Friday, March 19, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the ballot counting continues, protests take place against the wars and others gear up, Lt Dan Choi stands strong (as usual), we revisit yesterday's Don't Ask Don't Tell hearing because, among other reasons, Crazy Ass Joe Sheehan got some press attention no one called him out for calling a well known woman a man (just breezed right by, did it?) and more.
Let's start with NPR's The Diane Rehm Show where Iraq had a cameo appearance.
Diane Rehm: Let's talk about the Iraq election results. We still have no final tally on these votes, Abderrahim?
Abderrahim Foukara: Yes, the counting is still going on and there are obviously conflicting reports coming out of -- or at least conflicting interpretations of what's going on in Iraq. One interpreteation is that no matter what the security challenges are, Iraq has definitely crossed a security threshold. You now have Iraqis actually going to the polls to fight the rather than fight it out on the streets. But the other interpretation is that given the results that are coming out so far the signs are not encouraging that sectarianism is over and done with in Iraq. The, uhm, tension between Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, and Nouri al-Maliki the current present prime minister. Nouri Maliki representing the Shi'ites. Ayad Allawi, although he is a Shi'ite, he's actually representing the Sunnis in this election. It has come down to sec -- political sectarianism strife in this election.
Elise Labott: Well they're neck and neck. And who ever's party receives the greatest number of votes is goign to have a chance to try and form a coalition and that's when the real horse racing begins: The post-election jockeying to build a coalition and this could cause some tensions. I was just speaking to some US officials in Iraq, this morning and, you know, some might call it sectarianism others might just call it politics. These are politicians that are trying to jockey for position and influence and I heard everybody's up going to visit the Kurds and the question remains: What is going to happen when you have a winning party? Who is going to be -- is that person going to accept the results? Allawi might accept the results but if Maliki loses by a few votes, he has a big constistuenty in the country. Is he going to stand down? And that's when we might start to see some
Elise Labott just outlined some very serious issues but if you think that prompted a discussion, you didn't hear the show. It's a pity when Diane's 'experts' were calling the election for Nouri al-Maliki and speaking of Ayad Allawi's party as "lagging behind" that Diane wasn't able to interrupt a guest (Elise above) with a 'late breaking' announcement regarding Barack and an Israeli leader having a meeting. Wow! Amazing. A US president meets with the Israelis. The wall's really coming down, right? They opened the show with that story or 'story' and gas bagged forever and a day without saying much of anything. And just when listeners are getting some grasp on the Iraqi elections, it's time to return to the tired topic of how low will the US go for Israel. Even though they'd easily spent ten minutes on that at the start of the program (AT LEAST TEN MINUTES). And even though this is what?
"A woman started crying as she read the names of the people killed during the first seven years of the Iraq war," reports Paul Deaton (Blog for Iowa). "Today marks the beginning of the eighth year of US participation in this military action and it is hard not to be affected by reading the names of those who died. A bell ran after each name was read. It is especially disheartening when we realize that in addition to 43 Iowans, uncounted Iraqi men, women and children lost their lives during the Iraq war."
Could someone ask The Diane Rehm Show if today was some sort of annivesary for Israel since they were so quick to cut off Elise and change the subject back to a topic they'd already gas bagged on? On PRI's The Takeaway today . . .
John Hockenberry: Seven years ago today, we began to hear sounds like this.
[Gunfire and explosions.]
John Hockenberry: The invasion of Iraq was beginning. Of course, the people in Baghdad were hearing those sounds first hand. The irony today is that even though this war which dominated the headlines for years after 2003, it's because of a lack of news that today we are permitted really to look back at the seventh anniversary of a war that's now, in a very real sense, faded from the headlines but is very much a part of the US experience. Here's George W. Bush speaking to the American people on March 20, 2003.
War Criminal and High Ranking Liar George W. Bush: My fellow citizens. At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free it's people and to defend the world from grave danger.
John Hockenberry: Well what the military and the coalition forces discovered in Iraq quickly was that there was no "grave danger," that the disarming of Iraq had already been begun by Saddam Hussein himself and that the freeing of Iraqi people is something that political forces in Iraq are still grappling with even today.
I don't care for Michael Iskoff and that may be the only time his name has appeared properly at this site (as opposed to the many pet names I give that dog). Nor do we link to him. But PRI's The Takeaway remembered Iraq on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the illegal war while others just wanted to gas bag about Israel today. So The Takeaway segment gets a link and I even mention that man's name accurately. Do not expect that it will ever happen again. Also on The Takeaway today, John Hockenberry spoke with Iraq War veterans Matt Gallagher (author of Kaboom: Embracking the Suck in a Savage Little War) and and Mike Scotti (Severe Clear) neither of whom expect the Iraq War to end any time soon. John Hockenberry offered, "Where was Stanley McChrystal seven years ago? The commander of forces in Aghanistan? He was actually running the briefings at the Pentagon. He was assigned to run the Iraq briefings at the Pentagon seven years ago. Now, of course, he's commanding forces in Afghanistan."
As bad as starting an illegal war is continuing one. At the tent meetings of the Cult of St. Barack throughout America in early 2008, Barack was fond of screaming into his mike, "We want to end the war now!" Of course Samantha Power, while still his chief foreign policy advisor, told the BBC News that Barack didn't know what he was going to do about Iraq and wouldn't make a decision until after he was in the White House. That didn't stop Barry O from letting the people think he was Mr. Peace and Mr. End The War Now!
War Criminal Barack Obama speaking in Santa Barbara in early 2008: And most of all the American people are tired of this disastorous war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. A war that has cost us half-a-trillion dollars and thousands of lives and has not made us more safe but has diminished our standing in the world. They want an end to that! And they want an end now!
The White House changed parties and that's about all the change America or Iraq saw. Blood brothers Bush and Barack are so alike that, after winning the election, Barry O suddenly loved the SOFA -- the same Status Of Forces Agreement he termed "unConstitutional" when he was running for office. The same SOFA he protested. Li Laifang (Xinhua) reports that Iraq today still has no security, still lags (too mild a term for it) in reconstruction. That's on Barack. He's the one who wanted to be president. There have been so surprises since he was sworn in. The economic problems were known starting in the fall of 2008. The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were known. He came in under the rhubric of 'change' and he's done nothing except repeatedly sing, "Oh come let us adore me."
Protests will take place tomorrow against the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Actions are scheduled across the country and the best known are the ones to be held in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) reports, "The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. The march will follow." Ruane's article also has a video of people speaking out.
Cindy Sheehan: You know some people have abandoned -- in the anti-war movement -- have abandoned peace since Obama's been president. But we need to recreate a movement. And that's what we're trying to do here at this march. We're trying to not just build a camp, but build a movement.
Military Families Speak Out's Maggie Pondolfino: I feel like I have a heightened responsibility as a military family to lend my voice to the antiwar movement because these wars have gone on too long and they continue to kill our loved ones. My son is currently deployed in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan and he also did a tour in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan is briefly on Democracy Now! today (blink and you'll miss her.) Fight Back! interviews Jess Sundin (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) about tomorrow's actions.
Fight Back!: What's going on with the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?
Sundin: After all these years, Iraq and Afghanistan are each occupied by more than 100,000 U.S. troops, plus the soldiers of U.S. allies. The U.S. runs prisons in both countries, operates checkpoints along roadways and controls government affairs.
In Iraq, over a million people have been killed by occupying forces - every family has lost someone. Nearly 6 million Iraqis are refugees, having fled their homes and, in some cases, the country. The infrastructure is in a shambles, where most Iraqis have limited access to electricity, adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation services. Unemployment and underemployment are over 40% and there is no sign that any of this will improve.
The people of Afghanistan are being hammered hard by Obama's policy of bringing in more troops - there are more than twice as many American soldiers there now than there was under Bush. And more are on their way. Top commanders promise this will be a brutal year - we have regular reports of civilian casualties. The troops plan to lay siege to more cities, as they did to Marjah last month, promising to make a whole country of ghost towns.
There is no chance of victory for the U.S. - the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to resist the occupations and fight to control their own countries and futures.
World Can't Wait and A.N.S.W.E.R. are among the organizations sponsoring the DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles actions tomorrow and you can refer to those websites for more information. Local actions are taking place around the country and we'll provide links on two. Karen Kucher (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports the details of Saturday's actions in San Diego. In New York, there will be an action in Nanuet. Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reports on the details of that action.
There is plenty of outrage on the left for Americans on the left to demand that the Congress and the White House be responsive. It's ignored mainly because so many people have decided Barry O is King and they're loyal subjects. Not buying into that is Ian Wilder. From his "Is Kucinich just herding sheep to slaughter?" (On The Wilder Side):
IW: While faux progressive sites like Daily Kos and MoveOn have threatened Kucinich for not voting for the toothless health insurance bill, independent media site like Black Agenda Report and Democracy Now! have lobbed softballs his way. Even Nader refused to directly criticize Kucinich in his roll in mollifying a potential break away of progressives from the Democratic party over the Afghanistan/Iraq Wars and Health Care Reform. We need leaders who not afraid to speak truth to power, even when it's their friends. We need a political party that is willing to stand up for the best interests of the voter, not defense contractors and insurance companies. And where is a real voice that is not afraid to speak truth to power like Cynthia McKinney? Is leaving her out part of Democracy Now's continual policy of marginalizing the Green Party?
Protests against the wars took place today but the true example of protest could be found yesterday in DC. "You have been told that the President has a plan! But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year. And if we don't seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time." Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Iraq War veteran Lt Dan Choi made those remarks outside the White House where he and Capt Jim Piertrangelo were arrested for their activism. Theola Labbe-DeBose (Washington Post) explains, "Shortly before 2 p.m., Park Police came upon two men who had chained themselves to a section of the iron fence on the north side, said David Schlosser, a police spokeman. Officers told the men they did not have a permit for their demonstration and gave them three warnings about the violation." Queerty offers their analysis and we'll excerpt this section:
They hijacked HRC's rally. Normally we wouldn't commend a group for taking over another organization's event. That's just rude, and it's like, plan your own shindig, jerks. But HRC wastes millions of its donors' dollars every year, so if anyone is going to make a HRC rally effective, it'll be a third party. [. . .] Like Get Equal. From this HRC statement, it appears Choi wasn't even supposed to speak at all, and instead, through a relationship with Solmonese, secured a chance to take the mic at the last minute: "There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally. As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks. Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play." (Robin McGehee reportedly asked Joe Solmonese if she could take part in the rally, but was rebuffed; it was Kathy and Bravo's rally, she was supposedly told.) But what was supposed to be a camera op for HRC and Bravo became the mere launching pad for Choi's stunt. Nobody will remember the HRC rally for anything other than Choi taking it over. They got Kanye'd.
Yusef Najafi (Metro Weekly) reports that Choi and Pietrangelo entered not guilty pleas this morning in court and are taking their cases to trial. In addition, they've posted video of Dan Choi speaking outside the courthouse.
Dan Choi: There are other people who are oppressed that have the chains on them in their hearts. There were many times when people would say when you go and get arrested, it's difficult because your hands are restrained and the movement is a little bit stymied or halted on the physical level. But it is my hope that the larger movement, even with the chains on it, will do nothing but grow to the point where it cannot be controlled by anything but that freeing and that dignified expression of getting arrested for what you know is absolutely morally right. There was no freer moment than being in that prison. It was freeing for me and I thought of all the other people that were still trapped, that were still handcuffed and fettered in their hearts and we might have been caged up physically but the message was very clear to all of the people who think that equality can be purchased with a donation or with a cocktail party or with tokens that are serving in a public role. We are worth more than tokens. We have absolute value. And when the person who is oppressed by his own country wants to find out how to get his dignity back, being chained up and being arrested, that's how you get your dignity conferred back on you. So I think that my actions, my call, is to every leader -- not just gay leaders, I'm talking any leader who believes in America, that the promises of America can be manifest. We're going to do it again. And we're going to keep doing it until the promises are manifest and we will not stop. This is a very clear message to President Obama and any other leader who supposes to talk for the American promise and the American people, we will not go away .
From Dan's heroic actions and stance to Congress. Yesterday's snapshot included moments from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Carl Levin is the Comittee Chair. Appearing before the senators were Lt Jr Grade Jenny Kopfstein, Maj Michael Almy and Gen John Sheehan -- the first two were drummed out of the military for their sexuality, the third was rewarded with a lengthy career (possibly in part due his homophobia).
Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy and Ms. Kopfstein -- Kopfstein. Although the policy is referred to as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as the law is currently written members of the armed forces are involuntarily separated regardless how their sexual orientation is disclosed. And under existing law, the quality of your service does not serve as the criteria for retention due to a presumed disruption to unit cohesion and discipline. During your discharge proceedings, what impact did the recommendations from your leadership within your chain of command have on the decision to involuntarily seperate you from your service? And I think, Mr. Almy, you were speaking about that.
Maj Michael D. Almy: Thank you, Senator. To my knowledge it made absolutely no effect on the Air Force's decision not to retain me. I had commanders I had survived with, I had superiors, peers and subordinates all who knew my records, who knew my achievements as an officer and supported me. And even though they knew the full story, still wanted me retained in the Air Force and still wanted me back as their leader. And, to my knowledge, that had zero effect on the Air Force's decision whether or not to retain me.
Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?
Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, in my case, I was honored and lucky that both of my commanding offers came to my discharge board. They were not required to do so. They took time out of their busy schedules to come and testify on my behalf. The board -- under Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- its hands were basically tied. I had made an admission and despite the vocifierous recommendations of both of my commanding officers, 206s, the board's hands were tied and they had to vote to discharge me.
Senator Kay Hagan: Mr. Almy, in your earlier discussion, I think you were talking about almost a general feeling of acceptance more from the younger generation than the older generation for homosexuals in the military. Do you -- can you elaborate on that? And ma'am too?
Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator I think that -- I think you probably hit the nail on the head there, I think in my mind, in my personal experience this is a generational issue. I have great respect for General Sheehan for his leadership and his sacrifice to our nation. From what I've seen a lot of senior officers, senior military leaders from that generation are the ones who are holding on to maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell. With notable exceptions. Adm [Mike] Mullen [Joint Chiefs of Staff], General [Colin the Blot] Powell, General [John] Shalikashvili. In my experience and that of my peers, the young men and women coming into the military today, the 20-somethings and most of the 30-somethings, which is the largest demographic in the military, for that group of people this is largely a non-issue. There are -- obviously, there are some xecptions but, as I stated earlier, that generation of men and women are far more comfortable with gays and lesbians because, chances are, that they know one.
Senator Kay Hagan: General Sheehan, do you have any feelings on the generational attitudes?
Gen John Sheehan: I absolutely admit that I am old.
Senator Kay Hagan: (Laughing with Sheehan) We all are.
And let's end the exchange there so Sheehan is able to tell at least one truth. And we won't have to note him using "totalitary" when he meant "totality."
Senator Kay Hagan: Ma'am?
Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein: Senator, I agree with Major Almy, the younger generation definitly has a diferent view on this issue. I'll give you a personal story. And I certainly don't have the general's experience but on September 11, 2001 my ship was in port in Seal Beach, California when this -- when we were attacked. And I was standing in the wardroom watching the television, watching events unfold. And one of the young Petty Officers that worked for me ran into the wardroom and said, "Ma'am, ma'am, request permission to load the guns." I was the Ordnance Officer so I was responsible for our anti-aircraft and self-defense weapons, so I turned to the Captain and I said, "Sir, request permission to load the guns." And he said, "Permission granted." And we did. And I can tell you for a fact, in that moment, neither my captain nor the Petty Officer that worked for me, cared one whit about my sexuality.
Senator Kay Hagan: Thank you. The phrase Don't Ask, Don't Tell implies a mutual agreement where the services would not inquire about the sexual preferences of our members and the military personnel would not publicly articulate your sexual oreintation. However, under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we still have instances of very capable service members being involuntarily separated due to investigations initiated on tips provided by third parties. And this, Mr. Almy, in your situation, do you believe that private correspondence via e-mail while deployed constitutes a breech of the existing policy or do you believe that your case serves an illustration of how the policy is flawed?
Maj Michael D. Almy: Senator, I think it's probably a little of both. I didn't tell. The Air Force asked. And I refused to answer the question. So I think, while it's true I never made a personal -- or a public statement to the military, I was still thrown out. I think that illustrates a flawed implementation of the current law and my understanding of what Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has called for a review as far as the so-called third party outings would have had a direct bearing on my case and in all likelihood I would still be on active duty. Beyond that, I think it also illustrates that this law is making our nation and our military weaker by discharging qualified men and women who are patriotic and whose only crime is that the may or may not be gay and lesbian. All the while, we're actively recruiting people who aren't qualified to fill some of those vacancies.
And now we'll move over to Roland Burris. The senator has been a leader on this issue publicly since the spring of 2009. He and his office have made public statements on this issue, he has participated in events in his home state (Illinois) to show his support for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're going into it and Burris does an amazing job but Sheehan? I'm starring two things. The first, a term I will not have appear here. That is not the term for Americans in the service, in the government, in any job. We don't use that word as a country and we haven't in many years. The second is another 'either he's an idiot or he's insulting' moment.
Senator Roland Burris: General, I'll challenge you on age. I'm pretty much your age. If you've served 35-years in, I think --
Gen John Sheehan: Sir, I'll conceed to you.
Senator Roland Burris: I'm sorry?
Gen John Sheehan: I will conceed age to you.
Senator Roland Burris: Thank you. And I can remember, General, when I was Attorney General of my state, how difficult it was for me to make a change But on my staff there was a young lesbian lady who would sit down with me each day and explain to me the problems of persons who were lesbian or gay that never ocurred to me because I grew up in a different era. We talked about them, we laughed about them, it was something -- yib-yib-yib, you know, it was all these derogatory terms that we used to use. And, General, it also deals with the racial question. Do you know a fellow named Jackie Robinson? You ever heard of him? [Gen Sheehan nods.] You talk about the bright and the best. We don't know if we've got the bright and the best serving in our military service until we let everyone serve with their best distinction, best ability. The bright and the best may not be Ever hear of a couple of tennis players named the Williams sisters? You ever hear of the young man who had a little personal problem called Tiger Woods? We didn't know how golf really could be until a Black person got into the competition. They were all eliminated from the game of golf. All eliminated from the game of baseball, General. Eliminated from type of sports which were for Whites only. Now we're saying the military is for straights only. General, I think we need to put a moratorium on this situation right now. Don't let anyone be discharged from the military because of their orientation until we can change this law -- which I'm currently supporting a co-sponsoring of Senator [Joe] Lieberman's bill to change this law. General, could you just give me a little insight into your background? Did you ever command Black soldiers under your command?
Gen John Sheehan: Sir, the American military has been in-in-integrated since President . . . Truman was the president.
Senator Roland Burris: 1947.
Gen John Sheehan: Yes.
Senator Roland Burris: By executive order, sir.
Gen John Sheehan: I have never commanded a unit that there were not Hispanics, Blacks, Whites . . . and Ori**tals.* At one time, during the Vietnam War, as both Senator Lieberman and the Chairman will remember, 65% of my rifle companies were Black. They sustained 40% of the casualties in Vietnam soldiers. They understand what it means to be in harm's way. So race in the military is not an issue. This institution
Senator Roland Burris: Pardon me, General --
Gen John Sheehan: -- that I represent has the finest --
Senator Roland Burris: -- I have to interrupt you
Gen John Sheehan: -- of integration of any instutiton in this country of ours.
Senator Roland Burris: Absolutely. How long did it take that to take place? What happened in WWII with my uncles and my uncles-in-law when they were discriminated against? Prisoners were being brought back from Germany and the Black soldiers that were guarding them couldn't even ride in the cars, they were put in the back cars because of the color of their skin. That's how far America has come. For you to now command those men and they're fighting and dying for us and at one time because of this [taps fingers to hand], the color of their skin, they could not serve this country. And they fought and they clawed to have an opportunity to serve. These are the same things with the gay and lesbian people. They want to serve. That's all they're asking. Continue, General, I'm sorry.
Gen John Sheehan: Well, Senator, I think that . . . if you go back to the 1993 discussions and hearings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, there's a very rich history of a discussion with [Lt Gen] Cal[vin] Waller, Colin Powell and the Committee about this very issue when Congressman* Pat Schroeder was trying to equate this to a racial issue. Both Cal Waller and Colin Powell objected strenously to the analogy. And many of the Black leaders and Black Marines I was with at the time objected to the concept that their Civil Rights Movement was being hijacked by gays and lesbians. I'm not an expert on this issue. But I would only defer to Cal Waller and Colin Powell [C.I. note, Calvin Waller died in 1996. Colin Powell has changed his 90s position on the issue.] and refer the good Senator to their testimony back in 92 and 93.
We're going to stop it there due to space limitations. As usual, Senator Burris did an outstanding job. Pat Schroeder, for those who don't know, was not a Congress MAN. Pat is short for "Patricia." Schroeder was the first woman Colorado ever elected to the US Congress (that was in the November, 1972 elections). You can click here for her profile at Women in Congress. Did he mean to be rude? He may have. Or he may have not known what he was talking about (a repeat problem during his testimony). His "social engineering" remarks should have gotten attention -- and did yesterday. His yelling at Senator Burris -- on two separate occassions above (such as "this institution"). The man's unstable. A witness who appears before Congress of their own volition and can't control their self-presentation has some serious issues. Burris ended his allotted time by calling for a stop-order on Don't Ask, Don't Tell discharges from the military until the law can be repealed. Senator Jim Webb corrected General Crazy Ass on his 'statistics' -- "African-Americans were about 13% of the age group, about 12% of the people in military, about 12% of the casualities and about 10% killed in action." Webb noted that "people" (the press) were "walking out of the room" (to file their stories) and he wanted that to be clear because it's an issue he's studied for years, written of, etc. He was very clear that he was correcting the numbers and not attempting to take anything away from anyone for their service or sacrifice. General Crazy then allowed that he wasn't really talking about all the service during Vietnam, he was talking about one program.
Yesterday's snapshot contained some coverage of the hearing and other community coverage of the hearing are: Kat's "McCain can't shut up long enough to get an answer" covers what stood out to her the most, Wally also emphasized McCain in "McCain wants his recognition -- just his" at Rebecca's site and Ava's wrote about it at Trina's site in "What happened in that fox hole, General Sheehan?" In addition, Marcia and I discussed the hearing in her "Carl Levin's historic Senate moment."
In Iraq, the ballot counting continues. Pakistan's Daily Times reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and main rival Iyad Allawi were locked in a close election race on Thursday, as updated results showed their blocs running neck-and-neck for seats in parliament." Alsumaria TV adds, "State of Law Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is slightly ahead of other coalitions, according to preliminary results of Iraqi Parliamentary elections." Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) report that approximately 92% of the vote has now been counted and they observe:
For all the focus on the extremely tight race between Iraq's top two vote-getters - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the former interim premier Ayad Allawi - election tallies released this week reveal several smaller dramas unfolding outside the capital. Sunni Arabs have weakened Kurdish leaders in diverse northern provinces, militant Shiites have overtaken their Iranian-backed allies for the religious vote, and many prominent figures will be cast into the political wilderness, according to the near-complete results issued by the Independent High Electoral Commission:
The election for the 325-seat parliament remains too close to call, with results still to come from out-of-country voting and early rounds for security forces and others such as hospital patients who needed special accommodation.
Reuters reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with three more injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.
Reuters reports 1 person was injured in a Mosul shooting and a Baghdad home invasion resulted in the death of a police officer (and it was his home) while, last night, Iraqi and US forces "killed an alleged" suspect in Mosul.
Reuters reports 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul yesterday.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera is measured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On March 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitious producers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help foster peace amongst the country's 42 official tribes.
During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influenced protests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced. Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty and widespread corruption.
In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together to overcome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is that commonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the real world. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising.
"I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want to live in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of the show's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other... they opened up their hearts."
John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "The Team" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explains Marks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family" on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict."
Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference in stopping violence? Next on NOW.
Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows and Gwen's weekly column which, this week, is entitled "Deadlines, Schmedlines . . ." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Chief of Staff
The man in the middle of all things presidential - especially the health care reform legislation in Congress right now - is President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Katie Couric talks to Obama's right-hand man about his tough job and his even tougher reputation.
The Lost Children of Haiti
Scott Pelley reports on the most vulnerable victims of Haiti's earthquake, children who not only face hunger, disease and sexual assault, but a form of slavery that is legal in the Caribbean country.
Pro tennis' leading doubles champions are identical twins who are so coordinated on the court that their opponents actually suspect they have twin telepathy. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
We'll wind down with this from David Bacon's "Californians March into the Heartland" (The Nation):
Shafter, CA - As the March for California's Future left Bakersfield, marchers trudged past almond trees just breaking into their spring blooms. From Shafter and Wasco across dozens of miles to the west, white and pink petals have turned the ground rosy, while branches overhead are dusted with the delicate green of new leaves.
The San Joaquin Valley's width--over seventy-five miles at its widest point--is even more impressive than its length, as it stretches several hundred miles from the Tehachapi Mountains in the south overlooking Bakersfield to the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers in the north. In the heart of that delta lies Sacramento, the state's capital and the marchers' goal.
This immense space is filled with almond orchards, grape vineyards, dairies, and alfalfa and cotton fields. A myriad of crops, grown on a huge industrial scale, make obvious the historical source of the state's wealth. For almost two centuries, that wealth has located California's political center here. The conservatism of the valley's political and economic establishment has been the main obstacle to the growth of progressive politics, which long ago shaped the coastal metropolises of San Francisco and Los Angeles. For decades growers succeeded in preventing rural industrialization, for fear it would bring unions and higher wages. Even mass housing was discouraged, until the corporations that own the land realized that the profits of development rivaled those of grapes and pears.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).
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