Friday, December 19, 2008

No use for Margaret Kimberley

Stan's "Margret Kimberley, The Black Apologist" went up earlier this week and I agree 100%. Not only do I agree, my father does as well and has been making similar comments for several months now. (C.I.'s quoted my father at The Common Ills on this without naming MK as the person my dad was talking about.)

I don't know what Margaret Kimberley's problem is but as someone who has worked on the issue of getting my community (the Black community) to start addressing homophobia, I don't need her crap, I don't need her ignorance and I don't need her excuses. Nor do I want any of the three.

She is messing with people's lives. She's done damn little at Black Agenda Report or, prior to that, at The Black Commentator to ever call out homophobia in the Black community and I'm damn tired of her and tired of how loose she is with the facts (my father's loudest criticism of her).

It's not cutting it and if Margaret Kimberely wants to become the Apologist for homophobia in the Black community, she will do so without my help.

I will not highlight her until she address the very serious issue of homophobia in the community. I doubt she will so I am done highlighting her. She will never get a Truest at Third (I will always use my vote to ban her), she will not get attention from other sites in this community (ibid).

I have no use for this crap.

Before I was an adult, I discovered someone in my family was gay and that may be why I take the issue seriously. Not just personally, I take it seriously. Since then, I have called out homophobia in my own personal life, at work and at church. I have done my part (small as it and I am) to make sure homophobia isn't ignored or shoved aside or justified.

So I'll be damned if I'll pretend Margaret Kimberley's done anything brave or of value.

Her apologies say to a community still in deep denial about their homophobia, "It's not you, it's the gays. And the straights. Ignore your responsibility on the Proposition Eight vote in California because someone else could have stepped up."

That's what it says and as someone who's worked on this issue at length, I can tell you that was the message received by every bigot who doesn't want to confront reality but would rather tell themselves it's a-okay to be homophobic.

C.I. had a wonderful thing last night that just makes me so proud and she's exactly right. Homophobia is something feminists HAVE to call out.

I'll add some reasons why we have to:

1) Some of us are lesbians and we need to be supportive.

2) Feminism is about women's self-determination and a woman should be able to sleep with any adult she wants to (or not to sleep with them). A woman expressing her sexuality in any regard is a woman utilizing her power.

3) In the eyes of the haters, we're all lesbians anyway so we can trash the illusions right now that as straight-feminists we're better liked. We aren't.

4) Women remain responsible for most child rearing. All this time later. We have and raise or raise the young girls and boys. Some are lesbians, some are gay boys. We need to ensure that they grow up in a world that is fair.

I'm sure you can add many more reasons to the list. Probably some better ones than what I've thought up.

However, there is no reason or excuse to minimize homophobia in the Black community or to write a damn column that tells the community not to worry about homophobia because it's not really a problem.

I have no use for Margaret Kimberley until she writes a column demanding accountability for homophobia in the Black community.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 19, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Thursday's arrests for a 'coup' appear even more questionable, a journalist's injuries are finally noted, and more.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released their first report since May 2007 this week. As
they note in their Tuesday press release, they are calling for Iraq to "be designated as a 'country of particular concern' (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), in light of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom and the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses, particularly abuses against Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities. . . . The situation is especially dire for Iraq's smallest religious minorities, including ChaldoAssyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis." Yazidis were the most recently known to be targeted with a late Sunday night, early Monday morning home invasion in a village outside of Mosul that saw 7 members of the same family shot dead. Mosul and the immediate surrounding area have especially been active with acts of violence aimed at religious minorities since this summer. The report is entitled "Iraq Report - 2008" and it is not in PDF format (and it displays as a single page). The report notes, "Like Mandaens, Yazidis as a community are particularly vulnerable to annihilation because one can only be born into the Yazidi religion." The report notes flyers posted around Mosul in 2004 promising "divine awards awaited those who killed Yazidis". On Iraqi Christians, the report notes, "The most recent attacks took place in the northern city of Mosul in late September/early October 2008, when at lest 14 Christians were killed and many more report they were threatened, spurring some 13,000 individuals to flee to villages east and north of the city and an estimated 400 families to flee to Syria. The United Nations has estimated that this number is half of the current Christian population in Mosul. Those who met with displaced Christians were told that Christians had received threatening text messages and had been approached by strangers asking to see their national indentity cards, which show religious affiliation. At the time of this writing, the attackers had not been identified, and Chrisian leaders had called for an international investigation." They also note the half of returnees in November when 2 young Christian girls were killed and their mother wounded. The Mandaeans are estimated to number between 3,500 to 5,000 in Iraq currently after following "almost 90 percent reportedly having either fled the country or been killed". Mandaen women have been kidnapped, raped, forced into marriage with non-Mandeans and "forced to wear the hijab" while Manaean "boys have been kidnapped and forcibly circumcised, a sin in the Mandean religion." The Baha'i population is noted briefly and said to number approximately 2,000 while the Jewish population is said to have fallen to ten -- ten who must "live essentially in hiding." Previous reports and press reports in past years has noted a concentration in Baghdad and, as the numbers fell due to deaths (from violent attacks) and due to fleeing the country, the small number remaining were said to be elderly. The report makes no mention of the age of the ten.

The report notes:

Nineveh governorate, however, especially in and around Mosul, remains one of the most dangerous and unstable parts of Iraq. Insurgent and extremist activity continues to be a significant problem there, and control of the ethnically and religiously mixed area is disputed between the KRG and the central Iraqi government. While violence overall in Iraq decreased in 2007 and 2008, the Mosul area remains what U.S. and Iraqi officials call the insurgents' and extremists' last urban stronghold, with continuing high levels of violence.D Increased security operations by U.S. and Iraqi forces have led to some decrease in the violence in and around Mosul, but the area remains very dangerous, as evidenced by the October attacks on Christian residents, which killed at least 14 Christians and spurred the flight of 13,000 from Mosul to surrounding areas. According to the September 2008 U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress, "[d]uring the past few years, Mosul has been a strategic stronghold for [al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)], which also needs Mosul for its facilitation of foreign fighters. The current sustained security posture, however, continues to keep AQI off balance and unable to effectively receive support from internal or external sources, though AQI remains lethal and dangerous."D According to the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, from April 1 to July 1, 2008, there were 1,041 reported attacks in Nineveh governorate and from July 1 to September 30, 2008, there were 924 attacks, still a significant number.

This situation has been exacerbated by Arab-Kurdish tensions over control of Mosul and other disputed areas in Nineveh governorate. The dispute stems from Kurdish claims and efforts to annex territories-including parts of the governorates of Kirkuk (Tamim), Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Waset-into the KRG, on the basis of the belief that these areas historically belong to Kurdistan. During the Saddam Hussein era, Kurds and other non-Arabs were expelled from these areas under his policy of "Arabization." Since 2003, Kurdish peshmerga and political parties have moved into these territories, effectively establishing de facto control over many of the contested areas. Key to integrating the contested areas into Kurdistan is Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which calls for a census and referendum in the territories to determine their control. In this context, military or financial efforts undertaken by either Kurdish officials or Arab officials (whether in Baghdad or local) is seen by the other group as an effort to expand control over the disputed areas, leading to political disputes and deadlock.

The commission states there are 2 million external Iraqi refugees and 2.8 million internal refugees. On external refugees, the report explains:

Between November 2007 and May 2008, the Commission traveled to Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Sweden to meet with Iraqi asylum-seekers, refugees, and IDPs. These vulnerable and traumatized individuals provided accounts of kidnapping, rape, murder, torture, and threats to themselves, their families, or their community. While the vast majority of interviewees could not identify the perpetrators, they suspected various militias and extremist groups of committing these acts, and often provided specific identifying details.

Non-Muslim minority refugees told the Commission that they were targeted because they do not conform to orthodox Muslim religious practices and/or because, as non-Muslims, they are perceived to be working for the U.S.-led coalition forces. Members of these communities recounted how they, as well as other members of their families and communities, had suffered violent attacks, including murder, torture, rape, abductions for ransom or forced conversion, and the destruction or seizure of property, particularly businesses such as liquor stores or hair salons deemed un-Islamic. They also reported being forced to pay a protection tax and having been forced to flee their homes in fear after receiving threats to "convert, leave, or die." In addition, they told of their places of worship being bombed and forced to close and their religious leaders being kidnapped and/or killed.

Sunni and Shi'a Muslim refugees told of receiving death threats, of family members being killed, of kidnappings, of their houses being burned down, and of forced displacements. Some refugees reported being targeted because of jobs held by them or their relatives, either connected to the U.S. government or to the Ba'athist regime. Other refugees spoke of being targeted because they were part of a mixed Muslim marriage or because their family was Sunni in a predominately Shi'a neighborhood or vice versa. Many stated that the sectarian identities of their relatives and friends were either not known or not important before 2003, and several spoke of their families including both Sunnis and Shi'as and of the diverse nature of neighborhoods before the sectarian violence. One refugee woman told the Commission that, after her son was kidnapped and returned to her, she received a phone call from a government official who knew the exact details of the kidnapping and who told her that her entire family should leave Iraq. When they got their visas to go to Syria, their passports were stamped "no return." Because of this incident, she alleged to the Commission that the government must have been involved in the violence directed at her family.

Adelle M. Banks (Religion News Service) observes, "Commissioners encouraged President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration to make prevention of abuse a high priority and to seek safety for all Iraqis and fair elections. They also asked the U.S. government to appoint a special envoy for human rights in Iraq and Iraqi officials to establish police units for vulnerable minority communities. They also seek changes in Iraq's constitution, which currently gives Islam a preferred status, to strengthen human rights guarantees." Tom Strode (Baptist Press) quotes the committee's chair, Felice Gaer, stating in Tuesday's press conference, "The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities." UPI notes, "The commission also condemned a decision to reduce the representation allocated to members of the minority religious community in the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for January."

Meanwhile in Iraq,
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports, "Muslim preachers from both sides of Iraq's once-bloody Sunni-Shi'ite divide appealed to the government on Friday to release the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. Preisdent George W. Bush." The latest voices calling for Muntadar al-Zeidi's release sound out as his injuries become less of a whispered aside and more of a centeral issue. Nico Hines (Times of London) reported early this morning that Judge Dhia al-Kinani has declared "he would find out who beat" Muntadhar and that al-Kinani "said that Mr al-Zeidi 'was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him'." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes "bruises on his face and around his eyes" and, as for the alleged letter, adds: "A spokesman for al-Maliki said Thursday that the letter contained a specific pardon request. But al-Zeidi's brother Dhargham told The AP that he suspected the letter was a forgery." Timothy Williams and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) report, "The government did not release the letter, and a lawyer for the reporter said that during a conversation with him on Wednesday the reporter did not tell her about it. But the lawyer, Ahlam Allami, also said the reporter, Muntader al-Zaidi, had told her he had never meant to insult the Iraqi government or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki when he hurled his shoes at the president during a news conference with the two leaders on Sunday." CBS and AP note, "CBS News Baghdad producer Randall Joyce says al-Zeidi has been kept completely out of the reach of his legal representation and his family since the show-throwing incident late on Sunday - a fact which typifies a deeply flawed Iraqi justice system." Wednesday saw the Iraqi Parliament end a session with the Speaker threatening/vowing to quit. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "Parliament speaker Mahmoud al Mashhdani threatened to resign at one point during Wednesday's debate over Zaidi's status. Anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr's party pressed Zaidi's case. . . . Mashhani's colleagues refused to convene when they saw him return to parliament on Thursday, several of them said [Muhsin al] Saddon said he expects the political parties to accept Mashhdani's resignation Saturday, after which they'd appoint a new parliament leader. Others aren't so sure that Mashhdani will step down."

No one appears very sure of what happened with yesterday's arrests ordered at the Ministry of the Interior ordered by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. Today Interior Minister Jawad Bolani held a press conference and
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) quotes him stating, "It is a big lie. The public must understand this." He was speaking of the whispers that a coup was being plotted by those arrested. Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explain that several MPs are raising the issue that the arrests were for political reasons, specifically "an attempt by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to demonstrate his power." They also note this basic fact, "On Thursday, senior government officials continued to provide contradictory explanations for the detentions." What is known, the reporters point out, is that:

Maliki has steadily consolidated his power this year. In March, he ordered the military to combat Shiite militias and assert government control over the southern city of Basra, a goal that Iraqi forces accomplished with help from the U.S.-led coalition. Since then, Maliki has sought to tighten his grip across the country. His brokering of a U.S-Iraq security pact that requires the American forces to withdraw by the end of 2011 has bolstered his popularity among many Iraqis.

Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) speak with MPs such as Mahmoud Othma who states of the arrests, "This reminds me of the old regime. It's confusing. First they were saying coup d'etat . . . It's not clear what is going on. I'm afraid this may have some political ends from the government, maybe from the prime minister." Campbell Robertson and Tareq Maher (New York Times) advise, "The conflicting accounts of the operation prompted an urgent question from Mr. Maliki's critics: Were the arrests politically motivated, carried out as a way for Mr. Maliki to weaken his rivals before the nationwide provincial elections planned for next month? Suspicions were fueled by reports that a counterterrorism force overseen directly by Mr. Maliki was part of the operation, though several officials denied it." Thursday's snapshot incorrectly had Tareq Maher's first name dictated (by me) as "Tariq" -- that was my mistake. My apologies. Oliver August (Times of London) refers to the events as "a sectarian turf war" and observes, "The power struggle exposed the deep sectarian faultlines in the Iraqi Government. . . . A source in the ministry and a member of the Constitution party, told The Times: 'This is a move against our party. They are trying to get all the Sunni officers out of the ministry. It's a political game, not a coup." Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report Nineveh Province voted to delay provincial elections but that vote isn't being headed by the Electoral Commission whose deputy head Osama al-Ani states, "No one has the right to delay the provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31 except for the prime minister . . . with the approval of parliament." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) breaks the news that all arrested have been "released without charge" according to Jawad al-Bonai.

In England,
Andrew Grice (Independent of London) details "a political storm" following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's rejection of an Iraq War inquiry declaring it not "right" at the current time, "Opposition parties believe Mr Brown is keen to ensure the full investigation does not report until after the next general election, which must be held by June 2010. Although the controversial 2003 invasion was seen as 'Tony Blair's war', Mr Brown has backed it and said he would not have acted differently."

Meanwhile tensions and bombings continue on Iraq's northern border.
Delphine Strauss (Financial Times of London) noted Thursday that Turkey continued air strikes on northern Iraq -- targeting the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) for the second day in a row. UPI added, "The Turkish General Staff said it bombed several positions in the Qandil Mountains belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK." Despite statements of joint-commissions -- Iraq, Turkey and the US -- being set up to address the issue of the PKK -- designated a terrorist organization by many nations including the US as well as by the European Union -- no such committee has yet to be created. Reuters observes, "Around 40,000 people have been killed in fighting between the PKK and the military since 1984, when the PKK took up arms to establish an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey." Hurriyet reported that Hoshyar Zebari (Foreign Minister) is among the Iraqi officials expected to travel to Turkey shortly and Sunni vice president Tariq al Hashimi is another but that Turkish President Abdullah Gul suffers from "an ear problem that makes flying difficult." Zebari most recently (December 16th) met with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayied Al-Nhayan, the United Arab Emirate's Foreign Minister, at the UN as part of the Ministry's continued diplomatic outreach. And while the much-touted joint-talks amongst Iraq, Turkey and the US seem stalled or forgotten, Hidir Goktas (Reuters) reports, "Kurdish leaders from Turkey and Iraq will hold a peace conference aimed at ending decades of violence by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group, the head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party said."

And tensions remain around the mercenary corporation Blackwater which is responsible for the deaths of many Iraqis -- most infamously the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad. (
AP is trumpeting radio logs -- Blackwater radio logs -- 'back up' Blackwater's actions.) Luis Martinez (ABC News) observes, "The controversial security firm Blackwater may have to cease its operations in Iraq come Jan. 1, 2009. Despite four separate federal grand jury investigations of its operations, Blackwater has continued to provide security services for the U.S. State Department. . . . Numerous officials tell that the State Department has approved a long-term contingency plan to hire as many as 800 security personnel to ultimately replace its private security contractors. These "Security Protection Specialists" would receive limited immunity because they would be State Department employees. They will not be considered Diplomatic Security agents because they will not have arrest powers and will not be investigators." It's a shame that the Marines are good enough to protect US Embassies but apparently not considered good enough to protect the State Dept in war zones.

Staying with violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that resulted in "three policemen and three civilians" being wounded.


Reuters notes 7 "decomposing, severed heads and two decomposing bodies" were discovered in Baghdad today.

Turning to the US,
Yesterday's snaphot noted Elisabeth Bumiller's reporting on Petraeus and Odierno's 'plan' for Iraq and what it means compared to Barack's alleged campaign promise (16 months for a withdrawal!). Today Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports on the issue and since "troops" was always just combat troops for Barack, Barnes documents a novel way to reconcile the generals and Barack:
The two plans could be squared by moving to reclassify, or "re-mission," U.S. troops still in Iraq after 16 months to change combat forces to training units or residual forces, according to military officials. Already, military officials have reassigned combat infantry soldiers and Marines to training jobs. Combat forces still in Iraq after May 2010 would probably be needed more for training missions in any case, officials have said.As we've long noted, the classification is meaningless and can be abused. Barnes is documenting a proposal to abuse it. Hey, if Barack declares the 149,000 US troops currently in Iraq "police" or "training" ones on January 21st, he can claim he completed his 'withdrawal' of combat troops in one day!
Staying with the president-elect, wowOwow notes "
Firestorm Reactions to Obama's Pick of Anti-Gay Rev. Rick Warren Role in Inauguration" and explains that 'it's his outspoken opposition toward abortion and gay marriage that has many human-rights activists, lesbian and gay activists finding [Rick] Warren's presence at Obama's inauguration a slap in the face." At The New Agenda, Violet Socks explains:

An almost all-male
Cabinet. A speechwriter who thinks sexual assault is funny. A senior advisor who's on record with his belief that innate inferiority, not discrimination, is what's keeping women back.
And now, with another twist of the knife, President-elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the Inaugural.
Rick Warren.
Most of the
outrage surrounding this choice focuses on Warren's opposition to gay marriage and reproductive rights. But there's something else about Warren, something the women of America might like to ponder as they watch this worthy pray aloud at our new President's swearing-in: this is a man who believes that wives should be subservient to their husbands. Marriage is not an equal partnership, in Warren's view, but a dominance hierarchy, a union between a superior and an inferior. Kind of like a boss with one employee.
As explained on Warren's
Ministry Toolbox site by Beth Moore, a suitably submissive wife: "It is a relief to know that as a wife and mother I am not totally responsible for my family. I have a husband to look to for counsel and direction. I can rely on his toughness when I am too soft and his logic when I am too emotional."

Those wanting or preferring video can
click here for CBS' The Early Show video where Harry Smith discusses the issue with David Corn and Robert Jeffries. "Excuse me, this is a serious civil rights issue in this country," Harry Smith says when Jeffries tries to turn it into a joke and good for Harry Smith. Women's Media Center chooses to go the pathetic and useless route: "Disappointed By Obama's Rick Warren Pick, But Not Discouraged." In other words, please don't break my arm and blacken my eye, just blacken my eye. Pathetic. They offer that in their "Daily News Brief" (it's nothing but a link to content outside WMC). A record number of e-mails came in today regarding the trojan at WMC. Women's Media Center not only does not get a link here, it is pulled from all community sites. If you've visited it this week, scan your computer for virus. NOW -- who has been extremely disappointing to put it mildly -- did offer "We HOPE You Will CHANGE Your Mind:"

Today, we are disheartened that one of the voices that may be privileged to be part of this historic moment is that of Rick Warren. His delivering the invocation would be an insult to all of us, women and men, who support women's right to self-determination. His presence is offensive to all of us, gay and straight, who support equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
We understand your desire to engage people from opposing sides of many issues. But dialogue requires treating your opponents with respect. Rick Warren has compared abortion to the Holocaust and stated that he would not vote for a "Holocaust denier." He implies that those of us who support abortion rights are equivalent to Nazis.
Rick Warren worked to take away the rights of LGBT people in California by supporting Proposition 8, calling it a "moral issue that God has spoken clearly about" and stating the "homosexual marriage is one of the five issues that are not negotiable." He calls LGBT people "unnatural."
Words do matter, President-elect Obama. Words lifted you to the White House and all of us to a place where we felt included in your vision. By choosing Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration you have deeply offended progressive people who worked and voted for you in record numbers. This is not the tone we hoped you would set on this historic day - and giving a platform to a messenger of intolerance does not send a message of acceptance and change.
There are limitless opportunities for your administration to work with people who do not agree on every issue, but who nonetheless agree that we must end poverty, address climate change, and achieve human rights for all. We are deeply disappointed that you have made a different choice and hope that you will reconsider Rick Warren's inclusion in this important and historic celebration.
President-elect Obama, you can still select a minister who will speak to our collective vision for hope, change and the promise that we will all be part of this great country, and we urge you to do just that.

Not as weak or pathetic as WMC (silent except for tossing out a link) but not as strong as the National Organization for Women should be. It is the National Organization for Women, not the National Organization for Obama. If you want to see really pathetic, check out the types
Ashley Smith and Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) encounter at the convention of United for Piss & Injustice. UPFJ has done nothing for two years and plans to do nothing for four. They are pathetic. Leslie, I am personally ashamed of you. Of people quoted in the article, only Iraqi-American Zaineb Alani can hold their head high:

Local actions are not loud enough. The media will not cover them, and so the message will be silence. I am for mass action this spring in Washington where all the decisions are made with regard to economic and foreign policy.
With all this talk of change in Washington, the Iraqi people do not see any change. They're not going to see any change in the next three years because they will still be under occupation. The SOFA [status of forces agreement] is full of loopholes. We do not know what is coming. All the Iraqi people can hear is silence in Washington.

Public broadcasting notes. Yesterday
Gwen Ifill participated in the online chat at the Washington Post. There's much to amuse and I'll leave it at that and carry it over to Third for Sunday. Gwen's Washington Week airs on PBS and, in most markets, airs tonight. Her guests include Washington Post's Michael Fletcher, Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and the Bobsey Twins John Dickerson and John Harwood -- even their hairdresser can't tell them apart. NOW on PBS also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings) and their focus is slavery in Nepal where "many families in western Nepal have been forced to sell their daughters, some as young as six, to work far from home as bonded servants in private homes. With living conditions entirely at the discretion of their employers, these girls seldom attend school and are sometimes forced into prostitution." Journalist Sarah Chayes speaks with Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal which also begins airing tonight on PBS in most markets. Chayes is probably the American journalist most knowledgable of Afghanistan. The Journal's Michael Winship notes:

The amount is $904 billion -- that's how much we've spent on American military operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, since the 9/11 attacks; 50 percent more than what was spent in Vietnam, reports the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Their study does not include the inestimable toll in human life. Of that money, nearly 200 billion has gone to Afghanistan, where 31,000 American troops are nearly 60 percent of the NATO peacekeeping force. When he becomes President, as promised during his campaign, Barack Obama will oversee the deployment of at least another 20,000 troops there. This has been the deadliest year for American forces in Afghanistan since the war began. Our military faces a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda, better trained, better armed, supported from sanctuaries in Pakistan. But in
an op-ed piece in last Sunday's Washington Post, Sarah Chayes -- the former National Public Radio reporter who has lived in Kandahar province since shortly after 9/11 -- argued that America's and Afghanistan's biggest problem comes from within -- our continuing support of a corrupt and abusive Afghan government that's driving its people back into the arms of the fundamentalists. Chayes, who organized a co-op of Afghan men and women making skin care products from herbs and botanicals as an alternative to the opium poppy trade, wrote, "I hear from Westerners that corruption is intrinsic to Afghan culture, that we should not hold Afghans up to our standards. I hear that Afghanistan is a tribal place, that it has never been, and can't be, governed. But that's not what I hear from Afghans."Chayes followed up that article with an interview conducted by my colleague Bill Moyers on the latest edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. She told him that the United States and its NATO allies have had to convince themselves and public opinion in each of their countries that "this is a democratically elected representative government [in] Afghanistan in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops. But the Afghans see it differently."What they see instead, she said, is a restoration to power under President Hamid Karzai of the gunslinging, crooked warlords who were repudiated when the Taliban first started taking over vast parts of the country a few years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The "appalling behavior" of officials in the current government, including rampant bribery, extortion and violence, is a serious factor in the Taliban resurgence -- it's estimated that they now have a "permanent presence" in 72 percent of the country, according to one think tank, the International Council on Security and Development.
On broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday,
60 Minutes:SchwarzeneggerThe former Hollywood action star-turned California governor may be facing his most formidable foe in a $40 billion state budget gap caused by the economic decline. Scott Pelley reports.
Screening The TSAAre the hassles passengers endure at airport security checkpoints really making them safer? The Transportation Security Administration says they are, but a security adviser who has advised them says those measures are "security theater." Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
The OrphanageIvory is selling for nearly $1,000 a tusk, causing more elephants to be slaughtered and more orphaned babies in need of special care provided by an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Bob Simon reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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the washington postsudarsan raghavanqais mizheroliver augustthe new york timescampbell robertsontareq maherned parkersaif hameedthe los angeles timesmcclatchy newspapershussein kadhimoliver august
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randall joycewashington weeknow on pbspbssarah chayesbill moyers journal

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The New Adventures of Old Christine

The New Adventures of Old Christine is a CBS sitcom that now airs Wednesdays and it's one of the few shows I can watch and enjoy in every way. First of all, it is funny and in these days of so many not funny sitcoms that needs to be said. I laugh out loud when I watch, including tonight. The second thing is I can watch with my kids.

I'm not concerned with "kid appropriate" in terms of a kissing or make out scene. I could care less. But I do care that my kids see someone like them on TV. Christine's best friend is Barb who is played by Wanda Sykes. My daughter loves Wanda. It doesn't matter whether she understands what Wanda's saying or not -- she's young and some of the jokes are over her head -- because after Wanda speaks, my daughter just lets loose a laugh and says, "She's so funny, Mommy."

Let me back up and explain we have church on Wednesday night. So I have to record the show and then we have to make time to watch when we get home. I wouldn't do that for any other show but why should I bother with most? How I Met Your Mother? My kids will see someone on that show who looks like them? No. In fact, there's not another sitcom on broadcast TV that features an African-American character in a large role except 30 Rock where Tracy Morgan plays a stupid, spoiled stereotype each week. You always get to laugh at that 'crazy' Tracy Morgan and his pop-eyes and "Ooooh, Lordy, ma kids be trying to kill me!" Or "Ooooh, Lordy, there be a conspiracy against me!!!!" It's really pathetic and it goes to how racist Tina Fey is that she's written a character like that.

Tracy Morgan plays an Amos and Andy role and does it for White people. It's so insulting. And it didn't just happen. It was one thing the first year to think, "Oh, they're all new characters. Yeah, Tracy's playing a tricky role but they'll improve on it." They never did and they made it worse. When Liz Lemmon (Fey) was in love and looking at places to live outside NYC, they had Tracy playing crazy and running from the media mob. It's ridiculous.

It's insulting and it's racist and Tina Fey needs to be called out the NAACP for how she is portraying African-Americans. I'm not joking there and I would not let my children watch that show.

I don't care if people make out on TV (broadcast TV). It won't bother me. But I am not having my children think it's normal to see Steppin Fetchit in this day and age and that's all 30 Rock offers.

Barb, by contrast, is a modern woman with ideas and thoughts of her own. She's usually the smartest character in the room. She's a strong friend to Christine.

Yes, she's funny and I love her for that. But as a mother, I love that my kids can watch her and I don't have to cringe.

My daughter is my youngest. My sons are older and my oldest gets all the jokes -- including the more adult ones -- and loves the show.

It really is the perfect show and the cast is wonderful. Julia's a wonderful star and, as I've said at Third many, many times, her character does many a Mom thing that I relate to and identify with.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 17, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Gordon Brown captures headlines, justice in Iraq remains a joke, the State Dept appears to publicly being doing everything they can to ensure the creation of a martyr, and more.

Muntathar al Zaidi is the journalist who threw his shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States on Sunday and has been imprisoned since.
Jenan Hussein and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report on today's actions in support of Muntathar which included, "Students raised their shoes and threw rocks at American soldiers, who reportedly opened fire above the crowd. Protesters said that indirect fire wounded one student, Zaid Salih. U.S. forces haven't confirmed the account." Demonstrations have been taking place throughout Iraq since Monday demanding the release of the journalist and they continued today when, AP reported this morning, Muntadar was expected to see his case taken to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq today where it would be determined whether or not futher judicial review is needed, with some calling for him to be charged "with insulting a foreign leader, a charge that carries a maximum of 2 years imprisonment or a small fine."
Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) explained that "Iraqi criminal lawyers not involved in the case say there are several possible charges he could face, including initiating an aggressive act against the head of a foreign state on an official visit, with a potential punishment of seven years in prison. A less severe charge, insulting the leader of a foreign nation, carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a fine of 200 Iraqi dinars, about 17 cents. A third possible crime, simple aggression, is punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine." Catherine Philp (Times of London) reports on a new development, "The brother of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who secured his place in infamy with his outburst at the President's press conference in Baghdad, claimed that the Shia journalist had been so badly beaten in custody that police were unable to produce him in court.
Mr al-Zeidi's family were told that a court hearing had been held in his jail cell instead and that they would not be allowed to see him for at least another eight days." Dargham al-Zeidi is quoted stating, "That means my brother was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court."
BBC quotes Muntadhar's brother Uday al-Zeidi stating, "We waited until 10 in the morning but Muntadar did not show up. Upon inquiring as to his whereabouts, we were told that the interrogating judge had gone to see him, something that contradicts the measures followed in all international laws in general."

While Dana Perino,
speaking for the White House Tuesday, has made clear the White House's position ("So we hold no hard feelings about it, and we've really moved on"), the US State Dept continues to appear caught off guard. Monday spokesperson Robert Wood declared, "I mean, look at how President Bush was received overall by Prime Minister Maliki and others in the Iraqi government. I think it says a lot." Today, Wood continued to spin when asked if the US was taking a position on the case, "That's -- look -- this all happened in the context of Iraq's democracy and that will be a decision for the Iraqis as to whether or not this person is charged. . . . But look, Iraq's a democracy, these type of things happen in a democracy and that's all I can say about it." Challenged that he was avoiding the issue, Wood responded, "I'm not ducking anything. It's an Iraqi matter so it should be left to the Iraqis to deal with." Wood is ducking everything including skirting the issue of anyone facing the Iraqi judicial system. On Monday Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Representative to Iraq was sounding alarms regarding the Iraqi judicial system. Kim Gamel (AP) reported, "Concern is currently focused on the beleaguered Iraqi judicial system, with the United Nations warning in a recent human rights report about overcrowding and 'grave human rights violations' of detainees in Iraqi custody." Also this week Human Rights Watch issued a report on Iraq's Central Crimal Court - the court Muntadar went before today. Reuters noted of the report, "They also received ineffectual legal counsel and judges frequently relied on testimony from secret informants or confessions likely to have been extracted under torture or duress, the New York-based group said in a report. Impartial administration of justice for all Iraqis was supposed to be a hallmark of the country's break with the abuses of the Saddam Hussein era and help heal sectarian divides after years of horrific violence, it said."

Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond noted the growing cry to relase Muntadar including "A Sunni lawmaker, Noureldeen Hiyali, held a news conference to defend Zaidi, saying the reporter had cracked after more than five years of war as seen through the close-up angle of a reporter." Jenan Hussein and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) offer, "Zaidi's employer, the Baghdadiya satellite channel, hasn't criticized its reporter. To the contrary, it's resisted a call for an apology to the government and called for Zaidi's unconditional release." CBS and AP note international actions today included: "In Pakistan, demonstrators held a candlelight vigil outside the U.S. Consulate in Lahore on Wednesday, carrying photographs of al-Zeidi and hand-painted signs saying things like 'Hush, Hush Bush. We Hate You.' And on a road in Karachi, a man painted "10" inside a large outline of a foot, with an arrow pointing to 'BUSH' --- a reference to Bush's joke about the shoe's size. At a small rally outside the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, the head of a civil servant union displayed a pair of shoes he said he intends to send to al-Zeidi as a show of support." In Iraq, Catherine Philp (Times of London) explains, "Anger at Mr al-Zeidi's treatment erupted none the less, hijacking a legislative session in Parliament, provoking stand-up rows and prompting the resignation of the assembly's notoriously hot-tempered Speaker." She then quotes Mahmoud al-Mashhadani stating, "I have no honour leading this parliament and I announce my resignation." Al Jazeera observes that Muntadhar was one of several issues causing the uproar: "Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq's parliament speaker, has threatened to resign following house arguments concerning the presence of foreign troops and the imprisonment of a local journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush."

Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) offers this evaluation, "Still, al-Zaidi may have done Bush a favor. In an ABC News interview the next day, the President conceded for the first time that al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, adding, "So what?" In another news cycle, this admission would have dominated the headlines: that after the debunking of Bush's original excuse for war--Saddam's weapons of mass destruction--his argument that Iraq was a crucial nexus in the global war on terrorism also held no water. Thanks to al-Zaidi, nobody heard the other shoe drop." And while that puts the Bully Boy into perspective, Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains that the folk hero journalist may be sparking a movement as the non-stop closing of a bridge in Baghdad is not merely tolerated today:

Around 12:30 p.m. several vehicles loaded with Iraqi soldiers accompanying two or three buses stopped in mid square and tried to close it (like every day) but drivers refused to obey. We are tired of closed roads.
The horns of tens of cars were loud. Angry drivers yelled at soldiers. Not even when the soldiers brandished their rifles at the cars would the drivers stop. There were shots in the air, but the vehicles continued on. The military saw, for the first time I think, mass anger for blocking roads.
I have been in this square almost every day for the last four years, on the way to one official function or another, and nothing like this has ever happened. This time, the soldiers were forced to park their vehicles in a way that allowed civilian cars to pass.

Which brings us back to Robert Wood and his remarks on behalf of the State Dept. The US State Dept has repeatedly demonstrated it grasps very little. That is how Moqtada al-Sadr found renewed status in February of this year. If the State Dept wants to risk the transformation of a folk hero into a martyr, then they should continue to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

In other news, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in Baghdad today and he and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki issued
the following joint-statement: "The role played by the UK combat forces is drawing to a close. These forces will have completed their tasks in the first half of 2009 and will then leave Iraq." Brown expects the British 'military operations' to conclude in May and for British troops to 'leave' in July. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains, "When Brown became prime minister in 2007, he made it clear that he planned to greatly reduce the number of British troops in Iraq. His initial plan, to bring the number down to about 2,500 by the end of last year and to withdraw completely by the end of 2008, stalled after an Iraqi army offensive prompted major clashes with Shiite Muslim militias last spring in the southern city of Basra, where the British contingent is based." Mark Deen and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) remind, "The U.K. and the U.S. stood alone in the invasion against the objections of France, China and Russia, damaging the popularity of government on both sides of the Atlantic and leading to the resignation of Blair in 2007." The illegal war drove Tony Blair out of office and ushered in Gordon Brown with the hopes that he would heed British public opinion and end the country's involvement in the Iraq War. That still has not happened and today's announcement does not promise to pull all British troops from Iraq.

It's being callead a "withdrawal" but, "
withdrawal" was when the British forces fled their base in Maysan Province with less than 24 hours notice back in August of 2007. All the British forces fled. That's a withdrawal. What's being touted currently is a conditional drawdown. If the conditions Gordon Brown outlines -- similar to the ones he outlined September 14, 2007 and, on his first visit to Iraq as Prime Minister, October 7, 2007 -- hold, then the UK will reduce their troops to approximately 300 troops which will be called "military advisers."In light of what's being (falsely billed) as "withdrawal" today, it's worth quoting Gordon Brown's words in Baghdad on October 7, 2007:So what we propose to do over these next few months is to move from a situation where we had a combat role to one where we have an overwatch role; where the Iraqis increasingly take over, with the 30,000 that they have, responsibility for their own security; and with us, as the British, having an overwatch so that we maintain a facility for re-intervention if necessary, but at the same time we play a greater role in training future security forces in Iraq.
Even today, he's not promising fully withdrawing and his remarks are 'conditions based.'
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) marvels, "It's hard to see how the job is done in Basra when thousands of American soldiers are being rotated into the province as British troops prepare to leave. They will be training the police, mentoring the border guards and may even be required to embed with the Iraqi army, the flagship product of six years of British efforts in southern Iraq."

Corey Flintoff (NPR) notes the following nations will be departing from Iraq by December 31, 2008: the Ukraine, Czech Republic, Bularia, Denmark, Albania, Lithuania and Moldova. Actually one of those countries has withdrawn as of today. For those who are confused, SOFIA News Agency explains today that Bulgaria last unit of troops that were stationed in Iraq arrived "at the SOFIA International Airport Wednesday afternoon." That would be a withdrawal. A withdrawal is like a pregnancy in that there's no such things as "a little bit withdrawal." It either is or isn't. The Bulgarian News Network opens their coverage with: "Every last Bulgarian soldier is now withdrawn from Iraq as the plane with the last contingent touched down on Sofia Airport Wedensday." Bulgaria lost 13 soldiers in Iraq since the start of the illegal war in March 2003. This morning Bulgaria's DC Embassy confirmed that all Bulgarian forces are out of Iraq. SOFIA News Agency notes Nancy McEldowney, US Ambassador to Bulgaria, issued a statement praising Bulgarian forces which included the following: "Bulgaria has proven itself an unwavering friend and invaluable ally. The decision to join the Coalition's efforts was not an easy one and it did not come without cost. ... The United States salutes the brave men and women who serve in the Bulgarian Armed Forces and is honored to stand as a genuine friend and true partner of this fine country."

In the US the State Dept garners attention for a new report as yet officialy unreleased. The report covers the mercanaries-for-hire Blackwater Worldwide.
CBS and AP explain, "The 42-page draft report by the State Department's Inspector General says the department faces 'numerous challenges' in dealing with the security situation in Iraq, including the prospect that Blackwater may be barred from the country. The department would have turn to other security arrangements to replace Blackwater, officials said." BBC explains that Blackwater "has been under intense scrutiny" since the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad resulted in the deaths of at least 17 Iraqis and that 5 "employees have now been charged in the US with manslaughter and otehr offences, but the company itself has not faced charges." Tim Reid (Times of London) adds,"If Blackwater is dropped next year, it is not clear how it will be replaced. The department relies heavily on private security guards. There are an estimated 30,000 in Iraq and Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador in Bagdhad, told Congress last year: 'There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq'."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad "double explosion" (car bombing and roadside bombing) that claimed 18 lives and left fifty-two people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed 2 lives and left four people injured, and, dropping back to Tuesday night, a Mosul sticky bombing that claimed 2 lives.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was kidnapped Tuesday night in Mosul.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was wounded in a shooting outside of Kirkuk last night.

On the topic of Kirkuk, the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issues the following press release:

The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq (SRSG) Mr. Staffan de Mistura embarked on Tuesday, 16 December on a two-day trip to the city of Kirkuk to discuss the situation there with local leaders and representatives of the various communities. Mr. de Mistura's visit comes on the heels of the tragic bombing that killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians at a popular restaurant on 11 December.
During his visit, the SRSG is holding meetings to discuss the important work of Article 23 Committee with all relevant parties, and to stress the UN's readiness to provide it with technical assistance. He is exploring with his counterparts the ways and means through which the United Nations can augment its contribution for the reconstruction and development in Kirkuk.
During his many meetings with members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, heads of different political parties, and religious, civil society and tribal leaders Mr. de Mistura heard from his interlocutors some suggestions and ideas for increased engagement between the UN and the people of Kirkuk.

In November the United Nations was supposed to release a report regarding Kirkuk, the release of those recommendations have been put on hold until after the provincial elections scheduled for January 31st currently. (Oil rich Kirkuk will not be taking part in the elections.)

In non-Iraq news, independent journalist
David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and it has created a stir. Laura Carlsen reviews the book at Foreign Policy in Focus:

The immediate challenge is to build a broad-based movement to pass a fair and humane reform that grants all workers and their families equal rights and protections under the law. David Bacon's book, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Immigration and Criminalizes Immigrants provides essential tools to envision and fight for this reform. For that reason, Michele Wucker's biased interpretation and portrayal of the book does this budding movement a disservice. There are two fundamental differences of opinion between Wucker and Bacon that must come to the forefront of the debate on how to frame this reform. The first question is the bad apples one - whether the numerous cases of employer abuse of undocumented workers and guestworkers that Bacon describes are anomalies or corporate labor strategies for reducing costs and increasing profits. Wucker states that Bacon chronicles the misdeeds of "bad-apple employers" while giving short shrift to "employers who would hire workers with papers if the system provided a way to do so" and that Bacon's "cut-and-dried labor-good, corporate-bad message doesn't leave room for such subtleties." The problem isn't one of subtleties - it's a question of how we analyze the real forces opposing legalization for migrant workers and what kind of strategies we build based on that. Bacon's book is devoted to documenting the structural aspects of the use of visa and undocumented workers in the United States and how that has become a major strategy for competition and profits in the age of globalization. He describes a series of corporate-led policies and practices - trade agreements that displace workers in their countries of origin, the criminalization of work, the definition of people as illegal, and the use of migrant labor to erode labor rights - that create a system of abuse. After reading the skilled combination of history, personal testimonies, statistics and logically constructed arguments, it's difficult to see this system as anything less than a widespread corporate strategy based on fundamentally unfair practices. Immigration Myths Debunked Bacon debunks several myths of the immigration debate that have led to dead-ends. One is that employers would hire native workers if they could. Bacon cites many statistical studies showing that the increase in migrant labor has been accompanied by an increase in unemployment among certain sectors of U.S. workers, especially black workers. The reason is not that migrants do work U.S. workers won't do. It's that employers have actively replaced organized workers and workers with exercisable rights with the more easily manipulated migrant workforce.

The same link will take you to Mary Bauer's review and Michele Wucker. Meanwhile last night's community posts explored Peanuts, Stan's "The Invisible Franklin," Mike's "Charlie Brown stinks at baseball," Rebecca's "i always identified with sally brown," Marcia's "The Outing of Charlie Brown," Betty's "Franklin and Violet," Ruth's "A Jewish perspective," Trina's "Peanuts in the Kitchen," Elaine's "Snoopy and Woodstock," and Kat's "Charles Shultz' women." Cedric's "Park Avenue Prisoner Edwin Schlossberg " and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! EDWIN SCHLOSSBERG, PRISONER OF PARK AVENUE!" (joint-post) went up this morning.

iraqthe new york timestimothy williamsabeer mohammedandrew malcolmthe los angeles times
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mohammed al dulaimy
jenan hussein
adam ashton
deborah haynes
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like maria said pazkats kornersex and politics and screeds and attitudethomas friedman is a great mantrinas kitchenthe daily jotcedrics big mixmikey likes itruths reportsickofitradlzoh boy it never ends

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Franklin and Violet

As the mother of three kids, cartoons can be a nightmare. My children, like their parents, are Black. It's very rare they ever see anyone who looks like them on TV.

Which is why the Charlie Brown cartoons are so annoying. If you're really lucky, Franklin might be in the background, the only Black character.

So, as a parent, you learn to adapt.

Violet is a minor character who basically looks exactly like Lucy. Only, unlike Lucy, she does very little. She gets a couple of lines every cartoon.

Where are the Black kids, Mommy?

I always point to Violet. "She's Black."

And when they're really young, they fall for it. And they pay attention to Violet because they think she's like them.

And that's really what kids watch cartoons for: to find people like them.

Yeah, they want them to have super powers and fun adventures, but they want to believe that they're like those characters and those characters are like them.

Which is why it's so appalling to me how few Black characters are on TV and how even fewer exist in the cartoon world.

When they're really young, you can trick them, you can tell them Violet's Black. When they grow older, it's time to talk about how unjust the world can be and, no, Charles Schultz never drew a comic for that.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 16, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military makes an announcement regarding female prisoners, al-Maliki's council makes an announcement regarding foreign troops, a journalist apparently faces attempted murder charges, and more.

Oliver August (Times of London) reports Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi's brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, states his brother has serious injuries, "He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm. He is being held by forces under the command of Muwafaq al-Rubaie [Iraq's national security adviser]." The journalist's name is also spelled by the press as: Muntathar al-Zaidi. Muntathar threw both of his shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States. Both shoes missed. Bully Boy joked, "This is what happens in free societies" and it's one of his more obvious jokes as bullies and thugs attacked Muntathar for a shoe-ing, demonstrating that there was no free society in Iraq. Sunday Adam Ashton and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported: "Another Iraqi journalist yanked Zaidi to the ground before bodyguards collapsed on Zaidi and held him there while he yelled 'Killer of Iraqis, killer of children.' From the bottom of the pile, he moaned loudly and said 'my hand, my hand.' Zaidi was hauled to a sepaate room, where his cries remained audible for a few moments." Monday Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "Mr. Maliki's security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until 'he was crying like a woman,' said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party". Reuters noted: "The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and U.S. secret service agents and dragged from the room screaming and struggling." Greg Gordon and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) report today that the US Secret Service has donned hair shirts over what they see as their own lack of quick action which can also be read as: Any damage to the journalist was done by the thugs Nouri al-Maliki has employed as his palace guards and not by us. The reaction apart from Nouri's thugs has been enthusiastic. Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) report a person in Saudi Arabia has offered $10 million for either of the shoes thrown. Raed Rafei and Khaled Hijabcalls (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) sketch out the Iraqi reaction:

In a barbershop near downtown Beirut on Monday, customers buzzed about the reporter's political gesture. "It was great," one customer said, beaming with satisfaction. Another responded by saying that Bush certainly deserved it for inflicting "disaster" on the Iraqi people.
The video of the journalist throwing his shoes at Bush was played over and over again on television stations including the pan-Arab Al Jazeera as well as Iranian state television and even radio. "Please listen again," said a radio announcer in Tehran. "This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush." The left-leaning Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar featured the news in on its front page under the headline, "The farewell kiss for Bush," calling the reporter a "hero" who stood up to the president. "This was without a doubt the best farewell as seen by millions of Iraqis who were heartened" by the reporter's action, said the daily, adding that Iraqis were "probably sad when they saw their Prime Minister Nouri Maliki throwing himself in front of his guest to protect him." At McClatchy's Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent provides reactions from various Iraqis. Ammar Mohammed declares, "Of course he's a hero! He did what no one has been able to do so far: He gave Bush the criminal what he deserves. Insulting aman is more severe than killing him. It was sooooo funny -- and the moron didn't even get it! But I am glad that it was publicized -- it is good -- protection for Mutathar: now they can't make him 'disappear' . . . Or can they?" A mother asks, "How many Iraqis did Bush kill in Iraq? Hundreds of thousands. This shoe is settlement for only one. How many Muntathars do we need to settle our debt with Bush?" AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reported this morning that despite street protests today calling for Muntadhar al-Zeidi's release, he has been "handed over to the Iraqi judiciary" and is expected to face trial for the run-by shoeing. Oliver August noted this was day two of protests calling for Muntadhar's release and that protests took place in Mosul, Nasiriyah and Falluja. Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) reports Muntadhar acknowledged he threw the shoes today in court accodring to "Abdul Satar Birrqadr, spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council." And it gets more ridiculous: "The court decided to keep Zaidi in custody, and after the judge completes his investigation of the case may send him for trial under a clause in the Iraqi penal code that punishes anyone who attempts to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents." Attempts to murder? Again, Iraq is not a free society nor a democracy. Attempts to murder? For an attempted murder, Dana Perino is being very light-hearted. The White House spokesperson opened today's briefing with a joke, "Hi, everybody. The shoe check-in policy and checkout policy will begin tomorrow." And the press responded to the joke with laughter. It was not an attempted murder and for the international press not to be calling out this journalist being held is appalling. At the White House briefing, Perino offered this perspective:

Well, it was just a shoe, and the President saw it from his vantage point. He felt fine about it. I think you saw he let the Secret Service know he thought he was okay, and the Secret Service jumped in as quickly as they thought they needed to. And then they were able to back off and let the Prime Minister of a duly -- the duly elected Prime Minister of a sovereign Iraq taking questions from journalists there who never would have been able to do that five years ago. And the President just thinks it was just a -- it was just a shoe.
People express themselves in lots of different ways. Obviously he was very angry. I can't think -- I don't -- I can't tell you exactly what the shoe thrower was thinking, but I can tell what the President thought, was that he was fine. And he said immediately -- you saw his reaction was, don't worry about it; it was okay. So we hold no hard feelings about it, and we've really moved on.

No offense to Dana Perino -- who got hit with a boom mike during the incident (thanks to the Secret Service) -- but when the White House is showing more maturity and perspective than others in the international playground, there is something seriously wrong.
CBS adds, "Zeidi, 29, has been working for Al-Baghdadiya since it launched in 2005, reports CBS News' Khaled Wassef in London. Co-workers describe him as a rather quiet and composed. Zeidi has been arrested before, in error, by American forces and was let go, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. This time, his family has been told he faces years in jail." For a shoe-ing. For a shoe-ing?

Rachel Layne (Bloomberg News) reports that GE has won a contract "valued at about $3 billion to provide electricity-generating equipment and services to Iraq" and that the purchase means "nearly doubling the country's generating capacity." Since the bulk of Iraq -- including Baghdad -- endures daily power outtages, "doubling" will not solve that problem. The problem is and remains that Nouri al-Maliki sits on billions and refuses to spend them to improve the general welfare of the Iraqi people. Thursday's snapshot noted another buying spree by al-Maliki:

October 31st,
AP reported the puppet government in Baghdad's latest boo-hoo: Oil prices had dropped and their budget for 2009 had to be cut by $13 billion. The Guardian of London (via Iraq Directory) was writing that there was talk of raising production due to the drop from the expected $80 billion 2009 budget to the $67 billion budget. In 2008, they couldn't meet their spending targets and sat on a ton of money while infrastructure remained unrepaired and Iraqis suffered without electricity and potable water. This week they're on a spending spree. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency made several announcements yesterday [all links of announcements take you to PDF format]. DSCA announced: "On Dec. 9, the Dfense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 36 AT-6B Texan II Aircraft as well as associated support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $520 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 400 M1126 STRYKER Infantry Carrier Vehicles as well as associated equipment. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.11 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 20 T-6A Texan aircraft, 20 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $210 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (20) 30-35 meter Coastal Patrol Boats and (3) 55-60 meter Offshore Support Vessels as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.010 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks modified and upgraded to the M1A1M Abrams configuration, 8 M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicles, 64 M1151A1B1 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), 92 M1152 Shelter Carriers, 12 M577A2 Command Post Carriers, 16 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Behicles, 8 M113A2 Armored Ambulances, and 420 AN/VRC-92 Vehicular Receiver Transmitters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised could be as high as $2.160 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters, 26 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines, 26 M280 2.75-inch Launchers, 26 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box, 26 M299 HELLFIRE Guided Missile Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $366 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (80,000) M16A4 5.56MM Rifles, (25,000) M4 5.56MM Carbines, (2,550) M203 40MM Grenade Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $148 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (64) Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH), (1,500) 50 watt Very High Frequency (VHF) Base Station Radios, (6,000) VHF Tactical Handheld Radios, (100) VHF Fixed Retransmitters, (200) VHF Vehicular Radios, (30) VHF Maritime 50 watt Base Stations, (150) 150 watt High Frequency (HF) Base Station Radio Systems, (150) 20 watt HF Vehicular Radios, (30) 20 watt HF Manpack Radios, (50) 50 watt Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 150 watt VHF/UHF Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 5 watt Multiband Handheld Radio Systems as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $485 Million." That is over six billion dollars being committed "if all options are exercised" -- which is a little over 10% of their entire budget for 2009. There's always money to spend when it comes to weapons. And human life is always done on the cheap.

Reuters quotes al-Maliki mouth piece Ali al-Dabbagh informing that al-Maliki's cabinet has decided "to reign in its spending plans" today. No information was given on how or on actual dollar amounts. Possibly the cabinet agreed to just say a daily affirmation?

Meanwhile China's
Xinhua quotes Iraqi MP Humam Hammodi stating, "The Iraqi cabient approved Tuesday a draft bill that sets timetable for withdrawal of the non-U.S. foreign troops from Iraq by five months for combat troops starting from January and seven months for the rest of the troops." The potential agreement would govern Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador, NATO and the UK presence in Iraq. Ahmeed Rasheed (Reuters) quotes Hammodi but also notes that the "timeframe" "was not immediately clear." Also not immediately clear is which troops would leave -- 'combat' troops? Trainers? Police troops?

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes the continued violence in the Mosul area (which already this week includes an attack that cost the lives of 7 Yazidis) and notes that statements by "American and Iraqi officials" indicate US forces will not be withdrawing from Mosul in June:

Last Saturday Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces in Iraq, said that despite the joint US-Iraqi security pact that calls for US troops to leave Iraqi cities, some battalions could remain in urban centers. "It's important that we maintain enough presence here that we can help them get through this year of transition," he said.
He acknowledged that Mosul is one place where Americans could remain. "There are still some issues in Mosul that we have to work through," said General Odierno.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left thirteen people injured, a Baghdad car bombing left three people injured, a Diyala Province car bombing left four members of the Iraqi military injured, another Diyala Province bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven more injured, a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of the driver and left four members of the Iraqi military injured, and a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded a police officer. Reuters adds: "The police chief of Rashad town escaped death when a roadside bomb detonated near his convoy and wounded two of his bodyguards, 30 km (20 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "Awakening" Council member Sattar al Hadidi was shot dead "leaving the mosque on Monday evening" and "A source in the border police said that an Iranian force had chased liquor smugglers inside the Iraqi land in north Sulaimaniyah province and killed and Iraqi man and an Iranian Kurdish man."

Today the
US military announced: Multi-National Force -- Iraq's Task Force 134 -- Detainee Operations, transferred custody of the last of its female detainees to the Government of Iraq, Monday, Dec. 15. The final 10 female detainees were all transferred from the Coalition theater internment facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, to an Iraqi controlled women's prison in Baghdad. These women are all either already convicted or scheduled to stand trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. While these women were in the custody of Coalition forces, they received care well above the standard of the Geneva Convention. They received first-class medical care, visits from family members and education. Currently, there are about 15,500 detainees in Coalition theater internment facilities; down dramatically from the high of about 26,000 in November 2007. Since the start of 2008, nearly 18,000 detainees have been released to their families and communities throughout Iraq.
iraqmcclatchy newspapersadam ashtongreg gordonthe new york timestimothy williamsabeer mohammed
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