Sunday, November 27, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Back in October, ExxonMobil signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The central government out of Baghdad has been whining ever since. A month later, it's looking a lot like an angry but toothless dog, barks a lot but has no bite. Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports today that the central government took 'action' the Minister of Oil announced today: They sent ExxonMobil a letter. Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi is quoted stating, "So far we have sent Exxon three letters and tomorrow we will send them another confirmation letter seeking their response." That's letting them have it! He adds, "We have not decided anything yet. We are waiting for their response." For those who've forgotten, public threats have included canceling the contract, forbidding ExxonMobil from doing business in Iraq and more. For over a month, Iraqi officials have publicly grandstanded and now the world learns that all that's taken place is three letters were sent (by the government), Exxon responded to none and the Baghdad-based government plans to send a fourth letter on Monday. If Iraq were a leaky ship run by the central government in Baghdad, it would be at the bottom of the ocean before anyone could decide whether to bail water or not.

Possibly that weakness/inertia is attractive to investors who may be thinking, "Boy can I make my own deals in Iraq!" Robin Wigglesworth (Financial Times of London) insists that the "well-heeled investment bankers" -- as opposed to those other investment bankers wearing NASCAR T-shirts and beer nozzle hats, apparently -- "are starting to descend on Baghdad, hoping to capitalise on the strife-torn country's tentative efforts to rebuild" and hopefully Iraqis are paying attention to what Nouri's government is doing. There's been an inability to do anything other than glorify Nouri. Again, that might make Iraq look ripe for the picking, knowing the local yokel is a complete idiot and that could be highly attractive to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and others. Wigglesworth teams up with Camilla Hall and James Drummond for another piece which is bathed in greed. They should all be embarrassed and the publication should be ashamed. They brag that the Iraq Stock Exchange was opened the day after "militants attacked a church in Baghdad's affluent Karada district last year, resulting in scores of deaths." Really? That's how a reputable publication operates. So dizzy with greed and rubbing their hands and legs together briskly at the thought of future gains, they can't be bothered for even a moment to identify the Church (Our Lady of Salvation Church) or the date of the attack (October 31, 2010)? Trashy people penning trashy articles. Too juiced up on their own greed to grasp that there's nothing wonderful about the market opening the day after an attack that left over 50 people dead and many more injured, an attack involving guns and bombs on people who were in house of worship. They really should be ashamed of themselves. Talk about screwed up priorities on display.

And in their tongue panting greed, they can't even capture the banking issue, the primary one. They infor readers that Iraq's political system is "dysfunctional" (that's no longer "news," that's now the "norm") and, "While an Iraq Securities Commission has been established to regulate the capital markets, the law that spells out those regulations is still awaiting its turn in parliament -- much like the long-delayed petroleum law that has stymied the development of Iraq's oil industry." I think for most bankers, the law would be less concern than another issue. As the three point out, that law is like the oil law -- it's never been passed. So that's been the norm now for how many years in Iraq? What's more troubling to the banking sector is the idea that they might invest only to see the system change completely. In other words, Nouri's never given up his threat from the first of this year, his insisting that not only does he have control over the Independent Electoral Commission but also that he has control over the Iraq Central Bank. The January 25th court decision created a stir in the investing community but the three writers seem unaware of that. The stir was so great it also gave new life to the June of 2010 rumors that Nouri had ordered the Central Bank burn foreign exchange transfer records (allegedly to cover up bribes to the Iraqi government and money Iraqi officials were taking out of the country).

Dropping back to the November 21st snapshot:

Sounding alarms over the focus/reliance on oil is Iraq's Sunni vice president. KUNA reports, "Iraqi Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashimi warned on Sunday his country might witness a major financial crisis if oil prices fall in 2012 to an expected USD 85 per barrel. The annual budget for Iraq depends entirely on oil sales and imports, Al-Hashimi said during his participation in the 5th political forum of the Renewal Movement, adding that next year's budget has been estimated at USD 112 billion." The Voice of Russia adds, "Speaking on Sunday, the minister argued for speedy economic reconstruction and diversification away from oil and natural gas."

Is Nouri up to making deals that will work out favorably for Iraq? Or will his greed -- and ignorance -- allow him to go for heavy upfront and dwindling returns? As al-Hashimi notes, the country can't rely solely on oil. And Nouri's really not qualfied to be at the forefront of new economic agreements. We're talking about someone with a degree in literature (Arabic literature) who went on to spend his entire adult working career working as a political operative for the Dawa Party. He has no economic education, he has no business experience. The deals he oversees in the next year will impact the Iraq economy far beyond 2012. Jalal Talabani was insisting yesterday that no one could replace Nouri as prime minister. If that's really the truth, how sad for Iraq.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4486. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4486.


Reuters notes today's reported violence includes a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, a Baquba sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 man and left the man's sister and her five children injured, an attack on a Mosul restaurant resulted in the death of the owner, a Kirkuk roadside bombing targeting a Kurdish Asaish member injured "him and his wife," and, dropping back to Saturday for the rest, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, a Mosul mortar attack left two people injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baquba, and a Mosul roadside bombing injured one soldier.

That's 4 dead and twelve injured reported today. Yesterday, Baghdad saw multiple bombings and multiple deaths. Thursday it was Basra with the death toll finally rising to 25. (AFP puts it this way, "Bomb and gun attacks in central Iraq killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 20 others on Saturday, two days after triple blasts killed 19 people and wounded at least 65 in the southern port city of Basra." )But Iraqi President Talabani insists Nouri can't be replaced. Al Mada reports that Iraqi officials are a twitter over 'news' (rumors) that Nouri al-Maliki will fill the posts to head the security ministries before the end of the year (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Security). These are the posts that have been vacant all along. When Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he had 30 days to name nominees for these posts and to get the nominees approved by Parliament. Instead of following the Constitution, and with the US government strong-arming everyone, the Parliament and the presidency looked the other way and allowed Nouri to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister despite his inability to meet the only Constitutional requirement for being named prime minister.

When that happened in December 2010, the US newspapers which are supposed to be skeptical -- because the nature of journalism -- and independent and watchdog proved to be toothless and cowardly. Instead of barking, they assured readers that, by January (2011), Nouri would have filled those three posts. That didn't happen. Sadly their continued failure to predict the future hasn't steered any of them away from playing amateur prophet. They continue to ignore facts -- such as ALL US troops are not coming HOME at the end of the year from Iraq -- and instead offer fantasies served up as 'reporting.'

Press TV has an interesting fact sheet on Iraq here. New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Kat's "Kat's Korner: Doris Day, Rob Crow and what's left unsaid" went up this morning. Pru notes Alan Kenny's "Wuthering Heights: Bronte adaptation engages with world of today" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Andrea Arnold’s new film Wuthering Heights breathes ferocious life into Emily Brontë’s novel of the intense, but doomed, love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff.

It captures the wonder and brutality of the Yorkshire Moors wilderness to brilliant effect.

Our attention is drawn to the wind and rain, the dogs and rabbits, the beetles, the trees, the peat bogs, the grass, the heather and the hawks.

Arnold clearly understands the essence of the novel, and the way the brutality of the landscape shapes the characters’ lives.

There are some incredible performances. Both the younger and older Cathys, played by Shannon Beer and Kaya Scodelario, are brilliant. The actors portraying Heathcliff—Solomon Glave and James Howson—present a figure whose inability to speak his mind makes for uncomfortable viewing.

We long for him to express himself as much as Cathy does. But he is silenced by the brutality that he has endured.

The “controversial” use of black actors to play Heathcliff works very well. It helps to underline Heathcliff’s “outsider” status in the novel.

Cathy and Heathcliff are shown as prisoners of their environment. They are like the two moths we see battering themselves against the window, trying to get out.

The moors are simultaneously a field of dreams and a dark, foreboding place.

Cathy is prepared to defend her love of the “outsider” with her fists—a human shield against her brutish, racist brother, Hindley.

She believes she will have a better life with the wealthy Edgar Linton—but discovers that his “veins are filled with ice”.

Later, as we see Cathy married to Edgar, the camera moves to a caged canary. It is a beautiful and poignant symbol of Cathy’s new life—so distant from the wild, joyful wrestle with Heathcliff in the mud, wind and rain when they were younger.

Arnold’s contrast of the harsh poverty of the manor of Wuthering Heights and the relative opulence of Edgar’s Thrushcross Grange is stark. The Earnshaws live in the mud. The Lintons try their best to avoid it.

There are several very moving scenes, like when Cathy sings to her dying father, and Heathcliff’s terrible loss when Cathy dies.

Wuthering Heights brings new ideas and encourages a re-engagement with Brontë’s text. It is also a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

The energy of the first hour perhaps isn’t sustained in the second half. But you could say that this reflects the change in Cathy’s life with Edgar.

Brontë wrote her novel at a time of great change in British society—after the Chartists’ general strike of 1842 and around the time that Frederick Engels wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England.

There is a flavour of this in the film. The characters are people we can identify with rather than the period mannequins of many costume dramas. As such, Wuthering Heights has more in common with the social realism of Ken Loach.

So if it’s swashbuckling, bodice-ripping melodrama you want, go and watch something else!

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