Sunday, February 28, 2010

Truest statement of the week

Though Obama ran on a campaign pledge of withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by May of 2010, he quickly backpedaled from this pledge once elected, and it seems now that even his existing pledge is not safe.

-- Jason Ditz, "Gen. Odierno Seeks Combat Brigade in Iraq Beyond August 'Deadline'" (

A note to our readers

Hey --

As Sonny & Cher sing on "Trust Me," "There are a million things I'd like to be . . ." And that's the story of this edition. But we couldn't stay up all morning so we went with the best of what we had.

Along with Dallas, the following participated in the writing of this edition:

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),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
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?
Jason Ditz easily won hands down.

This wasn't the planned editorial. The planned editorial went through seven full drafts and never got any better. At the last minute, we decided to grab the Iraq story and write around it.
Best piece in this edition, hands down. Ava and C.I. finished this near the end of the writing session. When I (Jim) read this, I knew we had at least one strong piece.

Iraq elections take place in days and there's very little coverage. We can't control them. We can control what we do. So we offer a roundtable on the Iraq elections.

This was a piece I loathed. I have no idea why. Dona worked on editing (she says "a minor edit") and when we were trying to figure out what could be posted she said this piece causing me to groan. But I read over it and it suddenly worked. (I credit Dona's edit.)

This was one of the nightmare pieces and what we did to make it publishable was basically strip out the bulk of what we wrote and turn it into a short piece.

This combines writing from three separate features with a new opening noting an NPR radio program. This is a piece that was made in the editing.

A repost from ETAN.
We worked hard on a piece about the persecution of Iraqi Christians in Mosul and it just did not work out. We were pretty disappointed about that until Jess said, "We could repost Human Rights Watch's press release." Duh. Why didn't we think of that before we spent nearly three hours working on that one piece that never came together.

Mike, Elaine, Betty, Wally, Marcia, Stan, Ann, Cedric, Kat, Ruth and Rebecca wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's what we ended up with. Not anywhere near what we were hoping for. But like Sonny & Cher sang, "There are a million things I'd like to be . . . "

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

Editorial: Better a Cassandra than a Pollyanna

Thank goodness for Leslie Cagan, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin and the rest on Gilligan's Island for their promise to never stop working to end the Iraq War, a promise they took so seriously that they never stopped working to end the Iraq War . . . until they did. Until Barack Obama was elected president.

Barack gets into office, nixes his promises and decides to follow Bully Boy Bush's SOFA and it works out brilliant for him, he even nets a Nobel Peace Prize.

Too bad it didn't work out all that well for others.

Like the Iraqi people who suffer every day under the continued, illegal war. Sunday 9 Iraqis were reported dead and 20 were reported wounded, Monday 24 were reported dead and 16 injured, Tuesday 14 were reported dead and 9 wounded, Wednesday 1 judge was reported dead and 1 employee of the Independent High Electoral Commission was reported injured, Thursday 5 reported dead and 2 wounded, Friday 2 reported dead 12 reported wounded and Saturday 2 reported dead and 1 wounded. In total at least 57 reported deaths and 71 reported injured by Western media with many deaths and injuries going unreported.

In addition, Sunday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Two U.S. Army helicopter pilots were killed as a result of an accident near an airfield on a U.S. base in northern Iraq, Feb. 21. The aircraft made a hard landing inside the base. There were no enemy forces present and no hostile fire was reported. The accident is under investigation and release of the Soldiers’ identities are being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased Soldiers will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at The Task Force Marne command team mourns the loss of these two aviators and extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to their Families." Tuesday the US military announced: "RAMADI, Iraq -- A U.S. Soldier died today in a vehicle related accident in Western Iraq. The Ironsides command team wishes to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to the family. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kind and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And yesterday, DoD issued the following yesterday: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. William C. Spencer, 40, of Tacoma, Wash., died Feb. 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations at Combat Outpost Marez, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, Olympia, Wash. For more information, media may contact the Washington National Guard public affairs office at 253-512-8481." This brought the number of number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War to 4380.

Good that Iraq War thing ended, right?

Oh wait, it didn't.

And all the ones who used to chant "Out Of Iraq Now!," the ones who decided sticking to Bully Boy Bush's so-called 'departure' date of the end of 2011 was fine and dandy got a bit of a surprise last week. Monday, in a Penatgon briefing, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, explained that the draw down of 'combat' troops could be slowed. Next came Wednesday morning's New York Times with a column by former journalist Thomas E. Ricks advocating for a longer US presence in Iraq. Thursday came the news that there was a request to the administration to slow the draw down.

What if the SOFA doesn't end the illegal war?

It doesn't have to, it never had to. It's a contract to continue the Iraq War for three more years. It replaced the yearly UN mandate. And, come 2011, another document could replace it.

In a lively e-mail exchange with one of the 'peacers' who used to give a damn about the Iraq War, Ava and C.I. were called "Cassandras" -- to which they replied, "Better the Cassandra than the Pollyanna." Too true.


If you're ready to get off your ass and stop mainlining the Kool-Aid, A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society are another organization that will be participating and they note:
While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!
For more information visit:

TV: Animated Blackface

Two weeks ago, an episode of Family Guy aired that ended up entering into the news cycle. In the episode, a female teenager with Downs Syndrome existed as a joke to make fun of those with special needs and Sarah Palin (the character informs that her mother used to be the governor of Alaska). Seth MacFarlane hid out during the news cycle before going onto a hideous HBO show where he appeared to accuse Palin of being overly sensitive ("appeared to" because the show's host kept interrupting). Overly sensitive?


Spoken like someone who uses the term "homosexual" to refer to gay men which, for the record, Seth does and you don't have to take our word for it, you can just listen to the audio commentary to the episode "Family Gay." You can hear all about "limp wrists" and how 'funny' it is when two straight men voice gay characters and how 'funny' it is that a gay character has to lift his hands in the air to take "two steps." In the same commentary, Seth makes fun of the "midget lobby" and how he managed to circumvent it ("those mailboxes are just too high"). That's funny, if it's not you. Seth thinks only he gets to determine what's funny and never grasps that he's just one more straight, Anglo White male reeking of entitlement. Executive producer Danny Smith briefly acknowledges the entitlement explaining, "I was talking to a friend who said, 'Your show is racist.' And I said, 'Yeah, it is, but who looks worse than the White people on our show? The Griffins are very despicable people'."

Really? Because most fans don't see them that way. More importantly, a group of straight, Anglo White people -- largely men -- deciding to play their own (overly represented) grouping on TV for humor is one thing. It's something completely different when that same group thinks they can 'interpret' an under-represented group.

Which is how we arrive at The Cleveland Show in which African-American Cleveland is voiced by Anglo White Mike Henry. Cleveland's the best known African-American character in the Seth MacFarlane universe. A Latina maid is the best known Latina or Latino and, guess what, those lines like "Superman no home"? They're also voiced by Anglo White Mike Henry. When it's time to portray people of color as stupid, Seth goes calling on Mike.

Before getting his own show, Cleveland was a minor character on Family Guy. He was one of Peter's three best friends and the only African-American man. For the spin-off, he and his son Junior move back to Cleveland's old home town where . . . he's still in the minority. Other than the school's principal, Cleveland's the only African-American male adult to appear regularly. That's not to say he doesn't have any friends. Two of them are White. It's the third friend that had Betty's eldest son complaining to us.

"They can't show Black people," he rightly complained, "but we get a talking bear?"

We actually get two. The female is voiced by Arianna Huffington proving that type casting still thrives in the entertainment industry.

Cleveland lives with his new wife Donna and her children Roberta and Rallo -- and Mike Henry also voices Rallo. Apparently, that's supposed to be funny. Voice actors in Blackface. Not every one finds it so funny and already the show has seen the exit of one of the few actual African-American voices they had (Nia Long).

Nor are many people laughing when they see episode after episode where the 'joke' is Cleveland and/or his friends think Junior is gay. Strange that with two other MacFarlane shows on the air featuring teenage boys in prominent positions (Chris on Family Guy and Steve on American Dad) there's no need to constantly build 'jokes' around the adult males thinking the boys are gay but when it comes to the only teenage African-American boy, it's funny?

It's funny? Or someone's sexually threatened by African-American males?

On Family Guy, the bumbling and not-so-smart Cleveland had a different wife: Loretta. Loretta was forever coming on to Quagmire. Including once at a boat party when Cleveland proved just how stupid he was by not noticing the two all over each other in front of him. Loretta would sleep with Quagmire and, when Cleveland found out, that would be the end of their marriage.

Now Bonnie and Joe are a White couple and the 'joke' there is that he's unable to sexually satisfy her ("We had what Joe calls sex") due to his injuries in the line of work (he's a police officer) that have left him wheel chair bound. And if you were looking to do a 'break the marriage up' storyline, you might think of having Quagmire sleep with Bonnie. But for some reason, MacFarlane and crew went a different way.

Again, it's funny? Or someone's sexually threatened by African-American males?

As you watch Cleveland and Junior be neutered in one scene after another, you're pretty much left with "someone's sexually threatened by African-American males."

That would explain why the African-American characters do so little on the show. Lois and Francine are right in the mix on their respective shows but, except for a cat fight, Donna's pretty much given nothing to do and no one's bothered to create a personality, let alone a character, for her. There's been nothing consistent about Roberta but since the role has changed voice actresses, maybe that's part of the reason?

Seth likes to claim that he's edgy and out there. View any one of his shows (American Dad is the best -- or was until this season when the quality plummeted) and contrast it to FX's Archer and you'll quickly realize how hollow that claim is.

Archer is a spy. He's an Anglo White male and he thinks he's entitled to rule the world as a result of that. Which makes for humor. Interestingly, unlike the Fox animation shows, women actually are represented in the show and actually do something. The breakdown of regular characters are four males and four females. Only one character is a person of color, the spy Lana (who is also Archer's ex) which creates a problem for the agency when a minor Latino character is killed off and they need to do a "diversity hire" leading Archer to call out, "I vote for hot Asian chic!" Yes, he really is that clueless and he's surrounded by equally clueless characters. Only Lana and her new boyfriend Cyril (White) have any clue as to what goes on around them.

In that episode, Archer's mother (who runs the spy agency) hires a man who is Jewish and African-American. Archer is threatened by him for a number of reasons and goes to the human resource director Pam to file a sexual harassment complaint. Archer explains that Conway pressed their penises together (which sort of did happen, but that's another story). Where, Pam wants to know, and Archer replies "Head and shaft."

That is so much funnier than anything that the 'pushing the envelope' claiming Seth MacFarlane has produced since September on any of his three shows. Archer also boasts a crisper look while every one of MacFarlane's shows is drawn the exact same. Adam Reed actually created something with Archer. It's not yet another rip-off of The Simpsons. It's different and it looks different. It even sounds different. If you recognize a voice, it's from live action work (such as Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell or Aisha Tyler), not from the fact that it's one of the most overexposed voice actors in the country.

Archer's new and fresh and just renewed for season two. The Cleveland Show was renewed for season two too, some might insist. But we'd counter that might not be the case if Fox had waited until after the show started airing to decide whether or not to give it a season two. For example, The Simpsons grabbed 6.1 million viewers last Sunday and Family Guy grabbed 6.3 million. What show airs between them? The Cleveland Show which had 5.6 million viewers. In other words, the show lost half a million viewers from The Simpsons and over a half million tuned into Fox as soon as the show went off.

That it runs off viewers is only surprising if you've never watched. If you have, you may be reminded of how successful spin-offs, think Laverne & Shirley from Happy Days, actually had a sense of purpose and something different to say. For ABC, it was just a cash cow, but for Gary Marshall, it was about what can we do different, what else can we say? That Fox just wanted to milk a cash cow wasn't surprising but that Seth did as well is rather sad.


In the commentary for "Family Gay," the creative team reveals that the 'joke' of the episode is that the gay characters are so ridiculous. It's funny, they insist, because it's a straight guy's idea of what gay is. And looking at the writing credits for this season's The Cleveland Show we're guessing they think it's funny to use Anglo White writers for a show that's supposed to be focused on an African-American family.

And that brings us full circle. If you don't laugh at the cruelty, you're overly sensitive. If you don't laugh at what a bunch of straight, Anglo White males think is funny, you're overly sensitive. You're spoiling their fun. Like so many straight, Anglo White males before them, they really think they and only they have a right to define 'funny' or, for that matter, the universe. And it's for that reason that no one would ever accuse them of being overly -- or even remotely -- sensitive.


Jim: This roundtable will focus on Iraq and other issues including e-mails. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude -- back with us and fresh from London; 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; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. This is a rush transcript. Iraq holds elections March 7th.


Ava: Voting starts March 5th, early voting.

Jim: Thank you. Free and fair elections are no longer a goal. That has to do with one-time CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi who is also a convicted felon in Jordan. Mike, how about you give us the backstory on how free and fair was buried by Chalabi.

Mike: Sure. Ahmed Chalabi is one of the refugees who helped sell the illegal war and provided the press with many 'witnesses' that were fake -- as fake as his claims to various government leaders. He has always had a very close relationship with Iran and that's probably one of the unexamined threads in the Iraq War. Iraq and Iran were not 'friendly neighbors.' They border one another. At some point in the distant future, it may be examined if Chalabi and others -- who helped the leaders in the US and the UK and Australia lie into an illegal war -- helped lie on behalf of Iran. The death of Saddam Hussein was not a sad moment for Iran. So Ahmed and his little friend Ali al-Lahmi have used the Justice and Accountability Commission to disqualify various candidates. They're charged as being "Ba'athists." And while Ba'athist is a political party with roots in various Arab countries today, what the charge means in Iraq is: "Saddamists."

Jim: Yesterday, Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported on Chalabi. Let's stay with the Justice and Accountability Commission for a moment. Who wants to explain what it is?

Cedric: I'll grab because I had to check something on that out with Wally. It's an extra legal body. What does that mean? I honestly didn't know. C.I. uses that term to describe it and when it first popped up a few weeks back, I asked Wally what that meant? It means that it is not a legal body. It's doing things it doesn't have the power to do. And, in fact, the Justice and Accountability Committee doesn't really exist today. The members are supposed to be appointed by Parliament but Parliament never appointed any. Throughout 2009, you never heard a peep from that Committee because it didn't exist. It had no business to do and no appointees. Then in August, al-Lami gets out of prison and as the year draws to a close, he's suddenly screaming, "This is a Ba'athist! That is a Ba'athist! Ba'athist!" They are banning candidates, this committee, who are popular. Do they have this power? No, they don't. And that's what a ruling body found and then Nouri threatened to take the issue to the courts, to the Parliament, to the presidential council and he and others staged rallies in Baghdad and elsewhere to make it appear that a mob was about to get really ugly. At which point the committee backed off from their decision which had re-instated the over 500 banned candidates.

Jim: One thing the article in The Post noted was that some believe Chalabi is angling for prime minister. C.I., you noted a week ago, two Friday's ago, that French intelligence had picked up on a deal Chalabi had made with leaders in Tehran that would allow him to be named prime minister after the elections. Want to talk about that?

C.I.: Only, as I've noted since, that there is also a belief on the part of some that Chalabi may have put that rumor out himself.

Jim: That was the first I'd heard of Chalabi possibly have designs on the post and it's now something that the media mentions. I have no idea if it's true or not, it does make more sense in terms of why would Chalabi be eliminating Nouri's foes? Why work so hard to please Nouri? When Chalabi's someone who has always worked so hard to fill in his own pockets. Nouri's the current prime minister, he'd like to be re-elected to the Parliament and declared the prime minister. I'm not sure if people always get that because the press sometimes skips it. But the members of Parliament are what the voters will be voting on. Then those elected to Parliament will select one of their own to be prime minister. Nouri's in trouble. Why is he in trouble now?

Trina: His party, his political party, is State of Law. He's a Dawha but he's now running as State of Law. This is an attempt to portray himself as less sectarian. In the 2009 elections, rightly or wrongly, one of the press take aways was that the Iraqi people were tired of religious parties. Was it that they felt the government was too tied to religion? Possibly. But it was more a rejection of the sitting members of government whom people didn't feel were actually serving the people's interests. So sectarian parties were not seen as the way to go. Nouri's State of Law party did well in 2009 -- not as great as the press made out. For example, they had to form coalitions, sharing power agreements, to rule in various provinces because they did not win the necessary numbers. But it appeared that State of Law would be the party to beat in 2010. What happened to alter that? The never ending bombings. Especially the spectacular bombings -- starting in August and repeating basically every other month -- that targeted government buildings in Baghdad. This just underscored how had not brought security which underscored how he had not delivered on anything.

Elaine: Trina's exactly right about the exposure of Nouri's weaknesses. But I'd like to follow up with a few things. In the US, we hear "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki" and the press tries to portray him as a national leader and really sucks up to him, but that aside, the press never really goes into the process that Jim just did. Nouri was elected by the Parliament, not by the people. More importantly, he was the US choice and a compromise choice at that. The Parliament elected someone else. I forget who --

C.I.: Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Elaine: Thank you. That was the choice and the US would not abide by it so it became al-Maliki. So the point here is that not only was Nouri not elected by the poeple but he was a compromise candidate and not the first choice in 2006. We're talking about him losing power -- as the press does -- but it's never been established that he had power. C.I., barricade walls? Up or down? That they wouldn't listen to him on?

C.I.: Up.

Elaine: Thank you. After he's prime minister, he's out of the country, this is late 2006, and due to the bombings going on and the 'answer' is to put up barrier walls, Bremer walls, all over Baghdad. He's out of the country and he says that he didn't approve it and it's been stopped. As he's saying that, reporters are seeing the walls continue to go up and they speak to the head of the Iraqi military whose reply is that the walls will continue to go up. Which they did. And he was the prime minister. The head of the Iraqi military blew him off. Publicly. So this alleged power that he has or had, it's never been established.

Jim: Okay and relate that to today? I get what you're saying but I'm not following on the present, sorry.

Elaine: I'm saying there's this mantra repeated by the press that he's lost prestige or popularity or power and I'm saying that it's never been established that he had any of those things. The election? Nouri wants to continue as prime minister. The people don't appear to want that and that's not really a new development.

Jim: Wasn't there a poll in Baghdad?

C.I.: That's the ORB polling that you're referring to and the only one I saw cover it was Michael Hastings (The Hasting Report, True/Slant). Baghdad respondents? 22% wanted him to remain or continue as the prime minister while 65% wanted someone, anyone, else.

Jim: The poll also asked about peace and security. Ava's nodding. Ava?

Ava: Baghdad respondents said that things had gotten worse, in terms of violence, 57% of respondents said it was worse. And nationwide the polling on whether the violence was better or worse found 54% of respondents stating it had worsened.

Jim: Which is so different from what the media tells us, they tell us or sell us "New and Improved Iraq, Gets Your Teeth Sparkling White."

Ava: Right but the media's not there. At the start of 2009, we were noting the closing of Baghdad desks in Iraq by the TV networks. ABC farmed their work out to the BBC, for example. There's hardly any Iraq reporting that makes the commercial networks now. They have no correspondents for the most part. CBS News has a guy there. The NewsHour does a better job not because they have people there -- their reports are ITV News out of England -- but because they book a Jane Arraf or someone else who is in Iraq working for another outlet.

Jim: And Jane Arraf works for The Christian Science Monitor. And one of her most recent articles found her teamed with McClatchy's Hannah Allam, Warren P. Strobel, Laith Hammoudi and Jonathan S. Landay to report about Abu Mahdi al-Mohandas who is campaigning with claims that the US government hates him and that they will either "kidnap or assassinate me." After that article, Wednesday, I started noticing AP reporting similar things the following day and, by Friday, radio programs -- NPR, not Pacifica -- stating that anti-American was a popular stand in Iraq. Anyone want to touch on that?

Betty: Sure, I will. You invade my home and you occupy it. I'm not wanting to vote for any politician that's cozy with you. Anti-American stance? When has an Iraqi politician, go back to 2005, run on the stance that "I'm popular with the US"? That's crazy. The Iraqi people have always wanted the US to go home. Over 70% by 2004 polls. The idea that running as anti-American would be novel, new or any way surprising is, actually, surprising. I'm not referring to Arraf and the other reporters who were covering specific candidates. But I'm referring to what followed which struck me as "Oh my, this is shocking, Anti-Americanism." Of couse it's there. The US bombed their country. The US killed people. That's reality. And these idiots who say -- these Thomas E. Ricks who say -- the US needs to stay in Iraq? No, the US doesn't need to stay, it needs to leave. It's not helped Iraq and it's not helped the Iraqis. And I'm honestly worried about US troops on the ground in terms of their own safety because the anti-Americanism sentiment is so publicly stated now. And, to be clear, that sentiment is not new or just emerging. But it's a lot more public and voiced more publicly -- or maybe reporters just don't feel as much need to lie as they did, for example, in 2005 when it would be "Iraqis love America." I don't know. I get the feeling, Ruth, back me up, that most of the press lying right now is on Afghanistan.

Ruth: Agreed. They are working so hard to sell that war. The reporting that comes out of Afghanistan on NPR, for example, is an embarrassment. Whereas Lourdes Garcia-Navarro provides some of the strongest reporting on Iraq. Jim told us he wanted to talk about the Iraq elections for this roundtable so I brought some notes on a report Ms. Garcia-Navarro did last week and Elaine was just talking a second ago about how Nouri al-Maliki was a compromise candidate? Ms. Garcia-Navarro noted that in her report and she also addressed fears being expressed that, if he continued as prime minister, he would be a dictator.

Jim: And that appears to be a more common fear. Earlier this month, for example, The New York Times offered the editorial "Mr. Maliki's Dangerous Ambition" in which they noted, "This is just the most recent example of thuggery by Mr. Maliki, who is determined to do anything he can to win re-election next month." "Thuggery." And that loud sigh was from C.I.

Rebeeca: I figured as much, let me jump in. Nouri's hostile to the press, in fact "hostile" is too weak a word. He has targeted the press from the start. In the summer of 2006, he proposed a series of measures and you could go to the BBC's website and find out that one of those measures was about the press, about curtailing their freedoms. But these measures were pimped and praised by the US press which 'forgot' to note that one plank. This has happened repeatedly. Nouri has launched one assualt on the press after another and where has the press been these nearly four years -- Nouri became prime minister in April -- because they've largely avoided calling him out? And that's not even counting Nouri's frivolous law suits against the press. And-and The Guardian. I mean goodness gracious, The New York Times couldn't even offer an editorial in support of the paper when Nouri was trashing it and the paper's investigative reporting? The press, the powerful press, has repeatedly taken a pass and allowed Nouri to set the terms. I think, in doing so, they took part in creating the modern monster that is Nouri al-Maliki.

Jim: Okay. Interesting. Anyone think that's too harsh?

Jess: I don't. They didn't stand up for The Guardian, they didn't stand up -- The Times -- didn't stand up for their own reporter who had a gun aimed at him. I mean, at what point do you start calling out the attacks on the press? It's as though the paper doesn't care about those attacks in the least. Now the editorial board has offered some good editorials recently, in the last six weeks and, in fairness to them, a lot of the stuff Rebecca was listing was when Gail Collins was penning those ridiculous editorials and occasional notes of "My 499th best friend in the world just passed away." That was pure fluff in that time period. Gail's writing about her friend and ignoring the passing of Coretta Scott King, let's remember that. But with that tossed out there, I agree completely with Rebecca. The press egged him on. I'd go further and say the press egged him on. And now he may stand a good chance of remaining the prime minister in which case Iraqis will get another four years of no improvement in their lives and continued violence.

Jim: Alright. Someone comes up to you and asks you what the one thing being left out of the coverage of the elections is right now, what do you say?

Ann: Let me grab that. The first thing I say is, "What coverage?" There's so very little coverage. The second thing I say is that it's not being made clear that "Iraq holds elections March 7th!" does not translate as "We know the results March 8th!" Or March 12th, for that matter. And that's just Parliament. We don't know the prime minister until after the members of Parliament are known because they are the ones who will pick who the prime minister is. I would recommend C.I.'s Friday morning piece on the elections and the Friday snapshot. These are only the second Parliamentary elections, post-invasion, and the only thing we have to go by is the process from the 2005 one. December 2005, elections are held, April 2006 Nouri becomes prime minister. That's a pretty long wait. Even if they cut some of the process down, I still would not expect quick and fast results. One difference I'll note is that in 2005, they were electing 275 seats but now they'll be electing people to 325 seats.

Jim: How many seats are set aside for women this go round, Ann?

Ann: If you thought you were going to stump me, you're wrong. 25% which is the same as last time and, again, this was covered by C.I. Friday morning.

Jim: Very good. Okay, what about the coverage? There's been very little mainstream coverage of the election and the snapshots have noted this and how Nouri's requiring that journalists register to cover the elections and how this is hurting Iraqi reporters because registering and being known as a reporter can be a death sentence in Iraq. Ernesto Londono wrote about that topic on Friday. But let's leave US real media and turn to Panhandle Media, what about it?

Marcia: Well Naomi Klein's not had time to grandstand on Iraq this go round. Last time, she was all purple fingers, purple fingers. These days she doesn't even give a damn about Iraq. She made her name off it, she made some bucks off it, now she's elsewhere and that's true of all of them. My online buddy -- whom I won't know out of respect for C.I. -- used his fat ass to do nothing, of course. Every now and then, about once a week, he'll include a paragraph from a mainstream article and he can't even find the strength to write about it. Though he did find time to call out Sarah Palin for her child, only it wasn't her child, it's Bristol's child, unless fat ass is trying to start another rumor. But they made their films, they wrote their books, they made money off Iraqi blood and now they're all busy with other things. And forget Pacifica if you want news of Iraq, you're not going to get it from them. They have nothing to offer. That includes Free Speech Radio News. They offer nothing. Except Haiti, Haiti, Haiti! The world's biggest distraction.

Kat: I would agree with Marcia on that and note that the students we're talking to are very anti-Pacifica these days. They're wondering why Pacifica didn't lead against, for example, the Patriot Act renewal that just took place last week in the House. They're wondering why all these important things are being missed so Pacifica can cover Haiti one more damn time. The attitude is that this over a month long story has sucked up all the oxygen in the room and bored the hell out of the listeners.

Jim: Do you agree with that call?

Kat: Yeah, I do. I'm on the road but my friends -- Maggie, Toni and Dak-Ho especially -- still turn on KPFA here and they quickly turn it back off because it's still Haiti. I don't think anyone will ever forget that KPFA started a collection for Haiti. Do you know how that plays in the Bay Area? Do you know how many times we have suffered in the Bay Area? And KPFA never started a collection for the residents of the Bay Area, not even after an earthquake. So it's become a sore spot in the Bay Area for that reason as well. But mainly, we're just all aware of how Haiti's been used by Pacifica to distract from the failures and crimes of the Obama administration. It's a year now, where's the Guantanamo closing? And where's the calling out of that? No where to be found on Pacifica. You might get a sentence or two grousing on it but Guantanamo Bay used to be big news when a Republican was in the White House. Haiti's little more than a distraction, a we're-so-wonderful-because-we-care piece of bulls**t. It's so divorced from reality and I've honestly had it with the Marxist critique -- usually not identified as such -- mainly because I seriously doubt Karl Marx himself would have attacked Hillary Clinton in order to avoid attacking Barack Obama. But that's all our modern day Closeted Communists of Pacifica can offer and it gets real damn old.

Stan: I think Kat just summed it up. I think it is a distraction and they use it to continue their Clinton hatred while avoiding holding the man they pimped into the Oval Office responsible. Their little Princess Barack's apparently never responsible for anything and that gets real damn old. Haiti's the distraction that allows them to avoid addressing reality and that's whether it's reality about the Patriot Act or Guantanamo or the continued Iraq War or whatever. Haiti's been the drug they've mainlined to avoid dealing with the economic collapse in the United States and the serious problems we are facing. And I think that's really clear by the fact that the so-called 'combat' troops pull out of Iraq resulted in nothing from Panhandle Media. No fiery editorials, no Progressive minute, not a damn thing, certainly not a roundtable discussion on Democracy Now! They just ignored it. Am I forgetting anyone?

C.I.: If we're referring to the news that General Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq, had a request in for combat forces to remain in Iraq longer and the draw down slowed, I think Dahr Jamail (via CounterCurrents) covered it -- I say I think because he wrote as it was being floated but before it was confirmed. I think. But he was smart enough to grasp it was being floated on behalf of the administration. Other than him, Jason Ditz ( and Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) are the only ones I'm aware of.

Stan: But Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel makes time to write that dumb blog post on Van Jones. I'm sick of these losers. Losers and liars, that's all Panhandle Media's become. They're more embarrassing than the White House they pimp for because they were supposed to stand for something.

Jim: Dona's handed me a note explaining Ty and Isaiah needed to speak. Ty's actually selected some e-mails and may speak to those. So I'll toss to Isaiah.

Isaiah: I'd use my time to note the March 20th marches A.N.S.W.E.R. and others are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and LA. And to include this from Students for a Democratic Society about the march:
While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!
For more information visit:

Jim: Okay. Thank you for including that. For those wondering, the Iraq elections are receiving very little attention. They conclude next Sunday. To make sure that we didn't ignore them, we made it a topic for a roundtable. Ty, you had some e-mails you wanted to introduce?

Ty: Yeah. I'll go with Iraq-related for the first one. The attacks on Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker last week. Thoughts? Ava and C.I.?

Ava: Well, first off, tonight on CBS' 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl interviews Bigelow. Second? A lot of people think they know something about movies and they don't. Never is that more clear than with Paul Can'tGetHisROCKSoff. Poor Paul, still wearing Mommy's Panthyhose on his bald head. It's apparently the soft, fat, Anglo White guy's modern day toupee. Does anyone really care what Paul Can'tGetHisROCKSoff thinks?

C.I.: Paul does. That's why when reporters call his useless organization needing to talk about sexual assaults in the military, he doesn't put them in touch with a woman in his organization, instead he decides to speak for women in the military. So The Boston Globe ends with a useless article allegedly on what women in the military suffer within the ranks. Paul doesn't know a damn thing, he never does. This is the man who trashed Ehren Watada on CNN -- and let me remind everyone, he did that with Amy Goodman on that same segment and she didn't rush forward to counter Paul. Now Paul's decided he's an expert on Iraq and all things Iraq related and all things to do with Iraq and to do with America and to do with the sun and the sea and the sand. And so he writes his dumb ass column for Newsweek where he whines that The Hurt Locker, the film Kathyrn directed, robs him of his dignity. Paul, when did you ever have dignity? Seriously, when? I'm getting really sick of those who can't grasp what a feature film is. Paul? He just needed some headlines. Back in 2004, Rachel Maddow pimped her buddy Paul like crazy. These days he's just another, as Tanya Tucker once sang, faded rose from days gone by. There's an orchestrated attack on the film. For some taking part, it's because a woman directed it. As we saw in 2008, when a woman stands a chance at making history, huge segments in the country go nuts because they can't stand it. Some are taking part to promote Quentin Tarantino who may very well end up winning. But those who fight dirty have no right to complain if, in coming months, they learn that certain banks are calling in loans because it's been learned just what a house of financial cards their company actually is.

Jim: If I can ask, are you going to be hugely unhappy if Kathryn Bigelow loses? Offline, as C.I. has disclosed since July, C.I. has worked on getting this film a nomination for Best Director.

C.I.: She got the nomination and became the fourth woman -- only the fourth woman -- in the long, long history of the Academy Awards to be nominated. She's only the second American woman -- the great Sofia Coppola being the other. It's great that she was nominated. I do want to see her win, I am advocating for her. I think her film is amazing. We don't always get what we want. If James Cameron, who is a good friend, wins, I'll be happy. James directed an amazing film with a powerful message and it's a huge, huge hit. A real one. Not a book-keeping one. For example, no one's lying that his budet was $70 million when, in fact, the budget was $95 million. And no one's having to point to the foreign box office to pretend his film is a hit. In the US, please try to grasp this, every dollar at the box office does not go to the studio. The theaters are not in business to give every penny to the studios. That is only more true overseas where you have different distributors and different deals struck. So when you need to pad your film with foreign box office to make it appear to be a hit, you've got a real problem. And it would probably be a good idea if the business press started reporting on foreign rentals and not the box office take. The rental fee is what the studio gets for the film from the theater. They do not get every dollar forked over at the box office. I say all of that because a film with a budget of $95 million that spent $60 million to promote itself -- including the awards campaigns -- has spent $155. And if they're marketing themselves as a 'hit' and saying that's why their director deserves the Academy Award, then people should be paying attention to whether or not the film made anywhere close to $155 million in the US and Canada in film rentals. If it didn't, it can't make that up overseas. Again, film rentals, what the studio actually receives, is smaller than the box office and that is especially true for the US in foreign markets. Overseas, for example, deals were made before the film ever debuted that split half the rentals with another distributor. So if, for example, you're claiming your film has made over $300,000 worldwide, I'd hate to be in possession of internal documents that prove that the film you spent $155 million on in the US alone didn't really turn a profit. I'd so hate to be in possession of those documents, I'd probably messenger them over to your chief creditor. A film that cost $95 million to make and required $60 million to promote in the US should have done better -- a lot better -- at the domestic box office than $120,000 million -- of which you received less than $60 million. It's a Waterworld, in fact, and though it doesn't call into question the director, it does call into question the 'business' men who backed him. Again, we can all play scorched earth but I was under the impression that this was going to be a fair fight. If I was mistaken, believe me, necessary adjustments can be made.

Jim: And on that note, which has us all laughing, we'll close the roundtable.

Deliver Us From The Drama Queens

Drama Queen and would-be-mistress to the president Evan Thomas decided to explain at Newsweek that the problem is: We The People:

The problem is not the system. It's us -- our "got mine" culture of entitlement. Politicians, never known for their bravery, precisely represent the people. Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards. They cannot bring themselves to raise taxes on the middle class or cut Social Security and medical benefits for the elderly. They'd get clobbered at the polls. So any day of reckoning gets put off, and put off again, and the debts pile up.

What a Drama Queen and what an uneducated fool. The political process in the US was not intended to move quickly or smoothly. Caution and deliberation are built into the system.

But Evan woke up from a scary wet dream with his brain stuck to the sheets and his mouth moaning "Barack" and he just knew something had to be a foot to keep Obama's BigBusinessGiveAway from being rushed through. And when you spend the bulk of your time tolling below the Beltway's belt, you always call out the people and ignore the powerful.

Barack, Corporate, Tauzin and Baucus

Last week, Terry Gross (NPR's Fresh Air) interviewed Paul Blumenthal about the health care plan Evan is so in love with.

GROSS: So let's look - before we get into the actual meetings, like who met and what kind of dealings they had, let's just talk about the agreement that the Obama administration reached with the pharmaceutical industry. What did the Obama administration get out of it? And then we'll talk about what the pharmaceutical industry got out of it.
Mr.�BLUMENTHAL: Well, what the Obama administration got out of it was taking the biggest lobby in Washington and putting them onto the side of health care reform, as opposed to having them oppose the legislation. They received around $100 million in advertising to support the legislation, spent by PhRMA, the industry trade group. That certainly is a big deal if you're trying to push a kind of bill like this.
GROSS: And what did the pharmaceutical industry get out of this deal with the Obama administration?
Mr.�BLUMENTHAL: Basically, what they got was that Congress would not legislate any kind of cost-cutting that would make a serious dent in industry profits, and that includes taking things off the table like re-importation of drugs from first-world countries or...
GROSS: In other words, buying drugs at cheaper prices from other countries, like Canada.
GROSS: Yeah. What else?
Mr.�BLUMENTHAL: Allowing Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drugs, just as the Veterans Administration does in their health care program. These were pretty big Democratic policies that had been supported by the Democrats since 2003 and by then-candidate Obama in the 2008 elections, and the administration allowed these kind of policies to be pushed off to the side so that they could support of the pharmaceutical industry.

It was very informative. Barack's back door deals with Big Pharma meant that Big Pharma would spend "up to $150 million on advertising" to sell Barack's plan. No word on whether a few pennies were tucked inside Evan's g-string.

Bad proposals that weren't what the left or right wanted proved to be unpopular with the American people. Back door deals usually are. If they weren't, they wouldn't need to be "back door."

At its most basic the proposal is offensive because you don't want the government telling you to do something. Nobody wants to be bossed around. The proposals all insist that Americans will be covered . . . by forcing them to buy insurance or face a fine.

Here's reality, if all Americans wanted to buy insurance and had the money to do so, they would. They don't. They don't because they don't have the money or they don't want the insurance or some combination of the two. It is one thing to give health care (that would be universal health care), it's another to pass a law bossing around the citizens of the United States of America.

The process didn't fail, it's been working. Americans, as poll after poll demonstrates, are leery of and troubled by Barack's proposal. Instead of lashing out at the American people, maybe Newsweek should try learning about the way the federal government was set up and why it was set up that way to begin with?


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack, Corporate, Tauzin and Baucus"

KBR's bad week

In an other wise bad news week for KBR, they learned that a law suit was tossed out. Jon Murray (Indianapolis Star) reported that Judge Richard Young of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the case filed on behalf of 47 members of the Indiana National Guard with the finding that that he lacked jurisdiction due to KBR being based in another state (Texas) and any exposure took place in Iraq. He did not address the merits of the case, only the jurisdiction issue. There are other lawsuits pending including one in Texas where KBR is located.

The other news for KBR Last week, KRB announced a 17% drop in their fourth-quarter profit.
If they think the fourth quarter was bad, they might want to start worrying about the first quarter of this year.

Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Democratic Policy Committee and they issued the following statement last week:

( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who chaired Senate hearings on electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq resulting from shoddy contracting work by KBR, said Thursday the Army's decision to deny million of dollars in bonuses to the firm for its 2008 work in Iraq "is the right call, but it is only a first step."
Dorgan chaired two Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearings in 2008 and 2009 on KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq . The hearings revealed widespread problems with KBR's electrical work there including countless electrical shocks including one that killed Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, and perhaps others, and injured dozens more on their own bases as they showered and engaged in other routine activities.
Following the hearings, Dorgan and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) wrote the Army asking that it review KBR's work and the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. They also asked the Army to re-evaluate the millions of dollars in bonuses it has routinely awarded KBR for supposedly excellent work, even when the Army's own evidence made clear it was highly questionable.
The Army's investigation of Maseth's January 2008 death found that KBR's work exposed soldiers to "unacceptable risk." A theatre-wide safety review that resulted from the Dorgan-Casey request -- Task Force SAFE -- also found widespread problems with KBR's electrical work that exposed soldiers to life threatening risks. "The decision to deny KBR millions in bonuses for its work in 2008 is welcome news, and is a significant change from the Army's past practice, but the Army clearly needs go much further," Dorgan said. "Specifically, it needs to review the $34 million bonus and other bonuses it awarded KBR for shoddy work that may have contributed to other electrocution deaths and other serious electrical shocks."
Dorgan said the Army's decision "will send a long overdue message to military contractors that they will be held accountable for their performance. But the Army needs to send that message much more powerfully. Not awarding a bonus for widespread sloppy contracting work that killed soldiers is just the beginning, not the end point, of accountability."
Dorgan has chaired 21 Senate DPC hearings on waste, fraud and corruption in military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Evidence at those hearings he said, "has been overwhelming that KBR's work was shoddy and put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. KBR's electrical workers were often unqualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised. When questions were raised, they simply denied there was a problem and proceeded with the same shoddy business as usual."

Dorgan also released this video statement.

KBR expected to be paid tax dollars in full. It just didn't appear to ever plan to actually earn those dollars. In playing fast and cheap, they risked many, many lives. Slowly it appears to be catching up with them. May last week be only one of many bad weeks it has in 2010.

Citizens participate in a democracy

As people who protested the Iraq War as far back as February 2003, we're aware of the MSM response. Those of us standing against the illegal war were likened to "terrorists" and called "unpatriotic" and we were "dangerous" and "unAmerican" and so much more.

So we've watched with great interest as some of the same people who were insulted in 2003 turn around and insult the Tea Party movement. They're "dangerous" and they're "fascists" and a hundred other derogatory terms.

Funny, we just thought they were American citizens who we might disagree with but who were exercising their rights in a democracy.

On the most recent Hearing Voices (NPR), the program managed to stitch together several decades of protest to demonstrate just how vibrant American democracy can be.

The problem has never been the Tea Party. The problem's been, for those of us on the left, mobilization envy. And we've behaved appalling, lashing out with attacks on people for doing what we were too lazy to do: Speak up.

Speak up and speak out.

Last week, two people on the left came forward with suggestions. Independent Political Reporter carried a piece by Kimberly and Ian Wilder about the Green Party's efforts to connect with the people in this country who are angry and may also be afraid. It makes perfect sense during record unemployment for people to be angry and to be afraid. But the left has largely ignored this and spat on those who have tried to voice their fears.

The Wilders and the Green Party made a good effort. Paul Street did not. He wants to tell you to stop mocking . . . Well he can't stop. He insults them with a dick joke, he uses homophobia. Paul Street's worthless. He's a damn liar.

Paul Street waxes on about Zowie Howie Zinnless and how Howie was so groovy and so trippy in 2008 that he said you shouldn't spend more than two minutes on the corporate candidates. But Zowie Jenkies Zinn, in fact, endorsed Barack Obama. A point that liars like Paul Street love to leave out.

And in the end it is the lies that do Street in. He wants to offer advertising tips. Don't mistake his crap for politics. He wants to tell you how to trick and fool -- like Madison Avenue.

Paul Street really thinks he's accomplishing something with his really bad article. We found his step 20 suggestion especially hilarious considering his Howard Zinn worship or is he not aware where Howard stood on that issue?

Regardless, Paul Street's another Marxist who thinks the way to get people on your side is to trick them. That's only surprising if you've missed the non-stop insults he's repeatedly hurled at Americans.

The Tea Party isn't the problem. The people expressing themselves is never a problem. The left's refusal to mount a strong and loud argument of their own is a huge problem.

What nobody's getting yet is while too much of the left play Barack Fan Club and drool over their autographed 8 x 10 glossies, the Tea Party (not just right wingers but over half of them are right wingers or right leaning) is presenting an alternative. Anyone with historical knowledge should be able to remember the morass that was the Carter presidency and how it and the left's cheerleading of Jimmy resulted in a generation of Young Republicans.

The nation's angry and has every right to be. As long as the left refuses to acknowledge that and refuses to stop insulting We The People, they are begging voters to move to the right.

Military assistance harms reform (ETAN)

From ETAN:

ETAN To Obama Administration: U.S. military assistance will harm reform and set back human rights

Contact: John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN),
+1-718-596-7668; 917-690-4391,

February 27 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today urged the Obama administration not to offer increased military assistance to Indonesia.

"U.S. military assistance harms reform and sets back human rights accountability in Indonesia," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee this week ( video), Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about expanded cooperation with the Indonesian military, including in the area of counter-terrorism. The Obama administration is currently considering offering resumed cooperation with Indonesia's Kopassus notorious special forces when the President visits the country next month.

Clinton said while seeking to expand security cooperation "We are looking at ensuring... there is no resumption of any human rights abuses or other kinds of behavior that we deplore."

"Clinton's remarks imply that Indonesian military human rights violations are a thing of the past. They aren't," said Miller.

"The best way to prevent future violations is to hold accountable those responsible for the multitude of human rights crimes committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor (Timor-Leste), West Papua, and elsewhere. Many of these crimes occurred while the U.S. was most deeply engaged with the Indonesian military providing the bulk of its weapons and training," he added.

"While Indonesia has made progress in many areas since the fall of Suharto, reform of the military has stalled. The shedding of military businesses has become a farce. And the military continues to resist efforts to bring soldiers and former soldiers into court for rights violations," said Miller

"Restrictions on military assistance provide important leverage to encourage accountability and reform," he added.

Secretary of State Clinton also spoke about Indonesia's successful counter-terrorism efforts. In Indonesia, the police have the major role in this area. "U.S. support for greater Indonesian military involvement will only undercut the police, strengthen the military internal, territorial role and further undermine reform," he said.

"Working with the military on counter-terrorism means working with Kopassus," said Miller.


For many years, the U.S. Congress conditioned military assistance to Indonesia on reform, respect for human rights and real accountability. In 2005, when the Bush administration waived those restrictions, it pledged to "carefully calibrate" any security assistance to promote reform and human rights. Neither the Bush administration nor its successor have published any such plan.

At a recent UN Security Council meeting on Timor-Leste, the U.S. representative said that "We are, however, concerned about the need to address impunity.... We also encourage Timor-Leste to support the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation." One recommendation of Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) calls on States [to] regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination.

ETAN was formed in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for occupied East Timor. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Email; Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Skype: john.m.miller

Web site:

HRW on Iraq

Iraq's government should bolster security to protect the lives of Christians in Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. Since February 14, 2010, five Christians have been killed in Mosul in separate attacks that appear to be politically motivated, given the country's looming national election.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to take immediate measures, such as an increased security presence in Chaldo-Assyrian neighborhoods before and during the elections, to help prevent a repeat of a campaign of violence that devastated the community in Mosul in late 2008.
"Iraq's authorities need to act now to stop this campaign of violence against Christians from spreading again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "In particular, the government needs to see that those responsible for these murders are swiftly arrested and prosecuted to protect Mosul's Christians from further violence."
According to information obtained by Human Rights Watch, on February 16, assailants impersonating secret police approached Zaya Toma and his cousin, Ramsin Shmael, while they waited at a bus stop in Mosul's al-Tahrir district on their way to the university they attend. Speaking in Arabic, the assailants asked Toma, a 22-year-old engineering student, and Shmael, a 21-year-old pharmacy student, for their identity cards. Although identity cards in Iraq do not indicate religion or ethnicity, assailants have often used the victim's name as a marker of his or her religious or ethnic affiliation.
After Toma produced his card, one of the assailants shot him point-blank in the head, killing him instantly. Ramsin tried to run but was shot twice; one bullet shattered his teeth. The assailants fled, apparently assuming they had killed both students, although Shmael survived. Family members arrived on the scene before the police, to find Toma lying in a pool of blood, his books on one side of his body, his identity card on the other.
The incident has devastated the broader family of Toma and Shmael, who escaped to northern Iraq from Baghdad in the summer of 2007 after receiving threats to kill them unless they converted to Islam. Family members say they want to move again - this time out of Iraq - to join the hundreds of thousands of Chaldo-Assyrians who have fled since 2003.
"By killing Zaya, they have taken everything from us," a family member told Human Rights Watch. "Our only crime is that we are Christian,"
The attack was one of several killings of Christians in Mosul the same week:
  • On February 20, the body of Adnan Hanna al-Dahan was found in northern Mosul. The 57-year-old Syrian Orthodox grocer had been kidnapped by unknown assailants from inside his shop a few days earlier.
  • On February 17, the bullet-ridden body of Wissam George, a 20-year-old Assyrian studying to be a teacher, was found after he disappeared that morning on his way to school.
  • On February 15, gunmen stormed a grocery store and killed Fatukhi Munir, its owner.
  • On February 14, Rayan Salem Elias, a Chaldean man, was shot dead outside his home.
While the identities of the perpetrators remain unknown, the spike in attacks against Christians comes only days ahead of Iraq's March 7 parliamentary vote. Families of the victims and community leaders believe the violence is politically motivated and are appealing to the government for protection.
The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Emil Shimoun Nona, said the most recent killings could prompt a new wave of refugees fleeing northern Iraq, where Christians live in constant apprehension. Since 2003, between 250,000 and 500,000 Christians - or about half the Christian population - have left the country, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees. In January, Archbishop Nona was installed as successor to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was found in March 2008, ten days after kidnappers seized him as he was leaving the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul.
Human Rights Watch said that the recent attacks recall the campaign of targeted killings against Chaldo-Assyrians in Mosul in late 2008 that the organization documented in a 51-page report, "On Vulnerable Ground: Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories," released in November 2009. The orchestrated violence left 40 Chaldo-Assyrians dead and led to a mass exodus of more than 12,000 from their homes in Mosul. Assailants targeted Christians in their homes, in workplaces, and in places of worship.
Those killings began shortly after the Christian community lobbied the Iraqi parliament to pass a law that would set aside a greater number of seats for minorities in the January 2009 provincial elections. The attacks escalated after Christians held demonstrations in Nineveh and Baghdad in response to parliament's decision (later amended) to drop a provision in the provincial elections law ensuring political representation for minorities.
The report also documented intimidation and restrictions on freedom of movement by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq of other minority groups in Nineveh, including Yazidis and Shabaks, during the 2009 provincial elections.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"Where's the election coverage" -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack, Corporate, Tauzin and Baucus" -- Isaiah's latest comic.

"Kat's Korner: Joanna Newsom's triumph" -- one of two album reviews from Kat this weekend (the other goes up later today).

"I Hate The War" -- second most requested highlight.

"Iraq snapshot," "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," "Congress advances technology today via Carnahan" "The 'powerless' Stuart Bowen," "Iraq snapshot," "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," "Filner asks the money question" and "Stats aren't science" -- C.I., Kat, Wally and Ava report on Congressional hearings they attended.

"Keep it in your pants, Colin Powell" and "THIS JUST IN! COLLIE IN LOVE!" -- Cedric and Wally take on Colin Powell's intense man crush on Barack.

"is blanche lincoln cross-dressing?" -- MoveOn decides to act . . . and they trash a woman.

"Disagreeing with Chris Hedges" -- Ruth's highly popular post.

"Precious ain't nothing but racist" -- Marcia weighs in on a film.

"Lila Giggles and her worthless Connect the Dots" and "'Health' 'care' 'reform' and Law & Disorder" -- Elaine and Mike cover radio. As does Ann

"Give blood" -- Betty weighs in on blood donating.

"The Great Recession continues" & "When is he going to get to work on the economy?" -- Trina on the economy.

"The assault on Iraq's Christians" -- Ruth covers the persecution in Mosul.

"The one termer and the long distance runner" -- Stan on Barry O and others.

"MoveOn and other liars" -- Elaine takes on our 'leaders'.

"Bully Boy Makeover" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"No, we don't know Petraeus' personal thoughts" -- Marcia rejects a claim that Petaeus endorsed ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell and refers you to the transcirpt if you're still confused.

"Nuclear Barack, Dumb Ass Harry Reid" -- It all falls apart.

"Katrina vanden Heuvel 'forgets'" -- Betty calls out the always laughable Katty-van-van.

"you couldn't ignore me if you tried (book)" & "You couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried" -- Rebecca and Marcia offer book discussions.

"Lord Love A Duck" -- Stan's Friday film post.

"Idiot of the Week" -- Mike names the idiot of the week.

"Worst talk show since Chevy Chase's" & "THIS JUST IN! DONAHUE MADE IT LOOK SO EASY!" -- Cedric and Wally weigh in on Barry O's gab-fest.
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