Friday, October 5, 2012

Mel Brooks

Before movies, politics.  This is from Hillary is 44's "Dude, Where's My TelePrompTer? - Tales From The 14.7% In Gangsta Paradise:"

The magic September unemployment numbers are out and they are out of this world. The son of Mario Cuomo, Chris, not Andrew the current governor of New York, doesn’t believe this magic rubbish. Cuomo wrote: that is a bogus #... help spin cycle, but that’s all. U-6 is real read. North of 10%, adjusted for participation rate in ’08.”
Very liberal economist Dean Baker shouts “fluke”. Not Sandra Fluke, a real fluke: “The jump in employment reported in September was almost certainly a statistical fluke.”
Let’s all hope that everyone believes these bogus fluke numbers and the millions of unemployed who are so desperate they are no longer looking for jobs and therefore not counted in the unemployment statistics run to get jobs and thereby show up in the unemployment statistics. The result would be a jump in the unemployment rate to 14.7% on the Friday before the election (unless Obama tampers with the numbers).
That formerly strong Obama supporter and Tim Russert enabler Jack Welch has another explanation for the magical numbers:
“JACK WELCH: Obama Is Manipulating The Jobs Numbers Because His Debate Performance Was Awful
“Unbelievable job numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers“
Joe Scarborough said today “These numbers don’t make any sense“. The “numbers don’t add up”. Java Joe is right for once.
The new unemployment numbers don’t make any sense, but is Jack Welch right that this is an Obama thug operation and the numbers have been tampered with to help Obama get reelected?
There is motive and opportunity to tamper with the numbers. After the Denver Debate disaster these are desperate times that call for desperate measures from Obama Hopium Guzzlers and pimps.

On that topic, all I can add is read Third Sunday.  Ava and C.I. plan to rip apart a pompous asshole on this topic of the labor numbers.  You won't want to miss it.  (I got a preview when I heard C.I. dictating the snapshot.  She was including it in that but had to pull it and Ava said, "We'll grab it Sunday.") (She had to pull a lot out of the snapshot.  It was very long.)

Okay tonight's movie?

There isn't one.

Today the American Film Institute announced:

Mel Brooks to Receive the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award

Sir Howard Stringer, Chair of the American Film Institute’s Board of Trustees, announced today the Board’s decision to honor Mel Brooks with the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film. The award will be presented to Brooks at a gala tribute on Thursday, June 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA.
“Mel Brooks is America’s long-reigning king of comedy – and as he taught us long ago, it’s good to be the king,” said Stringer. “He’s a master of an art form that rarely gets the respect it deserves, and it is AFI’s honor to shine a bright light on laughter by presenting Mel Brooks the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award.”
Reflecting his range of mastery in the entertainment arts – from writing, directing and producing to acting and composing – Brooks is only one of 14 people who have won the Emmy®, Grammy®, Oscar® and Tony® Award. The 41st AFI Life Achievement Award tribute special will premiere on TNT in late June 2013, followed by encores on its sister network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM).,0,2268185.story

The "LA Times" link goes to a story about this at "LAT," it's not just the announcement reposted there.

I am a big fan of Mel Brooks and very happy he's getting a lifetime achievement award.  It's too bad his wife won't be there to see it.  Academy Award winner Anne Bancroft passed away in 2005.  She was known as "Mrs. Robinson" for her role in "The Graduate" and she was in many other films including "The Miracle Worker" (for which she won the Academy Award), "The Turning Point" with Shirley MacLaine, "Agnes of God" with Jane Fonda,

From 1964 until her death in 2005, she and Mel Brooks were married.  They worked together.  Probably most famously in "To Be Or Not To Be," the remake of the Carole Lombard classic.  I actually like the Mel Brooks version -- not better than the Carole Lombard one but close to equal.  It has grown on me tremendously over the years.  The first time I saw it, I hated it.  I just couldn't believe anyone would remake that film classic.

"Spaceballs" is another film he directed.  This is a very popular one.  I would like it more if Joan Rivers' robot did more.  I think that a number of his later films suffer from a lack of strong females.

"A History Of The World Part 1" is part of that.  Cloris Leachman's role should have been beefed up, my opinion.

"Silent Movie" and "Blazing Saddles" are two films I really like.  And for years, I thought ":Blazing Saddles" was a silent film except for the farting.  They must have been on USA or something as a two-fer when I was little because until I was a teenager, I thought the comedy western was a silent film.

I found out otherwise when my uncle said, "We are not watching 'Young Frankenstein' again!"  And he dug around and found "Blazing Saddles" among my grandfather's video cassettes.

But I used to watch (still do, to be honest) "Young Frankenstein" over and over.  It is a classic film.  This one has Gene Wilder in the lead with Terri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn (hilarious throughout!!) and Marty Feldman.  Gene Hackman does a cameo.  It is just a great film.  From Terri's airhead-ness over the "knockers," to Madeline Kahn not wanting to be touched or kissed by her fiancee when she's ready to go to a party (even a blown kiss might muss her up), to Cloris saying "Ovaltine" and so much more.

It is just a classic film with a really great look to it (it's in black and white).  "Silent Movie" features Anne Bancroft and she's very good in it.  But for a long time, it was the only Liza Minelli film I knew.  She's in it, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds and many others.  Mel Brooks acts in this one, doesn't just direct and write.

My all time favorite Mel Brooks film?

"High Anxiety."  He plays a shrink.  It's  a spoof of Hitchcock.  It's hilarious.  Throw away bits like when Madeline Kahn hears him singing in the hotel and wonders why he didn't pursue that and he says that the big money was in psychiatry before he catches himself.  And the visual gags.  Madeline doesn't just have a designer bag like Gucci, she's got an outfit and she's even got a car with it.

Cloris Leachman is hilarious as Nurse Diesel (looking like Madonna in her cone shaped bra).  She's sleeping with Harvey Korman and they wanted to take over the institution but Brooks is left in charge instead.  She says things like, "Dinner is served promptly at six.  Those who are late will not get fruit cup."  And she means it.  Harvey shows up two minutes late and she's had his cleared away.  She even restrains him with her fork (nailing him to the table).  She'll later have him tied up and be spanking him while he says, "Too much bondage! Not enough discipline!"

It has such great visuals.  I love it when she and Harvey plot and the camera's under the glass coffee table.  

It's just a really great film and Mel Brooks has directed enough of them to warrant this award.  (He's also produced a number of great films that he didn't direct or act in.  Jessica Lange is great in "Frances" and most people don't know he was behind that film.)

So congratulations to Mel Brooks who has kept us laughing all these years.  ("Dracula Dead and Loving It" is a more recent film of his and it is probably my fifth favorite which is really saying something because I love so many of his films.)

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

Friday, October 5, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State of Iraq claims credit for recent violence, a call is made for provincial elections to be held in April, France calls out the executions in Iraq (102 so far this year), Senators Patty Murray and Carl Levin call on the VA and DoD to work together to address disability evaluations, Ms. magazine gears up for its 40th anniversary, and more.
Starting in the US with veterans news. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, joined with Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, in sending a letter to the VA and DoD Deputy Secretaries requesting that the Departments work more closely together, as true partners and with greater involvement from senior leaders, to improve the IDES process. The letter also calls on the Departments to set a definitive timeline for completing the review in order to implement meaningful changes. The requests stem from issues identified during GAO's recently completed investigation into IDES.
"I am not convinced the Departments have implemented a disability evaluation process that is truly transparent, consistent, or expeditious. Getting this right is a big challenge – but it's one that we must overcome," said Senator Murray. "I've seen the impacts of a broken system – whether it's from a wrong diagnosis, an improper decision, or never-ending wait times. When the system doesn't work accurately and quickly, or when servicemembers can't get a proper mental health evaluation or diagnosis, it means they are not getting the care they need and they are not moving on to civilian life. While DoD and VA are at a critical juncture, I am confident that by working as true partners and committing to real, meaningful changes, the Departments can improve the system for the thousands of men and women who will be transitioning in the next couple of years."
"I am convinced that the DoD/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System can be improved to better address the needs of our wounded, ill, and injured service members," said Senator Levin. "This system is too complex, takes far too long, and still has an adversarial aspect that our service members should not have to endure. It will take a concerted effort by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, working together, to bring about needed improvements."
The full text of the letters follows:
October 4, 2012
The Honorable Ashton B. Carter
Deputy Secretary of Defense
1010 Defense Pentagon, 3E944
Washington, DC 20301
The Honorable W. Scott Gould
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Carter and Secretary Gould:
Essential to the effort of improving the transition process for separating servicemembers is overcoming the challenges confronting the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Earlier this year, as part of our Committees' ongoing oversight of IDES, the Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing examining the multiple challenges servicemembers still face while navigating this joint program. As was made very clear at that hearing, real improvements could only happen with the "total engagement, cooperation and support of all senior leaders at both Departments …"
Indeed, the ongoing dialogue and Secretary Carter's July 2, 2012, letter to Chairman Murray underscored this very point, affirming the Department of Defense's commitment "to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to examine ways to improve timeliness and effectiveness of the system …" Yet despite the importance of this work, and the Departments' repeated assurances of promising results and progress made, reality has yet to match rhetoric.
It is because of this clear and urgent need for total engagement, cooperation, and true partnership between the Departments that we write to you regarding the recently released GAO report, Military Disability System, Improved Monitoring Needed to Better Track and Manage Performance. Discussing how to overcome the challenges facing the system, GAO recommended that VA and DoD "work together to develop timeframes for completing the IDES business process review and implementing any resulting recommendations."
A timely business process review has the potential to help the Departments analyze each phase of the disability evaluation review process and identify areas where greater coordination and integration between the Departments is appropriate. Such a review can only be successful if the Departments undertake it in a truly collaborative way, evaluating their respective business processes in the context of what is necessary for an integrated system. Further, any such effort must have clear goals and timelines. So while both Departments concurred with the GAO recommendation, the response from the Department of Veterans Affairs was particularly troubling:
Although the Department of Defense (DoD) has been leading the business process review efforts described in this report, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has provided input and support to promote these efforts and will continue to do so to the extent possible. At this time, the full scope or current status of these efforts has not been disclosed to VA. As such, VA recommends that developing timeframes for completion of these efforts should be deferred to DoD.
This response makes clear that true collaboration between the Departments on the business process review has yet to occur. Surely, then, the answer cannot be to drive the Departments further apart by deferring all planning to the Department of Defense. Therefore, we are writing to request from you not only a timeline for completion of the review and implementation of any recommendations, but also that you make this review a truly joint, collaborative effort to improve a broken system. We also ask that you detail the steps you will take to personally ensure the Departments work together as partners in reforming this system and in addressing other joint challenges. As the Deputy Secretaries of your Departments, your leadership is critical in order to create meaningful change for our servicemembers and veterans.
We remain committed to working with you to address the challenges confronting this system, but further delay and a lack of meaningful cooperation is unacceptable and risks jeopardizing the Departments' ability to achieve a truly integrated disability evaluation system that works. Thank you for your attention to this letter and for all that you do on behalf of our servicemembers and veterans.
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
In Iraq the bombs and bullets never stop igniting and flying. For the month thus far through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 40 dead from violence. That's just over four days. And violence continued today. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 2 Baghdad bombings which claimed 5 lives and left 25 people injured. This was apparently targeting the worshippers of al-Sadrein mosque. Prior to that bombing, violence was already taking place across Iraq. All Iraq News reports 1 person was shot dead in Nineveh Province, to the west of Mosul while a Mosul roadside bombing has left five police officers injured and 2 Zaafaraniya .bombings left four police officers and one bystander injured. In addition, Alsumaria notes an assassination attempt (via rockets) on the Governor of Salahuddin Province Ahmed Abdul Wahid in which two of his bodyguards were injured, and an armed clash in Tikrit left 1 woman dead and four more people injured,
Still on violence, AP notes that the Islamic State of Iraq has posted a message claiming credit for the attack on the Tikrit prison last week that left many dead and injured and resulted in a large number of prison escapees who still remain at large. From the September 27th snapshot:

The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison. AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing." Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing. Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani. There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire. Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured. If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen. Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences. Alsumaria does even more than that. It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.
Today All Iraq News notes another escapee has been arrested and estimates 102 escaped. July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.) AP notes they also claimed responsiblity for Sunday's violence:

As the month of September winds down, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes Iraq witnesses its second deadliest day of the month (September 9th was the deadliest day). BBC (link is text and video) offers, "Civilians were among those killed and injured in the attacks around the capital, but the aim of the attackers seems to have been to kill as many security personnel as possible, wherever they could reach them, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) counts 34 dead and 85 injured while explaining, "In and near the Iraqi capital, eight car bomb explosions and gunfire attacks killed up to 25 people and wounded 59 others, according to the police reports." Kareem Raheem, Suadad al-Salhy and Sophie Hares (Reuters) adds, "Two more policemen were killed when a car bomb went off in the town of Balad Ruz, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and bomb planted in a parked car in al Qaeda stronghold Mosul killed a civilian."
Most reports float al Qaeda in Iraq as the culprit. The Irish Examiner quotes MP Hakim al-Zamili who sits on the Security and Defense Committee stating, "Al-Qaida leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace. Thus, we should expect more attacks in the near future. The situation in Iraq is still unstable ... and repetition of such attacks shows that our security forces are still unqualified to deal with the terrorists." If the series of assaults were part of the Islamic State of Iraq's Breaking The Walls campaign, they will no doubt claim credit in the next few days. July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.) They are only one group in Iraq resorting to violence. On the continued violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq offers this framework, "The violence comes just days after dozens of prisoners broke out of a jail in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. Among those who got out Thursday were several al Qaeda members on death row, according to authorities. The jailbreak occurred when armed men detonated two car bombs at the gates of Tasfirat jail. The explosions triggered clashes with security forces."
A large number of the escapees were death row inmates. Last month saw protests, sit-ins and eating strikes in Iraqi prisons as prisoners demanded the passage of an amnesty law. Such a law would mean many behind bars would be allowed to leave and return to their families. Nouri al-Maliki's been promising it since 2008 but it's still not been passed. His State of Law has remained the biggest opponent to the bill.
On executions, KUNA reports "France on Friday condemned Iraq for carrying out six executions on Thursday and reiterated concern over the growing use of capital punishment in that country." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Philippe Lalliot is quoted stating, "This brings to 102 the number of prisoners executed in Iraq since the beginning of the year." As we noted in yesterday's snapshot, "In 2011, there were 670 known executions. Of those, the Iraqi government was responsible for 68 of them. The country with the most known executions in 2011 was Iran which had 360."
Driven by then Justice Minister Robert Badinter's commitment and his speech to the National Assembly the law dated October 9th, 1981 abolished the death penalty in France. This law reinforced France's longstanding efforts to promote human dignity. French law prohibits the removal of any person to a country where they risk the death penalty.
France has signed all international commitments on abolishing the death penalty. Since 2007, abolishing the death penalty has been enshrined in the French Constitution.
Al Mada reports today on the Ministry of Human Rights declaring this week that the time isn't right to heed the pleas of various organizations and governments and place a moratorium on the death penalty. Of course it's not the right time yet, they've already announced they plan to execute 200 more people this year.
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is calling for the newly appointed Electoral Commission to get to work on preparing for the upcoming provincial elections. (He actually stated yesterday that the Commission should hold elections on time; however, provincial elections were supposed to be held in March and that can't happen now so the target date has become April.) Reuters adds that this request comes "despite legal challenges that could end in the dissolution of the commission." They note that the Turkman (the 9th Commissioner added) is a woman which is a correction to what I've stated in the September 25th snapshot. My error, my apologies, "my face is red, I stand corrected" as Prince would say ("U Got The Look"). Reuters notes, "But the body still faces a number of legal challenges from political groups, civil society organizations and minorities who have lodged appeals with the Federal Court. It is not clear when the Federal Court will rule on the appeals." The Federal Court has already stated that one-third of the commissioners must be women. One member out of 9 is not 1/3. From the September 19th snapshot:

About the only thing that could be passed off as 'progress' this week just imploded. Yesterday, 8 of 9 Independent High Electoral Commission commissioners elected. Alsumaria reported this morning that the Federal Court says the number of commissioners must be increased because women must make up a third of the members. (Not one of the eight was a woman -- an oversight Iraqiya called out -- the only political bloc to publicly call that out.) Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was insisting yesterday that if they just make the ninth member a Christian, they'll have all their bases covered. The judiciary begs to differ. They're calling on members -- not a single seat, multiple seats. That means that the Parliament either gets very focused on this or it is highly likely that an election cannot take place in March of 2013. It's starting to look a lot like fall 2009 in Iraq.
And that should have been that. The law states women must make up a third of the members. That's not something you can 'massage.' Yet Alsumaria reports the issue is still 'can we get a Turkman on the IHEC?' as opposed to dealing with what the law requires. Is math difficult for the Iraqi government? Is the concept of 1/3 of the members of the IHEC being women a word problem that's difficult to solve?
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gets cozier with Iran. Iran's Press TV reports that he met with Iran's Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi and the two gabbed over shared hatred of Israel with Jalal declaring "terrorism in the region would serve the interests of the Israeli regime." Iran's Minister of Defense also met with Saadoun al-Dulaimi from Iraq's Ministry of Defense. Prensa Latina reports, "Iran and Iraq formalized the establishment of the military cooperation in an agreement signed by the defense ministers of the two neighboring countries, it was released here today by a source close to the negotiations." Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nouri met "on Wednesday with Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Wahidi [discussing] cooperation between the two countries to strengthen security and stability to combat terrorism, according to a statement released from al-Maliki's office." If you're thinking, "That's a lot of people meeting over one deal," you do realize why that is, don't you?
Some outlets wrongly identify Saadoun al-Dulaimi as the Minister of Defense. He is not the Minister of Defense. Iraq has no person in that post. Nouri al-Maliki was required, by the Constitution, to name a Cabinet in 30 days to become prime minister (a prime minister-designate is named and then given 30 days to form a cabinet -- that means 30 days to nominate and get the nominees confirmed by Parilament). That's not a partial Cabinet. If it were a partial Cabinet, it wouldn't be in the Constitution. If you could name half or even just 1 minister and say, "I'll fill in the rest later," it wouldn't be in the Constitution. If this is confusing to you -- and Nouri's online lover, the blond European, has never grasped this -- you can refer to Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution and pay special attention to the second clause which reads: "The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Council of Ministers within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation." That's the Cabinet.
Not a portion of it, not two, not three, the full Cabinet. Nouri was supposed to have formed a Cabinet -- a full Cabinet -- before the end of December 2010. He failed to do that. He refused to nominate anyone for the post of Minister of Defense or Minister of the Interior or Minister of National Security. Just this summer, 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." Back in December 2010 and Janaury 2011, the press assured us that the thug would nominate people to fill those posts in a matter of weeks. That did not happen. Back then, Iraqiya labled it a power grab and said Nouri had no intention of nominating people to the posts. They argued it was a power grab. Clearly, Iraqiya was correct.
In Iraq, the Cabinet is different than in the United States. In the US, let's use the current administration, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States in January 2009. He was under no Constitutional obligation to name his Secretaries within 30 days. Once he nominated them, the nominations went to the Congress. This is true in Iraq, the prime minister nominates someone and the Parliament votes on whether or not the person will become a Minister.
Here's the difference that matters. If Barack tomorrow was bothered by Hillary Clinton's performance as Secretary of State, he would convey that to her and ask for her resignation. Hillary would tender her resignation. She's not obligated to but that's what she'd do and what is done. In Iraq, these Ministers have tremendous power -- more than Secretaries in the US -- and if Nouri's unhappy with one, oh well. He can ask them to resign but that's all he can do. And they don't have to resign. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni. An ongoing political stalemate turned into a political crisis in December 2011 when Nouri wanted al-Mutlaq gone. al-Mutlaq, who had told CNN that Nouri was becoming a dictator (the incident that outraged Nouri), didn't want to step down. And Nouri couldn't force him. To remove al-Mutlaq, Nouri would need Parliament to be in agreement with him. Nouri could not get the votes needed to strip al-Mutlaq of his post so, after several months, he finally dropped the issue.
This difference means that, for example, the Minister of the Interior can deploy the federal police as he or she sees fit. If Nouri doesn't like the way the Minister does that, he can argue, he can whine but he can't remove the Minister unless Parliament is in agreement with him. This allows the ministers to have not just power but also security. This means, ideally, that they serve the Iraqi people and not which ever person occupies the post of prime minister.
If you don't have a real minister (one confirmed by Parliament), they have no protection. Nouri can call them 'acting' all he wants, but he retains control of the ministry -- in violation of the Constitution. He can name Mohammed Tawfeeq as Acting Minister of the Interior but Mohammed would have no power or independence. As 'acting' minister, he has no real power and does what Nouri tells him or Nouri strips him of the 'acting' post ('acting' posts do not exist in the Constitution). That's why it matters.
Again, Barack Obama is the current president of the United States and was sworn in January 2009. Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010, the following year. During all that time, the three securities ministries have had no ministers. Imagine if Barack had refused to name a Secretary of Defense by the end of 2009? He would be a laughingstock. In fact, the ridicule and scorn over this would not have been pushed back a year. With various wars during his four years, he would be expected to have a Secretary of Defense. Yet Nouri has been allowed a pass. Violence has increased in 2012, up from 2011. And the security ministries remain without leaders.
Nouri is an incompetent. That was obvious during his first term as prime minister (2006 through 2010). He wasn't the choice of the Iraqi Parliament (the Parliament is supposed to elect the prime minister-designate). He was the choice of the White House. Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House back then. Nouri was so ineffective, please remember, that the Bush White House was forced to draw up a set of "benchmarks" that both Bush and Nouri signed off on. These would be measures by which the US Congress could determine whether or not progress was taking place in Iraq (which would effect Congressional funding of the Iraq operation). This was in 2007. Nouri failed repeatedly.
The White House spin became, "Oh, he didn't do this benchmark, but he got started on it." No, these were benchmarks that, in a year's time were supposed to be accomplished.
Not only did they spin in 2008, but those benchmarks still haven't been achieved. The oil dispute between the KRG and Nouri's Baghdad-based central government? KRG President Massoud Barzani did not sign an agreement with the White House to come up with a national oil and gas law. Nouri did. If Nouri's not happy with the contracts that the KRG is signing, that's on Nouri. If he'd passed an oil and gas law in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or . . . then there would be no problem today.
The elections -- provincial planned for next year, parliamentary for the year after -- are going to expose another failed benchmark/promise. American L. Paul Bremer implemented de-Ba'athification in Iraq. The Iraq Inquiry in London, chaired by John Chilcot, heard public testimony from one British official after another -- executive branch official, military official and MI6 -- that de-Ba'athification was a huge mistake. Under former president Saddam Hussein, the Ba'ath Party was the defacto party in Iraq. Governement jobs and promotions could result from party i.d., from being in the same political party that Saddam Hussein headed. The US-invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's government and would then oversee the execution of Hussein. That apparently wasn't enough. It was important to drive people out of government office, out of civil service, out of the military, out of the police, etc. You are talking a large number of people. Among other things, they lost jobs.
Bremer oversaw the White House's de-Ba'athification plan. Bremer maintains that, Colin Powell has whispered to his friends in the press that Bremer was acting on his own -- the public record, including the testimony by British officials in Iraq when de-Ba'athification began, does not support Powell's whispers. But that's how much of a disaster de-Ba'athification is seen as -- Colin Powell's worked the press for over six years now to make sure he didn't get blamed for the policy and to try to argue that there was a winnable war in Iraq but it got screwed up by Bremer and others. This pro-war denial is also seen in Charles Ferguson's ridiculous and reactionary 'documentary.'
The White House benchmarks of 2007 included what is best explained as de-de-Ba'athification. This would mean bringing Iraqis back into the process -- especially but not just Sunnis. This benchmark was also not achieved. But a bill was proposed!!! Once upon a time! So that's partial victory!!! Right? Wrong.
By not completing that in 2007 or 2008, you ended up with the Justice and Accountability Commission of 2010. They had no mandate. Parliament believed they had termed out of office (because they had). But Ahmed Chalabi and others suddenly show up and start declaring who can run for office and who cannot. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the current Deputy Prime Minister, was among those who was not allowed to run for office. He was labeled a Ba'athist.
This commission was used before to influence results (and to target Iraqiya) and it will most likely resurface in the planned 2014 parliamentary elections.
The last parliamentary elections were in March 2010. Nouri didn't win those elections. His political slate, State of Law, came in second. The winner in those elections was the newly created Iraqiya headed by Ayad Allawi.
Deborah Amos is a journalist for NPR and the author of one of the finest books on the Iraq War, Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. In addition to that book, she also wrote a paper entitled [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010." From that paper:
In the 2010, campaign, Maliki's party was primarily a sectarian political list of Shiite candidates with a few Sunni political figureheads. In contrast, Allawi's political coalition was a cross-sectarian list. While Allawi is a Shiite, he headed a party consisting of Sunni political leaders from western and northern Iraq and some Shiite politicians who believed it was time to move beyond sectarian politics if Iraq is to achieve national unity.
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote. Maliki also had a media advantage. The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital. Maliki is widely credited with an improvement in the day-to-day security in the capital and in the south, but his pre-election inspection of the security checkpoints was seen as a long campaign ad. According to domestic media monitorying reports of state-runtelevision, Al-Iraqiya, Maliki's political coalition received by far the "highest positive coverage" when compared with all other political parties in the campaign.
When it came to the vote, Allawi demonstrated that sectarian voting patterns could be broken. A small percentage of Shiites voted for a party that included Sunnis on the ticket which helped deliver the two-seat lead. Prime Minister Maliki charged widespread fraud and demanded a recount to prevent "a return to violence." He pointedly noted that he remained the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Was Maliki threatening violence? Was he using the platform of state-run media to suggest that his Shiite-dominated government would not relinquish power to a Sunni coaltion despite the election results?
What the thug was doing didn't matter because he had the backing of the White House. Nouri dug his heels in for 8 months refusing to allow the process to go forward. This would have been avoided if a United Nations caretaker government had been put in place as many governments (including the French government) favored but Barack Obama and his administration killed that idea. They wanted Nouri.
When the voters didn't name your party the winner and the Constitution's clear on what happens and it doesn't benefit you, what do you do?
The White House trashed the will of the voters and any lessons on the power of the vote or actual democracy. From John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (The Daily Beast):

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."
They didn't just back Nouri in the stalemate (which included the White House and State Dept spinning the press), they also staked the US government's reputation on a contract.
Here's why you should never be afraid of the power of "no." Whether you're on a date and just don't find the other person that interesting, whether some suit is trying to get you to sign a contract that doesn't include the details you have asked for, whether it's a rival swearing to later meet you half-way, you say "no" to protect yourself.
If Democrats had a spine during the Bush years, the US would be better off today and the Iraq War might not have even happened. If they had used the power of no, they could have accomplished so much even when they were the minority party in both houses. Instead, they were scared little rabbits, too meek to stand up.
The Republicans have stood up to Barack. And you get men like Tom Hayden (who has never liked it when a woman has said no to him ) whining and screeching that Republicans are "obstructionists!" No, they're sticking to their beliefs (something Democrats should be trying not insulting).
When Iraq managed to set the record for longest time after elections with no government formed (eight months but that record's now been broken), various Iraqis were falling prey to the cry of 'be mature' and 'do what's right for Iraq' and countless other nonsense.
If Ayad Allawi, for example, truly believed that the best thing for Iraq was for him to be prime minister or someone else from Iraqiya to be prime minister, he should have stuck to that and damn the public scoldings.
But the White House and the State Dept were working the press to soften up resistance on the part of politicians while at the same time they were brokering a contract. The contract became known as the Erbil Agreement (because that's where it was signed). The Erbil Agreement was a contract that would allow Iraqiya to have, for example, the leadership role on a newly created National Security Commission -- an independent one at that. The Kurds? They would get Article 140 finally implemented. (Article 140 of the Constitution determines the fate of oil-rich Kirkuk -- will it be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government or part of the Baghdad-based central government -- and was supposed to be
implemented no later than the end of 2007. That deadline is written into the Constitution. But Nouri, in his first term, refused to implement Article 140.) There were various things that Nouri agreed to do provided he had a second term as prime minister. He signed off on the Erbil Agreement. The leader of all the political blocs did.
Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then trashed the contract.
The US government's word is mud in Iraq because of the Erbil Agreement. As Iraq gets closer and closer with Iran, understand that. The US government, this is the White House, this is at the very top, assured various political leaders that the Erbil Agreement (a) was a binding, legal contract and (b) that the US would ensure it was honored. It was obvious to most that it wasn't being honored as soon as Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate. That's when Nouri announced that the independent security commission would have to wait. This is what prompted, in the first real meeting of Parliament after the 2010 elections (eight months after) most Iraqiya members to walk out.
Nouri trashed the Erbil Agreement. Month after month went by in 2011 without it being implemented. Finally, in the summer of 2011 Political Stalemate II begins as Moqtada al-Sadr ('rebel cleric' -- a Shi'ite with large support that only grows greater when he is attacked or when he draws a wall between himself and Nouri), the Kurds and Iraqiya begin calling for Nouri to return to and implement the Erbil Agreement.
He refuses. Fall 2011 sees Sunnis rounded up in mass arrests. There's (false) talk that all US troops will be out by the end of December 2011. The country is very nervous about what might happen next. As most (not all) US troops leave, Nouri announces he wants al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. He also swears out an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Tareq is Sunni and Iraqiya. This is when the stalemate becomes a crisis.
By April, major names are in Erbil for a big meet up. They include Jala Talabani (President of Iraq), Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Moqtada and others. They announce they will move towards a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
But Moqtada repeatedly stresses that Nouri can stop that vote at any point by returning to the Erbil Agreement. Nouri refuses to honor the contract. Then, in May, as they have the votes necessary to vote Nouri out, Jalal stabs everyone in the back and invents new rules. Jalal then high tails it to Germany for 'a life threatening medical procedure' (in reality, knee surgery). He hides out in Germany for months and finally returns to Iraq at the mid-way point last month.
Since his return, Jalal has been on a 'listening' tour to try to determine the problem. The problem is and has been clear: the Erbil Agreement is not being honored. Alsumaria notes he met with Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya. Al Mada reports State of Law is calling for the National Conference to be held on the 15th.
Iraq's first feminist magazine was Layla, from the February 11th:
Al Mada notes a group of women demonstrated in Iraq on Baghdad's Mutanabi Street -- a large number of women from the picture -- to salute Iraq women and the pioneering Iraqi women of the 20th century feminist movement. The women noted the widespread discrimination against women (illegal under the country's Constitution). Dr. Buthaina Sharif made remarks about how the rights of women are a cause for all men and women to share. Dr. Sharif saluted Paulina Hassoun who, in 1923, edited Iraq's first feminist magazine Layla ("On the way to the revival of the Iraqi woman"). She spoke to Iraq's long history of social progress in the 20th century and decried the violence aimed at so many women today. (The UN estimates that one out of five Iraqi women is a victim of domestic violence.)
Around the world, feminist magazines pop up because feminism is a global movement. No matter how brief or how long the magazines publish, they do make an impact. In the United States, the feminist publication Ms. magazine is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. As part of that celebration, the cover subject is yet again the comic book and TV hero Wonder Woman. And, if you're a Wonder Woman fan or know someone who is, Ms. magazine is offering an 18 x 24 poster of Wonder Woman with every $35.00 subscription -- this is both new subscriptions and renewals and I did ask, if you're subscription is not up for a few months, you can still renew right now if you'd like the poster as a gift for yourself or someone else. It's a lovely poster and destined to become a collector's item just as the first Ms. issue Wonder Woman graced the cover of.
October 5, 2012
Contact: Danielle Smith, 703-522-2214,
Media Advisory
Ms. Magazine 40th Anniversary Luncheon Celebrating 40 years of Reporting, Rebelling, and Truth Telling
Luncheon is celebrating 40 years and looking forward to a feminist century.
When: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Reception, 11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
Luncheon, 12:30 P.M. - 2:00 P.M.
Program, 1:00 P.M. - 2:00 P.M.
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC
Reception: Holeman Lounge
Luncheon and Program: Ballroom
Who: Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine Co-Founder & Consulting Editor
Eleanor Smeal, Ms. Magazine Publisher & President, FMF
Katherine Spillar, Ms. Magazine Executive Editor & Executive Vice President, FMF
Bonnie Thornton Dill Ph.D, Chair, Ms. Committee of Scholars
Media Credentialing:
Media interested in covering the event please contact Ms. Magazine, Danielle Smith, 703-522-2214,


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