Tuesday, December 31, 2013

10 Best Films of 2013 (Ann and Stan)

Ann and Stan doing yet another look at films.  2013 wasn't a very good year for films.  We saw a dogpile, for example, on "Zero Dark Thirty" by people who supported torture (Senator Dianne Feinstein) and people who didn't (Debra Sweet).  Their arguments were with one another, somehow they tried to make them about the film.

Supposedly Sweet, Michael Ratner and many others were opposed to torture.  Yet when NBC embraced torture -- openly and clearly embraced and endorsed --  with the TV show "Ironside," only Ava and C.I. seemed able to point that out.  Suddenly, the crowd that had trashed Kathryn Bieglow and her film for months had nothing to say.

Then there was the other stupidity.  Racism gets ignroed in "Django Unchained."  This was a blacksploitation film made by a White man.  Jane Fonda, we expect a hell of a lot more from you then you're lying that it represents the finest statement on slavery.  It was a dumb action film where the most evil person was an African-American man.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

A number of us called those statements out.  But it was left to Betty to serve Jane:

 Keesha asked, I read.  Read for yourself:

[Jane Fonda:] There’s a scene in “Django” where Kerry Washington is lashed with a whip. I told Quentin that it was the first such scene that I actually believed. I could feel every lash. Kerry seemed to be receiving each lash on behalf of her ancestors, all those who had experienced that, all the ghosts of the slaves on the actual plantation where they filmed. Kerry really got to me and I cried. I asked if it was a hard scene to shoot and he said that the one where Jamie Foxx has to get down on his knees before a white man and beg him not to whip his wife was perhaps even harder. “I filmed that myself with a hand held camera,” he said. “I was crying and my tears filled the camera lens and it fogged over and I couldn’t even see exactly what I was filming. I just pointed the camera in what I thought was the right direction.” “Did you actually use that footage you shot yourself?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered, “That’s the footage in the film.” It’s an important film, as is “Lincoln.” I have read about and heard people say after coming out of “Django,” that they’d never realized before what slavery was really like.

What a load of s**T Kerry Washington is beaten in the film and Jane's praising Kerry's acting and asks Quentin about that scene.  Was it hard to film? Not as hard as it was to film Foxx begging a man not to beat Kerry. WTF. Does Jane Fonda not know how many women in this country are beaten and raped? She wants to claim to be a feminist -- at least right now, like a daffy lightbulb she flickers on and off with feminism -- but she doesn't even register what Quentin just said. Quentin has problems directing the scene where a man has to beg.  That was hard for him. Poor baby.

And that should be the final word on that crappy, racist and sexist film.  It wasn't hard for Tarantino to film Kerry Washington being beaten with a whip but that Foxx had to beg for the beating to stop, that really ripped Tarantino's little world apart.

For Jane Fonda and others it was 'real.'  For these two African-American bloggers, the whole film was bulls**t and racist.

And though every film in 2013 wasn't racist, so many were, in fact, bulls**t.

This was an awful year for film.

The relationship films are largely gone.  They were too adult for the cinema.  Instead we have the same damn story of super hero men -- men (go read Third's "Movies: Are they all the Invisible Woman?") -- told over and over.  How they overcome Daddy issues and manage to put on a cape or metal or whatever.

Superman and Spider-Man are now Brits and Wonder Woman's going to be an Israeli.  Wonder Woman's going to be played by a woman who fought in the Israeli military.  That should really help the box office for that film ("Superman vs. Batman") in the Arab world.

Meanwhile Paull Rud -- of the comedy films -- is 44-years-old and gearing up for his action lead as Ant-Man.

It's all so sad and disgusting.

We long for an Alan J. Pakula to emerge.  A Sam Peckinpah.  A Billy Wilder.  A Norah Ephron.

Instead, we live in a year when Spike Lee had to fight like never before with a studio and he lost.  And yet the critics cut him no slack.  We happen to love "Old Boy" (Spike's version) but we damn well wouldn't have written some of the garbage that made it into newspapers mocking Spike or questioning his vision when we knew the studio controlled how that film ended up, how Spike's vision was completely disregarded.

It was as though a lot of people had been waiting for the day they could rip apart Spike.

It's amazing that so many White actor rushed to defend the White director making a mockery of a painful episode in Black history but Jane Fonda and others didn't rush to defend Spike, didn't blog about how the studio should have let Spike have final cut on his own film.

They strip 35 minutes from his film and 'critics' want to whine about how they couldn't follow this or didn't get that?

We're sorry but we think if a studio tried to strip 35 minutes out of Martin Scorsese's cut of his own film -- or even a lower grade director or 'director' like Robert Redford -- that this would be celebrity news and actors would be expressing their outrage.

2013 found no artistic outrage and damn little art.

Our picks for the ten best films of 2013 are based on any film -- drama, comedy, action, documentary, concert -- that came out on DVD, BluRay or streaming in 2013.

1) "The Wolverine."  Yeah, it tops our list.  Yeah, it's a comic book movie.

We're actually burned out on comic book movies -- especially bad ones.  "The Wolverine"?  It's actually an incredible film.  You've got some great new characters, it's set in Japan and it's Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Does it get better than that?

Yes, it does.  Famke Janssen appears throughout the film as Jean Grey.  And that adds a special richness to the film -- both due to Jansen who really is a one of a kind performer and due to Jean Grey, the most complex woman the comics have ever created.

The film reteams Jackman with director James Mangold.  One of Jackman's earliest great non-X-Men films is Mangold's "Kate & Leopold" which teams Jackman with Meg Ryan.

There are surprises and plenty of thrills and the root of the story revolves around the invulnerable Wolverine being effected by bullets, not immediately healing from injuries.  A great film with an amazing look.

2) "The Heat."

This was the funniest damn movie of the year.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy team up with director Paul Feig for this Katie Dippold scripted comedy.  Sandra's the straight laced FBI agent, McCarthy's the more rough around the edges police detective.  Their chemistry is amazing and they've got to be reteamed -- for a sequel or a different comedy, they've got to be reteamed.  They're just too good together.

And they've got a great supporting cast with especially strong turns by Marlon Wayans and Jane Curtain.

How good was this film?  It's 2013's biggest comedy at the box office with $159 million in ticket sales..  "We're The Millers," the second biggest comedy in the US this year, sold $150 million in tickets

3) "Oz the Great and Powerful"

Stan: I was at work talking to some friends and heard a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" was coming out next month.  I thought this had to be a joke and something awful.  I call Ann and ask, "Have you heard about this?"

Ann: And I'm like five months pregnant and have only just gotten over puking every morning and I have no idea what's coming to the movies.

And we talk and agree that only two directors could possibly pull that off today: Tim Burton or Sam Raimi.  And, lucky for this film, it had Raimi.  "Oz" is a masterpiece.  It's only going to become more so each year.  James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Bill Cobb and Tony Cox have created memorable characters.  And as much as you appreciate the film the first time you see it, it's months later that you realize you love the film so much more than you thought.  In fifty years, this will probably be considered the best film of its year. 

4) "Zero Dark Thirty." Like "Oz," you can use the term "epic" here.  The two films really are epics.  Kathryn Bigelow had already won the Academy Award for Best Director with "The Hurt Locker," but this is her finest film so far.  It is also her biggest box office so far.

Jessica Chastain leads the cast as Maya.  She's determined to locate Osama bin Laden. The cast also includes James Gandolfini in what Betty rightly hailed as "his career topping role" playing CIA Director Leon Panetta.  And Chastain and Gandolfini are part of an amazing cast which also includes Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Chris Pratt, Reda Kateb, Jason Clarke and Edgar Ramirez among others.

The film was attacked by people who hadn't even seen it -- Debra Sweet organized a protest against the film she hadn't seen, Michael Ratner and Michael Smith wasted about 10 minutes trashing the film that, oh, by the way, they hadn't seen yet.

Their petty bulls**t has no place in the arts.  This is an important film and, yes, an epic. 

5) "Stoker"

This may be the best film pretty much no one saw.

Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska star in this film directed by Park Chan-wook (directed the original "Old Boy") from an amazing script by "Prison Break" actor Wentworth Miller.  Is it a horror film or a thriller?

That'll probably be argued as people discover this film and they should.  We can't tell you anything about it without risking spoilers.  You'll want to enjoy the shocks, the twists, the turns without anyone tipping you off.

5) "Skyfall"


Did they just kill James Bond off at the start of "Skyfall"?

Yes, in the same way they did on "You Only Live Twice."

This is the best Bond of the Daniel Craig period.  And that's saying a great deal because all three of Craig's Bond films stand up.

Daniel Craig has been an amazing Bond.

And the set pieces of this film (especially the train and the subway) are among the best Bond moments.

6) "The Family"

When this mafia comedy came out at the theaters,  we weren't crazy about it.

We felt Michelle Pfeiffer was amazing but that the film wasn't.  We're still not crazy about Robert De Nero and the same performance he's recycled for about 20 years now.  He's become a "Saturday Night Live" parody of himself.

But Pfieffer and Tommy Lee Jones give performances that startle with the freshness and richness the two bring to the screen.  And Luc Besson's direction grows on you.  The film probably should have come out in November or March.  Far away from summer because this isn't a summer comedy film.

7)  "Celeste and Jesse Forever."

This is another film that very few people saw.

Celeste and Jesse are married and they divorce in the film.  In fact, we know they're divorcing at the start of the film and it ends with their divorce being final.  So maybe that kept people away?

Or maybe they thought it was going to be "Forget Paris"?

What it is is a really funny film starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in the title roles -- a really funny film that explores what happens when the marriage is over but the friendship isn't?

Rashida Jones finally gets the perfect film role and, to get it, she just had to co-write it herself (with Will McCormack).

8) "Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive" (tie) "Joan Rivers: Don't Start With Me."

Aziz's comedy film is a Netflix exclusive.  Joan's aired on Showtime in 2012 (and came out on DVD and BluRay at the start of 2013).

These are concert films.  So don't expect to be blown away by some sweeping tracking shot or similar cinematic business.  With a concert film, the focus is the main performer.

And Aziz and Joan are hilarious.  They're also doing humor that people may not be able to handle.  For example, Aziz muses on stage that he may have been so good looking as a youngster that he intimidate child molesters.  He talks about the boys molested at soccer camp and explains that an old man forcing him to perform oral sex would have been a "deal breaker"  and he creates a conversation where his mother is telling him he has to go to soccer camp and he explains why he is not going back. He also does a lengthy routine on men who send pictures of their penises to women they know.

 For some, that may be too much.  For others?  They're probably feeling like Joan, "Just lighten the f**k up, these are just jokes, assholes."

Joan's concert film continues and expands on the theme of her 2012 best seller I Hate Everyone Starting With Me.  She works her way through the audience, group by group.  For example:

Blind people are so f**king selfish It's all about them. When was the last time a blind person gave you a compliment, think about it. 'You look great, have you lost weight?'  Never happens. They're always talking about themselves.  'Is the train coming at me?'

These will both leave you laughing.  Mike praised Aziz's special noting, "This is a hilarious performance.  There are a lot of blow job jokes and other things so you've got your warning if you're looking for, I don't know, Bob Newhart.  Aziz is hysterical.  I have not laughed so hard in so long."

10) "Star Trek Into Darkness"
We share Zoe Saldana's dismay (see photo above).

This film really demonstrates how awful cinema has become in the US.  The 'rebranding' is nothing but the promotion of ignorance, the rejection of wisdom.  'Let's redo ____ but with a young cast!  We'll call it a reboot!' But what happens after the reboot?

This is the follow up to the reboot and yet the film is acing as if Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) has actually gotten dumber since the 2009 reboot.

We like Chris Pine.  We're not talking about his acting.  We're talking about the lousy script.

And Pine's performance as well as the performances of Zachary Quinto, Saldana, Leonard Nimoy, Karl Urban (Bones is the only one who comes off well in the script, by the way) and John Cho are the only reasons this made it into our top ten.

If Zoe Saldana's Uhura is sidelined again like she was in this film, we'll have a quite a bit to say.  Uhura is the only African-American in the films currently and she is also a pioneering character -- so much so that when Nichelle Nichols was planning to quit the TV series, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself asked her not to leave, pointed out how important her character was.

So, J.J. Abrams, understand right now that you can work on your Daddy issues all you want and we don't care.  But if you don't stop screwing up Uhura, you're going to have to deal with the Black community.

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

Monday, December 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri attacks Ramadi, the AP lies and it's lie can be refuted with a photograph (and we do so in the snapshot), Nouri's going after Sunni politicians again, and much more.

Friday, December 21, 2012, protests against the government corruption, the lack of public services, the 'disappeared' in Iraq's 'legal' system, the rape and torture of girls and women in prisons and detention centers kicked off.  Friday, December 20, 2013, the protests reached the one year mark -- one year of continuous protests despite Nouri and his forces efforts at intimidation, their attacks and so much more.  One year of  continuous protests.  Remember Egypt and how the western press fawned over the protests and the protesters?  How entire divisions of US news networks foreign coverage reporters descended upon Egypt?

Yeah, nothing like that happened with Iraq.

The western press ignored the one year mark.  When Nouri made it clear that he didn't want the press to cover the protests, what happened?

The big brave western press went into hiding and it was left to Iraqi reporters -- for Al Mada, National Iraqi News Agency, Kitabat, Iraq Times, Dar Addustour and others -- to do the coverage the western outlets were too scared or too craven to do.

The scared little reporters for AFP and AP and the rest just played dumb, looked for the blankys while sucking their thumbs and whimpering.

Again, it was so far from the big bad western press that stormed Egypt to cover what was happening there.

Sunday, December 22nd, Nouri yet again called peaceful protesters 'terrorists' and announced he would stop the protests.

He wanted to attack last Tuesday but a last minute flurry of meetings by various officials and political blocs caused Nouri to withdraw the forces he had encircling the Ramadi protest square.  Then came Friday.  From that day's snapshot:

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri al-Maliki again threatened the protesters today.  He declared this will be their last Friday protest and that he will burn the tents in the protest squares down.  He declared that the protesters were guilty of sedition.  Sedition?  Nouri as William Bligh?  I can see it.  Kitabat notes that he made these remarks in a televised interview.  Kitabat also notes Nouri's been insisting 30 terrorist leaders are hiding in protest tents.  

We still can't get to today yet.

That's Falluja on Saturday as tons poured into the street to protest Nouri's latest stunt.

They were protesting the Saturday dawn raid that Nouri's forces carried out on an MP.  MP Ahmed al-Alwani was illegally arrested.  But there's more.  Alsumaria reported that his home was stormed by Nouri's SWAT forces at dawn and that 5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.

By now, we all know the drill.

What is al-Alwani?

Yes, he's Sunni.

And he's also, we all know this, a member of Iraqiya.

If you're targeted by Nouri, then you are both things.

Or, as conservative Max Boot (Commentary) put it today, "If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician."

The people of Anbar did not respond well to Nouri breaking the law and arresting an MP.

We'll come back to the arrest but we need to get to today.

Nouri's latest stunt has resulted in a response from many members of Parliament.  Al Mada reports 44 MPs with the Motahidon Alliance have submitted their resignations to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi because of today's attacks on the protesters in Anbar.  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is stating all MPs from the Iraqiya bloc should resign right now to trigger an immediate election.
Yes, today he ordered his forces to attack peaceful protesters.
As you look at the western coverage, you should see it as an education.
Today, a lot of people wrongly think the press told the truth during the Civil Rights Era.  That if, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staging a sit-in and the peaceful activists were attacked, the press reported reality: "Dr. King and other protesters were exercising their Constitutional rights and behaving in a legal manner when blood thirsty thugs . . ."
That didn't happen.
In the lie of 'objectivity,' the press pretended that laws didn't exist and that it was perfectly normal -- or at least not worth questioning -- when police officers violated people's legal rights.
We didn't, for example, get the truth from the New York Times then and we don't get it now.  Instead we get Yasir Ghazi reporting or 'reporting' for the paper, "Heavy fighting erupted on Monday between government security forces and tribal gunmen when the police moved to dismantle a Sunni protesters’ camp in Ramadi, west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, police and local officials said.  At least 17 people died in the clashes, according to a security official."
Oh, is that what they did?
They just moved to dismantle.
With tanks, helicopters and mortar rounds.  Al Mada cites an Anabar police source explaining Nour had the army storm Falluja following tank shellings and mortars being shot at the protesters.  The source states an unknown number of people are wounded and dead.
All of that's just 'dismantling.'
And of course, let's not bring up the ugly reality that the protesters were within their legal rights to be at the square.
Or that their Constitutional rights were violated.
But, hey, at least Nouri caught his 'terrorists,' right?
Oops.  AFP reports

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's spokesman Ali Mussawi said military sources confirmed tents at the protest site had been removed and the highway reopened.  This was done "without any losses, after Al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city and they are being pursued now,' Mussawi told AFP.  He was repeating an assertion made on December 22 by Maliki, who said, "the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda".
Wow.  The Anbar sit-ins were overrun with 'terrorists' but Nouri shut them down today and, strangest thing, not a single terrorist.  
Here are three plain speaking outlets -- two western and Rudaw. Kamal Namaa, Ahmed Rasheed, Alexander Dziadosz and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report, "Fighting broke out when Iraqi police moved to dismantle a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said."  Rudaw explains, "As Iraqi forces launched a reportedly deadly crackdown on a months-long protest in the city of Ramadi in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, Sunni MPs reacted by announcing mass resignations as other leaders called on protesters to resist and soldiers to disobey."  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki underscored how little he’s learned, responding to a sit-in protest in Ramadi with heavy-handed police action that killed at least 17 people, 12 of them unarmed civilians."

These murders brought to you by the largess of US President Barack Obama.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) explains:

Rashid Fleih, a leader of the Anbar operations, told Al-Monitor that the Iraqi army had received US equipment and supplies to be used in the battle against groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The New York Times revealed Dec. 25 that Washington will supply Iraq with a map showing the locations and origins of al-Qaeda in Iraq, besides 75 Hellfire air-to-land missiles and 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones. This information was confirmed by the prime minister's spokesperson, Ali al-Moussawi, in a statement released Dec. 27.
Barack arming Nouri with weapons to use against the Iraqi people is in violation human rights agreements as well as the Leahy Amendment.  In a bit of synchronicity, the editorial board of the Toledo Blade pointed out this morning:

Nearly two years after the United States supposedly ended its military involvement in Iraq, President Obama apparently has decided to provide extensive military aid to the country. It shouldn't happen.
The aid is intended to strengthen Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's predominantly Shiite government against Sunni opponents who are bitter at having been excluded from his post-American occupation regime.
Yes, that's exactly what the weapons were wanted for and what they were used for today -- in violation of the Leahy Amendment.
The Associated Press is in violation of journalism.  The outlet 'informs,' "There have also been other Sunni sit-ins, in cities such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Samarra, but rallying there has died down over the past months and it was not immediately clear if the camp sites there would be dismantled as well."
I'm sorry, you're lazy ass reporters were at the Samarra protest when?
You're  cowardly correspondents saw what?
Died down, have they?
That's Samarra.  I pulled that from Friday, December 27th snapshot. Click on the "7h" above (for 7 hours) and you'll be taken to the photo at the Iraqi Spring MC Twitter feed and see that it's December 27th.
Died down, have they?
It's bad enough that you were too cowardly to go to the protest out of fear upsetting Nouri but now you think you can lie?
You think you can declare that Samarra has died down?
And you think you can get away with it?
No, the protests have not died down and anyone following Arabic social media is damn well aware of that but I guess that's too much for  AP as well.
Rudaw notes that the Association of Muslim Scholars have called out Nouri's assault,  "We hold the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki responsible for what happens in Anbar between the people of the same nation.  We prohibit anyone from participating in military operations against the citizens."

Rudaw also notes, "The scholars also demanded that all Sunnis involved in the political process withdraw from the so-called Document of Honor, because 'Maliki has proved that he does not respect treaties or covenants'."  Let's get back to the resignations noted earlier in the snapshot.  Al Mada reports 44 MPs with the Motahidon Alliance have submitted their resignations to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi because of today's attacks on the protesters in Anbar.  All Iraq News notes the spokesperson for the Motahidon Alliance held a press conference and stated that the resignations are taking place and "that the war in Anbar is unconstitutional and violate all patriotic terms."  KUNA covers it here. Liu Dan (Xinhua) reports, "The MPs from the Sunni Motahidoon (United) Alliance also demanded the withdrawal of the army from cities in the Anbar province and the release of Ahmad al-Alwani, a Sunni lawmaker who was arrested on Saturday, the bloc's spokesman Dhafer al-Ani said at a televised press conference."  Matt Bradley (Wall St. Journal) points out, "Mr. Awlani was an early supporter of the year-old Sunni protest movement against Mr. Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government."

UNAMI issued the following today:

Baghdad, 30 December 2013 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, today expressed his concern about the situation in Anbar Province and called for restraint and political engagement.

“I am concerned about the current developments in Anbar and call on all to remain calm and to abide by the agreements reached in in the course of the last two days. Political disputes must be resolved through dialogue and through an inclusive political process that allows all components to feel engaged in building the democratic future of the country”.
“The government has a Constitutional responsibility to protect all citizens from terrorism, while observing the rights of ordinary Iraqi citizens, providing for their humanitarian needs, and showing maximum restraint in the use of force”.
“I call on all political leaders to abide by their commitments, including the ‘The National Honour Code’, and to immediately come together to discuss the serious challenges facing the country. As Iraq prepares for elections next year, all parties and coalitions should put forward their platforms for the future and remain fully engaged in the democratic political process”.
“The United Nations will continue to work with the Government and the people of Iraq to support democratic developments and stands ready to assist in facilitating dialogue,” Mladenov said.

Borzou Daragahi and Amina Ashraf (Financial Times of London) explain, "Ayad Allawi, opposition leader and former prime minister, presented Mr Maliki on Sunday with a list of demands, including the removal of military forces from the protest camps, negotiation with the demonstrators and the release of Mr Alwani from prison on the grounds of parliamentary immunity."

Where to go next?

Let's go back to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Al Mada reports al-Mutleq revealed that the government has cut off all internet and telephone communication for and among Anbar residents.

That's a detail not being reported in the western press.  Communications are being jammed.  Considering Nouri repeatedly whines -- and lies -- that he can't stop Iranian flights to Syria because he doesn't have fighter jets, it is interesting that Nouri has the power to do that.

(Lie?  Yeah, he's been lying forever. He can block any flights he want.  Even Michael Knights made that point to Congress this month by noting that Nouri prevented Turkey from flying to the KRG so when Nouri wants to stop flights he does.)

Okay, Saleh.   Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is stating all MPs from the Iraqiya bloc should resign right now to trigger an immediate election.

Saleh came into Parliament (and to his Deputy Prime Minister post) because Iraqiya won the 2010 elections.  He's now estranged from Iraqiya which will most likely not be a major grouping in the planned April 30, 2014 elections. (Barring a decision on the part of al-Nujaifi -- among others -- to run on the Iraqiya ticket, Iraqiya will not be a major entity in the elections.)   He is correct that resignations could trigger an immediate (say within 30 days) election per the Constitution but when in Nouri al-Maliki's two terms as prime minister has the government followed the Constitution?

But the Constitution isn't followed.

Were it to be?

Right now?

The UN and the Independent High Electoral Commission would both say the it would be difficult to get the ballots printed, the poll workers trained, etc.

They would say that.

But if they wanted to, they could pull it off in 30 days.

The danger here would be that they moved for immediate elections and Nouri used powers he didn't have to delay the elections.

This would mean Iraq was without not only a president (Jalal Talabani has now been out of the country for over a year) but also without a Parliament.

Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) argues today's attack was part of Nouri's campaigning:

Fourth, Maliki, who's seeking a third term, cannot go into the parliamentary elections at the end of April without a real achievement on the ground. The fact is that Maliki’s greatest achievement during his reign was to re-impose the rule of law by military force after the 2006-2008 civil war. A security achievement would greatly help his election chances. His breaking up the Sunni sit-ins may also serve this purpose.

Nouri's violence in Anbar didn't end the other violence in Iraq today.

National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 Mosul bombing targeted MP Jassim Mohammed Hussein and left at least two of his bodyguards injured,  two children were kidnapped in Kirkuk, an armed attack in Balad left Lt Col Nouri al-Azzawi injured, a Qayyarah sticky bombing left army Colonel Raad Yassin Amash killed, 1 Baijia suicide  car bomber took his own life and that of 1 police officer and the police officer's son, a Mosul car bombing left 4 people dead and four people injured, a Kirkuk car bombing left six people injured, an armed clash in Falluja left 8 people dead and forty injured, Sheikh Qais al-Jubouri was shot dead in Muqdadiya, a Baquba bombing left two police members injured, an al-Hamdania attack left 1 Kurdish force and 1 woman dead, an attack on a Mosul federal police checkpoint left 1 police member dead, a Mosul garage bombing left three people injured, a Tikrit car bombing targeting the Vice Chair of Salahuddin Province  left four of his bodyguards injured , and a Tuz Khormato car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police members and left four more injured.  All Iraq News adds a Kirkuk motorcyle bombing left four children injured, 3 corpses of Iraqi soldiers were discovered dumped in the streets of Beiji, an armed attack in Shurqat left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead, and a mayor and 1 teacher walking in Mosul were shot dead,

That's a ton of violence.

And the thing is, when Nouri targets one area, historically, violence increases elsewhere.  This was true in his first term and it's been true in his second.

So it's not likely that Nouri's attack on Anbar is going to reduce violence.  Kirkuk?  Not in Anbar.  Tikrit?  Not in Anbar.

All Nouri's doing with these uncalled for assaults is making it easier for the resistance, the militants, the insurgents and any terrorists that might be in Iraq to hide out.

As we've noted here for years, the success of those groupings -- and the success of prison breaks -- results from the fact that people are sympathetic and they're sympathetic because they see Nouri targeting Sunnis and it creates a bond.

It also exposes Nouri as a liar.  The Erbil Agreement is the only reason he has a term.

The US government brokered that contract and offered bribes to get political leaders to sign the contract.

Nouri didn't win a second term.

His State of Law lost to Iraqiya.  Ayad Allawi should be the prime minister if the Constitution were followed and the votes of the Iraqi people honored.

But Barack wanted Nouri to have a second term so they went around the votes, they went around the constitution and democracy and created a legal contract that gave Nouri a second term.

Why did people sign on to the contact?

Because they were given things in the contract in exchange for giving Nouri a second term.

The western press, especially the US press, doesn't want to discuss this.

Even when it's discussed in the US.

President Massoud Barzani: As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement.  In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier.  In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items.  First, to put in place a general partnership in the country.  Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga.  These were all part of the package that had been there.  Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today.  Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.

That's KRG President Massoud Barzani speaking in DC April 5, 2012 (covered in that day's snapshot and the April 6, 2012 one).

What does he mean that it wasn't implemented?

He means Nouri used it to get a second term, told everyone in November 2010 that he needed some time to implement the other aspects (the promises he made in the contract) and then he never did.

That's Nouri's pattern.

He's a known liar.

He makes promises he has no intentions of ever keeping.  Over and over he does that.

The contract was supposed to guarantee a power sharing government.

This was important why?

Because Nouri lost.

He shouldn't be in charge.

But by refusing to honor The Erbil Agreement, he has 'won' an election he lost.

It's outrageous and it goes to the outrage so many -- Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurds -- feel against him.

I doubt his stunts are going to help him.

Nouri's not a new face.

He's a known factor.

And he's got four months to try to remake himself.

That's not enough time even if he avoided stunts like his murderous attacks Saturday or today.

All his attacks do is remind Iraqis of how badly he's harmed the country in his second term.

From the April 6, 2012 snapshot:

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is currently on a diplomatic tour of the surrounding region having already visited Qatar and currently Saudia Arabia.  Raman Brosk (AKnews) reports that State of Law is arguing that al-Hashemi should not be allowed to re-enter Iraq and Iraqiya's spokesperson Maisoun al-Damlouji is responding, "This is not acceptable at all.  Hashemi is the vice president of the Republic and he will return to the region." In December, after most US troops left, Nouri al-Maliki upped the political crisis by insisting that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on charges of 'terrorism.'  Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya (both are also Sunni) which is the political slate that won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law slate came in second to Iraqiya.  The two slates are political rivals.  As an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers observed at Inside Iraq this week:

In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him.  For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling. [. . .] Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashim himself was issued and also made public on state TV -- All this publicity on Maliki's side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country where government is glued together with political deals.

He sat on a file for three years?

That's not encouraging and it makes it all the more obvious that his attacks on Tareq al-Hashemi weren't about the law but about the conflict between political rivals.

Saturday, Nouri's thugs went into MP Ahmed al-Alwani's home, killing people, wounding people (including children) and arresting the MP despite the legal immunity from arrest that he enjoys as a Member of Parliament.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi was calling for an investigation into the arrest..

Sunday, Tamim al-Jubouri (Al Mada) reported today that the Parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the arrest was unable to do so.  Nouri's SWAT forces refuse to allow these Members of Parliament to leave Baghdad to travel to Anbar and speak to witnesses.

The deaths are on Nouri's hands.  There's no excuse for the deaths, there's no excuse for wounding children.  Thug Nouri unleashed his thugs and murder happened.

jason ditz

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