Monday, December 31, 2012

Netflix and more

the princess and the president

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess and President"  went up last night.  What went down today?

I have a ton of e-mails about Netflix.  A few of you noted this "TechCrunch" article by Sarah Perez:

Following its lengthy Christmas Eve outage, Netflix is again experiencing issues today, according to a message posted on the Netflix website, dozens of reports from users on Twitter, and other third-party website monitoring services.

Did it effect you?

I was off today.  The other thing that pissed me off about Christmas (I was only off on the 25th, now I'm off the 31st and the 1st).  And I was streaming, but I was streaming on Hulu.  They've just added "I Love Lucy," among other things.

There were no problems with Hulu Plus.  This is the second time this month that Netflix has had this problem.

Considering that they're trying to drop their DVD side, you'd think they'd work harder at their streaming but apparently not.

TMZ reports comedian Katt Williams is calling out Quentin Tarentino, "Quentin Tarantino thinks he can say the N-word. But I checked with all of Ni**adom and nobody knows where he got his pass from. I hope he didn't get it from Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx cause they aren't going to help you when I see you."

Meanwhile Michael Donnelly, a White man, wants to write at CounterPunch that Spike is wrong to object to Tarentino's use of the n-word.

Here's a tip for White Donnelly: Shut your mouth.  

You want to praise the movie, feel free.  But don't you dare tell a Black person that this or any film by a White person about Black people isn't this or isn't that.  We don't need it from you.   

If a White person repeatedly uses the n-word in one film after another, Black people have a right to object and Michael Donnelly's an idiot not to realize that.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, December 31, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, corruption continues, questions are asked as to why the US supports Thug Nouri, events of the year in Iraq get reviewed, and more.
Then came the official end of the war. On December 31, 2011, the country celebrated "Iraq Day" and the departure of U.S. troops. As Iraq prepares to mark the anniversary, also known as the "Day of Sovereignty," last year's celebratory tone has been replaced by a more somber one.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political bloc, the Islamic Dawa Party, called on Iraqis not to become divided along sectarian or ethnic lines by "malicious schemes." The country has struggled to define itself, as its government stumbles from one political crisis to another.
Just as the last U.S. troops withdrew, al-Maliki, a Shiite, moved to arrest Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, who al-Maliki accused of using his security detail as a hit squad.
More recently, a few days before the first Iraq Day anniversary, thousands of Sunnis took to the streets in Anbar province, a major trade thoroughfare to Jordan and Syria, to protest al-Maliki's order to arrest the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafaie Esawi, a Sunni. The arrest of Esawi's bodyguards came just hours after President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who is widely viewed as a stabilizing political force in Iraq, left the country to undergo treatment for cancer in Germany.
2012 saw another cholera outbreak in Iraq thanks to Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to spend any of the billions made off of oil on the Iraqi people.  They lack potable water in most areas.  If you don't have potable water -- safe water -- to drink, you have to boil it before using it (or add purification tablets) and you better hope you didn't rush the boil and that the tablets still work.  This wouldn't be a problem if Nouri would fix the public services.  He's been prime minister since 2006, that's six years so the resposibility and the failure is all on him.
In addition to a lack of potable water, Nouri's also failed to provide dependable electricity.  All this time later, it's still apparently too much to expect to have electricity for more than a few hours.  Strange because, before the start of the Iraq War, these electricity shortages weren't so common.  Even something as basic as santiation is beyond Nouri's capabilities so children -- risking infection and disease -- can be found playing in the piled up sewage so common on many Iraqi streets.  Nouri's also refused to spend money on the crumbling infrastructure.  This winter, Iraqis saw what Nouri's cheapness has resulted in: Flooding throughout Iraq, homes falling down from the flooding, people dying in the homes, people dying from drowning, people dying from electrocution, people trudging through parts of Baghdad in knee-high water.  When you let the infrastructure fall apart, drainage becomes problematic.  The Iraqi Red Crescent Society had to evacuate at least one village this month as a result of homes collapsing from the flooding
Surely Nouri's done better somewhere, right?  Nope.  Iraq is still among the most corrupt countries as ranked by Transparency International. 176 countries were ranked this year on transparency and Iraq came in as the 169th most transparent country.  Only seven countries were ranked as less transparent.  Nouri's long been accused of skimming off Iraq's funds and his family lives high on the hog.  He also employs his son who is said to be as much of a terror as Uday Hussein was said to be.  Nouri's son is part of current corruption scandal.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. The Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance has spoken out.  All Iraq News noted National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well.  Kitabat reported MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. 
Then there's the other big news this year, bomb sniffing dogs and explosive detectors.  Iraq's finally getting them.  This might be seen as 'good news' except for one thing: They've needed them for years and Nouri's pride prevented that.
The magic wands.  It's a story so old even David Petraeus weighed in at one point.  Nouri's government spent a small fortune purchasing these magic wands from a British company that apparently didn't also sell magic beans.  You held the magic wand by a car and you 'jogged' in place, pumping your legs up and down and the magic wand, activated by your movement, would then detect a bomb if one was present.  If you're not believing it, October, 9, 2009,  an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy was exploring the subject at Inside Iraq:

Before starting telling you what happens in most of the checkpoints you should know about the "explosives detectors". The device is carried by security man who stops your car and walk beside it carrying the device. The device's pointer changes its direction when passed by a car that supposedly carries explosives.
In November of 2009, Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported:

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works "on the same principle as a Ouija board" -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.
With violence dropping in the past two years, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken down blast walls along dozens of streets, and he contends that Iraqis will safeguard the nation as American troops leave.
It wasn't just that US generals laughed at the magic wands, by 2010 even the British government was disturbed, demanding the devices no longer be manufactured and suing the company.  But Nouri refused to join in the lawsuit (he apparently only likes to sue the press and politicians) and insisted that the magic wands continued to be used.  Instead of admitting that he had wasted over one million dollars on magic wands that didn't work, Nouri put his vanity ahead of the safety of the Iraqi people.  Last November, years after the problem was first discovered, it was quietly announced that Iraq would finally be getting bomb sniffing dogs and explosive sensors.
Did he not sue because he got a kickback on the deal?  Who knows?
Iraqis continue to live in poverty and it is a nation of widows and orphans -- over a million orphans we learned as the year wound down.  Nouri's 'answer' to that?  End the food-ration card system.  This system was put in place in the 90s and provided the Iraqi people with basic staples.  After the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the US government targeted the food-ration card system.  Paul Bremer was only the first US official to attempt to end it.  Ending it would not be easy so they instead worked on cutting it each year so that it offered less and less.  In 2006, when Nouri became prime minister, he continued the cuts.
This fall, he decided, with record poverty and unemployment close to 40% in Iraq, that now was the time to end this program.  Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was the first to call him out and insist this wasn't happening.  Iraqiya and others quickly backed Moqtada and Nouri was forced to back down (and even tried to claim that it wasn't his idea -- his Cabinet had planned it out without him).  Iraq takes in billions on oil sales each year.  Yet Nouri claimed there was no profit to share with the Iraqi people.  Moqtada also pushed back on that and has been meeting regularly with the ministries to find out where the money is going.
It's not going to the Iraqi people.  Well what about justice?  Is Nouri providing justice?  Early 2012 saw the Ministry of the Interior visit schools and tell Iraqi students that Emo and LGBT youth were devil worshippers, were vampires, were perverts and that they must die.  That's appallling and that's Nouri.  Nouri is the Minister of the Interior.  How can he be the Minister of the Interior and the Prime Minister.  Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   See, according to the Iraqi Constitution, if you can't appoint a full Cabinet, you can't become prime minister (someone else is named prime minister designate and given 30 days to build a Cabinet).  But US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term so no rules applied then (or apply now).
So Nouri had his Ministry go into schools and egg on violence against Emo and LGBT Iraqis -- and Iraqis who might be mistaken for Emo or LGBT.  There was worldwide outrage.  The story got covered by outlets that normally didn't even cover Iraq -- such as England's NME and the US' Rolling Stone magazine.  Nouri called off his dogs and tried to lie that the Ministry of Interior was not involved; however, the Iraqi press quickly printed the handout the Ministry of the Interior had circulated on its school visits.  Nouri's such a damn liar.
Dropping back to the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
Amnesty International was among those condemning the mass executions.  Though all the executions for 2012 have yet to be tabulated, Iraq is expected to be at the top of the list of most people put to death. 
Nouri's also targeted the press.  5 journalists were killed in 2012 (we'll have more on that near the end of the snapshot). Outlets that report realities Nouri doesn't like are repeatedly attacked.  Both Al Mada and Kitabat were hacked in 2012 following their hard hitting reporting on corruption.  Dropping back to Saturday, December 15th:

The Iraq Times reports that cable channel Baghdadi was surrounded by the Iraqi military on Friday and they forced everyone out and then shut the station down.  They also note that Nouri ordered the closure.  The Iraq Times reports that Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji declared today that Nouri is attempting to rebuild the Republic of Fear (a reference to the days of Saddam Hussein) and decried the closing of Baghdadiya TV.
The satellite channel's crime?  Reporting on the corruption in the Russian oil deal. This month, he also began targeting Fakhri Karim who is the editor and chair of Al Mada newspaper -- he's had Karim's home surrounded by the US military.  Isn't it strange how in 'free' Iraq, Nouri's always sending in the military to attack the press.  And isn't it strange how the US government -- even most of the US media -- refuse to call that out?  (Friday, he used the military to keep reporters away from the protests in an attempt to ensure that they did not get coverage.)
The White House backs thug Nouri.  Elaine pointed out Friday:

Nouri is a threat and danger to the Iraqi people.
They voted for change and Barack went around their votes, the democracy, the Constitution to devise a contract (Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.
Again, gays are targeted, Sunnis are targeted, Nouri refused to even have one woman in his Cabinet until there was international outcry -- and this is who the US government backs.
Remember that the next time Barack wants to pretend to give a damn about human rights.
Nouri is in his second term as prime minister.  Why?  Barack Obama.  In March 2010, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections.  Nouri's State of Law was expected to win by a wide margin.  The Iraqi people had other ideas.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to the Ayad Allawi headed Iraqiya slate.  Per the Constitution, per democracy, per vote counting, that made Iraqiya the winner and, as such, they were supposed to be immediately named prime minister-designate (one person from their slate, most likely Allawi) and then given 30 days to form a Cabinet.  Failure to do so would result in someone else being named prime minister-designate.  This is clearly outlined in the Constitution.  But Nouri didn't want to lose his post.  So he threw a public tantrum for eight months basically refusing to vacate the palace.  And he was able to get away with that because he had the support of Barack Obama.  During this time, the US government didn't argue for fairness or democracy or rule of law or the Constitution.  They went to the political blocs and told them that they were in the wrong.  They told them they needed to be mature and give.  They need to give to the loser.  Grasp that, the US government started a propaganda campaign at political leaders to get them to give up what they'd won to the loser Nouri.  A few asked questions.  Supposedly Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (currently in Germany receiving medical treatment) got very short with US Vice President Joe Biden in one phone call (no, not the one where Joe asked him to let Allawi be president).  Talbani finally, supposedly, had the brains to ask, "What's in it for us?"
Like a lightening bolt, the US government decided they could give Nouri a second term by going around the Constitution, by drawing a contract between the political blocs.  This 'inspiration' resulted in the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  Leaders of political blocs agreed to give Nouri a second term (and end the eight-month plus stalemate) in exchange for Nouri agreeing to give them certain things.  The primary demand by the Kurds was that Article 140 of the Constitution be implemented (finally).  Iraqiya's primary demand was that an independent national security council be created and headed by a member of Iraqiya.  Nouri used this contract to get his second term.  Then he trashed the contract.  The White House had given their word that not only was the contract legally binding but that they would stand by it.  They did nothing.
In the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya began publicly calling for Nouri to honor the contract.  He blew them off creating the current stalemate on which numerous political crises have been stacked.  John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
What was in it for the White House?  Well they were allowed to leave behind US forces in Iraq after the drawdown (wrongly billed as "withdrawal") of December 2011.  They were able to leave "trainers," CIA, FBI, Special-Ops and more.  And the White House is able to add more.  Back in September, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
More troops sent in.  This month, Press TV and The Voice of Russia both reported that the US military was deploying more US troops into Iraq from Kuwait.  Then there's the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America which was signed December 6th.  As we noted in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots, this allows US troops in Iraq for joint-patrols and counter-terrorism missions.  Maybe that's why Barack Obama has backed thug Nouri?  John Glaser ( reports today:
The Obama administration has kept largely quiet about Maliki's behavior, aside from about $2 billion in annual aid and tens of billions in military assistance. While this keeps the halls of power in Washington and the oil corporations happy, even the best case scenarios are damning, for Iraqi citizens as well as the geopolitics of the region.
"Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship, and it looks to me as though the Obama administration is waving him across the finishing line," Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the London School of Economics said earlier this year. "Meanwhile, the most likely outcomes, which are either dictatorship or civil war, would be catastrophic because Iraq sits between Iran and Syria."
In 2010, Nouri was su
Violence slams Iraq today as both the month and the year wind down.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes Iraq witnessed "a wave of bombings and shootings."  EFE counts 23 dead and seventy-five injured.
Specific incidents of violence?   All Iraq News notes a Baghdad mortar attack which left "multiple" people injured, an undisclosed number of people were injured in a Tuz Khurmatu car bombing, a Mosul polling stationg was attacked leaving 2 guards dead,  there was an attack on a Sahwa leader's home in Diyala Province today that left 1 of his bodyguards dead, 3 Musayyib bombings have left 4 people dead and another seven injureda Khalis car bombing has left fiften people injured and 2 Balad Ruz bombings left 4 members of one family dead and a child injured. Alsumaria notes that Ammar Youssef survived an attempted assassination by bombing today in Tikrit -- two civilians were injured in the bomb targeting the President of the Salahuddin Province Council.  Alsumaria reports a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 3 lives and left sixteen injured.  All Iraq News adds that the victims were largely part of a convoy planning a pilgrimage to pay respects to Imam Hussein. AP explains Imam Hussein is the grandson "of the Prophet Muhammad" who died in the 7th century.   Press TV notes that the death toll in the Baghdad bombing has risen to 4 and 1 in Latifyah and 1 in Tuz Khurmatu. There was also a bombing in Hilla and  Reuters quotes hospital worker Mohammed Ahmed who states, "We heard the sound of a big explosion and the windows of our office shattered.  We immediately lay on the ground.  After a few minutes I stood up and went to the windows to see what happened.  I saw flames and people lying on the ground."   On Hilla, Nehal el-Sherif (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) reports, "Seven people were killed and four wounded when gunmen blew up three houses, security sources told the German news agency dpa. The attack followed a car bombing that killed one person and wounded 17 near a Shiite mosque in the city."  All Iraq News also notes that visitors to a Shi'ite shrine in Babylon were targeted with a car bombing, leaving 1 dead and three injured.  And Alsumaria notes a Kirkuk rocket attack that left 5 police officers dead and six other people injured.  RTE offers, "No group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, which targeted government officials, police patrols and members of both the Sunni and Shia sects."
The latest attacks also came amid continuing anti-government demonstrations in several Sunni-dominated cities protesting against marginalization by the Shiite-led government as well as the alleged arrest of hundreds of Sunnis.
The demonstrators also accused the Shiite-dominated security forces of arresting women instead of the wanted male of their family members.
The protests were first sparked last week after the Iraqi security forces arrested chief of the Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi's protection force and nine bodyguards over charges of terrorism.
The Middle East Monitor offers this take, "The demonstrators are demanding to an end to what they allege is the Iraqi government's 'marginalisation and exclusion policy'; they're also asking for the release of prisoners as well as an end to inhumane treatment in the country's prison."
Protests continued over the weekend.  Al Bawaba News noted, "Pressure is mounting on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, after the largest scale protests so far saw tens of thousands of Iraqis gather on Friday to call for his removal."  All Iraq News reported that Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaimi received a list of demands from members of the council of Anbar Province whose citizens passed on the demands: They want the detention of women stopped, they want detainees released and Article 4 of the Constitution reviewed.  The Defense Minister was visiting Anbar Province one day after Friday's massive demonstration took place in Falluja (with a conservative estimate of the protesters being 60,000). Al Mada noted that Nouri pronounced Friday's protests in Mosul and Ramadi "uncivilized"; however, rock throwing wouldn't emerge until Sunday.

Mosul is the capital of Nineveh Province.  All Iraq News reported that Council Members have informed the central government in Baghdad that their citizens demand the release of prisoners an end to Article 4 and an end to the Justice and Accountability Commission.  Article 4 is how Nouri dubs various Iraqi rivals 'terrorists.'  And the Justice and Accountability Commission is what Nouri uses to prevent people from running in elections.  They have no job, they have no real role.  Any Saddam Hussein loyalists would have long ago been captured.  But Nouri uses this Article 4 to destroy his political rivals.  Alsumaria added that Nineveh Provincial Council announced Saturday a general strike in solidarity with the protesters. It's a 72-hour strike (medical facilities will not be on strike). Today Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has declared that Parliament will abolsih Article 4.  He compares Article 4 to the Sword of Damocles hanging over the neck of Iraqis.

Atheel (or Ethel) al-Nujaifi is the governor of the province.  He's also the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Alsumaria notes that the governor declared Saturday that Nouri al-Maliki can end the current crisis within 24 hours just be returning the arrested to their provinces.  Al Mada explains that Nouri has repeatedly targeted Atheel al-Nujaifi.

In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds.  In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out.  By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses.  Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity.  (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.)  Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.

The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests.  Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons!  Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women.  Greed is a strong motivator.  Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons.  It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests.  Sunday,  Al Arabiya noted, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered on Sunday the release of female prisoners, who were arrested for terrorism charges without judicial warrants or because of terror crimes committed by their relatives, to appease to protesters who want to see the scrapping of anti-terrorism measures in the country, a local website reported."
Protests continued on Sunday with most of the press attention going to Ramadi where  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was involved in an incident.   Chen Zhi (Xinhua) reports that al-Mutlaq's office issued a statement claiming there was an assassination attempt on him while he was by the protesters and, following the assassination attempt, his bodyguards fired on the protesters.  His office also claims that his bodyguards were injured.   Citing witnesses and video, AP states that the bodygaurds fired on protesters who were making demands and throwing "rocks and bottles." AP notes that two protesters were injured by the gunshots.  Reuters speaks with local witnesses and ends up with the same sequence of events AP has.  Salma Abdelaziz, Yousuf Basil and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) report:

Some demonstrators Sunday called for al-Multaq, who is Sunni, to submit his resignation to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government. Protesters chanted, "Leave! Leave!" and threw stones at him, witnesses told CNN.
The deputy prime minister's bodyguards opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd as protesters hurled stones at the stage, Anbar provincial council member Suhaib al-Rawi told CNN. A protester with a gunshot wound was among five people injured, al-Rawi said. Details about the other injuries were not immediately clear.

All Iraq News counts 1 protester dead and four injured.  Samantha Stainburn (Global Post) observes, "It is not known if the injured protests were shot intentionally or accidentally."  The statement al-Mutlaq's office issued can be seen as an attempt by the politician to cover what happened.  Why he was stupid enough to go to a protest is beyond me.  Yes, he is Sunni and, yes, he is in the Iraqiya slate.  But Saleh al-Mutlaq is not popular.  He and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (also Sunni and Iraqiya) were both targeted by Nouri in December of 2011.  While Tareq ended up having to leave the country and being convicted of 'terrorism,' Saleh sailed right through.  In May, Nouri dropped his efforts to strip Saleh of his office.

By that point, there had been months of speculation in the Iraqi press that Saleh al-Mutlaq had cut a deal to save his own ass, that he was now in partnership with Nouri al-Maliki.  This seemed to be even more true when Saleh was seen as undermining efforts to get a no-confidence vote against Nouri as spring was winding down.

Saleh al-Mutlaq is seen -- rightly or wrongly -- by Sunni Iraqis as someone who protects himself and does nothing for other Sunnis (whether they're politicians or average citizens).  His actions on Sunday did nothing to alter that opinion.  Today Dar Addustour observes that Mutlaq was seen as attempting to distract protesters from their legitimate demands for and that his words were seen as throwing shoes at the protesters.  (Remember, throwing shoes is a major insult in Iraq.)  Kitabat adds that al-Mutlaq further insulted the protesters by refusing to get on the platform to address them.
Al Mada notes the Mosul sit-in continued today.  They also report that, according to a police source, six people taking part in a sit-in in Salahuddin Province were arrested yesterday and that the Salahuddin Provincial Council is warning Baghdad against ignoring the demands of the protesters.  Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi declared today that the government must offer real solutions and not fall back on procrastination.
On death and violence, Mark Sweney (Guardian) notes that of the 121 journalists killed worldwide in 2012, the International Federation of Journalists points out five were in Iraq.  IFJ notes these are the top countries:
1) Syria: 35 journalists killed
2) Somolia: 18 journalists killed
3) Pakistan: 10 journalists killed
  (tie) Mexico: 10 journalists killed
5) Philippines: 5 journalists killed
   (tie) Iraq: 5 journalists killed
The five Iraqi journalists killed were Salahaddin TV's Kamiran Salaheddin, Al Adwa's Farqad Husseini, Dyali TV's Ziad Tareq, Al Gamaheer's Samir Shikh Ali and Sama Al-Mossoul TV's Ghazwan Anas. This list does not include Safir editor-in-chief Safi Qasis who has been missing since December 9th and is hopefully still alive.  Yesterday, the Iraq Journalists Syndicate released their report.  There were five Iraqi journalists killed in 2012.    Aswat al-Iraq noted, "The Iraqi press Syndicate said on Saturday that five journalists have been killed in Iraq in 2012 by armed group raising the number of media men who have been killed since 2003 to 373.Xinhua also noted it, "Five journalists were killed in Iraq's violence during 2012, bringing the number of the journalists killed in the country to 373 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, an Iraqi journalists' body said on Saturday." It's a shame that the so-called Committee to Protect Journalist couldn't get it right.  According to their report released earlier this month, no journalists were killed in Iraq.  It doesn't make their top 20 because no one died.  How shameful.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)

Ann and Stan here to take a look at the best in film this year that you could stream or rent.  Though two summer films were huge hits, both "Avengers" and "Dark Knight Rises (and Falls)" were as hollow and weak as anything coming out of 4Kids Entertainment.  The future that awaits the fans of these films is the same one that awaited the big box office hit "Titanic" -- we're not talking about James Cameron's masterpiece, we mean the 1952 film that was a big hit with audiences at its time and an embarrassment within ten years of release.

The year's big trend appeared to be hopping on a moral soapbox for an easy stand.  World Can't Wait, Glenn Greenwald and countless others you've never heard of (for good reason) came out against "Zero Dark Thirty."   Why?  Because it's directed by a woman.  They're 'offended' by this film.  We're African-American and we're offended by Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln."  Winning easy praise -- in part because of its Socialist screenwriter -- the film supposedly tells us about the country.  And, indeed, if telegraph operators sound more important to you than slaves or freed-Blacks who have to live in a world where people who look just like them are enslaved, then Spielberg's made just the film for you.  If, to you, a 'great' film on slavery is one that reduces the accomplishments of Black people, then embrace "Lincoln."  But it's a deeply racist and offensive film.  We also notice that although Spike Lee's called out "Django Unchained" (Quentin Tarantion's latest film), World Can't Wait is organizing no protests against it and 'film critic' and part-time American Glenn Greenwald has yet to write several vicious columns attacking the film.  (We haven't seen the film, so unlike Glenn and World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet, we won't condemn it.  We will applaud Spike Lee for calling out turning slavery into a video game.)  Here's a thought for Spielberg and Tarantino, as White men who so love to take bows for 'helping' the African-American race, do you think next time you do a film 'about' Black people, you might actually get an African-American writer involved, someone at the table who can explain to you how offensive your portrayals are. But don't worry, Steve and Quentin, you're men.  So no one will protest you.  Glenn Greenwald will organize no attacks on you.  You can continue putting racism on the screen and know that the only ones who'll call you out are African-Americans and, as the Guardian (home of Glenn Greenwald and others) and World Can't Wait demonstrate, African-Americans don't really matter.  Attacking women, that matters to them.  Thanks for the clarification in 2012, Glenn and Debra.

Once upon a time, a film year would provide a wealth of choices.  Not just the popcorn movies of summer (which have been boiled down to super hero costumes today), but films that explored relationships, explored ethics, explored family.  Today, we get the popcorn movies year round and we also get bloated and lifeless films like "Lincoln" which are supposed to be seen as the successors to "Reds," "Shampoo," "Klute," "On Golden Pond," "The Conversation,"  and other film explorations which actually had weight and life to them.  This year wasn't without promise . . .

take this waltz

1) "Take This Waltz."  In a large part ("The Sweet Hereafter") or a small role ("eXistenZ"), Sarah Polley is always worth watching watching but her follow up to her directorial debut (2006's Away From Her) is so great that we're almost ready to say, "Sure, stop acting.  Just give us more films like this."  "Take This Waltz" is a drama and a comedy and a romance and there's nothing 'high concept' about it.  It's the most moving film of the year.  The film stars Michelle Williams and Luke Kirby as two people who fall in love despite her husband (Seth Rogen).  Sarah Silverman provides the kind of comic support as the best friend that has not been seen since Rosie O'Donnell's performance in "Sleepless In Seattle."  This film hits no wrong notes.

take this waltz 2

2) "21 Jump Street."  We are not fans of TV shows turned into films -- we already suffering night terrors just picturing "Kojak: The Movie" -- but this film was hilarious and the funniest comedy of the year.  Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have the kind of comedy chemistry not seen since Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.  Channing's a dick in high school and Jonah's a nerd but, needing each other to pass the police academy, they finally bond.  Their skills leave something to be desired and they're transferred to the undercover unit at, yes, 21 Jump Street.  The place where Tom, Judy and Doug (Johnny Depp, Holly Robinson Peete and Peter DeLouise -- all do a cameo turn in the film) used to get their assignments as they went undercover at various high schools.  Like the ones who came before, Channing and Jonah get an assignment, unlike their predecessors, they screw everything up.

 21 jump street 1

 They even take drugs -- necessitating the finger-bang they give each other in the men's room and leading to a very funny scene where they trip in front of the school's coach.  Brie Larson, Ice Cube and Dave Franco give great supporting turns.  And Jake Johnson and Nick Offerman are wonderful in their brief scenes. If you're not laughing non-stop during this movie, you're just not someone who likes comedies.


3) "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding." Director Bruce Beresford may have been one of the few directors interested in exploring the family in 2012.  Catherine Keener is an attorney who thinks things are okay when her husband leaves her.  She takes her two children (Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff) go to Woodstock to visit her mother Jane Fonda.  Along the way Keener finds out she's not so right and also that she's not so wrong and, collectively, acceptance is the key to family.  A strong script, tight direction and excellent performances (the scenes with Keener and Fonda crackle with energy), the kind of films that Hollywood no longer makes unless the characters are in spandex and tights and soar through the skies.

ted 2

4) "Ted." What the hell is a stuffed teddy bear doing spanking Mark Wahlberg?  Proving that Seth MacFarlane can transfer to the big screens.  The guy responsible for "The Family Guy" and "American Dad" hasn't had much luck with live action TV shows but "Ted" demonstrates real strength.  MacFarlane directs, co-writes the screenplay (with Alec Sulkin and Wellesly Wild) and voices Ted the teddy bear.  The film's biggest weakness is the voice over.  And MacFarlane might have been smarter to have gone with a woman (say Joanne Woodward doing something similar to what she did for Scorsce's "Age Of Innocence").  Instead of offering excitement and promise, something magical, Patrick Stewart's voice over just sort of lays there.  If he made a mistake there (and he did), MacFarlane wisely used 'the voice of Meg' for the second lead.  Mila Kunis can act (see "Black Swan") but, in many of her roles, what stands out most is the actress is a good sport.  (Think of Jackie on "That 70s Show.")  That quality is sorely needed in this film.  If the actress playing Mark Walhberg's girlfriend gets too angry (and a woman would have every reason to) over Mark's relationship with his talking and walking (and pot smoking) teddy bear, the film falls apart.  And Walhberg?  He continues to be the most important film actor in America under the age of 60.

magic mike

5)  "Magic Mike."  A male stripper film worth watching?  Yes, when it's directed by Steven Soderbergh (who swears he's almost done with directing).  Soderbergh's crafted a seventies film in many ways, the layers of Lumet, the tensions of Pakula.  "Magic Mike" is not just a good film, it's his best film since "Sex, Lies and Videotape."  In a supporting cast that includes great turns by Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello and Cody Horn, Matthew McConaughey gives an Academy Award worthy supporting performance.  Holding the film together onscreen is Channing Tatum who makes it look so effortless he's probably not getting the credit he deserves for this performance.

perfect sense

6)  "Perfect Sense." When the world is no longer just falling apart, when it may be ending, is love still worth it?  David Mackenzie explores that question from Kim Fupz Aakenson's script with the help of Eva Green and Ewan McGregor.

a cat in paris 2

7) "A Cat In Paris."Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli direct this animated film about Zoe and her cat, her mother Jeanne the police superintendent, Nico the burglar, mobster Victor Costa among others.  Rare for an animated film, "A Cat In Paris" doesn't attempt to be cute or to play down to children while playing up to their parents.  This is a straight-forward film that happens to be animated, an animated film worthy of the term "film."


8) "Bernie"  Like Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey placed two films on our top ten list.  This one is a dark comedy starring Jack Black as the mortician who makes nice with various family members in mourning and then sets his site on a non-mourning Shirley MacLaine who's not only the town's wealthiest citizen but also its most caustic, to put it mildly.  The town is amazed that Bernie can put up with the woman whose own family avoids her.  And then comes foul play.  McConaughey may be the only person in town who wants Black to pay for what he did.  This is director Richard Linklater's best film since "Dazed and Confused," and Black, MacLaine and McConaughy all hit acting high notes on this sleeper gem.  Our link for the film, by the way, goes to Netflix where you can stream it currently.

wes anderson

9) "Moonrise Kingdom."  In the Wes Anderson canon, this film is way behind "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" but somewhat ahead of "Rushmore."  Bruce Willis is a poor fit for the Anderson canvas and it seems truly monochrome without Anjelica Huston.  As a film about children that doesn't talk down to them, the film succeeds and the visuals make up for some of the gaps in energy.  It's a flawed Anderson film but one worth noting in spite of those flaws.


10) "Detachment." Adrien Brody's steady performance steers Tony Kaye's ensemble film Detachment but James Caan, Lucy Liu and especially Marcia Gay Harden deliver in supporting roles.

And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, December 28, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the US Embassy in Baghdad issues a warning, Iraqis take to the street in protest, Nouri tries to prevent press coverage,  Nouri makes strange noises, the PUK 'corrects' Nouri's interpretation of the Iraqi Constitution, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's doctors issue an update, AFP provides a valuable public service, and more.
December 28, 2012
Threat information indicates that terrorist elements may target U.S. interests in Baghdad, including the United States Embassy, as well as churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk, on or around December 31, 2012.  The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad urges U.S. citizens in Iraq to exercise caution and to refer to the current travel warning on our website.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov.  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 
Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Iraq.  For additional information, refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" on the State Department's website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.
It's a sign of how much turmoil there is in Iraq currently that it was little noted in the western coverage of Iraq today.  This was the day dubbed "Friday of Honor" with plans for large protests in Iraq.  Question: If you're the government and you don't want people to know about the protests, what might you do?  Hmmm. . . .
Been waiting 3+ hours at Anbar checkpoint with other media to cover Friday anti-govt demo. Go-ahead mysteriously not coming - I wonder why.
Just a second, Prashant!  You are Nouri al-Maliki and you don't want the protests to get attention, what could you do?  How could you prevent attention to the protests?  Maybe --
4.5 hours at checkpoint with other media - Anbar protests at Friday prayers have begun, reports of massive crowds. Army keeping us here.
Prashant Rao of AFP, we are trying to think right now.  Okay, so protests are taking place and Iraq's a failed state and you just made a new corruption list and, as Al Mada reports, Baghdad's just been named the worst place to live in the world by the Mercer Consulting Group.  The rains are coming down hard and, as Dar Addustour notes, Baghdad's sunk by rainwater.  You're Nouri al-Maliki and you don't want the word getting out about these protests so --
5+ hours at Anbar checkpoint + army take IDs + told "authorisation" coming only after mid-day prayer = unable to cover Friday demo in #Iraq
Oh my goodness, Prashant Rao, you are 100% correct.  If the government doesn't want word of the protests out, the easiest way is to refuse to allow journalists close enough to the protests to cover them.  BBC News observes:
Some journalists attempting to reach the city were held at an army checkpoint some 50km east of Ramadi for six hours, and were unable to cover the demonstration, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem who was at the scene.
The government has succeeded in keeping the protests out of the public eye to an extent, says our correspondent, but in the process has revealed how nervous it is over this latest challenge to its authority.
Army units did, however, bar Baghdad-based journalists from entering Anbar province, holding teams from AFP and other media at a checkpoint between Baghdad and Ramadi for more than five hours.
They also confiscated their press badges, promising to return them only if they turned back to Baghdad.
A senior security official said that there were "strong preventative measures to protect the demonstrators", but journalists witnessed dozens of cars pass through the checkpoint where they were held with no questioning whatsoever.
As the Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweeted:
Democracy in Iraq MT @prashantrao: 4.5 hours at checkpoint w media-Anbar protests have begun, reports of big crowds. Army keeping us here.
'Democracy in Iraq' indeed. 
Morning Star notes, "Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers for the sixth day of protests calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down and for the release of Sunni prisoners."  Al Arabiya notes that the protesters had support from Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, "In a letter by Sadr sent to the tribal sheikhs, the Islamist leader said that he supports their protests against Maliki and their effort to hold unity and thwart sectarianism.Deutsche Welle quotes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whining today, "It is not acceptable to express something by blocking roads, inciting sedition and sectarianism, killing, or blowing the trumpet of war and dividing Iraq."  Sign of a true despot, civil disobdience is likened to "killing."  Because it is a 'killing,' it's a killing of his crafted image, it's an exposure of his failure as a leader.   Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) observes of the slogan at many of the protests across Iraq "The people want to bring down the regime," "This is the slogan protesters used in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere during the Arab Spring."

Kitabat reports that "millions" came out to protest in Anbar Province today.  Their photo of Falluja shows the large crowd with banners, flags and a huge photo of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi (last week, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of 150 staff and bodyguards working for al-Issawi -- 10 have been charged with 'terrorism' and 50 have been released, this was seen as politically motivated).  The Falluja protesters demanded that innocent people be released from detention and end to the 'terror' arrests, an end to politicizing the Iraqi military, that Nouri turn over the soldier who raped the girl in Mosul and more.  They chanted for unity and for an end to sectarianism and Nouri's abusive government. Kamal Naama and Raheem Salman (Reuters) add, "Around 60,000 people blocked the main road through Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, setting fire to the flag of Shi'ite Iran and shouting 'out, out Iran! Baghdad stays free' and 'Maliki you coward, don't take your advice from Iran'."  AP goes with the more conservative crowd estimate of "tens of thousands" of people protesting.  For a good photo from AP of the Falluja crowd, click here (photographer is Karim Kadim).  Omar al-Saleh reported for today's Inside Story (Al Jazeera -- link is text and video):
Omar al-Saleh:  A show of support in Ramadi and Falluja for Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi.  During it's biggest rally in days in Anbar Province, local leaders have called for civil disobedience and thousands have blocked the highway linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria.  They are demanding the release of 9 bodyguards of the finance minister who were arrested on Thursday [of last week].  But Rafia al-Issawi addressed the crowd saying the issue now was bigger than his bodyguards.
Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi:  This crowd is not political or sectarian.  But it represents all Iraqis who came to denounce the injustice and marginalization.  When we say the injustice has happened against Sunni Arabs, that doesn't mean that we want to take the country to a civil war.
Omar al-Saleh: The protesters urged the Shi'ite-led government to stop its sectarian approach and marginalization of Sunnis and their leaders but the government continues to deny the accusation.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the issue of the bodyguards is judicial and the role of the state is to pursue wanted terrorists and not to support them.  Many feel the crisis may escalate.
Political Analyst Watheq Alshashimi:  The situation in Iraq may take a dangerous direction as elections approach.  What politicians are doing is polarizing their supporters ethnically and based on sectarian  affiliatons.  What's happening in Anbar  can escalate and may lead to more pressure on the prime minister.
Omar al-Saleh: But other Sunni leaders accuse the president of trying to consolidate his grip on power and target his political rivals.  Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's fugitive Vice President, has been sentence to death in absentia for terrorism charges.  He says the prime minister is adopting sectarian policies.  Adding to Iraq's political turmoil is the looming confrontation between the Iraqi army and forces from the semi-autonomous Kurdish north. 
We are only noting the report from that broadcasting.  We are not noting -- on the advice of a former Al Jazeera producer -- the 'discussion.'  I called him to ask what the hell was going on when this discussion was planned?  State of Law is invited on and goes on to trash Iraqiya -- Iraqiya has no one on to represent them.  No one to challenge the lies of State of Law?  We're not interested in that nonsense but we do get why Al Jazeera had to kill Inside Iraq -- they killed that program -- because the presenter wouldn't slant it towards Nouri al-Maliki.  Even when they pulled him off air as a threat, he refused to slant the program.  He played it fair, inviting all segments of Iraq onto his show.  And Al Jazeera had a problem with that.  Which is why his program is no longer on.  We're noting the report, we're not noting a fixed discussion that was fixed before a 'dialogue' even began. 
As noted earlier, Prashant Rao and other journalists were prevented from entering to observe the Falluja protests; however, they were not the only ones blocked from entering the province.  Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Police sources said here today that the army forces prevented Iraqi delegations from other provinces from entering to participate in Fallujah sit-in on the international highway."   Al Jazeera (link has video) also goes with "thousands:"

Massive demonstrations took place along a major highway near the city of Fallujah on Friday, a day after thousands of protesters continued an almost week-long blockade on a key highway in the western Anbar province. 
Protests erupted last week after Iraqi authorities detained 10 bodyguards of the finance minister, who is from Anbar and is one of the government's most senior Sunni officials.
Many Sunnis accuse Maliki of marginalising the country's religious minority group by refusing to share power and depriving them of equal rights.

Alsumaria notes "hundreds" protested in Mosul at noon and their demands were similar with the addition of they called for the execution of the soldier who raped the young girl.  All Iraq News adds that the protesters called for all charges against al-Issawi's bodyguards to be dropped.  Alsumaria notes that Samarra saw thousands turn out and their calls were similar but they also want the long promised amnesty law implemented and they want the Justice and Accountability Commission dissolved (the Commission was used most infamously in the 2010 elections to disqualify various Sunnis from running for office -- that includes the current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq).  AP adds that protests took place today in Tikrit as well.  BBC News notes a Ramadi protest and that held "a mock funeral for the Iraqi judiciary."

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes:

The protests began last week after troops detained bodyguards and aides of Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi, while searching his home and offices on December 20. The government has claimed that it arrested only ten of the minister's bodyguards on charges of "terrorism." But Essawi, a member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, charged that over 100 people connected to his staff were rounded up by what he said was a "militia force" controlled by Maliki's supporters.
It appears that the discrepancy arises from the fact that only the bodyguards were subjected to formal arrest, while the others were essentially subjected to extra-legal detention and interrogation.
Addressing Maliki in a statement to the Iraqi media, Essawi stated, "You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people."
The finance minister told Associated Press that Maliki was deliberately seeking to stoke sectarian conflicts between the Sunni and Shia populations. "These practices are aimed at drawing the country into a sectarian conflict again by creating crisis and targeting prominent national figures," he said.
The incident was essentially a replay of a similar crackdown carried out a year ago, on December 19, 2011, the day after the last US troops ended the more than eight-year American occupation of Iraq. Then the target was Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also a Sunni member of the Iraqiya bloc.
While the protests took place, Nouri attempted to distract by giving a speech.  Alsumaria notes he was forced to admit that the budget for 2013 (that should be Fiscal Year 2013 unless something's changed) did not and would not improve the problems facing Iraqi citizens.  For those who may have stepped out of the main room for a moment, that is no longer just the lack of basic services like electricity, potable water, trash pick up, etc.  No, add flooding to the list as Iraq -- especially Baghdad -- finds itself flooded as a result of Nouri's refusal for the last six years to spend money on the infrastructure.  Home are collapsing, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society evacuated one village this month (the village is in Wasit Province -- see Wednesday's snapshot). But Nouri says these problems will not be addressed in the budget.   Karafillis Giannoulis (New Europe) notes of Nouri's speech broadcast on Iraqi TV, "At a conference in Baghdad, al-Maliki stressed that current tension can cause a return to the 'dark days when people were killed because of their names or identities.' For that reason Prime Minister of Iraq asked by the demonstrators to stop protesting and promote dialogue instead."  Why does that sound like a threat?  These protests can cause "dark days" to come back "when people were killed because of their names or identities"?  Maybe because those dark days occurred most recently in Iraq during Nouri's first term as prime minister and the Sunnis were the ones targeted by Nouri's Ministry of the Interior forces?  Maybe because that period of ethnic cleansing was overseen by Nouri?  As the editorial board of Gulf News points out, "The sectarian drift of the Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, needs to be reversed. Al Maliki is a leading Shiite politician, but in his position as the head of a government, he needs to serve the entire Iraqi population and his government must work to be inclusive of all Iraqis — be they Shiite or Sunni; Kurdish or Turk; Christian or Muslim. "
AFP, apparently with a straight face, reported that Nouri was calling for dialogue and stating that nations have to "rely on civil means of expression."  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and President Jalal Talbani have been calling for a national conference since December 21st and Nouri's blocked it and prevented it.
And December 21st?  Of 2011.  For over a year, Nouri has blocked a dialogue.  Why?  Because he got a second term due to the Erbil Agreement.  The voters didn't give him a second term, the 2010 election results didn't give him a second term, the Constitution clearly didn't give him a second term.  But US President Barack Obama had a fondness for Bully Boy Bush's puppet and Barack insisted Nouri get a second term despite Nouri's State of Law coming in second in the 2010 elections.  Since there was no legal existing way for Nouri to get that term, Nouri resulted to tantrums (bringing the country to a stand still for over eight months) and the US resorted to a legal contract that they brokered with Iraq's various political leaders: The Erbil Agreement.  To end the ongoing stalemate -- the longest period up to that time following an election where a government still had not been seated, the leaders of Iraq's political blocs agreed to allow Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for his agreeing to various terms.  Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get his second term and then broke the contract, refusing to implement, for example, Article 140 of the Constitution, refusing to create an independent national security council, and much more.  And the US let him get away with it.  And covered for him.  For months, the political blocs practiced the 'patience' the US government advised them on.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya had reached the end of their waiting.  They demanded that the contract be returned to.  This creates Political Stalemate II and is why  al-Nujaifi and Talabani have called for over a year for a national conference to address these issues via dialogue. 
Nouri wants to talk about the need for dialogue today and no one's going to call him on that?
Equally true, the US government's backing Nouri is being noticed.  It's being noticed how unfairly others are treated as the US tries to repeatedly force other groups to make concessions so Nouri can 'win.'  David Romano (Rudaw) observed very accurately:
Average Iraqis increasingly lose faith with their gvoernment as the shell game continues.  As Nuri al-Maliki increasingly rides rough shod over the Constitution and the law of the land, the American State Department seems to forgive him all his transgressions.  Instead of demanding a better showing from Maliki, they pressure the Kurds, the Sunnis and non-Dawaa Party Shiites to make nice with Maliki.
It is on the record, it is there for the history books.  As Little Saddam turns more and more into a despot, Barack Obama's non-stop defense of him will be noted in the history books as well as the fact that the US didn't hold Nouri in check but instead put pressure on other groups -- who were already being victimized by Nouri -- to ignore the abuse. 
Kurdish writer Aziz Ahmad (Middle East Online) offers his take on the state of Iraq which includes:
Over six years in office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proven to be incapable of providing basic security and services to the people. By openly advocating a conflict between Kurds and Arabs, he is threatening the territorial integrity of Iraq and the success of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Nouri al-Maliki is deliberately undermining the prospects of a prosperous Iraq by threatening oil and gas supermajors against operating in Kurdistan, withholding their revenues at ransom and barring them from auctions; his foreign policy is a disaster, providing blatant support for Bashar al-Assad's regime and his bloodshed while weakening ties with Iraq's largest trading partner – Turkey; in the armed forces he openly incites and promotes sectarianism and segregation in the mindset of a fragile people.
The recent unconstitutional creation of an overarching Tigris (Dijla) Operations Command Centre to oversee the internal security affairs of the Northern provinces is a stark reminder of the previous regime for our people; al-Maliki also accuses our leadership of harassing local Arabs and other ethnic minorities by piling our security and intelligence officers into the largely Kurdish areas outside of our region - inaccurately referred to as disputed territories. By way of a twisting media campaign al-Maliki and his associates are masking failures by shifting attention towards the largely peaceful Kurdistan Region.
The editorial board of Lebanon's Daily Star weighs in on how the government is not promoting unity:
Rather than fulfill that role, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has instead become an instrument of division.
It has fostered conflict with the country's Kurdish and Sunni communities, as well as other minorities, and has divided the oil revenue between north and south, creating further splits.
The government has proved that it is an Iranian-inspired, supported and cultivated government, rather than one focused on the interests of the Iraqis.
It has become riddled with corruption that leaks billions of dollars. The extent of this is visible in the suffering of the Iraqi people from a variety of social ills, despite living in one of the most oil-rich countries in the region.

In other news, All Iraq News reports that there's an update from the medical tem in Germany for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  They are stating that he is showing positive improvement and that he is "responsive."  After what?  They don't say.  The President's office and family have not identified the health condition that left Talabani hospitalized; however, Nouri al-Maliki's office immediately declared it was a stroke.  Al Mada notes that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal's political party, is calling for the media to be accurate when covering Talabani's (unspecified) health condition.  Meanwhile Rebwar Karim Wali (Rudaw) states, "Statements and interviews by Talabani's close associates demonstrate that they have started to come to terms with the reality that the veteran 79-year-old leader may not be able to resume his duties, and each has began to vie for the leadership post."  Of Talabani contributions and importance, Raghid al-Solh (Al-Khallej via Al-Monitor) notes:
In the past few days, the health of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has captured public attention, both on the Arab and international levels. This concern was not due to the status of the Iraqi presidency, but to the status of the Iraqi president himself. Talabani is a prominent international figure. He has acquired this status as a result of his qualities of moderation, wisdom and flexibility -- which have almost made him an Iraqi national symbol -- as well as a result of his role as a Kurdish leader.
If Talabani is forced to step down from the Iraqi presidency, the voice of moderation in Iraqi politics will be weakened.

All Iraq News reports today that the deputy of Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party has sent Nouri a warning.  About what?  From yesterday's snapshot:
And the reports of allegations and torture and what Committees in Parliament have discovered, led to Nouri's freak out where he threatened to arrest members of Parliament who talked about the torture and rape.  Yesterday, he was insisting he had the power to do so.  Al Mada notes today that Nouri's remarks are in conflict with the Iraqi Constitution. 
Article 63:
First: A law shall regulate the rights and privileges of the speaker of the Council of Representatives, his two deputies, and the members of the Council of Representatives.
Second: A.  A member of the Council of Representatives shall enjoy immunity for statements made while the Council is in session, and the member may not be prosecuted before the courts for such.
              B.  A Council of Representatives member may not be placed under arrest during the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and the Council of Representatives members consent by an absoulte majority to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony.
             C. A Council of Representatives member may not be arrested after the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and with the consent of the speaker of the Council of Representatives to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony.
No, that is not in keeping with the claims Nouri's made this week that he will just strip MPs of their immunity and have them arrested.  The above section of the Constitution is very clear.  But Nouri's never really abided by or honored the Iraq Constitution. 
All Iraq News reports today that Adel Abdullah has stated that Nouri's statements regarding stripping immunity are not constitutional, are not part of the framework of democracy and that the PUK demands that Nouri back off from this unconstitutional stance and stop attempting to muzzle free speech.
Alsumaria notes that the home of a city administrator in Baiji was bombed today -- no one was at the house at the time.  The month of December (and the year 2012) is winding down.  December has been a violent month in Iraq with Iraq Body Count recording 223 deaths from violence this month through Wednesday.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
At least 115 people killed, 252 wounded in #Iraq so far this month - @AFP tally: 
And you can click here for AFP's recorded deaths, Rao has made it available in spread sheet form.  Not just today, it's been available for most of the month and he plans to keep it available for the near future.  He and AFP deserve a big thank you for that.  This is not the ministries count, this is the count AFP tabulates each day.  (And let me start the thank you train: Thank you, AFP, for keeping your own count -- something all outlets did during Vietnam but something that only AP and AFP have done during the Iraq War -- AP and AFP have kept their own count throughout, others did not keep it one in 2003 or any of the years followed.  Thank you now for sharing the count in a way that makes it even more open and accessible.  Whether your numbers or higher or lower than I might believe the month called for, I do appreciate that your figures are publicly out there and hope it will lead other outlets covering Iraq to include your count as a reference point when noting the monthly figures released by the Iraqi government ministries.  Again, thank you very much.)