Saturday, March 30, 2013

Phil Ramone

In 1978, one of my favorite seventies albums came out, 52nd Street.  Billy Joel could always be counted on for a great party song -- one you could drink to or one you could make out to.  He was dependable.  So dependable that I don't think he was even seen as talented -- despite having written the classic "Just The Way You Are" already.

Then came 52nd Street and Billy's sound was crisper and rougher and more focused.

Some people love the album before it, The Stranger, and consider it the classic.  In the midst of a break up while they divide things, Judd Nelson's character in St. Elmo's Fire screams at Ally Sheedy, "You can have all the Billy Joels -- except The Stranger!"

52nd Street has the monster hit "My Life."  For the longest time, that was the theme of Bosom Buddies (Tom Hanks' ABC sitcom), then it went into syndication and got some generic crap slapped on it.

"My Life" was angry in lyrics and sound and the album seemed to capture, to me, the nasty coke high.  You're floating, you're free, but there's this dark and dry undercurrent.  (Coke became very big as the seventies were winding down.  Yes, I did cocaine back in the day.)

I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone

"Big Shot" followed that and, oh, how I still love this song.  It, "Stiletto," "Zanzibar," the title track and "Half A Mile Away" all fit the same theme and we also got the gorgeous ballad "Honesty."

Phil Ramone had produced The Stranger but what he and Joel were trying to say really came into focus on 52nd Street. They carried that focus over to Glass Houses and The Nylon Curtain.

To me, those are the three classics albums Billy Joel created. Phil Ramone produced all three.  1986's The Bridge is a minor Joel classic (also produced by Ramone).

But those three albums -- 52nd Street, Glass Houses and The Nylon Curtain -- are classics that point the way towards digital sound.  That's part of the crisper sound Ramone gave Billy Joel.  It's like Ramone was ten years ahead of the pack.

At the age of 72, CNN notes, Phil Ramone has died:

Ramone's collaboration credits are a Who's Who of the music industry: Burt Bacharach, Bono, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, to name a few.

The Grammys note:

A 14-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Trustees and Technical GRAMMY Award recipient, Ramone was a prolific and legendary producer, engineer and co-founder of A&R Recordings in New York. He collaborated with a diverse group of artists, including Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Etta James, Paul McCartney, Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen, among numerous others. His work with Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Paul Simon earned him three GRAMMY Awards for Album Of The Year for Genius Loves Company52nd Street and Still Crazy After All These Years, respectively. In 1980 he won the Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical) honor.
Ramone was also a dedicated member of The Recording Academy for several decades, having served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, a Board member of the MusiCares Foundation, and Co-Chair of the Producers & Engineers Wing, and he most recently served on the P&E Wing's Advisory Council and as a Board member of the GRAMMY Museum.

At Billy Joel's website, the following has been posted:

Phil Ramone, music producer and dear friend, died this morning in New York at age 72.
Phil produced The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, The Nylon Curtain, An Innocent Man, The Bridge, and the single “All My Life” released 2007. Our prayers and condolences are with the Ramone family. Phil will be deeply missed.
"I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band. He was the guy that no one ever ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with - longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him. I have lost a dear friend - and my greatest mentor. The music world lost a giant today." - Billy Joel

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, Salah al-Mutlaq learns what it is to be hated, we examine another area where the Iraq War had influence, and more.

Kitabat notes that protests took place in six provinces today -- with Saleh al-Mutlaq being called out throughout which well get to.  Kitabat notes that Falluja protesters say they are in it for the long haul, until the suffering Iraqi people ends.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The protester's spokesman in Anbar, Sheikh Saeed Allafi highly praised the stand taken by Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrists movement towards demonstrators and protesters in a number of governorates of Iraq, denouncing in the same time what he called the opportunistic pragmatic attitudes by deputy PM, Saleh al-Mutlaq.
Lafi added in a statement to NINA: "Muqtada al-Sadr, chose to stand with the masses when he deduced that the government arbitrary robs the rights of the masses.
He said: "The protesters of Anbar condemn the shameful attitude of Mutlaq, who stripped from the Iraqiya Slate and went to support Maliki government at the expense of the oppressed people.

Al-Shorfa notes:

Protesters in Baghdad, Diyala, Salaheddine, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninawa asked the Iraqi government to meet 13 demands they said were legitimate and constitutional.
"We hope this Friday will be the start of the end for the peaceful popular movement, by way of the government's response to our demands," said Sheikh Qusay Eddine al-Zein, spokesman for Anbar demonstrators.
"The demonstrators will not leave until the last demand has been met," he told Al-Shorfa. "Not as a favour from the government but as an enshrined right that must be restored to us under the new democratic system in Iraq."
"The government began discussing the demands and announced it would meet four of them," said Sheikh Abdullah al-Samarrae, Friday preacher in Samarra, Salaheddine province. "That is a good sign, but all demands must be met."

Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweets:

  1. 's beautiful, brief protest art. 'I can see you' young artist tells politicians. His mural taken down tonight

Iraqi Spring MC has video of the Baghdad protests and other cities for protests include Samarra, Baiji, Kirkuk, Falluja, Muqdadiyah, and Tamiyah.  The last one is where Nouri sent his forces in to do searches and arrests.  In addition, Nouri's forces instituted a crackdown preventing anyone from entering or leaving TamiyahRaids also took place in Baiji. At Baghdad's Abu Hanifa, Nouri's forces surrounded the mosque and prevented worshipers from entering and at least one person was beat up by Nouri's forcesDar Addustour reports on the Ramadi and Falluja protests noting that the protesters feel betrayed by certain politicians such as Saleh al-Mutlaq and that they have declared that only protesters from a province can speak for the protesters of that province.  In Falluja, Sheikh Hussein Obeid said that the government's refusal to meet the protesters demands are provoking a crisis.

One topic of the protests was Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  Also getting attention was Mohammed Tamimi (Minster of Education) and Ahmed Karbouli (Minister of Industry) who joined al-Mutlaq at the Wednesday Cabinet meeting presuming to speak for the protesters -- they don't speak for the protesters and the protesters don't approve of what was said.  Iraqi Spring MC shows a huge poster carried with Saleh al-Mutlaq's face on it, a big red X across his face and the proclamation that he is a traitor to the Iraqi people.  Alsumaria has a photo of his face being carried on posters.    He was denounced in Babylonian for his "false assertions."  He was denounced at the Baiji protest as someone looking to increase their own stature by pretending to speak for the protesters.

NINA notes that Iraiqya is blaming the al-Mutlaq split on Hayder al-Mulla.  In Samarra, Iraqi Spring MC documents, a banner was raised at the sit-in noting the cry of "No on federalism, no on sectarianism, no on divisions. Yes to the glory and dignity of Iraq."

All Iraq News notes a Kirkuk car bombing today has "resulted in killing and injuring a number of citizens,"And at first, it appeared that was it.  Then it all started pouring in.  All Iraq News reports 5 Baghdad bombings which have claimed 14 lives and left twenty-five injured.  Alsumaria notes a Muqdadiya bombing has left 9 dead and ten injured and, on that Kirkuk bombing, they count 2 dead and thirty-five injured.  In addition, police shot dead 1 suspect in Mosul, and a Baquba bombing left three police members injured.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

Car bombs kill 18 at Shiite mosques in Iraq, 3 others dead in separate shootings - 's wrap:

And AFP notes that the Kirkuk bombing death toll grew to 4 with seventy-two injured while 2 teachers were shot dead in Kut and the press received the usual treatment: "Security forces elsewhere in the capital threatened to detain AFP journalists for attempting to film and take photographs of the aftermath of the bombings."   On the topic of violence, Jane Arraf Tweets:

Sistani rep Muhsin al-Battat seriously wounded in car bombing of Shia mosque after delivering Friday sermon.

Very bad development - Sistani rep, voice of moderation in , critically wounded by car bomb after giving Friday sermon in .

Remember this:
With very few exceptions, an important event in Iraq went unnoticed in the U.S. media this month. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a force that included helicopters to western Iraq to arrest Rafi al-Issawi, the former finance minister and a leading Sunni Arab opposition member. Al-Issawi, who was protected by armed members of the Abu Risha clan, one of post-2003 Iraq’s most powerful Sunni tribes, escaped capture.
This action came on the heels of al-Maliki’s telephone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry and took Washington by surprise. Had a confrontation ensued, the results would have been calamitous. It could even have provided the spark for the beginning of a civil war. Still, al-Maliki’s actions represent another nail in the coffin for a unified Iraq. Al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, had previously accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a leading Sunni political figure, of terrorism, forcing him to flee Iraq in 2011. Al-Hashimi was subsequently tried in absentia and sentenced to death.
Al-Maliki’s policies have significantly raised tensions in the Sunni regions of Iraq. There are demonstrations in many of the Sunni provinces that seek to emulate those of the Arab Spring. They are one reason al-Maliki has targeted al-Issawi. He wants to contain the dissent before it spreads.

It's from Professor Henri J. Barkey's "Iraq's great divider: Prime Minister Maliki's actions may lead to the country's breakup, as the U.S. stands idly by" (Los Angeles Times).  We noted it this week when the Los Angeles Times published it, we noted it became huge on Arabic social media (also it was reported on by the Iraqi Times) and now Stars and Stripes is carrying the column.  It's an important column.  I wonder if Barkey had any idea of the reach it would have when he wrote it?

The costs of the illegal war have been many.  Reason  notes the 4 to 6 trillion dollar tab."  Yesterday we noted, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report,  "The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers between $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher [Linda J. Bilmes]."  That's where that cost was coming from.  Those costs did not all take place in 2003 -- the veterans who were wounded were wounded throughout the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  So it's kind of strange that some want to look at other costs but only look at 2003.  It's also kind of strange the terms they use.   Chris Hedges (TruthDig) had a great column this week with a factual error and Tom Cleveland (All Voices) may have realized it and tried to pad it out by taking "TV news" and adding "broadcast journalism" to it.  But while the reality is that Phil Donahue shouldn't have been pulled from MSNBC -- his was the highest rated program, a fact that no one seems to note, he was beating Chris Matthews in the ratings when he was pulled -- the reality is also that he wasn't doing TV news -- nor is Matthews or any of the talk show hosts on MSNBC or any other channel.  Talk shows are not news.  They can sometimes qualify as public affairs programming but they are not news.

I can remember watching Today on NBC, for example, Monday, January 12, 2004.  It's an entertainment show that features news.  And a breathless report did a live report that Matt Lauer swallowed because eh is so disgusting and such a piece of s**t and that's why so many of us are so thrilled to see his downfall take place in public (hey, Matt, at least you got in some good golfing with George H.W. Bush, right?). So there was Matty Lauer open mouthed in shock at the 'news' being reported.  Ron Suskind's book (which the reporter was waiving on air) The Price of Loyalty would be released the next day and it was all these fantastic charges by former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and it included documents that the White House said O'Neill was in trouble for taking and they were talking criminal charges and . . . .

And I was dialing on my cell phone to friends at Today asking WTF was going on.  How the hell did that piece of crap presented as reporting make the air?  I too had an advanced copy and, unlike the NBC 'reporter,' I had actually read the book.  But you didn't need to read the whole book, I pointed out on the phone repeatedly, to know that O'Neill asked permission to take the files when he left the White House -- that's in Ron Suskind's opening introduction.

The next day, January 13, 2004, Katie Couric did a mop up segment where they addressed the fact that, yes, O'Neill did have permission to take those files.  There would be no prosecution and he had broken no laws.  She did it with another reporter. No one mentioned the previous report.  Katie is gone from Today by her own choice, the reporter who did the mop up is at another network because NBC didn't give a damn about facts repeatedly.  Matt Lauer's only being brought down today because he's no longer pretty to look at and the reporter who did the false report, the bag boy for the White House who waived a book on air that he didn't read the first pages of (the introduction)?

That was David Gregory.  And for being a whore and not a journalist, he was eventually promoted to host of Meet The Press -- where he scares away viewers with that creepy forehead that screams for either botox or bangs.

So spare me your Chevy to levy drive about the day TV news supposedly died.  Worth noting, on the topic of Ron Suskind, that the well researched, by the facts journalist published another look at another administration, this one was Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.  It was a different administration but the tactics that White House used to discredit Suskind's books were incredibly similar and it's very sad that the American tax dollar is repeatedly misused by administrations to brainstorm how to attack US citizens who say things the White House disagrees with.

That 2011 treatment?  Much more important to a story about the death of journalism than Phil Donahue's firing.  Donahue's firing was well noted in real time and it continues to be.  It's not hidden history.  What was done to Ron Suskind -- by Republican and by Democratic administrations?  Much less well known and representative of the problem in journalism.  We were going to be the media.

That was the promise in 2003.  I didn't understand it.  I was speaking all over the country, starting in February 2003, against the Iraq War.  As I traveled city to city, campus to campus, young America was outraged by the Iraq War but adement that something good would come from this crime: The creation of a new media.  Blogs and websites and serv-lists and micro-radio and web radio and all these other terms I had no idea about.   (This site started in November 2004 and I didn't know what I was doing then anymore than I do today.)

And for a brief moment, that did look possible.  But there was no real desire to build a media and you can see that looking back today.  I think the people I met were sincere, I just think they were lied to, tricked and duped by so many.  Take Air America.  That was the biggest con job in the world, in all of its incarnations which began in 2004.  In terms of being opposed to the Iraq War, the hosts Laura Flanders, Janeane Garofalo, Sam Seder, Mike Malloy, Lizz Winstead (only if Chuck D were on Unfiltered that day, with War Hawk Rachel Maddow who repeatedly stated on air that the US couldn't leave Iraq, Lizz was silent), Marc Maron and Randi Rhodes were.  That may seem like a lot but there were a lot of hours to fill.  And, again, if Chuck D wasn't around, Rachel was pimping her learn-to-love the war b.s.  She repeatedly cited Colin Powell's 'Pottery Barn rule' (if you break it, you buy it -- Pottery Barn has no such rule) and insisted that the US remain in Iraq.  She refused to allow anti-war veterans to come on her show.  (By contrast, Janeane and Sam were happy to interview those currently serving, who'd been deployed to Iraq and were saying that the US needed to withdraw.)

Air America Radio talked about the need to build a new media.  It was just talk to cover the fact that they only existed to get Democrats elected (I'm referring now to the money backing the effort and not the on airs).  So the ratings challenged, money destroying 'network' finally went under as soon as a Democrat was elected to the White House.

But it never needed to be that way.  The so-called history of Air America Radio is largely a lie.  By the summer of 2004, Air America Radio had enough listeners to be a hit, enough to make a healthy profit.  It had listeners all over the country and was breaking records. 

If you're skeptical of this, that's because you've been lied to and misled.  The focus was on land-locked radio stations, physical ones.  That's not where their audience was.  Their audience was in streaming.  Real Player, for example, had never had any demand like it before.  They had to change their streaming procedures and rules for Air America.  This could have been built on, this was the model.  But they weren't interested in a new media.  Again, Real Player had never seen anything like it before.  Streaming in the millions and not for a minute or two but for hours -- it was averaging that over 50% of Air America Radio listeners were listening for six continuous hours.

Air American Radio was a flop and that's because they wanted to be old media.  That's because they whored as well and not just in terms of the Democratic Party.  I can tell all the tales because I know the bulk of the players.  Sam Seder, for example?  Cowed easily.  The first time?  On air, he was repeatedly attacking Adam Nagourney's bad journalism.  A New York Times reader once wished that Nagourney was dead and Drama Queen Nagrouney tried to inflate it into a death threat -- destroying the poor man's life in the process.  So Seder couldn't have picked a worse target.  Nags whined like the little priss he is and got the advertising department to call Air America Radio and threaten to pull the New York Times ads (which were then running once an hour) if Seder didn't shut up.  Seder not only shut up, he immediately deleted his comedy blog Ad Nags.

The one truly independent program Air America had was The Laura Flanders Show.  In part because Laura had decades of experience and was a popular on air in the Bay Area and in part because she broadcast (live) Saturday and Sunday evenings (three hours each night), she was left alone and built up a huge following.  She could and did bring on war resisters.  She could and did loudly decry the illegal war.  Only Janeane matched Laura for eloquence when it came to speaking out against the Iraq War and for devotion to covering that topic.  And that meant that Janeane and Laura called out Democrats as a result.  On Janeane's show, there was Sam Seder to act as rescuer and point out some good quality to the elected officials who was a War Hawk.  There was no such person on Laura's show. 

So how could the curb her?  They needed to partner her, you understand, it will be good for all involved. So began Radio Nation with Laura Flanders.  It started off okay.  But Laura was fighting for everyone of those programs.  I'm not fond of Laura Flanders anymore because she's been a stooge for Barack so don't think this is me doing a favor for someone I like. This is about reality and recognition to those who tried.  Laura fought like crazy to make shows that matter.  Not only was she fighting Air America, she was also fighting The Nation magazine.  And as her show as stripped of hours, The Nation began insisting more and more that since they were 'sponsoring' the show, the guests should include Nation journalists.  Soon that's all it included. Each week was about the pseudo-issues being churned out by that week's bad print edition. Laura created Grit TV for a reason.  I wish it were worth watching, I wish she had the guts and courage she once did to decry what is going on today.  Maybe she can't because of all she went through at Air America?  Maybe the scars are too deep.  But while she was on Air America Radio, she fought to get coverage that mattered, she fought to keep the Iraq War a topic of discussion even though Air America was issuing statements (once Lionel and others were added, orders were no longer needed, the hosts were determined to comply with mere suggestions) that Iraq not be covered (because the Democratic Party had walked away from it).  To her last show on Air America Radio, Laura fought like crazy to make it matter.

And Air America Radio could have mattered.  I was at the meeting in August 2004 where the suits discussed whether to go forward with trying to buy radio stations and syndicate or rather they build on the unheard of web presence.  I was being asked to invest.  I didn't.  If they had built around the web, I would have because that seemed new whereas the plans presented about purchasing radio stations and syndication reminded me of the problems a friend had with her workout studios.  I stated at that meeting that I would invest if it pursued the online model only.  I pointed out the problems that they already had with stations -- including knocking out a Black radio station which the local community greatly (and rightly) resented.  Across the nation, they were going to grab stations (low-rated, yes, but they did have listeners) and try to penetrate new markets as a new entity while pissing off segments of the audience by taking over these existing stations?  I didn't see it as a win and I didn't see that the network could carry off purchasing those stations, let alone running them.

'So that's what happens when a corporation tries to be of the people,' you say.  'It's bound to end in disaster.' 

Maybe, but what didn't end in disaster.  The Iraq War made Pacifica Radio a national presence.  It was something to see.  And on air, they covered Iraq.  They didn't do an Iraq show, that was too much work.  But if it was in the news that day, they did mention it.  Brian Edwards-Tiekert, to his credit, did try to build enthusiasm for an Iraq War program.  When that failed, he tried to talk stations into carrying War News Radio -- which some saw as an effort to kill local voices but was actually an effort to get Pacifica to focus on the wars -- which is why Pacifica is supposed to be around.  But the Iraq War was a cash cow to Pacifica.

They didn't get Air America Radio numbers -- no one had ever gotten those numbers before and probably won't again - but they did see huge increases in streaming.  KPFA being the most news based of the Pacifica stations benefited the most.  WBAI, not able to grasp what a schedule is or that dead men should maybe go off the air after they did and not still be hosting a weekly series, saw starts and spurts.  In terms of streaming, their hits were Law and Disorder Radio, Taking Aim with Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone, Wake Up Call with Deepa Fernandes and Behind The News With Doug Henwood.  Of those four programs, only Law and Disorder remains (and has greatly increased its syndication around the country).  Wake Up Call remains with a new host who seems to think a party atmosphere is needed.  Deepa now works for KPCC.  Doug Henwood's WBAI show was dumped by WBAI but KPFA saw the value in it (they were repeating it already) and it was such a hit on Saturdays that it's now got prime afternoon time during the week (Thursdays at noon).  Mya and Ralph are no longer on WBAI.  I like Ralph and Mya but they're off because they were greedy.  They were being offered another slot and it wasn't good enough for them.  Since the bulk of their listeners came from archives and not from live radio, the time slot shouldn't have mattered, they would have still had the show and its internet presence would have remained but a pride factor entered in and that's their own damn fault.  All of Pacifica, but especially WBAI hosts, should be made very aware that they do not own any of the airwaves or any segment on the schedule.  The failure to do that has been the biggest downfall for Pacifica and it's why so few of the shows matter today.  In addition, they waste a fortune on Mitch Jeserich's bad program when that money could be spent on programming that matters and not yet another public affairs program.  That features the same guests you hear on all the other Pacifica stations.

But while Iraq was covered, they made money.  KPFA had pledges from all over.  Not token ones, either.  They had people from other states pledging and doing so with the monthly pledge on the credit card.  They were rolling in dough and that was because of the Iraq War.  Yet they refused to create a program for it and when the Democratic Party officials lost interest in the war, so did KPFA and others.  And they lost listeners and they lost donations and it still hasn't hit them.  They still get on air and mention Iraq in pitches for money.  They have to do their beg-a-thons even more frequently these days.  It's because they failed the listener.  The Iraq War gave them a chance to prove they were something different from the mainstream.  Forget that they all whored for Barack in 2008 -- and I mean during the primaries, not just in the general election. They ran off listeners by ignoring Iraq.  Even to this day, when KPFA broadcasts rare Iraq coverage -- take the great radio documentary that Nora Barrows-Friedman just did and  Flashpoints broadcast entitled Iraqi Frequencies: 10 Years of Occupation and Resistance.  If you missed it, you can currently click here and stream. It is also posted at Project Censored for streaming but that's a KPFA stream as well.  Nora made the documentary with Shakomako and they've posted it at their website. But even to this day, when they do rare Iraq coverage, it helps the station.  Nora's documentary helped the station so much that they damn well should be re-establishing her as full time employee -- full time paid employee.  I don't know if she's aware of the huge positive response KPFA has received over that documentary. 

And if they'd continued to cover Iraq, things could have mattered.  Working from a Justice Department press release, Sandra Lupien broke the news of War Crimes that the US was willing to prosecute.  We're talking about Steven D. Green who was convicted  May 7, 2009 for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21, 2009, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead he was sentenced to life in prison.   From the July 3, 2006 snapshot:

Sandra Lupien noted on today on KPFA's The Morning Show, the military had put the age of the female at 20 years-old when they announced their investigation last week (Friday). Reuters reports that the mayor of Mahmudiya declared today that the woman "was no more than 16 years old when she was killed along with her parents and young sister". Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, "the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death" while, if convicted on the charge of rape, "the maximum statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison."

Sandra Lupien always found things that others missed and when no one -- not even the major dailies -- were aware of the arrest, KPFA listeners knew about it.  That's why they donated. That's why people out of state streamed and donated.  KPFA had a national presence and listeners from around the country who were willing to donate for that kind of coverage.  And they threw it away.  Did so knowingly.  There was a slaughter in Iraq one day which was only noted on the newsbreak and Aimee Allison groaned that she was "so sick of hearing about Iraq." It was a mini-rant which was partly recorded in the studio (she wasn't on air during her rant) and part of the reason why, when she was fired, no one gave a damn.  (It hadn't helped that she'd taken to the airwaves to call for book burning -- specifically she wanted copies of The New Yorker burned because they ran an image ridiculing The Prophet Barack.  That kind of nonsense will never build good will in the Bay Area where we don't take to supporting book burning for any reason -- certainly not to whore for a politician.)  

So corporate new media failed, public media failed.  But what of this new media? 

As great magazines like Clamor closed shop, the left model wasn't apparently going to be print.  But there was Independent Media Center.  Remember that?  It had seed money and it would depend upon contributions from locals.  It was all over the world.  In the US, it was hundreds of sites with most states having multiple Indy Media Center sites. 


The circus is falling down on its knees
The big top is crumbling down
It's raining in Baltimore fifty miles east
Where you should be, no one's around
I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I need a big love
I need a phone call

-- "Raining in Baltimore," written by Adam Duritz, first appears on Counting Crows' August and Everything

It's raining in Baltimore, Baltimore Indymedia announced it was shutting down February 25, 2012.  Binghamton IMC was one that regularly updated.  Visit today and find "The Binghamton IMC site is gone, RIP."  San Franciso Indymedia is no more (its rival Indybay remains active).  Arizona IMC, Kansas City IMC Madison Indymedia, . . . so many gone.  Indymedia US pretends it's still around but would the top story on your page be from September 26, 2012 if you were really still around?  Seattle Indymedia was the first (1999) and it's no longer around.  Not everyone ceased publication.  California is represented by, among others, Santa Cruz Indymedia, Los Angeles Indymedia, In addition, Atlanta Indymedia, Chicago Indymedia, Boston Indymedia and Colorado Indymedia are still around.

That should have been huge, IMC.  It had the least overhead.  It did face attacks from the Justice Dept, true.  But most destructive, if you talk to Indymedia vets, was the Cult of St. Barack.  I disagree.  The most destructive aspect was catering to the Cult of St. Barack.  No one forced you to cater.  But once you did, your readers -- or drive-bys -- knew you could be bullied into submission so they then controlled what you covered and what you didn't.  You traded influence for likability failing to grasp that influence is the only thing that matters.  Or, for that matter, that the people who say they'll love you when you write just what they tell you forget to inform you that they won't respect you and they won't read you.  You sealed your own fates.  In the process, you ran off your real audience -- a group of independent thinkers from across the political spectrum who didn't see anything 'independent' about an outlet becoming suck-up to teacher each day.  The brown nosing is what killed IMC.  The sites that survived tended to be willing to fight for what they believed in.  San Francisco offers the best example. San Francisco Indymedia was an embarrassment.  It was nothing but a megaphone for the Democratic Party.  Indybay was independent.  The two fought like crazy and there was bad blood.  Both claimed to represent the Bay Area.  In the end, San Francisco Indymedia was the one to go under.  Colorado IMC was incredibly independent and that's why it thrives today.  But so many of the outlets became nothing but cheerleaders.  They'd cheerlead politicians and they cheerlead TV personalities.  They offered no critique that was worth reading.  They were rehashing talking points about 2003 and 2004 and the GOP is evil and blah blah blah.  It didn't reflect the changed landscape.  It was artificial and fake.

And so it died.  Indymedia can't applaud, for example, the Libyan War and expect to have an audience.  It goes against everything IMC was created for. 

IMC had a huge audience when it was able to provide Iraq commentary and some coverage.  Those outlets that continued to be about justice flourished.  The bulk went under as they twisted themselves into pretzels to justify one sell-out after another by the now-in-charge Democrats.  There are answers here for future generations and for media activists.  But notice how this topic has been ignored.  Notice how the deaths of IMCs all over the country have taken place with no comment from the same outlets that used to promote them.

The Iraq War is illegal.  It has also been a non-stop teachable moment demonstrating what we refuse to look at as a people, what we refuse to examine, what we will put up with and what we will gladly ignore.  All the people wasting time trying to pinpoint the so-called death of TV news or news or whatever miss the reality that a vibrant healthy media has been one of the biggest casualties of the Iraq War -- and that took place after 2003.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Michelle Shocked? No, just sad and kind of dull

AP misreports, "Alternative folk and rock singer Michelle Shocked is staging a sit-in outside one of several nightclubs that canceled her show after she made an anti-gay slur."

No, not "an anti-gay slur."  She made a series of them in that now infamous concert.

Rolling Stone got it right before the audio was released in their March 20th report:

Earlier this week, folk singer Michelle Shocked reportedly spewed vicious anti-gay comments during a San Francisco performance, voiced her support for Proposition Eight and quoted Old Testament verses that denounce homosexuality. "I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry," she said to the crowd, according to several witness accounts. "You can go on Twitter and say, 'Michelle Shocked says God hates f**s.'"
Since the late Eighties and into the Nineties, fans have associated Shocked with progressive liberal ideals; she's become a "born-again, sanctified, saved-in-the-blood Christian" only in the past few years. Her stance on homosexuality has a loaded history, convoluted by a 1990 interview during which she admitted to having at least one female lover.

Amy Larson (KSBW) reports today, "Concertgoers said Shocked made several statements against same-sex marriage and claimed that God hates gay people while she was performing at club Yoshi's on March 17."

She wore a white suit tonight as she tried to stage a sit-in and when people tried to speak to her, she tried to get them to write on her suit.

Michelle Shocked has refused to sincerely talk about this issue.  She's now just a nut and not in a good way.  I was feeling sorry for her but it's kind of hard to do when she's so nutty she seems to think she can turn this into a publicity stunt that will bring her fame.


Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, March 28, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Saleh al-Mutlaq cozies up to Nouri, Iraqiya sees some fractures, Dan Choi has his day in court, and more.

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick (The Diplomat) insists today, "However, given that international terrorist organizations can -- and have -- threatened our livelihood, the United States can’t wish away counterinsurgency."  Actually, it could and it should.  But war addicts like Haider Ali Hussein Mullick are idiots and/or fools.  There is no proof that counter-insurgency has done a damn thing to protect the United States.  If you look at the root cause of 9-11 -- which all these years later, we still aren't supposed to -- counter-insurgency would fall into exactly the sort of actions that cause the hostility and resentments at the root of the 9-11 attacks.  Outside of the US there were wide discussions on the causes.  For example, September 29th, 2011, Arundhati Roy weighed in at the Guardian noting:

For strategic, military and economic reasons, it is vital for the US government to persuade its public that their commitment to freedom and democracy and the American Way of Life is under attack. In the current atmosphere of grief, outrage and anger, it's an easy notion to peddle. However, if that were true, it's reasonable to wonder why the symbols of America's economic and military dominance - the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon - were chosen as the targets of the attacks. Why not the Statue of Liberty? Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government's record of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things - to military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)? It must be hard for ordinary Americans, so recently bereaved, to look up at the world with their eyes full of tears and encounter what might appear to them to be indifference. It isn't indifference. It's just augury. An absence of surprise. The tired wisdom of knowing that what goes around eventually comes around. American people ought to know that it is not them but their government's policies that are so hated. They can't possibly doubt that they themselves, their extraordinary musicians, their writers, their actors, their spectacular sportsmen and their cinema, are universally welcomed. All of us have been moved by the courage and grace shown by firefighters, rescue workers and ordinary office staff in the days since the attacks.
America's grief at what happened has been immense and immensely public. It would be grotesque to expect it to calibrate or modulate its anguish. However, it will be a pity if, instead of using this as an opportunity to try to understand why September 11 happened, Americans use it as an opportunity to usurp the whole world's sorrow to mourn and avenge only their own. Because then it falls to the rest of us to ask the hard questions and say the harsh things. And for our pains, for our bad timing, we will be disliked, ignored and perhaps eventually silenced.

Those conversations couldn't take place in the US.  When people tried they were demonized.  Susan Sontag wrote three paragraphs on 9-11, they were three well written paragraph, they were basic in logic, and for that the likes of tub of trash Andrew Sullivan demonized her.  He can pretend to be sorry about Iraq today all he wants, but he has never apologized for the way he demonized people in the years leading up to the start of the Iraq War.  He was a fat and ugly bully then and he's a fat and ugly bully now.  How did the US end up in the Iraq War?  Fat ugly bullies like Andrew Sullivan.  Here's Sontag's first paragraph:

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.

Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism?  Are they really helping to improve US relations or are they just the breeding ground for future anger and future resentments?

If you're confused as to how to answer, maybe you waste your time trusting Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! to tell you the truth?  As Ava and I noted Sunday:

Let's clarify that.  It's not just that she didn't do the investigative report, it's that it didn't cost her.  British public television and England's Guardian newspaper paid for it.  Goody put it this way, "As we continue to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, we turn today to a shocking new report by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads."

A shocking new report?  We'll we're in.  Oh, wait.  She was talking about James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq -- the documentary we covered in "TV: The War Crimes Documentary" two weeks ago.

14 days late and playing it cheap, Goody decided to kind-of, sort-of get serious.

Or as serious as a Class of '79 Harvard Whore can.

We were tipped off by a friend at The Guardian that the paper's Maggie O'Kane was asked not to use the term "counter-insurgency"  during her appearance on Democracy Now!

If you've seen the documentary, you know that counter-insurgency is what the documentary's all  about.

[. . .]

Counter-insurgency is at the heart of the British documentary.  It's a policy.  Goody wanted to reduce it to random acts of torture with no real American fingerprints on the crimes.  To hear Goody tell it and offer selective edits of the documentary, James Steele trained some bad guys and that's really all.

Harvard's connection to counterinsurgency ensures that Goody won't talk about counter-insurgency.  But others talk about.  For example, last week it was the topic of a Foreign Policy roundtable, and the participants were all COIN enthusiasts including Eliot Cohen who explained:

The first thing is just to remind us all, counterinsurgency is a kind of military operation. There's an American style to counterinsurgency; there was a German style to counterinsurgency; there's a Soviet or Russian style to counterinsurgency. It's just a kind of operation that militaries do, and I think particularly in the popular discussion there's this tendency to call counterinsurgency the kind of stuff that's in the manual.
[. . .]
And finally, having played a very modest role in helping get the COIN manual launched, I've got two big reservations about it. Actually three. One is a technical one, which is it underestimated the killing part of counterinsurgency and particularly what Stan McChrystal and his merry men were doing [with special operations]. I think that is a large part of our counterinsurgency success. We killed a lot of the people who needed to be killed, or captured them, and that's not something you want to talk about. You'd rather talk about building power plants and stuff, but the killing part was really important, and I think we have to wrestle with that one because it's obviously problematic.

Does that sound like it's helping?  Does Barack Obama's Drone War help?  As Cedric and Wally noted this morning, the chorus against The Drone War just added a choir.  Dan Merica (CNN) reports priests, rabbis and reverends have made a "video [which] criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences.  The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions. According to the religious leaders in the video, titled “Drones and Religion,” the drone program fails to meet several of these criteria."  The group is known as Brave New Foundation and they note:

Brave New Foundation has the honor of releasing a video to accompany a seminal report by human rights law experts at Stanford and New York University law schools. The report, entitled Living Under Drones presents chilling first-hand testimony from Pakistani civilians on the humanitarian and security costs of escalating drone attacks by the United States. The report uncovers civilian deaths, and shocking psychological and social damage to whole families and communities – where people are literally scared to leave their homes because of drones flying overhead 24 hours a day.
The report is based on nine months of research, including two investigations in Pakistan. The Stanford-NYU research team interviewed over 130 individuals, including civilians who traveled out of the largely inaccessible region of North Waziristan to meet with the researchers. They also interviewed medical doctors who treated strike victims, and humanitarian and journalist professionals who worked in drone impacted areas.
As U.S. citizens, we feel a responsibility to know the real impact of the policies of our government. We hope you will join us at to be part of this fight for a more humane and just world.

Dan Merica (CNN) notes, "The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences.  The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions."  Bully Boy Bush said Just War Theory didn't matter when it declared illegal war on Iraq.  That's why Pope John Paul II made clear the war was illegal January 13, 2003 (two months before it broke out) with remarks which included:

War is not always inevitable.  It is always a defeat for humanity.  And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo?  War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations.

"War is not always inevitable," declared Pope John Paul II but Haider Ali Hussein Mullick insists that counter-insurgency can't be wished away?  The conceptual limitations of him and his ilk ensure that war will continue.  As Pope John Paul II also noted in that speech, "Yet everything can change.  It depends on each of us.  Everyone can develop withing himself his potential for faith, for honesty, for respect of others and for commitment to the service of others."

And we can make a change -- even the Haider Ali Hussein Mullicks -- if we can be honest with ourselves. 

Lt Dan Choi knows about honesty.  Speaking to Adam Kokesh on Adam vs. the Man last week,  he explained serving under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Dan Choi:  Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a violation of the Constitution, I thought.   But it prevented me from telling the truth about who I was even though the West Point honor code said, "You will not lie or tolerate those who do."  And I never really thought that it was a lying issue, I never really thought that it was an honor or integrity issue because I said, "This is the rule, this is what I signed up for, I knew that was part of the contract."  And it wasn't until I fell in love for the very first time -- I was 26-years-old.  And I never had a girlfriend.  Never had a boyfriend.  Never expressed love.  Never felt that somebody else was that important to me, that would be more important to me than myself.  And when I did fall in love, and I had come back from Iraq, that's when I realized that it really was lying.  When you have to lie about the person that supports you no matter what, when you put them in the closet, it then became an intensely selfish thing, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  And I know a lot of soldiers are out there, and I used to think the same way, that it's a very noble thing to suffer.  That's a very common soldier-military mentality.  And then I realized because you're forcing someone else to go into nonexistence for your own career, or for your own status or paycheck or rank, that's not anything that I signed up for.  I never got promised that I would be a one-star general, four-star general. That's not what service was about.  So I looked down the barrel of possibly of giving up everything in order to live a life of real truth.  And it was because of love that I found out what the honor code really meant.

In March 2009, Dan went on MSNBC and came out publicly.  He also became active in demanding US President Barack Obama honor the campaign promise he made to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Getting active meant speaking out and taking part in protests.  In 2010, that meant three times chaining himself to the White House fence.  That's what he was on trial for today.  August 31, 2011, Dan was appearing before Judge John Facciola who put the case on hold after, as Jessica Gressko (AP) reported, noting "Choi has shown, at least preliminary, that he is being treated differently because of the subject of his protests, the nature of his speech or what he said."

Dan's case was much weaker today as a result of a decision another judge made.  Ann E. Marinow (Washington Post) notes, "But Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that the magistrate judge could not consider the issue of how Choi came to be prosecuted in reaching a verdict."  Why he was being prosecuted wasn't an issue?  What a sad day for justice.  Alice Ollstein filed a report for Free Speech Radio News.

Alice Ollstein:  Approaching the steps of the DC district court, Lt Dan Choi and his supporters sang a message to Justice Dept attorney Angela George who has been the lead prosecutor against Choi.  Wearing his full dress military uniform, Choi gave a short statement on the people's mike to his friends and supporters who came for the final day of testimony.

Dan Choi:   We are here for justice.  We will not we will not leave this place until we get justice. 

Alice Ollstein:  Over the last two year's Choi's legal team has argued that the government's charges should be dismissed because they were selective and vindictive.  Jim Ietrangelo, an attorney and fellow gay rights activist who represented Choi at the DC Superior Court gave the example of the crowds hanging on the fence at the White House the night the president announced the killing of Osama bin Laden. 

Jim Pietrangelo:   None of those people were arrested and none of them were convicted.  On a daily basis, there are people in front of the White House engaging in free speech and doing exactly the same thing or almost the same thing as Dan Choi but they're not arrested simply because their message is pro-government.  Dan criticized the government, he criticized the president.

Alice Ollstein:  Pietrangelo added that even most people protesting the US government government in that spot are only fined $100 or less for violating a White House ordinance.  But in 2011, the Justice Department used a rare tactic called a Write of Mandamus to  prevent Choi from using selective prosecution as a defense.  Choi appealed the order but lost.  District Judge John Facciola had to remind him of the Mandamus Write several times during Thursday's trial, cutting him off whenever he tried to argue that he was targeted for arrest because of the content of his speech.  Choi who was representing himself in court and did not have a lawyer was also reprimanded by the judge many times for raising his voice in the courtroom, using casual language like "dude," "freaking" and "bt dubbs" and interrupting the prosecutor and witnesses.  He also broke down crying several times, as did many of his friends in the courtroom. Before he took the podium to argue his case, he also asked the federal marshals to make sure to have a paramedic on hand, just in case,  Choi called and questioned several witnesses including  African-American civil rights leaders and members of the Park Police who participated in his multiple protest-related arrests.  He also questioned his fellow arrestees and others  dismissed from the military because of their sexuality.  One of them, Staff Sgt Miriam Ben-Shalom expressed frustration before the trial that no representatives from major LGBT rights groups were present.

Meriam Ben-Shalom:  Where are the people that say they represent us?  Where are the blue blazer, regimental tie and khaki bunch?  They ain't here.  The people are here.

Alice Ollstein:  Now that Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed, this trial is the only obstacle  to Choi re-enlisting in the military -- which, he told the judge, is all he wants.  But he rejected the judge's suggestion that he file a motion saying that the government can't prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he failed to obey the US Park Police. Choi thanked the judge for looking out for him but said his future soldiers wouldn't respect him if he took that legal path for his own benefit.  A judgment could be handed down at any time and a decision finding Choi guilty of the criminal misdemeanor could land him in jail for a maximum of six months.  Alice Ollstein, Free Speech Radio News, Washington.

The Advocate notes that the judge fined Choi $100.  Since the fine could have been as high as $5,000, the one hundred dollar fine should be seen as something of a victory for Choi.  Should he choose not to pay it, he could face six months in prison.  Sara Haile-Marriam (Huffington Post) shares, "Dan is one of the bravest, strongest, best people I know. He's got a whole lot of guts and passion and love, and watching him as he literally crafts his own defense, arguing for his very dignity in a country that he risked his life to serve, has been one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. He deserves better than this."

While it was a victory of sorts for Dan due to the fine, it wasn't a victory for the people in terms of the larger issue.  As he explained to Adam Kokesh last week:

The federal law does not just apply to the White House.  It applies to every federal land where the Park Police have jurisdiction to arrest people.  And so the consequences of case law, precedent that comes out of this, case law if the judge makes an opinion that says, "All you need to do is fail to obey" -- usually you have fail to obey with some kind of safety concerns, some violence, some kind of complaint, some kind of damage -- there was nothing.  There was not an iota of evidence so far, just the obedience and hypotheticals.

In Iraq today, the Parliament attempted to hold a session.  Alsumaria reports it was tabled due to the lack of a quorum and that they will try again on Sunday.  Alsumaria reports on other 'progress,' the Ministry of Electricity announced today that this will be the last summer that Iraqis have to resort to generators for electricity in their homes.  Of course, these promises have been made before and been forgotten.

Meanwhile some are arguing that there is progress on the protest issue.  But those arguing it don't appear to be speaking to the protesters.  Iraqi Spring MC -- the official voice of the protesters -- Tweeted three hours ago that there can be no negotiations with Nouri's government until the punishment of the killers of the innocent protesters in Falluja and Mosul -- and this was declared by the Anbar Tribal Sheiks speaking before the protesters today.

And Saleh al-Mutlaq?  Who attended Wednesday's Cabinet meeting?  Not quite the hero he thinks or tried to present.  al-Mutlaq's always been a question mark to many?  Al Mada reports he did not consult with Iraqiya before attending and that Iraqiya is calling on him to review his actions and decide whether he stands with the Iraqi people or not.

Saleh al-Mutlaq's disloyalty is popping up in social media with many pointing out that Iraqiya stood by him twice.  First, when he was disqualified by the Justice and Accountability Commission (called a "Ba'athist") and removed from the list of candidates in 2010, Iraqiya did not walk away from him.  Ayad Allawi demanded (and got) al-Mutlaq and others cleared.  Then in December 2011, Nouri targeted him and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Iraqiya stood with both and defended both -- even while al-Mutlaq rushed to stab Tareq in the back.  Saleh al-Mutlaq's being called assorted names all over Arabic social media. 

In related news, NINA notes that Iraqiya MP Wahda al-Jumaili states that there are some in the Iraqiya bloc who have been bought off by crooked politicians using public money.  No names are mentioned by al-Jumail but the outlet notes Saleh al-Mutlaq, Mohammed Tamimi (Minster of Education) and Ahmed Karbouli (Minister of Industry) attended the Council meeting Wednesday "despite a boycott by the Iraqiya coalition."  Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports more on the tensions:

Sunni politicians of the Iraqiya list, led by Ayad Allawi, have deemed Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, a traitor, particularly since he shifted his stance on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, recently decided to return to the cabinet, and held ministerial seats that once belonged to the rest of the Iraqiya factions.
Yet, the exchange of accusations between Sunni leaders in Iraq does not eliminate the bitter truth, from which the political faction that represents them has suffered for years. Since the 2010 legislative elections, the Iraqiya bloc has sustained harsh blows and defections that have undermined its strength in the face of its Shiite rival, Maliki.

Probably al-Mutlaq shouldn't have tried to present himself as the voice and hope of the protesters.  Today the response is verbal attacks.  The last time he tried to do this, protesters threw things at him.  He's not really popular.  And even within his National Dialogue Front, he's said to be losing influence.

That's what friendship with Nouri al-Maliki will do for you.  Daoud al-Ali (Niqash) feels it might do other things as well -- specifically get Saleh al-Mutlaq appointed Minister of Defense if he and Jamal al-Karbouli embrace Nouri:

Should the two men choose to join al-Maliki, their move would cause an even greater split in the Iraqiya party, which is already plagued by inner conflicts. "MPs who return to the Cabinet are making decisions that are contrary to the stand taken by the Iraqiya bloc,” one Iraqiya MP Hamza al-Kartani told NIQASH. “They are rebels. But their actions are outside of our control.”

Whatever does happen, it seems that there will be one main winner in this political contest of wills and brinkmanship: the Prime Minister, al-Maliki. Currently his ruling coalition is teetering – currently there are almost two dozen absent Ministers.

If al-Mutlaq returns to the Cabinet, rumours have it that he might get the plum job of Minister of Defence, a position currently held by al-Maliki himself. In terms of this though, there are apparently still disagreements about what kinds of powers al-Mutlaq would have in this job, especially when compared to power held by the commander of the Iraqi armed forces.

The Daily Star carries Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi's column today:

Iraq’s last general election, in 2010, brought hope of recovery in the form of a power-sharing agreement among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, which was supposed to ensure that the country did not revert to dictatorship. The Al-Iraqiyya bloc, which I lead, was the largest electoral bloc to emerge from that vote. But, despite our success, we agreed to give up the leadership position afforded by the constitution in the belief that a power-sharing system and respect for the rights of all Iraqis was the only formula for governing the country democratically. These hopes, however, soon vanished, as Iraq’s two-term prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, subsequently reneged on the agreement.
Today, the very human rights that were guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution are being violated, with a politicized judiciary routinely abused and manipulated in order to justify the actions of the prime minister. Instead of keeping the Maliki government in check, the courts only facilitate its quest to accumulate ever-greater power.
Making matters worse for Iraqis, public services have deteriorated to a dismal level, and unemployment is rising sharply, despite public expenditure in excess of $500 billion over the seven years of Maliki’s rule. Sectarianism and racism have become a regular feature of the political landscape. Corruption is rampant, and Baghdad is now considered one of the worst places in the world to live.
If Iraq continues along its current and disastrous path, the inevitable outcome will be mayhem and civil war, with dire consequences for the entire Middle East. Yet Iraqis continue to hope for a better future.
The advent of a new electoral cycle, which begins with local elections in April, may provide another opportunity to put the country on the right path. But that can happen only if the voting is free and the counting is fair.
The current government, however, is unable to supervise free and fair elections. Significant measures must be taken, including the active involvement of neutral international agencies and observers to keep the government in check and ensure that voters can have their say. We are hopeful that Iraqis, who have had their fill of sectarian political parties, will be allowed freely to choose candidates who embrace a nonsectarian and nonracist agenda.


The month ends Monday.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 367 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  Today National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul sticky bombing has left three people injured1 Border Protection force was shot dead on the border Iraq shares with Syria1 army officer was shot dead in Tikrit, a Mosul bombing left two police officers and four civilians injured, and 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul.   Meanwhile AFP reports, "Turkish forces fired artillery shells into north Iraq, apparently in a bid to intimidate Kurdish rebels with whom Ankara is in peace talks, security sources and rebels told AFP on Thursday. "  Yes, a ceasefire is supposed to be in place currently with the PKK and the Turkish government after years of fighting.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  KUNA notes of today's attack, "It is the first attack by the Turkish army against PKK targets following the call by the PKK leader for his followers to stop fighting Turkish forces and withdraw from Turkish territories. 

In other news, UNAMI is one of the sponsors of a new contest for Iraqi women:

Contest: Women journalists, the voices of Iraqi women
The UN in Iraq rewards Iraqi Women Journalists

Be the voice of Iraqi women : raise an issue faced by Iraqi women and write an inspiring story about it .

UN Iraq journalism contest

All over the world, women are facing different types of challenges . Whether at home where they face domestic violence, or in their professional lives where they struggle to have their competencies fully recognize d, or even in public life where they are not considered as equal to men, difficulties are still numerous for women in 2013 . Unfortunately, Iraqi women are no exception.

You are invited to write a news article about Iraqi women who are trying to make significant changes to improve women’s rights in Iraq. You are asked to choose one (1) challenge faced by Iraqi women in their daily life and write about how women are addressing it to make things better for them selves, and their communities . UNAMI is look ing for experienced journalists with excellent writing skills to share inspiring news story about women who are working to make a difference in Iraq.


The winning news stories will be those reflecting best the issue (only one) faced by women in Iraq , taking into account the content and the quality of the language. All news stories will be evaluated anonymously by a UN panel.

To participate, please send an email including the following :

- Name, age, nationality ;
- Current employer (or Iraqi medi a for which you freelance regularly) ;
- A copy of your story ;
- A copy of your CV ;

The email should be sent before 31 March 2013 to: with the title: UNAMI WOMEN JOURNALISM AWARD

Terms and conditions

1. Participants must be women journalists working (or freelancing) for an Iraqi media in Iraq (Iraqi citizens only);
2. Only one story per person;
3. Stories can be written in Arabic, English or Kurdish;
4. All stories must be received before 23:59 Baghdad time on Saturday 31 March 2013;
5. UNAMI will accept original news stories as well as items that have already been published.


Lastly, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports,  "The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers between $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher [Linda J. Bilmes]."   Danielle Kurtzleben (US News and World Reports) adds:

Of the nearly 1.6 million troops that have been discharged from the wars, over half have received Veterans' Affairs medical treatment and will also receive benefits for the rest of their lives. Those costs will stack up as more troops are discharged and need benefits. The study finds that providing medical and disability benefits to vets will eventually cost over $836 billion.
This long tail of spending follows a well-established historical trend, writes Bilmes: disability spending on World War I veterans hit its peak in 1969, and spending on World War II veterans was at its highest in the late 1980s.