Sunday, December 30, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Democracy in Iraq MT @prashantrao: 4.5 hours at checkpoint w media-Anbar protests have begun, reports of big crowds. Army keeping us here.

-- The Washington Post's Liz Sly and AFP's Prashant Rao.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another 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),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
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?

It's a two-fer: Liz Sly and Prashant Rao.

Nouri, Barack's tyrant that keeps on killing -- no wonder Barack backed him.
If you don't like the focus of this edition, blame Ava and C.I.  We were planning a roundtable.  We'd written the editorial and the Matt Damon piece and were wondering what else to do when Ava and C.i. finished this report on fall 2012.  As I (Jim) read it outloud to everyone, we were convinced that we needed to make it a 2012 year of edition.  So that's what we did.
At last, Barack wins an award he's earned!

Shonda Rhimes did bust her ass and Scandal has become a great show.

To clear something up, all involved in the writing of this edition had a vote on film of the year -- including Ann and Stan.  21 Jump Street was the obvious choice because it had something for everyone.

Betty's post needed to be amplified.  It says a great deal about science, about the press, about the country.

If Rita Moreno is not honored in 2013, people should egg Caroline Kennedy's home.

We were tossing around various books that came out this year when Ty said, "If we let our readers pick, it would be the Elizabeth Taylor book."  How come?  Their e-mails.  And Ty backed it up.  So this is the readers pick.
This was not a 2012 story.  It wasn't planned as one.  As we got our other pieces and were getting closer to publishing, I said, "Do we just toss aside the Damon piece?"  Donna said she could change the headline and make it work.  She did.
A repost of a press release from the US Embassy in Baghdad.

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

We also thank Ava and C.I. for last week's amazing edition -- they handled that by themselves, the rest of us took off for the holiday.  So great job and thank you to Ava and C.I. for last week's edition.


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

Editorial: Nouri is a tyrant

I see Ba'athists

As noted in Friday's "Iraq snapshot," protests took place throughout Iraq and Nouri worked really hard to keep journalists from covering the protests by using his military to prevent them from entering towns.  While Prashant Rao (AFP), Liz Sly (Washington Post) and the BBC News worked hard to get that news out, others were fine yet again ignoring what's taking place in Iraq.

So much that goes on in Iraq get ignored.  For example, the prison scandal, about women being tortured and raped in Iraqi prisons.  Or Nouri's efforts to strip Members of Parliament of the immunity the Constitution awards them.  Or Nouri's targeting of the Minister of Finance -- as usual when Nouri targets a politician, the politician is a member of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections (beating Nouri's State of Law).

When that happened, US President Barack Obama had to piss on democracy, piss on Iraqi voters and piss on the Iraqi Constitution to keep his fellow Nouri al-Maliki on as prime minister.  To grant Nouri a second term after his second place showing, the White House created a contract (The Erbil Agreement).  It followed 8 months of Nouri refusing to step down as prime minister.  The contract got the leaders of the various political blocs to sign on by offering them things.  For example, the Constitution demands that Article 140 be implemented but it never was in Nouri's first term.  The Kurds wanted Nouri to obey the Constitution.  In the contract, they allow him to have a second term as prime minister in exchange for his promise that he will implement Article 140.

And then he used The Erbil Agreement to grab that second term and then he trashed it, refusing to honor his part of the deal.

The Kurds waited for the White House to step up (as they'd promised they would).  But the White House never made an issue out of the contract they brokered now being broken.

Is it any wonder that  David Romano (Rudaw) observed last week:
Average Iraqis increasingly lose faith with their government as the shell game continues.  As Nuri al-Maliki increasingly rides rough shod over the Constitution and the law of the land, the American State Department seems to forgive him all his transgressions.  Instead of demanding a better showing from Maliki, they pressure the Kurds, the Sunnis and non-Dawaa Party Shiites to make nice with Maliki.
As Barack has tied the US closer and closer to thug Nouri, the opinion of the US government in Iraq has sunk deeper and deeper.

As Elaine pointed out Friday:

Nouri is a threat and danger to the Iraqi people.
They voted for change and Barack went around their votes, the democracy, the Constitution to devise a contract (Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.
Again, gays are targeted, Sunnis are targeted, Nouri refused to even have one woman in his Cabinet until there was international outcry -- and this is who the US government backs.
Remember that the next time Barack wants to pretend to give a damn about human rights.

At Friday's protests, Iraqis chanted, "The people want to bring down the regime."   Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) observed, "This is the slogan protesters used in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere during the Arab Spring." May it have similar results in Iraq. 


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I See Ba'athists" from December 25, 2011.

TV: The New Conformity

If there was a word for the fall 2012 television, it was "conformity."  Or maybe 'the new conformity'?

And, no, that's not a good thing.


For women, it especially wasn't a good thing.  The '00s are over and, apparently with them, the lone female fighter (someone warn Anna Silk in case the trend spreads to Canada and threatens Lost Girl).  No Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Garner, Patricia Arquette, Jill Hennessy, etc.  And while team Nikita continues on the CW, Fringe wraps up with three episodes next month and Fox's 'ideal' replacement for the Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson series appears to be The Following starring Kevin Bacon.  So low have expectations fallen that the idea of making the sidekick for  Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes a female Watson is seen as an "advancement."  (Miller and Lucy Liu work very well together and Elementary is the only promising drama CBS offered this fall.)

Sitcom women fared even worse.  Where was NPR?

Fall 2011, they were talking the 'trend' story that wasn't and how the season was all about men losing jobs and women having them.  Fall 2012 was all about women losing jobs.  While The Middle used the plot twist to illustrate the economy and not to demoralize Frankie (Patricia Heaton -- who continues to be amazing in this role), New Girl and Up All Night used unemployment to humiliate the female characters.

If that didn't make sense to you, your mistake apparently was expecting the shows to make sense.  For example, what kind of school waits until the start of the fall semester to tell a teacher she's laid off? Before you say "only on Fox!," hold on a moment.  Up All Night was just as ridiculous and demonstrated that there were no brains behind the sitcom.  Ava (Maya Rudolph) and Reagan (Christina Applegate) worked on Ava's daytime TV talk show last season, remember?  This season opens with the show cancelled.

How embarrassing.

Emily Spivey's a piece of trash out to damage women.  In the process, she can't stop revealing just how ignorant of her own industry she is.  You may remember Yvonne Encanto bought up the Ava talk show near the end of last season.  Why?  Because it was a hit.  So how did it get cancelled in the fall?

If most TV viewers don't get it, that's fine.  But Spivey's supposed to be in the industry and chose to write about a daytime TV talk show.  What we're getting at is Ava was syndicated daytime television.  It does not just vanish.  Remember Roseanne's ratings bomb of a daytime TV talk show.  Even though no one was watching, the show stayed on the air for two seasons.  That's because of contracts various stations signed to carry the show.  Near the end, some stations were burying it at 3:00 in the morning, but they still had to carry it.  Point being, Ava's show would have had to be in trouble in the ratings for some time (over a year) to go out of production.

The smart thing to do would have been to have had Ava's contract expire and she (wrongly) thinks she's got  a film career in the offing (because she's just done a bit part in an Adam Sandler movie).  So she walks out on the show which means the show ends.  But that would have required work and thought and Emily Spivey's capable of neither.

Thought would have informed her that this wasn't the time to mess with the show and it especially wasn't time to revamp the character of Chris.  But there's Emily Spivey deciding that Reagan will stay at home and Chris will go back to work.

A smart person would have realized you shouldn't juggle or jiggle Chris.  See, between seasons one and two, Will Arnett ended his marriage to Amy Poehler (and also began dousing himself in Man Tan For Douche Bags).  He's not really sympathetic.  You don't leave Amy (and the kids) and get to be sympathetic.  If he'd continued to play the Chris that the audience had seen in season one, they probably wouldn't have been as bothered.  But now he wasn't the Will they thought they knew offscreen nor was he the Chris they thought they knew onscreen.

Ava's become a blithering idiot -- the way so many male critics saw her last season.  She's lost all strength and her core.  Reagan's an idiot who can't handle anything and Christina Applegate isn't cute doing that crap.  Lucille Ball wouldn't be cute doing it today.

In addition to having the women unemployed and making Chris the 'manly' worker (though an attorney, he now works in construction), they added the hideous Luka Yovetich (because he'd stunk up Best Friends Forever?) as Applegate's brother and Chris' business partner.

While Up All Night is forever trying to figure out how to get Reagan into the kitchen (they apparently missed season one's Christmas episode), NBC's Whitney is bad in other ways.

In fact, maybe Whitney should be called "Whore"?

Season one ended with Whitney and Alex unable to get married due to a series of mishaps.  Season two opened with them in bed, thrilled with the tatoos they had gottten instead of getting married.  Fine, we don't believe marriage is the end-all, be-all for everyone.  By episode two, Whitney's getting a joint-checking account with Alex and his money and her 'money' suddenly becomes "their money."  And Alex tells her she should work on her photography.  Yet in all the episodes that follow, we see Whitney spending money, we just don't see her doing anything with her photography. We also see her fighting with Alex in every episode and, when she's in the wrong (more often than when she's in the right), she's offering sex as the make up.

Again, maybe it should be called Whore this season.

What happened to the independent woman of season one?

Or what happened to independent Liz Lemon.  Tina Fey was never a friend of women.  She thought she was pathetic when she was single, she thought her life was a waste before she had a baby.  She's decided these are biological laws and they must be imposed on all women.  And it's really destroyed 30 Rock.  This season was no exception as a Liz seemed determined -- on her wedding day -- to out-girly-girl season two's Whitney.  Each episode finds a new way to insult women.  Including "Stride of Pride," written by Fey herself.  That episode takes the claim by sexists like Jerry Lewis that women can't be funny.  You might think a show that stars a woman, was created by a woman, in an episode written by a woman would have no problem demonstrating that the claim was wrong.  Instead, Tina Fey chose to endorse sexism.  While Tracy thinks women are hysterical, it's because he completely misunderstood the (unfunny) skit Liz pulled out of mothballs for her and Jenna to do.  (In the skit, Liz plays a doctor -- Tracy thinks that's the joke: That a woman can be a doctor.)  It's as if 30 Rock's last gift is in ensuring that no one will miss it.  (Like Fringe, 30 Rock wraps up next month.)

The only real bright spot for women this fall came from The Mindy Project.  The Fox sitcom is honestly funny and Mindy Kaling has created a show that actually lives up to all the praise 30 Rock (wrongly) received.

If women had it bad this fall, gay men had it even worse.  Partners was a funny TV show and it was pulling in viewers on Monday nights -- a night CBS is starting to lose viewers on.  It revolved around two best friends, one gay (played by Michael Urie), one straight (played by David Krumholtz) and their love interests (Brandon Routh and Sophia Bush).  The actors were wonderful.  The show was funny.  Did the issue of gay marriage really lead to the show getting the axe?  After the suits viewed "My Best Friend's Wedding Ring," they got really nervous (there was no same sex marriage in the episode but it is talked of).  There were a series of meetings called and, the same week, CBS quickly announces the show is cancelled and off the schedule as of the announcement -- no more episodes will be broadcast.

Then there's NBC's The New Normal which sinks in the ratings almost every week and seems to exist to ask, "Would Will and Grace have been as funny a sitcom if the viewers couldn't stand Megan Mullally?"  Ellen Barkin is supposed to be the Karen of the show -- if Karen was angry, hateful and a bigot (as opposed to a smart mouth).  Overly preachy and not very funny, the sitcom plays like the worst Norman Lear-rip-off.  If Lear demonstrated anything during the seventies, it was that you have to be funny to address issues.  It's a lesson, The New Normal really needs to learn.

With CBS axing Partners, The New Normal forgetting the humor and NBC benching Smash (the same sex couple is played by Christian Borle and Leslie Odom Jr.), that really only left one show and one character.

But what a character.  Yes, we mean fan favorite Nolan Ross of ABC's Revenge.  But a funny thing happened on the way to season two, gay Nolan became bi-sexual Nolan and Gabriel Mann's character got a girlfriend.  Squint your eyes and Mann looks like Al Corely and it's as though we're watching Stephen Carrington struggle with being gay all over again on Dynasty.

As if that wasn't bad enough, they've added Barry Sloane to the cast this year.  Sloane's wonderful eye candy and probably the best male actor on the show but let's not pretend that the writers don't seem much more interested in him than they do in Emily VanCamp's character.  When you're sidelining the lead character, it means you're trying to parcel out a storyline.  Here's a suggestion for show runner Mike Kelley, get some new storylines and do so quickly or Revenge will get the axe in May. 

(For those wondering about Malibu Country, we've already covered the homophobia of that show.)

Characters of color?  Other than Mindy Kaling, did fall find any breakthroughs?  NeNe Leakes has great comedic talent and timing.  It's just a shame she's stuck in another 'sassy Black gal you work with' role that TV seems to forever put African-American women into.  (This time the role's on The New Normal.)  The CW's hit (yes, they really can call it that and be truthful) Arrow features David Ramsey as John Diggle, Green Arrow's sidekick.  That's certainly more than Smallville ever offered in all of its seasons on The WB and then The CW.  Guys With Kids has yet to hit its stride but Anthony Anderson and Tempestt Bledsoe are delivering strong co-lead performances.  (They play one of three couples on the show.)  The show is about similarities (in parenting) and so the two actors also get to offer something different than what TV traditionally allows an African-American performer on a sitcom.  If they're lucky, that will continue and they'll be able to do what Damon Wayans Jr. does on Happy Endings, play a multi-dimensional character each week and not a TV stereotype.  ABC also offers Toks Olagundoye on The Neighbors -- an African-American actress playing an alien from outer-space who has taken on human form and goes by the name of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  Though always hilarious in the role, her best moments yet were when she attempted to be a 'Real New Jersey Housewife' including turning to a (non-existent) camera to provide narration and commentary.  It also bears noting that ABC's  Last Resort provided Andre Braugher with the chance to carry an hour long drama.

While the audience dried up for Last Resort, there was a show that offered a lead character of color, that offered a strong gay couple as supporting characters and that actually managed to be a success in the ratings.  In fact, ABC's Scandal is the success story of fall 2012.

Kerry Washington is the first African-American actress to successfully carry an hour long show.  Scandal has a strong cast but Kerry is the star as surely as Ted Danson is the star of CSI.  In the seven episodes last season, a show was sketched in.  Season two, has been about deepening the stories, such as providing more details about the conspiracy that put Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) into the White House.

It's an ambitious show that constantly surprises.  Yes, with plot twists like implicating Huck (Guillermo Diaz) in the shooting of President Grant. (He's innocent but now a victim of the Patriot Act.)  But also with dialogue.  White House Chief of Staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry) is talking to Olivia (Washington) about how he knows his husband James (Dan Bucatinsky) is cheating on him, how James is younger and now James is going to leave him.  When Olivia tries to reassure him that's not the case, Cyrus declares he's right because "before he met me, he was a bit of a slut."  Then adding, "Which I found very sexy and I shouldn't have."  Cyrus is so straight-laced (and only recently out of the closet) that it's a very funny moment.

The show constantly surprises.  Shonda Rhimes is TV's person of the year for what she's doing with this show -- forget about the fact that she's also the show runner for Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice.  She's also TV's person of the year because while everyone else goes for conformity, she's stretching and expanding and surprising and delighting viewers every week.  For those who don't remember, that's what TV is supposed to do.

2012 Killer of the Year

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall 
-- "The End," lyrics by Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, first recorded on The Doors' self-titled debut album

John Glaser ( reports this morning that a drone strike in Pakistan claimed 5 lives and left four people injured.

The Drone War.  US President Barack Obama decides where to strike.  He conducts his Drone War with all the democracy of a long ago king.  Translation, he does it by fiat, by royal whim.

He is answerable to no court (in his mind) and he is not answerable to the American citizens or anyone else.

He has been annoited by the hand of God to be Killer.  He decides who lives and who dies.

There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road
-- "Riders On The Storm," written by Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, first appears on The Doors' LA Woman.

As Isaiah noted last week in "Barry O's Favorite Topic," Barack loves to talk about himself but not about his Drone War.

barry os favorite topic

The little girl in the comic is 8-year-old Nabila who told the BBC about how she saw Barack kill her grandmother with a drone.

2012 TV Person of the Year


Shonda Rhimes is the show runner for three different shows on television.  She's not doing Grey's Anatomy and Grey's Anatomy NYC, Grey's Anatomy: Trial By Jury, Grey's Antaomy Miami and Grey's Anatomy: Special Victims Unit.  She's created three distinct and popular shows that are all airing right now.  And her latest show, Scandal, is riveting, is the success story of fall 2012, and provides the writing that finally gives Kerry Washington the opportunity to truly shine (she's amazing and should be Emmy nominated for Best Actress).  Shonda Rhimes has changed and is changing television.

We're quoting C.I. from last week.  But point taken.  Rebecca covers Scandal at her site (such as with "give it up for the amazing shonda rhimes") and Ava and C.I. elaborate on the above in their TV report this week.

2012 Movie of the Year

Ann and Stan's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" and "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" went up Saturday night.  We love their picks.  But of their top ten, we say one movie holds up best for 2012.


21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are hilarious in this film.  You have to see Hill as Peter Pan in the high school musical or the car chase where he's dressed as Peter Pan.  And one of the biggest treats of the film is when the two undercover cops are forced to take a new synthetic drug to protect their cover and the drug kicks in just as the high school coach (Rob Riggle) stops them for lack of hall passes.  In the screen snap above, they are in "Phase 02: TRIPPING MAJOR BALLSACK" of the drug and they see Riggle's head as a giant ice cream cone.

Other hilarious moments include Tatum trying to bluff his way through the Miranda rights with the police captain played by Nick Offerman, "Did you just say you have the right to be an attorney?"

2012 Person of the Year

Betty made a strong and impassioned case for the Person of the Year at her site on Friday.

Curiosity should have been Time's person of the year


That should have been Time magazine's person of the year: Curiosity, NASA's Mars land rover.

Caption for that photo:

 Again, that should have been the person of the year.

If we lived in a country that cared about science.  If we followed NASA with even 1/10th of the zeal we reserve for 'reality' TV stars.  If we gave a damn not only about the world around us but the galaxy and beyond.

Time could have made a statement, they could have encouraged a national discussion on science.

Instead, they went with an easy and embarrassing choice (Barack).  Just so they could ass kiss?

Probably so.  It's a real shame because we keep hearing how America needs to get better at the sciences.  We keep hearing how the sciences will determine our future -- and they mean our economic future.

But time and again, when the media has a chance to talk about science, they find something else to embrace.

And then they wonder why Americans are not stronger in the sciences?

Why bother if it's so meaningless?

If no one cares, why bother?

The media's going to have to get to work on their own little message and they're going to have to start accepting their part of the blame.

Curiosity should have been Time's person of the year.

Kennedy Trait of 2012: Racism

The Kennedy Center Honors is supposed to be prestigious.  It's a sign of just how tacky Caroline Kennedy is that she's allowed the awards to be seen as racist in their selection.

Last years these awards to honor the arts went out of their way to include the British but managed to -- yet again -- ignore Latinos and Latinas.  Did you know that there have been 186 honors and only two of them were Latino?  (Placido Domingo and Chita Rivera.)

It's becoming an annual outcry: Why is The Kennedy Center refusing to honor Hispanics?

And the outcry has turned into the accusation that they're racist.

When next year rolls around, Caroline and company better have found a more diverse group.

Since they appear to have trouble identifying Latinos, we'll help them out: Rita Moreno.

rita moreno

Moreno endeared herself to children with The Electric Company in the 70s.  She came to fame with the film West Side Story for which she won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.   Prior to that musical, she also had roles in Singin' in the Rain and The King and I.

She won the Tony for her performance in 1975's Broadway play The Ritz.  She's also won a Grammy and two Emmys.  Her TV work includes Sister Peter Marie Reimondo on 44 episodes of HBO's Oz and, at 81, she's currently playing Fran's mother on TV Land's Happily Divorced.

2012 Book of the Year

We let our readers decide this.  Following Rebecca's "book 'em friday: liz taylor" and Marcia's "Elizabeth Taylor: There Is Nothing Like A Dame," we offered "The Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe rivalry."

And did the e-mails come in.  A slow trickle the first week, building to an avalanche in the weeks since as readers made clear that they were enjoying or had just enjoyed  Elizabeth Taylor: There Is Nothing Like A Dame by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince.

Elizabeth Taylor

It's the book that's got it all, rivarlies, sex, jewels, sex, legends, sex and more sex.

2012 Trend: Bad attempts at make overs


Poor Matt Damon, he never really achieved.  The guy who got all the acting breaks in the 90s (Courage Under Fire, Good Will Hunting, The Rainmaker, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr. Ripley) only managed to nail down one Best Actor Academy Award nomination and no win.  There have been no nominations for Best Actor since, certainly no wins.  And now there's the upcoming HBO movie with the love scenes with Matt Damon.

So it's understandable that he might feel the need to whine.

PLAYBOY: Liberace lived his life in the closet, and times have changed a bit. What was it like when you and Ben Affleck were constantly asked if you were gay, back when you were starting your careers?

DAMON: I never denied those rumors because I was offended and didn’t want to offend my friends who were gay—as if being gay were some kind of fucking disease. It put me in a weird position in that sense. The whole thing was just gross. But look, there have been great signs of progress—the fact that Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres can come out so beautifully and powerfully, and it’s a big fucking deal that it turns out nobody gives a shit. If Liberace were alive today, everybody would love his music and nobody would care what he did in his private life. Like with Elton John.

That's Damon sobbing to Playboy this month.  And thinking he can rewrite history.

He didn't deny the rumors because he "was offended" and because "the whole thing was gross."  So much for not offending "my friends who were gay." 

But setting aside that, does it even make sense?

If he was so angry and so traumatized would he, in October 2010 joked of Clint Eastwood, "We met in a bar, a gay bar.  I saw something in him through the eye slits of the Hannibal Lecter mask that he was wearing."?

How about July 2007?  "George [Clooney] is gay.  Everybody knows that.  But honestly, I never realized he was gay -- even when he was b***ing me."

And it's not like anyone twisted his arm to do 2002's "A Chorus Lie" on Will and Grace (written by Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally) which included the following scene between Damon's Owen and Sean Hayes' Jack:

Jack:  What gym do you go to? Why haven't I seen you in the clubs? And who have we slept with in common? 

Owen: I work out at home. I'm allergic to smoke. And I'm in a long-term relationship with my high school boyfriend. 

Jack: Name? 

Owen: Ben. 

In addition, there are all the jokes that he made in the 90s (and that Ben Affleck -- who is not whining -- made).  Now he wants to pretend to be offended by what 'other' people said?  When it was him saying it all along.

Next time Matt Damon wants to try a make over, we suggest he stick to his hair style.

Success in Iraq!

Friday, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a press release that had the effect of letting you know how bad things actually were in Iraq:

December 28, 2012
Threat information indicates that terrorist elements may target U.S. interests in Baghdad, including the United States Embassy, as well as churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk, on or around December 31, 2012.  The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad urges U.S. citizens in Iraq to exercise caution and to refer to the current travel warning on our website.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov.  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 
Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Iraq.  For additional information, refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" on the State Department's website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.


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, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"Danny Schechter and Media Channel want you back" -- most requested highlight of the week.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry O's Favorite Topic" -- Isaiah on Mr. Vain.

"2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" and "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" -- Ann and Stan go to the movies.

"At what point do human rights matter?" -- Elaine asks the basic question.

"Fringe" and "Revolution" -- Mike and Marcia cover TV.

"Suckiest Christmas ever!" -- Stan serves up the Scrooge.

"Fontella Bass," "Charles Durning has passed" and "Oh, no, they killed Quincy!" -- Kat does the obit beat.

 "Trashy Glenn,"  "F**k Glenn Greenwald and Chucky Cheese Hagel,"  and "The Cabal behind Chuckie Cheese Hagel" and "THIS JUST IN! CHUCKY CHEESE WANTS DOD!"-- the disgusting right-wing Glenn always provides much to talk about.

 "Holiday Dip in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers an easy recipe for a party dip.

"Benghazi" and "At least one lesson learned from Benghazi" -- Ruth continues to cover Benghazi.

"The trash life of Rihanna" -- Marcia on beat-me-please Rihanna.

"Telemarketer in Chief" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Seriously, Ed Markey?" -- Mike expresses his disappointment with state politics.

 "My cure for New Year's hangover"  -- Ann offers a tip or two.

 "Can't miss TV"  and "the bigoted kennedy center ignores rita moreno" -- Betty and Rebecca remind there is plenty of new funny still on TV.

"The distraction" -- Elaine on how they trick us.

"Curiosity should have been Time's person of the year"  -- Betty wisely makes the case.

"Dunham and Goldberg can't see Blacks" -- Marcia on the 'critics' and the 'arts.'

"THIS JUST IN! BARRY O'S IN LOVE!" and "Got his mind on his man" -- He really may be our first gay president!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Well Iraq lurches from crisis to crisis.

-- master of understatement Jane Arraf  speaking Wednesday to Marco Werman (PRI's The World).

Truest statement of the week II

Someone needs to tell Barack Obama -- it must get particularly confusing this time of year -- that his own birth is not Year One, the date around which all other events are understood. His much-noted, self-referential tic was on cringe-worthy display Friday when the president gave his eulogy for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who served in Congress for half a century representing Obama’s birth state of Hawaii.

Inouye was a Japanese-American war hero (he lost an arm in World War II, destroying his dream of becoming a surgeon), and as a senator he served on the Watergate committee, helped rewrite our intelligence charter after scandals, and was chairman of the Senate committee that investigated the Iran-Contra affair. It’s the kind of material any eulogist could use to give a moving sense of the man and his accomplishment. But President Barack Obama’s remarks at Inouye’s funeral service were a bizarre twirl around his own personal Kodak carousel.

-- Emily Yoffe, "Today We Are Gathered … To Hear More About Me" (Slate).

A note to our readers

Hey --

It's Sunday.

We thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's 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),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
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.

Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess are off this week so we (Ava and C.I.) steered the edition.  We weren't in the mood for a never ending writing session.  We had hoped to have a piece on the two Congressional hearings we attended but time ran out and we said, "Oh well."  Sorry, if we're in charge of the edition, we have a firm cut off.

So what did we manage to come up with in the allotted time?

We've been told we use the same people over and over (or too often) by some readers.  This week, Jane Arraf got a truest and we don't believe she has before.
A truest also went to Emily Youffe and this is her first.  (Both truests were selected by all listed above.)
In an ideal world, we'd have Iraq in every article and, after last week, we certainly could have done an all Iraq edition.  This is about the political crisis, the latest one, that's threatening Iraq. (Worked on by all listed above.)
We put TV on hold to note the Bash The Bitch round being played the last week on Kathryn Bigelow.  It's not about a film, don't let them kid you.  It may be about a woman directing a film, but it's not just about a film.  If it were, they would have protested a ton of other films.  But focusing on attacking Kathryn does allow them to ignore calling out those in power who refuse to prosecute law breakers or refuse to end torture.(We -- Ava and C.I. -- wrote this.)
We did a roundtable.  We stuck to e-mail topics because there were a lot of e-mails complaining that there had not been a roundtable in forever.  That's because no one wanted to do a never-ending roundtable.  We'd floated it for the last three editions (or others had) and the response was usually "I'm not spending two and a half hours on that."
Reader Carter e-mailed about this sale this morning.  We were publishing articles already when we came across the e-mail and knew we had to do something quick on this.  $4.99 for a full season (streaming).  (Wally, Betty, Ava and C.I. wrote this.)
It's not really the place of US Senators to demand a damn thing from a film studio or to alter any artist's work.  This is outrageous and they should be ashamed of themselves.  (All listed above wrote this.)

This is our second Iraq article.  Nouri is targeting journalists.  He's done that throughout his six years of misleadership. (All listed above wrote this.)

During the roundtable, we listened to our MP3 playlist of kd lang.  Trina loved the songs she hadn't heard before (she has one kd album).   This song was her favorite of many favorites she heard.  It's a great one.  (Trina, Kat, Betty, Marcia, Mike, Ava and C.I.  wrote this.)

Vanity Fair deserves a round of applause for allowing Judd Apatow to expose himself as the vile sexist (expose himself to those who couldn't face the truth prior). (Marcia, Ann, Ava and C.I. wrote this.)
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and fights daily for veterans issues.

A repost from Workers World.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

We've added credits in parenthesis in response to Kevin's e-mail asking who wrote what and in response to Lenny e-mailing to ask if Wally was listed wrongly since he does not participate in the roundtable?  Wally worked on other pieces (as noted above).

And that's what we came up with.  We're about to go to sleep.  Most Sundays, we'd be looking at 10 to 12 more hours.  And maybe this would be a better edition if that happened?  Maybe not.  We believe in a start time and an end time.


--  Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Nouri's Crazy Runs Free

Before last week began, Iraq already had problems.  The biggest being Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and thug, whom Iraqiya has publicly accused of starting crises to distract from his failures to improve the lives of Iraqis.

Nouri was installed as prime minister in 2006 (when the Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari) at the insistence of the Bully Boy Bush White House.  His term should have ended in 2010.  That's when parliamentary elections were held.  Per the Iraqi Constitution, the winner of the most seats ends up getting the prime minister-designate spot (and then has 30 days to form a government and become prime minister or fail at that and someone else is named prime minister designate).

Nouri's political slate State of Law came in second to Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi.  So Iraqiya should have had a member named prime minister-designate.  But Nouri dug in his heels and the Barack Obama White House backed Nouri in his public tantrum.  Barack wanted Nouri to have a second term.  But he was second place.

So the US circumvented the voters, the results and the Constitution by brokering a deal which was put into writing and became a contract known as the Erbil Agreement.  For 8 months following the election, Nouri refused to let anything move forward.  Now, the US argued, the other political blocs should reward Nouri for his tantrum and let him have a second term as prime minister.  That didn't sound so good to the political blocs.  So the US asked, "What do you want?"  This was put into the contract and every leader (including Nouri) signed off on it.

He used the Erbil Agreement to become prime minister and then trashed the contract, refusing to carry out any of the promises he made.  He stalled at first, then he just ignored it.  By the summer of 2011, a political crisis was beginning as the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr all demanded that he honor the contract.  This crisis played out throughout this year.

It was not the only crisis.

A few months back, Nouri sent his Tigris Operation Command forces into disputed areas of Iraq.  The Constitution explains how these disputes are to be resolved in Article 140: Census and referendum.  But Nouri's refused to implement Article 140 (despite the Constitution calling on him to do so by the end of 2007).  To get Kurdish support, the Erbil Agreement included the demand that Article 140 be implemented.

Having spent 6 years refusing to follow the law, Nouri now sends his forces into these disputed regions and the Kurds interpreted it as Nouri attempting to claim the lands for Baghdad by force.  They immediately had the Peshmerga (elite Kurdish force) move in and circle areas.  This resulted in a military stand-off.  This was a new crisis.

And it is ongoing.  (Last week, the Peshmerga shot down one of Nouri's helicopters flying over disputed areas.)

But one crisis is never enough for Nouri.


Iraqi President Jalal Talabani  (above) was trying to talk some sense into Nouri.  He's had a health emergency and is now out of Iraq and in a hospital in Germany.

Some might see that as a reason for reflection.  Nouri saw it as a sign that he should take the reins off The Crazy and let it run free.

So last week, he sent the military into the Green Zone to surround the office and home of the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  150 people were carted off.  Only 10 were charged with anything ('terrorism").  The others were held for 'questioning' (torture) as he did this time last year with Tareq al-Hashemi's staff.

The move was called out by various Iraqi leaders including Moqtada al-Sadr, Ayad Allawi, Ammar al-Hakim, Massoud Barzani and Ahmed Chalabi.  It also led to protests in Falluja, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and just outside of Falluja.

If Nouri had even an ounce of sanity, he'd realize he'd gone too far.

But this is Nouri al-Maliki.  And for six years now, Iraqis have had to live with his crazy as he has created one crisis after another.

Iraq needed a leader, they got a drama queen.

When they rejected the drama queen in 2010, Barack Obama overrode their vote.  When will their suffering end?  When will their voices be heard?

Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch

In 2006, Katie Couric was being attacked because she was going to be the anchor of The CBS Evening News -- going to be.  For months before she ever sat behind the anchor's desk, she was trashed.  We explained it was "Bash The Bitch."  Two years later, Third (everyone, not just us) offered:

Being opposed to Bash The Bitch does not require that anyone stop criticizing women or that they only criticize with the appropriate 'tone.'  It does require that when you see the angry mob gathering around one woman, you step back to reflect on what's going on?  You ask yourself whether or not the standard this one woman is being held to is a standard her male peers are also being held to?
If the answer is "no," then Bash The Bitch is being played.

And it's being played currently with director Kathryn Bigelow as the target.


Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director, the first woman to do so, and she and the film she directed (The Hurt Locker) received many vicious attacks.  But that was nothing compared to what's been thrown at her and her new film Zero Dark Thirty.

Bret Easton Ellis, bad writer, went after Bigelow from his Twitter account with sexist Tweets about her looks and then he wrote a piece (dubbed an "apology") for The Daily Beast where he tried to argue that, being a gay man, he should have been granted some sort of pass and where he referred to Bigelow's "balls."  Bigelow has strength, she doesn't have balls and to suggest she does is not only insulting, it's sexist.  Some apology.

But that was nothing compared to the storm sexist Glenn Greenwald intended to brew.  Greenwald's a right-winger (Libertarian) who's been adopted by a lot of radicals (Socialists who self-present as Democrats) over the last years.  They've been happy to overlook the fact that he was a Bully Boy Bush cheerleader who championed the illegal Iraq War. 

Illegal.  Remember that he championed an illegal war the next time you hear someone (falsely) refer to Greenwald's 'legal smarts.'  A lot of closet cases went after Bigelow and The Hurt Locker.  Some of them were veterans (a few were even  Iraq War veterans and not just people who pretend to be).  They insisted the movie wasn't real.  Amazing since an actual Iraq War veteran would sue in court claiming they had taken his story and put it up on screen.  They would trash the movie, these freaks, and trash Bigelow.  And they would insist it had nothing to do with gender.

Now they're back, in larger numbers, trashing her again.  Debra Sweet joined in for reasons that she needs to explain.  She called a protest of the film before she'd even seen it.

Zero Dark Thirty is a film, it is not a documentary.  It's a story about the CIA and about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Some whine that this isn't a true story, some whine that it glorifies torture.

Bigelow opens her film with a lengthy scene of brutal torture.  It's not an erotic scene.  It is horrifying.  But small brains can't process apparently and Greenwald and others have insisted this scene glorifies torture.  (Spencer Ackerman has argued to the contrary.)

So does it?

You're a grown up, see the film yourself and make up your own mind.  You shouldn't take our word for it and you certainly shouldn't take the word of people who organize protests against a film that they haven't even seen.

What's more interesting is that when three US Senators (Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain) attacked the film, people stayed silent or, like The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, they rushed in to agree it was a good thing -- government censorship was a good thing.

That's when you know Bash The Bitch has gotten way out of hand.

'Explaining' why he felt it was okay to attack Bigelow, Bret Easton Ellis wrote, "The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man.  Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola's work you're aware of a much softer presence behind the camera."

Does he not get how sexist and insane that sounds?

You have to be 'educated' to make such stupid remarks.  Take Jodie Foster who is an airhead that's been fawned over by the press.  Never challenged, she sucked up the patriarchy and thinks it's cute when she tries to pass 'biology' off as destiny.  (We think it's cute that she still thinks most of America doesn't know she's a lesbian.  Or that she still talks about kissing Scott Baio in interviews -- while at the same time taking offense when asked about her personal life.  Can you get more closeted?)  Foster tries so hard to fit the 'educated' opinion of what a woman is that it's destroyed her directorial efforts, rendering them  huge disappointments that seem both strained and artificial.

Like Jodie, Bret sucked up an 'education' without thinking (only repeating) and it allows him to write sexist crap without even realizing it.

A woman can be anything in the world.  Sofia's a wonderful director.  She is not, however, the template for all womankind.  And Bigelow's film is not full of 'testosterone' unless you've treated your brain like veal and never let it out to wander in the real world.

Women can tell any kind of story any kind of way.  Women can be good, they can be evil.  (Despite Jodie Foster's ridiculous claim that there are no women serial killers.)

But Bret feels women can only be real women and authentic if they present a "softer presence."  That's sexism and it's exactly what's at play.

Glenn Greenwald feels he can trash the film for that very reason.  Debra Sweet feels she can organize a protest for that very reason.

Neither was offended enough by the opening scene of Casino Royal (where torture becomes erotic as a nude Daniel Craig receives it) to protest.  Neither's been offended by any of the many films glorifying torture in the last eight years to step forward and launch an attack.  But those films were directed by men.

When a woman directs a film, it's as if she becomes the straw that breaks their camel's back.

Along with Bigelow, this loser crowd has also trashed Kimberly Peirce for Stop-Loss.  Those attacks helped ensure that she would go nearly five years before she'd get another crack at directing a film.  She's incredibly talented (her first film was the classic Boys Don't Cry).  But she's a woman and she directed a film against war that wasn't enough against war for some big cry babies:  'Oh no, the guy wants to drop out of the war!  But then he decides to get on the bus and return!  Why, oh, why, can't the film say what we want it to! Even if it doesn't fit the character!'

It said more than any of its critics managed to and reached more people.  In its first week on DVD, it made $4.8 million in sales and rentals.  That was long before Channing Tatum was declared (weeks ago) The Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.  In fact, this is the film that makes Channing a star and, most important to his fans, features lots of shirtless scenes, lots of scenes of him in briefs.  Which is why it continues to rent and sell on DVD and via streaming.

The whiners wanted Kimberly to make a film where she clobbered everyone over the head.  Instead, she made a film where a man wants out of the war but in the end, much to the viewers' regrets, goes back into it.  You have to be really stupid to not grasp how that impacts an audience.

But when women are the targets, a lot of men (and plenty of women) let their stupidity tumble out of their flies.

As Debra Sweet organized her protest against Kathryn, we had to wonder, "Even if Kathryn's film was the offense that Debra claims it is, so what?"

Because it is only a film.

Debra, gets that, right?

She gets that Kathryn has not ordered the torture or death of anyone, right?

She gets that the same can't be said of Barack Obama.

But Debra would rather protest a film than protest the White House?

Never deny the allure of Bash The Bitch.

It's far too ingrained for most people to shake.  They see the stones flying and instead of saying, "Okay, that's enough," they rush forward to grab their own rocks.  They want their shot at bloodying the woman everyone's going after.  In Salem, in the 1600s, they pretended it was about witch craft.  Today, they kid themselves that it's about a film. 


Ava: It's the holiday weekend.  We're doing a roundtable and our e-mail address is Participating in our roundtable are me, Ava with  The Third Estate Sunday Review, as moderator;  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; 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. You are reading a rush transcript.


Ava: Where are Ty, Jim, Dona and Jess?  Jess has taken our baby to his folks for the holidays.  Actually, he's met our baby at his folks.  I dropped her off Friday and Jess arrived later that day.  Why am I not there?  I'm with our baby all the time.  Jess and his family deserve some solo time.  I'll be celebrating with family on the West Coast.  Ty and his boyfriend went back East to holiday with his grandmother.  Jim and Dona hadn't planned on going anywhere because there was a disagreement about whose family to go to.  That got settled at the last minute and they and their baby are celebrating with both sets of parents in neutral territory.   We encouraged as many people to take off as possible and enjoy the holiday.  We're looking to e-mails for the topics of this roundtable.  First up, Charlie e-mailed about the December 4th "Iraq snapshot" where C.I. reports on attending a Bradley Manning event.  C.I. called the event out for many reasons and Charlie writes, "I agree with most points but don't see why it hurts for Brad's attorney to refuse press requests."  C.I.?

C.I.:  I've stated my opinion and rather than re-state it now, I choose to utilize a valuable resource we have with us, Rebecca.  Rebecca's career was in p.r. She was so good at it, she was able to sell her business and retire very early.

Ava: Okay, to Rebecca.  Since she was not at the event, let me put this on the record, this is what C.I. reported and offered on that aspect:

Probably when Coombs was climbing the cross to praise himself -- the first time.  Now attorneys tend to have oversized egos, that's not surprising.  But what was surprising was hearing someone self-aggrandize to a packed room about how great they were because they turn down all interview requests.  ("I also avoid any interviews with the media.")  That's not great at all. 

You're in a media war, David Coombs, you need to be taking every interview request and then some.  Your failure to do so goes a long, long way towards explaining how Bradley has disappeared from the radar so often.

Rebecca: Well what C.I. said was 100% correct.  If you're the attorney of a client the government wants to disappear, it is your job to court the press.  You want them to feel vested in the outcome of the case.  If they don't, it becomes very easy for them to just spit out what the government says about Bradley or, worse, ignore the whole case.  It's stupidity for any attorney to do what Coombs was bragging about doing.  It's a huge p.r. mistake to have done it and it's nothing to brag about.  As C.I. pointed out at the end of what you just read, that does go a long way towards explaining why his client has gotten so little press.  You really do have to baby the press.  I'm serious.  You have to hold their hand and flatter them and build up their esteem.  And that's just to get coverage for someone not being targeted by the government.  Coombs is an idiot when it comes to p.r.  I hope he's better at the law.

Ava: Thank you, Rebecca.  Cedric, Nola e-mailed about your joint-posts with Wally -- Cedric and Wally do humor posts together and post them at both of their sites.  Nola wants to know why "Princess Barry" and if you're sticking with it?

Cedric:  We pioneered "celebrity" Barack.  We did that back when he was a candidate in the primaries.  Once he became president, we made it "celebrity in chief" and added Barry O! to make it like Jackie O!  But we've doen that and we're trying to find a new monicker.  Due to his relationship with Psy -- someone who he should never speak to since he is commander in chief and Psy twice publicly called for the deaths of US soldiers and their families -- we've gone with Princess Barry.  I'm not sure if we're sticking with it or not.  Whatever we're using when the inauguration rolls around will probably be what we stick with throughout the four years -- if we're online those four years.

Ava: And why "princess"?

Cedric: Because Bitch Barry upset too many people.  I'm not joking.  After Barack got all over Psy we did use "bitch" in at least one post and a few people wrote nice e-mails saying they were bothered by that -- they've written to express that they're fine with Princess Barry -- and we didn't want to alienate our regular readers. But "bitch"? Yeah, that's what I think he is after he attended that concert that Psy performed at and then went backstage to tell Psy how great he thought Psy was.  I think he's disgusting.

Kat: And I'll agree with that.  I wrote about that at my site.  He really disgraced the office by attending that concert.  Finding out that he went backstage and congratulated the man who called for the deaths of US soldiers and their families?  I can't stand him in any way right now.  And Cedric and I are using "soldiers" because that's the term Psy used.  We'd use "service members" otherwise.

Ava: Alright.  Ann's the topic of DeLisa's e-mail.  Ann, she wants to thank you for all your work tracking the gender balance in guests on NPR's Tell Me More.  She notes that you didn't do that most of last week and wonders if you're done tracking the show?  She e-mailed Thursday morning, by the way.  So she was unaware that Ann didn't write about Tell Me More at all last week.

Ann: Right.  I had a bigger issue, to me anyway, for Monday and then got called names -- the n-word -- in e-mails for covering the topic.  Is that supposed to scare me off?  You don't me, bullies, it just means I'll write about it again.  And it was so nice to have the week off from that awful show.  I may play hooky again next week.

Ava: I wouldn't blame you a bit.  And two e-mails, one from Kelli and one from Lesley, came in saying to congratulate Ann and Cedric on the baby they're going to have.  How's your pregnancy by the way?

Ann: After having morning sickness basically 24 hours a day my first weeks, it's been too smooth of late.  I have some aches in my hips and that's about it.

Cedric: If I can add something --

Ava: Sure.

Cedric: I found out my wife was pregnant October 17th.  Because C.I. put a note in that day's snapshot for me to read what my wife had written the night before.  I get e-mails asking me to this day about that and am I mad?  First off, C.I. did not say, "Ann is pregnant!"  She steered me to a post my wife wrote that I had read but not paid attention to.  Second, Ann was having a difficult start of the pregnancy and she didn't need to go through it alone.  But her plan was to tell me the day after the election because I always do all these activities with our local Democratic Party chapter.  I went ahead and explained I wouldn't have time for that and that's what was needed.  C.I. did not spoil it as some have wondered and if she had spoiled that would have been fine.  If Wally had figured it out, he told me he would have just picked up the phone and said, "Cedric, Ann's pregnant and you need to drop these volunteer activities."

Ava: Ann, anything to add?

Ann: Just that I was surprised C.I. got my pregnancy from that post I wrote.  And I'm happy she did what she did because I did want to share the news but was sitting on it due to the election and Cedric's schedule.

Ava: Trina, is that you I hear humming?

Trina: It is.  I love this.  Is it a CD?

Ava: No, it's our MP3 playlist -- our relaxing one.  Most weeks, Kat, Wally, C.I. and me are on the road talking about the wars.  As we drive around and sit on planes, we have a lot of time to listen to music.  Sometimes Wally will have his guitar in the car and he'll strum something and we'll sing along.  Other times, we'll listen to local stations to get a sense of a place.  But a lot of times we're listening to our playlists.  This one, the one Trina's humming to, is our k.d. lang playlist.

Trina: I did not know she had covered Joni Mitchell's "Jericho."

Ava: And a few tracks on in, you'll hear her cover Joni's "A Case Of You" as well.  Music, we all love music.  Kat, you're gearing up for your year-in-review piece, right?

Kat: Right.  So I'm not going to be able to do another album review.  I'll be including an album that I love in the top ten.  I was hoping to give it an individual review but there just wasn't time.  I've got five albums picked for my top ten but that's it so far.  I'll either have mine posted December 31st or January 1st.  Martha and Shirley are hoping to have their year in books up on the 31st, by the way.

Ava: Ruth, your radio piece?

Ruth: I will be writing that the night of the 31st so I have no idea when it will go up.  I have no idea if I will be able to finish it that night.

Isaiah: I am trying to figure out if there is a comic I can do that day.  I just don't know.  Stan and Ava also have to do their year in movies.

Stan: We plan to have that up at our sites on the 31st and people always ask about it being reposted by C.I.  Ann and I are so flattered.  When that thing goes up at The Common Ills, C.I. always waits until the next day, our traffic soars.  A good day for me is about 600 hits.  I'm in the thousands for days after that goes up at The Common Ills as people click the link not to read the piece -- the whole thing is up at The Common Ills -- but to check out a few other things I've written.

Ava: And, C.I., the year-in-review you write?

C.I.: I have no ideas at this point.  My plan is to attend the party I'm throwing, to drink throughout, to then go back to the bedroom, boot up the computer by two or so in the morning, continue drinking like crazy and bang out something.

Ava: Iraq is in the news like crazy and we got a ton of e-mails on that.  I need to correct that.  Iraq is at The Common Ills like crazy.  Most US news outlets are still ignoring Iraq.  We're hoping to have at least two Iraq features this edition.  But an e-mail noted Mike covered Iraq in "Nouri's next move?" last week and wondered why he didn't cover Iraq more?

Mike: I think that's a good question.  The easy answer is that C.I. covers it every day, several times every day, and does an excellent job of it.  But Betty, Ruth and I were on the phone last week and talking about how crazy things were in Iraq and how little coverage there was of that so we all wrote about it that night -- Betty with "The news today" and Ruth with "Another reason for concern in Iraq" -- and I think we should probably try to do that once a week.

Betty: I would agree with that.  There's a point in not writing about Iraq, to be clear.  This is something p.r. wizard Rebecca came up with long ago.  We all repost the snapshot at our sites so you've got Iraq amplified that way.  But if we write about something other than Iraq, we may get someone reading us who doesn't normally and when they're done with whatever topic we were going on about, they can read the Iraqi snapshot and be reminded that the suffering hasn't ended for Iraqis, not at all.

Ava: The biggest threat to Iraq currently?

Elaine: Nouri al-Maliki.  KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani made that call this weekend and I agree with it.

Betty: And it's really important -- it's vitally important -- that we grasp that the US government both installed him in 2006 and insisted he get a second term in 2010 -- despite the fact that the prime minister-designate in 2010 should have been a member of Iraqiya since they came in first in the elections and his State of Law came in second.

Elaine: Exactly.  The US government loves to talk democracy and they will even back that up if it happens to be in their interest.  It was not in the interest of the US government for their puppet Nouri to be replaced in 2010 so Barack Obama demanded Nouri get a second term.

Mike: Taking a giant crap on the Iraqi people, the votes, the Constitution and democracy in the process.

Ava: Trina?

Trina: I'm in complete agreement.  Nouri has proven to be a failure in his six years.  The Iraqi people are no safer, they still struggle with the most basic of public services, unemployment is off the charts and yet he's importing nurses and doctors from other countries instead of instituting a massive training program to allow Iraqis to become doctors and nurses?  He's a disgrace.  I'm sorry if I'm kind of out of it but I always loved "Bird On A Wire" and hadn't ever heard k.d. lang's version.

Ava: It's really a great mix, isn't it?

Trina: As soon as we're done with the roundtable, I'm going to Amazon and downloading a ton of k.d. tracks.  I have Ingenue but that's it.  I clearly need a great deal more.

Ava: And music is entertainment as well as nourishment.  On the topic of entertainment, Gossip Girl wrapped up last Monday night and Marcia wrote "Gossip Girl as it should have ended" offering her take on the show.  Marcia, we had 15 e-mails asking about that, specifically why you decided to do that and could you do it with another show?

Marcia: I guess I could.  I got such tremendous response from that post.  I watched the finale.  I was a huge fan of season one.  I struggled through season two and by season three they were on their own.  But I did watch the series finale and just felt like it was lacking several things including some honesty about sexuality.  So I wrote up, basically, a slash-fiction version.  I had the idea during the final scene when I realized nothing was going to end the way I thought it should.  As for doing it again, I have no problem if I've got some inspiration.

Ava: Good.  And we're going to wind down on that note.

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