I mentioned I liked Winona Ryder and both KeShawn and Susan e-mailed to tell me there was another film Netflix had starring Winona that you can stream. It's called "The Darwin Awards." It stars Winona and Joseph Fiennes. Fiennes is a police officer who is great at profiling killers and is about to haul int he criminal (he's already got the handcuffs out) when he sees blood and passes out. This is caught on camera by a student making a documentary film about Fiennes. (The student stays with him the whole movie.) And he gets fired.
He needs money and needs it quickly and latches on the idea of doing profiling for an insurance company. He tells them he can save the company money by creating a profile of whom they shouldn't insure. There's a way he convinces the guy to hire him that I'll let you see the movie for. But he gets the job for four weeks to prove he can save the company money. For those four weeks, he's teamed with an investigator (Winona) and they (and the student documenting them) go around the country investigating cases.
It's a really good movie. It's dark, but if's funny. Ty Burrell is in it and Chris Penn, and Juliette Lewis, Nora Dunne, Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife"), David Arquette and a lot of others.
There's comedy, danger and love. It's a really good film. Finn Taylor is the director and writer.
Oh, Metallica's in it. They have a concert going on in one part of the film and bring someone onstage at another concert later in the film.
Winona's really good in it and has just the right bemusement with Finnes. He's a worrier and one of his things is always worrying about falling in the shower. So at a hotel, he has this whole bungie thing hooked up so he won't fall but it goes wrong and the student with the camera won't help him and he's now turned upside down. Winona shows up at this point and he wants her to help him. She could be grossed out. Or she could be mean. Instead, she's just bemused and it really works for the character.
Friday, March 30, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, camp cheerleaders try to find "success," Iraqis continue to suffer, US not so quick to sell Iraq high-tech enemy, the US Congress talks military sexual traum and military suicides, and more.
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) wants you to know that, as Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star, that we're all winners. Probably Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin were closer to the truth with, "We're all dreamers, we're all whores" ("This Town," first appears on the Go-Gos' Beauty and the Beat). Journalists are supposed to be critical thinkers not advance men for the company. The Arab League Summit was only a success if we're all toddlers and everyone gets a trophy for showing up. Or if you're stupid enough to think something's true just because a two-bit thug like Nouri al-Maliki says it is.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story." That's reality.
Who's the liar pimping success? Why it's not just Nouri al-Maliki, it's Jane Arraf and Prashant Rao's Twitter buddy, the idiot Reider Visser. A fool not qualified to discuss legalities of the Erbil Agreement as evidenced by his dime store 'legal' 'analysis' that makes Elle Woods look, by comparison, like a legal giant along the lines of Thurgood Marshall. And of course Jane and Prashant and the others weren't trained in the law either so they idiotically retweet Reider's ignorance there by multiplying it as well as endorsing it. Reider's a Nouri al-Maliki groupie so he's hardly an impartial voice. He's also buddies with trash Nir Rosen. Though Nir's more famous right now for turning over the names of Western reporters to the Syrian government (that's what led to the recent charges that he was a spy), he of course became infamous for presenting the 'legal' 'analysis' that Lara Logan 'had it coming.' Nir really wasn't qualified for anything other than blowhard status but the Circle Jerk -- the same one that Jane and Prahsant employ on Reider's behalf -- ensured that a man was elevated and it didn't matter that he pisses on women or anything else. It's really past time that so-called professional journalists started examing their own ethics. At best, Reider is nothing but a whore for Nouri. There's no reason to treat him as impartial. There's no reason to treat his 'legal' renderings as worth passing on.
And to make his lack of value clear, he's pronounced the summit "a landmark achievement." (You sort of picture him panting that as he pulls on himself for a minute and ten seconds.) (Though I may be implying more endurance than he actually has.)
Only a whore for Nouri would pronounce the summit "a landmark achievement." It's cute the way he and Jane Arraf and Prashant Rao and the rest ignore the assault on the Communist Party in Baghdad this week. That took place in Baghdad. That took place as supposedly part of 'security sweep' on the neighborhood for the summit. 12 people were arrested and forced to sign papers they hadn't read. And that's not news? But what a little pig and prig named Reider Viseer thinks is supposed to carry weight?
Because like the 'professional journalists,' he ignores what was done to the Communist Party this week. It's really interesting and illuminating to see what gets covered and what gets ignored and, excuse the hell out of me, but let's also point that when we spent a week here covering the assault on Iraqi youth, Prashant, Jane and their beloved Reider couldn't be bothered with the story.
I guess it's easy to judge Iraq a success when you ignore all the people who suffer and die. I guess it's real damn easy -- real damn easy to lie.
And to whine. I seem to remember these 'professional journalists' and their whines about it took two hours or four hours or they didn't have phone service wah, wah, wah. Did any of those self-obsessed fools stop to write one damn article about the Iraqi journalists who were denied the right to cover the summit?
Did they note that printing presses were down?
Did they mention that outlets like Dar Addustour were basically forced into a holiday for the entire summit?
No, they didn't. But they did let you know that, golly, they ate their breakfast and it was digesting but now it was two hours later and their tummies were rumbling and goodness knows the bus they were on should be moving towards food a whole lot faster.
Everyone pimping the damn lie that the summit was a success should be ashamed of themselves. Not Reider Visser -- his kind is immune to shame. But so-called 'professional journalists,' I don't know what the hell you think you did this week but most of you didn't do reporting.
Not only did you ignore the threats to the Iraqi people, you ignored the staples you usually cover. Radical cleric and online tween advisor Moqtada al-Sadr takes questions from his followers and posts answers. These are usually the 'quotes' of Moqtada's that you see in the press. They love to cover this -- often forgetting to note it was written and it's an online exchange -- but they love to cover it. Strangely, they ignored what he said this week.
He said the US citizen that was released was a soldier. We're talking about Randy Michael Hills. He was in the news March 17th and 18th. The most fitting headline of all the coverage went was on Jack Healy's New York Times article: "Militans Free American No One Knew Was Missing." Randy Michael Hills, a 59-year-old American, former US military or current US military (take your pick) was released by forces once attached to Moqtada al-Sadr who explained that they had held the man for nine months (that he was held for nine months was confirmed by Victoria Nuland in a US State Dept press briefing).
Maha al-Douri, a lawmaker and a member of the al-Sadr movement, said Michael had been in captivity for nine months. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said officials were working "to verify the information regarding the alleged U.S. captive." A Pentagon official said the Defense Department is also looking into the reports, but added that to the best of defense officials' knowledge, no active duty military person has been missing in Iraq. The website of the Defense Prisoner Of War/ Missing Personnel Office on Saturday showed three Defense Department contractors as still missing from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael was not among them.
Al Mada's coverage made clear that the Sadr brigade considers him a soldier and states they captured a US soldier (not contractor) and they state he took part in the 2004 attack on Najaf and Sadr City as well as 2008 attacks in southern and Central Iraq -- what is known as the Charge of the Knights -- that begins March 25th and is a joint US-Iraq operation targeting Moqtada's forces. And this week, Moqtada answered a question about this released hostage and again stated he was US military, not former military, not a contractor. He may or may not be telling the truth or he may be telling what he thinks is the truth and be mistaken. But Moqtada al-Sadr does know the difference between a US soldier and a contractor. It's interesting that no one wanted to quote Moqtada this week. They usually break their necks trying to follow Moqtada. (Moqtada was a press created 'political figure.' Had it not been for the international press -- as well as Paul Bremer's demonization of Moqtada throughout 2004 -- he would not be the celebrity and power player he is today.)
There are many other stories that they ignored. I think they were highly foolish to ignore KRG President Massoud Barzani but there's a distaste for him among a certain element in the US press.
The summit was a failure and maybe pretending otherwise allows some people -- including those who didn't file a thing until after the summit -- to pretend that they weren't failures as well. But they were.
Some of the idiots want to tell you that the number of Arab heads of states who did not attend doesn't matter and that you should look at the ones who attended and decided to support Iraq.
That insanity (from Reider among others) comes from extreme whoring. It's the after effects of some sort of veneral mental disease turning them all into some sort of modern day Oswald Alving. Clearly Reider has not only never planned a large, successful function, he's never planned anything. It was not the "Iraq League." It was a summit for the Arab League. About half sent heads of state. That had little to do with Iraq and more to do with attempting to honor the organization. It was a failure. Iraq's neighbors are probably laughing at the turnout. They're surely laughing at the idiot claims Nouri made and at his repeated attempts to present himself as someone who has battled 'terrorism' and brought about 'peace.' That wasn't his only bone-head move. Youssef Hamza (The National) observes that, "Iraq's Shiit prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, may have stunned his Arab guests when he told them his government's handling of Iraq's sectarian conflict 'can be an example to follow in other Arab Nations'."
Again, as Gulf News pointed out, "In addition, the idea that fortified areas such as the Green Zone can exist is also not the solution. As a matter of fact, the very existence of such isolated and protected enclaves proves that there is much to be done to ensure stability and peace."
To hold the disappointing summit, Baghdad had to go into lockdown. Airline traffic had to stop. Barricades had to go back up throughout Baghdad. A national holiday had to be declared for the week. Over 100,000 extra security forces had to be deployed. Supposedly a large amount of money was spent on armored vehicles for these forces -- these vehicles came from Jordan and the fact that the order was last minute and had to be rushed significantly increased the cost. If the Parliament were to explore that, people might question the planning and the vast cost overruns. Whether it's half-a-billion that was spent on the summit or a billion, that was money that has not been spent on the Iraqi people. And how the hell does that make for a success? We're not that many months away from the regular cholera outbreaks in Iraq. The main reason these happen every year is due to the fact that potable water isn't readily available. (Potable water is water that is safe to drink as is -- no boiling of the water is necessary nor purification tablets.)
UPI reports that, "Iraq is acquiring an array of missiles and other sophisticated systems for the 36 Lockheed Martin F-16s it's buying to build an air force but Washington is reluctant to provide Baghdad with the most advanced U.S. weapons." Somewhere Reider's Tweeting: "Landmark achievement" -- with Prashant and Jane rushing to retweet. And Reider's insisting that it's an achievement because, in 2002, the US wasn't selling Iraq F-16s!!!!!!
Al Mada noted yesterday morning that the Iraqi public and Parliament would be judging the summit a success or not based upon whether the leaders turned out for the summit. On that scale, it wasn't a success. In other words, attendence needs improvement and absences hinder progress. In addition to snubs and rebukes, Liz Sly, Aziz Alwan and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) also note, "The blast at the Iranian Embassy undermined the government's boasts that it had managed to pull off the summit without incident, although it would have gone unheard in the conference room deep inside the vast palace. Zebari and Elaraby both seemed surprised when asked about it by a journalist." Not a success. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) points out, "It spent almost $1 billion on preparations that included unprecedented security measures -- jamming cellphone networks and mobilizing 100,000 security-force members -- and rolling out a catered menu for dignitaries that featured a dessert of 24-carat-gold-laced dates."
Putting on the dog for visitors while the people went without?
One's left to wonder how Jane and the gang would cover Marie Antoinette? "A success by any standards. Today, October 16, 1793, the one-time Dauphine of France was beheaded via the guillotine . . . so that the many admirers throughout the land might have not just a corpse to remember her by but a corpse and a head! And La Veuve Capet looked simply gorgeous clad in a simple white shift as she approached the guillotine clearly having followed a strict diet in the last weeks allowing her to show off a sleaker and slimmer figure."
From the failed leadership of Nouri to the failed leadership of Tony. One time British prime minister and Bush family pet, Tony "The Poodle" Blair barged back into the news cycle. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports that yesterday Clare Short accused Blair of distorting reality in order to start the Iraq War. Specifically, he lied when he asserted the French would nix any attempt at a second resolution from the UN Security Council.
Backing up. The UN authorized weapons inspectors to go into Iraq. The UN did not authorize the war. Many citizens of the US and UK felt their rulers (Bully Boy Bush and Toy Poodle Tony) were committed to and, in fact, required to get a second resolution from the UN Security Council if war was the next step.
Clare Short was a Labour MP serving in Blair's Cabinet in the lead up to the Iraq War. Richard Norton-Taylor reports Short told an international tribunal yesterday that Tony Blair deliberately distorted the French government's attitude towards a second resolution. Short states (this is correct) that Blair maintained that the French would veto any attempt at a second resolution. (This is correct? The second resolution was established in the Iraq Inquiry. We pointed this out when the Inquiry completed their public testimony. We also noted that based on the public testimony and documents, Blair was not the passive one led by the genius Bush but, in fact, the one steering Bush through technical waters.) From Norton-Taylor's article:
The Foreign Office is trying to overturn a decision by Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, to disclose records of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush about the UN and the French position, days before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Disclosing that the evidence was "fantastically important for the people of Britain and the historical record", Short told the tribunal. The tribunal heard that Blair claimed that in a television interview on 10 March 2003, the French president, Jacques Chirac, said France would veto any new UN resolution backing war. This enabled Blair to argue before his cabinet, parliament and the British public that the UK could go to war with no further UN backing because of French opposition. The tribunal heard on Thursday that what Chirac actually said was that France would reject a new pro-war resolution at that particular moment since the UN weapons inspectors had not been given enough time to carry out their mission in Iraq.
In the June 29, 2010 snapshot, we addressed the resolution at length as a result of the British Ambassador to France (2001 - 2007) John Holmes' testimony to the Iraq Inquiry. A second resolution was not desired by the US or the UK. It would hem them in. Holmes testified as to the French government's position and to being baffled that Jeremy Greenstock was told by Blair that he could not ask the French government what their position on UN resolutions were. This was during the exchange with Committee Member Roderic Lyne. From that exchange, we'll note this:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: If the second resolution had contained a longer deadline for Iraqi compliance, do you think that France would have considered supporting it?
Ambassador John Holmes: I think it is possible because that's what essentially they were suggesting. They were suggesting -- they didn't like the six tests or whatever they were called, but they said "If you give -- if you put in a period" -- I think 120 days was the period they wanted -- "for the inspectors to operate, so they can do their job properly without being put against impossible deadlines, then that's something we could contemplate", but of course, they were still wanting to say that-that a second resolution of that kind would also not have any automatic trigger in it. You would still need to come back at the end of that, the Security Council would need to come back at the end of that, and take a view on what the inspectors were saying to them. So you know, at that stage, you were into third resolution territory. So that is a reason why we weren't particularly attracted, perhaps, to that route, but in any case in those timescales it was simply not available.
Both Blair and Jack Straw misled the British people and, later, the Iraq Inquiry. This might be further underscored if the conversation between Bush and Blair was released (that Short was giving testimony on). Joel Shenton (Public Service) explains, "The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is fighting calls to release details of a 2003 phone call between Tony Blair and George Bush which was made just seven days before the Iraq War began."
Ed Miliband was facing renewed criticism of his leadership of the Labour party after George Galloway swept back into parliament, achieving one of the greatest byelection upsets in recent history.
As Miliband said he would learn the lessons from the defeat in Bradford West, the shadow public health minister, Diane Abbott, said Labour had underestimated the popularity of Galloway and the Iraq war remained "unforgotten and unforgiven".
Now we're dropping back to Wednesday afternoon to note military sexual assault and suicides. The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel was hearing about various programs the Pentagon was working on to address the needs of their uniformed and civilian personnel. We'll note this exchange between Senator Richard Blumenthal and Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jo Ann Rooney.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: [. . .] I want to focus on one though that may not be directly related to the budget, I know the budget consumes a lot of time, but you've discussed in your testimony, Secretary Rooney, the issue of sexual assault which I know troubles you and the Secretary greatly, a great concern to you and there's a zero tolerance policy, it's a leadership issue. You say in your testimony that the estimates now are about 19,000 sexual assaults a year which is down from the estimate of 34,000 in 2006. Are you suggesting that the rates are numbers of sexual assaults has been reduced over the last six years.
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Sir, the way we get to that number is that we look at the number of reported sexual assaults as a percentage of the overall force and then actually multiply it. The number appears to come down but quite frankly, as you indicated, our concern is that there are any. And 19,000 is 19,000 too many or whatever the exact number is because, again, that was extrapolated from actual reported numbers. So while we believe that the attention being focused, the programs being put in place and, frankly, the leadership taking this on as such a critical area to be able to address because it goes right to the heart of what our military believes in terms of their work and their respect for each other, that that number will come down but we realize we have a lot of work to do.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: But it may not have come down in the last six years. Obviously, you're objective is to make it come down. But I'm just asking whether you have confidence in that number because, quite honestly, I'm not sure that I do.
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: I believe that number indicates that we have a substantial problem yet. But, again, it's not a specific number. It's extrapolated from those reports we have.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: Of the defendants who reported and in those incidents 3,192 in FY '11, what percentage faced court-martial?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Sir, I'll take that question for the record and get back to you on the specific.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: The information I have is fewer than 21% and I was going to ask you --
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: That percentage is correct.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: What is the reason that they are not brought to court-martial?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Often, sir, it's many of the same challenges that we see on the civilian side which is, in order to go through the court-martial, obviously we need to be able to get the evidence and make sure that our folks are trained to be able to prosecute those particular cases. Those are specific areas we are working on now -- to make sure people are trained in the specific areas of how to be able to not only get that evidence but be able to present that forward. And that's often the road block.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: So you're upgrading the procedures for collection of evidence. And what about retention of evidence?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Uh, yes, sir. We actually are retaining the evidence at this point -- if it's an unrestricted report, for fifty years.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: And are you making efforts to speed the process? In one instance that has been reported to me -- and I can get you the name and perhaps you can give me more details -- there was a three year gap -- and, by the way, I'm very familiar with the defense in the civilian area since I was -- [Attorney General of the state of Connecticut from 1990 through 2010]
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: I know you are, sir.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: -- involved in it so this is by no means to say you should use it as a model necessarily. But I know the military sets its own standards for what excellence is and you have your own goals. But that three year gap, as you know, makes evidence, even if it's collected -- that is the eye witness testimony that, if provided, may prove more difficult to get [three years after when memories are less fresh] and I just wonder what steps are being taken to make sure that these cases are brought to court-martial -- brought, in effect, to trial -- more quickly?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Actually, we're working directly with the services on this and the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] have been actively involved in looking at how do we not only streamline the actual court process but also streamline from the point of reporting to -- we have such things in place now, as you know, as expedited transfers -- so all through the process making sure that we are able to protect due process, if you will, for the accused. But move that through the system from the first report through. So that's something that we're actually engaged right now with the services to do.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: Do you have numbers as to the median or average length of time it's taken and what percentage involves eventual findings of guilt, culpability? And also what the eventual penalities are in those cases?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Sir, we do have those numbers but if I could take that for the record and give them to you as opposed to trying to get them from memory. But we do have them. I have seen them, sir.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: I would appreciate that.
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: We will.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: And do you also -- Can you also provide percentages as to what numbers -- in what rate you give defendants the option of a discharge or a resignation in lieu of court-martial?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: I can get the information as to what the eventual resolution was. As to whether that was a negotiated plea or something in that regard, that will be a little harder. But I can certainly tell you Article 15 and various section penalties.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: And finally on this subject, can you tell me when [Defense] Secretary [Leon] Panetta is going to be releasing the recommendations? He's going to be having both administrative and legislative. Do you know?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Actually, we've been working on the possible legislative proposals as recently as today. So I'm expecting those to be coming up soon and then, within the next three to six months, we'll also have some additional ways forward on specific recommendations coming out from the services as well as follow-up on the ones we mentioned -- the expedited transfer and the document retention.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: Thank you. On the issue, and you raise it in your testimony, concerning suicides, can you talk a little bit about what steps are being taken to address this issue?
Secretary Jo Ann Rooney: Absolutely. And you're right that the numbers right now -- despite many of our efforts -- have not shown a significant decrease. But what we have done in fact is -- taken the task force that had their report forward, one of their recommendations was to create a specific suicide office which we have done in the last few months. And the purpose of that office is not to create yet another layer but it's to look across all the services and actually be the conduit for what are our best practices, where are we missing some opportunities, getting rid of some of the redundancies. So that has, at this point, a temporary staff. But in the fiscal '13 budget, we have the full appropriations we're requesting on that to have that staff stand up. In addition to that, we're working directly with the services in each of their component areas to see what practices they have in place. The next thing, and I think you've seen it also from the medical side, we're embedding behavioral health not only within the units but also making it available to the families through a number of our family programs. And, again, we're continuing to monitor what has been the outreach and where have we seen some successes or not, as it were. So those are the steps at this point with many more coming forward. And, also, collecting data has been a big challenge that we've had. Contemporaneous data. So we're working closely with the VA, in particular, at this point to share information not only from the DoD side but also what the VA is getting. We're doing a lot of joint work with them. So we're getting data that is between thirty and sixty days old as opposed to a year or two -- which is what we had been getting because that's the way states are gathering it -- and sharing that information and trying to trend directly with the VA. So those are some of the ideas.
Etan gets the last word:
Groups Urge U.S. Not to Sell Attack Helicopters to Indonesia
Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; mobile: +1-917-690-
The groups warned that the helicopters will escalate conflicts in Indonesia, especially in the rebellious region of West Papua: "Providing these
helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians."
The Indonesian military (TNI) regularly conducts "sweep operations,"
involving attacks on villages where innocent villagers are forced from their homes. The groups write that "Papuan civilians either flee the attacks to neighboring villages or into the surrounding forests where many die or face starvation, cut off from access to their gardens, shelter, and medical care."
Sweep operations are now underway in the Central Highlands region of West Papua.
The letter was organized by the U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team and signed by human
rights, religious, indigenous rights, disarmament and other organizations
based in 14 countries.
Signers include: Faith-based Network on West Papua, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Action, International Lawyers for West Papua, Land
Is Life, KontrS (Indonesia), and Pax Christi Australia. A complete list of
John M. Miller, National Coordinator East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: john.m.miller
If you read the gina & krista round-robin, you know my answer to the question of what's on the agenda here was, "I'm just trying to get through night by night. Today I've been nodding out, fell asleep on the bus even." And after we did that roundtable, I fell asleep. I'm sorry. I didn't even realize I hadn't blogged. It was around three that a work friend came up and said, "We're all wondering why you didn't blog last night?" And they were especially wondering because we had heavy drama in the office yesterday.
And everyone assumed I'd blog about it. So when I didn't and didn't even blog I had the whole office thinking I felt sorry for "George" (not his real name).
So let me explain what happened with "George" and I'll blog Saturday about a movie. That way I'll get in five posts this week. And since I'm doing a Thursday make up here, I'll include Thursday's snapshot in this.
So George is this huge Barack Obama fan. He's 59 years old. He's Black. He's got a bachelors in English lit.
This Black woman who is a regular is known for being extremely religious. And she's on her cell phone talking to someone and something moves the conversation to politics.
And she starts talking about believing in God and saying something to the effect she got fooled into voting for Obama four years ago but this year she'll be voting for Mitt Romney "because he's a church goer."
Now we hear stuff like that all the time. Just change the politicians' names (and sometimes its state or local politicians) and we've heard it all.
But "George" has a fit and starts yelling and screaming and calling this woman names.
Well he's on 'leave' and none of us know for sure what happens next (though we believe he's either fired or forced-retired). And so that was the big news on Thursday. Oh, and I was the one who had to talk to the woman after. She was upset -- and wouldn't you be? -- and we probably talked about it for thirty minutes or so before she felt fine. (I apologized to her repeatedly for George's actions.)
George was a Cult of St. Barack-er. That's what people started calling him at work after they got used to reading Ava and C.I. using that term. And it fit.
He wanted to fight with you every day. Over something you said or something he thought you said or something he thought Fox News or the radio or CNN (which hates Barack according to George) aired on and on it went.
You had to walk on egg shells around him. And I'm only surprised it took this long for him to go off on someone (other than a co-worker, we get that nonsense all the time).
My apologies for falling asleep last night. I was just tired. Like I said, I'll do a movie post to get five this week.
Thursday, March 29, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Arab League Summit is held in Baghdad, Nouri is a flop, many are no-shows, the Iraqi people ponder the excessive costs (apparently over a half-billion dollars), Senator Patty Murray calls for a cost-of-living increase for veterans, and more.
The Arab League Summit was held today in Baghdad. It didn't change a thing because Nouri never learned how to charm. So instead of starting with it, let's start with the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki created Political Stalemate I after the March 2010 elections when, for over eight months, he refused to allow the government to move forward because he refused to honor the votes or the Constitution (and with White House backing, he was able to get away with that). His State of Law political slate came in second to Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) in the elections. In November of 2010, to end the political stalemate, the various political actors agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. Nouri agreed because it would allow him to continue as prime minister. But the things in the agreement that got Iraqiya, the Kurds and others to sign off on? Nouri trashed all of that. Immediately, what was supposed to take place was that the Parliament would name Jalal Talabani president (for a second term) and Talabani would name Nouri prime minister-designate while Nouri get his people to drop the false charges and smears against Iraqiya members and Nouri would name Ayad Allawi as head of a new national security committee (an independent committee). Nouri got what he wanted and then had excuses for everything else in the agreement, it would take time, now wasn't good, blah, blah, blah. His apologists (in Iraq as well as in the US) would later begin to insist that the Erbil Agreement was unconstitutional. If that were true (it's not -- it may be extra-constitutional -- and if you don't know the difference between the terms, don't gas bag on the topic), that would mean the entire agreement was illegal and that would mean Nouri was an illegitimate prime minister because Nouri remains prime minister for a second term not by the outlined process in the Constitution and not by the voting results of 2010. He gets his second term solely because of the Erbil Agreement.
Nouri is best seen as the pouty child who refuses to get off the floor of the grocery store until he's told he can't get a piece of candy. He is more than willing to wait and wait forever. This is imporant to understanding both him and how Iraq has 'worked' and will continue to. Nouri has got to be challenged. And if you're going to blink, there's no point in taking a stand. He is a willful child who needs clear boundaries and knows that there will be consequences. If you take a stand and back down, you're encouraging him.
Jasim Alsabawi (Rudaw) notes attacks on Barzani from various members of Nouri's circle. The article also includes advice beyond stupid but I'm biting my tongue becauseAva and I already toldJim we'd cover the same stupidity (but from American politician) at Third this weekend. Alsumaria TV notes that the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is calling for a dialogue and blah blah. Now they're concerned. Massoud Barzani wasn't covering new terrain. He was responding to what's been going on for months and it is a false narrative to act as if Barzani's now 'started' something. This is the political crisis. It's cute the way so many are eager to be Nouri's lackeys and play dumb when anyone Nouri's tried to oppress or eliminate bothers to respond publicly.
The piece Ava and I were going to write was "The Great Compromiser Olympia Snowe (Ava and C.I.)" and the similar point? In US politics, the "center" is not the center. The "center" is based not on the people but on the politicians and, since 1970, the right wing in the US has stayed firm in their beliefs. Good for them. The left has repeatedly compromised and the result is that the "center" has moved ever rightward. And Iraq? From the Rudaw article:
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi's Iraqiya bloc threatened to walk out of parliament in opposition to PM Maliki's dominance. But Sultan believes these threats only prove the Iraqiya bloc's failure in its politics.
"I think that Iraqiya bloc lacks unity in the political discourse in dealing with crisis," he said. "It withdrew its ministers from the government after the issue of al-Hashimi, and later sent them back. Now it wants to withdraw them again. What will they get from all this?"
Grasp that, over the summer, the Kurds began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraqiya joined them in that call. When Iraqiya walked, it was over the Erbil Agreement -- no warrant had been sworn out for Tareq al-Hashemi, that's not the political crisis. The crisis is the failure to follow the Erbil Agreement. But Iraqiya walks out. They were wrong to end their boycott. They were wrong because with a bully child like Nouri, you have to set boundaries and make clear that there are consquences or the spoiled baby will continue to refuse to share his toys and play nice.
But why did Iraqiya end the boycott? Due to pressure. Internally, which was minimal, and externally, which was international. And they were told by the White House, among others, that they would look mature and, come on, do the right thing for the good of Iraq.
That little pep talk is exactly why the US is so screwed up politically. Democrats fell for it over and over (some wanted to fall). Republicans stuck to their beliefs. But Dems were seduced -- and still are -- by the thought that they'd look mature and grown up. That's still used today in the efforts to gut Social Security. Dems are told they'll look so mature and it's not, "Hey, Republican law maker, you're acting crazy and we're not funding your project." (I'm not calling all Republicans crazy. I'm also not trying to insult them. I'm a Democrat and I'm more than happy to call out my own party for its failures.)
By the same token all Allawi and company got was a brief moment of "Oh, they were mature and ended their boycott." They're threatening a new one. They don't need to go on it if they're not going to stick it out. And if they go on it, they better know the US government will be pressuring them, that they will hear appeals of, "Come on, Ayad, you and me, we know you're more mature, you're a real leader, do the right thing and end your boycott." The answer has to be: NO. If it's not "no," don't start a boycott. You either are willng to see it through or you're not. If you go on a boycott and then cave before demands are met, Nouri's not going to take you seriously. He's going to know you'll cave every time.
Baby, you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the words
Stop draggin' my . . .
Stop draggin' my . . .
Stop draggin' my heart around.
-- "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, performed by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, first appears on Stevie's Bella Donna
Each time you cave, each time you buckle with Nouri, you give him more power and more control. Nouri al-Maliki has refused to follow the Erbil Agreement.
Is he criticized by the international press for it?
Very rarely. That's what starts the political crisis and Nouri's apologists show up and treat a crisis like it just started weeks ago. Like the false "center" in American politics, there's a fale "starting point" for the current political crisis in Iraq. It didn't start in December or January. It goes back to the signed document that allowed him to be prime minister for a second term. He took the concessions that other political parties made. He just refused to follow through on the concessions he agreed to. That is what started the political crisis and it goes back to 2010.
There are various actions that have made the political crisis flare (and the press briefly take notice). When he demanded Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be charged with terrorism (al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya), that caused the world to pay some attention to the political crisis. Al Mada reports today that Ayad Allawi has called for Iraq to fight the "emerging dictatorship" in Iraq today. Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji read the statement which called out a return to a culture of suppression and denounced the raid on the Communist Party. The Iraqi Communist Party should have been in the news yesterday and should be in the news today. It's not. From yesterday's snapshot:
We'll close by noting the disturbing news of the day and news that wasn't picked up and front paged but should have been. Nouri al-Maliki is now going after Iraq's Communist Party. Al Mada reports that Nouri's security forces stormed the political party's headquarters and arrested 12 people who were arrested and questioned about protests. Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes the Communist Party has a long history of fighting for Iraq, not against it. Hussein reports that Nouri's tanks have been sent to surround the homes of Communist Party members in Baghdad. Those who paid attention in December will remember that Nouri ordered tanks to circle the homes of Iraqiya members right before he demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his posts and ordered the arrest of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya as well as Sunnis. Ali Hussein notes that Nouri also ordered tanks to circle the homes of Communist Party members last year.
The Iraq Communist Party Tweeted yesterday, "Iraqi Communist Party condemns raid of its newspaper headquarters by security forces." They state that the raid took place late in the evening Monday and that their headquarters were ransacked by federal police who entered claiming that they were doing a sweep of the area for the Arab League Summit. An old weapon ("piece of junk") was on the roof and they used this as a pretext to arrest 12 of the people who were held overnight and only released after they signed documents -- documents they were forced to sign while blindfolded. While they were held, the federal police returned to the now empty headquarters and ransacked the place. The Community Party condemns the attack and notes that the 78th anniversary of the Iraq Communist Party is approaching.
The party, which has a long history of fighting for a secular Iraq, in which the rights of all groups would be respected, has expressed its outrage and has openly condemned the raid.
The party asks that those responsibile for the attack be brought to justice, and said, in a statement, that "the police will not stop Tareeq Al-Shaab from defending the rights of the Iraqi people and workers, nor will it stop those people from fighting for a free, democratic Iraq." This is not the first time the Iraqi Communist Party has been targeted by the U.S.-backed government that replaced the old dictatorship. In 2007, Najim Abed Jassem, the party workers' trade union leader and member of the executive committee of the Mechanics Union, was abducted and tortured by militias in Baghdad, and subsequently murdered.
That the raid took place ahead of the Arab League Summit is disturbing, that it took place in Baghdad with the international press ignoring it is very telling.
Also telling was the turnout for today's Arab League Summit. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report, "Sunni Muslim rulers largely shunned an Arab League summit hosted by Shiite-led Iraq on Thursday, illustrating how powerfully the sectarian split and the rivalry with Iran define Middle Eastern politics in the era of the Arab Spring." It was not all that, to put it mildly. A friend who covered the summit deemed it, "Not so much a who's who as a who's that?" Who attended? Among others, the Oman Observer reports Talabani "received the credentials of Shaikh Mussalam bin Bakheet bin Zaidan al Bar'ami, Sultanate's Ambassador to Jordan, as the Sultanate's non-resident ambassador to Iraq" yesterday. Today Al Sabaah reports Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh, prime minister of Jordan arrived, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.
The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweeted that Emir got a special personal greeting:
LizSlyIraqi PM Maliki kisses Emir of Kuwait on cheek as he steps off plane in Baghdad. Reconciliation at last. #ALIraq
One of the biggest names of all the attendees was present representing the United Nations. Kitabat noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived this morning. The Kuwait Times quotes the Secretary-General stating, "The relationship between Iraq and Kuwait has always been very sensitive, and there are many pending issues that have not yet been resolved. I urge Iraq to fulfil its longstanding obligations to Kuwait…especially in regards with the missing people, Kuwaiti property, compensation." Alsumaria TV adds that Ban Ki-moon stressed that Iraq paying off its debts to Kuwait will allow it to exist Chapter VII. Al Sabaah notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with Ban Ki-Moon today. In addition, Al Mada reports that the President met with Ikililou Dhoinine who is the President of Comoros (and was the first leader to arrive in Baghdad for the summit).
Who were the notable no-shows? Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran." The Belfast Telegraph notes, "The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah."
Some outlets got confused and started calling yesterday the summit. No. The Arab League holds the summit. Yesterday there was a meeting among foreign ministers from various countries. Nouri addressed that group. Al Rafidayn covers the speech which included Nouri noting terrorism in Iraq (sadly, he wasn't confessing to his own terrorism) and declaring that all Arab nations will face it -- especially those in which the security is fragile -- so he was calling for an Arab cooperative to fight terrorism in the region. His speech is said to have bored (said by a friend covering the event and a friend at a wire service). That's not surprising. On your first day of a conference, you really aren't looking to be bummed out. You're looking to be uplifted.
Nouri's heavy-handed and rules through fear. He thought he could apply the same scare tactics in dealing with foreign ministers of other countries -- none of those present face the level of violence Iraq does. So not only was the topic a 'downer' but they really didn't see the need to be lectured to on the topic of violence from the person over the most violent country in the region. Nouri's so out of touch that he honestly believes other leaders in the region would be impressed with him. His calling for cooperation on positive projects and issues would have surprised them and would have impressed them. Instead, he's the crazy troll under the bridge and he's got no one to blame but himself (and his advisors who thought his speech would go over well).
Today, Dr. Nabil El Araby, the Arab League Secretary-General, opened the summit with an address where he thanked Iraq and the Iraqi people for their warm welcome and congratulated Iraqi President Jalal Talabani for hosting and presiding over the 23rd Arab League Summit and congratulated the government on their preparation work for the summit. He also thanked the officials from Libya for their hard work on the 22nd summit. He discussed how he assumed his office last July and how his vision for the Arab League was one of reform and development. It was a positive speech, emphasizing the accomplishments within the Arab world and fostering a sense of common purpose, a sense of higher purpose. It was the perfect speech to kick off a summit. (PDF format warning -- Click here for the speech in full.) And it is exactly the sort of speech Nouri al-Maliki should hav given on Wednesday but couldn't because he knows only one note: ominous in B flat.
Others gave speeches as well. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) Tweeted on one:
HannahAllamSaudi envoy, 2-min speech, said the most pressing issue was need for economic reform. #ALIraq
What did those who spoke discuss? A number of issues. First they passed a Declaration of Baghdad defining Arab attitudes on regional issues including Syria and the Palestinians (they were noted -- not at length, but for those who thought they'd be completely skipped over, the Palestinians were noted -- and I'm referring to those residing in the occupied territories, not to the Palestinian refugess in Iraq). They touched on the need for non-proliferation (no nukes) and endorsed the concept of political, economic and social reform so that all Arab citizens are awarded the dignity they deserve.
The summit began and ended today. Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) offer, "Arab leaders who gathered Thursday in Baghdad broke no new ground on Syria or other regional crises, but their summit was still hailed as a success -- for returning Iraq to the Arab fold after years of isolating war and occupation." Nothing was accomplished but that a summit was held is a success? Earlier this week, Hannah Allam argued, "Pulling off the summit with a decent turnout and no violence would represent a breakthrough for a country that, for years after Saddam Hussein's fall, still had no real clout in the Arab League and was practically begging its reulctant neighbords to send envoys to wartime Baghdad." When you start from that low benchmark, it's not difficult to hail something as a success. But, as Gulf News pointed out, "In addition, the idea that fortified areas such as the Green Zone can exist is also not the solution. As a matter of fact, the very existence of such isolated and protected enclaves proves that there is much to be done to ensure stability and peace."
And when all of that has to be done for a basic summit, it's not a testament to power or to safety. It really just serves to underscore exactly how bad things remain in Iraq.
AFP's W.G. Dunlop notes the morning began with an explosion:
So that was the summit. It was suppose to be held in Baghdad in March of 2011. They had to postpone it to May of 2011. They had to postpone it. Please note, money was spent sprucing up Baghdad on both of those attempts. So when outlets report that a half billion dollars got spent on this summit, grasp that the cost was even higher due to the cost of the two previous attempts.
On Iraq, I'm ignoring something I was asked to highlight except to note two things. If you're someone supposedly against the Iraq War and you're noting civilian deaths, the Lancet study established over a million Iraqis were killed by 2006. Any number less than that is unacceptable if you're supposedly against the war. Secondly, don't write about Iraqi refugees if you don't know what you're talking about. Meaning? A total of external refugees numbering less than two million isn't accurate. The Iraq War created many external refugees. First came the "brain drain" whose numbers weren't really counted because they left prior to the start of the refugee crisis. (The "brain drain" was the term for Iraq's professional class such as medical personnel.) When Iraq becomes the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948, we're dealing with millions. Because these people are no longer in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, etc -- as many aren't -- doesn't mean you erase them. They were refugees who happened to be among the lucky ones that the United Nations was able to place with a country. The Myth of the Great Return was a myth. The millions of refugeeds during the refugee crisis did not return to Iraq. (Even now with the violence in Syria, the number that have returned is a small percentage when compared to all the Iraqi refugees that sought asylum in Syria.) I hope each and every Iraqi that wants to resettle is able to but even if they are, they were still forced out of their homes, that's how they became refugees. A tiny number -- a shameful number -- will be allowed to become American citizens. I hope they're happy in their adopted country and that they flourish, that doesn't change the fact that violence turned them into refugees. Those people still need to be included in the numbers.
A friend's mad that I won't highlight a piece that undercounts the Iraqi dead and undercounts the refugees -- the article has many other problems as well. (My friend didn't write it.) No offense to anyone, but I'm tired of 'online living' and would gladly close shop tomorrow. But as long as I'm investing my time covering Iraq here, I'm not including your lies or you minimizing. There's no point in it. I'm not using my time, putting my life on hold, to raise 'semi-awareness.' So I don't need your 'semi-truths' which are better known as "lies." I've made a million and one mistakes here. I've owned them (I'm also sure I've made mistakes that I didn't catch and that weren't pointed out.) There are some that are so stupid, I laugh my ass off at how stupid I was -- and how stupid I was in public. This site has a great community behind it. Other than that, the only thing it has is my integrity and I'm not willing to sell that out to make someone happy by including a bad article that 'meant well.' For the million and one mistakes I've made, they've never been intentional errors, I've never made one knowingly. And I'm not about to start now. I take Iraq and what was done to the country (in our name -- if you're a citizen of the US or another country that went to war with Iraq -- I'm a US citizen) very seriously. I'm saddened that so many don't. I believe in science, I know about samples, I took research & methodolgy in graduate school and had to do many poli sci models. I understand how they work and the model in the Lancet study is the same model that the UN uses. The Lancet study was sound science.
Moving over to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes
VETERANS: Murray Pushes for Cost-of-Living Adjustment Increase for Veterans
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee joined with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in sponsoring his legislation to increase veterans' compensation through a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). The COLA increase would affect several important benefits, including veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. It is projected that over 3.6 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2013.
"Last year's passage of the COLA bill I sponsored provided a much needed cost-of-living increase for the first time since 2009," said Chairman Murray. "Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to help make ends meet. We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful nation. A COLA increase will help bring us one step closer to fulfilling our nation's promise to care for our brave veterans and their families."
Tester's Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012 directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans' compensation to keep pace with a rise in the cost-of-living, should an adjustment be prompted by an increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The bill specifies that the increase would affect veterans' disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and certain related benefits.
The COLA increase for veterans will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients. The COLA is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living over time. The COLA rate is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.
A bipartisan group of Senators signed on to co-sponsor the bill including the Committee's Ranking Member Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) as well as Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
We're short on rooom so I'm not going to try to squeeze something in but tomorrow we will be noting some remarks on sexual assault. I'm noting that here right now to make sure that I make room for it tomorrow. I had planned for it to be in this snapshot but we're out of time and out of space.