bully Boy goes to Walter Reed and makes another tone-deaf statement, and more.

Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) examines the realities of the so-called US withdrawal from Iraq and it's not a pretty sight. Bumiller and Thom Shanker reported last week on how the 'plan' presented to president-elect Barack Obama -- the Petraeus-Odierno plan -- wouldn't allow for that campaign 'promise' of a US withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Friday Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reported that word games could allow for the impression that promises were being kept -- including what the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement allegedly promised. For context, Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explained last week, "American combat troops will remain inside Iraqi cities to train and mentor Iraqi forces after next summer, despite a security agreement that calls for their withdrawal from urban areas by June 30, the top U.S. military commander said Saturday." With all that as the backdrop, Bumiller explains today that "a semantic dance" has begun at the Pentagon over what qualifies as a combat soldier and, with regards to the treaty, "Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed "trainers" and "advisers" in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Bumiller notes that "trainers" and "advisers" will be the renaming terms for "combat troops" in order to keep them in Iraq: "In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Of Barack, she notes, "it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops."

And that might mean the alleged 'anti-war' movement would mobilize. Fat chance. From Third's "
Editorial: The Pathetic and Shameful UPFJ:"

For two years, United for Peace and Justice has done nothing to end the illegal war. If you like the faux radical fringe, you could find many of those in 'leadership' on various rag-tag Pacifica stations whoring themselves and the peace movement out as the booed and hissed at Hillary Clinton while insisting Barack Obama was a divine spread, perfect for a sacramental wafer. They all but smacked their lips into the microphones as they insisted "Heavenly delicious!"So it was no surprise that
United for Pathetic and Juvenile issued a purile statement on November 7th that was at once self-stroking and racially offensive. For the record, Barack Obama is bi-racial. We've covered that here. At the allegedly 'progressive' (no one loves that coded word moe than the multitude of political closet cases hiding out at UPFJ). For the record, Barack was never about ending the illegal war in Iraq. But UPFJ was so eager to spread like slutty cheerleaders (male and female) that they ignored that the same way they ignored their own alleged committment to ending the Afghanistan War. Yeah, Afghanistan, the war Barack campaigned on continuing.So it was not surprising to discover United for Pathetic and Juvenile could sink even lower. Eric Ruder and Ashley Smith (US Socialist Worker) provide a disturbing look at the recent 'strategy' sessions for UPFJ earlier this month where 'leaders' offered such 'insight' as Barack is 'our' "quarterback" and our role is to "block for him." That's so insulting on so many levels.

But United for Pathetic & Juvenile is so pleased with their 'work' in those December 12th through 14th 'strategy' sessions that
they brag they have "adopted the 'Yes We Can' campaign". Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes that she attended the sessions and "worked with others" to demand a DC march and demonstration in March for "the sixth anniversary of the war, Saturday March 21." But UPFJ had other plans. Sweet observes, "Not to directly challenge Obama's escalation of the war in Afghansitan is shameful. On the anniversay of 'Shock & Awe,' and under a new president, the anti-war movement needs to be in Washington. And many of us WILL be there." A.N.S.W.E.R. and other groups have already planned for a March 21st March on the Pentagon:

Marking the sixth anniversary of the criminal invasion of Iraq, on March 21, 2009, thousands will March on the Pentagon to say, "Bring the Troops Home NOW!" We will also demand "End Colonial Occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Everywhere" and "Fund Peoples' Needs Not Militarism and Bank Bailouts." We will insist on an end to the war threats and economic sanctions against Iran. We will say no to the illegal U.S. program of detention and torture.To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon,
click here. To sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.

We will be noting that action again in coming weeks but A.N.S.W.E.R. deserves credit for being the second organization to call out the lies of the treaty:

The idea that the U.S. is in the process of ending the criminal occupation of Iraq is a myth. Washington and its dependent Iraqi government signed a "Status of Forces" agreement, supposedly calling for the U.S. military to leave Iraqi cities by July 1, 2009, and all of Iraq by 2012. But even this outrageous extension of an illegal occupation is just one more piece of deception, as was soon made clear by top U.S. and Iraqi officials. The ink was hardly dry on the agreement when, on December 12, official Iraq government spokesman Ali al Dabbagh dismissed the idea that U.S. troops would leave by 2012: "We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years." The next day, General Raymond Odierno, commander of "coalition (U.S.) forces" in Iraq, stated that thousands of U.S. troops could remain inside Iraqi cities after July 1, 2009, as part of "training and mentoring teams." Government propaganda aside, the reality remains that only the people can end the war and occupation in Iraq. To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon,
click here, and to sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.

The other organization that has called out the lies of the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement is the
American Freedom Campaign.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Marine died Dec. 21, as the result of wounds received in action when he was attacked by an enemy force in al-Anbar province." The announcement follows three deaths on Saturday: Jonathan W. Dean, Coleman W. Hinkefent, and a Marine who has yet to be identified. ICCC's count is 6 for the month of December thus far with 4213 since the start of the illegal war.

Saturday, the Iraqi Parliament shot down the UK agreement (and "others" --
according to Reuters, presumably Australia, Romania, Estonia and El Salvador as well as NATO) stating that there should be a treaty and not merely a law passed. AP noted this weekend that Estonia has 40 troops in Iraq, El Salvador has 200, Romania has 501 and Australi has 1,000. Because the US refused to seek a renewal of the United Nations mandate (the US and their puppet), authorization for foreign troops on Iraqi soil ends December 31st unless a country has created its own relationship/treaty of some form with Iraq. So far, only the US has. The issue of the other countries was supposed to be raised again today; however, it remains in limbo. Al Jazeera reports "a row" took place today over a call for Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and the session was suspended as a special one was demanded to address al-Mahshadani. The issue revolves around last week when statements were made by the Speaker which indicated he was stepping down. From Wednesday's snapshot:

In Iraq,
Catherine Philp (Times of London) explains, "Anger at Mr al-Zeidi's treatment erupted none the less, hijacking a legislative session in Parliament, provoking stand-up rows and prompting the resignation of the assembly's notoriously hot-tempered Speaker." She then quotes Mahmoud al-Mashhadani stating, "I have no honour leading this parliament and I announce my resignation." Al Jazeera observes that Muntadhar was one of several issues causing the uproar: "Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq's parliament speaker, has threatened to resign following house arguments concerning the presence of foreign troops and the imprisonment of a local journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush."

That was last week.
Oliver August (Times of London) explains, "The process is further complicated by the uncertainty over when Parliament will resume. . . . Asked what would happen if no agreement was in place by December 31, John Hutton, the British Defence Secretary, said on Sunday: 'That would be a very serious situation and obviously we couldn't let it happen, but I don't think it will happen. We have contingency plans'." David Blair (Telegraph of London) observes, " The Government has played down the problems this may cause." Xinhua reports that a vote by the United Nations Security Council today was unanimous as they "voted on Monday to recognize the expiration of the mandate of the U.S.-led muntlinational force in Iraq (MNF-I) by the end of the year." We'll return to the UK in a moment but the journalist discussed last week in Parliament was, of course, Muntader al-Zaidi who threw two shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States two Sundays ago. He has been imprisoned since and, Friday, an Iraqi judge commented on the abuse Muntader had suffered while 'in custody.' Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Bablyon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) report that Mntader's family was finally allowed a visitation and his brother Uday states Muntader has "lost a tooth and his nose reqired stiches," that he he has cigarette burns and other signs of abuse. Uday al-Zaidi also states that his brother will never apologize to the Bully Boy and that the 'apology' to al-Maliki the press paraded last week was one "he was forced" to write. BBC reports Muntader's trial is set for December 31st. Xinhua adds that Muntader's head attorney, Diyaa al-Saadi has stated his client is currently charged with "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit" and that he hopes to have the charge reduced "because the act was an insult, not an aggression." Marie Colvin and Ali Rifat (Times of London) offer a profile of Muntader based on discussions with his brother Uday who states, "The war changed Muntathar's psyche as a result of the horrific scenes he saw, as well as the cruel tragedies, which led to the scene we all saw at the press conference." Support for the journalist remains strong. Sunday Campbell Robertson and Timothy Williams (The New York Times) reported a sit-in that began Friday "at a Baghdad park" saw 400 people turn out and remain despite Nouri al-Maliki launching a military response to a peaceful sit-in: "Heavily armed soldiers surrounded the small park, and Iraqi Army helicopters circled overhead as the demonstrators were told to leave."

Back to the UK.
Brian Swint (Bloomberg News) notes a Sunday Telegraph of London column by "former U.K. military chief General Mike Jackson" that asserts the White House made decisions that harmed the war effort, "This volatile situation was much exacerbated by the security vacuum created by Washington's appalling decisions to disband the Iraqi security forces and to de-Baathify the public administration to a very low levels. These decisions may well have doubled the time it has taken to get to where we are now." Meanwhile the Bully Boy of the United States visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center today where, among other things, he presented Kyle Stipp with two Purple Hearts (click here for Eric Draper's photo) in front of an audience that included Stipp's wife Megan and his father Mitch and he presented Neal Boyd with a Purple Heart in front an audience that included Boyd's wife Joyce (click here for Eric Draper's photo). Bully Boy noted the visit "will probably be my last time coming here as the Commander-in-Chief." In what will strike many as a tone-deaf statement (for obvious reasons), Bully Boy declared, "You know, I oftentimes say being the Commander-in-Chief of the military is the thing I'll miss the most, and coming here to Walter Reed is a reminder of why I'll miss it." Not only was Walter Reed a scandal that plagued the administration repeatedly (expertly detailed by the reporting of the Washington Post's Dana Priest and Anne Hull) but the hospital patients are, of course, the wounded. Bully Boy is stating that, in commanding the military, what he has enjoyed the most is seeing the wounded coming back from the wars he sent them to.

In other news, Saturday
Walter Pincus (Washington Post) covered a new report which finds a drop in the number of civilian deaths at the hands of mercenaries in Iraq for the year to date compared to the same period last year (1 this year so far, 72 in 2007): "Improved oversight of the contractors, through a number of changes in procedure, led to the sharp drop in incidents, the department's Middle East Regional Office reported. The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security has assigned 45 additional special agents to Iraq, and one agent now accompanies most security movements. Cameras and recording equipment have been installed in security vehicles to record all motorcade movements and events, and all trips are tracked and monitored in real time by department personnel in a tactical operations center." The report was once marked "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED." Now red lines appear through that classification and through the paragraph quote above. The thirty-six page report (the last page is just "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED" on the page twice and the second to last page is a PSA; the report ends with the "Panel Recommendation 15" section on page 36 which is the US Embassy in Iraq's response to the panel's recommendation) is entitled [PDF format warning] "Status of the Secretary of State's Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq Report Recommendations."

The US State Dept's Office of Inspector General has one (only one) permanent office not based in the US: the Middle East Regional Office. The
State Dept notes, "MERO provides oversight of Department activities and of crisis and post-conflict areas, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The staff conducts audits, program evaluation, and investigations of contracts and grants, contractor performance and procurement issues, as well as program management evaluations. Audits and program evaluations of embassies in the region include security and security assistance, provincial reconstruction teams, refugee assistance, anti-corruption, police training, and rule of law programs. OIG assessments also include the effectiveness of foreign assistance programs in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries in the region. OIG established an investigative capability in the Middle East and participates in the International Contract Corruption Task Force to address financial fraud involving Department employees, projects, and funds in Iraq, Afghanistan, at other U.S. missions, and in other crisis/post-conflict areas in the region. OIG also provides proactive assistance to the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and stabilization through increased oversight of post-conflict and anti-corruption activities." This week MERO released the third report -- the one Pincus reported on. And, repeating, this third report wasn't originally intended to be widely released to the public as is noted on the front page of the report:This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies or organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General. Public availability of th edoucment will be determined by the Inspector General under the US Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil or administrative penalties.

Also on Saturday, the
narrative imploded further on last week's 'big' story. A coup! Against al-Maliki! Multiple arrests to save Iraq!!!! Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) continued their steady probing of the story, "The case provided a window into the intense political differences in Iraq even among Shiite Muslims. Although some Shiite lawmakers and security commanders said they thought the accused men might have helped facilitate terrorist attacks, they rejected reports that the group had been hatching a coup attempt -- a grave worry among the ruling Shiite coalition. The arrests also raised fears among some lawmakers that the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was using authoritarian tactics reminiscent of Hussein's regime to reinforce its power and thwart rivals." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) added, "Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have described them as a move to gain an advantage ahead of next month's crucial provincial elections, which could alter Iraq's political balance of power. Maliki's aides have denied those accusations. The prime minister and his Dawa party are facing competition from other Shiite parties vying for influence in Iraq's predominantly Shiite oil-rich south. His rivals now include Bolani, an independent Shiite, who recently founded his own political party." Bolani is Jawad al-Bolani and Saturday Campbell Robertson and Tareq Maher (New York Times) quoted him stating of the arrests, "It's because of the competition of the provincial elections. It's just electoral propaganda, and taht's playing with fire." Today Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy report that the Interior Ministry has issued a statement that does not mention the coup but does note "the judge dismissed the charges and ordered the detainees released, but gave no further explanation. The status of the detainees, said by the ministry to number 24, remains unclear, though a ministry official said on Monday that they were still in custody."

Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports some Iraqis are hoping that they will be able to use the treaty to prosecute US forces, "The security document protects American soldiers so long as they're on U.S. bases or on missions, so it's unlikely that the families can base their claims on it, though they plan to press their case with the help of international lawyers." The meaningless treaty, the same one that the US military declares today is allowing for "property transfers" and that "Coalition forces have returned more than 30 areas and facilities during the past six months to the GoI" [Government of Iraq].

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack claimed 1 life.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was injured in a Kirkuk shooting.

In other news The Women on the Web (wowOwow) have named "
The 2008 wowOwow Lis of 20 Fabulous Female Firsts" which they summarize as, "Here's to Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, a four-star general and 18 other glass-ceiling-shattering women of 2008." Sample:

Hillary Rodham Clinton: As if you weren't aware, Hillary Rodham Clinton's the first woman listed as a presidential candidate in every primary and caucus around the country. We're sure she'll break even more records in the years ahead!
Sarah Palin: This self-proclaimed maverick shot straight out of Alaska's frontier this year to become the Republican Party's first female vice-presidential running mate. She didn't win, but Palin's now secured her spot as a household name. Jeanne Shaheen: Shaheen may have thought her political career was over when she ended her six-year tenure as New Hampshire's governor in 2003, but this fierce lawmaker simply couldn't resist a senatorial run. And her win this year makes her the state's first female senator. Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody: Ann Dunwoody joined the Army in 1975 with the intention of staying for only two years. Obviously she liked the experience, because this year she became our nation's first four-star female general. That's something we salute!

Click here for the full list. Feminist Wire covers Jerry Brown (California AG) calling for Proposition 8 to be invalidated -- this is the infamous measure that attempts to overturn the equal rights of all adults to marry in California and restrict marriage to male-female combos only.

Independent journalist
David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and it has created a stir. Three strong reviews of the book appear at Foreign Policy in Focus. Thursday's snapshot noted Laura Carlsen's review and I and incorrectly stated that two more reviews were at that link. My apologies. At the top of the review, you see the links for the other two reviews: "(Editor's Note: Mary Bauer also responded to Michele Wucker's review of David Bacon's book Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Immigration and Criminalizes Immigrants.) " From Bauer's piece:What Bacon's book does better than anything I have read before is to explain the cycle of that structure and how it leads inevitably to the abuses he catalogues. He starts at the beginning of the cycle -- the forces in Mexico and other nations that drive people northward from the homes they love. Bacon often focuses on Oaxaca and the agricultural life, rich in tradition and culture, if not money, that had been possible for many before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He describes the breakdown of that life that NAFTA pushed into place, making small farming in rural Mexico impossible. After the NAFTA "reforms," longtime peasant farmers found that there was literally no market for their product, and there was thus no possibility for earning income in their home communities.

Bacon's latest article is "
Why The Union Won At Smithfield" (American Prospect) and we'll close with the opening:

When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food's huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a "nuclear bomb." The day after, people were so scared that most of the plant's 5,000 employees didn't show up for work. The lines where they kill and cut apart 32,000 hogs every day were motionless.Yet on December 11, when the votes were counted in the same packing plant, 2,041 workers had voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) , while just 1,879 had voted against it. That stunning reversal set off celebrations in house trailers and ramshackle homes in Tarheel, Red Springs, Santa Paula, and all the tiny working class towns spread from Fayetteville down to the South Carolina border. Relief and happiness are understandable in North Carolina, where union membership is the lowest in the country. But Smithfield workers were not just celebrating a vote count. They'd just defeated one of the longest, most bitter anti-union campaigns in modern U.S. labor history. Their victory was the product of an organizing strategy that accomplished what many have said that U.S. unions can no longer do - organize huge, privately-owned factories.

the new york timeselisabeth bumiller
thom shanker
campbell robertsontareq maher
the washington postsudarsan raghavan
a.n.s.w.e.r.debra sweet
ned parkerthe los angeles timescaesar ahmed
julian e. barnes
nico hines
adam ashtonmcclatchy newspapersthe washington postwalter pincuseric ruder