Monday, February 18, 2013

Talking Iraq

Monday.  President's Day.  And we're going to talk Iraq.  This is an Iraq conversation I had with C.I. tonight.

Okay, first question is what's going on with Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq?  You've written about how he has matured and presents himself as a leader more and more.  Eli Sugarman and Omar al-Nidawi have an article about Moqtada for Foreign Policy, about the maturity and the leadership and they don't seem to buy the notion of a change and feel he's faking.

C.I.:  I have no idea if he's faking or not.  I believe I've noted that in the past when I've written about the  issue -- that I have no way to determine whether he's faking or not.  I go by his words and his actions.  If someone has a keyhole view into the inner Moqtada, they should certainly use it, but I don't.

There's a Sadr MP that writes though.

C.I.: He's written for years now, e-mailed the site.  He didn't feel Moqtada was getting his proper due from me.  Like anyone who writes with a complaint, I do think about it.  And I did think about all the e-mails.  Because he's written regularly for years now.  He's very loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and we should all be so lucky to have someone that loyal to us but it didn't change my opinion of Moqtada.  And when he returns to Iraq in 2010, check the archives, I'm not praising him.  I'm actually mocking him more than ever.  And I think he made himself a joke.  I think he did so through most of 2011.  But there was a change.  He's showing more maturity than any other Shi'ite political leader at present.

Give us an example.

C.I.: Okay, here's one that didn't get play in the US, thankfully.  At The Common Ills, I called out Nouri's State of Law for their attacks on Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi last week.  al-Nujaifi is a Sunni and a member of Iraqiya  -- Nouri's big rival in elections.  al-Nujaifi was in Qatar and gave an interview.  There were not great remarks about Nouri in that interview, to put it mildly.  But State of Law began screaming and hissing treason and it was just so ridiculous.  There are real problems in Iraq.  What a politician says in an interview -- whether you agree with what's said or what's not -- really isn't an issue.  Moqtada?  They tried to trap him, State of Law.  Hoping to drive a wedge between Iraqiya and Moqtada.  Instead, Moqtada's slate issued a statement that basically went, 'Why should we respond to something someone else said in an interview?'  And that was mature.  The Iraqi people are tired of not seeing any improvement in their lives and they're also tired of the bickering politicians.  State of Law was trying to cast it into a Sunni versus Shi'ite issue and thought they had cornered Moqtada so he'd have to make a statement.  He made one but he didn't play into their game.  It was very smart on Moqtada al-Sadr's part.

Should Moqtada be the new leader of Iraq?

C.I.: That's for Iraqis to decide.  Unfortunately, in March 2010, they voted, they made a decision and it wasn't Nouri.  But the White House backed Nouri and that's how he has a second term now.  He was not the choice of the people and to give him a second term, the votes and the Constitution had to be ignored.

They got around it with the Erbil Agreement, right?

C.I.: Right.  The US went to the Kurds and other blocs with the argument, "Look, it's eight months since the election, Nouri's refusing to step down, he can probably go another eight months at least, if you want to see Iraq move forward, if you want the members of Parliament to be seated, why don't you just sign this contract giving him a second term and then he'll give you what you want. Come on, be the bigger person, for the good of Iraq, let's move things forward."

And that argument sadly worked.

C.I.: It very sadly worked.  Nouri trashed the agreement immediately.  The US refused to back it despite promising the blocs that it was binding and that they would back it.

If Nouri had been the people's choice?

C.I.: Then he'd be the people's choice.  But he wasn't and he's as illegitimate as Bully Boy Bush was when the Supreme Court gave him the White House in 2000.

Different question.  Today was not a usual day for you and what was that like?  Usually, it's get out of bed, run or work out, then log onto the computer and do two entries at The Common Ills, then off to speak or off to a Congressional hearing, etc., etc.

C.I.: I woke up at five -- in my own bed, how great was that -- worked out for two hours -- stair master and treadmill -- hopped in the pool, swam for a bit, ate some breakfast while reading 3 books and four screenplays --

You're a speed reader.

C.I.: I am a speed reader.

Wally talks about how you all were visiting a friend at a TV network when a Supreme Court decision came down and how everyone was drafted into going over it.  And you were done with the majority opinion and the dissents while everyone else was about half-way through one.

C.I.: I am a speed reader.

So what happened after you read today?

C.I.:  Returned calls on the screenplay and on two books -- I read one book for enjoyment, the other two are being put out by a friend's publishing company and he wanted feedback on the books and --

And the feedback?

C.I.: One needs to clarify a basic point in the first three pages.  The other's not ready to publish and needs a major revision.  And I could very well be wrong on both but friends who ask for input know that I give honest input.  So then I went through the phone messages and turned on a phone -- I'd let the service pick up the landlines and had all the cells turned off -- and quickly returned calls.  On the twelth call, a friend with NBC had the MSNBC special that was airing later and so I popped over to his place to watch it.

And then wrote "A tale of two Huffingtons?"

C.I.:  And then wrote "A tale of two Huffingtons?"

I had just finished reading that about 30 minutes before the special started.  I wasn't planning on watching it but it sounded like a train wreck.  So we watched about 40 minutes until Elaine said --

C.I.: Turn it off, I can't stand the xenophobia.

That's almost it word for word.

C.I.: Elaine and I have been friends for decades.  And the special was very xenophobic which is something she's going to pick up on immediately.

I have one wild card question.  Since this is about Iraq, I asked for the right to ask a question about any non-Iraq topic and you'd answer it and I'm choosing, as I'm sure you know, based on something that I hope will pull more eyeballs to this discussion on Iraq.  So here's the question, Shirley MacLaine's daughter --

C.I.: You can ask any question but please don't mention the name of the book.

Okay.  Shirley MacLaine's daughter has a book out about her.  It's not a nice book.  I want your thoughts on it because you know Shirley very well and also because two years ago -- two years! -- back in April 2011, you and Ava reviewed Shirley's latest book and that piece ended with : "By contrast, Shirley offers restraint.  And the two things she doesn't mention in her book? Brother Warren Beatty or daughter Sachi Parker."  That's sort of interesting in light of the tell-all.

C.I.: Shirley's book, I'm Over All Of That and Other Confessions, was a great book.  But read it today and see if you don't feel that there's a subtext regarding a child who doesn't want to hear.  That stood out to us two years ago.   Sachi is Shirley's daughter. The daughter of a 78-year-old woman.  Why publish now?  It would have made a bigger splash if it were published immediately after Shirley passed away.  It also wouldn't have inflicted cruelty.  And I believe the book is cruel and hurtful -- I haven't read it, I've tried to avoid it.  My one question to people who were reading it was, "Is she still whining about college?"  Yes, she is.  Shirley wouldn't pay for college.  Why?  Who cares?  I went off to college, Elaine was there, she knows this story, and thought I'd be taking classes.  But I was very vocal on what my major would be and my parents didn't apparently believe me.  As the start of the semester approached and they were unable to convince me to change my major, they announced that they wouldn't pay for it if I didn't change my major.  I didn't change my major.  I got a scholarship and grants and I worked multiple jobs.  My parents had money.  They wanted me to major in one thing, I wasn't interested in it.  Their money, they can do what they want with it.  I've never thought, "Oh, they're evil!"  It wasn't my money.  When I learned what had happened my immediate focus was on securing funds, once I'd done that, I was too busy to moan or whine.  Life was what it was.  I don't blame them to this day.  I think my college experience was much more educational because I did have to work and take classes those first years.  So my point here is Shirley stated she didn't want to raise a Hollywood brat.  She stated that repeatedly throughout the years.  When Sachi wanted to go to college, Shirley thought it was a good idea and hoped Sachi could pull it off.  Instead, Sachi gave up because Mommy wouldn't pay the bills.  She could have taken out loans if she didn't qualify for scholarships or grants.  She also has an uncle she could have asked for money if she was just desperate for a hand out.  Sachi got the mother she got.  Shirley's very famous and Shirley believes that life is its own teacher.  But Sachi felt that because of who her mother was, she should get this and that and everything else.  If Sachi were my daughter, I would've paid for her college.  I have no problem with that and had no problem with my own children and college.  But I'm not the mother she got.  For a grown woman, and Sachi's in her 50s now, not to understand her mother and her mother's outlook on life is rather sad.  The book itself?  From what I'm told, she's attempting to ridicule Shirley.  That's not smart.

I read the book.

C.I.: Poor you.

One section anyway.  She writes that her mother tried to get her a job as her daughter in a film but then worked overtime to make sure she didn't get the job.  And she finds this out later from a friend of her mother's who explains that this is how Shirley is and she screwed Marion Ross out of an Academy Award nomination for Evening Star by having Marion's big scene killed.

C.I.: I can't speak to a role Sachi was up for because I don't know anything about that.  In terms of Marion Ross, she had a showy scene that was cut because it took the film into a different direction.  Would she have won an Academy Award?  Or even been nominated?  I can't see how.  Marion Ross' biggest weakness has always been her voice.  In a dramatic scene, especially, it's all over the map.  She's someone who seriously needed vocal training.  I don't see a push for a Ross nomination.  And what year are we talking?  Evening Star was 1996, I believe.  If that's correct, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress?  There was no room for Marion Ross.  Juliette Binoche had to be nominated both for her performance and for the reception to The English Patient.  Joan Allen reached new heights with The Crucible.  Lauren Bacall was simply amazing in The Mirror Has Two Faces.  Ditto Barbara Hershey and The Portrait Of A Lady .  Marianne Jean-Baptiste was the glue holding Secrets and Lies together.  I don't see how any of those actresses falls off the nominee list for Marion Ross overplaying a maid in what was a really bad TV movie that was wrongly shown on the big screen.  And that's the other thing, that film was so awful that no one was going to be nominated.  The minute you recast the role of Patsy, you destroy any connection the two films might have.  Aurora ends Terms of Endearment having grown, she's different than she was at the start of the film.  So the Aurora you encounter in the sequel should be different.  She wasn't.  That was a huge mistake as well.  Even if the script needed her to be the same, it should have allowed Aurora to have the knowledge that what she was doing was wrong -- or what was the point of Emma dying?  But once you put a new actress on the screen as Patsy, no.  That's not going to be accepted.  Especially not a British actress who's doing a very broad caricature of a woman from Texas.   It was poorly written and badly directed.  The only reason to watch was Shirley and Jack Nicholson.  Oh, sorry one more thing, before someone says, "Well she got a Golden Globe nomination!"  Yes, Marion Ross did.  But the Golden Globes are a joke and always have been.  More to the point, to include Marion Ross, they had to list six nominees.  The Academy only has five -- as did the Globes the year before they nominated Ross and the year after.  It would appear she had a helper. But with that scene or without she would not have been nominated.  Her voice is ridiculous and always has been.  You only have to catch her on Sally Field's Brothers and Sisters to grasp just how untrained that voice is and how unaware Ross is as an actress.  She should stick to TV sitcoms.  By toning down her voice somewhat for That 70s Show, she almost provided a different performance than what she always does.

Okay, thank you for that.  So you don't like the book.

C.I.: I've heard of it, I haven't read it.

And you think, if the book needed to be written, it should have been published after Shirley MacLaine passed away.

C.I.: Yes.  It would have made more money that way too.  A month after Shirley's dead?  You're going to have various clip jobs rushed out.  And for Sachi, the daughter, to have a book out then?  It would have sold like crazy.  Instead, this one's not doing so well.  The reason to publish it now?  Clearly Sachi wants a fight with her mother.  To clear the air?  Maybe.  To say f you in public?  Maybe.  I don't know why she did it but it wasn't smart.  It wasn't smart for family reasons and it wasn't smart for financial reasons.  Shirley would probably add it wasn't smart for karma reasons.  Does it hurt Shirley?  On a personal level, yes, that's her daughter cashing in on her -- and let's be clear that Sachi could have written a book that had nothing to do with her mother.  But if, for example, she wanted to write about the oceans or a novel, she probably wouldn't have been paired with a someone who was a professional writer with over 20 years of experience and credits.  I'm reminded of Patti Davis.  I never cared for her and avoided her at all costs.  People would insist that she was great and she didn't like her parents too!  That actually didn't endear her to me.  I loathed Ronald Reagan.  I wasn't that crazy about Nancy.  But that Patti would tell these awful, horrible stories about her mother?  I didn't find it funny.  It actually played out like she was jealous of Mommy.  I wasn't at all surprised that, later in life, she recanted her past.  She was lucky because her mother was still alive.  I don't know that Shirley will be alive when Sachi grasps the pain she's inflicted.  In part because Sachi's never struck me as all that bright.  The short story is, Sachi always wanted attention and now she's finally getting it. She'll claim it's for something she did.  It's not. It's for being Shirley's daughter and it's for letting a man write the book she didn't have the talent to write herself.  So at the end of the day, Shirley's famous for all the things she's done, writing books, activism, being an acclaimed and award winning actress, her dancing, her singing, etc.  And Sachi?  She's known because Shirley is her mother.

Thank you.  What is the big thing in Iraq right now to watch?

C.I.: Nouri doesn't like the protests.  He used the military to keep Anbar citizens out of Baghdad last week.  He's using the military now in Diyala Province to spy on the protesters.  He's also trying to intimidate tribal leaders in Anbar and Diyala.  So one thing to watch for is how that impacts -- if it does -- the ongoing protests.

Monday was day sixty.

C.I.: That's what's been reported.  I haven't added up the days myself.  We're getting closer to February 25th which is an important day in modern Iraq so I would say watch the protests -- especially on Friday -- and see what happens there.

Okay, thank you.   Jim wanted me to mention that there's a huge response to the piece you and Ava just wrote for Third "TV: First Among All Whiners"  and I'll note that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Serial Cheaters" went up tonight.