Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Back off Barack
They like the show (older people) because it's funny and because it reflects life. And if they made a point to put this show on Saturday in repeats, they would up the audience even more for it.
My date and Marcia's date were talking about C.I.'s commentary this morning about Roland Burris and I'm supposed to be online right now talking up Burris.
I don't think Barack Obama -- who's trying to get in the middle of this -- realizes what a powder keg it can be for him.
Roland Burris is us, he is African-Americans. Barack's a traveler. He's a changeling trying to fit in. Barack disrespects Burris again and that's not going to play well. Not at all.
The Senate needs more persons of color. Burris is qualified to be in the Senate just from his experiences and past jobs and positions. But the additional fact that he's an African-American? That's the bonus. That's the clincher. He is the fifth Black person to be in the Senate.
Barack better get that we're not going to play on this issue. We are not going to let one of our own take the bullet for bi-racial Barack.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, December 31, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, hype passes for hope and neither are realistic, and more.
Today the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died, Dec. 31, in Balad, Iraq from injuries sustained during combat operations, Dec. 30." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died from wounds sustained during a mortar attack in Baghdad Dec. 31." The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4221. The toll for the month thus far is 14. You could say, "The death toll so far is the same as the media reported for October" but . . . 14 was the October death toll; however, the media rushed to insist it was 13. So it'll be cute to see if anyone references the October death toll in their reporting and, if so, how they do it. If your outlet reported 13 and never corrected it, you're really pushing it to just say, "The same number as in October." 13 was the death toll for July -- the lowest monthly death toll for 2008.
Speaking of bad reporting . . . The Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin wrote a laughable column (another one) that was published in the US on Christmas Eve and was published Monday in Taiwan. Trudy sees "signs of change on the streets of Baghdad" but, silly fool, she also believes that the US treaty with the puppet government in Baghdad will be followed. There are puppets in Baghdad smarter than Trudes. Where to start?
The "US Troops Withdrawal Agreement" is what the treaty was called by al-Maliki and what foolish idiots believed it was. It was no such thing. The treaty was needed to grant another one-year extension. The United Nations' Security Council could have extended the mandate for a year but the White House didn't want that. (Nor did al-Maliki who had -- two years in a row -- already gone around Parliament to get the mandate extended twice.) The treaty needed to cover a year. When the US began addressing it (in 2007), they frequently spoke of that reality. Trudy (and Patrick Cockburn) must have been sleeping. 2009 is the only year that both sides have to follow. 2010 can find the contract altered or cancelled. The same with 2011. In 2010, both parties may choose to replace it with a new treaty. It is a one-year contract with two options for renewal.
In mid-November, al-Maliki took to Iraq TV (state TV) to declare, "The pact stipulates that U.S. troops are to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009. And it is a deadline that will not be extended. It also says that [the US] should withdraw from Iraqi land, water and air space by January 1, 2011 -- which is a deadline that will not be extended." That was back when he was calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement."
Nouri and Bully Boy were shoulder-to-shoulder recently. Remember that? At al-Maliki's palace? Maybe people forget because the one-shoe, two-shoe incident attracted so much attention? But check the transcript at the White House and see what al-Maliki's calling it? Is he calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He's using the same term the White House did "SOFA" -- Status Of Forces Agreement. It's not a withdrawal agreement. And at the December 20th Green Zone press conference, Iraqi Maj Gen Qassim Atta called the treaty the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He referred to the June 2009 'withdrawal' as being "according to what's been said during -- the agreements, an agreement, the security agreement".
The US Withdrawal Agreement was just a brand al-Maliki slapped on it in November when he was attempting to pressure Parliament to vote for it. Since then, that 'term' is no longer used, not even by al-Maliki. Now let's deal with the June claim Trudy's pimping. From the December 22nd snapshot:
Today Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) examines the realities of the so-called US withdrawal from Iraq and it's not a pretty sight. Bumiller and Thom Shanker reported last week on how the 'plan' presented to president-elect Barack Obama -- the Petraeus-Odierno plan -- wouldn't allow for that campaign 'promise' of a US withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Friday Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reported that word games could allow for the impression that promises were being kept -- including what the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement allegedly promised. For context, Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explained last week, "American combat troops will remain inside Iraqi cities to train and mentor Iraqi forces after next summer, despite a security agreement that calls for their withdrawal from urban areas by June 30, the top U.S. military commander said Saturday." With all that as the backdrop, Bumiller explains today that "a semantic dance" has begun at the Pentagon over what qualifies as a combat soldier and, with regards to the treaty, "Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed "trainers" and "advisers" in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Bumiller notes that "trainers" and "advisers" will be the renaming terms for "combat troops" in order to keep them in Iraq: "In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Of Barack, she notes, "it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops."
So that means we've taken care of The Trudys and their "withdraw from major cities in June!" nonsense. (And it's already been learned that even the private contractors/mercenaries clause may not stand.) With the well known history of US treaties, you really had to be naive to think it would work out any differently. Naive or a liar.
So let's back up to this 'safer' claim. The same December 20th Green Zone press conference found Maj Gen Atta expounding on what's in store for the coming year: "The year of 2009 is going to witness a lot more coordination between Baghdad Amanat and the BOC and also the traffic police to reopen all the closed roads and streets and to also lift or remove all the concrete barries or security barriers, and [. . . .]" Really? And the security's going to hold? Hmmm. It's very likely that some of the news outlets pulling reporters from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan may have to alter those plans at some point in the new year.
Meanwhile Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports on some things that actually are planned to happen. On January 1st, warrants will be needed. Arrest warrants and detention warrants. The former must be received before arrests, the latter can be granted as late as 24 hours after a detention. So, Robertson explains, the US military is doing the house-to-house searches and other activities they can still do before the January 1st date when they will (may)be required to consult the Iraqi judiciary.Robertson notes that Company C of the "First Battalion [,35th Armor Regiment] has been trying to complete missions, like general house-to-house searches, that will soon become far more complicated, if not impossible" but, this month, as they were attempting to gather the backing that they hoped would result in a warrant being issued in January on one suspect, they came across him and "did what they had been doing freely for nearly six years: they detained him on the spot."
"(may)be"? As Capt Lloyd B. Osafo points out in the article, "Who knows if the Iraqis are going to follow all of this to a T? That's my personal opinion about all of this: who knows?" And the doubt is only increased by Iraqi Maj Hasson S. Hussein al-Zoubadi whining about how the Iraqi military will now have to follow these new rules. Robertson points out, "Actually, the agreement changes almost nothing for the Iraqi security forces: they are supposed to have been operating under the warrant-based system since 2007." When they haven't been it backs up Osafo's opinion.
Also expected in the new year is the holding of provincial elections. They are scheduled for January 31st and Maj Gen Atta was talking them up in the December 20th press conference as well. Missy Ryan and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) report Mowaffaq al-Hamdani was shot dead in a Mosul cafe today and that al-Hamdani was "a candidate for the Sunni Arab party Iraq for Us". Following the shooting, police pursued the killers and 1 police officer was shot dead while another was injured. The reporters note, "The results of the vote, which will choose provincial council leaders in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, will set the tone for parliamentary elections due at the end of 2009. The government of Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, has been in the hands of minority Kurds since many of the Sunni Arab majority boycotted the last provincial elections in 2005."
Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing that followed another bombing (apparently the first was to draw people in for the second bombing) that left 4 dead and seven people wounded while a Sinjar car bombing claimed 5 lives and left forty-five wounded.
Reuters drops back to Tuesday to note 1 corpse discovered in Mosul and another just outside of Mosul.
CBS and AP note that New Year's Eve is being celebrated around the world. But not in the allegedly 90% democracy Iraq, Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that Baghdad residents will not be allowed to celebrate the New Year tonight. It's been outlawed.Dagher explains that hotels and clubs have been ordered to close down (and cancel reservations). Why? Shi'ites have a holiday. Remember the back-patting al-Maliki just received last week? "Christmas is a legal holiday in Iraq for the first time ever!" was what the headlines screamed at many outlets. Murharram is going on! All must be placed on hold for this Shi'ite religious period (Shi'ite but not Sunni).
Turning to US politics. Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned. And though the Illinois Secretary of State insists he will not confirm Burris, that's not really allowed in the state constitution. The Secretary is not allowed to override a governor's choice. Those egging the SoS on should be ashamed because they're applauding the subversion of the law. On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" which includes an offensive statement:The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate." The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.Shouldn't have dragged their feet.Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)
Barack remains in the news despite his tropical vacation. While he vacations, Gaza is under assault. Rebecca has been following that and noted last night Cynthia McKinney joined doctors and human rights activits on the Dignity to take medical supplies and help to the Palestinians however the ship was attacked by the Israeli navy. Black Agenda Report points out:
President-Elect Obama has been silent on the Israeli attacks, while President George Bush has supported Israel's actions.
"I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world," said McKinney, who was the Green Party's presidential candidate in November. "As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government."
Vacationing Barack also remains dogged by the controversy he created when he invited homophobe Rick Warren to preside as some sort of anti-gay activist at the inauguration. Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) observes:
Obama has been courting Warren and other conservative evangelicals for some time. In June of 2006 Obama gave a speech that purported to show Democrats how to reach out to religious voters. At that time he had not yet officially declared himself a presidential candidate, but he very clearly showed his strategic hand and his political plans. He smeared religious progressives by saying that they didn't even exist and he smeared all progressives by claiming that they were hostile to religion. The much talked about speech consisted of one right wing talking point after another.
The Warren invitation is vintage Obama. Like Bush, Obama believes that he is the decider and that opinions differing from his own are to be ignored. Unlike Bush, he is savvy enough to pretend otherwise, and his smooth talking feel goodism fools many into maintaining a vow of silence about anything he does. The Warren invitation is yet another instance of the patronizing Obama telling the left that they shouldn't worry their pretty little
And Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) observes:
I wrote about the Warren thing when it broke, and noted at the time that -- ahem -- there's a hell of a lot more wrong with the guy than just the gay marriage thing. But who am I kidding? Women's rights don't matter. My Google news feed is full of articles and editorials on how Warren's presence at the Inauguration is an insult to right-thinking liberals everywhere -- but only because of his homophobia. There is no mention of the sexism. Thinking that women are born-to-obey is fine, apparently, but the anti-gay thing is just beyond the pale. Golly, Richard Cohen's sister even canceled her Inauguration party.
And you know what? Homophobia is awful. It's ugly primitive bigotry. Kind of like racism, which is also awful. Ridiculous to think that skin color or sexual orientation makes some humans inferior to other humans.
But sexism? Thinking women are inferior? Even preaching that women were put on earth to serve men? Eh. Whatever. Different strokes.
Forty years after the Second Wave started, and we're still at the back of the bus.
Socks' point is valid but it also needs to be noted that homophobia effects women. It effects women who are lesbians, it effects women targeted for being or suspected of being lesbians. It effects women with LGBT friends and family members and Richard Cohen's sister is a lesbian which is why he emphasized the homophobia when writing of his sister's decision to cancel a planned party to celebrate president-elect Barack's inauguration.
"2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary -- went up yesterday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up today.
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If you've already read it, great. If not, make a point to read it now. Roland Burris is a Black man who has served the state of Illinois and his community. He has more earned the right to be the appointed senator from Illinois.
"Congratulations, Senator Burris" (The Common Ills)
The above is the announcement released yesterday from the Illinois Governor's office.
Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.
The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.
He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned.
On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" includes an offensive statement:
The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate."
The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.
Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)
Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).
Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.
Shouldn't have dragged their feet.
Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.
Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.
Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),
Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).
Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?
What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.
Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.
Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."
Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)
The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Interestingly enough, Obama has not enrolled his children in the Chicago Public Schools, even though some of the district's "better" (high-scoring/higher socioeconomic status) public schools are located in his Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood. As Greg Palast notes, Obama "refused to send his kids to Duncan's public schools. (The Obamas sent Sasha and Malia to the Laboratory School, where Duncan's [inner-city skill-and-drill] methods are derided as dangerously ludicrous)...If The One won't trust his kids to Duncan," Palast asks, "why is he handing Duncan ours?" (Palast 2008) 
Part of the answer is that Duncan is a friend of Obama's - a regular basketball buddy for the nation's first gym-rat president. Duncan is also a good pal of one of Obama's closest companions and sponsors - the leading investment capitalist John W. Rogers, founder of Ariel Capital Management Inc. (Prior to working for the CPS under Vallas, Duncan ran an educational policy foundation for Rogers.)
Cronyism aside, Duncan fits the broader centrist and corporate- and military-friendly agenda that Barack "Empire's New Clothes" Obama has been hired to advance under the cover of pseudo-progressive rebel's clothing (Street 2008).
Presidential candidate Obama consistently sought to curry favor with the business elite and to win crossover Republican support by trumpeting school "choice" and proclaiming his willingness to scapegoat teachers for impoverished students' poor test scores. He embraced teacher-blaming "merit pay" schemes and spoke with pride of how his embrace of charter schools showed that was not beholden to "ideology" and his liberal base (Fitzgerald 2007; Politico 2008). Obama has never called for repeal of the widely hated No Child Left Behind Act, which sets poor and minority schools up for privatization by mandating absurdly unattainable test-score improvements. Like Duncan, he criticizes the bill only as an "unfunded mandate," generally ignoring the deeper problem that it reinforces pedagogical apartheid (test-based instruction for poor and mostly minority kids and critical thinking for privileged children at elite private and public schools) and denies the primary role of concentrated poverty (Rothstein 2004) in producing low student achievement.
That's from Paul Street's "Arne Duncan and Neoliberal Racism" (ZNet) and that's just another offensive thing about Barack.
A number of African-Americans support charter schools. I have no idea how high the percentage but I know from my own experiences that it's a large number.
They trick themselves into thinking this is the thing that will find allow their children to have equal standing. Our schools have traditionally been the most underfunded. And so parents are desperate for something that they think will level the playing field.
But that's not what happens with charter schools.
But we're desperate to believe there's a magic cure-all and stupid enough to think that if such a thing exists, it will be provided to us by the same system which has held us -- and continues to hold us -- back.
Charter schools work from the same gut feeling that the lottery does. It's a gamble.
If you play just once a week every week of the year, that's $52 you could have spent on something else. You're not going to win, you're not going to beat the system. The odds are not in your favor. But you pretend and fool yourself.
Same thing with the charter school.
"2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" was a real treat to read. Martha and Shirley could have just offered a list of three books (we only found three worth reading this year) and maybe one sentence on each but they really turned in an essay. I'm really looking forward to all of the year-in-review pieces.
I was asked in an e-mail today if I was planning on doing one? I don't know what I'd do it on. But let me think about it for a bit and maybe by Friday I'll have something I can offer.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Tuesday, December 30, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis gets serious attention, the Green Zone comes under fire, "Awakening" Council members are still not under Iraqi control, warnings of Kurdish and Arab conflict come from the puppet government in Baghdad, and more.
As noted yesterday, the refugee crisis is covered today. The largest global refugee crisis remains Iraq with over four million internal and external refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees places the number of refugees at over 4.7 million with 2.7 million being internal refugees and notes, "In 2006, Iraqis became the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe." The List Project notes, "The Iraq refugee crisis is now among the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. 15% of Iraq's population is in flight, either displaced internally or forced to flee across international borders to neighboring countries."
Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun) reported on Najim Abid Hajwal Sunday, an Iraqi refugee who moved with "his wife and their seven children" to Jordan due to violence and threats and he thought they'd be in Jordan for a few "weeks. That was four years ago." The Hajwal family remins in Jordan and Najim explains, "Every day, I'm waiting for things to improve, but I don't see it. I feel as if, in one moment, I lost everything." The bulk of the externally displaced Iraqi refugees have settled in either Jordan or Syria where they "are blamed for crowding schools, straining hospitals and health clinics and driving up the costs of housing, fuel, food and other basics. With pressure building on Iraq to support its citizens abroad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is offering cash payments for refugees to return. Iraqi embassies in Syria and Egypt have organized flights and bus rides home. They have found few takers." That began the first installment of a three-part series by Matthew Hay Brown. He also explores the US response which we'll note in moment.
The UNHCR has also termed it the "largest population movement since 1948 in the Middle East." That factoid is noted by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) which released a report on Iraq's internal refugees yesterday entitled "Challenges of forced displacement within Iraq" (here for HTML, here for PDF).
* 4.3 million is the number of Iraqis IDMC classifies as "forcibly displaced, internally or in other countries"
* 2.8 million is the number of Iraqis who are internally displaced according to IDMC
* Both numbers come with a cautionary note due to continued security issues and "fluctuation in the displacement situation"
* The bulk of those internally displaced (60%) are said to have come from Baghdad
* The bulk of the internally displaced are Shi'ia Arab (58%)
* Sunni Arabs make up the next largest category of the internally displaced (30%) followed by "Shabaks, Christians Assyrians, Chaldeans, Amernians, Faeeli Kurds, Yazidis, and Sabean Mandeans"
* At least 1.5 million Iraqi refugees are estimated to be residing in Syria currently with another 500,000 estimated in Jordan.
Since the start of the illegal war, the report notes that displacement has resulted from military operations and from sectarian violence. On the former, the report reminds, "During the first months of the invasion, thousands of people were displaced by air strikes and urban warfare in Anbar, Thi'Qar, Basra and Baghdad. Across the country, small numbers of people living in areas considered strategically important were forcibly displaced by US led coalition forces". Later years of the illegal war result in other regions being targeted as well. On sectarian violence, the report explains, "In 2006, 80 per cent of sectarian violence occurred within a 55-kilometre radius of Baghdad (UNSC, 11 December 2006). There was already evicendence during 2005 of growing numbers fleeing Baghdad's mixed neighbourhoods to places where their community predominated". The report notes:
The MNF-I and ISF have conducted large-scale counter-insurgency operations in Basra, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, Amarah, Baquba, Diyala, and Mosul. These operations, particularly in Basra and Baghdad, were marked by heavy fighting in densely populated urban areas, curfews, roadblocks and access difficulties for humanitarian agencies (IRN, 30 March 2008). Military operations and ongoing violence in heavily populated civilian areas have featured a lack of respect for the principles of proportionality and distinction, they have put civilians at risk and in certain instances led to mass displacement. In April and May 2008 operations against the Madhi militia in Sadr City led to the temporary displacement of approximately 4,700 families (IOM, June 2008).
Furthermore, there continues to be prolonged and multiple displacement due to insecurity, lack of adequate housing, and access to basic services and employment opportunities. The evolving situation has also entailed risks of new patterns of displacement emerging such as displacement of returnees or secondary displacement of occupants of private and public properties. IDPs in private and public properties increasingly face secondary displacement through evictions (IOM, October 2008). Sometimes these evictions orders only affect a small group of families, in other cases such as in the former military camp of Taji in Baghdad close to 1,000 IDP families (estimated 7,000 individuals) are under threat of eviction (IDP WG, 27 June 2008).
The report notes that the United Nations "and the humanitarian community continue to report human rights abuses against civilians by militias, criminal gangs, and security and military forces". The Iraqis turned into refugees are often forced to relocate in "areas where public services are limited, overstretched or non-existent" which only further adds to the problems for the refugees. They also lack adequate shelter and access to needed food. The problems with food access also includes the issue of ration cards which are issued to a family for a location and which, once they become displaced, requires red-tape to have the registrations transferred. The report notes, "While most provincial authorities allow IDPs to enter, various restrictions bar them from registering on security, economic and demographic grounds. These restrictions limit their capacity to rent or purchase property and access essential basic services and specific welfare assistance to IDPS".
One section of the report zooms in on women and children and we'll note it in full:
Women and children represent over 70 per cent of the displaced population (IOM, January 2008). Thousands of women and childred have been killed, maimed or injured; a large number of children have lost one or both parents, while the violence has left a notably high number of widows (US SR, April 2008). Female heads of household, women and children show the highest indicators of socio-economic vulnerability amongst the displaced. Attaining employment has been even more difficult for women and widows, especially in increasingly conservative areas (IDP WG, 27 June 2008); a significant number of women have no sources of income (IDP WP, November 2008).
Economic hardship has taken its toll on displaced children. Reports note that children are increasingly forced to work to support themselves or their families. Internally displaced children live in substandard conditions, without proper access to education and health care services, and there is a lack of support available to children whith disabilities or suffering from trauma. Absenteeism from schools among IDP children is reportedly high due to financial difficulties and problems accessing and registering in schools. Schools also lack sufficient resources and staff to accommodate the influx of children, while IDPs in the north encounter difficulties finding Arabic-language schools (IDP WG, March 2008 and November 2008).
Sexual and gender-based violence, including against children, has been widespread. This has involved discrimination, intimidation, beatings, mutiliations and "honour killings" (UNAMI, March 2008). Among the displaced, early marriages, domestic violence and also prostitution, including of children, has been reported (IDP WG, June 2008; IDP WG, March 2008). Displaced women living in camp or camp-like situations are more likely to be exposed to sexual assault and abductions (IOM, 11 January 2008). The lack of access of children and pregnant women to primary health and nutritional support has led to increased morbidity as well as child and maternal mortality for displaced and non-displaced alike. Among the displaced, there has been a reported rise in the incidence of unattended births and miscarriages (IOM, 11 January 2008). The mental health of conflict victims including IDPs, and especially women and children, represents another major issue. In 2007, 70 per cent of displaced mothers consulted by IMC reported that their children suffered from psychosocial distress (IOM, 30 June 2008; IMC, January 2007).
The report notes that some 184,000 people are said to have returned to their homes as of September 2008 (167,000 IDPs, 17,000 EDPs); however, "these figures nevertheless represent less than six per cent of all IDPs in Iraq." The report reminds that both the United States government and the Iraqi government have insisted refugees should return home and that this is not what the international humanitarian community urges. "In contrast," the report explains, "members of the humanitarian community remain acutely concerned about the apparent manipulation for political purposes of the questions of returns of IDPs and refugees (NCCI, January 2008). The United Nations, including UNHCR, and NGOs have repeatedly warned of the dangers of premature return and the disastrous consequences for both the displaced and for the stability of Iraq (UNHCR, September 2008; RI, July 2008). Failure of the government to take heed of these warnings will affect sustainability of returns, and put at risk the fragile gains acquired to date. UNHCR does not encourage returns to Iraq at the moment, due to the fragile security situation, though they do provide some assistance including cash grants to those voluntarily returning (UNHCR, 23 September 2008)."
The report addresses secondary occupation which does include a refugees home being occupied by someone else. A program offers squatters on private property the US equivalent of $250 a month for half a year to assist in finding another home. Secondary occupation also includes the squatters who have taken over abandoned public properties. The report notes that al-Maliki's government is moving towards more evictions with "the highest reported cases of evictions" being in Baghdad and Basra.
Iraqis fleeing their country do not just go to Syria or Jordan. Some have settled in other areas such as Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Europe. On Lebanon, Crosswalk notes:
The Chicago Tribune reports that Iraqi Christians with enough means are fleeing to Lebanon, preferring the longer journey for the greater freedom at the end. Lebanon's population is 40 percent Christian - much greater than Syria or Turkey, where many Iraqi refugees go. Rev. Joseph Malkoum in Beirut says the number of refugees is only increasing. "There was a period when we felt the numbers were going down, but after the recent troubles in Mosul the movement is picking up again," said Malkoum, who holds a special mass every Sunday for Iraqi Chaldeans. "Five years from now there won't be any Christians left in Iraq. It's happening quietly but also very quickly," said retired Gen. Michel Kasdano, a researcher and spokesman at the Chaldean Archbishopric.
The United States, which instigated the illegal war, has been far from welcoming. It has allotted very few slots for Iraqi immigrants and, despite that, until this fiscal year, it never met the meager quotas set. You can see [PDF format warning] the discrepancy by studying the UNHCR chart on the number of Iraqis they help apply to the US each month compared to the number of Iraqis accepted. Last week, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition) reported on NPR's Iraqi staffers who are applying for refugee status in the US including Ali Hamdani who will be moving to Syria while he waits to hear if the US will accept him. Since the start of the Iraq War, Hamdani has been "a translator for NPR, the New York Times and Times of London . . . But by training he is a medical doctor. . . . He hopes to get his medical specialization after he arrives in America." Hamdani explains, "Going to the State is a dream for everyone, but for an Iraqi person who's been trhough all of this I think it's not just a dream . . . it's just life. It's a chance to have a proper life, a real life."
Possibly, if granted refugee status, Hamadi's story will turn out differently than that of Muhammad Shumri. Matthew Hay Brown concluded his Baltimore Sun series today with a look at refugees who made it to the US. Dr. Shumri, "48-year-old physician," and once "a high ranking official in the Iraqi Ministry of Health" who moved to the US. He explains, "I thought, 'I am a doctor, they know me, I work with them, I can get a job, they will help me. I didn't think I would have the same job. But maybe I would take a job as a physician or teach at a university. I ws shocked when I got here." Why was he shocked? Because like other Iraqi professionals, he's found that the US "bureaucracy . . . doesn't recognize their credentials." Dr. Shumri is now "a medical interpreter at Johns Hopkins Hospital" which does not pay enough to cover his living expenses. [C.I. note, all the more appalling when you consider that Johns Hopkins cheerleaded this illegal war. They'd prefer to pretend otherwise today but they actively encouraged their neocon staff to whore out the facility by cheerleading the impending war and continuing to do so in its early days. They were especially popular guests on PBS' NewsHour where they could advocate for destruction and killing as 'medical professionals'.] Dr. Zena Jalal worked at a Baghdad hospital. Here? Hay Brown explains, "A general practitioner in Iraq, Jalal is taking classes at Baltimore City Community College so she can work as a pharmacy technician while she studies for her licensing exam. Her 29-year-old sister, Sausan, a biologist, has found a job as a cashier, their widowed mother is not working." The mother was an attorney in Iraq and her deceased "husband was a cardiologist." May Jalal tells Hay Brown, "We used to live rich. We find it difficult to live in this situation."
In the second part of the series, Matthew Hay Brown quoted Joost Hiltermann (International Crisis Group) explaining that the US was not doing enough despite claims (from the US State Dept) that they are: "The United States is responsible for this mess, frankly. It certainly was responsible for allowing the chaos that enveloped Iraq. It should therefore bear the responsibilities." The State Dept's James Foley offered excuses to Hay Brown.
In fairness, I'll note that Foley is new to the program, in fairness, and that he came on board right as the US was again missing the admittance target for the last fiscal year. The only year he's overseen was the 2008 fiscal year and the US did meet its target for admissions. In February, US House Reps John Dingell and Alcee Hastings sent a letter to US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice: "While we commend you for your appointment of Ambassador James Foley as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, we remain concerned that not enough attention and resources have been focused on the situation deemed by many the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world. Most disconcerting is the fact that our government does not appear to have a long-term strategy to address this crisis." Dingell and Hastings can look at Matthew Hay Brown's three-part series and ask, "Was our letter even read?" The same problems remain.
The Baltimore Sun sketches out the process Iraqis go through in attempting to be admitted to the US. Yesterday Matthew Hay Brown reported on Tina Raad who was working "with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad" until her family became concerned she was being targeted for collaboration. Tina Raad made it to the US and is the coordinator for the List Project To Resettle Iraqi Allies. The List Project explains:
The List Project's mission is to help these Iraqi allies get to the United States and build a life once they arrive. In this section, you can explore the genesis of the crisis, its key players and statistics, statements from leaders on both sides of the aisle, historical precedents for major resettlement action, Iraqis explaining their situation in their own words and other frequently asked questions. The List Project also maintains a growing library of important documents relating to the crisis and a news page/blog with daily updates about the crisis and the Project.
Turning to Iraq, CNN reported this morning, "Muntadhir Al-Zaidi was due to go on trial Wednesday, but the Criminal Court postponed it pending an appeal filed by his lawyers with the Federal Court of Appeal, a spoekseman for the Supreme Judicial Council, Abdul Sattar Bayrakdar, said. . . . Al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at Bush two weeks ago during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad." Al Jazeera adds, "His lawyer, Dhiya al-Saadi, lodged a request for the trial to be cancelled on the grounds that court action would breach al-Zaidi's constitutional right to freedom of expression." al-Saadi is quoted stating, "Our appeal is based on the fact that Zaidi simply expressed his rejection of the occupation and the policy of repression against Iraqis. Zaidi's action falls within the framework of freedom of expression." AGI declares that the Central Criminal Court is for terrorism cases and that al-Zaidi's attorneys are attempting to have the case moved to another court. Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) quote Muntader's brother Thigram al-Zaidi stating, "They wanted to have his trial . . . before the New Year and Bush's last day in the White House. That is what those politicians wanted. Thank God the judge was neutral." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) offers this perspective, "Thousands of people have rallied across Iraq to call for Mr Zaidi's release, while his shoe-throwing antics generated much praise across the Arab world. The incident even inspired several online shoe games. Speaking to The Times today, Mr al-Zaidi's family said that they were proud of his action, which has turned his brother, Maithm al-Zaid, a 28-year-old law student, into a mini celebrity in Baghdad."
Today, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, the Green Zone came under fire. This as KUNA notes the US military plans a ceremony on Thursday to "handover . . . the International Zone (Green Zone) to the Iraqi authroities." Yesterday's snapshot noted, "Over the weekend Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the plans to turn Diyala Province over to Iraqis on January 1st where the big news was that despite the November 1st headlines of Baghdad taking over the 'Awakening' Councils, approximately half the members are still under US control." Today the US military announces January 1st Iraq "will take over control of the Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces in four key provinces across the country -- including Diyala, one of the most diverse provinces, where al-Qaeda in Iraq once terrorized and intimidated local residents. In all, 76 percent of the nation's SoI members will be under Iraqi government responsibility by New Year's Day." Considering that the spin at the start of November was that the handover was taking place then, maybe it still not have taken place is not 'progress'? And if the stated prediction comes true, that means all these months later, 24% will still not be under Iraqi control.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Ayadhiyah "suicide car bomber" who took his/her own life and left four police officers wounded.
Hussien Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul today (and one shot dead yesterday). Reuters notes 1 "civilian" shot dead in Mosul and 1 "ribal leader" shot dead in Jalawla.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Provincial elections in Iraq (in most of Iraq) are currently scheduled for January 31st. Today the United Nations announced, "A new United Nations-supported blog site just launced in Baghdad is the latest initiative to engage voters in the nascent democracy and motivate them to go to the polls on 31 January 2009 during the country's provincial elections. The blog, called 'Vote for Iraq', was launched with the support of the UN-led International Election Assistance Team (IEAT)." Elections -- if they take place -- will be closely watched for signals of power shifts. AFP reports that Barham Saleh (Deputy Prime Minister) is sounding alarms of a coming "Arab-Kurdish conflict": "There are vicisous and dangerous attempts to convert the political and economic problems in Baghdad on a number of issues to an Arab-Kurdish conflict." Saleh is a Kurd.
Meanwhile Deng Shasha (Xinhau) reports that Hussein al-Shahristani, Minister of Oil, declared today that a "second licensing round" will take place tomorrow on "ten oil fields". al-Shahristani was speaking on Iraqia TV and declared there would be a December 31st press conference in which he would announce the spoils of war now up for grabs. Gulf Times states, "Iraq has invited international oil companies which haven't been qualified yet by the country's oil ministry to take part in tomorrow's announcement of the second round of tenders to develop its vast oil and gas fields, a senior ministry official has said."While the tag sales continues, Iraq's assets are currently safe from seizure by foreign creditors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released "Foreign Minister's Statement in Security Council on Ending the Mandate of the Multinational Forces" yesterday:The UN Security Council voted unanimously for adopting a resolution to take Iraq out of Chapter VII and to terminate the mandate of the multinational forces in Iraq. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari gave a speech in the Council and stated that Iraq has laid the foundations for stability and democracy since 2003.The minister expressed the gratitude of the Iraqi Government to the members of the Security Council for the continued support for Iraq and its people, adding that Iraq has taken advanced steps in the process of national reconciliation, security and stability in the country.The new resolution No. 1859 contains the protection of the Development Fund for Iraq and other Iraqi funds and stresses Iraq's obligations under Security Council resolutions. That wasn't the only statement the ministry released. In protest of the current slaughter in Gaza, the Ministry released "Foreign Ministry Condemns Israeli Brutal Aggression on Palestinians:"The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Iraq condemns the Israeli brutal attack against Palestinians that caused many civilian casualties. The act of the Israeli authorities is incompatible with basic international human law and human rights.The Foreign Ministry calls for the United Nations, Arab League, other organizations and the International and Human institutes to stop this aggression. We call for the Palestinian parties to join forces with all good people in the world to protect the rights and interests of the Palestinians and enable them to practice their legal rights according to International Law.
And, as Betty noted last night, wowOwow was among the few to pick up on the Washington Post's Amit R. Paley and Andrea Bruce exploration of female mutiliation in Iraq. Andrea Bruce's photos are here and Amit R. Paley's text report is here. From wowOwow's "Female Circumcision Rampant in Kurdistan, Women's Groups Don't Know Why:"The group Stop FGM in Kurdistan notes that in 2005, cutting rates of at least 60 percent were reported in some areas of the region."The practice has a tremendous cost: Many girls bleed to death or die of infection. Most are traumatized. Those who survive can suffer adverse health effects during marriage and pregnancy. Women and girls are enclosed by a wall of silence," according to Stop FGM. "Experts agree that a strict taboo prevents them from speaking about their experiences -- which is all the same a main factor for the continuance of the practice."The Kurdish parliament won't outlaw the practice -- even though this region is considered more progressive than the rest of Iraq. But one female lawmaker and doctor last month told AFP that parliament was preparing to outlaw female circumcision. The government is expected to debate the bills in the new year.
In non-Iraq news, John Walsh (CounterPunch) explores the recent US election and observes:
The great fear among the Naderites was that without the help of the GPUS, Nader could not get on the ballot in a sufficient number of states since the GPUS already had ballot access in many places due to the work of many at the grass roots (this author included) . So how did the election work out? The statistics are quite revealing. Starting from scratch and raising money as he went, Nader got on the ballot in 45 states plus DC. McKinney using the Green "infrastructure" got on the ballot in only 32 states, less than Barr for the Libertarians (45 states) or Baldwin and the Constitutionalists (37 states). Nader did better on his own with his own activist following than did the Greens. In fact he got on the ballot in more states than he did in 2000 when he was the GPUS nominee. If one looks at fundraising the contrast is just as stark, with Nader raising $4,496,180 and McKinney a skimpy $240,130 which is not even sufficient for a decent Congressional campaign. And the popular vote among third party candidates was: 736,804 for Nader, 524,524 for Barr, 196,461 for Baldwin and 161,195 for McKinney. These numbers alone are testimony to the abject failure of the GPUS as an electoral force.
But the behavior of the GPUS toward McKinney was downright insulting. The insult to McKinney came in two ways. First of all, DemoGreens went over to Obama, giving Cynthia a pat on the head as they went. A good example is Green guru Ted Glick who proclaimed that, although he "supported" McKinney, he hoped Obama would win and was contributing to the Obama campaign, said dollar contribution being a first for him. What kind of party i turns on its own candidate? But the insult came in another way. Cynthia McKinney took many extraordinarily courageous positions in Congress over the years. She was an outstanding leader there on issues of peace and justice. But this record was always secondary in the campaign that the GPUS ran. She was first and foremost a black woman candidate running with another minority female candidate. Now that in itself is a very good thing, although Obama upstaged them with this kind of Identity Politics. But what about McKinney's other achievements? Most notably she is the first major Democratic politician and the first Congressperson to jump ship on the Democrat Party. Of course the DemoGreens wanted no such cutting edge claim to a GPUS campaign. So the GPUS was happy to see the color of McKinney's skin as more important than the content of her character! This is the road down which "gonadal politics" leads us. (It is also hard to comprehend why Ralph Nader, gets no credit from the Gonadal Politicians for being an Arab American, perhaps the group suffering most discrimination these days.)
Today Martha and Shirley covered books for the year and the community choices were "Janis Ian's Society's Child: My Autobiography. It can be purchased at Amazon where it's currently selling for $16.98 ($26.95 list price). . . . David Bacon's Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press)" and Paul Street's Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.
matthew hay brownthe baltimore sun
lourdes garcia-navarromorning edition
the los angeles timessaif hameedraheem salman
the washington postamit r. paleyandrea bruce
booksjanis iansociety's child
thomas friedman is a great man
Monday, December 29, 2008
Isaiah, Michelle Shocked and more
Especially when you consider he was wakened to draw it. We used it in "The Princess Brat Chronicles." The ideas being pitched for that were a problem for C.I. because she had spoken to Isaiah and a lot of it was the basis for his planned Sunday evening comic. C.I. said the choices were (a) kill the feature or (b) call Isaiah. I was fine with killing it because I wasn't vested in the writing so I could be objective and say, "Well, come on, Isaiah has to think up a concept, has to make it funny and then has to draw it." That's not really easy. You've got one panel* and you're trying to do so much with it. So I was fine with killing it and you know C.I. was. But others had been working hard on the brainstorming and all and they were saying, "No, call him. If he's not using it, we will." So C.I. called Isaiah and Isaiah very kindly said for us to write the feature and give him twenty minutes and he'd have his illustration done so that we could use it.
That was really nice of him.
And it's weird to think how easy it is now for me to post an illustration. When I set up this site, C.I. talked me through everything and I had all these pages and pages of notes with just three on different ways to post illustrations. I was jotting down everything C.I. said to make sure I was prepared for anything. Tomorrow is my 40th post, by the way.
"Music 2009" is a fun feature at Third. I really wanted Ava, C.I. and Ty's thoughts on Brandy's CD included but that comes out this week (tomorrow). So it's not really "2009." But that was a fun one to write because they probably gave us commentaries on fifty upcoming CDs. I did not know Michelle Shocked.
Everyone participating seemed to. So as soon as we were done (we don't type up the stuff, that's Third: Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.), I e-mailed C.I. thinking I'd hear back on Monday (I don't read my e-mails on Sundays). But when she was working on last night's "And the war drags on," she saw it and called.
Michelle Shocked does all kind of songs including torch songs. C.I. laid out the basics and then helped match me with an album: Short Sharp Shocked.
I got that today.
It's her first album. She had one come out before but that was her playing in public and she didn't realize she was 'making' an album. Short Sharp Shocked was her first album and she planned it. It's really about growing up, that stage of adulthood where you're no longer in transition. And from that perspective, she's writing about today and her past.
It's a guitar based album (she plays guitar) and I'm the latest in a long line of people who have fallen in love with "Anchorage." That really is a great song.
There are eleven tracks and my immediate favorites are "Anchorage," "Gladewater" and "Memories of East Texas." There's a line in the last one about a creek flooding and how they had to detour in their cars when that happens. I didn't grow up on a farm or in a small town but she wrote that so well I could picture it like I was there.
"2009 in DVDs" was an intense write. And a point on Get Smart got left out. C.I. caught that and tried to put it back in but I said don't worry about it. That was mainly Mike and me noting Anne Hathaway's performance and I've pointed it out here. If this were a normal weekend, I might have fought for it to go in but it was such a long session and I was just glad that it registered with anyone -- what Mike and I were saying -- enough that when the drafts were being read over, C.I. immediately noticed it wasn't there. There are some really good points and I think I wrote about The Dark Knight here. In case I didn't, I hated that movie.
I'm going to note one more thing from Third, "TV: 2008, the lows and really lows." That's Ava and C.I.'s and they always do such a great job and make it seem so easy. I was amazed to find out that they had written their TV year-in-review out at over thirty pages. That's what they condensed down into this week's commentary. They make it seem so easy.
"12/28 - 01/04" is the index for Sunday's edition and there is so much you can explore. We had a wide range of topics and approaches.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Monday, December 29, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, even as the networks pull out, the US military announces another death over the weekend, the US military opens an investigation into what is being called a "military execution," and more.
At McClatchy's Inside Iraq blog, an Iraqi correspondent explores the security issue:
Yesterday, a taxi driver agreed to take me to a west Baghdad neighborhood, as we arrived he stopped his car not far away from the main street of the block and told me: "I can't, forgive me"
He explained that he has a family and don't want to take any risk. I told him I am coming to this neighborhood on daily bases with many drivers but he said he can not trust the situation.
The neighborhood was, and still for many, a fearful place after all fighting against the American troops, Iraqi troops, sectarian killings, crimes and displacement.
I had to step down and to take another taxi.
Doctors, engineers, teachers, drivers and students do not go to many places because of fear remembering the situation in Baghdad is better than the last few years.
It made me think again and again why people don't trust the new situation but how can people trust the situation enough when blast walls are still surrounding neighborhoods?
Not only does the end of the month approach, so does the end of the year which leads to reflection (on everything but the status of their own outlets) from the press. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) contributes one of the better articles where she notes that despite the (small) drop in violence in 2008, "an average of 25 Iraq civilians were killed every day in Iraq in 2008. Since January, two British soldiers were killed in action in Ira and another two shot themselves. In contrast, 47 British troops died in 2008". Two shot themselves. That's Lee Churcher, the second one, who died December 11th. From that day's snapshot: "The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death) . . . Today the British Military announced: 'It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway.' This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, 'No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved.' Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178".
Meanwhile, Sunday the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of wounds from an improvised explosive device explosion in northern Baghdad Dec. 28." The total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at 4219. The number for the month of December thus far is 12 and that illustrates how quickly things change. Up until December 20th, outlets were preparing their "ONLY TWO US SOLIDERS KILLED IN IRAQ FOR THE MONTH!!!!!" Over the last nine days, ten deaths have been reported. Harshing the mellow for those wanting to scream "Mission Accomplished!" And when those types pimp that 12 they might want to wait a day or two after the first since M-NF has a pattern of holding death announcements for the month until after they get those more pleasing pieces. October is only the most recent example of that. If you're late to the party, you can see "Robin Morgan's homophobic candidate" (the homophobic candidate is, of course Barack, and though it gets harder and harder for even the devoted to deny, pay attention to the Iraq portion) and pair it with "October's death toll? Want to run your corrections?" And, no, they didn't want to run to the corrections nor did they.
The impulse to roll in the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk may be irresistable for many outlets who may need some excuse to hide recent decisions. Brian Stelter (New York Times) reports that ABC, CBS and NBC (the broadcast networks) have further downrated their Iraq coverage and are instead moving staff to Afghanistan and Pakistan in anticipation of the death tolls president-elect Barack Obama will provide them with in the next year: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces." Stelter speaks with independent reporter Michael Yon (who goes back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan) and Mike Boettcher of No Ignoring which is where the former NBC correspondent and his son Carlos report as embeds from Iraq. Stelter explains, "The staff cuts appear to be the latest evidenc eof budget pressures at the networks. And those pressures are not unique to television: many newspapers and magazines have also curtailed their presence in Baghdad. As a consequence, the war is gradually fading from television screens, newspapers and, some worry, the consciousness of the American public."
here's Workers World's "Iraq now, Vietnam then:"EDITORIALIraq now, Vietnam thenPublished Dec 22, 2008 6:02 PM The news from Iraq is starting to remind veteran political analysts of the events four decades ago in South Vietnam as successive U.S. puppet governments disintegrated under the weight of tremendous popular sentiment, with a liberation war knocking at the door. The U.S. secret services then hatched and executed coups to remove some discredited, inept and well-hated puppet leaders. Their replacements had not yet exposed to the world their own corruption, favoritism and brutality that would soon make them just as inept and well-hated. Only 500,000-plus U.S. troops could keep them in power for more than a week. Now in Iraq, with the continued U.S. occupation up for debate, cracks are exposed in the puppet regime. Bush's surprise visit humiliates him, the occupation and the puppet leader, Nuri al-Maliki. Within days, the Maliki faction arrests 24 high-level military security figures. Al-Maliki's regime leaks charges to the New York Times that those arrested are secret Ba'athists--the ruling party in Iraq before the U.S. invasion--who were plotting a coup. It's true that enough agents of the Iraqi resistance have infiltrated the regime to track military maneuvers. But the Ba'athists, who are part of the resistance, have said they don't believe a coup could succeed against the will of the U.S. occupation forces. They expect the resistance to wear down the U.S. until its forces leave. The "plot" story, then, is far-fetched. Sure enough, two days after the Times story ran, the Iraqi military dropped the charges against the 24, calling them "patriotic officers." It turns out a Maliki-appointed security agency had charged and arrested the "patriotic officers."Instead, al-Maliki himself is now under suspicion. Because of his friendly relations with Iran, al-Maliki has lost favor in Washington. If there is a "coup plot," maybe the U.S. is behind it. Speculation aside, there are some points--which were also true in South Vietnam--that these events have underlined: The puppet regime is unstable, even more than it appeared up to now, and is torn apart by internal contradictions. Despite all the propaganda about the U.S. "surge" working, there is no feasible pro-imperialist government than can run Iraq without large numbers of U.S. troops as an occupation army. One way or another, Iraqi sovereignty will assert itself. There is no way the Iraqi people, even though horribly damaged by the U.S. invasion and occupation, will submit. It is impossible for the U.S. to find an Iraqi political leader who is honest, courageous and capable to direct the puppet government. Any Iraqis with those characteristics joined the resistance long ago. For the U.S. anti-war movement, it is time to move more forcefully into action. There is no way out except for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces, the recognition of the Iraqi resistance and payment of adequate reparations to the Iraqi people.Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscribe email@example.com Support independent news http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php
Today Nabeel Kamal and Huda Mohammed (Alive in Baghdad -- link has video and text) file a report on the reconstruction process in Amarah which is in the Maysan Province, an area that was deprived and targeted prior to the start of the illegal war. The province's governor explains:
Adel Mahawed Radi: In the name of Allah, Mericful and Compassionate, as is well known, during the ex-regime, the country was centralized, all governorates connected to one center, Baghdad, through the Ministry of Interior.
The head of city services, Ali Hassoon Atwan cites the inheritance of "many bad things" during the Saddam Hussein era and states this impacted 2006 and 2007 plans for constructing sewer and water systems. The engineer over the city's projects, Majeed Ibrahim Jabr, agrees with Ali Hasson Atwan's call but feels there are also additional issues. He says, "There are difficulties with deparmental complications and this can interfere with the sewer problems. Also the Maysan governoarte his limited finishing projects, such as damage to equipment or communications cables and also to phone booths due to sewage in most streets. The rain interferes with this. The biggest problem is the violations by citizens building phonebooths on the sidewalks, or by illegal homes, sometimes in the middle of the street!" In addition, the quality of the roads themselves is said to be a problem with most not being paved with either concrete or asphalt in the past and the asphalt brought in recently was not of good quality and cables had not been buried deep enough prior to the pouring of asphalt causing more problems.
Governor Adel Mahawed Radi: We demand truth in all governorates and more authority to decentralize the process and make a more stable system, we must give more authority to the governorates so we can improve our governorates' security situation or its services [. . .].
More provincial power was a demand on Saturday. Sunday Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reported on a protest ("thousands") in Basra where "three thousand people" called for Basra to be "a semi-autonomous state" similar to what the Kurdistan region has. al-Maliki may have to work harder to buy votes. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that al-Maliki's gearing up for the scheduled provincial elections (January 31st): "As the election nears, Maliki is busy maneuvering. He has tapped local leaders to organize tribes in support of the central government. And under Maliki's direction, the national government has funded $100 million worth of reconstruction projects in Basra, bypassing the provincial council. The national government also has started paying unemployment benefits in the province."
Over the weekend Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the plans to turn Diyala Province over to Iraqis on January 1st where the big news was that despite the November 1st headlines of Baghdad taking over the "Awakening" Councils, approximately half the members are still under US control.
Meanwhile the December 10th death of Haedan al-Jabouri (that may not be the correct spelling) is in the news and the subject of a military investigation. Michael Ware (CNN -- link has video only) reported the latest events yesterday.
Michael Ware: Following a nighttime military operation outside of Baghdad two weeks ago, the US army is now investigating allegations an Iraqi man, a suspected al Qaeda member, was executed in cold blood by a secretive American unit. An Iraqi farmhouse after a recent raid by US forces. Items scatted by the soldiers search for weapons. An elderly mother mourns. Hadan, her son shot dead by the Americans in Madain on Baghdad's outskirts. It was Hadan the special forces had come for suspecting he was a bomb maker for al Qaeda. But now troubling questions have arisen from the operation, questions not of Hadan's life as a potential bomber but rather questions into his death at American hands. Questions grave enough that the US army has launched an inquiry probing claims the death was a special forces execution. The military released to CNN a few details of the night's operation, saying the shooting was provoked.
An unidentified voice reads from this December 10th M-NF press release: A man from the building initially complied with Coalition forces' instrucitons, but then returned inside the house. When he returned outside, he attempted to engage the forces with an AK-47. Perceiving hostile intent, the force engaged the armed man, killing him.
Michael Ware: But the dead man's brothers who witnessed the raid say that's a lie. Hadan, they say, was unarmed, his killing an American execution. The truth however is unclear. . . . But the Iraqi version is different. They say all [four] the brothers were stripped to their underwear and forced to lay on the ground, unable to move without the Americans permission, let alone grab a rifle. When Hadan did return inside, they say, it was the Americans who ordered him to do so.
Nurhi Subbi [translated]: The American forces ordered my brother to go back into the house.
Michael Ware: He was told to turn the lights on, says his brother named Nurhi, and the moment he turned on the lights, the soldiers open fired and then dragged him deeper inside the house.
If it was a military execution, take note, that would be the reality of "counter-insurgency" strategies. The press has refused to explore that and everyone's rushed to airbrush any realities out of it but that is "counter-insurgency" tactics and strategies. In other news, despite the claims of 'safer but not safe' Iraq, Saturday saw a bombing with mass fatalities. Usama Redha and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported at least 24 dead, "A mini-bus laden with explosives ripped the Kadhimiya neighborhood by Zahra square, which hosts a market and bust stop, police said." Sam Dagher (New York Times) offered, "Jalal Hussein, 56, had just parked his car, after dropping off his wife and daughter at the gate, when the bomb exploded a few yards away, creating a huge ball of fire that consumed several vehicles and many pedestrians. He said the bodies and limbs of victims, including many children and women, were scattered everywhere." Ernesto Londono and Azia Alwan (Washington Post) quoted survivor Ali Abdul Ameer whose wife and daughter were wounded in the bombing, "There is no security. How come a car like this full of explosives could enter this area?"
Moving to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba roadside bombing that left six people injured, a Basra sticky bombing that wounded the driver of a police vehicle, a Hilla sticky bombing that claimed the lives of 1 police officer and his wife and their daughter. Reuters notes a Mosul bomber who took 1 life as well as his/her own "in a grocery shop".
Today the Washington Post's Amit R. Paley and Andrea Bruce explore female mutiliation in Iraq. Andrea Bruce's photos are here and Amit R. Paley's text report is here. The two specifically explore seven-year-old Sheelan ANwar Omer whose mother promises her she's going to attend a party but instead is taken for a backroom circumcision by an insane woman wielding "a stainless-steel razor blade" and screaming, "I do this in the name of Allah!" as she mutilates Sheelan's genitals. Paley notes that over 60% of the females in the Kurdish region have undergone this butchering -- consistent with the numbers WADI was providing in 2005. WADI explains:
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one important mechanism, among others, of tight social control over women. Through the work of Wadi's mobile team in Germain region, it has been discovered that FGM is common in this area. A pilot study shown that 907 out of 1544 women questioned in the survey were victims of FGM. Through this local survey a taboo has bees been broken. FGM had been considered an 'African problem', unspoken of in these parts of Iraq. Following the evidence the FGM is widespread in Northern Iraq, WADI's staff initiated the first campaign against FGM in the country. Local mobile teams found out that FGM in Northern Iraq is usually practiced by female family members or traditional midwives on girls aged between 4 to 12 years. Instruments like razors and knives are used to cut girls' clitoris according to the "sunnat - excision". The wound is usually covered with ash, but no drugs are given. Sometimes girls have to sit into a bowl of icy water. Women justify this practice either by religion, tradition or medical reasons. Uncircumcised girls are not allowed to serve water or meals. Many women said that their daughter would not be able to be married uncircumcised. Most of the women are not aware of the long-term medical and psychological consequences of FGM. WADI prepared two awareness films about FGM in close cooperation with local cinema directors and women's organizations. One film is used to spread awareness in Iraqi population. The film is shown daily by the mobile teams across Northern Iraq, giving information and an opportunity to discuss the problem. A second film will be shown in Europe in 2008. WADI organized the first Iraqi conference against FGM in Arbil in February 2006, which was successful in attracting the interest of Kurdish Regional Government's (KRG) interest. WADI's campaign "STOP FGM in Kurdistan" obtained more than 14 000 signatures for a petition to ban FGM presented to the Kurdish Regional Government. Recommendations for a law to ban FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan were prepared by local specialists and members of WADI´s mobile teams and presented to KRG in spring 2007. Wadi presented the law recommandations also to Kurdish women's parliament. The bill is now in the legislation process in the regional parliament.In summer 2007, additional mobile teams were set in order expand the campaign and fight FGM in Northern Iraq. Until 2006, more than 4000 women took part in WADI's campaign against FGM. Supported by the Swiss Caritas, the Austrian Development Agency, the Roselo Foundation and the Iraqi Civil Society Programme, six teams are currently working all over Kurdistan. A comprehensive research of FGM and its practice in Iraq is now in preparation. In February 2008 "A handful of ash", Wadi's documentary about FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan produced by a local director was presented in Germany for the first time. Additional screenings are scheduled for Mars in Switzerland and in Germany. Those who would like or need audio can refer to Jessie Graham's The World (PRI) report on the female circumcision in the Kurdish region from January 2006. Nicholas Birch's "Female circumcision surfaces in Iraq" (Christian Science Monitor, August 10, 2005) noted the reaction of some to WADI's study: "When WADI presented the results of its survey in Vienna this spring, Mr. [Thomas von der] Osten-Sacken recalls, various Iraqi groups accused the group of being an agent of the Israelis. Even the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, who have backed efforts to combat FGM since the late 1990s, were rattled."
We'll explore the topic of Iraqi refugees futher tomorrow but Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition) reported last week on the number of Iraqis working with NPR who are applying for refugee status in the US: "Like many NPR Baghdad staffers, Mahdi is now on the last leg of a lengthy process. But as his departure becomes imminent, he is wondering whether he is doing the right thing. Producer Kais Al-Jaleili, on the other hand, wants to leave as soon as he can, despite what he has heard from other Iraqis who have already resettled in the U.S." And Reuters is highlighting Matthew Hay Brown's Baltimore Sun report on Iraqi refugees and how most observers (rightly) point out how little the US is doing (both in terms of assistance to countries taking in the refugees and in terms of the number the US is allowing to enter the United States). The report notes this important point, "Iraqi officials have offered payments and organized flights and bus rides from Cairo and Damascus for refugees to go back. But with continuing violence in the country and no effective system in place to resolve disputes between returning homeowners and squatters, neither the United States, the United Nations nor refugee advocates are encouraging returns." Again, we'll go into that topic tomorrow. (And tomorrow Matthew Hay Brown continues his series by exploring Iraqi refugees struggling in the US.)
A few non-Iraq related topics. First, Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) explores the current attack on Gaza and the reaction of the president-elect:
"The president-elect was in Sderot last July, in southern Israel, a town that's taken the brunt of the Hamas attacks," David Axelrod told Chip Reid on Face the Nation. "And he said then that, when bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an end to that. So, you know, that's what he said then, and I think that's what he believes."
If Axelrod is correct, and Barack Obama does indeed support the bloodshed inflicted upon innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military, there should be no celebrating during Inauguration Day 2009, only mass protest of a Middle East foreign policy that must change in order to begin a legitimate peace process in the region.
Independent journalist David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and at his website (and at many publications) he covers the labor movement in the US and in Mexico. For his coverage from Mexico (photos and text) including on the striking teachers who were met in Mexico City by the police in full S.W.A.T. mode, click here.
Meanwhile the music group I AM THREE is making a Bootleg recording from their European tour available online, available for download, free of charge. You can click here (and on the widget for the European tour) or here or here.
We're a site/community for the left. Net Right Daily is a site for the right. The Daily Grind is a news mailing you can sign up for from ALG News which is also right-wing. On the latter, BW with ALG News has been especially persistent (and nice) in e-mailing all community sites various ALG News items. Various people have mailed Net Right Daily items to community sites. Trina and I were discussing this and wondering about it? We've gotten some very rude e-mailings from on our side (the left) asking for help (try demanding it) and when we discussed it, others weighed in. The feeling is that the two outlets have been very polite and we're going to toss out a link. We wish the outlets all the best but we are a site for the left. Their persistance and their politeness (and professionalism) means they get the links in this paragraph. If you're looking for what the other side's saying, we would recommend those two. If you're looking to be enraged by what the right's up to, we would recommend those two.
iraqthe new york timesbrian stelter
sam dagherthe washington postamit r. paleyandrea brucejesse grahamnicholas birch
alive in baghdad
ernesto londonoaziz alwanned parkerthe los angeles timesraheem salman
michael yonmike boettcher
i am three
lourdes garcia-navarromorning edition