Thursday, August 27, 2009

Abdelaziz al-Hakim's passing and possible meanings

The death of political and religious leader Abdelaziz Hakim on Wednesday heralded a new era of uncertainty in Iraq's Shiite Muslim politics as the country heads toward national elections early next year.
Hakim, who headed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, died in a Tehran hospital after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 59.
The Shiite leader was a towering figure in the Iraqi political landscape after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He led a coalition of Shiite parties to victory in the 2005 elections while juggling his close relationships with both Washington and Tehran.

The above is from Liz Sly's "Iraq Shiite leader Abdelaziz Hakim dies" (Los Angeles Times). Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites the Congressional Research Service's Kenneth Katzman stating, "Hakim's passing is likely to set off a major power struggle in ISCI that could lead to its fracture. Ammar is viewed by the older ISCI figures as inheriting the position rather than earning it." It is most likely a major development.

The White House's lack of interest in Iraq has been much noted and it continued yesterday as they issued a statement (under pressure) which was perfunctory at best:


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release August 26, 2009

Statement by the Press Secretary
on the death of His Eminence Abdul Aziz al-Hakim

We were saddened to learn of the passing of His Eminence Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who has played an important role in Iraq’s national history. We offer our condolences to his family and colleagues.

Ali Sheikholeslami and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) note the White House statment and note:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki led tributes to al-Hakim, praising his defense of the Iraqi people’s rights, according to a statement. President Jalal Talabani, in a separate statement, said al-Hakim was "a hero who fought dictatorship with courage" and showed wisdom as he helped to build the new Iraq.

Marc Santora (New York Times) reveals Nouri had need to praise al-Hakim, "Mr. Hakim’s influence could be seen as recently as February, when a plan by leading politicians to try to oust Mr. Maliki was scuttled because Mr. Hakim would not offer his support, according to a coming article in The National Interest, a journal of current affairs, by Kenneth M. Pollack. Mr. Hakim objected because he felt it would look as if the politicians were trying to overturn the will of the people, Mr. Pollack reports." The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:

SRSG Ad Melkert extends deep condolences to Al Hakim family and the Iraqi people

Baghdad 27 August 2009 -- The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Ad Melkert extends his deepest condolences to the family of His Eminence Abdul Aziz Al Hakim as well as to the Iraqi people.

Mr. Melkert said that with the death of Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, "Iraq lost an important leader at a critical juncture." He said that the late Abdul Aziz Al Hakim played an important role in helping Iraq stabilize and chart a path from conflict to reconciliation and the United Nations appreciates the support his eminence extended to it over the past few years.

AP describes "thousands" gathering in Iran for al-Hakim's memorial and quotes various Iranian leaders making statements about al-Hakim's legacy. CNN notes a memorial scheduled in Baghdad for tomorrow and reports of today's memorial in Tehran, "Iraqi and Iranian government officials attended the procession with senior religious figures and some members of the Iraqi parliament." Xinhua reports the following was aired on Iraqi state-TV, "The Iraqi government announced three-day national mourning starting from Thursday for the death of Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim." " At Salon, Juan Cole provides an Arab media roundup:

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the eldest son of Abdul Aziz, Ammar al-Hakim, will lead the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) for the time being. Eventually the Consultative Council of ISCI will formally choose a successor. (It will probably be Ammar, though ISCI leader Jalal al-Din al-Saghir maintains that the choice could fall on someone else).
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat (The Middle East) reports in Arabic that the future of the new Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, is shaky now that its leader is dead. Other observers doubted that things would change much on the ground, since Abdul Aziz was already on extended medical leave and all the arrangements were undertaken by his office.The death of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim emblazons a question mark over Iraqi politics going forward. Important parliamentary elections are scheduled for January, and al-Hakim is not there to lead his own coalition to the polls. His son Ammar is still inexperienced and relatively young. The foremost figure in ISCI outside the al-Hakim family is probably Iraqi vice president Adil Abdul Mahdi, who is widely viewed as a pragmatist rather than a party activist.

Meanwhile violence sweeps Iraq (which may call into question some of the memorials or at least the access to them on Friday in Baghdad and later in Najaf). Reuters reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four civilians injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left two police officers and one civilian injured, a Taji car bomb claimed 1 life and left five people injured and, dropping back to last night for all that follows, 2 Baghdad car bombings resulted in twelve people being injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in two people being wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two people and 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk (another injured).

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan's on Martha's Vineyard.

There was a time when Cindy Sheehan couldn't go anywhere without having a microphone and a TV camera stuck in front of her. As she camped out in front of George W. Bush's Crawford ranch, mourning the death of her son Casey in Iraq and calling attention to an unjust, unnecessary, and unwinnable war, the media created in her a symbolic figure whose public agony epitomized a growing backlash against the militarism and unmitigated arrogance of the Bush administration. It was a powerful image: a lone woman standing up to the most powerful man on earth in memory of her fallen son.

That's from Justin Raimondo's "War Coverage and the Obama Cult" ( and John Walsh's "Cindy Sheehan's Lonely Vigil in Obamaland" (CounterPunch, noted in yesterday's snapshot). Cindy's on Martha's Vineyard. Where's the media? And where's the beggar media? Where's Amy Breaking The Silence Barrier Goodman? Apparently, Amy's just breaking wind.

The left better grasp how ridiculous they look right now and they better grasp that people are noticing. Don't want to be called a hypocrite? Then don't act like one. Victor Davis Hanson, of the right-wing Hoover Institute, is laughing at the left:

The war in Iraq is scarcely in the news any longer, despite the fact that 141,000 American soldiers are still protecting the fragile Iraqi democracy, and 114, as of this writing, have been lost this year in that effort.
[. . .]
As long as Barack Obama is commander-in-chief, and as long as casualties in Iraq are down, there will be no large public protests or much news about our sizable Iraq presence. The cost and the attendant politics -- not why we went there -- always determined how the Iraq war was covered.

The left better grasp that we are not huge. We are not this bulge in the population. The biggest section of the population is the group that does not obsess over politics. And you better grasp that every time the right points to the hypocrisy of the left, it registers because the right's correct to point. "Cindy Sheehan protesting a president? It's something to cover!" That was the cry in 2005. In 2009? What's changed? The White House now has a Democratic occupant.

You better grasp the message you send and how you look like a liar operating under situational ethics and how you say to the middle and the non-identifying crowd that the left has no ethics and no standards.

This happened in the late 70s and, to a lesser extent, in the nineties. Jimmy Carter's presidency is the instructive one and that's what we're going through now. And the way that ends is with Rolling Stone, for example, taking military ads and doing fashion shoots and anything else just to hang on because it whored itself out so badly. Not just RS but look at what they did to pimp Jimmy Carter and how, long after it was obvious that the Carter administration was not doing what it said it was doing, they continued to pimp it. You read RS and didn't have a great deal of love for Dems or Repubes? You still noticed what was going on?

And that's why Reagan was able to emerge. Ronald Reagan was a joke. He was a joke in California, he was a joke in the seventies when trying to emerge as a national leader in the GOP. But Reagan was riding a 'wave' and, for all the analysis, no one ever wants to talk about how the left got his sails blowing: By being hypocrites. So you had people who were bystanders to the right and left observing and thinking, "Those Dems justify anything done by Carter." And that did happen. Jimmy Carter brought back registration for the draft. Not Reagan. (Reagan ran on revoking it -- he was a liar and of course he never revoked it.) But the same lying the left did for Jimmy Carter (who's not a bad person but whom today's left never wants to get honest about) is similar to what they do now for Barack.

That kind of whoring and lying brought up most of the economic strife people are now dealing with.

As John V. Walsh noted yesterday (CounterPunch):

The silence in fact is deafening, or as Cindy put it in an email to this writer, "crashingly deafening." Where are the email appeals to join Cindy from The Nation or from AFSC or Peace Action or "Progressive" Democrats of America (PDA) or even Code Pink? Or United for Peace and Justice. (No wonder UFPJ is essentially closing shop, bereft of most of their contributions and shriveling up following the thinly veiled protest behind the "retirement" of Leslie Cagan.) And what about MoveOn although it was long ago thoroughly discredited as principled opponents of war or principled in any way shape or form except slavish loyalty to the "other" War Party. And of course sundry "socialist" organizations are also missing in action since their particular dogma will not be front and center. These worthies and many others have vanished into the fog of Obama's wars.

I'm really not in the mood this morning (if you can't tell -- first clue is I dig through e-mails). Ellie Greenwich passed away yesterday. I thought about pulling from obits but I can't even bring myself to read them.

She was a huge talent and a wonderful person. Doubt it? At her website, you'll find this:

*To all the High School students performing "Leader" across the country, don't be shy about contacting me (See link on the Home Page), you'll get my personal response; just give me some time.

No, that is not a common message. Carole King is rightly an industry giant with a legacy to envy. But before she was the woman on stage at the piano, she was the songwriter working with Gerry Goffin (and others, including Howie Greenfield, but she and Gerry were a team). Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann were another team and then there was Ellie and Jeff Barry. In each team, there's been a serious attempt by at least one to do as Carole did (and, like Carole, they were recording in the sixties). But Carole had the special magic that has made her stand out as performer. Few have that. Even so, Ellie did score a few hits including in England in 1997 when she had a number one hit.

But as songwriters, those three groupings really changed the musical sound in the US and around the world. Later greats like Lennon & McCartney and Ashford & Simpson would also make huge contributions. But it's a long (and winding) road from "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" to, for example, "Chapel Of Love," among the compositions Ellie co-wrote. Grasp that your baby might do the hanky panky, but would you know to call it that without Ellie having co-written the song?

"Leader," referred to above is Leader Of The Pack was a Broadway show (yes, Ellie co-wrote that song). In 1984, it started at The Bottom Line and moved to Broadway in 1985, was nominated for Best Musical (Tony) and Best Cast Album (Grammy). The musical is about Ellie's life and it is performed across the country to this day. On YouTube, you can find a clip of Schenley High School's 2007 production of the musical where "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts?" is performed.

Ellie's songs and others were noted in "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review)" and this appeared at the bottom:

Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Goffin & King), Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (Mann & Weil) and Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry (Barry & Greenwich) are the three songwriting teams whose work is quoted throughout this. Phil Spector (like others) often took credit he didn't earn. The song credits listed above are the official ones but that doesn't mean they're the genuine ones. Noted because Cynthia and Barry have especially been publicly vocal about Phil's little theft stunt over the years. Nothing I've written above is meant to diminish the three songwriting teams' considerable talents. They were amazing song writing teams (and Cynthia and Barry remain an amazing songwriting team to this day). Their songs from (roughly) 1960 to 1964 captured an intensity of feelings on a regular basis, the sort of intensity that, prior, had only popped up every few months (for example, "Earth Angel"). Before Motown became the Sound of Young America, the three groups of writers were contributing to the soundtrack of young America.

She will be missed as surely as her songs will live on.

You can also see Stan's "Bob Somerby, Ellie Greenwich," Elaine's "Ellie Greenwich has passed away" and Kat's "Ellie Greenwich" which I'm sure are worth reading but I've avoided the same way I'm avoiding the obits.

Independent journalist David Bacon reports on the struggling immigrant community in Alameda at ImmigrationProfBlog:

Familes receive food at a food distribution organized every month by Hope for the Heart in Hayward. Many people begin lining up for food the day before, and sleep overnight on the sidewalk in order to make sure they get their food before it runs out. Many families are immigrants from Mexico, and don't have enough money to buy food or pay rent. Food for the program comes from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and the people distributing the food are all volunteers, organized by local churches. During the food distribution, children of food recipients listen to music, and watch a religious service while their families are waiting.

The report is text and visual. David Bacon is noted for his photography and his latest exhibit is "People of the Harvest, Indigenous Mexican Migrants in California." The reception for it takes place tonight at 6:00 pm at the Asian Resource Gallery (310 Eight Street at Harrison, Oakland, CA). The exhibit runs through next month and the gallery's hour are nine in the morning until six in the evening, Monday through Friday. Immigrant Rights News carries the following:

People of the Harvest is part of a larger project, Living Under the Trees, that documents the lives of communities of indigenous Mexican farm workers in California, through documentary photographs. The photographs in People of the Harvest were taken in 2009.
It's no accident the state of Oaxaca is one of the main starting points for the current stream of Mexican migrants coming to the United States. Extreme poverty encompasses 75 percent of its 3.4 million residents.
Thousands of indigenous people leave Oaxaca's hillside villages for the United States every year, not only for economic reasons but also because a repressive political system thwarts the kind of economic development that could lift incomes in the poorest rural areas. Lack of development pushes people off the land.
The majority of Oaxacans are indigenous people-that is, they belong to communities and ethnic groups that existed long before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. They speak 23 different languages.
"Migration is a necessity, not a choice," explains Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez, a teacher in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in Oaxaca's rural Mixteca region.
In California, indigenous migrants have become the majority of people working in the fields in many areas, whose settlements are dispersed in an indigenous diaspora. This movement of people has created transnational communities, bound together by shared culture and language, and the social organizations people bring with them from place to place.
People of the Harvest documents the experiences and conditions of indigenous farm worker communities. It focuses on social movements in indigenous communities and how indigenous culture helps communities survive and enjoy life. The project's purpose is to win public support for policies helping those communities to achieve social and political rights and better economic conditions.
The communities documented in this show are locacted in Arvin, Taft, Oxnard and Santa Paula, Santa Maria, Fresno, Greenfield, Watsonville and Marysville. They include Mixtecos, Triquis, Zapotecos, Chatinos and Purepechas.
The photographs are digital color images, which focus on the relationship between community residents and their surroundings, and their relations with each other. They present situations of extreme poverty, but they also show people as actors, capable of changing conditions, organizing themselves, and making critical decisions.
The project is a partnership between David Bacon, documentary photographer and journalist (The Children of NAFTA, UC Press, 2004, Communities Without Border, Cornell/ILR Press, 2006, and Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), California Rural Legal Assistance, especially its Indigenous Farm Worker Project, and the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB). Special thanks to Rick Mines and the Indigenous Farmworker Study, funded by the California Endowment, who made the documentation in People of the Harvest possible.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show each Wednesday discussing labor and immigration issues.

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