Friday, January 02, 2009

Gaza, Janis Ian, more

Friday! The weekend! I did mean to blog yesterday. I just got busy and ended up forgetting. When I finally remembered, Elaine and I were getting into bed so I told myself I'd blog during the day Friday and never got around to that either.

I felt about 10% guilty and about 90% thrilled to be playing hookey. :D Sorry, I'm being honest. Besides, I knew everyone could read Kat and C.I.'s year in reviews yesterday and you could read both of those over and over. From C.I.'s "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review):"

As early as January 10th, women got tossed under the bus joining the LGBT communtiy which had been tossed under in November by Barack. And the sexism would not be an undercurrent, it would be one of the dominant strands of the Barack campaign.
Thank goodness we had such strong feminist 'leaders' to raise objections. There was Jane Fonda . . . Oops. No. Jane made a rude insult (no, not the c-bomb she dropped on The Today Show) about Hillary and then, after getting chuckles, tried to deny having made it. (She made it.) Red Eve Ensler? She and her tag-along hissed and screeched at Hillary. Hillary, they insisted, was the wrong woman. It was a line of attack they'd repeat with Sarah Palin. Strangely, the two political closet cases never found a woman they liked. Maybe if Emma Goldman was still around? Cynthia McKinney was running for president but they weren't about to try the glass slipper on her foot. And while Eve and her roll dog had every right to weigh in during a general election, not being Democrats, they had no right to weigh in during a Democratic Party primary without disclosing the fact that they were not, in fact, Democrats.
If Barack had been forced to depend upon the support of Democrats, he'd never have been able to steal the vote. He Big-Tented by bringing in Republicans, libertarians, Communists, Socialists, faux-Greens and assorted others. That's why he only squeaked by to victory in November -- he'd kicked so many Democrats out of the tent in the process.

I love that. It makes me laugh. You may know how to read that like C.I. If not, the trick is you go at a break-neck speed then slow down to tease out a line like "Maybe if Emma Goldman was still around?" Then you go back to the break-neck speed. Seriously.

I'm scratching my chin and laughing. Elaine told me I was shaving before bed tonight. :D I haven't shaved since Wednesday morning. I just wasn't in the mood. (I did shower each day.) I was just relaxing. But my beard really is growing in. It itches.

No, I'm not trying to grow a beard. I just miss the fun days of 15. Back then, it was roll out of bed, brush your teeth and you're set to go. Now it's shave and I don't care how sharp the blade is, it feels like I'm pulling the hairs out one by one. I can't use an electric razor.

And I'm sure it will get worse as the years pile up. The hair on my head will vanish but begin sprouting out of my ears! :D

I just realized that 2009 means this decade is almost over. I'm a little slow sometimes, sorry. :D That's such good news. I'm so glad.

I'd mentioned earlier in the week about how Elaine was playing Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black non-stop and Leigh Ann e-mailed to say "All Those Promises" is her favorite song on the CD. That really is a great song. Janis Ian's voice is just great on that. It's like she's singing soflty into your ear. Seriously. There's a section where she sings, "So when you see, hold her tight" and that just reminds me that it's really like she's singing it in your ear while you're dancing with her. It's that soft and that intimate.

I just found the lyrics online and I'm going to put those in. It will probably help if you'll think of the beat (if you don't know the song already) as 1-2-3-4 with the emphasis on the 2 and 4. It's a lilting beat, a steady sway so picture the sort of song you'd want to slow dance on and put the lyrics to that if you don't know the song already:

I don’t need to know her name
It’s enough for me to know she is
I know she is not to blame
Did you tell her you were free
after all you said to me?
And all those promises
that you made and left behind
were filled with emptiness
You were never really mine
Every sweet caress
was just your second best
Broken promises
Baby, I’m amazed
at how long I still believed
How many lies it takes
before someone like me sees
All the tears you cry
never can deny
that you make love a lie
All the tears you cry
they never could deny
that you make love a lie
So when you see her, hold her tight
Don’t forget to whisper in her ear
When she wakes alone at night
holding only memories
maybe she will think of me
And all those promises
that you made me from the start
were filled with emptiness
from the desert of your heart
Every sweet caress
was just your second best
Broken promises
Baby, I’m amazed
at how long I still believed
How many lies it takes
before someone like me sees
All the tears you cried
they never could deny
that you made love a lie
All those tears you cried
They never could deny
that you made love a lie
Copyright © Janis Ian/her co-writer(s) if any/their publisher(s). All rights reserved.
Re-printing these lyrics for limited personal use is fine. Using these lyrics to make money is a violation of lots of laws; do not do that please!
Permission to quote in books, magazines, etc. may be obtained by writing to

I'm not going to link on that because it's PDF and I know that's a problem for some people with older computers or dial up. But you can find it at Janis Ian's website. You can find that and a lot more. (I see an article she wrote that I want to read as soon as I post this.)

If you're following the news, you know a slaughter is ongoing. This is Great Britain's Socialist Worker's "Stop Israel’s terror in Gaza:"

US and Britain have blood on their hands End the killing–lift the blockade
Israel is committing mass murder in Gaza, and the US and Britain are giving their blessing to the slaughter. Gaza’s hospitals and morgues are bursting with the dead and the injured.
Israel’s barbaric assault, which began last Saturday, has killed hundreds of Palestinians. It plans to kill many more. Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak has said that Israel wants to “widen and deepen the operation”.
Western leaders blame the Hamas resistance group for the conflict. The media mostly go along with this, or at best portray it as a clash between two sides that are equally to blame.
But Israel is a terror state, armed with F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships and tanks, that is attacking a largely impoverished and isolated people. The West has backed Israel to the hilt.
Israel has launched its new onslaught in an attempt to wipe out any resistance to its dominance over the Palestinian people.
It wants to destroy Hamas, which won the Palestinian elections in January 2006, because the organisation leads the struggle against its people’s oppression.
The last few days have exposed the shameless hypocrisy of Western leaders.
George Bush says there cannot be a ceasefire until the Palestinians surrender to Israel’s demands. Gordon Brown calls for “moderation” but refuses to condemn Israel’s attacks.
Both ignore the fact that, while a “ceasefire” held from June to November, no Israeli was killed by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel broke the ceasefire on 4 November forcing the Palestinians to respond.
Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza over the past year and a half has cut off supplies of the most basic necessities, such as food, medicine and water.
A ceasefire on Brown’s terms would allow the blockade to continue, with tens of thousands of Palestinians suffering from malnutrition, disease and poverty.
Anger at the slaughter has sparked mass demonstrations across the world in solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for an immediate end to the Israeli bombing and the blockade of Gaza. Millions of people are also demanding that Gaza’s borders are opened.
Any hope of lasting peace in the Middle East will only be realised if there is justice for the Palestinian people. This means an end to the racist state of Israel and the so-called “war on terror”, which has produced more wars and instability. It is only a global mass movement of ordinary people that can bring about this change.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Eyewitness in Gaza: ‘Can you hear the noise? The Israelis are bombing again’» Opposition to war remains a powerful force in the world» Gaza: a new flashpoint in the ‘war on terror’» Hamas: the changing face of the Palestinian resistance» Palestine’s long torment» Egyptians rage at hated regime» Israel’s bloody assault on Gaza fuels protests across the world» Demonstrations called around country against Israel bombing Gaza
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If you found this article useful please help us maintain SW by »
making a donation.

All you Barack voters, that's what you voted for. That's the non-change you supported. Your king is silent, cowardly. You should have had guts and stood up to vote for Ralph or Cynthia. We'd have real change then. Instead, Palistinians are being slaughtered. With the blood on your hands. Lick it up. Yes, you can!!!!

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

Friday, January 2, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, slapping up against the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, some US veterans of war have difficulties re-adjusting to civilian life, and more.

It's the new year so the press would traditionally contribute their 'looking back' pieces. But why do that and be bound by the facts when it's so much more 'creative' to look to the future and pen fantasies? In today's Washington Post,
Anthony Shadid decided to inform that, "The war in Iraq is indeed over"; however, events on the ground begged to differ. Even ten years ago, a reporter trying to do what Shadid has done (war over by press fiat!) would have been the laughingstock of the press corps. Such are the times that Shadid is actually 'outshined' by the actions at another outlet. Leila Fadel. Yeah, she's back in Iraq. And offering all the 'value' and 'pertinence' as Yvette Mimieux did when she decided to team up with Ali Akbar Khan because what the world needed then (1968) was more bad music with poetry (Baudelaire) read over it badly. Flowers of Evil was what those 'geniuses' ended up with and it might as well be the title of Fadel's latest which contains this hidden 'gem': "It's difficult, however, for hope to return so quickly after so much bloodshed." Fadel is, no doubt, very proud of that line just as Yvette knew Flowers of Evil would set the world on fire. But, for the record, bad poetry doesn't have a damn thing to do with journalism. Fadel might try to squeeze that sentence into some sort of crack-pot, Chicken Sop for the whatever but it doesn't belong in reporting.

But we're not getting reporting, we're hearing the sounds of the Up With People singers warming up as they prepare for the ultimate wave of Operation Happy Talk. "There's no doubt," insists Fadel straining to hits notes beyond her range -- but, in fact, reporting is all about doubts. Reporting is all about questioning. Save this garbage for your EST seminar (Erhard Seminars Training) because it's quackery, it's not reporting.

Doubt it? Here's Fadel seeing 'change,' "U.S. officials already have moved out of Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, which they'd used as their headquarters since U.S. troops took control of Baghdad, and are occupying a brand new, sprawling 104-acre U.S. embassy complex that's America's largest in the world." And this tells us what, Fadel?

It appears to tell us that the largest Embassy in the world is preferred to Hussein's musty, old castle. It appears to tell us that, as was stated long before construction on the Embassy began, the US would move into the Embassy as soon as it was possible. Delays came about because shoddy work was done. And, no, not all of it has been fixed. But those are details that escape Fadel who writes as if she's willing McClatchy's Baghdad operation to shut down. Leila, thinking "happy thoughts" might have allowed Peter Pan to fly, but there's no evidence to suggest it will do the same for a news outlet.

Once upon a time, reporters were expected to deal in facts. Today, it's all word games. Could someone give 'em all Scrabble for their down time and instruct that they practice their trade at all other times? Chief among the foreign outlets needing to unwrap a Scrabble board: AFP. The agency's
Benjamin Morgan offers a lede about how Iraq's airspace ("a swathe" of it) is being handed back to it by the US. A swathe? Over 29,000 feet and higher was already controlled by Iraq. Thereby explaining that amazing space program al-Maliki launched. What? He didn't launch one? No, of course not. And it doesn't mean a damn thing that 29,000 to 24,000 feet were returned to Iraq as the new year began. Why is that? AFP quotes Amer Abduljabbar Ismail (Minster of Transportation) stating that "the complete control of our airspeace will not be finished until 2011, when the US military leaves." Poor, deluded, sick liar. The US isn't leaving in 2011 and, if they did, Iraq having control of it's air space wouldn't mean a damn thing because, as was repeatedly revealed in Baghdad press conference after conference this fall, Iraq air force will not be ready in 2011. They freely admitted -- American and Iraqi spokespeople -- that Iraq would require the US well past 2012.

So many novelists, so damn few reporters. It's as though the 90s trend which found the 80s literary set -- Jay McInerney, Tama Janawitz, Bret Easton Ellis, Jill Eisenstadt, et al -- invading the feature profile resulted in a serious case of creative envy among the press corps. (I know and like Jay and will note that he had showed true talent in non-fiction writing. I know others who attempted that feat and will pointedly not bother to make a similar regarding the 'merits' of their contributions.)

Green Zone and Basra airport 'handovers' are worth one sentence outside the real estate listings. If that. Timothy Williams (New York Times) wisely does not attempt to make it the thrust of his report and includes some details on the area that is thought to be the one to watch (including thought to be the one to watch by Barack's transition team):

Mosul, located about 250 miles north of Baghdad, is in a region contested by Sunni arabs and Kurds, and where Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is led by foreigners, has been active.
The city's Christian minority was the focus of repeated attacks last year, forcing thousands to flee, although many have returned.
Nineveh Province is also the buffer zone between the central government in Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq's far north. About 5,000 American soldiers are stationed there.

Reuters reported this morning that tribal Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Salih was entertaining a group of "Sunni Arab tribal leaders" for lunch when a bomber arrived and detonated his or her bomb -- killing his/herself and wounding somewhere between 42 and 100 people (depending on the source). And the death toll? BBC reports at least 30 dead. Anthony Shadid and Saad Sarhan (Washington Post) report, "Iraqi officials said the assailant, a relative of the sheik, was a familiar presence around the house, making it easier for him to pass unsearched through an entrance usually reserved for women in the conservative town of Yusufiya, about 12 miles south of Baghdad." And, yes, it does have to do with upcoming elections (scheduled for January 31st). Sami al-Jumaily (Reuters) explains the get-togehter was "a feast for Sunni Arab electoral candidates and tribal leaders". When you read the garbage about war over and the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk get up to the neck, remember what the 'reporters' forget: The UN has warned repeatedly that violence will increase as the provincial elections approach. Even the US State Dept has echoed those warnings.

In other reported violence . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left four people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing that left two people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul bombing the injured a police officers.

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes an armed attack on Mussayab checkpoint where 3 guards were killed and six more were left wounded.

Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) reported Wednesday night, "Two U.S. troops died of combat wounds in Iraq Wednesday and a British Royal Marine was killed in Afghanistan to end a year that put the two wars on different trajectories. The latest casualties brought the U.S. death toll in Iraq for 2008 to 314, the lowest total since the 2003 invasion, when 486 were killed. A total of 4,221 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq. " The Iraq deaths were noted in Wednesday's snapshot. We're noting Sisk here because he's the only one who treated the deaths as worthy of a report -- as opposed to an aside in the midst of a report on something else.

The transition to Iraqi control is . . . stuck in the mud.
Ned Parker and Ali Hameed (Los Angles Times) report that January 1st came and went with little change, "On the first day of the new era, the Iraqi soldiers were still following U.S. soldiers' instructions on what route to take and whom to talk to. The Americans motioned when to ask residents for information about recent Sunni militant attacks or to tell residents that Iraqi forces, not the Americans, were now in charge here.The early-morning patrol underscored the delicate nature of what everyone calls a transition, where the American officers refer to their job as partnering with Iraqi combat units, now that a U.S.-Iraq security pact has gone into effect." The 'transition' is not unlike the November 'handover' of the "Awakening" Council from US to Baghdad control. All this time later, over a 1/3 are still under US control and the word is it will be "months" before that 'transition' is complete.

In the US, Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) teams with Dan Frosch for the beat she's long covered. The latest installment is "
A Focus on Violence by G.I.'s Back From War." From the article, and focusing on Colorado:

Nine current or former members of Fort Carson's Fourth Brigade Combat Team have killed someone or were charged with killings in the last three years after returning from Iraq. Five of the slayings took place last year alone. In addition, charges of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault have risen sharply.Prodded by Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, the base commander began an investigation of the soldiers accused of homicide. An Army task force is reviewing their recruitment, medical and service records, as well as their personal histories, to determine if the military could have done something to prevent the violence. The inquiry was recently expanded to include other serious violent crimes.
Now the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, says he is considering conducting an Army-wide review of all soldiers "involved in violent crimes since returning" from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a letter sent to Mr. Salazar in December. Mr. Geren wrote that the Fort Carson task force had yet to find a specific factor underlying the killings, but that the inquiry was continuing.
Focusing attention on soldiers charged with killings is a shift for the military, which since the start of the war in Iraq has largely deflected any suggestion that combat could be a factor in violent behavior among some returning service members.

Past work by Alvarez on this issue includes the February piece she and Deborah Sontag did entitled "When Strains on Military Families Turn Deadly," her July piece "After the Battle, Fighting the Bottle at Home," her January article with Sontag "Combat Trauma Takes the Witness Stand" and her August "War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked."

While the assault on Gaza continues and US president-elect Barack Obama continues to remain silent, 2008 Green Party presidential candidate
Cynthia McKinney writes (at Dissident Voice) of the assault on the vessel Dignity -- which carried her, medical personnel and medical supplies -- by the Israeli navy:

It's official now. We've been told that the sturdy, wood construction of our boat, Dignity, is the reason we are still alive. Fiberglass would probably not have withstood the impact of the Israeli attack and under different circumstances, we might not be here to tell the story. Even at that, the report that came to us yesterday after the Captain and First Mate went back to Sour (Tyre) to inspect the boat was that it was sinking, the damage is extensive, and the boat will take, in their estimation, at least one month to repair. Tomorrow, we will bring the Dignity from Sour to Beirut. And now, we must decide what to do and from where we will do it and how we are to get back to wherever that might be.
My personal, and I know the group's, thanks must go to Al Jazeera, that allowed three of their reporters to be onboard with us on our voyage. As a result, Al Jazeera carried the story of the Dignity live, from castoff in Cyprus when our spirits were high, right up through the menacing maneuvers of the huge, super fast Israeli ships before they rammed us, the Israeli calls on the ship phone after the ramming calling us terrorists and subversives and telling us to return to Cyprus (even though the Israelis later claimed that they didn't know who we were, they knew enough about us to tell us where we had come from), and the fact that we didn't have enough fuel to follow their instructions, right up to their threat to fire at us if we didn't turn around, ending with our beaten-up boat limping into Sour harbor in Lebanon. Al Jazeera carried our story as "breaking news" and performed a real service to its audience and to us. Al Jazeera called the Israelis to inquire about the incident right as it was happening and I am sure the Israelis were prepared to leave none to tell the story. Al Jazeera told the story and documented it as it was happening.
One of those Al Jazeera reporters with us was Sami El-Haj, who was detained in Guantanamo by the United States for six incredibly long years. What an honor to even exchange glances with such a humble man who had endured so much pain at the hands of the U.S. government. I apologized to him that my tax dollars were being used in such a despicable way. And Sami's crime according to the U.S.? Born in Sudan, and reporting for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, Sami was the wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong religion, reporting for the wrong news outfit, telling us the truth about a wrong war. And for that he survived incarceration for six long years. Sami El-Haj, Guantanamo prisoner number 345.Another incredibly committed journalist who was with us was CNN's Karl Penhaul. Karl reported the truth even when his own station was repeating Israeli disinformation. The fact that we were traveling with these alert journalists added to the flat-footedness and obvious crudeness of the Israeli response. Sadly, Israel has changed its story too many times to count, and that's because they are not telling the truth.
We lived to tell the story. Karl's incredible reporting, just a portion of our story, can be seen on
CNN where there's also video and a photo of our damaged boat. A little more of the story and film of the extensive damage can be seen.

Those 'left' voices claiming to give a damn about the Palestinians -- you can find them at any outlet, this is the only story they can cover these days -- how many of them voted for Cynthia McKinney? Or Ralph Nader? Not too damn many. Most deluded themselves that Corporatist War Hawk Barack Obama would bring 'change' and he did! While George HW Bush golfed in Kennebunkport as a MidEast slaughter was ongoing, Barack took his game to Hawaii. 'Change' you can choke on. While Barack plays mute, Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued this statement Wednesday:

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "We Support any Effort Agreed by Arab States Concerning the Israeli Bombing" Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq supports any effort by Arab states on the Israeli shelling of areas in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas in a statement to Al-Jazeera on Saturday and that the Iraqi stance is with Arab solidarity and what the Arab countries agreed upon. Minister Zebari added that Iraq would be in favor of any decision in this regard. Israel launched air raids on positions in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas and killed two hundred people.

Public TV notes.
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and sitting down with Gwen will be Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Dan Balz (Washington Post), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Alexi Simendinger (National Journal). Topics will include Barack, Blagojevich and, possibly, who Gwen will cook home meals for if Condi returns to the West Coast? To Condi on the West Coast waiting . . .

NOW on PBS (check local listings, begins airing tonight in most markets) offers:

With the economy in a downward spiral, more and more people are taking advantage of credit card offers to make ends meet, but are the credit card companies actually taking advantage of their customers?
In the week in which federal regulators adopted sweeping
new rules for the credit card industry, NOW meets families struggling to pay off their credit card debt. Such debt has become significantly larger thanks to questionable industry practices like doubling and tripling interest rates, increasing fees and penalties, and shrinking credit limits.
We meet people like Andrew Spurlock and his wife Michelle, who are raising three children while watching the interest rates and fees on their credit cards skyrocket. Michelle was horrified when her interest rate jumped from seven percent to 30 percent from one day to the next, despite claiming she always paid her monthly minimum. Michelle and her husband are fighting off financial ruin as they struggle to pay off their debt.
Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, an expert on debt and the middle class, says credit card companies are deceiving customers in order to maximize profits. "You would think that if you upheld your end of the contract that the contract would be binding. But in the case of credit cards, you would be wrong," Warren, tells NOW.This week, NOW takes a hard look at the small print in credit card offers, and at Congressional legislation aimed at regulating the industry.

Meanwhile on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday,
60 Minutes:

Is It Murder? With drunken driving fatalities staying constant despite all the campaigns against the crime, some prosecutors are pursuing harsher penalties against perpetrators, including long prison terms for those who caused deaths. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video Mind Reading Neuroscience has learned so much about how we think and the brain activity linked to certain thoughts that it is now possible – on a very basic scale - to read a person’s mind. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video The Mad Scientist Of Football Texas Tech coach Mike Leach made up for a lack of money and top talent by creating an innovative offense that’s changing the game of college football and beating bigger schools which regularly attract the best talent in the nation. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video 60 Minutes, this Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. Kennedy Center Honors: Streisand and Freeman
Barbra Streisand and Morgan Freeman are among this year’s honorees by the Kennedy Center. Mike Wallace interviewed Barbra Streisand in 1991 and Morgan Freeman in 2005.
Streisand Video Freeman Watch

Public radio notes. The following programs will air on
WBAI, the first on Monday:

Monday, 2-3pm
Cat Radio Cafe
Edmund White on his play "Terre Haute," based on imagined conversations between literary lion Gore Vidal and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy Mc Veigh; playwright Andrea James and actors from "Yanagai! Yanagai!" a protest play from aboriginal Australia; and actor/director Roger Hendricks Simon on his award-winning independent film "The Sublet." Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer
Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at
Archived at
Cat Radio Cafe


Listen to part 1 • Our yearly commemoration of Leopold Bloom's walk through Dublin includes readings from "Ulysses" and other works in the Joyce canon, as well as excerpts from Beckett and Irish song. With Alec Baldwin, Anne Meara, Alvin Epstein, Bob Dishy, Kate Valk, Jim Fletcher, Aaron Beall, Brian O'Doherty, Emily Mitchell, John O'Callahan, David Pincus, Zeroboy, Judy Graubart, Janet Coleman, David Dozer, Kate O'Brien, playwright Richard Maxwell and director Caraid O'Brien as Molly Bloom. Produced by Peabody Award winner Larry Josephson for WBAI.

2008 is over. Today the Los Angeles Times offers "2008 year in review." In this community, 2008 has been covered by the following: Betty's "Thinning out the herd (2008)" went up Thursday as did Kat's "2008 in music" and the "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review)." "2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary which went up Tuesday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up Wednesday. And Sunday, Third offered the following "Editorial: Democracy or fan club?," "TV: 2008, the lows and really lows," "The 2008 Bronze Boobies," "Best and worst in hardcover music journalism," "Music 2009" and "2009 in DVDs."

60 minutescbs newsnow on pbspbswbaicat radio cafejanet colemandavid dozerwashington weekthomas friedman is a great man

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve!!!! :D Consider yourself impressed, I'm blogging in a tux. :D I'm not joking. We're about to head out but Elaine wanted to blog about Roland Burris so she's typing away like a speed demon.

She's then hopping in the shower to get dressed while I'm already dressed so I should have a bit of time to type even though I am the slowest typist you will ever know.

Today, as C.I. points out in the snapshot, the US military announced the deaths of two US service members. Reminded me of New Year's Eve 2006 when the 4,000 mark was passed and so called 'independent' media didn't have time to note it. Not then. Not the next day. Not the day after.

That's KPFA, that's The Nation, that's The Progressive, that's all of them.

They didn't give a damn about the illegal war. Amy Goodman and all of them, don't give a damn.

And they all proved it, didn't they? In the time since, they proved it.

They wasted all of our time. They didn't focus on the Iraq War, let alone focus on ending it. They were frauds the same way I-Need-Attention Benjamin and all her buddies at CODESTINK are. Frauds and fakes.

And Elaine's done. Damn. I thought I'd have more time. She's hollering that she's grabbing shoes so I need to get this posted.

Happy New Year!

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, hype passes for hope and neither are realistic, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died, Dec. 31, in Balad, Iraq from injuries sustained during combat operations, Dec. 30." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died from wounds sustained during a mortar attack in Baghdad Dec. 31." The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4221. The toll for the month thus far is 14. You could say, "The death toll so far is the same as the media reported for October" but . . . 14 was the October death toll; however, the media rushed to insist it was 13. So it'll be cute to see if anyone references the October death toll in their reporting and, if so, how they do it. If your outlet reported 13 and never corrected it, you're really pushing it to just say, "The same number as in October." 13 was the death toll for July -- the lowest monthly death toll for 2008.

Speaking of bad reporting . . . The
Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin wrote a laughable column (another one) that was published in the US on Christmas Eve and was published Monday in Taiwan. Trudy sees "signs of change on the streets of Baghdad" but, silly fool, she also believes that the US treaty with the puppet government in Baghdad will be followed. There are puppets in Baghdad smarter than Trudes. Where to start?

The "US Troops Withdrawal Agreement" is what the treaty was called by al-Maliki and what foolish idiots believed it was. It was no such thing. The treaty was needed to grant another one-year extension. The United Nations' Security Council could have extended the mandate for a year but the White House didn't want that. (Nor did al-Maliki who had -- two years in a row -- already gone around Parliament to get the mandate extended twice.) The treaty needed to cover a year. When the US began addressing it (in 2007), they frequently spoke of that reality. Trudy (and Patrick Cockburn) must have been sleeping. 2009 is the only year that both sides have to follow. 2010 can find the contract altered or cancelled. The same with 2011. In 2010, both parties may choose to replace it with a new treaty. It is a one-year contract with two options for renewal.

In mid-November, al-Maliki took to Iraq TV (state TV) to declare, "The pact stipulates that U.S. troops are to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009. And it is a deadline that will not be extended. It also says that [the US] should withdraw from Iraqi land, water and air space by January 1, 2011 -- which is a deadline that will not be extended." That was back when he was calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement."

Nouri and Bully Boy were shoulder-to-shoulder recently. Remember that? At al-Maliki's palace? Maybe people forget because the one-shoe, two-shoe incident attracted so much attention? But check the transcript at the White House and see what al-Maliki's calling it? Is he calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He's using the same term the White House did "SOFA" -- Status Of Forces Agreement. It's not a withdrawal agreement. And at the December 20th Green Zone press conference, Iraqi Maj Gen Qassim Atta called the treaty the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He referred to the June 2009 'withdrawal' as being "according to what's been said during -- the agreements, an agreement, the security agreement".

The US Withdrawal Agreement was just a brand al-Maliki slapped on it in November when he was attempting to pressure Parliament to vote for it. Since then, that 'term' is no longer used, not even by al-Maliki. Now let's deal with the June claim Trudy's pimping. From the
December 22nd snapshot:

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."

So that means we've taken care of The Trudys and their "withdraw from major cities in June!" nonsense. (And it's already been learned that even the private contractors/mercenaries clause may not stand.) With the well known history of US treaties, you really had to be naive to think it would work out any differently. Naive or a liar.

So let's back up to this 'safer' claim. The same December 20th Green Zone press conference found Maj Gen Atta expounding on what's in store for the coming year: "The year of 2009 is going to witness a lot more coordination between Baghdad Amanat and the BOC and also the traffic police to reopen all the closed roads and streets and to also lift or remove all the concrete barries or security barriers, and [. . . .]" Really? And the security's going to hold? Hmmm. It's very likely that some of the news outlets pulling reporters from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan may have to alter those plans at some point in the new year.

Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports on some things that actually are planned to happen. On January 1st, warrants will be needed. Arrest warrants and detention warrants. The former must be received before arrests, the latter can be granted as late as 24 hours after a detention. So, Robertson explains, the US military is doing the house-to-house searches and other activities they can still do before the January 1st date when they will (may)be required to consult the Iraqi judiciary.Robertson notes that Company C of the "First Battalion [,35th Armor Regiment] has been trying to complete missions, like general house-to-house searches, that will soon become far more complicated, if not impossible" but, this month, as they were attempting to gather the backing that they hoped would result in a warrant being issued in January on one suspect, they came across him and "did what they had been doing freely for nearly six years: they detained him on the spot."
"(may)be"? As Capt Lloyd B. Osafo points out in the article, "Who knows if the Iraqis are going to follow all of this to a T? That's my personal opinion about all of this: who knows?" And the doubt is only increased by Iraqi Maj Hasson S. Hussein al-Zoubadi whining about how the Iraqi military will now have to follow these new rules. Robertson points out, "Actually, the agreement changes almost nothing for the Iraqi security forces: they are supposed to have been operating under the warrant-based system since 2007." When they haven't been it backs up Osafo's opinion.

Also expected in the new year is the holding of provincial elections. They are scheduled for January 31st and Maj Gen Atta was talking them up in the December 20th press conference as well.
Missy Ryan and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) report Mowaffaq al-Hamdani was shot dead in a Mosul cafe today and that al-Hamdani was "a candidate for the Sunni Arab party Iraq for Us". Following the shooting, police pursued the killers and 1 police officer was shot dead while another was injured. The reporters note, "The results of the vote, which will choose provincial council leaders in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, will set the tone for parliamentary elections due at the end of 2009. The government of Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, has been in the hands of minority Kurds since many of the Sunni Arab majority boycotted the last provincial elections in 2005."

Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing that followed another bombing (apparently the first was to draw people in for the second bombing) that left 4 dead and seven people wounded while a Sinjar car bombing claimed 5 lives and left forty-five wounded.


Reuters drops back to Tuesday to note 1 corpse discovered in Mosul and another just outside of Mosul.

CBS and AP note that New Year's Eve is being celebrated around the world. But not in the allegedly 90% democracy Iraq, Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that Baghdad residents will not be allowed to celebrate the New Year tonight. It's been outlawed.Dagher explains that hotels and clubs have been ordered to close down (and cancel reservations). Why? Shi'ites have a holiday. Remember the back-patting al-Maliki just received last week? "Christmas is a legal holiday in Iraq for the first time ever!" was what the headlines screamed at many outlets. Murharram is going on! All must be placed on hold for this Shi'ite religious period (Shi'ite but not Sunni).

Turning to US politics.
Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned. And though the Illinois Secretary of State insists he will not confirm Burris, that's not really allowed in the state constitution. The Secretary is not allowed to override a governor's choice. Those egging the SoS on should be ashamed because they're applauding the subversion of the law. On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" which includes an offensive statement:The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate." The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.Shouldn't have dragged their feet.Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)
Barack remains in the news despite his tropical vacation. While he vacations, Gaza is under assault.
Rebecca has been following that and noted last night Cynthia McKinney joined doctors and human rights activits on the Dignity to take medical supplies and help to the Palestinians however the ship was attacked by the Israeli navy. Black Agenda Report points out:

President-Elect Obama has been silent on the Israeli attacks, while President George Bush has supported Israel's actions.
"I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world," said McKinney, who was the Green Party's presidential candidate in November. "As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government."

Vacationing Barack also remains dogged by the controversy he created when he invited homophobe Rick Warren to preside as some sort of anti-gay activist at the inauguration.
Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) observes:

Obama has been courting Warren and other conservative evangelicals for some time. In June of 2006 Obama gave a speech that purported to show Democrats how to reach out to religious voters. At that time he had not yet officially declared himself a presidential candidate, but he very clearly showed his strategic hand and his political plans. He smeared religious progressives by saying that they didn't even exist and he smeared all progressives by claiming that they were
hostile to religion. The much talked about speech consisted of one right wing talking point after another.
The Warren invitation is vintage Obama. Like Bush, Obama believes that he is the decider and that opinions differing from his own are to be ignored. Unlike Bush, he is savvy enough to pretend otherwise, and his smooth talking feel goodism fools many into maintaining a vow of silence about anything he does. The Warren invitation is yet another instance of the patronizing Obama telling the left that they shouldn't worry their pretty little

Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) observes:

I wrote about the Warren thing when it broke, and noted at the time that -- ahem -- there's a hell of a lot more wrong with the guy than just the gay marriage thing. But who am I kidding? Women's rights don't matter. My Google news feed is full of articles and editorials on how Warren's presence at the Inauguration is an insult to right-thinking liberals everywhere -- but only because of his homophobia. There is no mention of the sexism. Thinking that women are born-to-obey is fine, apparently, but the anti-gay thing is just beyond the pale. Golly, Richard Cohen's sister even canceled her Inauguration party.
And you know what? Homophobia is awful. It's ugly primitive bigotry. Kind of like racism, which is also awful. Ridiculous to think that skin color or sexual orientation makes some humans inferior to other humans.
But sexism? Thinking women are inferior? Even preaching that women were put on earth to serve men? Eh. Whatever. Different strokes.
Forty years after the Second Wave started, and we're still at the back of the bus.

Socks' point is valid but it also needs to be noted that homophobia effects women. It effects women who are lesbians, it effects women targeted for being or suspected of being lesbians. It effects women with LGBT friends and family members and Richard Cohen's sister is a lesbian which is why
he emphasized the homophobia when writing of his sister's decision to cancel a planned party to celebrate president-elect Barack's inauguration.

2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary -- went up yesterday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up today.

the new york timeselisabeth bumiller
thom shanker
the washington postsudarsan raghavan
the los angeles timesjulian e. barnes
missy ryan
campbell robertsonsam dagher
andrew malcolmthe los angeles times
laith hammoudimcclatchy newspapers
margaret kimberley
sex and politics and screeds and attitudemikey likes itruths reportsickofitradlz

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

C Kennedy, Roland Burris, pardons

Tuesday! One day until New Year's Eve. :D

I'm going to write some about New Year's Eve but let me do some serious news first.

Caroline Kennedy, the princess, feels she's entitled to be a Senator. This is the New York Times quoting her:

"I'm, you know, actually, Andrew Cuomo is someone I've known for many, many years, and we've talked, you know, throughout this process, so, you know, we have a really good relationship and I admire the work he's doing now and what he's done."

The writer then goes on to talk about her "you knows." But if that was Sarah Palin, she would have been jumped for other things. Maybe you missed it because the paper punctuates it wrongly?

This is how it should read:

"I'm, you know -- actually, Andrew Cuomo is someone I've known for many, many years, and we've talked, you know, throughout this process, so, you know -- we have a really good relationship and I admire the work he's doing now and what he's done."

Goodness how they jumped on Palin whenever she jumped around while speaking. Caroline swtiches tenses and topics mid-stream and no one pays attention.

Did you tell her you were free?
After all you said to me?
All those promises you made and left behind
were filled with emptiness
You were never really mine.

That's Janis Ian. Elaine's got her on the stereo tonight. It's a really beautiful song, by the way.

Okay, back to the news. USA Today reports that the Governor of Illinois appointed Roland Burris to Barack's Senate seat. I've read five other articles on him tonight. What I like about him is that he should be seasoned. He was doing campaign work in 1967. He's also held multiple elected offices. He has a law degree. When you look at his resume, it doesn't just make Princess Brat Caroline look laughable, it makes Jesse Jackson Jr. look like a fool as well. Burris has really got some experience under his belt. I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, "Congratulations, Senator Burris."

One of the stories I read on him -- forget which one now -- talked about his first foray into politics. It was when he was a teenager. He fought for the integration of his area's swimming pool. So he's got guts and hopefully would still fight the needed battles.

This is from Ariane de Vogue's "Is Pardon Reversal a Sign of a Broken System?" (ABC News):

Since President Bush granted and then unexpectedly revoked a controversial pardon last week, legal experts are furiously debating whether the process surrounding the president's constitutional power to pardon is broken, biased or both.
On Dec. 23, Bush pardoned Isaac R. Toussie, who had pleaded guilty to mail fraud and lying to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and served five months in prison. The presidential action effectively wiped clean Toussie's conviction. But then the next day, on Christmas Eve, the White House released a cryptic statement that "information" had "come to light" that caused the president to change his mind.

I shared my thoughts on that on Christmas -- once you give the pardon, once you announce it, it's too late to change your mind. It's not fair.

And I'm out of time so that's going to have to be it. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis gets serious attention, the Green Zone comes under fire, "Awakening" Council members are still not under Iraqi control, warnings of Kurdish and Arab conflict come from the puppet government in Baghdad, and more.

As noted
yesterday, the refugee crisis is covered today. The largest global refugee crisis remains Iraq with over four million internal and external refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees places the number of refugees at over 4.7 million with 2.7 million being internal refugees and notes, "In 2006, Iraqis became the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe." The List Project notes, "The Iraq refugee crisis is now among the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. 15% of Iraq's population is in flight, either displaced internally or forced to flee across international borders to neighboring countries."

Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun) reported on Najim Abid Hajwal Sunday, an Iraqi refugee who moved with "his wife and their seven children" to Jordan due to violence and threats and he thought they'd be in Jordan for a few "weeks. That was four years ago." The Hajwal family remins in Jordan and Najim explains, "Every day, I'm waiting for things to improve, but I don't see it. I feel as if, in one moment, I lost everything." The bulk of the externally displaced Iraqi refugees have settled in either Jordan or Syria where they "are blamed for crowding schools, straining hospitals and health clinics and driving up the costs of housing, fuel, food and other basics. With pressure building on Iraq to support its citizens abroad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is offering cash payments for refugees to return. Iraqi embassies in Syria and Egypt have organized flights and bus rides home. They have found few takers." That began the first installment of a three-part series by Matthew Hay Brown. He also explores the US response which we'll note in moment.

The UNHCR has also termed it the "largest population movement since 1948 in the Middle East." That factoid is noted by
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) which released a report on Iraq's internal refugees yesterday entitled "Challenges of forced displacement within Iraq" (here for HTML, here for PDF).

* 4.3 million is the number of Iraqis IDMC classifies as "forcibly displaced, internally or in other countries"

* 2.8 million is the number of Iraqis who are internally displaced according to IDMC

* Both numbers come with a cautionary note due to continued security issues and "fluctuation in the displacement situation"

* The bulk of those internally displaced (60%) are said to have come from Baghdad

* The bulk of the internally displaced are Shi'ia Arab (58%)

* Sunni Arabs make up the next largest category of the internally displaced (30%) followed by "Shabaks, Christians Assyrians, Chaldeans, Amernians, Faeeli Kurds, Yazidis, and Sabean Mandeans"

* At least 1.5 million Iraqi refugees are estimated to be residing in Syria currently with another 500,000 estimated in Jordan.

Since the start of the illegal war, the report notes that displacement has resulted from military operations and from sectarian violence. On the former, the report reminds, "During the first months of the invasion, thousands of people were displaced by air strikes and urban warfare in Anbar, Thi'Qar, Basra and Baghdad. Across the country, small numbers of people living in areas considered strategically important were forcibly displaced by US led coalition forces". Later years of the illegal war result in other regions being targeted as well. On sectarian violence, the report explains, "In 2006, 80 per cent of sectarian violence occurred within a 55-kilometre radius of Baghdad (UNSC, 11 December 2006). There was already evicendence during 2005 of growing numbers fleeing Baghdad's mixed neighbourhoods to places where their community predominated". The report notes:

The MNF-I and ISF have conducted large-scale counter-insurgency operations in Basra, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, Amarah, Baquba, Diyala, and Mosul. These operations, particularly in Basra and Baghdad, were marked by heavy fighting in densely populated urban areas, curfews, roadblocks and access difficulties for humanitarian agencies (IRN, 30 March 2008). Military operations and ongoing violence in heavily populated civilian areas have featured a lack of respect for the principles of proportionality and distinction, they have put civilians at risk and in certain instances led to mass displacement. In April and May 2008 operations against the Madhi militia in Sadr City led to the temporary displacement of approximately 4,700 families (IOM, June 2008).
Furthermore, there continues to be prolonged and multiple displacement due to insecurity, lack of adequate housing, and access to basic services and employment opportunities. The evolving situation has also entailed risks of new patterns of displacement emerging such as displacement of returnees or secondary displacement of occupants of private and public properties. IDPs in private and public properties increasingly face secondary displacement through evictions (IOM, October 2008). Sometimes these evictions orders only affect a small group of families, in other cases such as in the former military camp of Taji in Baghdad close to 1,000 IDP families (estimated 7,000 individuals) are under threat of eviction (IDP WG, 27 June 2008).

The report notes that the United Nations "and the humanitarian community continue to report human rights abuses against civilians by militias, criminal gangs, and security and military forces". The Iraqis turned into refugees are often forced to relocate in "areas where public services are limited, overstretched or non-existent" which only further adds to the problems for the refugees. They also lack adequate shelter and access to needed food. The problems with food access also includes the issue of ration cards which are issued to a family for a location and which, once they become displaced, requires red-tape to have the registrations transferred. The report notes, "While most provincial authorities allow IDPs to enter, various restrictions bar them from registering on security, economic and demographic grounds. These restrictions limit their capacity to rent or purchase property and access essential basic services and specific welfare assistance to IDPS".

One section of the report zooms in on women and children and we'll note it in full:

Women and children represent over 70 per cent of the displaced population (IOM, January 2008). Thousands of women and childred have been killed, maimed or injured; a large number of children have lost one or both parents, while the violence has left a notably high number of widows (US SR, April 2008). Female heads of household, women and children show the highest indicators of socio-economic vulnerability amongst the displaced. Attaining employment has been even more difficult for women and widows, especially in increasingly conservative areas (IDP WG, 27 June 2008); a significant number of women have no sources of income (IDP WP, November 2008).
Economic hardship has taken its toll on displaced children. Reports note that children are increasingly forced to work to support themselves or their families. Internally displaced children live in substandard conditions, without proper access to education and health care services, and there is a lack of support available to children whith disabilities or suffering from trauma. Absenteeism from schools among IDP children is reportedly high due to financial difficulties and problems accessing and registering in schools. Schools also lack sufficient resources and staff to accommodate the influx of children, while IDPs in the north encounter difficulties finding Arabic-language schools (IDP WG, March 2008 and November 2008).
Sexual and gender-based violence, including against children, has been widespread. This has involved discrimination, intimidation, beatings, mutiliations and "honour killings" (UNAMI, March 2008). Among the displaced, early marriages, domestic violence and also prostitution, including of children, has been reported (IDP WG, June 2008; IDP WG, March 2008). Displaced women living in camp or camp-like situations are more likely to be exposed to sexual assault and abductions (IOM, 11 January 2008). The lack of access of children and pregnant women to primary health and nutritional support has led to increased morbidity as well as child and maternal mortality for displaced and non-displaced alike. Among the displaced, there has been a reported rise in the incidence of unattended births and miscarriages (IOM, 11 January 2008). The mental health of conflict victims including IDPs, and especially women and children, represents another major issue. In 2007, 70 per cent of displaced mothers consulted by IMC reported that their children suffered from psychosocial distress (IOM, 30 June 2008; IMC, January 2007).

The report notes that some 184,000 people are said to have returned to their homes as of September 2008 (167,000 IDPs, 17,000 EDPs); however, "these figures nevertheless represent less than six per cent of all IDPs in Iraq." The report reminds that both the United States government and the Iraqi government have insisted refugees should return home and that this is not what the international humanitarian community urges. "In contrast," the report explains, "members of the humanitarian community remain acutely concerned about the apparent manipulation for political purposes of the questions of returns of IDPs and refugees (NCCI, January 2008). The United Nations, including UNHCR, and NGOs have repeatedly warned of the dangers of premature return and the disastrous consequences for both the displaced and for the stability of Iraq (UNHCR, September 2008; RI, July 2008). Failure of the government to take heed of these warnings will affect sustainability of returns, and put at risk the fragile gains acquired to date. UNHCR does not encourage returns to Iraq at the moment, due to the fragile security situation, though they do provide some assistance including cash grants to those voluntarily returning (UNHCR, 23 September 2008)."

The report addresses secondary occupation which does include a refugees home being occupied by someone else. A program offers squatters on private property the US equivalent of $250 a month for half a year to assist in finding another home. Secondary occupation also includes the squatters who have taken over abandoned public properties. The report notes that al-Maliki's government is moving towards more evictions with "the highest reported cases of evictions" being in Baghdad and Basra.

Iraqis fleeing their country do not just go to Syria or Jordan. Some have settled in other areas such as Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Europe. On Lebanon,
Crosswalk notes:

Chicago Tribune reports that Iraqi Christians with enough means are fleeing to Lebanon, preferring the longer journey for the greater freedom at the end. Lebanon's population is 40 percent Christian - much greater than Syria or Turkey, where many Iraqi refugees go. Rev. Joseph Malkoum in Beirut says the number of refugees is only increasing. "There was a period when we felt the numbers were going down, but after the recent troubles in Mosul the movement is picking up again," said Malkoum, who holds a special mass every Sunday for Iraqi Chaldeans. "Five years from now there won't be any Christians left in Iraq. It's happening quietly but also very quickly," said retired Gen. Michel Kasdano, a researcher and spokesman at the Chaldean Archbishopric.

The United States, which instigated the illegal war, has been far from welcoming. It has allotted very few slots for Iraqi immigrants and, despite that, until this fiscal year, it never met the meager quotas set.
You can see [PDF format warning] the discrepancy by studying the UNHCR chart on the number of Iraqis they help apply to the US each month compared to the number of Iraqis accepted. Last week, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition) reported on NPR's Iraqi staffers who are applying for refugee status in the US including Ali Hamdani who will be moving to Syria while he waits to hear if the US will accept him. Since the start of the Iraq War, Hamdani has been "a translator for NPR, the New York Times and Times of London . . . But by training he is a medical doctor. . . . He hopes to get his medical specialization after he arrives in America." Hamdani explains, "Going to the State is a dream for everyone, but for an Iraqi person who's been trhough all of this I think it's not just a dream . . . it's just life. It's a chance to have a proper life, a real life."

Possibly, if granted refugee status, Hamadi's story will turn out differently than that of Muhammad Shumri.
Matthew Hay Brown concluded his Baltimore Sun series today with a look at refugees who made it to the US. Dr. Shumri, "48-year-old physician," and once "a high ranking official in the Iraqi Ministry of Health" who moved to the US. He explains, "I thought, 'I am a doctor, they know me, I work with them, I can get a job, they will help me. I didn't think I would have the same job. But maybe I would take a job as a physician or teach at a university. I ws shocked when I got here." Why was he shocked? Because like other Iraqi professionals, he's found that the US "bureaucracy . . . doesn't recognize their credentials." Dr. Shumri is now "a medical interpreter at Johns Hopkins Hospital" which does not pay enough to cover his living expenses. [C.I. note, all the more appalling when you consider that Johns Hopkins cheerleaded this illegal war. They'd prefer to pretend otherwise today but they actively encouraged their neocon staff to whore out the facility by cheerleading the impending war and continuing to do so in its early days. They were especially popular guests on PBS' NewsHour where they could advocate for destruction and killing as 'medical professionals'.] Dr. Zena Jalal worked at a Baghdad hospital. Here? Hay Brown explains, "A general practitioner in Iraq, Jalal is taking classes at Baltimore City Community College so she can work as a pharmacy technician while she studies for her licensing exam. Her 29-year-old sister, Sausan, a biologist, has found a job as a cashier, their widowed mother is not working." The mother was an attorney in Iraq and her deceased "husband was a cardiologist." May Jalal tells Hay Brown, "We used to live rich. We find it difficult to live in this situation."

In the second part of the series,
Matthew Hay Brown quoted Joost Hiltermann (International Crisis Group) explaining that the US was not doing enough despite claims (from the US State Dept) that they are: "The United States is responsible for this mess, frankly. It certainly was responsible for allowing the chaos that enveloped Iraq. It should therefore bear the responsibilities." The State Dept's James Foley offered excuses to Hay Brown.

In fairness, I'll note that Foley is new to the program, in fairness, and that he came on board right as the US was again missing the admittance target for the last fiscal year. The only year he's overseen was the 2008 fiscal year and the US did meet its target for admissions. In February,
US House Reps John Dingell and Alcee Hastings sent a letter to US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice: "While we commend you for your appointment of Ambassador James Foley as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, we remain concerned that not enough attention and resources have been focused on the situation deemed by many the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world. Most disconcerting is the fact that our government does not appear to have a long-term strategy to address this crisis." Dingell and Hastings can look at Matthew Hay Brown's three-part series and ask, "Was our letter even read?" The same problems remain.

Baltimore Sun sketches out the process Iraqis go through in attempting to be admitted to the US. Yesterday Matthew Hay Brown reported on Tina Raad who was working "with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad" until her family became concerned she was being targeted for collaboration. Tina Raad made it to the US and is the coordinator for the List Project To Resettle Iraqi Allies. The List Project explains:

The List Project's mission is to help these Iraqi allies get to the United States and build a life once they arrive. In this section, you can explore the genesis of the crisis, its key players and statistics, statements from leaders on both sides of the aisle, historical precedents for major resettlement action, Iraqis explaining their situation in their own words and other frequently asked questions. The List Project also maintains a growing library of important documents relating to the crisis and a news page/blog with daily updates about the crisis and the Project.

Turning to Iraq,
CNN reported this morning, "Muntadhir Al-Zaidi was due to go on trial Wednesday, but the Criminal Court postponed it pending an appeal filed by his lawyers with the Federal Court of Appeal, a spoekseman for the Supreme Judicial Council, Abdul Sattar Bayrakdar, said. . . . Al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at Bush two weeks ago during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad." Al Jazeera adds, "His lawyer, Dhiya al-Saadi, lodged a request for the trial to be cancelled on the grounds that court action would breach al-Zaidi's constitutional right to freedom of expression." al-Saadi is quoted stating, "Our appeal is based on the fact that Zaidi simply expressed his rejection of the occupation and the policy of repression against Iraqis. Zaidi's action falls within the framework of freedom of expression." AGI declares that the Central Criminal Court is for terrorism cases and that al-Zaidi's attorneys are attempting to have the case moved to another court. Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) quote Muntader's brother Thigram al-Zaidi stating, "They wanted to have his trial . . . before the New Year and Bush's last day in the White House. That is what those politicians wanted. Thank God the judge was neutral." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) offers this perspective, "Thousands of people have rallied across Iraq to call for Mr Zaidi's release, while his shoe-throwing antics generated much praise across the Arab world. The incident even inspired several online shoe games. Speaking to The Times today, Mr al-Zaidi's family said that they were proud of his action, which has turned his brother, Maithm al-Zaid, a 28-year-old law student, into a mini celebrity in Baghdad."

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, the Green Zone came under fire. This as KUNA notes the US military plans a ceremony on Thursday to "handover . . . the International Zone (Green Zone) to the Iraqi authroities." Yesterday's snapshot noted, "Over the weekend Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the plans to turn Diyala Province over to Iraqis on January 1st where the big news was that despite the November 1st headlines of Baghdad taking over the 'Awakening' Councils, approximately half the members are still under US control." Today the US military announces January 1st Iraq "will take over control of the Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces in four key provinces across the country -- including Diyala, one of the most diverse provinces, where al-Qaeda in Iraq once terrorized and intimidated local residents. In all, 76 percent of the nation's SoI members will be under Iraqi government responsibility by New Year's Day." Considering that the spin at the start of November was that the handover was taking place then, maybe it still not have taken place is not 'progress'? And if the stated prediction comes true, that means all these months later, 24% will still not be under Iraqi control.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Ayadhiyah "suicide car bomber" who took his/her own life and left four police officers wounded.


Hussien Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul today (and one shot dead yesterday). Reuters notes 1 "civilian" shot dead in Mosul and 1 "ribal leader" shot dead in Jalawla.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Provincial elections in Iraq (in most of Iraq) are currently scheduled for January 31st. Today the United Nations announced, "A new United Nations-supported blog site just launced in Baghdad is the latest initiative to engage voters in the nascent democracy and motivate them to go to the polls on 31 January 2009 during the country's provincial elections. The blog, called '
Vote for Iraq', was launched with the support of the UN-led International Election Assistance Team (IEAT)." Elections -- if they take place -- will be closely watched for signals of power shifts. AFP reports that Barham Saleh (Deputy Prime Minister) is sounding alarms of a coming "Arab-Kurdish conflict": "There are vicisous and dangerous attempts to convert the political and economic problems in Baghdad on a number of issues to an Arab-Kurdish conflict." Saleh is a Kurd.

Deng Shasha (Xinhau) reports that Hussein al-Shahristani, Minister of Oil, declared today that a "second licensing round" will take place tomorrow on "ten oil fields". al-Shahristani was speaking on Iraqia TV and declared there would be a December 31st press conference in which he would announce the spoils of war now up for grabs. Gulf Times states, "Iraq has invited international oil companies which haven't been qualified yet by the country's oil ministry to take part in tomorrow's announcement of the second round of tenders to develop its vast oil and gas fields, a senior ministry official has said."While the tag sales continues, Iraq's assets are currently safe from seizure by foreign creditors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released "Foreign Minister's Statement in Security Council on Ending the Mandate of the Multinational Forces" yesterday:The UN Security Council voted unanimously for adopting a resolution to take Iraq out of Chapter VII and to terminate the mandate of the multinational forces in Iraq. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari gave a speech in the Council and stated that Iraq has laid the foundations for stability and democracy since 2003.The minister expressed the gratitude of the Iraqi Government to the members of the Security Council for the continued support for Iraq and its people, adding that Iraq has taken advanced steps in the process of national reconciliation, security and stability in the country.The new resolution No. 1859 contains the protection of the Development Fund for Iraq and other Iraqi funds and stresses Iraq's obligations under Security Council resolutions. That wasn't the only statement the ministry released. In protest of the current slaughter in Gaza, the Ministry released "Foreign Ministry Condemns Israeli Brutal Aggression on Palestinians:"The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Iraq condemns the Israeli brutal attack against Palestinians that caused many civilian casualties. The act of the Israeli authorities is incompatible with basic international human law and human rights.The Foreign Ministry calls for the United Nations, Arab League, other organizations and the International and Human institutes to stop this aggression. We call for the Palestinian parties to join forces with all good people in the world to protect the rights and interests of the Palestinians and enable them to practice their legal rights according to International Law.
And, as
Betty noted last night, wowOwow was among the few to pick up on the Washington Post's Amit R. Paley and Andrea Bruce exploration of female mutiliation in Iraq. Andrea Bruce's photos are here and Amit R. Paley's text report is here. From wowOwow's "Female Circumcision Rampant in Kurdistan, Women's Groups Don't Know Why:"The group Stop FGM in Kurdistan notes that in 2005, cutting rates of at least 60 percent were reported in some areas of the region."The practice has a tremendous cost: Many girls bleed to death or die of infection. Most are traumatized. Those who survive can suffer adverse health effects during marriage and pregnancy. Women and girls are enclosed by a wall of silence," according to Stop FGM. "Experts agree that a strict taboo prevents them from speaking about their experiences -- which is all the same a main factor for the continuance of the practice."The Kurdish parliament won't outlaw the practice -- even though this region is considered more progressive than the rest of Iraq. But one female lawmaker and doctor last month told AFP that parliament was preparing to outlaw female circumcision. The government is expected to debate the bills in the new year.

In non-Iraq news,
John Walsh (CounterPunch) explores the recent US election and observes:

The great fear among the Naderites was that without the help of the GPUS, Nader could not get on the ballot in a sufficient number of states since the GPUS already had ballot access in many places due to the work of many at the grass roots (this author included) . So how did the election work out? The statistics are quite revealing. Starting from scratch and raising money as he went, Nader got on the ballot in 45 states plus DC. McKinney using the Green "infrastructure" got on the ballot in only 32 states, less than Barr for the Libertarians (45 states) or Baldwin and the Constitutionalists (37 states). Nader did better on his own with his own activist following than did the Greens. In fact he got on the ballot in more states than he did in 2000 when he was the GPUS nominee. If one looks at fundraising the contrast is just as stark, with Nader raising $4,496,180 and McKinney a skimpy $240,130 which is not even sufficient for a decent Congressional campaign. And the popular vote among third party candidates was: 736,804 for Nader, 524,524 for Barr, 196,461 for Baldwin and 161,195 for McKinney. These numbers alone are testimony to the abject failure of the GPUS as an electoral force.
But the behavior of the GPUS toward McKinney was downright insulting. The insult to McKinney came in two ways. First of all, DemoGreens went over to Obama, giving Cynthia a pat on the head as they went. A good example is Green guru Ted Glick who proclaimed that, although he "supported" McKinney, he hoped Obama would win and was contributing to the Obama campaign, said dollar contribution being a first for him. What kind of party i turns on its own candidate? But the insult came in another way. Cynthia McKinney took many extraordinarily courageous positions in Congress over the years. She was an outstanding leader there on issues of peace and justice. But this record was always secondary in the campaign that the GPUS ran. She was first and foremost a black woman candidate running with another minority female candidate. Now that in itself is a very good thing, although Obama upstaged them with this kind of Identity Politics. But what about McKinney's other achievements? Most notably she is the first major Democratic politician and the first Congressperson to jump ship on the Democrat Party. Of course the DemoGreens wanted no such cutting edge claim to a GPUS campaign. So the GPUS was happy to see the color of McKinney's skin as more important than the content of her character! This is the road down which "gonadal politics" leads us. (It is also hard to comprehend why Ralph Nader, gets no credit from the Gonadal Politicians for being an Arab American, perhaps the group suffering most discrimination these days.)

Martha and Shirley covered books for the year and the community choices were "Janis Ian's Society's Child: My Autobiography. It can be purchased at Amazon where it's currently selling for $16.98 ($26.95 list price). . . . David Bacon's Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press)" and Paul Street's Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.

matthew hay brownthe baltimore sun
lourdes garcia-navarromorning edition
ned parker
the los angeles timessaif hameedraheem salman
deborah haynes
mcclatchy newspapers
deng shasha
the washington postamit r. paleyandrea bruce
john walsh
booksjanis iansociety's child
david bacon
paul street
thomas friedman is a great man