Sunday, November 13, 2011

Truest statement of the week

Having spent at least about US$ 3 trillion, taken thousands as casualties both dead and wounded, the Americans are not going to give up that easily. The Shiite Iraqi PM Nourie al-Maliki is slated to visit the White House on December 12, 2011, just a few days before the deadline runs out. If he changes his mind and signs the status of forces agreement with the US, it will certainly not be out of character and in tune with the Iraqi political temperament. Nevertheless, the Americans are not taking any chances and have already made alternative plans.

-- R.S. Kalha, "Is America Finally Withdrawing From Iraq? -- Analysis" (Eurasia Review).

Truest statement of the week II

Another example of a war profiteer not paying any taxes is General Electric. Not only does GE realize vast profits from these illegal and immoral wars of terror that are currently being waged all over the world, but it also profits off of the highly dangerous nuclear power technology that is poisoning the planet as we speak. GE not only did not pay any taxes for the year 2010, it received a “1.1 billion dollar tax benefit” (according to CNN Money) for its tax filings in the U.S. How did GE do this when it made a 10.8 billion dollar profit in 2010? The company recorded a loss here in the U.S. of 408 million. GE is just one company or wealthy individual that has teams of lawyers and accountants to drive trucks through the loopholes the U.S. government legislates for them. Are you saying we owe more money than General Electric?

-- Cindy Sheehan and Christy (Dede) Miller, "We Will Never Pay, So Stop Harassing Us" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).

Truest statement of the week III

"Pass this jobs bill," is one of the president's recurring lines in this year's episode -- as though Barack Obama actually had a bill that might create jobs for the record number of jobless, and as if he even imagined he could or ought to do such a thing. On the real, he hasn't and he doesn't. Politicians come closest to saying what they really think right after elections, not before them.

-- Bruce A. Dixon's "Rigged Games: Obama's Fake 'Jobs Bill' is Election-Year Theater" (Black Agenda Report).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another late Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

An important essay on the Iraq War. Use the link to read it in full.
Cindy Sheehan and her sister Dede Miller.
Bruce A. Dixon. This was a week when there were three statements that were too strong to narrow down any further so we went with three truests.

This is a brief editorial. Dona suggested/insisted that all be brief due to one article. This one also doesn't have an illustration. Dona argued that the lyrics quoted at the start break up the text enough without an illustration. I (Jim) think she's right on that.

Ava and C.I. report on Hulu. This wasn't planned. They were on the phone at 3:30 a.m. calling any and everyone they knew might be up with NBC, Hulu or Variety. What did they plan? To write about an entertainment show. Why didn't they do that? I gave them an assignment.
I pointed out Judy Collins has a new book and that when women in music write books we try to note the books -- Belinda Carlisle, Pat Benatar, Natalie Cole, etc. They didn't want to cover Judy and suggested that they work on their entertainment piece and we do a roundtable on Judy without them. "But no one's read the book," I insisted. "Neither have we!" they responded. So at 9:30 p.m. they divided up sections of the book between them and read those. They finished around 11:00 p.m. And then discussed what they'd read with one another planning the bare bones of what they would end up writing. This is an epic piece. Even more so before they spent a half-hour editing it. As I read over it, I was again struck by the fact that you won't read anything like this any where else. It's amazing. Truly epic.

"Portions." I still can't get over that. The general who wanted to defend that which can't be defended by insisting it wasn't the remains of the fallen, it was "portions" of the remains.

We continue our look at the ten most important books of the last ten years. This is number seven (check me on that) which means there are three more books to go.

Law & Disorder had several outstanding moments last week. Due to the number participating in OWS across the country, we thought this was the most improtant moment.

Katrina wrote a book? No, of course not.

Like the feature above, this one became a go when Dona asked for short pieces due to the length of Ava and C.I.'s book piece. We were holding this topic for Thanksgiving weekend when we assumed we'd be worn out.

A repost of C.I. addressing the issue of Iraqi women.

Repost from Workers World.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

So that's what we ended up with. And Jess points out that those who always wish we had more book coverage should especially be pleased because they've got Ava and C.I.'s mammoth take on Judy Collins' new book, another pick for the ten most important books of the last ten years and a short piece on a new bad book (Katty van-van's.)


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: That continued Iraq War

Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down

Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down

Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down

-- "Spiral Down" written by Michael Timmins, recorded by the Cowboy Junkies on their album at the end of paths taken

While the Tom Haydens lie that the Iraq War is over or ended in an effort to whore for Barack Obama, no such thing has happened or is happening.

If 'trainers' (US soldiers) are not kept in Iraq under the Defense Department, there is still the militarization of the State Department and all the contractors and US troops they will oversee. In addition, there is the use of Kuwait as a staging area.

No longer is this merely a plan. Yes, details still need to be worked out (and Kuwait reportedly wants a little bit of a financial incentive to keep more US troops on their soil) but last week careful readers learned at least one group of US service members who won't be 'coming home' from Iraq at the end of the year but will instead be in Kuwait. Michelle Tan (Army Times) reports:

Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division have been "remissioned" and will move from Iraq to Kuwait for the remainder of their 12-month tour, the brigade commander announced Wednesday.
The announcement from Col. Scott Efflandt was posted on the unit's Facebook page.
"Troops and families of the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are being notified that [the unit] will likely be repositioned within the [Central Command] area of responsibility for the remainder of their 12-month deployment," according to Efflandt's note. "This force will function as a reserve in the region to provide maximum flexibility for response to contingencies. It also demonstrates our lasting commitment to regional stability and security, and the robust security relationships we maintain with our regional partners."

It's really funny to watch Tom Hayden whore. Elaine and C.I. like to point out that when Nixon was insisting he had a 'withdrawal' from Vietnam, but Tom was stating that as long as the South Vietnamese 'government' was receiving US financial support, the war was not ending.

And guess who's staying in Iraq? The CIA. UPI reported last week, "The Central Intelligence Agency, which until recently operated outside the military establishment, is expected to stay on in various guises within the 17,000 U.S. personnel who will remain under State Department jurisdiction."


What a non-shocker that the illegal war that was begun with lies would utilize lies to continue.

Media: The Death of Hulu?

In March 2008, Hulu began streaming online to the public and it quickly became one of the biggest sites online. It now has a Facebook page as well as a Twitter feed. It's even launched Hulu Plus -- where you get to pay to watch commercials online but do get to see more episodes.


It should be a great time for Hulu and, in fact, over the summer, it appeared it was. That's when it looked like Hulu might be for sale; however, no one wanted to pay the large amount the owners insisted the site was worth.

Hulu's worth is in its content. With the exception of the sexist and, yes, bitchy five minute program The Morning After, Hulu doesn't originate a great deal of programming that visitors to its website actually watch. Instead, it's dependent upon the networks which is why Hulu traffic slumps each summer when networks feature very few new episodes of programming.

When the fall TV season gets underway, the site usually does a lot better since it features content from ABC, NBC, CW and Fox (as well as cable networks). All the majors offered their content except CBS and, as CBS Interactive president Jim Lanzone explained last week, that was a smart move that allowed CBS to stream their programs only at their site, keeping it the number one ranked TV network site online for one month shy of three years.

Greed, what's a money story without it?

CBS might have been being greedy. Like Hulu, their site features commercials in their streaming. But if greed kept CBS off Hulu, Fox and the CW's greed may yet kill the website.

This fall, Hulu streamers discovered that The Simpsons and, in fact, all of Fox's programming was no longer available the day after on Hulu unless you were a subscriber to Dish TV or Hulu Plus. Most people aren't. And those people have to wait eight days after a Simpsons episode airs.

While that might be okay for a blockbuster like the animated family (which Fox has now announced will be on the air for at least two more seasons), shows like Fringe -- really most of Fox's shows, could use the help. And if there was a reason to delay, for example, Fringe, wouldn't it make more sense to allow the episode to be streamed on Thursday in the hopes that it would lead more people to tune in on Friday when the latest episode airs?

Instead, this show with continuing elements (aka soap opera) airs its new episodes on Fridays and streams it's previous episode the day after the new one airs (eight days after the episode aired on TV in fact). Again, it's not just irritating, it's counter-productive if the point is to build interest in the TV airing.

Last month, Hulu started featuring the CW (as part of their five-year contract with the CW). And, as with Fox, you have to wait eight days after broadcast to stream the 'latest' episode. (Hulu Plus subscribers can watch the episodes the day after they broadcast.) It does little to promote Hulu but the deal has allowed more people to be aware of Ringer and other CW shows.

While the Fox and CW deals piss off streamers who can't believe they're being asked to pay for commercial TV episodes -- while still watching commercials online -- what's going on with NBC is far more interesting. Supposedly to keep the advertising rate steady for Harry's Law ($61,000 per thirty-second spot), NBC promised to keep episodes off-line. Forgetting to announce this news to the public allowed many to (wrongly) believe that Harry's Law will be returning in the spring when it's already returned and airing new episodes on Wednesdays. Though we could get an answer (true or false) on Harry's Law from NBC friends, we couldn't get anything definitive on Chuck.

Chuck is no longer streaming episodes online -- other than it's season premiere.

How this will effect either show or NBC isn't known yet.

How it effects Hulu is tragic.

Take Chuck which was one of the gold standards for Hulu. Like 30 Rock, Family Guy, Cougar Town and Lost, Chuck has been very popular with Hulu users. And now it's gone. And this at a time when Hulu's really trying hard to sell Hulu Plus subscriptions because the failure to sell Hulu this fall means they'll have to have something more than "hits," "clicks" and "visits" to interest people in the potential public stock offering they're currently planning. The absence of Harry's Law makes it seem even less desirable. The website's need for that show was obvious when ABC recently went all repeats on Wednesday and Hulu streamers were left with little to watch on Thursday other than a Law and Order from the night before.

Some will point out that Hulu also airs movies. Yes, it does. The Criterion Collection (old and older films) and a lot of crap. Doubt us? For two years now, Strictly Sexual has been one of their most popular films -- a film so bad it didn't even get released and one that features no stars but a lot of nudity as two women decide to invite two men to live with them for "strictly sexual" reasons. (Click here for NPR's All Things Considered report on the film's Hulu success.) But many complain not only is the quality so poor but they just don't want to watch a movie with commerical breaks throughout.

TV episodes is how Hulu made its name and its failure to offer up a hit show of its own all this time later means it was and remains a distributor. Nothing wrong with that except a distributor is only as good as what he or she has to distribute. Historically in the entertainment industry, there have often been bidding wars for contract but we can't think of even one bidding war for a distributor.

Trapped in an AA meeting with Judy Collins (Ava and C.I.)

Judy Collins is many things but the key descriptive term for her today may be "redundant." Her just released Sweet Judy Blue Eyes is available online and on the shelves of the country's few remaining book stores. On the same day the book was released (October 18th), her latest album, Bohemian, was supposed to be released -- and in some places it was, link goes to Amazon, whereas in other places -- like her own website -- it wasn't. She's got a half-assed label behind her and, no surprise, Judy's the president and CEO of that label.


In 1979, Judy had her last Hot 100 charter with "Hard Times For Lovers" (number 66) and prior to that, she'd sung a few hits written by others. The folk artist got her first and only top ten hit in 1968 singing Joni Mitchell's amazing "Both Sides Now." A few quibbled in real time about the way such a beautiful song had been turned into cotton candy -- especially after 1969's The Mama Cass Television Show exposed the country to Joni's far more poignant version. Watching Joni strum her guitar and sing the song from the heart on Cass Elliot's ABC special and contrasting that with Judy's chirpy, carnival version, was like hearing Janis Joplin tear through "Down On Me" while Petula Clarke offered up "Downtown."

Judy would hit the top twenty later with "Amazing Grace" -- which she thankfully didn't arrange as a hoe-down number -- and again with "Send In The Clowns." She recorded on Elektra for most of her career and she really wasn't an album artist. She was forever trying to hit the charts and forever failing. A folkie with a guitar, she recorded five albums that found her billed as a Joan Baez wanna-be. The best of the five, 1965's Fifth Album, is a minor classic. It was her follow up, In My Life, that remains the finest albums she's recorded and a sixties classic. For the rest of the sixties and throughout the seventies and eighties, there were no classics -- minor or otherwise -- and Collins appeared to flounder from track to track which made 1991's Fires of Eden a genuine revelation. She followed up that classic with a tribute album to Dylan entitled Judy Collins Sings Dylan . . . Just Like A Woman which continued her winning streak; however, subsequent albums quickly indicated her streak was over. Then, in 2005, she pulled it together again for Portrait of an American Girl which was one of the decade's classics.

If there's a term for her recording career, it's "frustrating." (By contrast, her concerts are always heartfelt and rewarding events.) And when we picked up this book, we thought maybe we'd learn why that is? Maybe Judy would offer some real criticism and insight into her self?

Some might argue that would be expecting too much. They'd insist, "It's an autobiography! People emphasize the moments they want to and they rarely dig in too deep. Even if they wanted to, there's just not time or space."

That argument might fly with others, but this isn't Judy Collins first trip to the biography well. Trust Your Heart (1987), Singing Lessons (1998) and Sanity and Grace (2003) precede Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. When you're writing the fourth installment of your biography, it's really not too much to expect that you might examine your work with something other than glancing blows.

Instead, Judy Collins has written another book insisting she is highly desirable. Or was. Probably insisting how desirable she was. We say that because her eyes are still blue yet she chooses a photo from the mid-seventies for her book cover. (The photo on the back cover is from the late 60s.) In between the two photos of the woman in her thirties, the 72-year-old author goes on and on about her past affairs. Yet again. Stephen Stills (who wrote "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" about her) pops up as do many other familiar characters. And as you read (again) of the never ending parade of men, you start to wonder if Judy wants to be seen not as a singer but as a modern day courtesan?

"We got along well and continued to have a great sex life, enlivened by reading The Story of O," she shares of Michael Thomas on page 195, having just shared -- in this chronological biography -- on 191 about "dating Dick Lukins" and "a brief romance" with David Levine. To be clear, our criticism is not about shock or scandal. We're not appalled that Judy's had bed partners (and we know several that didn't make the latest book). We're just amazed that she's written yet another book where everything gets tossed onto the floorboard of the back seat to let whatever guy she's sleeping with ride shotgun.

Women pop up from time to time. Unlike Joan Baez, Judy's not confessing to any same-sex affairs. But women come up frequently in the book as she attempts to settle scores. Mimi Farina has been dead for a decade, her husband Richard for over four decades. "I ADORED Dick Farina," Judy writes. "Mimi later said she thought that was something else going on with us us . . . But she was wrong." (FYI, it's author Judy that puts "ADORED" in all caps.) Other than "bitchy," we're having a hard time figuring out what makes Judy still try to pretend she was closer to Richard than Mimi or to paint Mimi as jealous of her?

Mimi's sister Joan Baez is a bigger target but Judy appears even more immature when writing 'about' that rival. Throughout the book she takes aim at Joan -- while insisting she was always the better person (for example, Joan mocked Judy's lisp but Judy insists that she laughed at Joan's imitation). But the one-sided feud really grates when, for four paragraphs, Judy wants to set the record straight that Bob Dylan wrote "I'll Keep It With Mine" for her and not for Joan, telling readers of arguments and lawyers and Joan insisting that it was written for her and refusing to record it after Judy had already done so. All this for a very insignificant song in which the subject (whether "you" is Joan, Judy or someone else) is never as important to the narrator as his own self-glorification (only he can save the "you").

Carole King is fobbed off twice, the most telling moment when she appears for no reason as "the power of the song-selling machine that throbbed behind Carole King's music and that of other writers in the Brill Building stable." If you didn't catch that "machine" isn't a compliment in the Collins' canon, she's explaining that real artists "including Leonard [Cohen], Joni Mitchell, and others, would try to build a following for their songs by singing them in clubs" but couldn't compete with the "machine."

Ah, yes, Joni. Carly Simon's written of in such a way that you might think she was an actress. In other words, Carly pops up in a sentence here and a sentence there and only in one paragraph where Judy mainly notes Carly's stage fright and that she had once performed in a duo with her sister Lucy as The Simon Sisters. We mentioned Judy was on Elektra. Who was the label's best selling female artist? Carly Simon. And Carly is the only singer-songwriter of her peer group -- male or female -- who can boast of having won a Golden Globe, Academy Award and Grammy for song writing. Don't expect any of that to make it into Judy's book because if Judy couldn't even the score a little by obscuring all of that, what would be the point in writing her fourth autobiography? Other contemporaries (rivals, apparently) such as Janis Ian, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Judy Henske and countless others are reduced to unidentified names in single sentences. But with Joni, Judy's hunting bear.

It's as if the damage Judy did to Joni with her recent cover of Joni's "Cactus Tree" -- featuring Judy's teeth grinding notes on "busy" ("while she was busy being free") -- wasn't enough. No, she wants to dish in that passive-aggressive way that's become a Judy Collins hallmark. And that brings up an interesting point. How the hell did she never deal with her passive-aggressive nature? It's as puzzling as her two decades as an alcoholic in denial while in therapy. (Not mentioned in this book, a lover once accused her of being addicted to therapy.) What were all those sessions for?

Apparently to talk about herself and how wronged she was. More than any other woman, Joni registers in Judy's latest tome. Pages 215 through 219 primarily deal with Joni (who gets many single sentences mentions elsewhere in the book and another minor section later on). Though it's less space than she devotes to longtime rival Joan, it's much more telling.

As Judy remembers it, she brought Joni and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen together for their "love affair" shortly after she (Judy) woke up "in bed with a man I did not know who was coming down from an acid trip and wanted me to 'comfort him,' no sex was involved. Leonard sat in the room with us, singing 'The Stranger Song' softly to himself . ." What any of that has to do with Joni is only a question if you didn't realize that Judy never landed Leonard and, if she's about to acknowledge his affair with Joni, she first wants us to know, again, what a hot little number she once was.

From her bed scene, she immediately (same paragraph, page 218, if you don't believe us) launches into, "Joni wrote 'That Song About the Midway' about Leonard, or so she says."

"Or so she says" is Judy's first flash of passive-aggressive on Joni, but not her last. In the midst of allegedly telling Joni's story, she leaps several months ahead (without noting that) to describe her nude photo session for the Wildflowers album (none of the photos were ever used) to, again, remind you what a hot little number she once was. As if to say, "Joni might write great songs, but let's put that aside so I can share my nude photo session" (which she describes as "too daring").

"I thought we were friends," she writes on page 216 before launching into trashy dish about Joni giving up a daughter for adoption. (Judy has no knowledge of this topic other than what she's read, FYI.) By page 217, she's insisting, "Joni can be touchy and sometimes distant" and then adding "but all of us have complicated lives." By page 219, she's playing the ultimate victim, "I also wonder whatever happened to the friendship I thought I had with Joni. She disappeared from my life, and in spite of my efforts to reclaim that closeness, there is still a wall I cannot fly or climb over."

This is a ghastly book. It only becomes more horrid near the end when Judy starts including letters from her son Clark (who took his own life) that are supposed to testify to Judy's greatness. Those letters make us squeamish because, if she does value them, they should have been kept private. Instead, her son's very real pain appears to take back seat to her efforts to glorify herself. And, if we're really honest, maybe that's why Clark killed himself?

When Judy got custody of him (that's a whole long story, read any of her books, she always brings it up), she didn't alter her life any. What a young boy seeing his mother drunk off her ass every day must have thought never enters her new book -- maybe not even her mind. Nor does she ever wonder what the constant parade of lovers through the home she shared with her son was supposed to mean. As she tells the story, she supposedly wanted custody of her son all along but the mean judge wouldn't let her have it. When his father no longer wanted to raise him (for whatever reason), Clark was sent to Judy. Judy who took her sister on tour with her overseas, but not her own son. Judy who toured the country non-stop but without her son. And when she was 'home' he's having to compete for attention with the latest man to share her bed?

A seven-year-old boy who's already been separated from his mother for years now gets abandoned by his father, relocates to NYC and his mother doesn't alter her own schedule and desires in the least? Judy Collins was a working woman. We get that. No one's saying she shouldn't have toured or recorded. But was it really necessary to, for example, spend six months on a play (she's no actress, check out her brief role in Junior)? You pay the bills, you use concerts and albums for your art, you can even have lovers. But you have to carve out a space for your young child who has just come to live with you. Fobbing him off on your housekeeper so you can visit your lover across the country filming a movie or calling trips with a lover a "vacation" with your child because you let your child invite along a friend? That's not maturity or responsibility and, as you wind down your 20s, claiming you were a "child too" is laughable.

Though not fully honest, she was more honest in Trust Your Heart. Explaining 1969 and 1970, how she and actor Stacy Keach found a new apartment to live in, how she traveled to Chicago to testify at the Chicago Seven trial (without Clark), how she went to LA (without Clark) to appear on Glen Campbell's TV show, how she went off to Kent State (with Ramsey Clark, Ted Kennedy and Averell Harriman -- but without her son Clark) to speak, how from March through August she was focused on performing in her first play, Joe Papp's Peer Gynt and how she was recording her Whales & Nightingales album, her Hollywood Bowl concert, working with Blood, Sweat & Tears, doing the Dick Cavett show, and on and on until, finally, on page 169, this pops up:

Before Christmas, Clark was caught smoking pot at school. He was eleven by then and had grown up fast living with me. I smiled and looked confused if he drank, and was furious when one of our friends turned him on to pot. As a result of my feelings of frustration, he either did pretty much what he wanted or we fought about what he couldn't do. Whether I let things go on or not depended on my ability to cope at the moment. He was quick to remind me that I was practicing a double standard.
"How come you and Stacy and your friends can do this stuff and I can't?" said Clark, almost looking me in the eye.

When a moment like that happens, a parent -- mother or father -- needs to get real. And the first place you should get real is about your own life and why you allowed your child to see you drunk and your friends drugged all the time? How you ever thought that was appropriate? Before you can even address his problem, you need to make a few adjustments in your own life.

Unless you're too busy being a hot little number. In which case, a kid -- one you claim you wanted -- is a little too much reality for you so you get rid of him.

Yes, when he's caught with pot, Judy sends the son (that she swears in every book she wanted to raise) off to school in West Virginia, far, far away. Genetically, it was never a surprise that Clark would turn into an addict. But to pretend that the environment he was being raised in was no influence is appalling. Equally appalling is that in this fourth book about her own life, "hindsight" has provided no insight to Judy about her son who took his own life.

He did so five-years after her 1987 autobiography Trust Your Heart -- which ended with a paragraph declaring, "The years of struggle for Clark are in the past, the dark times and the hearbreak." Maybe the fact that he was then alive is why Judy felt she could be a little more honest about her son's life?

In her latest book, the incident we quoted above is reduced to, "In January 1971, Clark was packed off to a boys' school in Maryland." Nothing about the pot smoking, nothing about the confrontation. She's too busy including that Faye Dunaway was intimidated by her because, again, she was such a hot little number.

Then Clark's in a sledding accident (a fractured skull and he could die, we're told in Trust Your Heart, but it's just an accident to be passed over in the latest book) and, once he's recovered, Judy packs him off to a school in Vermont. Meanwhile Judy heads to California with her latest battling lover (Stephen Stills has been followed by Stacy Keach at this point as her serious love affair). Clark pops back up when "Clark's addiction" (Judy's a full blown alcoholic by this point, though her latest book skirts this) flares up and she sends him to a new school in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Four pages later, after including compliments and praise for herself, she suddenly notes "my son Clark overdosed at Windsor Mountain School in Massachusetts. We had hoped the staff and the environment might help him stay away from drugs. But once again, we failed to treat his problems effectively, because no therapist understood that his problems were not emotional but the result of a genetic tendency to addiction [. . .]"

We? Clark is a child (16 at the time). Who is the "we"? Judy made the decisions. As for "genetic tendency," yes, that allowed his addiction but what repeatedly triggered his use?

Finally, in 1978, she gets sober: "Clark was nineteen in the middle of a long stretch of drug use when I got sober." She quickly ticks off events -- which really don't appear to indicate she took part in his therapy -- surprising since he went to Hazelden in 1984 and you'd think family sessions would be part of his treatment -- and writes of his suicide, "At times I wanted to kill anyone who may have been in any way responsible for the pain he was in. But I had to let go of blame and anger, for if I held on to it, it would destroy me." Anyone? Really? Anyone? She'll go on to note that she had to make the "choice" not to drink after Clark's suicide so -- at least with regards to her own recovery -- she is aware that she has an addiction and that emotional problems can lead to it becoming full blown again.

If she hadn't included the part about Joni's child, we would have been silent on Clark. Most people have been. Most have walled off the entire subject since his death and treated her rare utterances on the subject as "insight." Joni never spoke to Judy about the daughter she gave up for adoption, Judy never met the daughter. There was no reason at all to include the daughter in the book other than to be passive-aggressive yet again. So if Judy wants to go there, we will as well.

Someone needs to get it through her thick skull (and possibly wet brain) that it was never "we," despite her ego. She wasn't Clark's contemporary, she was his mother. She failed to provide the child with a stable home -- indicating the judge was correct not to grant her custody in the first place -- while traveling through one alcoholic-soaked affair after another and when the child's problems were so extreme, when he cried out in despair by getting caught at 11 smoking pot, she didn't deal with it. She packed him up and sent him off to school out of state so that she could continue her affair. Again, that hot little number. When things got worse and he nearly died -- still age 11 -- she didn't bring him home and show him the love he needed. Instead, she sent him off to another out of state school.

If you're not grasping it -- she so evasive in this book, Clark comes to live with Judy in December 1967 when he's seven-years-old. By January 1971, she's packing the 11-year-old off to an out of state school. After spending years -- though not noted in this book -- claiming that she entered therapy to begin with, in 1963, due to the deep hole losing custody of Clark had created within her. Would it have been Freudian for the self-professed hot little number to have called her latest volume This Hole Filled?

When you write your fourth autobiography, people have a right to expect that this time you'll go deep. When you write about your own son who killed himself, and it's 19 years after his suicide, people have a right to expect you'll explore and not put the blame on others.

Long ago, it should have been broken down for Judy. Her son had abandonment issues from an early age because she left (and then later tried to sue for custody). At the age of seven, already feeling one parent had abandoned him, Clark was pushed away by his father (who gave him to Judy). From ages seven to eleven, she not only didn't alter her previous schedule, she took on additional tasks and left him with her housekeeper. Desperate for attention and wanting to be a part of her life, he did what she and her boyfriends did (drugs). It was a cry for help. Instead of helping him, her response was to begin sending him to a series out of state schools. This was done to a child with abandonment issues. She exiled a child with abandonment issues. (To be very clear, she could have just found him a new school in NYC. She could have handled the pot thing any number of ways including, "You can smoke it in our home around me, but not at school." Though we're sure we'll be accused of being the prudes by someone, she's the one who treated a joint as just 'too much for me to deal with!') All he wanted was to be wanted. Not mentioned in this book, but in others, around the age of 17, Clark leaves one of his out of state schools. He runs away. After he's run away, he calls Judy and tells her he's fine and just needs to be alone so don't look for him. Someone who calls after they've run away to say "don't look for me," is someone who wants to be looked for. Again, his whole life, his sole motivation was to feel wanted. Not getting that as a child created emotions that were most easily silenced through the use of drugs.

Judy has never written one word -- in all four of her autobiographies -- indicating that she understood her son's inner ache or longing. All these years later, she still hasn't done it. But damned if she can't tell you about this man she slept with and what he thought of her and how hot the person he worked with thought she was and Faye Dunaway was intimidated by her and blah, blah, blah.

If you're not getting what Clark had to put up with, you haven't read the book. Janis Joplin pops up very briefly on a page here and there (about five) including 239 where Judy writes, "At the Monterey Pop Festival, where we had first met, I stood backstage ats the lights swirled around Janis. Her voice was big and raw, hanging over the festival like the moon. By the end of the night . . ." And that's it for Monterey. The first real rock festival and that's all Judy has to share. The Mamas and the Papas closed the festival (and Lou Adler and Michelle and John Phillips organized the festival), Jimi Hendrix did a name making set, the Who were on fire, Otis Redding and the Jefferson Airplane were as well. Other performers included Laura Nyro, Steve Miller, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Grateful Dead. Yet that's all Judy has to say?

It reminds us of when she goes to Woodstock on its final day and 'forgets' to tell you about the performances but does note that Bill Graham "invited me to go on stage in the helicopter to watch the festival up close. I thought about all those artists who had been invited to Woodstock -- from Richie Havens to Joan Baez to Crosby, Stills and Nash -- and said thanks but no thanks." And that's Judy 'coverage' of Woodstock in full. This is the woman who can and does go on for paragraphs about her taping an appearance of The Muppet Show but she can't tell you details about Monterey or Woodstock? 'If I couldn't perform,' she seems to say about both of the big rock festivals in the last half of the sixties, 'I'll be damned if I note anyone else.'

And she'll be damned if she takes any responsibility for anything either.

Take her puzzlement over the end of her 'friendship' with Joni Mitchell. Judy was a raging alcoholic and a nasty drunk. She really seems unaware of just how nasty she was or how many people she hurt. And while she works overtime to portray herself as a hot little number, she seems unwilling to admit that other women might want something else. Joni, for example, had to fight, in a male dominated rock world, to not just be taken seriously but to be given her due. She has guarded that accomplishment, tended to it.

And it really doesn't help her art when Judy insults her work by getting her songs wrong (Court & Spark's "Just Like This Train" is not, as Judy's billed it in a previous book "Jealous Loving Will Make You Crazy") or by crediting David Crosby as producer of Joni's first two albums. Or by refusing to record Joni's songs. It wasn't Bob Dylan that wrote Judy's only top ten hit, it wasn't John Lennon and Paul McCartney and it wasn't Leonard Cohen. Yet Judy's recorded three full albums exploring those songwriters while ignoring Joni. She knows the message that sends.

She was a lousy 'friend' in real time and she's done nothing to help Joni as an artist. In fact, she's done everything she can to tear Joni down. If you doubt us, here's a typical Judy interview -- Larry King, June 23, 2001:

KING: What's your first hit?

COLLINS: My first hit, real hit, was "Both Sides Now" in '68. In '67, I recorded Leonard Cohen's music and I discovered a lot of singers whose songs I love and this was before I started writing my own songs. So, I was very fortunate. But I didn't have an immediate -- yeah, I worked very hard. You know, I was always singing...

KING: You were known.

COLLINS: And I was very well-known, but I didn't -- people did not start to answer my phone calls until about 1968.

KING: "Both Sides Now" was enormous though, right?

COLLINS: Enormous hit.

KING: Great song.

COLLINS: Enormous hit. It was...

KING: That was a breakthrough song, right? It was folk and beyond, right?

COLLINS: It was a breakthrough, yes. It was folk and beyond and I think that was really the thing that set up the idea that I have about music and my own writing, which folk music, people call this folk music, I'm not sure what it is. I think it's alright to call it that. But, there's music about issues and about feelings and poetry and politics.

KING: Has your voice changed as you get older?

Who wrote Judy's "first hit" (and biggest)? To have caught that discussion, it must have been Leonard Cohen because he's the only name she mentions. But again, it was Joni. And it's that sort of refusal to treat Joni with respect that's going to guarantee that they're not friends. Equally true, Judy wants to 'forget' (she remembers) many events, like inviting Joni to a worshop and then 'forgetting' to take her. Judy was so big with the promises and so bad at keeping them. She can blame it on her disease, if she wants, but her treatment for that addiction was supposed to include an inventory and accountability. Judy writes as if twelve steps can be ignored and all that's necessary is to repeat war stories with cash register honesty over and over.

And be bitchy. Mavis Staples pops up so Judy can chuckle over Mavis' belief that Bob Dylan sincerely proposed to Mavis. Bob Dylan is a straight man. Mavis is a woman. Bob is known for his relationships with African-American women. Mavis is African-American. Bob has always been keenly interested in gospel music and Mavis got her start in gospel and her family group, the Staple Singers, was one of the biggest gospel groups in America. Why is difficult for Judy to believe that Bob Dylan could have been serious when he proposed to Mavis Staples? If you click here and listen to this December 20, 2008 Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me! (NPR) audio segment, you'll hear Mavis explaining that Bob asked her father if he could marry her -- a fact that Judy's ignorant of.

She's not ignorant of changing moods in the public's taste. Unlike in her previous three autobiographies, this one finds Judy suddenly 'tight' with Phil Ochs. While so many of the other stories are retold (such as dropping acid with Michelle Phillips), the Phil Ochs material is new and 'novel.' So is the claim of her great friendship with Lillian Roxon. What the 'novel' new material really indicates is that Judy's paid attention to the festival circuit -- at least enough to be aware of the recent documentaries on both Ochs and Roxon and that including the two of them might make her appear more relevant in this book.

This book. "Hard Time For Lovers" was 1979. It's 2011 and it's hard times for the economy. $26.00 is the list price for Judy's 'new' book. Except for nine pages, the very same time frame this book covers was covered in 1987's Trust Your Heart which is better written and more honest. Best of all, if you find Trust Your Heart at a used book store, you can probably get it for at least half the $4.99 (paperback) cover price. In a tough economy, it's not just the bargain, it's also the only volume worth reading.

Air Force dumps the remains of fallen in landfill


That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Portions" covering a Senate hearing last week and Isaiah didn't have to create or add any words to provide the outrage.

It was a bad week for the Pentagon. Mid-week they were admitting that Dover Air Force Base mortuary had lost body parts of some of the fallen. Then more shame for the Air Force as Craig Whitlock and Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) broke the news that remains of the fallen had been incinerated and dumped in a landfill.

All before Friday which was Veterans Day. The day before Veterans Day, General Norton Schwartz, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: General Schwartz, on a different topic and I just feel the need to ask -- ask about this. Uhm, I'm deeply troubled by the reports about what happened at the mortuary at the Dover Air Force Base. And I'm sure you would agree with me this is outrageous that remains of our soldiers would be put in a landfill and not treated with the appropriate dignity and honor which they deserve. Can you tell me, uh, where we are with this? And how we're going to ensure that this never happens again? And, most importantly, that those who have participated in this outrage are going to be held accountable?

Gen Norton Schwartz: Senator Ayotte, first of all, let me clarify the allegation about putting remains in a landfill. These were portions, prior to 2008, which were sent away from the Dover mortuary to a funeral home for cremation -- which is an authorized method of dealing with remains, particularly those that are separated from the larger portions of remains returned to the family. After that, the results of the cremation came back to the mortuary were sent to a medical support company for incineration. So you had cremation, then incineration and it was at that point that this medical support organizations placed the residuals from that effort to a landfill. In 19 -- In 2008, the Air Force came to the conclusion that that was not the best way to deal with those remains and so it is now done in a traditional fashion of burial at sea. It has been that way since 2008. It will continue to be that way in the future and let me just conclude by saying the Secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley [Secretary of the US Air Force] and I take personal responsibility for this. Our obligation is to treat our fallen with reverence and dignity and respect and to provide the best possible support and care for their families. That is our mission. The people who did not fulfill our expectations were disciplined and there's no doubt what our expectations are today.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Well I -- General Schwartz, I appreciate your updating on that and, uh, when I think about the fact that we have Veterans Day tomorrow, this is so important, obviously, that we treat the remains of our fallen with dignity and respect and I know that you share that concern as well. And please know that members of this Committee will be there to support you in any way to make sure that the families know that we certainly won't allow this to happen again.

As reported in the Thursday "Iraq snapshot," Ayotte was one of two senators bringing up the issue to Schwartz.

Senator Claire McCaskill: I want to specifically, for a minute, General Schwartz, go to the situation at Dover and I don't want to dwell on how hard this has to be for you and the leadership at the Air Force. No one needs to convince me that you want to get this right at Dover. I'll tell you what I do want to bring to your attention and I've did so with a letter today and that is with the finding of the Office of Special Counsel. And so people understand what the Office of Special Counsel is. It's an investigatory and prosecution oriented agency whose primary responsibility under our law is to be independent of all of the agencies and protect whistle blowers. And what I am concerned about is their investigation into what the Air Force did in response to the whistle blowers. And specifically the fact that the IG of the Air Force, they failed to admit wrong doing in their report. And while I understand people have been moved around as a result of the problems that have occured because of mishandling of the sacred remains of the fallen, I'm not sure that they have been held as accountable as what we saw happen at Arlington in connection with that heart breaking incompetence. And what I want to make sure is that there is an independent investigation as to whether or not the IG shaded it a little bit [Chair Carl Levin began nodding his head in vigrous agreement with what McCaskill was saying] because everyone was feeling a little bit protective of the institution for all the right reasons. The vast majority of the people who serve at Dover and who do this work, I'm sure, do it with a heavy heart but with a passion for getting it right. But when we have a circumstance like this arise, I want to make sure the Inspector Generals are not so busy looking after the institution that they fail to point out wrong doing -- which was not ever acknowledged -- and that there is accountability for the people involved. And so, I want you to address the Special Counsel's report as it relates to the Air Force investigation.

Gen Norton Schwartz: Senator McCaskill, there was -- There were -- Clearly were unacceptable mistakes made. Whether they constitute wrong doing is another matter entirely. And when you look at a situation like this, you look at the facts of a case, as an attorney might say. You look at the context in which the event or the mistakes occurred. And you also consider the demands that are -- are placed on individuals and-and organizations. With respect to accountability, we also had an obligation to ensure that the statutory requirements for Due Process were followed. We did that precisely. I can only speak for the case of the uniformed officer. But the uniformed officer received a letter of reprimand. We established an unfavorable information file. We removed him from the command list and his anticipated job as a group commander at Shaw Air Force Base was red-lined. This is not a trivial sanction.

Senator Claire McCaskill: Well I - I understand that's not a trivial sanction but I-I-I'm worried that there was a conclusion that there was not an obligation to notify the families in these instances and obviously this deals with more than uniform personnel and obviously the Secretary of the Air Force is also copied on the letter that I sent today calling for this independent investigation. What happened at Arlington, nobody was intentionally mismarking graves. They were mistakes too. And I just want to make sure that we have really clear eyes while we have full hearts about the right aggressive need for investigations by Inspector Generals in circumstances like this. And thank you very much and thank all of you for being here today.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has declared that there will be an investigation. Whether it's a meaningful investigation with actual results or another white wash remains to be seen.

Shirley MacLaine's I'm Over All That


We continue our series on the ten most important books of the last ten years. Each is important for various, unique reasons. And you should be able to read them through your library system -- if your individual library does not have a copy, they should be able to get a copy via their ILL program.

Our pick this week was written by Shirley MacLaine who is many things: Academy Award winning actress, film director (Bruno), dancer, singer, activist, spiritualist, etc. She is also the author of thirteen books and it's her latest book, the best seller I'm Over All That And Other Confessions, which makes our list as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years.

Shirley MacLaine

Last April, Ava and C.I. praised the book "Books: One writes, the other types (Ava and C.I.)" and, since then, there's not been a week when someone hasn't written to say 'I just picked up the book and I loved it.' As Elaine noted of the book, "I read a lot for work -- journals and studies -- but for my own reading, I want to be taken away. I want to be caught up in the page. Shirley MacLaine's a powerful writer."

What is everyone responding to?

Among other things, actual thoughts. Such as this one:

Our brains detect magnetic changes because our brains contain millions of tiny magnetic particle. These particles connect us to the Earth's magnetic field in a powerful and intimate way which affects our consciousness profoundly. Our nervous systems are affected, our immune systems, and even our perceptions of reality. Our dreams, our thoughts, our emotions, and our understanding of time and space are thrown out of balance when the magnetic field is weaker.

Thinking, exploring. A lost art in a world where right-wingers can zone out on Fox News to be told what to think and left-wingers can zone out on MSNBC for the same. We're fed spin and not knowledge. The Iraq War is 'covered' by how it will effect Barack Obama's re-election chances, not by what's it doing to the Iraqi people. We are dumbed down and spoon fed. And we are starved for actual thought.

Shirley's not offering Chicken Soup For The Soul, she's offering a struggle, an examination and honesty. Equally important in this age of spin, she's not claiming to have all the answers. She's not telling you, "Here it is, stop thinking!"

As she writes:

One intelligent friend told me years ago that I shouldn't delve with too much curiosity into the "unanswerable" mysteries of life or it could lead to insanity. I really listened to what this friend was saying to me, but I just can't feel that having a strong sense of curiosity is a bad thing. I have always felt safe because I was curious.

At times, the book will make you smile and will make you laugh. That gift for storytelling shouldn't obscure the fact that this is a very deep book.

In this series of ten important books of the last ten years, we've also selected "CCR's Articles of Impeachment Against Bush," "Manal M. Omar's Barefoot in Baghdad," "Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream," "Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price's Courting Justice," "Anthony Arnove's Iraq: The Logic Of Withdrawal" and "Tori's Piece by Piece." Due to the Great Recession, your local libraries are both overtaxed (seeing more patrons than ever before) and underfunded. Make a point to check out your local library or local branch of your library and consider letting your local representatives know that you support increasing the budget for the library.

Radio Moment of the Week

Law and Disorder Radio

On last week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include Occupy Wall Street, Barack and the Constitution, a report on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers efforts to get a fair wage for Florida tomato pickers and Pam Martens (CounterPunch) explains how Wall Street firms spy on protesters with tax payers footing the bill for the spying. The moment that most needs repeating? We'll go with this one.

Michael Ratner: Well here we are three lawyers to talk to you a bit about some updates on Occupy Wall Street. The first thing we want to do is give you some information about what to do for your rights and if you are arrested. And we have Heidi here, who is the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, she's going to give you the web site which lists not one 1, not 10, not 20, but 75 cities where the Guild has a presence and more where you can call if you get in any trouble with the cops with your Occupied territory, etc.. Heidi, why don't you give people the website? Heidi Boghosian: Well the National Lawyers Guild website is You can check for a contact person in your local jurisdiction if that's posted on the site or just give us a call -- the number's on the website, (212) 679-5100 -- and we'll find a Guild attorney in your area. And if there isn't one in your area we'll make every effot to match you up with either an ACLU attroney or another progressive lawyer. Michael Ratner: Say the number again, Heidi. Heidi Boghosian: (212) 679-5100. Michael Smith: That's Michael Ratner: The Guild has been everywhere. There's a list as I said of 75 where you can go to. So again, thank you, National Lawyers Guild, we are there for Occupied Wall Street.

Location, location, location


Katrina vanden Heuvel has a new book and, from the title, you might assume it's a comedy volume: The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama.

Even funnier than the thought that Katrina has a sense of humor is the notion that she sat down and wrote a book. This is nothing but a collection of her bad columns.

Fortunately, rack jobbers know just where to put Katty-van-van's opus, on the shelves right next to Jesse Ventura's 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read and his American Conspiracies.

From The TESR Test Kitchens

Reader Cody e-mailed October 17th to ask if we'd noticed anything about his favorite snack, Sun Maid Yogurt Raisins. For those not familiar with the snack, these are raisins (dried grapes) with a yogurt coated shell. Other popular snacks with yogurt coating include pretzels and cranberries.


Cody wasn't specific about his problem, in fact he was vague. When Jim followed up with an e-mail asking him what was different about the snack, Cody replied, "Just try some and see if you notice."

So we did. We had some trying them on the West Coast and some on the East Coast and Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally trying them across the country.

What quickly became obvious is that Sun Maid must have laid off those responsible for checking quality and consistency.

If a San Francisco super market, for example, sells a package of Sun Maid Yogurt Raisins in which they're all stuck together in one hard clump, then it could be just that package or that store. But when it happens in Boston, in Conneticut, in Chicago, in DC, in Maryland, in Virginia . . .

It quickly becomes obvious that the problem isn't one bag or one store, the problem is Sun Maid's quality control.

Like Cody, we can go through a bag of yogurt raisins in a half-hour easy. But that's provided they're worth eating. These days Sun Maid's aren't.

Iraqi women

Jim: Iraqi women are the most invisible group of Iraqis in the US press coverage and that's been true for some time. The worst offender has been The New York Times. As gas bags pontificate on Iraq these last weeks, you may have caught something (C.I. did), they repeatedly and consistently ignore the topic of Iraqi women and what the 'great' war has done to their rights and lives. Probably they wouldn't be able to lie to themselves and for the White House were they to tell the truth about the way women's rights, lives and opportunities have been destroyed in Iraq. The White House can't be honest about that, the Congress can't be honest about that and the US-state controlled press can't be honest about that. In Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot," C.I. told the truths that, in the US, we've apparently decided aren't safe to address publicly.


[The photo above is by the Great Iraqi Revolution's Rami Al-Hyali.
One of 2010's important books was Deborah Amos' Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East which examines Sunnis who relocated to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, most as part of Iraq's refugee population -- a population created by the Iraq War and so huge that it became the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. People forced to flee their homes rarely arrive in a new area on strong footing. Most refugees have to play catch up for basic items that didn't make the journey, for cash that is usually finite and dwindling. In such circumstances and in countries where they are legally forbidden to work, a black market economy develops. For women, black market employment has historically included prostitution. In Syria, Deborah Amos met a number of women engaged in the sex trade:
Another woman said her name was Abeer. "My husband tried to smuggle the kids to Sweden, but they got caught and are back in Baghdad," she told me. She had divorced her husband when he set off for Sweden. She had agreed to the separation for the sake of her two children. Now, she lived with her sister, and worried about her kids. She sent her club earnings home for them. But why had she come to Damascus, I asked; what had driven her to come here in the first place?" "I was a journalist," she said. In 2007, she was hired by a television station based in Baghdad. She worked as a correspondent until the day her mother found a ltter that had been thrown into the family farden: "Leave in 28 hours or we will kill you." Syria was the only open border. While I was pondering Abeer's choices, she clicked her cellphone shut, took one last look at her mirror image, and moved toward [the] door. "Have a good night," she said knowingly, one businesswoman to another, as she made her way into the dark nightclub.
I could see why this was Um Nour's favorite club. The system of cost-and-rewards favored women who wanted some control over their work. It was a freelance market. We had walked in through the front door for "free," while the male patrons paid a steep cover charge and even more for the alcohol and snacks delivered to the table. Um Nour explained that women paid the Syrian men at the door at the end of the night -- but only if they left with a man.
Iraq has a long historical connection to prostitution. The Whore of Babylon is a character in the Bible's Book of Revelations, the symbol of all things evil. The world's oldest profession was first recorded in Mesopotamia in the second millennium B.C. The code of Hammurabi, the ancient world's first fixed laws for a metropolis, acknowledged prostitution and gave prostitutes some inheritance rights.
How much choice a woman selling sex for money is debatable -- even when we're not looking at a refugee population. But the women in that section of Amos' book are women who have reached their decisions apparently without being forced into by another person. Many Iraqi women are not so fortunate and are forced into prostitution. Today, Hajer Nailis (WeNews) reports:
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, as many as 5,000 women and girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, with most ending up in Syria, according to a preliminary report released today by the London-based Social Change Through Education in the Middle East.
Jordan is the second-ranking destination for trafficked girls and women, according to the Nov. 9 report.
These two bordering countries have maintained a relatively liberal policy of granting visas to refugees while also subjecting them to labor restrictions. That combination, the report finds, puts girls and women at high risk of seeking money through prostitution and also being prostituted by families and organized networks.
"Both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have failed to address the problem of sex trafficking," the report finds, also noting that the Iraqi constitution prohibits the trafficking of women and children, as well as the sex trade and slavery.
1. Between 2003-2007, 4,000 Iraqi women went missing, 1/5 of whom is under 18
2. Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls and women are trafficked internally and internationally into the sex trade
3. Iraqi women are trafficked mainly to Syria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf countries
4. Traffickers reportedly sell girls as young as 11, for figures such as $30,000
5. Some traffickers have the girls operated on in severe conditions, whereby the hymen is sewn up, so the girls can be sold as virgins again
6. It has been reported that some girls and women are kidnapped, drugged and forced to have sex with between 10 and 15 men every day
7. Tafficked women and victims of sexual violence often find themselves in jail, while authorities ignore their exploiters and the society rejects them.
April 9th, they presented a paper, entitled [PDF format warning] "An Investigation into the Sex Trafficking of Iraqi Women and Girls in Syria and Jordan," to the Women Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq Conference. Among the findings:
Professional traffickers target young girls and women whilst they are still inside the Iraqi borders. These traffickers, very often women, target young girls who have left their families (for reasons of fear of violence, abuse, forced marriage or the threat of honour crimes) typically in places such as public transportations in larger cities. Kidnapped, the girls may be kept for a period of time while negotiations on their prices are undertaken, before they are sold on.
In other cases, male solicitors are recruited by trafficking gangs. These men are used to lure vulnerable young girls, eventually persuading them to elope whereby; again, they will be sold for sexual servitude. Some taxi drivers, too, are used as recruiters to lure girls with the false pretence of help, whereas women who are already involved in the sex industry are used as intermediaries who again pretend to offer assistance, offering to bring the girls to shelters when, in fact, they bring them to brothels.
We noted Syria via Deborah Amos' excellent book so let's also include the paper's discussion of the three levels of prostitution being practiced in Syria.
The first level [prostitution on the individual level] refers to a girl or woman who has made the decision to engage in prostitution and without the knowledge of her family. In reality, this decision is often one arrived at as a consequence of being forced by poverty and circumstance. Whilst the well-being and safety of these girls is absolutely important, SCEME's research and campaigning focuses on the subsequent, and often interconnected, two levels which relate to the forced sexual servitude of girls and women; the levels of family and organized networks.
The second level [prostitution on the family level] refers to those forced in work with the knowledge and active involvement of family members; these family members are most often male. This type of prostitution is also called "secret prostitution" and is most frequently reported in the Jaramana area of Damascus.
Complexly interwoven with trafficking and forced prostitution we also report that Iraqi girls are increasingly finding themselves in mut'a marriages. As the Karama Movement in the Arab Region has uncovered, on Fridays young girls are married off at price and on the following Sunday the couple is divorced. Research suggests that rates at which these mut'a marriages are carried out intensifies in the summer when male tourists visit Syria from the Gulf. Some of these tourists arrive looking to pay dowries to the families or pimps of these girls in exchange for brief marriages for the purposes of sexual exploitation for the duration of their visit. These so called 'summer-marriages' in which the girls and their husbands live together temporarily of course also provide none of the legal rights associated with marriage, such as alimony and inheritance, making vulnerable both the women involved and their resulting children. Although this particular kind of marriage is not explicitly called prostitution, it is in effect sexual exploitation, often forced, as means of either securing livelihood, or generating profit.
The third level [prostitution on the level of organized networks] involves organized networks and criminal gans which offer women and young girls for sale to people in the local community, tourists, as well as night clubs and casinos. Traffickers played an important role in opening such nightclubs in collaboration with brokers in Syria, relying on the selling of the bodies of female Iraqis. Clubs such as Al Nigma and Al Manara in the suburbs of Damascus are frequented both by local Syrians and tourists from the Gulf and beyond.
From time to time, I'm asked by a friend to note something -- sometimes something they've worked on. [Like right now, Laura Smith-Spark's CNN report will be noted in tomorrow's snapshot.] I deliberately took a pass on Women, War and Peace -- a five-part PBS mini-series because I think it's bulls**t and garbage. Here's the link to the mini-series for any who feel the need to check it out. Why do I have such a harsh judgment of the mini-series? It's not for Geena Davis' narration (Geena's narration may be one of the few things worth praising).
You want to pretend you're talking about war and women and peace -- you want to pretend your five-part series focuses at all on women? Then how about you note Iraq? You can't because it won't allow you to bulls**t the way PBS and the US government wants. (BS that also, it should be noted, avoids peace activists while putting "Peace" in the title of the program.) Check out the stories. The series is about how the US government helped. In some cases, well after the fact, but always it helped. And including the reality that the US-led war on Iraq destroyed women's rights in Iraq doesn't allow us to all feel so happy and pleased with ourselves. It's nothing but junk and garbage on supposed 'education TV.' PBS is lying as badly as Barack when he speaks of 'success' in Iraq.
The lies that you tell
Will leave you alone
They'll keep you down
They'll catch you and trip you up
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon, Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy album
Francine Kiefer (Christian Science Monitor) reported on the reality for Iraqi women last March as documented in Freedom House's "Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa 2010:"
War hurt both sexes in Iraq, but it significantly increased gender-based violence against women. Kidnappings, rapes, and "honor killings" soared in Iraq. That made many women afraid to go out, with a negative spin-off on their employment and education.
Meanwhile, Iraq seems to be moving toward a more conservative society, and this has affected the role of women in politics. Only one woman serves as a cabinet member in the new Iraqi government, as the minister for women's affairs. In the two previous governments, women held from four to six positions.
And in parliament, many of the women are relatives of party members. The New York Times reported this week that only 5 of 86 female parliamentarians got their seats because they won them. The rest were placed there by party leaders to meet the 25 percent quota.
The women MPs are often locked out of party strategy sessions. But some of them don't mind, in part because they don't believe they have the necessary experience (as if democracy is somehow newer to Iraqi women than it is to Iraqi men).
The declining rights of women in Iraq are not a new development or even a just discovered one. Nadje Sadig Al-Ali was covering this topic for Le Monde back in May of 2007:
Women's organisations have also documented Islamist violence to women, including acid thrown into faces, even targeted killings. In 2003 many women in Basra reported that they were forced to wear a headscarf or restrict their movements because men began to harass or shout at them.
Women of all ages are now forced to comply with dress codes and be careful when they go out. Suad, a former accountant and mother of four, lives in a neighbourhood of Baghdad that used to be mixed before sectarian killings in 2005 and 2006. She told me: "I resisted for a long time, but last year I started wearing the hijab, after I was threatened by several Islamist militants in front of my house. They are terrorising the whole neighbourhood, behaving as if they were in charge. And they are actually controlling the area. No one dares to challenge them. A few months ago they distributed leaflets around the area warning people to obey them and demanding that women should stay at home."
The threat of Islamist militias now goes beyond dress codes and calls for gender segregation at university. Despite, indeed partly because of the US and British rhetoric about liberation and rights, women have been pushed into the background and into their homes. Women with a public profile (doctors, academics, lawyers, NGO activists, politicians) are threatened and targeted for assassination. There are also criminal gangs who worsen the climate of fear by kidnapping women for ransom, sexual abuse or sale into prostitution outside Iraq.
It isn't a surprise that many of the women I interviewed remember the past nostalgically.
In March 2010, three years after the Le Monde article, Dahr Jamail and Abdu Rahman (Al Jazeera) were reporting: the same findings:
"The status of women here is linked to the general situation," Maha Sabria, professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad tells IPS. "The violation of women's rights was part of the violation of the rights of all Iraqis." But, she said, "women bear a double burden under occupation because we have lost a lot of freedom because of it.
[. . .]
Sabria tells IPS that the abduction of women "did not exist prior to the occupation. We find that women lost their right to learn and their right to a free and normal life, so Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and denial of all their rights, more than ever before."
Yanar Mohammed believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.
Iraq doesn't get much reporting from the US mainstream media but it does get a lot of opinion pieces -- though calling them "opinion pieces" might be overstating since most people can back up their opinions with facts and the bulk of the gas baggery reads like one long feelings check with maybe a little "highs and lows" of the day tossed in.
So we get nonsense like "Who lost the war?" and "Is leaving responsible?" and "Is the US leaving Iraq in a responsible manner?" and a host of other garbage.
The Iraq War was a failure. In fact, "failure" is probably too weak. If I attempt to give a speech and am struck with a panic attack resulting in an inability to speak, I have failed at my speech. If my speech makes life worse for people, results in their deaths and more, my speech is much worse than a "failure." I'd call it criminal.
And the illegal Iraq War is criminal. Last week (see yesterday's snapshot), I had to sit through the idiotic Senate Foreign Relations Subcomittee hearing where everyone pretended they gave a damn about women in the Middle East and of course they all avoided Iraq because we can't be honest and discuss how we screwed up the lives and rights of Iraqi women. Better to just disappear it.

But Republican or Democrat, what did all the senators give lip service to? That women's rights were indicators and measurements of how much freedom a society had.
So someone explain why in all the pontificating of the last three or four weeks by various men with column inches to fill on Iraq, no one wants to address Iraqi women?
The Iraq War is a criminal failure. If you happen to believe it was a big success and you're not referring to the theft of Iraqi oil, what are your measurements? And if you think the US should continue to stay in Iraq (as some Republicans in Congress want and as Barack will ensure thanks to the militarization of diplomacy) what are you measuring with?
The Iraq War has destroyed the rights of women. We're not just talking about the women and girls who have to live through the ongoing war. That's bad enough. We're talking about robbing women of rights, removing legal rights, overturning them. That is what the Iraq War "accomplished."
And that is what the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee didn't want to deal with last week, what the five-part PBS mini-series works overtime to ignore and what US gas bags in newspapers across the country refuse to pontificate on.
Iraq is a youthful population (thanks to the sanctions and the illegal war). It is also known as a country of "widows and orphans." That's another "accomplishment" of the Iraq War that no one wants to note right now -- might harsh the buzz apparently. Aseel Kami (Reuters -- of course it wouldn't be a foreign outlet) reports on the issue, noting Gasid al-Zaidi (Minister of Women's Affairs) "estimates there may be 2 million women breadwinners in Iraq, most of them widows of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the sectarian conflict that followed, the first Gulf war or the 1980s Iran-Iraq war" while Relief International adds up approximately 10% of the female population when counting widows and the International Committee of the Red Cross also finds the number to be well over one million. Widows had a monthly stipend from the government before the US invaded and now the program is no more. The program that some would argue replaced it is for widows of war victims and requires jumping through many hoops (and as NPR has reported, often it requires knowing an official who will help push the paperwork through). Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) observed in October of 2008, "In Iraq, poor widows and divorcees are often discarded by their families-in-law, leaving them vulnerable with no way to support themselves. In this camp, some like Alia beg. Others become prostitutes. These caravans provide roofs over the women's heads, but little else. They are made of metal, and in the hot Iraqi sun, they act like ovens. " In 2009, Timothy Williams (New York Times) would note little improvement and that "the number of widows has swelled during six years of war, their presence on city streets begging for food [. . .] In large cities like Baghdad, the presence of war widows is difficult to ignore. Cloaked in black abayas, they wade through columns of cars idling at security checkpoints, asking for money or food. They wait in line outside mosques for free blankets, or sift through mounds of garbage piled along the street. Some live with their children in public parks or inside gas station restrooms."
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