Sunday, August 24, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Next door in Iraq, an emboldened Nouri al-Maliki waged his own sectarian campaign to consolidate power, betraying promises to his political partners to share it around. Within days of being welcomed at the White House and praised by Barack Obama for his leadership, Maliki returned to Baghdad to mastermind the arrest of his principal Sunni rival, vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi.
Supported by Iran and armed with US-made Humvees, M-16s, and M1A1 tanks, Maliki's forces closed in on Hashimi, only to see him flee to Kurdistan. Dozens of his guards were imprisoned on terrorism charges. At least one of them died under interrogation.
Another Christmas purge followed a year later, when a second prominent Sunni rival, the finance minister Rafea al-Essawi, found his home surrounded by Maliki's US-made tanks. He fled to the sanctuary of his tribe in Iraq's Anbar province, and was eliminated from Iraqi politics.

-- Ali Khedery, "How Isis came to be," (Guardian).

Truest statement of the week II

Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq this month, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be al-Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again.
To his likely successor, Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki will bequeath an Iraqi state that has reverted to the authoritarian muscle memory it developed under Saddam Hussein. But it will be a state that effectively controls not much more than half the territory Saddam did.
As al-Maliki and his loyalists succeeded in consolidating control of the government and pushing rivals out of power, they drove the constituencies of those they excluded -- especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds --  into political opposition or armed insurrection. Their drive for power alienated Iraqis across all communities from the central state whose wards and clients they had once been, leaving almost no provincial population trustful of the central government.

-- Dallas Morning News' editorial board, "The coming disintegration of Iraq" (Dallas Morning News).

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?

We never did the note last week in terms of discussing the articles -- a point a few readers complained about.  Woops.

Mike nominated this one.
And Trina brought this one to the table.
Does it matter if Nouri's gone when the press continues to use his reasoning?
Ava and C.I.  Hmm.  I (Jim) was hoping this would be an Iraq piece.  They told me they were doing entertainment only, that the readers would want that and that they knew what they were doing.  I'm sure they do but would have planned the edition differently had I known earlier.  ("Then you should have asked earlier," Ava just said.)
A new feature will be doing.  And on regular features, next week we'll have a Third Estate Test Kitchen piece.  We were working on that and another piece on books when the ground shook.  Not bad in this area, not like it was in Napa.  But we couldn't pick those pieces back up, the flow was dead.  We'll do them next week.

They were supposed to compliment our music and list focus this edition.  This is on dance music.
This is on disco.  I'll explain the lists in a "Jim's World" next week.
Taylor Swift gets a nod.

What we listened to this week.
Workers World repost.
Socialist Worker repost.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: The Nouri Press

For so many years now, various US outlets have refused to call Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki out (pictured below from 2009).


Now that US President Barack Obama has, they're eager to join the chorus.

But while they call out Nouri now, they continue to espouse his beliefs.

Take the ridiculous New York Times which published Ben Hubbard's "Response to Attack Reflects Iraq's Sectarian Divide" -- an article that didn't resemble reporting but did resemble Nouri's pronouncements.  The Sunnis, Hubbard informed readers, were being unreasonable for asking that things like the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods stop -- that the Baghdad government stop bombing homes in Falluja.

How is that unreasonable?

Is is established law that you 'terrorists' or 'fighters' or whatever you call them being in a city or town does not give you a right to bomb or attack civilians in the town.

Doing so is collective punishment.

The New York Times, if you're paying attention, is now on the side against international law, it's now embracing collective punishment which is legally defined as a War Crime.

For years, US outlets covered for Nouri al-Maliki and ignored calling out his crimes.  Now as they rebuke him, they continue to insist on embracing the thuggish behavior.

It is past time for the US peace movement to find its voice and demand that the bombing of civilian neighborhoods in Falluja cease.

If it doesn't happen and doesn't happen loudly before Nouri steps down (hopefully in about two weeks), the bombings will continue under the next Iraqi prime minister.


For a detailed response to Hubbard's ridiculous article, see "I Hate The War" at The Common Ills.

TV: Watch the viewers scatter

Last May, we noted the problems luring audiences to ABC's promising Black Box and "Americans don't like illness, the entire American culture is geared towards ignoring and avoiding any sickness."  The feedback from friends in the entertainment business was a long the lines of 'how insightful.'  No, not really.



We're just noting the obvious.

And it's even more obvious when it comes to sick children.

For example, many share the hostility Sharon Stone's character expresses in Diabolique -- anger that Kathy Bate's character acknowledges and discusses her breast cancer.  That's hostility isn't even shocking at this point but we were a little taken aback last December when we began hearing people complaining about St. Jude.

That's the non-profit hospital officially known as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital which Danny Thomas founded and which Marlo Thomas is now National Outreach Director of, does great work. And even the people complaining agreed on that when we asked them.

If the value of the work done and the necessity for the work wasn't in question, what was the problem?

The commercials with Jennifer Aniston and St. Jude's patients.

Where we saw happy kids who filled us with joy, some saw manipulation (some compared it to the infamous animal abuse PSA that used Sarah McLachlan's "Angel") while some saw realities they just didn't want to address  which really is the typical American attitude on most issues.

We thought about that as we watched The Red Hand Society, Fox's new hour long drama-comedy -- the pilot of which has been made available for streaming online for a brief time before the series debuts next month.

We've seen two episodes and read several scripts.

The people who can't handle the St. Jude commercial?

They're not going to be able to handle this series about a group of children with cancer.

Thing is, though, they're not the only ones who will have a problem.

Who the hell cast the 'juveniles'?

If you're not 18 or over and in you're in the cast, we're not talking about you.

(We don't criticize actors who aren't adults -- we offer neither negative or positive criticism of them.)

But a number are 18 and over and it's like the juvenile cast of Spielberg's Hook, you watch and wonder where in the world these thespians came from because they fail to resemble actual children.

They're like performers turned away for McDonald commercials for being too happy.  These performers were born and bred by Central Casting.

As they attempt to sparkle in every scene, you may have trouble remembering that they have cancer.  It's a detail the actors apparently struggle with remembering as well apparently confused that they are not starring in a new version of Glee set in a hospital.

We mentioned Spielberg's Hook earlier, this series is from Spielberg's production company and will only serve to remind you that the only child star Spielberg worked with whose career had legs was Drew Barrymore.  Worth noting there, she hails from an acting dynasty which includes Lionel, Ethel, John and Diana Barrymore as well as her late father John Drew Barrymore.  In addition, before she started filming Spielberg's ET, Drew had already received near universal praise for her film debut in Altered States.

There's no Drew among this cast.

If you move over to the adults who play adults, you have Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson and Brothers & Sisters' Dave Annable as Dr. Jack.

Not surprisingly, the two elevate every scene they're in.

Sadly, Nurse Jackson never grabs Jack and whispers, "Let's you and me play doctor."

That would make the show worth watching and not just because the two can act and then some.  In addition to that reality, there's also the fact that Spencer and Annable have the kind of chemistry casting directors go insane trying to discover.

But instead of exploring that rich terrain, we're left with the ah-they're-so-sugary-sweet-they-rot-my-teeth kids.

Will viewers stick around once the show starts airing?

We doubt it.

We have no idea why it even got a greenlight.

Is there a need for a series on this topic?


But no one should have thought a needed show on this topic would come from Steven Spielberg.

Aliens he can handle.  Sometimes sharks.

But this man who has worked with Academy Award winners like Goldie Hawn, Audrey Hepburn and Leonardo DiCaprio and only Goldie walked away with a film worth watching Sugarland Express.

His ability to handle special effects has never been in question but many of the other needed skills -- especially to handle a series on a topic like this -- just aren't there.

Tales of Bad Customers

A number of our readers work in customer service and share horror tales.  A few have jobs that require them to address customer service problems.  They love to share those.

A  reader who works with McDonald's shared the following:

Tell me which part of my visit was acceptable.  I was next in line and waiting for the couple ahead of me to order.  They do and walk off.  So does the woman (***?) working the register.  She goes to the front of the store and out the side door.  After a few minutes, she comes back in, walks behind the counter -- where I'm still waiting -- and to another female employee.  "Is he the one in the blue car?" she asks.  The other woman (working on putting an order in a sack nods) and '***' again walks out the door.  Minutes later, she's back in, explaining she couldn't get a good look and "I have to wait on the customer" said in a complaining voice.  
I'm sorry, is my attempt to order food interrupting your attempt to get paid for doing nothing?

She comes to the register and does not say "Welcome to McDonald's" or greet me unless opening with "What do you want?" is a greeting.

And to really be Worst Employee of the Month, she drums her fingers on the counter as she asks.

I stare at her drumming fingers until she stops drumming them.  

I then say, "I'll have a number six, large fries, large drink.  For here.  I'll also have a Buffalo Ranch McChicken."

She has entered nothing into the register but hands me a medium cup.

"I said large," I say.

She sighs.

Then she wants to know, "What number did you order?"

"The number six."

She now enters it while rolling her eyes.

"And what else did you want?"

At which point, I said I would go elsewhere and did.

This was awful

If you've got a tale of bad customer service, let us know at (or e-mail and note "For Third") and we'll share it.

The essential dance tracks

1) "Together Again" -- Janet Jackson

2) "Looking For A New Love" -- Jody Watley

3) "Believe" -- Cher.

4) "Move In The Right Direction" -- Gossip.

5) "outside" -- George Michael.

6) "Throb" -- Janet Jackson.

7) "Running Back To You" -- Vanessa Williams.

8) "Let The Music Play" -- Shannon.

 9) "Son of a gun" -- Janet Jackson (with Missy Elliott and Carly Simon).

10) "West End Girls" Pet Shop Boys (tie) "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" -- Janet Jackson.

In the world of dance music, Janet is the word.

Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty.

Running down a brief listing of the essential dance tracks, Janet places four songs on our top ten (eleven, there was a tie).

In the world of dance, Janet is the ultimate artist.

She's joined by other strong artists: George Michael, Jody Watley, Cher, Pet Shop Boys, Gossip, Vanessa Williams and Shannon.

In all cases, are selections were based on the dance mixes of the tracks and not the single that made the chart.

Yes, after the ultimate tracks above, we can easily think of ten more but the above are the ultimate and essential dance tracks.

The Disco Ten

1) "Upside Down -- Diana Ross.
2) "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" -- Michael Jackson. 
3)  "Heart of Glass" -- Blondie
4) "Love Hangover" -- Diana Ross. 
5) "Love to Love You Baby" -- Donna Summer.
6) "We Are Family" -- Sister Sledge
7) "Lead Me On"  -- Maxine Nightingale
8) "Rock The Boat (Don't Tip The Boat Over)," Hues Corporation. 
9) "Enough is Enough" Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.
10) "I Love The Night Life" -- Alicia Bridges

Springing from the discotheques of the sixties, disco took hold in the seventies and went on to birth dance music.

It took hold in the seventies and was so popular that everyone began doing disco songs: the Rolling Stones, Cher, Wings, Rod Stewart, Ethel Merman, David Bowie, ELO, Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow and many more.

Disco had many chart successes but the only artist to come to fame from the genre was Donna Summer who explored disco and took it as far as anyone could.  Two of her biggest hits make our list.

Diana Ross tops the list.  And lands another in the top ten.

Not a surprise.  The artist who shot to fame in the sixties was experimenting with disco elements as early as the sixties (The Supremes "You Keep Me Hanging On').  Diana would score other disco classics with "The Boss," "I'm Coming Out," "Your Love Is So Good For Me," "It's My House," "Once In The Morning," "I Ain't Been Licked," "No One Gets The Prize" and more.  The two on our list above both stormed to number one the Hot 100.  As a true artist moved into the genre and demonstrated what could still be done with the genre. 

Like Diana -- and to a lesser degree Blondie, Barbra Streisand was among the established artists who began recording disco.  She hit with the theme to her film The Main Event and followed that up with the monster hit on our list, her duet with Donna Summer which spent nine weeks at number one on the Hot 100.  

The Hues Corporation had their moment in time with their classic "Rock The Boat" while "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" was only the first of three disco hits he'd have in 1979 and, in 1982, he'd find even greater success as he moved over to dance music but we'd argue this song and "Rock With You" are the two finest Jackson ever recorded and demonstrated the true range of his talent better than anything he released before 1979.

Video of the month

Maybe your love life wasn't turned into a cheap joke by the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Michael J. Fox, but you can probably still relate to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

I go on too many dates  
But I can't make 'em stay
At least that's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop moving
It's like I got this music
In my mind
Singing, "It's gonna be alright."

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Taylor's new album 1989  drops October 27th.

This edition's playlist


1) Tori Amos's Unrepentant Geraldines.

2) Aimee Mann's @#%&*! Smilers.

3) Diana Ross' The Boss.

4) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

5)  Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

6) Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

7) Lone Justice's Shelter.

8) Tracy Chapman's Tracy Chapman.

9) Boy Hits Car's All That Led Us Here.

10) Prince's Dirty Mind.

U.S. expands military role in Iraq (John Catalinotto)

This is from Workers World:

U.S. expands military role in Iraq

By on August 21, 2014

Aug. 18 — This morning the Iraqi government forces claimed they had retaken control of the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq from the Islamic State fighters. The Iraqi army is reportedly fighting in alliance with the Peshmerga, the army of the authorities in the Kurdish area of Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan, as U.S. drones, jets and bombers strike I.S. targets from the air. The I.S. denies losing control of the dam. (BBC, Aug. 18)
It has become apparent that despite denials from U.S. spokespersons, and including President Barack Obama himself, Washington has reopened its direct military intervention in Iraq, including the potential use of U.S. ground forces. British and French intervention is unlikely to be far behind.

The U.S. bombed mostly trucks, armored vehicles and weapons that the U.S. had supplied the Iraqi army, which were then captured by the I.S. in the uprising that took the city of Mosul in June.

Washington and its European allies — especially the major imperialist countries: Britain, France and Germany — have been sending weapons and/or trucks directly to the Iraqi Kurdistan military for the past week. British warplanes are flying attack missions. The U.S. sent aid directly to the Kurdish regime rather than the national government in Baghdad, apparently to pressure Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki to resign, which he did on Aug. 15. Washington had backed Maliki’s rise to power, but he alienated most of the Iraqi population and outlived his usefulness to imperialism.

The Obama administration has dropped almost all pretense that the “humanitarian” rescue of the Yazidis from Mount Sinjar — a mountain range near Iraq’s border with Syria — is anything but a pretext. A U.S. military mission to Mount Sinjar reported that there were not so many people there after all and the U.S. would not send in a rescue mission. Yazidi spokespeople said there are still thousands in the mountains.

Neither U.S. forces nor the Peshmerga led tens of thousands of Yazidis off the mountain. Two Kurdish guerrilla armies did. These are the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a revolutionary socialist group fighting against Turkey for self-determination, and of the Syrian People’s Defense Units (YPG), which have been fighting I.S. and related forces in Syria.

Washington and Brussels define the PKK as a “terrorist” organization. Nevertheless, the Aug. 18 Wall Street Journal reported that PKK officials said they held discussions with U.S. officials about the fight against the I.S. in Iraq. As of Aug. 18, U.S. officers deny holding these talks and the U.S. and European Union refuse to remove the PKK from the “terrorist” list.

As we have made clear in earlier articles, Washington has had an ambivalent relation with al-Qaida and its offshoot, the I.S. In Afghanistan in the 1980s, in Libya and in Syria, the U.S. and its allies in NATO and the Arab monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates have funded and armed these narrow, reactionary forces to weaken or destroy governments that have opposed imperialist interests. The U.S. also uses the “terrorist” threat to mobilize the U.S. population to support military interventions.

Imperialist interests in Iraq

With the confusing mix of forces in play, it helps to bring up a quote from an imperialist politician from an earlier era, British Premier Benjamin Disraeli, who said: “We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests.”

So too has U.S. imperialism. Under the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to gain strategic control of Iraq’s energy resources, as under the Obama administration the U.S. bombed and sabotaged the Libyan government. Its interventions have failed to establish stable puppet regimes and, while U.S. interventions took oil and gas out of the hands of sovereign states and cut energy production, it left these resources outside firm imperialist control.

The Iraqi Kurdistan regime is composed of parties that have been cooperating with the CIA since the 1970s. The Kurdish-based regime in northern Iraq is currently the only stable U.S. client in the country. With about a third of Iraq’s oil reserves, the Kurdish region of Iraq has become the center of Western investment and its capital, Erbil, has attracted imperialist consulates as large as their embassies in Baghdad.

Reports indicate that the 200,000 barrels of oil produced daily in Iraqi Kurdistan will reach 250,000 next year. Obama told the New York Times’ Tom Friedman in an Aug. 8 interview: “The Kurdish region is functional in the way we would like to see. … So we do think it is important to make sure that that space is protected.”

What motivates U.S. imperialism is not the protection of Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, the Kurdish population, or the Iraqi Muslims of Shiite or Sunni sects that the I.S. threatens. Only Washington’s energy interests are what motivate Pentagon intervention.

These interests benefit only a narrow sector of the U.S. superrich bankers and owners of the oil monopolies. U.S. workers and the poor of all nationalities, who may be called on again to be the killers and cannon fodder in a war that threatens all Iraqis, don’t share these interests.

Right now, U.S. airstrikes are blowing up U.S. armor captured by the I.S. While this is an ideal situation for the profits of the military-industrial complex, the Pentagon generals know it won’t establish U.S. control of Iraq. However much Obama promises “no troops on the ground,” everything points to a renewed military intervention by U.S. troops.

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Arming the Kurds won't stop Iraq's brutal civil war (Ken Olende)

This is from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Arming the Kurds won’t stop Iraq’s brutal civil war

It will be a disaster for Iraq’s Kurds if the West succeeds in hijacking their cause, argues Ken Olende

Peshmerga women fighters in Kurdistan
Peshmerga women fighters in Kurdistan (Pic: Jan Sefti/Flikr)

David Cameron has announced that Britain will arm Kurdish forces fighting the growth of the reactionary Islamic State group in Iraq. 

Many on the left think this a good alternative to direct Western intervention, which has been responsible for the spread of sectarianism in the region.

The Kurds live in an area divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and have been fighting for a Kurdish state. Socialists support this struggle.

But only Western imperialism will benefit if in the process the Kurds become a pawn in the spiralling conflict.
Injecting Western arms will not stop Iraq’s slide into sectarian civil war.

The West has always defended its own interests in the region through backing brutal dictators.

The US backed the rise of Saddam Hussein and the war he launched against neighbouring Iran in the 1980s. His brutal suppression of Iraqi Kurds led Kurdish guerrillas, the Peshmerga, to fight on Iran’s side.

Hussein’s forces got revenge with the chemical attack on the city of Halabja in northern Iraq in 1988.

This killed around 5,000 Kurdish people.

The US government did not call for “humanitarian” intervention. It blocked serious investigations into its ally’s war crime.

By 1991 the US had fallen out with the Iraqi regime, and armed Peshmerga forces during its first invasion of Iraq.

But its Nato ally Turkey had been fighting a guerrilla war against Kurdish separatists for a decade. It was determined that no Kurdish state should be established.

The US has attempted ever since to make sure the Kurds in northern Iraq are strong enough to help US interests, but too weak to threaten Turkey.

The war that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s showed the reality of the West arming rebels.
Nato called for “humanitarian” support for Kosovans who were being attacked by Serb forces.

The British prime minister Tony Blair said in 1999 that a “new generation” of world leaders was enforcing “a new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated”.

Many on the left knew that bombing would not help, but thought that arming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas was an alternative.

The bombing went ahead and the KLA was armed.

But far from supporting a multi-ethnic society, the Nato intervention oversaw the expulsion of 200,000 Serbs and Roma from Kosovo. The KLA was among the most enthusiastic ethnic cleansers.

More recently, after the Syrian revolution the US set out to find “trustworthy rebel partners” to arm.

The CIA offered support to sections of the opposition in September of last year. The US wanted “moderates”. This excluded both Islamist fighters and revolutionaries.

Isis, as the Islamic State was then known, used the threat of Western intervention to declare war on rebels.

One opposition fighter in Homs said, “We know that this is a pretext for them to interfere in our country to end our revolution and attack the revolutionaries.”

Already in some parts of northern Iraq protests have taken place demanding the expulsion of Arabs from Kurdish areas, as if they were all Islamic State supporters.

Poor nationalist movements can’t always choose who to source arms from.

But despite the horror at what the Islamic State is doing, Western intervention will only prolong the fighting and intensify the divisions.


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.

"Iraq snapshot" -- most requested highlight.

"Let's Be Cops" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"Steve Grand wants you to stay," "Stevie Nicks' Wild Heart," "Carly," and  "Diana Ross" -- Kat, Elaine and Betty cover music.


"Enough is Enough," "love to love you baby," "Upside Down," "Love Hangover," "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and "I Love The Night Life" -- get to dancing or, in the words of Prince, shut up already, damn!

"He's got troubles" and "THIS JUST IN! GUTLESS!" -- the tough little tiger.

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