Friday, December 26, 2008

The uglies: CODESTINK and Jane Fonda

As an actor, I know the power of the screen. As an activist, I also know the power of taking a message off the screen and onto the streets. That's why I love CODEPINK--it not only utilizes the best of the visual media with its vibrant pink presence; the women of CODEPINK are also out in the world, whether speaking truth to power, helping Iraqi refugees, or using citizen diplomacy to build bridges with Iran. I support CODEPINK's audacious, compassionate work to create a more just and peaceful world. Won't you?
Peace & Love,
Jane Fonda

Won't I? Hell no. CODESTINK's sending out the above and doing so because they're in deep financial trouble. Tough crap. They brought it on themselves.

They were supposed to be a peace advocacy group but they instead became an auxillary of the Barack Obama campaign. And Jane Fonda?

Give it up, dear. I don't believe a damn word you say anymore. It's not just the rude remarks you made about Hillary Clinton, it's the complete moron you've become.

In one year, you've ensured that my lifetime of admiration for you completely vanished. Now I look at you and just think, "Someone tell that 70-year-old woman no one thinks that's her own hair. Someone tell that 70-year-old woman to wear a bra in public. Someone tell that 70-year-old woman she's like Ruth Gordon in Harold & Maude without the cuteness."

70-years-old and she's going around with her shirt open and her boobs dripping down.

And let me be clear, my opinion is the opinion in Atlanta. She once was really welcome here. Those days are gone. She can't move back to Los Angeles because they don't want her there. They're sick of her and she's got no movie future because she's hung around with cheap people (low class), so much so that her reputation is in shreds. That's why she's trying to return to Broadway -- where she flopped badly in The Fun Couple.

Maybe she'll flop again?

One can hope and one can pray. Karma would ensure that she flopped.

I loathe CODESTINK and I'm sick of Jane Fonda.

I'm sick of the little liars, whores and more who put a War Hawk into office and refuse to call him out.


No one wants to see your droppy tits hanging out. Put on a damn bra and quit thinking anyone believes that wig is your own hair.

CODESTINK, accept that you wasted your chance to be leaders and no one needs or wants you anymore. Go the hell away.

I'm not in the mood for any of these peace frauds who pretend to give a damn about ending the illegal war but keep whoring themselves out to support Barack.

And if you doubt me on that, read back over Granny Jane's message and look in vain for the word "Iraq." You can't find it because it's not there.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a prison break takes place in Ramadi, Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas in select areas within the country and as exiles, Barack prepares to trash the Constitution, and more.

In the day's big news,
Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Prisoners in a western Iraqi jail staged an armed revolt Friday morning that lasted for at least two hours. Ten police men and six prisoners were killed in the battle that ensued. Three Al Qaida in Iraq prisoners escaped and are on the loose, Iraqi police said." Some reports lower the death toll to thirteen (from sixteen). The BBC dubs it a "shoot-out" and then adds "Ramadi police have imposed a curfew across the city following the incident. Police are searching through houses in the city for the escaped militants." Kimi Yoshino (Los Angles Times) reports that there were four escapees but one "turned himself in without incident". Al Jazeera notes "police were going from house to house with photos of the fugitives on Friday morning." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "The jailbreak comes as U.S. officials are shutting down their detention facilities across the country and as U.S. troops are sharply reducing their presence in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni territory that was the cradle of the insurgency. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar." NPR (text only currently) notes that the US handed over responsibilites for the prison, al-Forsan, to the Iraqis last September and that today's events "could call into question the timetable for relinquishing U.S. control over the country." That is also when security tasks/control of Al Anbar were handed over to the Iraqis (from the US).

In diplomacy news, Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi visited Turkey last Saturday. al-Hashemi just concluded a visit to Syria.
UAE Daily News notes that "he met with Preisdent Bashar al-Assad, Vice President Faruq al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid" and emphasized "the security agreement between Iraq and the US in addition to the conditions of Iraqi refugees in Syria." Xinhau also reported that al-Hashemi conveyed his thanks for the hosting of Iraqi refugees and added, "The Syrian government says that there are about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria now, down from a number of 1.5 million two years ago." Meanwhile al-Maliki just finished a visit to Turkey. It did not go well. He breezed in dismissing concern over the PKK and mouthing remarks about bi-lateral trade and how there were so many issues that Iraq and Turkey had to address, important issues. As Carole King sings in "Chalice Borealis" (which she wrote with Rick Sorensen), "Didn't turn out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" So when the news shortly after he arrives is that the PKK in northern Iraq has just killed three Turkish soldiers with seventeen more injured, it demanded a statement and he had nothing to offer but mealy mouth words. Repeating, he came into Turkey dismissing the need to address the PKK (despite Iraq's president and vice president both visiting Turkey in the last seven days to address the issue of the PKK and other issues)and, when the news broke of the dead and wounded soldiers, he fell back on soundbytes he's been using since 2007. It was not a diplomatic success. But Turkey was only one stop on his tour of diplomacy. Or was supposed to be. Dalya Hassan and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) inform that the planned trip to Iran has been cancelled and no one is sure why that is: "The cancellation prompted speculation among Iraqi officials that Maliki changed his plans for a possible visit to Baghdad by President-elect Barack Obama, or because of the tumult in parliament that followed the resignation this week of its abrasive and sometimes strident speaker. Others suggested that Maliki was simply required to be in Baghdad ahead of the implementation of a new agreement that, starting Jan. 1, regulates the once almost unquestioned authority of the U.S. military here." Hurriyet reports, "Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the central Iraqi government was not a party to the issue of disarmament of the terrorist PKK organization. His remarks came in response to questions if he discussed a concrete plan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to combat the PKK during their bilateral meeting Wednesday." However, as Iran's Press TV points out, when Talabani visited a few days ago, he stated "that both the government in Baghdad adn the autonomous Kurdish administration were determined to end the presence of the PKK in the north." And China's Xinhua notes today, "Commenting on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statement and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Turkey, [Turkish] Gen. [Metin] Gurak said that 'we hope that Iraqi authorities could contribute to the fight against the PKK." Deciphering: The General references what Talabani said on his recent vist but is just noting al-Maliki's say-nothing visit. Balita-dot-ph observes that Iraqi is considering puchasing "50 train sets from Turkey" and that, "In the upcoming days, Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian transportation ministers would convene either in Istanbul or Baghdad in order to discuss new joint projects".

Meanwhile, possibly because it was Christmas, Iraqi Christians were actually in the news.
Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) did an online "update" (text only) where they report on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (see the December 19th snapshot): "The USCIRF said non-Muslim religions in Iraq, particularly ChaldoAssyrian and other Christian groups, Sabean Mandaen: a small religious sect tied to John the Baptist, and Yazidi: a relgion with influences from Islam and Christianity, are experiencing targeted violence and have had to relocate to other parts of Iraq or other countries." Missy Ryan (Reuters) reported on Iraqi Christians celebrating in Baghdad and quoted Amira Daoud who "was relieved that the number of bombings and attacks has slowed over the past year. Yet she takes a practical approach to her daily life: 'Of course, there's still kidnapping. Everyone says to themselves that this could be their day. So we take precautions." Today Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports on Iraqi Christians in Mosul and notes that those who have returned (a small number) cite the Chaldean's Church's Rev Basman George Fatouhi and three nuns, including Sister Autour Yousif, who had remained behind in Mosul "working against the tide to keep their faith alive. Durign the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city. On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it." Kimi Yoshino and Ali Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Issa Zakariya, a Chrisian in Mosul, stating, "Years ago, we were spending Christmas congratulating our friends and relatives in Mosul, but today everything has changed. But despite all that, the flavor of Christmas still exists and the dream of Santa still exists in the hearts of the children. I just hope peace and safety come back to Iraq." Meanwhile Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reports on Iraqi Christians who've fled the country for their own safety, "At the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in this working-class Christian suburb east of Beirut, Rev. Joseph Malkoum preaches to an Iraqi congregation that expands every Sunday, swelled by the ranks of Christians fleeing Iraq. In recent weeks, he has noticed an increase in the number of new faces crowded into the pews as a surge in violence directed against Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fuels a fresh wave of refugees."

Mosul is covered in
Alissa J. Rubin's analysis (New York Times) of current conditions in Iraq where she notes the rumors that some of the violence aimed at Iraqi Christians is coming from Kurds with the hope of pushing them to support the Kurdish Regional Government extending beyond its current boundaries. Rubin explores how al-Maliki is seen to be consolidating his power and doing so at the expense of others. She explores his "controversial" program of putting tribal councils on his personal payroll. For those paying attention in April, this is what Joe Biden was publicly warning against. Rubin notes that, despite the amnesty for Sunnis, the bulk remain imprisoned, she offers that along with talks of coups in Iraq, there is talk of holding a no-confidence vote to replace him: "But unless there is a consensus about a successor, the government could drift for months as it did after the elections in 2005, when there were several months of discussions about who would become prime minister, and in 2006, when the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was removed." She explains all of this drama and intrigue takes place as provincial elections approach. They are currently scheduled for January 31st. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported earlier on the provincial elections and noted that they would "give natioanl parties a local toehold to advance their agendas. That's why posters of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki blanket Baghdad's streets even though he isn't running for office next month. The banners are meant to build support for his Dawa Party."
In other Iraqi political news,
UPI reports, "Communist parties in Iraq are resuming their campaign after several years by embracing youthful energy in the run-up to provincial elections, Sot al-Iraq said Friday. The Communist platform of unity and equality among the various social classes is impossible under the crisis caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Their solidariy, however, differs from other parties as they do not differentiate or support any one plaform over the other. The Communist Party emerged out of the southern Wasit province to embrace a dream of equality, hoping the bloodshed of its martyrs would usher in a new hope for tomorrow, the news service said."

Along with the prison break, Iraq saw other violence today . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad home bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded (all family members), a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six people wounded (four are police officers), a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, with two more and two military officers wounded (total of four people wounded) and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Falluja roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 "children and their mother." Reuters states the Baghdad home bombing death was the father and that the two injured were the man's sons.

CNN reports 1 truck driver was shot dead in Falluja by the Iraqi police and his "truck was rigged with explosives."

Yesterday, the
US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died of wounds as a result of an indirect fire attack near Mosul, Iraq Dec. 25." ICCC's count for the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 4217. Eight deaths since last Friday (the deaths began on Saturday) and little interest on the part of the media.

Turning to the US political scene, earlier this month
ETAN called out talk of Dennis Blair being appointed Director of National Intelligence by president-elect Barack Obama:

"President-elect Barack Obama's rumored selection of Admiral Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence is unacceptable," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today."During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN."His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit assistance.""It is unfathomable that Obama would consider appointing someone to such a prominent position who has shown so little concern for human rights in the past. Can we expect someone who has sought to undermine efforts to link human rights to military assistance to be a champion of reform? We don't think this is the kind of change people are expecting," said Miller.In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militias carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' To Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit.
Barack has long cozied up to those responsible for and encouraging of that slaughter in East Timor. ETAN's full release can be read
here or here. Tom Burghardt (Dissident Voice) sounds the alarms on Blair as well and the section that may most stand out is this:

Obama's choice for ODNI is well-placed to continue the mercenary "tradition" of intelligence outsourcing and what one can only describe as the corporatization of government. According to the Journal, some of the "tougher intelligence issues" the incoming Obama administration seeks to resolve "is weighing whether to propose the creation of a domestic intelligence agency," modeled after Britain's MI5.

Marjorie Cohn, Naomi Wolf and all the others who embarrassed themselves by public slobbering over Barack Obama and insisting he would 'save' the Constitution, when do you plan to get your lazy asses and call the above out? Now the Gitmo attorneys made fools out of themselves as well but they've already been publicly punked and no longer rush to assure how dreamy Barack is. But let's see some of these 'brave voices' for the Constitution step up to the damn plate. They could be counted on to DELUDE themselves and schill for Barack. Can they now try standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America or is that too damn hard? Bill Clinton could not -- at any time during his eight years in office -- have gotten away witha d omestic intelligence agency (currently against the law) but Barack might be able to because so many 'leaders' are chicken s**t when it comes to calling him out. So come on Marj, you could distort reality to attack Hillary and advance Barack. Let's see you address the Constitution, big girl, let's see you protect it. Naomi, you made an utter fool out of yourself. Your racism in Fire With Fire was nothing compared to what you did in 2008. So if you're not zonked out on drugs or 'love,' how about you step up to the damn plate and call out this attack on the Consitution?
And those are only two of the many public fools -- idiots who damn well should have known better but felt running a fan club was more important than protecting the Constitution and our civil liberties.

iraqmcclatchy newspapersjamal najileila fadel
mohammed al dulaimythe new york timessam dagherkimi yoshinoali hameedthe chicago tribuneliz sly
alissa j. rubinthe washington postdalya hassanaziz alwan
ernesto londonohurriyet
etandennis blair

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt

In her fantastical life, Eartha Kitt came to like a great many things. Men, sex, bawdy songs. I personally know about the lemon sorbet, the mango sorbet and the strawberry sorbet.
I found myself dining with Kitt -- who died of cancer at the age of 81 yesterday -- at the swanky Cafe Carlyle in Manhattan several years ago. I was working on a book about Sammy Davis Jr., once a romantic interest of Kitt's. Kitt's office suggested the Carlyle. Being on book leave, without a steady income and counting pennies, I gulped: the Carlyle wasn't the place for a penny-pincher. But I needed the interview, so I dared not back out of the chance to talk with her. Kitt had known Davis when both were very young and both were hanging out at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

The above is from Wil Haygood's "Eartha Kitt Refused to Be in Anyone's Shadow" (Washington Post). There are many, many reasons to admire Eartha Kitt. Ruth and I were talking on the phone tonight and she's going to note some of those big reasons and I told her I'd grab a personal one.

Things will hopefully be very different for Black children in the future thanks to Whoopi Goldberg and others. However, I was born before Bill Cosby's The Cosby Show started airing on (and dominating and building Must See) Thursday night. I can still remember my excitement -- and my family's -- when Cosby's show came on. If I watch that first episode, where Theo's doing poorly in school, today, two things stand out. First, that last scene plays to the studio audience and not for TV, it's awkward. Second, I can remember every word said during commercial breaks. By my family. We didn't say a word during the show. We laughed, but we didn't talk. We'd wait until the commercials. And Cosby's show was such big news that we were all gathered around the TV for it.

I could write about that show forever but let me return to my bigger point which was that there just wasn't that many Black characters on TV shows. Good Times was on TV in syndication and so was Different Strokes. But it seemed like about three months after Strokes went into syndication, the station playing Good Times took it off and just showed Strokes. As if two shows with Black characters was two too many. The Jeffersons was on but we went to church on Sunday nights so I didn't really catch it until CBS cancelled it.

So anyway, if you were a Black kid watching TV back then you rarely saw yourself on TV. And those hot summer days (I grew up in Georgia) where just standing in the afternoon was effort would be us kids gathering around the TV waiting for it to cool back down enough to go out and play. And we'd flip the channels and catch all the old shows in repeats like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, etc. One of those shows one summer was Batman and I wasn't really into comics, sorry. But you better believe we all sat up spine stiff the first time we saw Eartha Kitt play Catwoman.

We'd seen others play Catwoman during the summer. Julie Newmar was one. And there was a Batman movie where another actress played her. But, what do you know, Black women finally got a turn. And Eartha was so perfect as Catwoman.

And the grandparents loved it because when we came asking about the woman, they knew about it, they knew about Eartha. My mother's parents had two vinyl albums by Eartha so they pulled those out and we got to hear her sing and look at those album covers -- which I studied for hours.

I said thanks to Whoopi earlier and I mean that. Whoopi is one of my favorites and she's made a ton of movies. Some good, some bad, some wonderful. All of those movies increase the chance that one's going to air some weekend in the future. We had Diana Ross and Richard Pryor when I was growing up and that was it. Eddie Murphy was playing on the big screens but we went to the movies maybe twice a year if that. So we had what TV played over and over and that was generally stuff ten years old or older. At that point, Richard Pryor probably had eight or so movies they played regularly and Diana Ross had three. So it was a big to-do when one of their movies came on (and Richard's in Diana's Lady Sings The Blues). So Whoopi's created these many, many movies that can play on rainy weekends and, hopefully, kids won't do like my brother, my sisters and my cousins and I had to do, search in vain from channel to channel hoping to see someone on the TV screen like us.

Eartha Kitt provided a lot of joy and excitement throughout her long career but I doubt it was ever as intense as those moments when Black kids across the country would first happen across her on Batman and we'd feel represented and included.

Alex Morales' "Harold Pinter, British Playwright, Nobel Laureate, Dead at 78 " notes another passing:

Harold Pinter, the British playwright and political activist who won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, has died. He was 78.
Pinter passed away yesterday, the BBC said on its Web site, citing the playwright’s second wife, Antonia Fraser. Pinter had been suffering from liver cancer, the BBC said on its
Web site.
The Swedish Academy awarded him the prize for works that include "The Caretaker" and "The Birthday Party."

And though both deaths are a loss, rest easy in the world of arts and letters, Erica Jong's heart still beats!

That's sarcasm. Use the link. C.I. noted the article this morning and when I clicked on the link, I thought, "Erica Jong, just sit down, just sit down already."

Since I didn't post yesterday, I'll include Wednesday's snapshot in this post.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Nouri al-Maliki makes a visit, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Three Multi-National Division -- Center Soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident in southern Iraq Dec. 24." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4216. The total for the month thus far is 9. As of last Friday, the press was gearing for their 'astoundingly low number of deaths in December' pieces to run at the start of January. While 9 is still low (although, cautionary note, the month is not over yet) it is not the 2 that, until December 20th, the count remained at for the entire month.

Tomorrow many people around the world will celebrate Christmas.
Joe Sterling (CNN) notes the difficulties facing Iraqi Christians. He quotes Chaldean Federation of America's Joseph Kassab stating, "We are heading for a demise. It's getting to the point where it might be an ethnic cleansing in the future." Sterling also speaks with US House Rep Anna Eshoo who is "of Assyrian and Armenian ancestry" stating, "I think the [Iraqi[ Christians are caught in the middle of a horrible situation" and uses the term "religious cleansing" to describe what's been taking place in Iraq as the number of Christians have "fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000 more recently, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom." The report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom was noted in the December 19th snapshot and we'll highlight this section of the commission's report:

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.

Angus McDowall (Telegraph of London) reported earlier this week that some Iraqi Christians from Mosul had fled to the monastery Mar Matti. "Their homes raided, their priests attacked and their relatives murdered, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have become the latest victims of violence in the city, once the most cosmopolitan in Iraq." Jalal Mansour was quoted stating, "First they came against the Kurds, then against the Yazidis and now they have come for the Christians. My uncle, an old man, was killed just because of his faith." And Andrew Pierce (Telegraph of London) reports, "Rt Rev Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, accused Britain and America of 'religious illiteracy' about the fallout from the Allied occupation. He said it was 'tragic' that two western powers with a strong Christian tradition had contributed to the eclipse of one of the longest surviving churches in the world. The war in Iraq, he said, had led to the brutal persecution of Christians." Meanwhile AKI speaks with Iraqi MP Younadim Kana who is "the leader of the Iraqi Christians Parliamentary group 'al-Raifidein'" and states, "This year we will be able to go to church on Christmas eve without fear. From a security point of view, we live -- without a doubt -- in an improved security situation compared to previous years, when we witnessed violence and attacks against various sectors of Iraqi society." Provincial elections are currently scheduled for January 31st. UPI reports that Iraq's Christian community is running for seats in the elections in Baghdad, Ninawa and Basra while adding, "Minority Christian groups have a sizable population in the northern regions of Iraq, though elecitons there are postponed because of territorial disputes."

In diplomacy news, Nouri al-Maliki has followed the lead of Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who visited Turkey Saturday and Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, who visited Turkey yesterday.
AP reports that he met with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan today. The meeting did not build on what had come in the two visits prior. Hurriyet notes that "the Iraqi leader makes no mention of how the PKK problem that casts a shadow on bilateral relations could be resolved." It's an issue not only because the PKK -- labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, the US and many others -- continues to have clashes with the Turkish military but also because al-Hashemik and Talabani commented on the issue -- in fact, Talabani's willingness to raise the issue of the PKK was especially well received because he is a Kurd and the PKK has set up in the northern region -- the Kurdish region -- of Iraq. al-Maliki's refusal to address the topic would be alarming to many in Turkey on its own but coming after Talabani appeared open to discussions on the issue and strong in his stance that the northern region of Iraq will not be a safe haven for people to launch attacks on Turkey from, al-Maliki again looks weak and ineffective and does so on the international stage. And on the day when Turkey loses three soliders. Selcuk Gokoluk and Michael Roddy (Reuters) report that three members of the Turkish military were attacked by the PKK on the border between northern Iraq and Turkey. This comes as Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report that the Sunni Accordance Front has lost 1/25 of its members in the Parliament today due to a walk out and Khalaf al-Ilayan (Iraqi National Dialogue Council) declared, "Due to the Accordance Front's failure to achieve its mission and the Islamic Party's unilateral actions, we declare ... the Accordance Front has been dissolved." As new alliances are formed in the near future, it could effect al-Maliki's standing and, in fact, whether or not he remains prime minister.

As the year winds down,
Zaineb Naji (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) notes, "Hassan Baghdadi, a reporter for Ishtar satellite channel, said whatever happens to Mr. Zeidi, his actions made him the biggest news story of 2008. 'In Iraq, this story was the most important event of the year, bigger than the world financial crisis or anything else,' he said." John Ross (CounterPunch) observes:

Curiously, while Iraqis of all denominations rallied to the reporter's defense, the Baghdad press pack was unimpressed by al-Zaidi's shoe scoop. Indeed, one Iraqi journalist wrestled the al-Baghdadia correspondent to the floor while Maliki's goons beat on him, breaking his hand and fracturing two of his ribs. The Prime Minister, who apparently fancies himself a press critic, condemned the shoe toss as a "savage act which is unrelated to journalism in any way." Others in the Iraqi journalism community dissed al-Zaidi's performance as "unprofessional."
Even al-Jazeera, the powerful Qatar-based TV titan, was unusually standoffish in its reportage of the celebrated incident, which the powerful Arab network seemed to suggest, reflected poorly on the integrity of "responsible" Arab media. The New York Times, a paragon of corporate journalism, looked down its nose at the great shoe fling with its usual snottiness, disdaining Muntadhar al-Zaidi's credentials as a bona fide journalist and dismissing his activism as folkloric. Reporter Timothy Williams expressed surprise that the war in Iraq was "still unpopular."

And as the year winds down, Nouri al-Maliki's supposed to be overseeing greater Iraqi control of security. However, not unlike the myth of his 'leadership' in the February assault on Basra, al-Maliki's not really done the job.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that the US' top commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, explains that the Iraqi committees that are supposed to be overseeing the new security responsibilities are still not in place. Parker also quotes the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman who states, "Even if all the committees are in place, Iraqi politics could change any agreement or all of these procedures with no warning. If you have one really drastic incident that catalyzes Iraqi politics, suddenly all of these agreements could lead to a new set of Iraqi demands." Andrea Stone (USA Today) quotes Odierno explaining that, "We're still working our way through" on how US service members will be classified -- which will be called "combat" soldiers and which won't and how they'll determine on and off duty. Stone reminds the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement makes the meanings very improtant. We'll come back to that but on the topic of readyness, Elizabeth Palmer (CBS News) assesses Iraqi readyness and finds: "It's not yet perfect. Some of the Iraqi gunmen look ill-equipped next to their American counterparts." Palmer goes on to find hope in a mission where Iraqis brief the US. Back to the treaty and its 'meaning,' Alan Chvotkin ("who works on behalf of contractors") tells AP's Mike Baker: "The immunity question --- the largest question being talked about -- is not addressed in the ... agreement. The implication is there is none, but there's some hedging on that question. As of right now, there's still some ambiguity. And smart people disagree about it."

Today a hearing was set to start in Iraq and it two of the men who allegedly killed Margaret Hassan in 2004 were to stand trial. As
David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) reported, Hassan's family members are accusing "British diplomats of refusing to help them to confront alleged members of the Iraqi gang that kidnapped her." Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi goes on trial tomorrow with another man and Hassan's family have requested that a representative from England's Embassy be at the trial in attendance but they have been informed the Embassy considers it "too dangerous". The Belfast Telegraph carries a statement from Hassan's siblings Deidre, Geraldine, Kathryn and Michael Fitzsimons:

Since Margaret's death we have spent the last four years trying to find her remains. We have sought justice and truth, and have never given up. We want to bring her home and give her a Christian burial with the respect she deserves. This was a promise made to her by her husband (Tahseen Ali Hassan), and together with our family, he has never given up hope of fulfiling that promise.[. . .] One of these men was trying to blackmail the British Government and our family in exchange for the return of Margaret's remains. He demanded money from us, and a safe haven from the British Government in the UK for his family. [. . .] We have begged them to send an Embassy official to the trial to represent our sister Margaret. They feel unable to do so because of the security situation. We do not understand this. [. . .] Mr Brown said just this week that the British Government has achieved all its goals and the security situation in Iraq is much improved.

To date, only one person has been convicted in connection with the kidnapping and slaughter of Margaret Hassan. In June 2006,
Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported on the sentencing of Mustafa Muhammad Salman al-Jibouri who "held Ms. Hassan's purse after she was abducted, though he said he did not know whose it was at first." Meanwhile Jimmy Leach (Independent of London) reviews the top ten articles for his papers this year and notes: "Robert Fisk's piece on The tragic last moments of Margaret Hassan caused more disquiet, not least to Mr Fisk who knew Margaret Hassan. It is a truly harrowing piece, and there was some discussion about whether it should be run, but it is a remarkable insight into a horrifying situation." Click here to read Robert Fisk' column.

In the little reported violence today . . .

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six police officers wounded while another left two people left wounded.

Meanwhile in the US, president-elect Barack Obama continues to see criticism over his decision to embrace homophobia.
Kevin Gosztola (World Can't Wait) offers:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?

One would never have thought that we were electing Don Corleone to the presidency in November, but more and more individuals from the left seem to be rationalizing Obama with logic that one might find in the storyline of a Mario Puzo story.

Huffington Post had pieces of writing that clearly acquiesced to the decision Obama made.

Lee Stranahan encouraged people to "embrace what you have in common with Rick Warren."

"Like my comrades, I think Warren is dead wrong on same sex marriage. But the reality is that at the end of 2008, a majority of voters in California agreed with him. A majority of Americans agree with Warren about same sex marriage and many more states have made marriage equality unconstitutional than have ratified it…

" … If you are mad about Rick Warren, I'm not attacking you. I understand your anger and I'm not saying it's not justified. But it's all right to let your anger go, too. It doesn't mean surrender; it doesn't mean giving up the struggle for equality.

"It means doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means winning, right now - because the fight against hate starts whenever you want it, in your own heart. You can win a battle right now by not hating."

The editorial is loaded from beginning to end with wishful thinking.

So what if a "majority" agree with Pastor Warren's hateful positions toward the LGBT community? What about it being necessary to take a moral position that does not promote hatred of the LGBT community or blame members of the LGBT community for divisions over what marriage is and isn't in this country?

And, why should we be in favor of legitimizing Pastor Warren?

It's one thing for Pastor Warren to invite Obama. He might get more people to join his congregation, which means more book sales and more money for his religious ventures in American capitalism. But, Obama's invitation signals that his election meant Americans wanted people like Pastor Warren to be involved in Obama's presidency.

Allowing Pastor Warren to be up there legitimizes words and judgment like this:

"The issue to me, I'm not opposed to that as much as I'm opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I'm opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

This Rick Santorum-gay-marriage-is-going-to-lead-to-man-on-dog-sex kind of thinking is primitive and ignorant and deserves no place in American society. It deserves no place in American politics.

The national
Green Party issues the following statement this week:

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party activists challenged gay voters and advocates of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights to protest President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation."Unless we make our anger known now, Mr. Obama will continue to betray gay people," said Starlene Rankin, co-chair of the party's Lavender Green Caucus ( "Barack Obama's claim to be a 'fierce advocate for equality' is not credible when he chooses a pastor notorious for his ill-informed and slanderous opinions about homosexuality and vigorous support for Proposition 8." "The invitation signals that Mr. Obama may repeat the Clinton approach to gay rights. President Clinton, taking gay votes for granted, signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act into law and authorized the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military policy. We've had generations of gay rights advocates and other progressives insisting that we need to elect Democrats, then we'll push them towards pro-gay agenda. Instead, gay people have remained second-class citizens in the Democratic Party and told to hush up when they're politically inconvenient. For those tired of bipartisan retreats from promises of human rights and justice, the Green Party remains the party of real change in America," added Ms. Rankin. The Green Party's national platform asserts that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans deserve all the rights, including marriage and the ability to raise a family, that all other Americans enjoy ( Greens strongly opposed Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. Mr. Obama has said he opposed the passage of Propositon 8, but he also opposes full same-sex marriage rights, a position inconsistent with support for full and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Pastor Warren's public statements have revealed profound ignorance and bigotry on sexuality and on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in particular. Promoting passage of Proposition 8 in California, he has said that "in the hierarchy of evil... homosexuality is not the worst sin," an admission that he believes gay people are evil because they are gay. He has said that allowing same-sex marriage is like allowing "a brother and sister be together and call that marriage" and added that he is "opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage," comparing same-sex marriage and homosexuality to incestuous relationships and pedophilia, which are crimes. Pastor Warren has also said that homosexuality is "not the natural way.... Certain body parts are meant to fit together," but has not called for the invalidation of heterosexual marriages in which the spouses have engaged in sex outside of vaginal sexual intercourse. Greens noted that Barack Obama's choice of Rev. Warren for the inaugural prayer coincides with a declaration introduced by 66 countries in the UN calling for universal decriminalization of homosexuality ( The US is the only major western nation that has refused to sign on, even though a Supreme Court decision has invalidated US laws against sodomy. "Will the new Obama Administration maintain Bush policy and decline to have the US sign the declaration against criminalization of gay people?" asked Tim Casebolt, secretary of the Lavender Green Caucus. "Barack Obama has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense. Mr. Gates is not only likely to continue the Bush Administration's military aggression around the world, but also the targeting of gay members of the armed forces for investigation, harassment, and discharge. The Obama Cabinet appointments have disappointed anyone who sincerely hoped for genuine change in 2009," Mr. Casebolt added.

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