Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where's the election coverage

This city along the Euphrates River, whose shabby appearance belies residents' pride in it, has become the forefront of what may be the pivotal struggle in Iraq's election for Parliament: which of the country's myriad Shiite parties will claim leadership of its empowered majority.
The contest bears down on one of the unanswered questions in Iraq's tortured narrative of invasion, occupation, war and recovery. The country today stands as the only Arab state in which Shiite Muslims rule. Nasiriya is a stage, rendered small, where several Shiite currents, from street movements to venerable parties, are now vying for ascendancy.

That's the opening to Anthony Shadid's "In an Iraqi City, the Real Ballot Contest Is for Shiite Leadership" in today's New York Times. The elections are scheduled for March 7th, two Sundays from now (voting actually goes from March 5th through the 7th) and it's a sign of how skeleton the paper's staff is that this is a rare look at a region. Contrast that with last January's coverage of 14 provincial elections. It may also have something to do -- true across the board -- that a lot of agencies have less Iraqi reporters acting as stringers than usual due to concern over Nouri's demands for registration of journalists. Online, at the paper's blog, Steven Lee Myers offers a look at the discussions in a Baghdad barbershop:

The barbershop -- three chairs in a tiny storefront in Karada, on the eastern side of the Tigris -- has been there since 1948, through the monarchy, the republic, revolution, dictatorship and war. In all that time the men who gather there have probably never been freer to discuss the Iraq's faith and politics, its leaders and their shortcomings.
"No one has won my trust," Amir al-Rubaie said when I settled in his chair and asked about the election of a new Parliament on March 7, only days away. He plans to boycott "in order not to regret my vote later on."

Among the political parties competing for votes is Ahrar which issued the following release:

Ahrar's message of change is supported by 96 percent Iraqis who believe that it is necessary

Ahrar has polled 1,000 voters across Iraq in the last week about their views on the state of the country and the elections.

Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "This confirms that the Iraqi people are ready for change. They are totally sick of this government which has lost control. It is controlled by foreigners and corrupters intent on dividing and destroying Iraq.

"Ahrar is offering peace and security to all Iraqis. We have a plan to end the violence and division that blights the lives of all Iraqis and provide electricity, water, and one million jobs.

"On March 7, the Iraqi people have a choice. They can vote for more of the same - more violence, more division, and more corruption. Or they can vote for change, with jobs, unity and security.

"A vote for Ahrar is a vote for change."

For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:

Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

In other election news, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi held a press conference today in which al-Mutlaq retracted his announced boycott. al-Mutlaq is not running. He remains banned. He is part of the National Dialogue Front. In other news of politicians, Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) reports Illinois state rep Susana Mendoza will be in Iraq March 7th as an election monitor "in conjunction with the National Foundation for Women Legislators and the U.S. Department of State". The US army issued the following by Spc Samuel Soza yesterday:

AL HILLAH, Iraq (Feb. 24, 2010) -- Soldiers of the 69th Armor Regiment and Iraqi Security Forces in Babil Province have joined forces to ensure the safety of Iraqi citizens during the upcoming March 7 national elections, only the second such elections since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"Our role during the elections is to help with election site security," said Capt. Matthew McDonald, "Bayonet" Company commander, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor. "There's 52 of them in my AO [area of operations]."

Bayonet Company platoon leaders are partnered with Iraqi Army company commanders and McDonald works with an Iraqi Army battalion commander on a daily basis.

"We work together to do joint mission planning," McDonald said, "To build individual skill training in their soldiers, to build collective skill training in their leaders and to synchronize their staff efforts for intelligence and operations."

Staff Sgt. Nicholas White, a squad leader in B Company, trains with his Iraqi counterparts to address various security situations that might arise at election sites.

"[Some days] we'll take the squad out, from one of the companies we were working with, and do MEDEVAC classes or how to establish a traffic control point," he said.

McDonald said he is confident in the ISF's abilities and cited their recent successes during the religious holidays of Ashura and Arba'een.

As is customary during Arba'een, many Muslims made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala, in southern Iraq.

"We've been extremely proud of our ISF partners," McDonald said, "Before the elections, they went after the violent extremist network cells and during both holidays they were out in force, manning checkpoints 24-7, [which lent] itself to a really successful event down here."

To ensure election-site security is just as successful, the Iraqi and U.S. forces will have to work together, McDonald said.

"We will bring all the ISF partners in and we will all get on the same sheet for the security plan," he said.

Whatever the plan, the Soldiers of Bayonet Company will be in the background during the elections, said White.

"The only thing we are really going to do is assist the ISF in making sure [the Iraqi people] have nice places where they're not worried about the repercussions of expressing their opinions," he said.

McDonald is optimistic about the elections.

"I think the elections will go smoothly," he said. "I think the Iraqis here are very excited about exercising their new right to vote. They want to be heard, they want to voice their opinion, so I think the turnout will be really good down here."

Although the elections are a major step for the country, they are not the culminating event for the Soldiers of Bayonet Company.

McDonald is already considering the next mission for his Soldiers.

"I think the critical time will be the post-election period as the new government takes control," he said, "[We hope] that everything goes peacefully and that the new parties that are elected don't have a lot of fallout with supporters of the old parties."

Babil is one of the nine provinces that make up United States Division - South.

As elections gear up in Iraq, Christians are yet again targeted. Sonia Corbitt (Catholic Online) explains:

Iraqi Christians are part of historic indigenous communities that have been in the area now known as Iraq since nearly the time of Christ; they predate Islam by several centuries. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east in the year 35.
The majority are Chaldean Christians, the largest concentration of which remain in Baghdad, Iraq. There are ten Chaldean dioceses in Iraq, four in Iran, and four others in the Middle East. The Chaldean, (East Syrian), liturgy is in use there, along with a number of Latin customs, and their liturgical language is Syriac.
But now after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq's religious civil war. These brothers and sisters in Christ who can trace their history in the region back some 2,000 years have fled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and to northern Iraq by the hundreds of thousands to avoid certain martyrdom.

Last week saw Iraqi Christians murdered (a sixth was shot but wounded) and this week has already seen three murdered. Catholic News Agency explains, "Bishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul told SIR news agency that unknown men entered the home of the father and two brothers of Fr. Mazen Ishoa, in the neighborhood of Hay Al Sahaon on Feb. 23. After the house was broken into, the priest's father and two young brothers were murdered." Pope Benedict XVI's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has written to Nouri al-Maliki about the targeting of Christians. Zenit reports: "In the note, the cardinal recalled the visit of the prime minister to the Vatican in 2008, during which 'the common hope was expressed that, through dialogue and cooperation between the ethnic and religious groups of your country, including its minorities, the Republic of Iraq will be able to effect a moral and civil reconstruction, in full respect of the identity of those groups, in a spirit of reconciliation and in the pursuit of the common good'." Asia News reports, "Mosul is experiencing a veritable 'humanitarian emergency' in just one day, yesterday, 'hundreds of Christian families' left the city in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities: the situation 'is dramatic'. Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, confirmed to AsiaNews about the exodus of the faithful from the city. Meanwhile, Mgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, will launch 'a demonstration and a fast', to sensitize the international community to the 'massacre of Iraqi Christians' and stop the violence in the country." AFP informs that Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson told reporters today the government would being a 'probe' into the killings.

Last night Ruth covered the topic in "The assault on Iraq's Christians." Charlie e-mailed to note this in Monday's snapshot, "Radio, radio, as Elvis Costello once sang. Lila Giggles? Elaine will take her on this evening. In other radio news, Chris Hedges is a guest on this week's Law & Disorder and Mike'll cover that tonight. Cindy Sheehan Soapbox is the radio program Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan does and her guest this week is John Pilger. They discuss many topics including Brand Obama and his war machine. In addition, Pilger offers that there was more than one gunman at the RFK assassination. Next week, Cindy interviews FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley, FYI. (Hugo Chavez is her guest March 14th.)" He guesses I meant ton ote that in Tuesday's snapshot. I did. I forgot. Thank you for catching it. Here's how I'll put it in today's snapshot:

Radio, radio, as Elvis Costello once sang. Lila Giggles? Elaine covered her in "Lila Giggles and her worthless Connect the Dots." Chris Hedges is a guest on this week's Law & Disorder and Mike covered that in "'Health' 'care' 'reform' and Law & Disorder." Cindy Sheehan Soapbox is the radio program Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan does and her guest this week is John Pilger. They discuss many topics including Brand Obama and his war machine. In addition, Pilger offers that there was more than one gunman at the RFK assassination. Next week, Cindy interviews FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley, FYI. (Hugo Chavez is her guest March 14th.) Remember that Ann is covering NPR's Fresh Air and her posts this week so far are "Miss Terry (Gross) 'forgets,' "Realities about Barack's Big Pharma Give Away" and "Fresh what?".

Yesterday's snapshot covered a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Iraq chaired by Russ Carnahan. Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Congress advances technology today via Carnahan" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "The 'powerless' Stuart Bowen"

Alsumaria TV reports a young woman's corpse was discovered in a Khales orchard. Reuters notes 2 people killed in a Mosul "car workshop," 1 woman killed in a Mosul home invasion, 1 man killed in a Mosul drive-by and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul grenade attack which injured two people.

Turning to an idiot named Martha P. Nochimson whose life made her hateful and stupid. At Salon, she insists Kathryn Bigelow is a transvestite and means it as an insult. She's got her panties in a wad because Kathryn directed The Hurt Locker. And she's convinced herself that it's a 'macho' movie and 'unnatural' to women. Yes, folks, that's how disgusting Martha is, all these years after women have had to fight for equality, prove that could do any job they wanted to go out for, along comes Martha to trash Kathryn.

And where is the feminist outcry calling this out? For a second, let's pretend that Kathryn's a lesbian. (She's not, we're pretending.) Would it be politic for Martha to call her a transvestite? No. And if Kathryn had what was seen as a masculine appearance, would Martha get away with this 'critique'?

No, she wouldn't.

So why is she getting away with it now and she's not the only one pulling this s**t?

Martha wants to whine about Julie & Julia not getting 'respect.' She wants to compare Kathryn to Nora Ephron.

There is no comparison. First off, Julie & Julia was a flat movie. With the exception of Meryl, the performances are bad, the script is bad and the source material was bad. The direction is static. There are some wonderful shots of food due to Nora's historic obsession with food. That's really all it's got.

Nora is a former columnist and reporter (and media critic). She's very familiar with the word. And that hasn't translated to a visual talent. 'Her' best movie remains When Harry Met Sally . . .
which she wrote but Rob Reiner directed. Nora really doesn't have a visual sense. Not a problem for a writer but a problem for a director.

There are many directors with a visual sense -- Nora isn't one of them. Which is why she needs Meg Ryan to invest a visual into her material. Close ups create the visuals for Nora's film which is why the non-Meg Ryan films flop. There are few actresses or actors who can carry that kind of weight/burden. (Nora's worst films -- Mixed Nuts and Lucky Numbers -- tend to leave audiences exasperated and wondering what the director sees since it appears the camera meanders around with no rhyme or reason.) If you doubt Nora's lack of visual expertise, contrast the bookstore scene in WHMS, directed by Rob, where Meg and Carrie Fisher spot Billy Crystal. Rob uses the space and the framing aspect of the camera as well as angles to add a nice tension to the scene. Contrast that with Meg spying on Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle and realize how the whole thing is basically a close up that exists with no care taken to angles or visuals other than push the camera into Meg's face and make her sell the whole damn scene. Remember too that it turns out her character is almost run over in that scene and there's no visual set up for it, there's nothing done to shape it. The whole scene depends on Meg. That's a big burden to carry and Nora's very lucky to get Meg to play those roles.

Nora has directing strengths. They include a rhythm that can't be topped when she's really going. It leads to scenes that really snap. But in terms of a visual feel, she's never had it. Fair or not, the directors nominated for Best Director (all but four have been men) are usually known for their visuals. A good craftsperson doesn't generally get nominated. That doesn't mean they aren't talented (and Nora is talented), it doesn't mean they can't make a profitable film (Nora's directed many hits) or one that reaches audiences (Nora's Sleepless reached in ways that many directors never do). It just means a writing award may consider the style and a directing award may focus on the visuals.

Kathryn has a visual sense, she's always had a strong visual. Whether it was Point Break, Blue Steel, Strange Days or what have you, the visual sense, a strong director's eye has always been present. There's really no reason to compare the two. It's amazing that Kathryn has to compete against four men for the title of Best Director AND Martha wants her to compete with every woman director as well. Martha's the one who raised the comparison to Nora or I would've kept quiet. I know Nora and I've never offered a take publicly on her films other than that I enjoyed them. But if Martha wants to go there, let's go there. (I'm not taking the bite on Nancy whom I also know and who does have a strong visual. But I like Nancy more than I like Nora -- a lot more.)

Kathryn has made films that speak to her interests and they don't speak to Martha's so Martha trashes her as being a man in drag and think she's offered a criticism of Kathyrn when all she's done is reveal how sexist she is and how determined she is to set the cause back for all women. I know Kathryn, leave that aside. I have campaigned (offline) with other voters, leave that aside. What Martha's done is say that a woman must do something 'girly' or not be considered a woman. That's sexism.

Martha's slobbering over Quentin Tarantino while trashing Kathryn. I'm not aware of any strands of racism running through Kathryn's films. I'm not aware of her attempting to make a buck off exploiting racial stereotypes. But Martha loves her some Quentin and thinks his movies -- violence and all -- are perfectly natural. I'm not remembering Kathryn doing such blantant rip offs of Brian DePalma that she should be sued in a court of law. (That would be Quentin for the Daryl Hannah hospital scenes in Kill Bill Vol. I.) I'm not remembering a scene in one of Kathryn's films where we're supposed to laugh as Bridget Fonda (or any woman) is shot dead because she won't 'shut up.' That doesn't bother 'feminist' Martha. Quentin, famous for comparing Madonna's vagina to "Bubble Yum" (implying Madonna's had 'too much' sex) in his first film, doesn't bother Martha. But Kathryn -- who has long been the female action director -- directing The Hurt Locker is 'unnatural.'

A woman and her work are being termed 'unnatural' because Martha P. Nochimson thinks women should just be interested in romantic coupling. And this sexism on Martha's part isn't being called out?

This is why women lose over and over. Not just awards but in real life. We let a Martha act bitchy (only term for it) and refuse to call her out. She needs to be called out. How dare she declare any woman to be a 'transvestite' (as an insult) in order to spit on that woman's choices. You better grasp that -- and the US is in multiple wars right now -- it's a very short step from trashing Kathryn as 'masculine' to trashing women in the military as the same. You better grasp that Martha's attack on Kathryn is of the same cloth and fabric. And it needs to stop, it damn well needs to stop.

Martha, in the supposed name of feminism, wants to tell all women to sit down and look pretty in a dress while the boys go outside and play. There's nothing feminist about that and there's nothing feminist about Martha. A functioning feminism would result in Martha P. Nochimson being loudly and repeatedly called out.

Jennifer Merin actually knows a thing or two about film. She offers a critique of The Hurt Locker for Women's eNews.

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